Best of Northern Spain

-00042-

8 days, Barcelona to Madrid

Who is it for?

Spain has been described as less of a country than a collection of small nations all working together. Each region has its own distinct character, style, even language. This quick eight-day trip introduces you to Spain’s Basque and Catalan provinces the best way: through food, art, culture, and first-person contact. Vibrant Barcelona, unhurried San Sebastián, Bilbao’s fabulous architecture, Logroño's famous cuisine, cosmopolitan Madrid, and the mighty Pyrenees, all in just over a week? Yeah, we did that. Come find out how.

Travel Style: Classic
All of the highlights, culture, access, and I-can’t-believe-we-did-that moments, all at a great price.

Service Level: Standard
Comfortable tourist-class accommodations with character; mix of public and private transport.

Physical Rating: 2 – Light
Light walking and hiking suitable for most fitness levels. Nothing too challenging.

Trip Type: Small Group
Small group experience; Max 16, avg 12.

Age requirement: 12+
All travellers under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Price

From CA$1 699
Single room supplement – From $629.00

Included

  • Your Foodie Moment: Rioja Region Wine Tasting, Logroño
  • Barcelona orientation walk including Gothic Quarter and Las Ramblas
  • “Casa rural” stay with traditional meals
  • San Sebastián day trip
  •  Madrid orientation walk

Program

Arrive at any time. We recommend arriving a day or two early to fully explore this vibrant city.

There are no activities planned until an evening welcome meeting.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES:

Gothic Quarter
(free)
Uncover a different side of Barcelona. Visit the old Gothic Quarter with its maze of dark streets, historic cathedral, medieval buildings, bars, and cafés.

La Barceloneta (free)
Take a stroll on the boardwalk in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta, an area known for its beaches and waterfront walkway. Visit local restaurants and nightclubs or check out the monuments while there.

La Sagrada Família Visit (17-37EUR per person)
Visit Gaudí’s most famous life work, the cathedral of La Sagrada Familia, an inspiring, yet, bizarre testament to the artist’s unique vision.

Parc Güell VisitBarcelona (10EUR per person)
Get away from it all with a visit to the imaginative Parc Guell. The fantastical works of Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) are scattered throughout Barcelona, a grouping of these including Guell Parc, Casa Mila, and the Crypt of La Sagrada Familia were established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Stroll the tree-lined paths and admire Gaudi’s creative genius at play.

Gaudi House (25-35EUR per person)

Take the morning to explore beautiful Barcelona. Head to the Pyrenees region for 2 nights in a ‘casa rural’. Enjoy home-cooked meals and hiking.

Explore a bit of Barcelona before an afternoon departure north. Opt to pre-book the “Highlights of Barcelona Walking Tour” on the checkout page ahead of time, to include this optional on your trip.

Travel to the Pyrenees by local bus and van to reach a ‘casa rural’, or converted farmhouse, near the town of Ainsa. Indulge in delicious local meals and time to explore the beautiful landscape.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES

Highlights of Barcelona Walking Tour
Make the most of your visit with a four-hour walking tour that hits many of Barcelona’s landmarks. Begin your tour in the Gothic Quarter, built during the Medieval period, and wander through narrow streets and hidden courtyards. Make your way to La Rambla, the city’s famous tree-lined avenue, then onto Boqueria Market for a taste of local food culture. Continue to the Liceu Theatre, then onto the Jewish District and Barcelona Cathedral before ending at Passeig de Gràcia, where the city’s wealthiest families lived and commissioned stunning works of architecture such as Antoni Gaudí’s colourful Casa Batlló and the modernist Casa Milà.

 

Accommodation:
Casa Rural Ruben (or similar)

 

Meals included:
 Breakfast | Dinner

Enjoy the day in the scenic Pyrenees. Opt for some hikes in the area or head to Ainsa to explore. Spend another night in the ‘casa rural’.

Free Time
Nature is calling — head out and explore.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES:

Hiking (4h-6h15-20km Free-20EUR) per person
Get your blood pumping and your legs moving in this scenic location. Enjoy spectacular views and varied landscapes exploring the Pyrenees area.

Accommodation:
Casa Rural Ruben (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast | Dinner

Travel to Bilbao, the first stop in the unique Basque region of Spain. Arrive in the early afternoon. Opt to visit the stunning Guggenheim Museum, or climb the Mallona Stairs to Parque Etxebarria for beautiful views over the city.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES:

Guggenheim Museum Visit (o1h-2h13EUR per person)
Be sure to visit the Guggenheim Museum – it’s a must-see, even if just to marvel at the outside of the building. See Frank Gehry’s acclaimed work – he designed this titanium-clad twisting, curving, and angular building to much praise in the 1990s. Tour the building to take in its maritime theme, supposedly representing the ships along the docks of the city, with titanium squares acting as fish scales and the skylights inside designed to look like fish fins. 

Basilica of Begoña  (1h-2h – Free)
Take in the beauty of the Basilica of Begoña. It was built in the 1500s with a mix of Gothic architecture and a number of other styles.

Casco Viejo Visit (1h-2h – Free)
Take some time to wander through Casco Viejo (Old Town), a medieval neighbourhood also known as Las Siete Calles (Seven Streets), that’s considered the most colourful in Bilbao. Discover its many churches, shops, and taverns, and take the elevators to the areas at the top of the hill for further exploration.

Parque de Etxebarría Visit (1h-1h30 – Free)
Climb the Mallona Stairs to Parque Etxebarria and be rewarded with beautiful views over Bilbao.

Accommodation:
Hotel Bilbao Plaza (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Take a day trip to San Sebastian. Opt to take a pintxos (tapas) tour and learn about the fascinating culture of the area. Return to Bilbao for the night.

The real treat in this part of the country is the eating. Basque cuisine is famous in Spain and around the world, with many believing this is the best food in the country. While San Sebastián didn’t invent tapas, they are well-acknowledged to have perfected them. Wander through the streets before lunchtime or in the evening and check out what each bar has on offer.

Stop in each place for some wine or beer and sample their tapas (pintxos in Basque) selection. Move on to the next bar and repeat!

Delicious seafood abounds here as well. Looking for more than just pintxos? Head to the harbour and hole up in a traditional simple tavern. Don’t leave San Sebastián without trying the famous jamon iberico.

The specialty drink in this area is called the Kalimotxo — half wine (usually red table wine) and half Coca Cola.Take some time to wander through the plazas, marvel at the buildings, and spot the art sprinkled throughout the city. And, as always, try the pintxos.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES:

Pintxos (Tapas) Tour (1h-2h – 15EUR per person)
See (and taste) what all the fuss is about – Basque cuisine is famous worldwide, with many believing this is the best food in the country. Enjoy a delicious culinary experience on this pintxos (tapas) tour, and learn all about the different food of the area.

Monte Igueldo Visit (3h45m-4h – 2EUR per person)
Gain a new perspective of the city with a trip up Monte Igueldo, the hill that overlooks San Sebastián. Opt to walk the hill or take a funicular for stunning panoramic views.

Beach Visit with Surfing
Grab your swimsuit and head to one of the beautiful beaches in San Sebastián for a fun-filled day on the beach. Try your hand at surfing, and see if you can catch some waves – Playa de Gros is a good place to give it a go. Surf lessons can be found for those new to the sport.

Cathedral of Buen Pastor (Free)
Named for the biblical Good Shepherd, San Sebastian’s largest church rises above the town square. Step inside to admire its stained glass windows, towering naves and a magnificent organ, over 10 metres tall and made up of over 9,500 pipes.

San Sebastian Bicycle Tour (40-60EUR per person)
See this quaint city by bicycle.

Accommodation:
Hotel Bilbao Plaza (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Travel to Logroño and enjoy an included wine tasting in the Rioja region.
With tons of churches, roman bridges, parks, plazas, and ancient buildings, there’s no shortage of sights to be seen when wandering around this city.

Exclusive Inclusions: Your Foodie Moment Rioja Region Wine Tasting
Enjoy an included wine tasting at a local restaurant and indulge in the local specialties like Tempranillo. Try some pintxos with the local vintages for a true culinary delight.

Accommodation:
Hotel Condes de Haro (or similar)​

Meals included: Breakfast

Travel to Madrid and enjoy free time in this capital city.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES:

Reina Sofia National Art Museum (1h-2h10-15EUR per person)
The Reina Sofia is Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art, and currently boasts an art collection of over 21,000 works.

Gran Vía Visit (1h-2h – Free)
Shop, stroll, and people watch on the capital’s most exciting street, Gran Via. Go early or late, the street stays awake all hours.

Plaza Mayor Visit (15m-30m – Free)
Enjoy some spectacular people watching with a visit to the Plaza Mayor, the true heart of the city. Enjoy a coffee in one of the plaza’s many cafes and watch the world go by.

Museo Nacional Del Prado Visit (30m-1h – 15EUR per person)
Take in some culture with a trip to the Museo del Prado, one of the greatest art galleries in the world, and a definite highlight of any Madrid trip. Be inspired by its collections and exhibitions: the museum’s main emphasis is 15th to 19th century Spanish, Flemish, and Italian art, but there is plenty of Goya and a wealth of paintings by Diego Velázquez.

Royal Palace (Palacio Real) Visit (1h-2h – 17EUR per person)
See how kings and queens live, with a visit to the Palacio Real, the official (and uninhabited) palace of the King of Spain. Wander the rooms to take in some of the most elaborately decorated and furnished rooms you’ll ever see.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (1h-2h – 13EUR per person)
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum displays an overview of art from the 13th century to the late 20th century.

Taurino Museum (15-20EUR per person)
Ever wanted to learn everything there is to know about the history of bullfighting in Spain? Here’s your chance.

Accommodation:
Hotel Europa (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Depart at any time.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES:

Reina Sofia National Art Museum (1h-2h – 10-15EUR per person)
The Reina Sofia is Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art, and currently boasts an art collection of over 21,000 works.

Gran Vía Visit (1h-2h – Free)
Shop, stroll, and people watch on the capital’s most exciting street, Gran Via. Go early or late, the street stays awake all hours.

Plaza Mayor Visit (15m-30m – Free)
Enjoy some spectacular people watching with a visit to the Plaza Mayor, the true heart of the city. Enjoy a coffee in one of the plaza’s many cafes and watch the world go by.

Museo Nacional Del Prado Visit (30m-1h – 15EUR per person)
Take in some culture with a trip to the Museo del Prado, one of the greatest art galleries in the world, and a definite highlight of any Madrid trip. Be inspired by its collections and exhibitions: the museum’s main emphasis is 15th to 19th century Spanish, Flemish, and Italian art, but there is plenty of Goya and a wealth of paintings by Diego Velázquez.

Royal Palace (Palacio Real) Visit (1h-2h – 17EUR per person)
See how kings and queens live, with a visit to the Palacio Real, the official (and uninhabited) palace of the King of Spain. Wander the rooms to take in some of the most elaborately decorated and furnished rooms you’ll ever see.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (1h-2h13EUR per person)
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum displays an overview of art from the 13th century to the late 20th century.

Meals included: Breakfast

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