The Best of Spain in 20 days
This complete program is for those intrepid and independent travelers who want to discover and experience everything that Spain has to offer on their own. You will be surprised by the mixture of different cultures and with the diversity of its landscapes, people, climates, gastronomy and lifestyles. This itinerary will allow you to discover almost all the Spanish peninsular territory in 20 days of travel. We suggest the best places to visit adapted to your tastes, and the most appropriate accommodations to make this trip a unique and unforgettable experience.
FEEL SPAIN LIKE A SPANIARD
Day by Day Itinerary and suggested Accommodation
Day 1: Arrival in Madrid. In the afternoon, we suggest you enjoy on your own a walk across the city center and a tapas route through the food markets and taverns of the historical center of Madrid.
3-night accommodation at Tótem Madrid Hotel ****
Day 2: Visit Madrid. Enjoy a whole day visiting the most emblematic areas of the town, such as Paseo del Prado and Recoletos boulevards, where the three main museums of the capital are located, as well as the Plaza de Cibeles, the Retiro Park or the Puerta de Alcalá. Walk up the Gran Via, Madrid's "Broadway", where you can contemplate the palatial architecture of Madrid, and reach the historic center, where Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Oriente are located with the majestic Royal Palace.
Day 3: Visit Toledo. We suggest taking a return train today to enjoy the birthplace of the master painter El Greco. Enter its narrow streets to visit its many monuments, which are footprints visible of the three religions that for centuries coexisted tolerably: Christians, Arabs and Jews. Do not miss the traditional game recipes and the amazing handicrafts.
Day 4: Train to Seville. Today, we suggest taking a high-speed AVE train to Seville. The trip will take about 2h30. In the afternoon, we suggest a walking visit to the monumental Seville, visiting highlights like the impressive Cathedral or the Royal Alcázares, and a charming stroll around the Santa Cruz Quarter with its narrow streets and its local ambiance full of charisma and history. At night, we suggest attending one of the best flamenco shows in Spain.
2-night accommodation at Casa 1800 Hotel ****
Day 5: Excursion to Córdoba. In the morning, we suggest taking a return high-speed train to Córdoba (about 45 minutes trip). Upon arrival, you could walk across the intricate streets of the Jewish Quarter, full of flowers in the spring months and that somehow surrounds the main monument of the city: The Great Mosque-Cathedral. World Heritage since 1984, this temple, supported by a forest of colored columns and arcades is a must for visitors to the city. During the walk, you could also enter some lush patio and the Alcázar of the Christian Kings. Do not leave Córdoba without tasting salmorejo or rabo de toro. In the late afternoon, you could take your train back to Seville.
Day 6: Self-drive to Granada passing through Ronda. In the morning, we suggest taking a rental car at Seville's Train Station Offices and drive East towards Ronda and Granada. You could drive across deep Andalusia, passing through the villages of the mountainous areas of the north of Cádiz and Málaga, known as the "white villages". Upon arrival in Ronda, the capital of this area, you can enjoy a walk through its main monuments like the Old Bullring and the breathtaking views from the Puente Nuevo bridge. After this charming stopover, in the afternoon, continue your road trip to Granada.
2-night accommodation in Parador de Granada ****
Day 7: Visit the Alhambra Palaces. Today you could visit this stunning complex, considered one of the main monuments in Europe. Since the tickets should be usually booked months in advance, we suggest having a private guided visit with our knowledgeable local guide. If preferred, you could visit independently, on your own. Visit this magnificent complex of palaces and gardens and learn about the world of the Nasrid kings, about astrology, mathematics, design, mysticism, engineering, architecture, botany ... everything comes together in the Alhambra. Enjoy this World Heritage Site, its colors and smells, which will remain forever in your memory.
Day 8: Self-drive to Valencia. Today, you should drive to Valencia. Along the way, we suggest making a stop on your own in the Murcia region, for example, in the baroque town of Lorca or in the capital of Murcia itself. Upon arrival in Valencia, we recommend leaving the rental car and taking the day off.
2-night accommodation at Palau de la Mar *****
Day 9: Visit Valencia. Today, we suggest a stroll around the whole city of Valencia, from its historic center, with the Cathedral, the Silk Exchange Building and the Central Market, to the Turia Gardens, where the City of Arts and Sciences is located. Do not leave Valencia without tasting the horchata drink and a good paella.
*Valencia is a great city that can be explored by bicycle as well.
Day 10: Self-drive to Barcelona. Today, you should drive North to Barcelona (about 3h30). We suggest having a stopover in the coastal village of Peñiscola or in Tarragona city to visit its stunning Roman remains.
Once in Barcelona, in the afternoon, we suggest having the rest of the day at leisure.
3-night accommodation at Duquesa de Carmona hotel ****
Day 11: Visit Barcelona. Today you could enjoy the whole city of Barcelona, from the masterpieces of Gaudí's modernist architecture, such as the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell or the façades of the Casa Milá and Casa Batlló, to the Old Gothic Quarter, the Barceloneta beach or Montjuic lively areas. We suggest having lunch around the Old Town or at the Barceloneta beach, doing some shopping at Passeig de Grácia shops or visiting some of the representative museums or cultural sites in the city like the MNAC, the Poble Espanyol or the Picasso Museum.
Day 12: Excursion to Girona & Figueres. Today you should drive to North Catalonia towards Figueres (about 1h40). Upon arrival in the town of Figueres, you can visit the Dalí Theater-Museum. This museum is the largest surrealist object in the world. It is located in the old Municipal Theater, a nineteenth-century building destroyed at the end of the Spanish Civil War and in whose ruins, the master Dalí decided to be buried and create his museum. After the visit, we suggest having lunch before continuing to Girona, the capital of the province. There you can discover medieval Catalonia and its Hebrew past. The cathedral of Girona has the widest Gothic nave in the world and its intriguing Jewish quarter or "call" will transport it to the Catalan Middle Ages in its deepest roots and its complex socio-religious relations. Before driving back to Barcelona, we suggest a walk along the colorful banks of the Oñar River.
Day 13: Self-drive to San Sebastian. In the morning, after the checkout, you will drive to the Basque Country. We suggest a stopover midway in Zaragoza to have lunch or just walk along the banks of the Ebro River as it passes through the Basilica del Pilar. It is also possible to make a stop in Pamplona, the well-known city of San Fermín.
Upon arrival in San Sebastian, we suggest having a break and be ready to stroll around the Old Quarter in the late afternoon, enjoying not only the lively ambiance but also visiting some taverns to take pintxos (as tapas are called in the Basque Country). Enjoy this icon of the lifestyle of Basque people.
3-night accommodation at Villa Soro Hotel ****
Day 14: Excursion to Zumaia & Getaria village. Just down the coastline from San Sebastián is a beautiful, unique village, rich in food culture and history, and an unforgettable stretch of coast famous for its “flysch” rock formations. Drive from San Sebastian to Zumaia and Getaria (about 30 minutes) and enjoy on your own Zumaia’s famous beaches and Getaria, the picturesque fishing village, where you could delight yourself with a txakoli tasting or vineyard visit, the best-grilled fish in some restaurant, a visit to an anchovies canning shop or to the Balenciaga museum...etc. You could take some pintxos in Zarautz village before driving back to San Sebastian.
Day 15: Walking tour of San Sebastian. The surprising beauty of the mountains and beaches of San Sebastian is its calling card. You could start your stroll in front of the María Cristina Hotel, which, together with the elegant Victoria Eugenia Theater, will take you back to the days of the famous San Sebastian Film Festival. You will pass by the Zurriola bridge to see the Kursaal Building by Moneo located on the other side of the river. Later, walk along the Boulevard with its characteristic French-style mansions, to get closer to the old town of San Sebastián and the Bretxa market. Once in the Old Town, you could visit the oldest building in the city, the Church of San Vicente, as well as the Plaza de la Constitución, one of the most typical areas to discover the rite of the Basque pintxo. Finally, a walk through the port and the Concha beach as well as an ascent by cable car to Mount Igueldo to get the best views of the city on the bay of La Concha, are essential.
*For dinner, we can reserve for you one of the Michelin-starred restaurants in the city or surroundings.
Day 16: Self-drive to Oviedo with a visit to Bilbao. Soon in the morning, you should drive to Bilbao (about 1 hour), the former industrial capital of the Basque Country, today converted into a cosmopolitan and accessible city. Upon arrival in the morning, you can enjoy a walk along the banks of the Nervión estuary, the modern area of the village, and visit the famous Guggenheim Museum or even take the cable car to the Mirador de Artxanda, to get the best views from the city. Then, visit the historical center of Bilbao, and stroll along its "7 streets" where you can have your pintxos lunch in any of its many taverns or an elegant restaurant.
At the end of the afternoon, you will arrive in Oviedo and we suggest taking the rest of the day off.
2-night accommodation at Hotel de la Reconquista *****
Day 17: Visit Oviedo. Today, be ready to know the historic center of this city, a favorite of Woody Allen, who describes it as a fairy tale, but also its surroundings with a visit to a space considered Heritage World by UNESCO - Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo, in the foothills of the Naranco mountain where you will appreciate a great aerial view of the city. In the center of the city, in addition to the Campoamor Theater and the Fontán Market, you can admire the Cathedral and the Holy Chamber. Try the famous Asturian fabada for lunch!
Day 18: Self-drive to Santiago de Compostela. This morning you will drive from Asturias to Galicia passing through the magnificent landscapes of the "Green Spain". We suggest going through coastal towns and villages such as Cudillero, Luarca, Ribadeo or Villalba. As a St James Pilgrim, your last destination will be Santiago de Compostela where you will leave your car and rest upon arrival.
2-night accommodation at Parador de los Reyes Católicos *****
Day 19: Visit Santiago de Compostela. Enjoy a walking tour of the Jacobean city. From the Plaza del Obradoiro, you can enjoy the historical heritage of the city. The site formed by the Cathedral and its four squares (Obradoiro, Quintana, Platerías and Inmaculada) is one of the most interesting and rich in Europe, with much spiritual meaning and religious symbolism. The Cathedral is the heart and soul of the city. A baroque building with a Romanesque heart, whose crypt houses the remains of the apostle Santiago, its most famous feature is the Portico de la Gloria, the best and most complex group of sculptures belonging to Romanesque art.
During the walk you could stop in some tapas taverns along historical stoned streets such as Rúa do Vilar, Rúa Nova or Rúa do Franco. Taste authentic Galician delicacies such as octopus, Galician cheese, peppers, scallops or empanada. All this accompanied by excellent local, white and red wines, such as Albariño and Ribeira Sacra.
Day 20: Departure to Santiago Airport. At least 2h30 before your flight's departure, we suggest taking a taxi to reach Santiago Airport and take your flight back home.
CITIES AND TOWNS ON THE ITINERARY
If you wish to know a bit more about the places to go
Madrid: Strategically located in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, it is the Capital City of Spain and therefore, one of the most touristic and important cities of the country. Because of its central location and high altitude, the climate of Madrid is characterized by warm dry summers and cool winters. Madrid is a city of great monuments. Among its highlights are the medieval center dating back to the Habsburg Empire and the Prado Museum. As the capital, Madrid is home to the Royal family, the Spanish Government and many other national institutions. The town has a long and fascinating history and all over Madrid, there are monuments and museums of great artistical value. It is a city full of life where travelers will feel welcome. Enjoy the street life and the numerous tapas bars and cafes where you will enjoy the “madrileños” passion for life.
Toledo: Located on the banks of the river Tagus, was known as Toletum during the Roman presence before the 2nd century BC. A very important area for a long period in history, Toledo became known as the “city of the three cultures”, for Christians, Arabs and Jews dwelled together here for centuries. This accounts for the incredible cultural legacy to be found here, which led to the declaration of World Heritage by UNESCO. In Toledo, you can admire several monuments with influences from these different cultures, such as the Gothic Cathedral, the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, the church of Santo Tomé, where you can find a famous painting by El Greco, and the Alcazár Fortress.
Seville: The Andalusian Capital will enchant you with its impressive monuments and history. It has already been Arab, Jewish and Roman, which provides her a very rich culture. A walk by the district of Santa Cruz will lead you through the streets of the historic and artistic quarter where you will see 12th-century buildings like the Royal Citadels, the Hospital of the Venerable and the City Hall. Don’t miss the architectural and artistic heritage which includes the Cathedral, the Alcazar Arab fortress and India’s Archive. These patrimonial sites have been declared a World Heritage Site, by UNESCO.
Cordoba: A thousand-year-old city founded by the Romans, became the capital of Hispania Ulterior (Further Spain) and later the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate. Awarded with the World Heritage designation, the historic quarter still has the mark of the splendor of the Caliphate of Cordoba. City of knowledge, it became one of the most cultivated and refined ones in medieval Europe. One example of this is the Great Mosque, dominating the view, with its rich details and the brilliant way it was built. After the Reconquest, a Gothic cathedral was built inside the Mosque, turned to a single architectural space. During your visit, you can also discover the Jewish Quarter with its white-washed façades adorned with tiles and grilles. Here, you can find the Plazuela de las Flores, the house of the Dukes of Medina Sidonia, and the Synagogue.
Ronda: Discover one of the oldest cities of Spain, Ronda, surrounded by mountains, which give the city its magical character. The town is divided into three distinct areas: the old part which was an ancient Arab medina; the San Francisco neighborhood, separated by the city Walls and the Mercadillo quarter on the other side of the Guadalevin river. Crossing the Puente Nuevo (“new bridge”), you will find many restaurants offering an abundant selection of local cuisine.
Granada: Probably one of the most attractive cities in Andalucía. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountain, it is also famous for its impressive Al-Andalus heritage and its unique Moorish essence, since it was the last Moorish kingdom in the Peninsula which has been reconquered by the Catholic Monarchs. That’s why you will easily find both Moorish and Christian elements in the streets of the city. Discover the eclectic cultural mix neighborhood of the Albaicín quarter. You’ll be fascinated with the splendor of the Alhambra and Gardens of Generalife, the country residence of the sultan. All these sites have been awarded the World Heritage designation. You will remember Granada for sure!
Valencia: Valencia is the third biggest city in Spain, after Madrid and Barcelona. Founded as a Roman colony back in 138 BC, Valencia is an ancient city with an impressive historical and cultural heritage that will definitely amaze you with its historic center, one of the largest in Spain. Among several relevant monuments for you to explore, the main attractions are Valencia Cathedral, Torres de Serranos, the Torres de Quart, the Llotja de la Seda and the City of Arts and Sciences. But Valencia has much more to offer besides sunny beaches and History! Valencia is also packed with tradition, great food – the traditional paella Valenciana, music, dance and party which can all be experienced during the famous annual festival Las Fallas between the 1st and the 19th of March!
Catalonia: One of the most charismatic regions of Spain. Known by strong traditions and for being particularly different from the rest of Spain. An own language (Catalan) and a remarkable cultural art legacy, embodied by the stunning works of Antoni Gaudí and Salvador Dalí, places Catalonia as a world reference. A marked geographical diversity: spectacular beaches and an impressive mountain landscape allows a wide range of vacation activities. Prepare yourself for world-class gastronomy, a Mediterranean flavor experience with outstanding traditional recipes.
Barcelona: The capital of Catalonia, is located at the Mediterranean Sea in the very north of the Spanish coast. With an old historical heritage, here you will find monuments of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance periods. From the legendary modernist architecture legacy by Antoni Gaudí to the spectacular coastline that opens the city to the Mediterranean, Barcelona a leader in leisure and cuisine seduces the visitor in numerous ways. Strolling around the streets will bring surprises at every turn. Pedestrian streets in the old quarter, green spaces, and a splendid seafront with a range of modern facilities are a reflection of its multi-faceted character. Barcelona has cleverly succeeded in embracing its past without forgetting its commitment to the future. A city that is always pulsating creativity and life.
Girona: Girona invites visitors to trace its more than 2000 years of history through two fortified enclosures, the Força Vella and the Medieval Quarter. The city’s artistic heritage has been preserved in the numerous monuments that have survived until today. The highlights of Girona are rounded off by impressive old Jewish Quarter, with its beautiful streets and porticoed squares and by the exuberant baroque spaces and Noucentisme or “Nineteen-hundreds” style buildings by architect Rafael Masó.
Figueres: The capital of Alt Empordà county, Figueres, extends over a river plain situated inland in the province of Girona. Known as the birthplace and home of Salvador Dalí, this town with deep Catalan roots offers visitors the chance to experience the Dalí Theatre-Museum, dedicated to the genius of surrealist painting. It is a cultural range completed with various museums and a calendar full of festivals and events divided up throughout the year.
Basque Country: Located in northern Spain, is well known for its really diverse landscapes. Between wild and isolated beaches, kissed by the Atlantic Ocean, and high and Rocky Mountains, you will be captivated by its natural wonders. Rich in History and Culture, Basque Country has its own language, the Euskara, considered one of the oldest languages of Europe. Due to the ocean breeze, you can expect moderate temperatures, even when the rain falls – something that is not so rare among the region
San Sebastian: A charming and romantic city. Concha Bay is its most iconic site, with a big promenade along the sea, where locals and tourists go to enjoy the beautiful view. Keep in mind that San Sebastian is the place where you will like to eat. The city, besides being popular among surfers, is also well known for its remarkable culinary scene: from the seven restaurants in Spain awarded with 3 Michelin stars, three are in San Sebastian.
Bilbao: A unique city, surrounded by dense forests, high mountains and beautiful beaches. It is a privileged destination, where the past meets the future. Historic monuments, like the Cathedral-Church of Bilbao and the Basilica of Begoña, both from the 16th century, coexist with modern architectural projects, like the Guggenheim Museum and the Isozaki Towers, buildings that are catching the World’s attention. These recent investments have been crucial for the regeneration of the city as a dynamic metropolis.
Cantabria: A beautiful region in the North of Spain, full of wonderful mountainous landscapes and with an impressive number of beaches along its coast. With a remarkable cultural heritage, you can expect to find a unique set of important monuments and, of course, very rich and typical gastronomy. And don’t forget: beneath its highest mountains, Cantabria hides an amazing network of caves, considered as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Asturias: Here you’ll have a perfect combination of culture, nature and gastronomy. The first thing to catch your attention when you travel to the region in what is known as Green Spain is its outstanding scenery framed by the Cantabrian Mountains. The Asturians are ambassadors of the cult of good food. Here you can be delighted with fresh seafood, the Cabrales cheese, the typical Asturian bean stew known as fabada and cider made from local apples. Its cultural attractions include a range of important monuments, some declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO and a wide range of spectacular prehistoric art sites. Let yourself be amazed by the sound of the Asturian bagpipe, the most characteristic instrument in the traditional music of this autonomous community.
Oviedo: Closely linked to the Asturian monarchy since its foundation in the 8th century, becoming the capital of the Kingdom. This fact has left an unquestionable medieval flavor in the “Old Oviedo” the historic quarter, where you can admire grand, lovingly restored administrative and religious buildings that render the city among the most attractive in the north. Oviedo also boasts three small 9th century churches that rank among the most remarkable in Spain, built in a style unique to Asturias. The Asturian capital, throughout the city, are excellent bars and friendly sidrerías (bars specialized in cider).
Galicia: Although being a part of Spain’s mainland, it is an autonomous community with its own cultural heritage and peculiar climate and geography. Located in the northwestern corner of the country, Galicia has the particularity of being bathed by the Atlantic Ocean and the Cantabrian Sea, resulting in a temperate climate. This region is divided into four different provinces, and each one of these has a lot to offer to its visitors. Well known for its history, tradition, culture and architecture, this “green” side of Spain will amaze you!
Santiago de Compostela: The capital of Galicia and therefore its showcase. This city knew how to expand in harmony, combining tradition with contemporary, bursting in life, commerce, services and culture. Declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1985, amongst others, we recommend a visit to the majestic Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela itself and to the rest of the complex which comprises a museum, excavations, the Portico de la Gloria and the Corticela Chapel. A stroll on the old town can’t be missed, where you will have the opportunity to experience the local gastronomy and get a true feeling of the city, with its convents, churches, palaces and museums.
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