The Kingdoms of Leon, Castile, Aragon and Navarre took seven centuries to overturn Islamic rule, and in 1491 the Catholic Monarchs of northern Iberia, Ferdinand and Isabella, were able to claim the ‘Reconquest’ of the entire peninsula. The following year, Christopher Columbus got lost while looking for Japan, and discovered the Americas.
Spain and Portugal expanded into the world’s first global empires. Navigation, trade, and bold combat expanded their power and wealth over centuries. Both ruled territories in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania. The gold of West Africa, the silver of South America, and a global trade in slaves drove ambitious architectural works at home and abroad. Potatoes, sugar, corn, coffee, and spices transformed both the European diet and international trade. After a decline in power through ongoing European wars, the rise of the Ottoman Turks, cruel civil wars and decades of authoritarian rule, Spain and Portugal have emerged as stable and democratic nations with a cosmopolitan outlook and proud history.
Take an international flight from Australia to Madrid, Spain.
NOTE: Some flights may depart one day later, and may involve up to two transits.
Welcome to Madrid! Upon arrival at the airport,our driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel.Towards the end of the day, we provide evening transfers to the Egyptian Debod temple, Plaza de España and Gran Via; a vibrant district where you can dine at your preferred restaurant: Indian, Chinese, Spanish and Middle Eastern are some of the options.
Note: Please check the informative panels in the hotel reception area for the welcome meeting with your guide and fellow travellers to receive information about the circuit.
The day starts a comprehensive tour of Madrid including Paseo del Prado, Cibeles, Neptuno, the Gate of Alcalá, Gran Via, Plaza de Colón and Plaza Mayor. Visit Retiro Park, an oasis in the city centre, where we will see the lake and the Glass Palace. Admission to Las Ventas Bullring is included. This is one of the most famous bullrings in the world, where we will learn about the tradition of corridas in the Bullfighting Museum. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon free at leisure. At sunset, transfer to Plaza de Oriente, opposite the Royal Palace, an elegant and bustling area with many restaurants in which to enjoy a pleasant dinner.
We leave Madrid and travel towards the Extremadura region. In Caceres you can have lunch and stroll in the historic centre, one of the best-preserved Medieval and Renaissance open complexes in the world. Once in Portugal, we will stop in Evora, a World Heritage city with its white streets, Renaissance palaces, and cathedral. We will include entry to the impressive Chapel of Bones, built using 5,000 skeletons! Arrive in Lisbon in late afternoon.
This morning we take a sightseeing tour of Lisbon. We visit traditional neighbourhoods, and take in the Belem district, closely associated with great Portuguese navigators of the fifteenth century (and resting place of the renowned explorer-pirate, Vasco da Gama). Look around the Monument to the Discoveries. Erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, the monument is sculpted in the form of a ship’s prow, with dozens of figures from Portuguese history. View Belem Tower, a military outpost built to protect the Tagus Estuary from pirates and enemy attacks, and enter the beautiful Jeronimos Monastery. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is where Vasco da Gama and his men spent the night in prayer before departing towards the Orient in 1497. In the Belem neighbourhood, we invite our travellers to try a ‘Belem cake’, an exquisite local delicacy otherwise known as a Portuguese egg tart. The afternoon is free at leisure, so that you can explore this great city independently. In the evening, transfer to Restauradores Square, full of atmosphere with its bars and cafes from where we suggest you to take the Elevador da Gloria that brings you to the Upper District and its stunning view of the city.
We travel to the north of Portugal and visit Fatima, an important sanctuary. We will continue on our way through Porto, Portugal’s second largest city. Time for lunch and sightseeing tour of this city on the bank of Duero River and its historic centre included. We also include a visit to the city’s famed old cellars, then enjoy free time at leisure.
On this day we will travel through beautiful landscapes. In the city of Braga we will get on the world’s oldest cable car to go up to the Santuário do Bom Jesus, where we will enjoy its gorgeous views. We recommend trekking back down in order to admire its beautiful stairway. We will resume our trip to Galicia. We will visit the historic town of Cambados in Rías Baixas. We include a glass bottom boat trip where we will learn about the production of mussels and oysters. Wine and mussel tasting included. We will arrive in Santiago De Compostela, a famous pilgrimage destination in the Middle Ages, at lunchtime. An afternoon tour of this town with a local guide is included.
We will travel along Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) to Castile. We will take some time in Lugo to visit its historic centre and Roman walls which ware a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will make a stop on route in O Cebreiro, a small Galician stone village. Arrival in Leon at lunchtime. We will have time visit the Gothic cathedral with its stained glass windows and stroll through the historic centre. At around 5pm, we leave León for Madrid, arriving at around 9pm.
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your return flight/s.
Arrive back in Australia.