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Top Trip Memories

  • Viewing Antonio Gaudi’s fanciful and enormously ambitious church of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, still a work in progress almost 90 years after the architect’s death.
  • Swimming in the warm waters of the Mediterranean off one of Spain’s alluring islands of Mallorca, Ibiza or Formentera.
  • Staring, amazed, at the detailed tile work in Granada’s 14th-century Moorish palace, the Alhambra.
  • Staying in a parador, one of the government inns converted from former castles, monasteries, and other atmospheric buildings.
  • Making the rounds of the tapas bars in Madrid, downing a complimentary olive there, a slice of roasted potato there, and perhaps splurging on a grilled prawn or two.
  • Throwing tomatoes at strangers in Valencia’s famous La Tomatina, a 40,000-person tomato fight held each August.
  • Admiring the Old Masters in Madrid’s Prado Museum and Picasso’s masterwork Guernica in the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.
  • Taking in a flamenco show at a club in Seville where you know the dancing is authentic.
  • Joining the pre-dinner crowds along Las Ramblas in Barcelona as they enjoy their evening paseo, while passing chic sidewalk cafes and lively street entertainers.
  • Marveling at the formal gardens and fountains in Seville’s Royal Alcazar Palace.
  • Spending an art-filled day in Toledo, home of the painter El Greco and a medieval masterpiece of a city.
  • Walking at least part of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, an ages-old, now newly popular pilgrimage route.
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Tour Tips

  • Don’t expect to absorb all of Spain in one trip -- it’s larger than California and even more diverse.
  • Consider taking a themed tour of Spain -- revolving around food, walking, or art and architecture.
  • If you’re a lover of great art and architecture, book a tour that includes as many of these cities as possible: Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Toledo, Granada, and Seville.
  • If you’re a sun-worshipper, book a tour to southern Spain that includes some beach time.
  • If you’re a food lover, book a culinary tour to Barcelona and the Basque Country.
  • Taking a river cruise on the Guadalquivir through Andalusia is an often overlooked -- and very pleasant -- way to see southern Spain.
  • Booking a tour along the Camino de Santiago ensures you’ll find a place to stay every night and that you’ll have company -- and support, if needed -- along this well trammeled route.
  • The northern stretches of Spain in the Pyrenees are far less traveled but extremely scenic and greener and cooler than farther south.
  • If you’re looking for picture-postcard scenery that will leave you gasping, book a tour that includes the Andalusian town of Ronda, built on the edge of a deep chasm.
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Spain Travel Reviews & Ratings

4.6 out of 5

99%

recommend

495 Reviews

  • Excellent 185
  • Great 69
  • Average 12
  • Disappointing 5
  • Terrible 1

Rating Details

  • Value
    4.7
  • Guide
    4.7
  • Activities
    4.6
  • Lodging
    4.6
  • Transportation
    4.6
  • Meals
    4.6

Tour Reviews

Amazing Europe Trip

Mega European

5.0
February 2017
Topdeck
Recommend: Yes
There are so many great things to say about my European trip of a lifetime. The people that made it was my fellow topdeckers and of course the Fab Tour guide Matt Stewart. This is a trip that I will never forget, so many lovely memories I will cherish forever. We was very lucky with Matt because he really took time to talk to us and make us all feel relaxed with each other and asked us what we wanted to do. He was so knowledgable about all the places we went to, I remember thinking to myself this guy is pretty cool the fact he knows so well about the history and culture of each place especially the amount of cities we travelled to. Matt made the trip fun, interesting, exciting and I hope that if I was to ever do a top deck again one day he would be the tour guide or I think I would be disappointed. Have recommended top deck to so many people, memories I will have for a lifetime.

Georgina staines
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Exceeded all expectations

Camino de Santiago Trek

5.0
February 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
My wife and I did this trip in August, it was our first holiday of this type and we were worried about whether it would be for us. We needn't have. We both enjoyed it immensely and were sad when we have finished the walk. We did not find the walking too tough, challenging yes, but very manageable. We worried about doing the walk in August but again the weather was ok, one wet day, but not excessively so. The heat never became too much even for someone fair-skinned like me. The accommodation was always good, sometimes outstanding, same for the food. The bag transportation worked well, with only one glitch which was quickly resolved by the local agents (who are excellent). To say this trip changed our holiday lives would not be an overstatement. We are going back to do the Santiago to Finisterre & Muxia section next year, alas with another company as Exodus/Headwater do not offer this.
All of it, but the others doing the same walk at the same time as us have become firm friends. Its no cliché to say that its the people that you meet that make this trip so special.

No leader as such as this is a self-guided trip, but the local agent in Leon was excellent as were the local staff when one of our bags went awol.

The walking is relatively easy, no heavy boots required. There are plenty of cafes on the route so don't worry about food and drink during the day.

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Walking in Andalucia

Walking in Andalucia

5.0
February 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
It was a very enjoyable week: good walking through beautiful - sometimes spectacular – countryside. Sevilla is a fascinating city, and the flamenco was fabulous. The Cortijo makes a very good base: great cooking, beautiful views, and a very welcome pool after a hot day!
The wonderful day at the Caminito del Rey: a truly spectacular walk.

Alexis was the perfect guide: very knowledgeable about the local environment, really well organised, and considerate. He's also a very funny, entertaining guy!

Maybe take some insect repellant – I escaped their attentions, but others weren't so lucky.

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Snowshoeing in the Catalan Pyrenees

Snowshoeing in the Catalan Pyrenees

5.0
February 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
The Catalan Pyrenees are beautiful and the small villages are remote and quiet during the winter. On this trip we snowshoed through the valleys and forests with some wonderful views, while staying in very friendly local family-run hotels.
The trip to the Fogueruix Pass was on a lovely day with fresh snow so the views from the col were beautiful and the descent, contouring along the valley back to Son, gave us panoramas of the day's walk.

Miguel is a great ambassador for the Catalan region and is very knowledgeable about the villages and mountains, He was also very pro-active in adjusting the routes to the conditions as we were often walking in quite changeable weather. He worked very hard to introduce us to local produce and people so that we could appreciate the uniqueness of this area of Spain.

The weather is variable as expected in any mountain in winter so lots of layers are needed as well as sun glasses and sun cream. The hotels and villages are quiet in the evenings so lots of opportunities to chat or read. There is very little extra expense once in the Pyrenees apart from the occasional beer or coffee.

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Snowshoeing in the Catalan Pyrenees

Snowshoeing in the Catalan Pyrenees

4.0
February 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
A varied and challenging snowshoe trip with a good mix of cultural activities
Climbing to the col on the second day's walk

Miguel was an excellent leader with adequate grasp of English. He has compiled a varied week of activities with extra cultural activities that I have not normally experienced on other snowshoe trips which made for a more enjoyable experience and provided a better insight into Catalan culture. Some parts of the walking were challenging and Miguel modified to walks to reflect the groups collective ability and also the weather conditions on the day. Despite this, the group sometimes were strung out over a long distance and I feel; more frequent drink/photo stops would have been preferable. I would also note that Miguel stayed with the bulk of the group on the free day (normally his day off) so that we could fully enjoy a trip to a local eco museum - this shows a healthy dedication to ensuring we got the best out of our holiday.

As always, read the trip notes carefully and make sure you take good equipment for protection against the weather.

None

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Top Tour Operators and Travel Companies


Classic Itineraries

Classic Spain in 1 Week

Spain in one week will introduce you to the vibrancy of the country and leave you wanting more. You’ll get a taste of tapas, art, and countryside. Most 1 Week itineraries visit the main attractions through Southern Spain:

Day 1-2, Madrid: Explore the rich art history here though the Paseo del Arte, Museo Reina Sofia where works by Dali and Picasso live, and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Other highlights include the Real Jardin Botanico and the Plaza Mayor.

Day 3, Seville: Alcazar, the world’s largest gothic cathedral, Barrio Santa Cruz, Maria Luisa Park

Day 4, Cordoba to Granada: Explore a place where the extensive Moorish history of Spain comes to light in Cordoba a visit to The Mezquita. Continue on to Granada through beautiful Spanish countryside.

Day 5, Granada: Learn how to Flamenco dance, visit the historical quarter in the Albaicin, enjoy a shopping day among its ancient streets.

Day 6, Valencia: Take a long drive to get to Valencia, the “Spanish gateway to the Mediterranean”. Go on a guided tour of Valencia Cathedral, where the supposed Holy Grail sits. Take a free day to wander around this bustling city with beautiful beaches and busy markets.

Day 7-8, Barcelona: End your trip with a few days in Barcelona. Enjoy world famous Catalan cuisine, explore the rich art history of Spain at the National Art Museum of Catalonia, and take in incredible Gaudi architecture like the La Sagrada Familia cathedral. Shop like a local at Santa Catarina Market.

Trips that follow this itinerary:

Discover Moorish Spain with G Adventures - 8 Days, premium trip

Highlights of Spain with Intrepid - 8 Days, basic trip

Classical Spain Tour with Riviera Travel - 7 Days, premium trip

Or see All Spain in 1 Week Trips

Spain in 2 Weeks

With two weeks, you can explore much of Spain in more depth, such as a visit to wine country, or a stay along the seaside in the North.

Day 1-2, Madrid: Explore the rich art history here though the Paseo del Arte, Museo Reina Sofia where works by Dali and Picasso live, and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Other highlights include the Real Jardin Botanico and the Plaza Mayor.

Day 3-4, San Sebastion & La Rioja: On your way to the seaside paradise of San Sebastion, stop in the La Rioja wine country to do some tasting.

Day 5, Pamplona: See the famous street where the running of the bulls takes place.

Day 6-8, Barcelona: Enjoy world famous Catalan cuisine, explore the rich art history of Spain at the National Art Museum of Catalonia, and take in incredible Gaudi architecture like the La Sagrada Familia cathedral. Shop like a local at Santa Catarina Market.

Day 9, Valencia: Take in the “Spanish gateway to the Mediterranean”. Go on a guided tour of Valencia Cathedral, where the supposed Holy Grail sits.

Day 10, Granada to Cordoba: In Granada, see the spectacular Alhambra Palace, and learn of the cities strong Moorish heritage. Continue on to Cordoba, where much Moorish history also lies, and see The Mezquita (Great Mosque).

Day 11-13, Seville with Gibraltar excursion: Take a walking tour of Seville to see the Seville Cathedral, Giralda Tower, and Plaza de España. Take a full day to visit British territory Gibraltar, and see the famous “Rock of Gibraltar.”

IMPORTANT NOTE: to visiting Gibraltar you may need additional visa information, and don’t forget your passport!

Day 14, Madrid: End your tour back in Madrid.

Trips that follow this itinerary:

The Best of Spain with SmarTours - 12 Days, premium trip

The Best of Spain with Intrepid - 15 Days, value trip

Best of Spain with Trafalgar - 15 Days, premium trip

Or see All Spain in Two Weeks Tours

Spain & Morocco Tour

Spain and Morocco are intrinsically linked, sharing much history due to their close proximity. A history tour will highlight how these two countries have influenced each other through culture, food, and architecture.

Day 1-3, Seville: Begin in Seville, the capital of the Andalucia region, which was under Moorish rule from the 8th-15th centuries. See Maria Luisa Park, Seville Cathedral, and Giralda Tower.

Day 4, Cordoba: A city that has maintained a lot of its Moorish heritage, including the impressive Mezquita (Great Mosque). Take a walking tour to see the Jewish quarter and learn about the city’s history.

Day 5, Granada: see the spectacular Alhambra Palace and visit a traditional tea house in the 'Albaicin' quarter.

Day 6, Ronda: In this, one of Spain’s oldest towns, enjoy spectacular views on a walking tour of the city. Feast on a local tapas meal.

Day 7, Strait of Gibraltar crossing and Tangier: Take the ferry from Spain to Morocco and enjoy a tour of historic Tangier before continuing to Fez for a few days.

Day 8, Fes: Enjoy the traditional old feel of this ancient city as you wind your way through the busy streets. Visit Funduk Nejjarine a restored 18th century inn, hear the call to prayer, and dine on a traditional Moroccan meal.

Day 9, Rabat: Explore ancient ruins in Morocco’s capital, see Hassan Mosque, Kasbah des Oudaias, and the royal palace.

Day 10, Casablanca: In the city made famous by cinema, soak in the history on a walking tour. See the Mosque of Hassan II, one of the only religious sites open to non-Muslims. If you look for Rick’s bar though, you’ll be disappointed.

Day 11-12, Marrakech: Explore the markets and spice shops. Visit the Koutoubia Mosque and the ruins of Palais Badi.

Trips that follow this itinerary:

Madrid to Marrakech with Intrepid - 15 Days, value trip

Moorish Spain to Marrakech with Explore - 13 Days, value trip

Spain and Morocco: Shared Histories, Complementary Cultures with Road Scholar - 17 Days, value trip

Or see All Spain and Morocco Tours

Spain Trips & Tour Advice

Spain -- the tempestuous land of Don Juan and Don Quixote, Carmen and Figaro, bullfighting and flamenco -- once ruled an empire that stretched across the Americas and points beyond. By the 20th century it had fallen into decline, merely another poor nation in southern Europe. Now, in the midst of a cultural renaissance, Spain is much like a theme park devoted to the good life -- a sensuous feast of fun, food, and fine art and architecture.

Start with the beaches, as many visitors do. (Northern Europeans, who search out sand and sunshine like heat-seeking missiles, have made Spain their holiday central.) The most crowded stretch, the Costa del Sol along the southern Mediterranean, sports highly developed resorts like upscale Marbella and carnival-like Torremolinos, once quiet fishing villages now packed with sunbathers and bar-hoppers. The Mediterranean island of Ibiza is another incredible party scene, though with better beaches; the smaller island of Formentera is quieter.

Art and Architecture

In Spain, you can spend hours or days with Spanish masters like Velasquez, El Greco, Goya, Dali, and Picasso in Madrid’s Prado and other top museums. Architecture? Frank Gehry’s sensational Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is one of the most talked-about buildings in Europe. You can even view ancient Roman ruins such as the two-millennia-old aqueduct in Segovia.

The Spanish have turned eating into an art form, not so much with the classical artistry of the French as with the playful palette of Picasso, a native Spaniard. Dining often begins by making the rounds of tapas bars -- grazing on small platefuls of delicacies washed down with glasses of local wine or sherry. It continues with multi-course meals that may run on till midnight. Seafood is often the centerpiece, sometimes topping giant platters of paella, the saffron-tinged rice dish that’s almost synonymous with Spanish cuisine.

The Backdrop

All of these cultural, culinary and recreational riches are set against a scenic backdrop as varied as any in Europe. To the east and parts of the west, the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines frame hundreds of miles of blue sea. To the north, the green and forested Pyrenees rise to form a mountainous border with France. In central Spain, arid brown valleys and high plateaus add dramatic contours to the landscape. And in the far south, the Andalusian countryside is reminiscent of Spain’s onetime New World outpost, southern California. Each region is wildly beautiful in its own way.

The Spanish people enhance it all with their exuberant approach to life, much of it played out on the public stage. In cities and villages across the country, they emerge to see and be seen on their evening paseos, strolling often arm-in-arm with family or friends, typically dressed to be admired.

Revelry and Recovery

The narrow streets of Barcelona’s old Gothic Quarter, the now-chic antiquity of Madrid’s Puerta del Sol area, and the winding medieval alleyways of Seville’s Barrio Santa Cruz and Granada’s Sacromonte (gypsy) district are often packed far into the night with diners and revelers who see daybreak not as the start of a new day but the end of the old. The country’s many fiestas rachet up the festive mood even higher. July’s annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, March’s Las Fallas de San Jose in Valencia, and Easter’s Feria in Seville, among many others, all provide spectacular pageantry.

But when do they sleep? A partial answer rhymes with fiesta: siesta, an afternoon tradition that is struggling to survive the economic pressures of modernization. Tour leaders know to plan sightseeing and shopping trips in the mornings or late afternoons since many museums, stores and other attractions often close for two or three hours at midday. Take a cue from the Spanish: enjoy a leisurely lunch and rest up during the hottest part of the day.

Key Sights

All roads lead to and from stylish Madrid, the centrally located Spanish capital, which combines world-class art museums like the Prado with alluring public parks and nightlife. Just south of Madrid lies the photogenic and beautifully preserved medieval city of Toledo, immortalized by the artist El Greco.

Much farther south, Andalusia is a sunny, Moorish-influenced land that spawned flamenco and forms many people’s mental image of Spain. Seville is a maze of courtyards, plazas, bars and restaurants, while Granada is home to the Alhambra, an ornately tiled 14th-century Moorish palace. Cordoba’s 1,100-year-old Great Mosque, with its hundreds of colorfully striped columns and archways, is so vast that an entire Roman Catholic cathedral (added later) seems almost lost within it.

Barcelona, in the northeast, is the epicenter of the Spanish revival. The old Gothic Quarter, with its jumble of twisting streets, opens onto Las Ramblas, one of the world’s great promenades, and Gaudi’s surreal architectural legacy is everywhere. To its south, vibrant Valencia, birthplace of paella and the world’s biggest tomato fight, is often overlooked -- mbut shouldn’t be.

Still a good value

While not the dirt cheap destination of old, Spain is still a good value for Europe -- especially if you consider all that it has to offer. If you haven’t visited Spain since the sleepy 1970s, you’re in for a huge surprise.

Stride can help you find the tour that best represents what you most want from your Spanish vacation -- whether it’s a tour of the classic sights, a multi-week trek along northern Spain’s Camino de Santiago, a riverboat cruise along the Guadalquivir River in Andalusia, or perhaps a culinary tour where you can discover the secrets of making a great paella.

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