Paradors of Northern Spain    *alt*

14 days, from £3580
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Explore the mosaic of diverse regions and cities of the north on this most unique of Northern Spain tours that includes a taste of Portugal. Discover Catalonia's distinct culture and proud traditions; the fiercely autonomous Basque region, with its own unique culture and language; and Castile, central to Spain's medieval history. Enjoy overnight stays in historic paradors - restored palaces, monasteries and castles - and special Tauck experiences including a choice of spa treatment or cooking demonstration at El Castell de Ciutat; a 7-course feast set within a medieval castle; a visit to the monastery atop Montserrat; a wine tasting and lunch at a Porto winery, and a cruise aboard a Rabelo boat.


 Day 1 Welcome to Barcelona and Spain

Tauck's most unforgettable of Northern Spain tours begins at 6:00 PM at Le Meridien Barcelona. A transfer is included from Barcelona Airport to Le Meridien Barcelona. At a welcome cocktail reception and dinner tonight, we invite you to meet those who will join you to discover the cultural diversity of Spain's northern regions and Portugal.

 Day 2 Art & architecture in Barcelona

Barcelona, capital of the unique Catalonia region of Spain, beguiles at every turn of your walking tour with a local guide. Highlights include Las Ramblas and the Cathedral in medieval Barrio Gotico. A drive through Montjuic takes you past the 1992 Olympic Stadium, high above the city, then on to a visit inside la Sagrada Familia, architect Antonio Gaudi's famously unfinished, Gothic-yet-modern cathedral. Spend the rest of the day and evening as you wish in Barcelona.

 Day 3 Montserrat, Cardona & on to the Pyrenees

Admire delightful rural vistas of Catalonia when you travel along the Yellow Roads to the amazing mountaintop monastery at Montserrat; see the shrine of Moreneta, the Black Madonna, presiding over the basilica. Next stop is Cardona, where you'll savor a taste of Catalan cuisine when lunch is served in the medieval ambiance of the dining room of the Parador de Cardona, a 9th-century castle. Journey on to the small towns of Castellciutat and La Seu d'Urgell in the Pyrenees, where you'll spend the next two nights at an elegant resort. Enjoy dinner a la carte at your hotel tonight; most dinners at the paradors will be full a la carte on this ultimate of northern Spain tours.

 Day 4 Pyrenees pleasures in La Seu d'Urgell

On a walking tour along the historic main street in La Seu d'Urgell, you'll be inspired by your visit to the 12th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria d'Urgell, the only Romanesque cathedral that has been preserved in the Catalonia region of the Pyrenees. After lunch, choices of activities for the afternoon include a cooking demonstration focusing on Catalan cuisine, a round of golf, a spa treatment, or a guided visit to Andorra, a tiny, sovereign principality bordering Spain and France in the Pyrenees. A highlight of Tauck's most memorable of Northern Spain tours awaits this evening at a special 7-course dinner at the hilltop 9th-century castle located on the grounds of your hotel.

 Day 5 Pamplona & San Sebasti'n in Basque country

Today takes you through the marvellous mountains of the Basque country to Pamplona, the city best known for the annual "running of the bulls," where you'll walk the route followed by this longstanding tradition. Continue on to the charming seaside town of San Sebasti'n; feast your eyes on this popular resort for the first time from the summit of Mount Igueldo, offering perfect vistas of the town. Your home for the next two nights is the Hotel Maria Cristina, among the most fabulous Belle Epoque hotels in all of Spain.

 Day 6 A day in seaside San Sebasti'n

Join your local guide on a walking tour of the Old Town of San Sebastian; the rest of the day is yours to enjoy as you please in this lovely town set on a shell-shaped bay. Further explore Old Town's medieval streets while sampling some tasty Basque specialties, or enjoy the city's many waterfront attractions - not the least of which is the famous beach popular with the international surfing set. The remainder of the day and evening are yours to spend as you wish.

 Day 7 Bilbao, the Guggenheim & Fuente De

Modern art is flourishing at the spectacular Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, as you'll see during a visit to this extraordinary achievement by architect Frank Gehry and its eclectic collection. Continue on to medieval Santillana del Mar, then up into the magnificent Picos de Europa ("Peaks of Europe"); admire the scenic views of rural villages, gorges and valleys en route to Fuente De. Enjoy dinner a la carte this evening at your parador, set in the foothills of the Picos mountains.

 Day 8 Across mountains & plains to Gothic Leon

Enjoy a morning at leisure, then make your way through the Cantabrian Cordilleras en route to central Spain's Meseta Plateau, leaving the mountains behind and journeying across the flat lands of Castile. Once the capital of the Kingdom of Leon, the city of Leon was an important pilgrimage site. A guided city tour, a visit to its magnificent Gothic Cathedral, and an overnight stay in at Hotel Conde Luna.

 Day 9 In pilgrims' footsteps on the way to Santiago

When the grave of Saint James was discovered in this region in the ninth century, hundreds of thousands began making the arduous pilgrimage along El Camino de Santiago - the Way of St. James - on foot to visit it and the cathedral dedicated to the saint in Santiago de Compostela. Enjoy a guided walking tour of the town's historic quarter and a visit to the world-famous cathedral - home to the relics of the saint - prior to an overnight stay at a remarkable parador that began accommodating travellers in the 15th century; set on the same square as the cathedral, it's one of the oldest hotels in the world, and a highlight of your most intriguing of northern Spain tours with Tauck. Enjoy dinner tonight at your choice of restaurants in the parador.

 Day 10 Prosperous Porto on the Portuguese coast

After a morning at leisure and lunch in Santiago de Compostela, cross the border from Spain into Portugal, bound for the ancient port city of Porto, nestled on Portugal's Atlantic coast, with a long history that dates back to the Roman era. Today, Porto is Portugal's second-largest city and offers much to interest visitors; enjoy dinner at your hotel this evening.

 Day 11 A Rabelo cruise & a taste of port in Porto

In Porto, port wine is at the heart of the matter; the city that gave this libation its name has long been known for the quality of its port, an economically important export for centuries. Your locally guided exploration of the city's intriguing sights includes the Gothic Church of Sao Francisco and a visit to Livraria Lello, one of the world's most beautiful bookstores. Learn firsthand how barrels of port have been transported for centuries on a cruise along the Douro River aboard a traditional Rabelo boat, before travelling to Taylor's winery to sample Porto's pride with a tour followed by a wine tasting and lunch at their Restaurante Barao de Fladgate. Spend the rest of the afternoon and evening as you wish in Porto.

 Day 12 To Coimbra en route to Lisbon

Delve into Portugal's history today as you explore Coimbra, liberated from Moorish occupation in 1064 and the site of the oldest seat of higher learning in Portugal, founded by King Dinis in 1210; join your local guide on visits to the university and historic St. Michael's Chapel. After lunch in Pombal, continue on to legendary Lisbon, arriving early this evening for a two-night stay.

 Day 13 It's all about discoveries in Lisbon

Everywhere you look in Lisbon, Portugal's beguiling capital city, you'll see reminders of the "Great Period of Discoveries" - when Portuguese mariners set sail to explore the then-unknown world and found what is now Brazil, among other notable places. During a sightseeing tour, visit Mosterio dos Jeronimos and the impressive Maritime Museum in its west wing; view the Tower of Belem, commemorating Vasco de Gama's expedition; and the Discoveries Monument, set at the point of departure of many 15th-century voyages. Explore and enjoy more of Lisbon at your leisure before joining us tonight to share memories of your journey with your travelling companions at a farewell cocktail reception and dinner.

 Day 14 Homeward bound

Your most extraordinary of Portugal and Northern Spain tours comes to an end in Lisbon. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon to Lisbon International Airport. Please allow 3 hours for airport check-in formalities. We wish you a safe and pleasant journey home.