Come on a short but sweet tour through the north of Spain and get to know the people, landscapes, customs and cuisine that combine to make this part of the country so fascinating. From sipping delicious Rioja in Logrono and delighting in the seaside charms of bustling Barcelona to enjoying the lively tapas bars of San Sebastian and pulling up a seat in an atmospheric square in Madrid - this will be one eight-day adventure you won't forget.
* It's easy to be filled up by the architecture, culture and vibrant nightlife of Barcelona, but the food on offer is just as good. Traditional Catalan dishes such as fideua (similar to seafood paella) and botifarra amb mongetes (haricot beans served with sausage) taste a little like heaven. The wine isn't bad either; Barcelona is renowed for sparkling wine
* The fortified medieval city of Pamplona is a great place to discover on foot. Weave through the city's winding alleyways to the immense Gothic Cathedral and walk down the street of the famous bull run
* Logrono is bursting with delicious local produce and wine, just waiting to be enjoyed on an included pinxtos crawl. Delicioso!
* Take a long siesta on the golden beaches of San Sebastian, one of Spain's most scenic coastal destinations. As the sun goes down, join the crowds as they come out to play among the city's exciting nightlife
* The Art Walk in Madrid is every art lover's dream. In one small stretch you can browse the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, the Reina Sofia and the Prado, one of the world's most celebrated galleries
➕ Day 1 Barcelona
Hola. Welcome to Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona's quirky character and fabulous Catalan cuisine mixes seamlessly with a ground-breaking art scene, Gothic architecture, superb dining and a non-stop nightlife, Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 7pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place and confirm the time. After the meeting we will head out for an optional group dinner for you to get to know your fellow travellers. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details, passport information and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have this on hand. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you arrive early, use free time to get your bearings in Barcelona. See great works of art in the Picasso Museum, head to the waterfront for a bowl of traditional paella, soak up the festive vibe of Las Ramblas, or catch the funicular to Montjuic for sweeping views of the city. While in Barcelona, be sure to find time to absorb the bizarre beauty of La Sagrada Familia, one of Gaudi's most iconic creations.
➕ Day 2 Pamplona
Leave Barcelona behind and travel by train to Pamplona, the heartland of the Basque country (approximately 4.5 hours). On arrival into Pamplona, head out on an orientation walk and get acquainted with this well-preserved fortified medieval town. Pamplona, named after its founder, Pompey the Great, has served for centuries as both a military stronghold and an important point on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail. It's also world famous as the home of the annual San Fermin, a weeklong festival that features the running of the bulls. Interestingly, the festival became most well known in the English-speaking world after the publication of Ernest Hemingway's 'The Sun Also Rises'. Meander down winding alleys and step inside ornate buildings like Pamplona's Gothic cathedral, one of the most important religious structures in Spain. The city has also recently opened a museum of modern art designed by a prize-winning architect, inspired by the cultural renaissance achieved by Bilbao and its Guggenheim. Your evening is then free to do as you wish ' the quality of pintxos (Basque tapas) is incredible, so be sure to tuck into some tasty morsels.
➕ Day 3 Logrono
After breakfast this morning, take the short journey by public bus to the prized vineyards of La Rioja wine region and Logrono (approximately 1.5 hours). The town sits on the banks of the Ebro River and is the capital of Spain's most renowned wine region. The city is rich in history and traditions, preserved since the Middle Ages. It also boasts one of the most distinguished culinary traditions in the county, home to some of the best tapas bars in the whole of Spain, all crammed into its small medieval centre. After checking in to your accommodation for tonight, the rest of the day is free to explore. Stroll the streets of this favourite stop for pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela, a handsome city of medieval fortifications, where much work is being done to restore it to its full glory. In the evening, head out on an included pintxos crawl around the town, with the sheer concentration of tapas bars in the medieval old town leading to intense competition and incredibly high standards.
➕ Day 4 Logrono
Logrono has a central importance to the wine industry in Spain, and their tradition of winemaking dates back to the first Phoenician settlers back in the 11th century BC. The city is not only surrounded by vines, but has always treated wine with great respect. It is hard to imagine, but in 1635 the traffic of metal-wheeled carriages was forbidden in Old Town by law, as it was feared that vibration caused would disturb the wines resting in cellars below. Today you'll head out on an included winery tour to enjoy a day of grazing on delicious local produce ' all grown or made within a few kilometres of town ' sampling wine and basking in the sunshine. Visit the wine museum (July to September) to learn more about this region's famous tipple. When the museum is closed, your group leader will take you on a visit to a local winery. If the weather's on your side, stroll through enchanting vineyards and learn what goes on behind the scenes of a winery.
➕ Day 5 San Sebastian
Today take a bus from Logrono (approximately 2 hours) to stunning seaside San Sebastian, jewel of the Basque country and a city obsessed with food. With its family friendly beaches and vibrant old city, San Sebastian is a fantastic place to stroll along the promenade, shop, consume pintxos, or just to soak up the sun. When you arrive, get an overview of the most central beach, La Concha, with a cable car (included) to Monte Igueldo. Then, why not wander around the Parte Vieja (Old Town), a mix of alleyways wedged between the bay and the Urumea River. Or head to Playa de Gros and watch the surfers riding the waves of Biscay Bay. This is the home of some of the world's best restaurants, most experimental chefs and a distinct food culture all its own. This evening why not hit the neighbourhood streets for a txikiteo of pinxtos, a Basque-style tapas crawl that will fill the senses ' and stomach ' with the unique tastes of the region. Don't forget to wash them down with txakoli, a slightly fizzy white wine that's the region's signature drop.
➕ Day 6 San Sebastian
You have a full day to explore San Sebastian today, which also gives you plenty of time to take a trip along the winding coast to the nearby small fishing village of Getaria, or catch the one-and-half-hour local bus to Bilbao. If you do decide to venture to Bilbao, then spend some free time visiting Frank Gehry's iconic sweeping metal building and the artistic treasures housed inside and out. The skyline here has changed rapidly since the arrival of the Guggenheim, this industrial city now boasting over 40 landmarks for architecture and design enthusiasts. If you have enough time in the afternoon, the San Telmo Museum displays history, art and photography of the Basque country. In San Sebastian, discover the beaches, shops and charismatic streets, then in the evening, it might be a good idea to enjoy one more night of tapas (there is never enough of tapas!) that range from the traditional to the experimental, seeking out some of the nectarous local cider. Or, if you're feeling really indulgent, treat yourself to one of the local restaurants that's in the top 20 in the world and their Michelin-starred chefs.
➕ Day 7 Madrid
Journey on the train to Madrid this morning, (approximately 6 hours), a city overflowing with world-class art galleries, atmospheric city squares, and heaving nightclubs and bars. The sassy central capital is known for its elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks, but it also pulsates with energy, and is without doubt a vibrant city. On arrival, after checking in your hotel, the group will set off for an orientation walk. There is plenty to do and see in Madrid, so instead, you may choose to go out and discover on your own. The Paseo del Arte (Art Walk) gives a great panoramic perspective of western art history. Perhaps wander through the pristine gardens of Real Jardin Botanico and then delve deeper into the art of the city at Museo Reina Sofia and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Sports fans, if you're lucky enough for your trip to fall on match day, you can don a white t-shirt and head to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to watch the mighty Real Madrid. At night, head out to Chueca, Plaza Dos de Mayo or Plaza Santa Ana, where the pulse of the city will lead you from bar to bar on a final night out that you're sure to remember.
➕ Day 8 Madrid
Your 'North Spain Discovery' adventure ends this morning. There are no activities planned for the final day and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time. As there's limited time for sightseeing in Madrid, it's recommended that you make arrangements to stay few extra nights to see the highlights of the city. Our reservations team can help with booking accommodation (subject to availability).