The Spirit Of Southern Spain
Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Andalucia on this privately guided tour that combines the Spanish capital with the World Heritage cities of Toledo, Córdoba, Granada and Seville.
- Enjoy a tapas walking tour of Spain’s capital, Madrid, meet the city’s many artisans, and dip into the Prado
- Explore Toledo including the Roman circus, aqueduct, Santa Maria la Blanca Synagogue, and Toledo Cathedral
- Discover the legacy of the Moors in Spain with tours of La Mezquita in Córdoba and the Alhambra in Granada
- Tour the pueblos blancos and visit producers of olive oil, wine and cheese
- See a dazzling flamenco performance in Seville
We love this journey through southern Spain, taking in both the capital and the many splendours of Andalucia, but it’s merely a suggestion. Any of the tours, activities or hotels below can be tailored to suit your personal tastes and interests.
A two-week tour of Madrid, Toledo and Andalucia, with private tours carefully chosen to get under the skin of authentic Spanish history and culture.
This trip takes in a combination of first-class trains, chauffeur-driven cars, and guided walking tours.
When to go:
Spring is a lovely time to visit southern Spain - temperatures are warm and flowers carpet the valleys. July to August can be very hot and crowded in the cities. September and October are quieter, with less heat.
Day 1: Madrid
Upon arrival in Madrid you’ll be met by your driver and transferred to the Gran Hotel Ingles. Located in Madrid’s literary quarter, Barrio de las Letras, Gran Hotel Ingles combines contemporary style with Art Deco glamour and sophistication, making it an ideal choice for exploring the Spanish capital.
After settling in, enjoy a late afternoon stroll through central Madrid with a local history expert. The local guides we recommend love nothing more than to share the culture and curiosities of their hometown. Start with a wander through ‘Sol’, the real heart of Madrid, before discovering the tiny streets of Los Austrias, the city’s historic centre. End with a drink and a tapa before bidding farewell to your guide and deciding whether to stay out for dinner or head back to sample the traditional Spanish dishes of the hotel’s acclaimed restaurant.
Day 2: Madrid
Delve deeper into Madrid by meeting the people who make the city what it is – its artisans – on a privately guided walking tour. Visit the artists that paint onto silk and velvet. Go behind the scenes at a flamenco club dating back to 1901. Meet cape designer Carmen, whose capes have been bought by the likes of Pierce Brosnan and Nicolas Cage. Call in at one of the world’s best makers of classical guitars. And soak up the smells in some of the city’s finest leather shops.
A table will be reserved for you at one of our favourite restaurants for lunch, after which you’ll join an expert guide on a private tour of the Museo del Prado, which holds one of the finest collections of European art in the world. Your guide will be sure to show you the highlights, but you’re welcome to stay on to browse at your own leisure before returning to the hotel.
Day 3: Toledo
Your driver will arrive at your hotel this morning to take you to the first of four UNESCO World Heritage-listed cities you’ll visit on this trip, Toledo. Upon arrival you’ll be met by a local guide and shown around the city. Two millennia of history live on within the walls here.
Highlights include the remains of the Roman circus, aqueduct and sewer; the Santa Maria la Blanca Synagogue, and – perhaps most splendid of all – Toledo Cathedral, whose sacristy has close to 30 of El Greco’s paintings, as well as works by Velazquez, Titian and Goya.
Days 4-5: Córdoba
Transfer to the station to take your First-Class seat on the fast train to Córdoba, travelling in comfort past vineyards, olive groves and almond orchards. A driver will be waiting for you at the station in Córdoba to take you to your hotel, the Hospes Palacio del Bailio, a former 16th century palace complete with outdoor pool, luxurious spa and glass-floored restaurant built over old Roman ruins.
The following day enjoy a private walking tour around Córdoba’s city centre. Visit La Mezquita, originally a pagan temple, later converted into the great mosque of the Umayyad Caliphate and finally transformed into a Catholic church. Explore the winding side streets of the old Jewish quarter, visit the Alcázar of the Catholic kings, wander up the Callejón de las Flores and cross the Guadalquivir over Córdoba’s Roman bridge.
Days 6-7: Granada
This morning your driver will take you across to Granada, where you’ll check in to the Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula. This charming hotel is set within two historic buildings: the 16th century convent of Santa Paula and a neighbouring 14th century townhouse. Some beautiful restoration means the cloisters and vaulted ceilings, cobbled courtyard and Moorish patio are still there for today’s guests to enjoy. The main restaurant, El Claustro, is one of the leading lights of Granada’s culinary scene, and the proximity to the cathedral, Alhambra and Albaicin afford the hotel top marks for location.
This evening join an expert guide for a private walking tour of the Albaicin district, the one-time Moorish quarter of Granada that’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Your guide will show you how this medieval Islamic city has kept its identity into the modern age, explaining its social history and character in anecdotal style as you walk through the cat’s cradle of twisting alleyways. End with dinner on the balcony of one of Granada’s best restaurants, Carmen Aben Humeya, whose views of the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada are simply unsurpassed.
The following day enjoy a guided tour of the magnificent Alhambra, the imposing red fortress and palace complex that stands proud above the city, and greatest expression of Islamic art and architecture that Spain has ever seen.
Day 8: Ronda
Moving west you’ll travel to to Ronda, the most dramatically located of all Andalucia’s famous pueblos blancos (white villages), whose famous ‘New Bridge’ connects the old and new towns across a 100m gorge.
After a guided tour and lunch at one of our recommended restaurants, continue to Hotel La Fuente de la Higuera on the outskirts of town. Surrounded by olive and fig trees, this intimate 11-room hotel combines rural luxury with truly personal service.
Day 9: White Villages
Today’s private tour through the pueblos blancos explores the three pillars of Spanish cuisine: wine, cheese and olive oil. Stop at an olive mill for a tour and tasting of country bread drizzled with local olive oil.
Visit a local producer of Payoyo cheese and wash down your samples with a glass of muscatel wine. And tour one of the 20 or so small family-run vineyards that are gaining the region such widespread acclaim among wine aficionados.
Day 10: Jerez de la Frontera
This morning your driver will meet you at reception to transfer you to Jerez, the capital of Spain’s ‘Sherry Triangle’. Before starting on the sherry, however, visit the world-famous Royal Andalucian Equestrian School for a breathtaking performance of dancing Andalucian horses. After lunch, visit a gorgeous 18th century sherry bodega for a private tour and a guided tasting of five of their prized sherries.
Check in this afternoon at Casa Palacio Maria Luisa, a stunning palatial house built in the 19th century, complete with outdoor pool and elegant, fine-dining restaurant.
Day 11: Seville
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before a late-morning transfer north to Seville, where you’ll check in to Hotel Mercer Sevilla. Converted from a resorted palace townhouse, this intimate hotel – just 12 rooms and suites – revolves around a beautiful central patio that’s bathed in natural light. Rooms have been meticulously furnished, the small but stylish restaurant goes above and beyond what you’d expect from a hotel of this size, and the roof terrace pool offers wonderful views over the surrounding rooftops.
This afternoon we’ve arranged something rather special. Renowned art restorers, Jesus, Pablo and Virginia, will invite you and your guide into their home to share their passion for art and the secrets of restoration. Far removed from museum queues and shuffling tour groups, these experts in their field will show you what they’re working on and perhaps even instruct you in helping them with their work. Depending on the day, you might find Golden Age paintings, rococo mirrors, ivory crucifixes or Roman pottery over 2000 years old. This is a truly magical experience for art lovers.
Days 12-14: Seville
A three-hour walking tour is an ideal way to explore Seville’s greatest monuments. Accompanied by a private guide you’ll visit the meandering streets and charming plazas of the old Jewish quarter, learn about the city’s great cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, and visit the Alcazar, the royal palace built by the Moorish kings.
Seville, of course, is also the birthplace of flamenco music, so what better way to end your trip than with a live performance at one of the city’s renowned flamenco venues? After enjoying the show, your guide will take you on a tapas tour through the buzzing bars of the city centre, where huge joints of ham hang from the ceilings and the locals discuss everything from football to flamenco.
On the last day your driver will be waiting for you in the lobby to transfer you to the airport to catch your flight home.
Within these two weeks, you may learn more about Spain than you ever thought possible. With carefully thought out guided tours, you’ll find out about the history, food and culture of Andalucia from the people who really know. Getting around by train and chauffeur-driven car takes all the stress out of travelling, allowing you to sit back and soak up the scenery.
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