For a comprehensive tour of the Iberian Peninsula, I highly recommend
Insight Vacations’ Best of Spain & Portugal. It is a 16 day adventure that begins in Madrid and ends in Barcelona with the option to return to Madrid.
I met my son Jordan, who lives in Tokyo, in beautiful Madrid which is highest capital city in Europe. The first night we met our amazing Tour Director, Dominic Nemer, and our friendly group of fellow travelers for a lovely included dinner with wine. We stayed at the world class Gran Melia Fenix Madrid hotel. This was the first of a series of fine hotels on this itinerary. All of the hotels are either city center or otherwise well located. You will not be banished to the suburbs on this tour.
The next day we were escorted on a tour of the city which included a visit to the magnificent Prado Museum to admire the paintings of the Spanish masters. This was a highlight because the local guide taught us the proper way to view the art including where to stand and how to look for each artist’s signature flourishes. I will never look at art the same way again.
From Madrid, we headed to Toledo and Salamanca with included sightseeing in both cities before crossing the Portuguese border into Porto situated on the Douro River. Porto is now one of my favorite cities and not just because many great port wines are produced there. It is a stunning city with absolutely lovely people. Our next overnight stay in Portugal was in the cosmopolitan city of Lisbon after passing through the holy city of Fatima and the ancient fortified city of Obidos. Lisbon is a great city for foodies! We had some of our best meals there.
Porto on the Douro River
From Lisbon, we headed to Seville. I recommend the excursion to preserved Moorish city of Cordoba. It was interesting to see and understand more clearly how much influence the Moors had on the culture and architecture of this region. This can be seen even more clearly in Granada where we visited the superbly preserved Alhambra Palace and gardens. As we headed south, we visited Gibraltar & the Costa Del Sol before passing Valencia on our way to Barcelona. Some of the highlights include seeing the Barbary Apes in Gibraltar, enjoying the beauty of the clear blue Mediterranean waters on the Costa Del Sol and seeing the contrast between the old and the ultra modern in Valencia.
Our adventure ended in the beautiful city of Barcelona. I could have easily spent a few extra days there. There is so much to do and see in this amazing city. A local guide took us to the Gothic quarter on a walking tour which ended in a visit to Gaudi’s extraordinary, unfinished Sagrada Familia church. This was extra special to me because I visited Barcelona many years ago and inside visits were not allowed at that time. This time I went in and I was not disappointed. It was glorious! Our stay in Barcelona ended with a fabulous seafood dinner at a waterfront restaurant.
Some final thoughts on this tour and Insight Vacations –
This tour is moderately paced with just enough 2 night stays where you don’t feel rushed to move every day. The local guides were outstanding. I always felt that they were offering unique information and special insight. Dominic, our tour director, was a friendly and funny Brit. He was well organized and efficient. There were enough included excursions where you could still have a great time without purchasing all of the optional excursions. Insight limits the number of guests on their tours to 40 so there is ample room to stretch on the bus.
My only caveat to this experience is that this is a relatively long tour so if you want to try something shorter but equal in quality, check out Insight’s 10 Day Amazing Spain & Portugal.
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