Follow in the footsteps of great explorers, Moors, and legendary kings and queens on a journey to Portugal and Spain.Trace the history of the age of discovery in Lisbon, and encounter the legacy of the Moors in Granada's Alhambra and the magnificent mosque of Córdoba. Explore seven UNESCO World Heritage sites, and enjoy authentic performances of Spanish flamenco dance and Portugese fado music along the way.
Depart on an overnight flight to Lisbon and, upon arrival, settle into our hotel, a 19th-century palace surrounded by stunning gardens. The capital of Portugal since the mid-13th-century (after it was retaken from the Moors in 1147), Lisbon rests on a series of hills at the mouth of the Tagus River, the longest waterway of the Iberian Peninsula. This afternoon, see the Monument to the Discoveries, honoring the golden age of Portuguese exploration, and the Tower of Belém, commissioned by King Manuel I to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s expeditions to India. Peek into the cloisters of the magnificent Hieronymites Monastery, the jewel of Portugal’s unique Manueline architectural style, which incorporates nautical themes and imagery from Portuguese exploration. Then watch apprentices plying age-old crafts such as gilding, inlay, and woodcarving during a private demonstration at the Museum of Decorative Arts. Tonight, soak up the sounds of fado, Portugal’s evocative folk music, at a festive dinner at one of Lisbon's most prestigious clubs.
Pestana Palace (D)
This morning, delve into the impressive collection at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, which includes works by Van der Weyden, Rembrandt, and Manet, as well as Egyptian, Classical, Islamic, and Far Eastern art spanning some 4,000 years. Then journey west of Lisbon along the Atlantic coast, stopping at Guincho Beach for a seafood lunch overlooking Cabo da Roca, continental Europe’s westernmost point. Continue to Sintra, the summer residence of Portugal’s royalty for four centuries and now a World Heritage site. Spend the morning in this serene town of palaces and parks, nestled among forested hills. At the medieval National Palace of Sintra, see a marvelous collection of azulejos, or traditional painted tiles, and step into the spacious kitchens, whose massive conical chimneys define Sintra’s skyline. Return to Lisbon for an evening on your own to discover the winding cobblestoned lanes and bustling streets of this lovely city.
Pestana Palace (B,L)
Journey southeast through the Alentejo region past vast fields of wheat, forests of cork oaks, and silvery olive orchards on the way to a small village where we’ll learn how azulejos are made, and try our hand at this age-old craft. Stop at Setúbal to wander through the colorful fish market that supplies the best restaurants in the country. Continue to the World Heritage city of Évora, which dates back more than 2,000 years to the ancient Celts. It was subsequently occupied by the Romans, then became a Moorish stronghold, and later was a royal center. Explore the historic heart of this enchanting walled city, where whitewashed houses line the narrow streets, and remnants of Moorish architecture are plentiful. See the ruins of the Roman Temple of Diana, built between the first and third century, and take in views of the city from our hotel, a beautiful 15th-century convent.
Convento Do Espinheiro (B,L,D)
Cross into Spain today and pay a visit to a premier family-owned olive estate. Sample gourmet olive oils during a private tasting, and learn about the different varieties and their production. Olives and wine grapes have been cultivated in this region since Roman times over two thousand years ago, and a number of the trees on the estate date back centuries. Continue to Mérida, home to the best preserved Roman ruins in Spain. Visit the beautiful Roman theater, as well as the adjoining amphitheater. Then tour the National Museum of Roman Art, housed in a spectacular building designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo Vallés. In the late afternoon arrive in Seville, the graceful capital of Andalusia. Having flourished under Moorish rule, Seville saw great prosperity during the age of exploration as the legendary monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella and subsequent kings of Spain reaped the treasures of the New World.
Hotel Gran Meliá Colón (B,L,D)
Begin the day at the lovely Reales Alcázares, a Mudéjar palace built on the site of a former Moorish fortress and still used by the royal family today. Stroll through the Moorish-style gardens before heading to charming Barrio Santa Cruz, the medieval Jewish quarter. Then walk down the nave of the largest Gothic cathedral in the world—a World Heritage site—and see the tomb of Christopher Columbus within. After lunch on your own, enjoy time at leisure in Seville. This evening, attend a private flamenco performance at a local tablao, followed by special guest lecture on this soulful form of dance. Later, gather for a lively tapas dinner at a local restaurant.
Hotel Gran Meliá Colón (B,D)
Drive into the mountains to the old walled town of Ronda, one of Andalusia’s loveliest towns. Steeped in history, Ronda is set high above a deep gorge that separates the medieval from the 18th-century parts of town. Walk along picturesque alleys edged by whitewashed houses with wrought-iron balconies and see Spain’s oldest bullring. Explore the town’s impressive architectural heritage, from Moorish and Roman sites to the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor, and to the Palace of Mondragon, now the Museum of the City. After lunch, continue to fabled Granada, the prized jewel of the Moors in Spain—and their last Iberian holding.
Hotel Alhambra Palace (B,L)
Moorish architecture in Spain reached its zenith in Granada, and the extraordinary fortress of Alhambra is arguably the Moors’ greatest legacy in Europe. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the city, this 14th-century fortress and palace of the Nasrid sultans is a marvel of intricate stuccowork, elegant archways, and intimate courtyards bursting with blooms. On an in-depth exploration of this breathtaking World Heritage site, visit the Nasrid Palaces around the Courtyard of the Lions and stroll past the splashing fountains and tranquil pools of the splendid Generalife gardens.
Hotel Alhambra Palace (B,L)
Travel to Córdoba today and venture into the Mezquita, an enormous eighth-century mosque with medieval chapels and a 16th-century baroque church built right into its center. Meander among a forest of delicate double-arched columns striped with red brick and white stone and admire the stunning plasterwork and mosaics. After lunch at a local restaurant, take your first-class seat aboard the high-speed AVE train to Madrid.
Hotel Wellington (B,L)
Set out on a morning tour of Madrid’s elegant squares and leafy boulevards, exploring by coach and on foot. Visit the elegant Royal Palace before enjoying time on your own for lunch. In the afternoon, an art historian joins us for a visit to the world-renowned Prado Museum. Celebrate your journey at a festive farewell dinner this evening.
Hotel Wellington (B,D)
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight.
Tim Weed is an award-winning author and educator with more than two decades of experience developing and leading educational travel programs abroad. A founding director of National Geographic Student Expeditions, Tim played a key role in developing new photography, archaeology, and wildlife conservation programs in Iceland, Peru, Ecuador and the Galápagos, Spain, the Yucatán Peninsula, Alaska, and Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks. After majoring in Spanish at Middlebury College, Tim earned master's degrees in international affairs and creative writing, and lived internationally for several years directing college semester abroad programs in Spain, Australia, and Venezuela. From 1999 to 2004, he headed up a series of pioneering educational programs for American students in Cuba, including a Havana-based program focusing on music, film, writing, and Spanish, and a four-week mobile writing workshop that traversed the island from Santiago to Havana. An avid outdoorsman, fly fisherman, and backcountry skier, Tim's essays and feature articles on travel and the outdoors have appeared in many national magazines, including Backcountry, Cross Country Skier, The Morning News, and Yale Angler's Journal. His short fiction collection, The Camp at Cutthroat Lake, was a finalist for the Lewis-Clark Press Discovery Award, and his essay “Embargoed Brothers: An American in Off-Limits Cuba” won a 2012 Best Travel Writing Award from Traveler’s Tales.
Tim will join the following departures:
May 06 - 16, 2014
Sep 09 - 19, 2014
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,500 in 2014. Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Economy airfare from New York to Lisbon and return from Madrid is from $1,000 (subject to change).