'World Heritage Cities'


Barcelona: Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance; Santiago de Compostela: Place of Pilgrimage; Bilbao's Guggenheim; Arab, Jewish, Christian, Roman, Visigothic legacies


Dates & Prices

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Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.

Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Wed 13 Apr 2016Sun 24 Apr 2016 $3220
Wed 13 Jul 2016Sun 24 Jul 2016 $3220
Wed 14 Sep 2016Sun 25 Sep 2016 $3220

Optional Single Supplement: $630 (number of singles limited).

Tour Overview

Because Lithuania has been ruled by Sweden, Poland, France and Russia, we can see a variety of influence concerning the aesthetics of the capital city, Vilnius. We come to realize that the style of architecture is significant to the city's overall beauty, such as the Gates of Dawn, which counted for one of the many gates built into the defensive wall that once ran two kilometres around the city. Not only does Latvia have comparable attractions that are just as monumental, but the subtle allure is what really pulls us in, like the many paintings that line the walls of the Rundale Palace, or the exciting energy of market square in Riga. The harbour city of Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, is extravagant in terms of antiquity. When we see parliament gather at the Toompea Castle, we see how an ancient structure can still serve a purpose just as well today. Over the waters of the Baltic Sea, we find Helsinki, Finland, also known as the 'Daughter of the Baltic'. The excitement of our trip does not fade out while so close to the end; we enjoy our time here by taking an extensive stroll around the harbour.

Regions visited: Western Europe
Countries visited: Spain


(Claude) Tremendous Fun!!! Full of energy, dynamic and makes people laugh and enjoy themselves!

Full Itinerary

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Day 1 Arrival in Spain
Welcome to Spain! Arrival in Santiago de Compostela, one of Spain's most beautiful cities, built of golden granite and declared a national monument in its entirety. It's a wonderful place to walk with its arcades and flagstone streets.

Overnight in Santiago de Compostela.

Meal plan: Dinner

Day 2 Santiago de Compostela: City Tour
This morning we have a walking city tour of Santiago, a UNESCO World Heritage city. Our tour begins at Obradoiro Square where some of its more prominent monuments can be seen: the Archbishop's residence which preserves some 12th century lounges; the Town Hall, former Raxoy Palace, with its classical facade; the San Jeronimo College, whose facade shows Roman influences.

We also include the city's famous cathedral, a truly grand building adorned with many statues of St James in his familiar pilgrim guise with staff, broad-brimmed hat, and scallop-shell badge. The cathedral's highlight is the Portico de Gloria, with its striking Romanesque sculpture of a host of figures. Christ presides over the main door, flanked by his Apostles, and surrounded by 24 Elders of the Apocalypse playing music. Saint James sits on the central column beneath Christ. So many pilgrims have prayed at this spot with their fingers pressed in to the roots of the marble Tree of Jesse below Saint James that five deep holes have been worn into the marble.

We also visit the Cathedral Museum, the Cloister and finally, the Platerias Gate, the only Romanesque one that is still preserved; and we take a guided tour of the Cathedral roofs, which allows us to climb to the very top of the building and look out over the historic centre from the heights. To do so we make for the Gelmirez Palace, located to the side of the Cathedral in the Plaza del Obradoiro square. We pass through the interior of the Gelmirez Palace, past the Cathedral gallery (above the Gloria doorway) and up to the roof of the cathedral for a stupendous view -- definitely a highlight of our day.

Overnight in Santiago de Compostela.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 3 Santiago de Compostela - Leon
This morning we take the train (2nd class) to Leon.*

On arrival in Leon we visit the San Isidoro Collegiate Church, an important piece of western Romanesque, where 23 kings and queens are buried. The cathedral was built in the middle of the 13th century in a gothic style similar to the French cathedrals and is famous for the beauty of more than 100 glazed windows. Our Leon sightseeing continues with the old quarter of the city, which conserves a large part of the medieval wall and some remains of the original Roman wall. One can also find the Casa de Botines, a neo-gothic building and an excellent example of the architecture of Antoni Gaudi.

* NOTE: We use the rail system quite extensively on this tour. YOU MUST BE ABLE TO MANAGE YOUR OWN BAGS ONTO / OFF TRAINS AND IN TRAIN STATIONS. Packing lightly is essential.

Overnight in Leon.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 4 Leon - Cave of Altamira - Bilbao
Today we travel by road to Bilbao, via a stop at the museum connected with the Cave of Altamira. Dating from 12000 BC, the caves are full of prehistoric paintings of wild animals and impressions of human hands. When discovered in the 1870s the vivid and evocative paintings were nearly perfectly-preserved. Even Picasso commented on the paintings here: "After Altamira, everything is decadence."

We continue deeper into Basque country and toward Bilbao, tucked into the deep lush folds and clefts of Euskadi's coastal range. The name is "Bilbo" in Basque, but its inhabitants prefer to call it the "botxo," Basque for hole, or orifice. The orifice was originally a scattering of fish hamlets, huddled on the left bank where the hills offered some protection from the Normans and other pirates.

Overnight in Bilbao.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 5 Bilbao: The Guggenheim
Today we explore the Old Town of Bilbao on a walking tour. We travel back in time to Medieval Bilbao with its cobbled streets, charming corners and squares, and trace its development through the centuries.

The major highlight today is our visit to the newest and biggest attraction in Bilbao, the Guggenheim Museum. The 31 329 sq m (349,000 sq foot) colossus is one of the focal points of a $1.5 billion redevelopment plan for the city. The Frank Gehry design features a 50 m- (165 foot-) high atrium, more than one-and-a-half times the height of the rotunda of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York. The museum is devoted to American and European art of the 20th century, featuring (on rotation) the works of such renowned artists as Kandinsky, Mondrian, Picasso, Ernst, Pollock, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Serra, and others.

Options for your free afternoon include: remain at the Guggenheim on your own, the Basque Museum, Fine Arts Museum, a guided boat tour of the estuary, etc. Your Tour Leader can help you plan your afternoon.

Overnight in Bilbao.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 6 Bilbao - Barcelona: City Tour
Today we fly to Barcelona.

Barcelona, located on the Mediterranean Sea in the very north of the Spanish coast, is certainly the most cosmopolitan and economically active city in this country. Of course, Barcelona has an long history, and there are monuments of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance periods and before, but most characteristic is what has been built during the last 100 years.

We are aiming for the morning flight so that we might embark on the guided portion of our Barcelona sightseeing upon arrival (mostly on foot - leisurely pace). Our first stop is Parc Guell, a beautiful place in the morning. We have time to visit the Casa Gaudi with its collection of Gaudi-designed furniture. We'll walk through the Parc, ending up at the main entrance to visit the terrace and pavilion unit and Doric columns.

Overnight in Barcelona.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 7 Barcelona: City Tour
This morning we travel by bus to Barcelona's most famous and most photographed attraction -- La Sagrada Familia Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Family), an amalgam of fantasy and Gothic impulses, and Gaudi's most unique piece of architecture. Our bus stops on the side of the Nativity facade (north) from where we walk around to the Passion facade. We explore the interior and also visit the cathedral museum during our stop. At some point during our time in Barcelona, we will also visit the Picasso Museum.

We also stroll down the avenue of Las Ramblas, the exotic "spine of Barcelona," with a stop to look at Palau Guell, another Gaudi creation. We continue to Placa Catalunya and Placa Reial via the central market, Bequiria; a very lively place, crowded with stalls selling caged birds and lush plants and the constant clamor of people haggling and selling.

We then walk into Barri Gotic, a densely-packed area of narrow lanes with a fascinating mixture of medieval and stately Renaissance buildings.

Overnight in Barcelona.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 8 Barcelona: Montserrat & Leisure Time
This morning we include a half-day guided tour of Montserrat, one of Spain's most sacred sites, set in beautiful mountains about 1 hour's drive from Barcelona. Long before we reach Montserrat, we will see the jagged silhouette of the great peak, and understand how it got its name ('serrat' means 'serrated). This massive rock fortress is dotted with paths, stairs, caves, chapels and hermitages. We drive through the Montserrat Natural Park and up to the Sanctuary, around 725m (2,380 feet) above sea level. On a clear day you will see breath-taking panoramas of the Pyrenees.

We will arrive at the Sanctuary, where we can visit the Royal Basilica and the Chapel of Our Lady of Montserrat. Inside the Chapel is the famous 12th century Romanesque carved wood statue of La Moreneta (the Black Virgin). La Moreneta is the patron saint of Catalonia, and is a presence strongly felt and revered. This celebrated statue has made The Royal Basilica one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Spain. The tour also includes entrance to an interesting audiovisual exhibition ("Montserrat Portes Endins"), and the chance to taste four locally-produced liquors.

We return to Barcelona with time at leisure.

Overnight in Barcelona

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 9 Barcelona - Madrid: Royal Palace
Today we travel to Madrid by fast train (+/- 3 hours).

This afternoon we include a tour of the Royal Palace where we see, among other things, its principal staircase, throne, gala dining room, museum of silver, and principal courtyard. This is the official residence of the royal family, but today it is used only state ceremonies. Otherwise known in Spanish as the Palacio Real, the Royal Palace was built during the 18th and 19th centuries, and is a monumental building. It replaced the former medieval Alcazar, which was burnt to the ground in 1794. The present day Royal Palace of Madrid was decorated to the tastes of Charles III, and is extremely lavish inside.

Overnight in Madrid.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 10 Madrid & The Prado
This morning we have a panoramic tour of broader Madrid, terminating at the Prado Museum for a guided tour. Our route to the museum likely takes us past Plaza Espana point and the Cervantes Monument.

Originally opened to the public in 1819, the Prado houses all of the finest works collected by Spanish Royalty as well as Spanish paintings gathered from other sources over the past two centuries. The Prado is one of the most important repositories of art in the world, including a vast collection of Italian paintings. For the purposes of our visit, however, we will concentrate on works by Spanish masters -- Velasquez, Goya, Ribera, El Greco, Zurbaran, to name a few.

After our tour, we'll head off on foot for an informal stroll up Gran Via and into the old quarter of Madrid. You'll then have free time for lunch and an afternoon of independent exploration. Your Tour Leader can help you plan your free time, with recommended shopping, other historical sites and galleries. You may want to visit the nearby Reina Sofia for the important modern art collection, including Picasso's masterpiece, "Guernica." Or visit the Museo Naval, one of the world's most important Navy Museums, to learn about the history of the Spanish Armada.

Overnight in Madrid.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 11 Madrid - Toledo - Madrid
This morning we travel to Toledo, a city with a unique blend of Arab, Jewish, Christian, Roman, and Visigothic elements. Toledo sits on a rocky promontory isolated on three sides by a looping gorge of the Tagus River. The history of several different cultures is contained within this region, represented by the houses, synagogues, churches, and mosques.

Our excursion includes a visit to the Cathedral, as well as the Santa Maria la Blanca Synagogue, which shows the influence of the Granada Moors. It has an ornate ceiling and carved arabesques, not in Arabic, but in Hebrew. The most elaborate Mudejar interior in the city is hidden behind the deceptively humble facade of this former synagogue, built in the 14th century by Samuel Ha-Levi, the Jewish treasurer to Pedro the Cruel. The interlaced frieze of the lofty prayer hall harmoniously fuses Islamic, Gothic and Hebrew geometric motifs below a wonderful coffered ceiling. Adjoining the synagogue is an interesting museum dedicated to Jewish Sephardi culture.

We also see one of Toledo's most outstanding attractions, El Greco's masterpiece "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz" located inside the Church of Santo Tome.

After lunch and some free time in Toledo, we return to Madrid.

Overnight in Madrid.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 12 Departure
Departure from Madrid.


Meal plan: Breakfast

Tour Map

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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.

Hotel List

The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.

Hesperia Gelmirez

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Santiago de Compostela
Country: Spain

This cozy hotel is situated in the heart of Santiago de Compostela, near the railway station and just 10 km
... the airport. An ideal base from which to tour the splendid historical and cultural features of the city. The hotel boasts 138 fully-equipped rooms with heating, telephone, television and satellite TV.

Read More.

Confortel Auditori

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Barcelona
Country: Spain

The Confortel Auditori hotel is a modern property boasting an unbeatable location right in the centre of Barcelona. Among features,
... will find comfortable and elegantly-appointed accommodations, a bar, a pool bar and a restaurant. Sport lovers can also avail of the outdoor swimming pool and the gym to do a bit of exercise.

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Sol Melia Tryp Rex

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Madrid
Country: Spain

The Tryp Rex hotel is located in the Gran Via. Between the Plaza de España and the Plaza Callao, close
... the famous museums and the historical city center of Madrid. Rooms feature bathroom with hair-dryer, individual climate control, satellite TV, safe deposit box, wireless internet connection (WI-FI)throughout the hotel.

Read More.

Trip Information

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Breakfast and dinner (hotels & local restaurants) daily. All transport, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters. Airport transfers for land & air customers arriving / departing on tour dates.


Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international air taxes (if applicable), excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs and shopping.

Seasonality and Weather

This tour is offered in spring, summer, and fall the most popular of which are spring and fall when temperatures are milder and crowds thinner. Spring is also popular for green landscapes. Showers are possible in spring, unlikely in summer, and possible in fall.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Land transport throughout by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Though we will have some full bus days, road travel is not particularly arduous as there are plenty of stops of interest.


Please note: This trip involves considerable walking up hills and stairs and on uneven or cobblestone streets. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to its fullest.


Well-located, air-conditioned, mid-range hotels (3 star) throughout. All hotels have en suite bath, though some may have shower only. Porter service is sometimes available though you should be independent with your luggage. Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than twins.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader throughout, driver, local step-on guides in various locales.

Group Size

10-21 (plus Tour Leader)



TOUR STARTSantiago de Compostela