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July 2024 Inspiring Itinerary: The Perfect Journey Through Spain and Portugal 

Perfect Journey Through Spain and Portugal

Why Spain?

Spain has long been one of Europe’s most visited countries, and for good reason. Visitors are drawn to Spain’s warm, sunny climate and diverse landscapes, ranging from golden beaches to rolling vineyards and majestic mountains. The Spanish lifestyle is imbued with a passionate zest for life, evident in its lively festivals, flavorful cuisine, and spirited traditions.

The country’s history is a fascinating blend of influences from ancient civilizations, evident in its architecture, art, and customs. Spain’s cities are adorned with stunning buildings that range from intricate Moorish palaces to grand Gothic cathedrals and modernist masterpieces. The vibrant art scene is alive with the legacy of world-renowned artists, whose works continue to inspire and captivate visitors. Traditional music and dance, such as the passionate rhythms of flamenco, offer a glimpse into the soul of Spain, reflecting its deep cultural heritage and emotional intensity.

Spanish cuisine is a highlight of any visit; the culinary scene is renowned for its regional diversity and signature dishes. Tapas, the famous small plates, invite you to sample a variety of tastes in a single meal, from succulent seafood to rich, savory meats and fresh, vibrant vegetables. Paella, a beloved dish with its roots in traditional rice and seafood recipes, showcases the country’s love for communal dining and fresh, local ingredients. And of course, Spain’s world-class wines, particularly those from its renowned wine regions, provide the perfect complement to its cuisine.

The welcoming nature of the Spanish people, coupled with the country’s rich culture and traditions, creates an atmosphere that is both invigorating and enchanting. Plus, Spain, and Barcelona in particular, seem to be having a moment right now, with people talking and posting pictures of their latest trip to Spain (including our very own travel aficionado, Jamie!) everywhere you turn!

Why Portugal?

Portugal has been featured a number of times on the blog, and it’s not hard to see why! Nestled along the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal boasts a mild climate and a diverse landscape that ranges from stunning coastline and golden beaches to lush vineyards and rolling hills. The Portuguese way of life, characterized by a relaxed pace and warm hospitality, is one that everyone should experience at least once (though once you visit, you’ll surely want to return!).

Portugal’s history is a fascinating tapestry of influences from various civilizations, evident in its architecture, art, and traditions. Portugal’s cities and towns are adorned with stunning buildings that range from ancient castles and Roman ruins to magnificent Manueline monasteries and charming tile-covered facades. The vibrant art scene is alive with the legacy of renowned explorers and navigators, whose spirit of discovery continues to inspire the Portuguese people.

Just like in Spain, Portuguese cuisine is a highlight of any visit, offering a delightful array of flavors that celebrate the country’s abundant seafood and agricultural bounty. Freshly caught fish and shellfish feature prominently in many dishes, while the famous pastéis de nata (custard tarts) provide a sweet end to any meal. Portugal’s renowned wines, particularly the robust reds from the Douro Valley and the refreshing Vinho Verde, complete the exquisite dining experience.

In addition to the culinary arts, traditional music and dance offer a glimpse into the heart of Portugal. The fado, often performed in intimate settings, conveys a profound sense of longing and nostalgia, encapsulating the Portuguese concept of saudade. This rich cultural heritage is celebrated throughout the year in lively festivals and events that bring communities together in joyous celebration.

The warmth of the Portuguese people, combined with the country’s breathtaking landscapes and architectural wonders, makes for an experience that is both serene and exhilarating. In addition, the culinary scene is such an integral part of the Portuguese experience that we have an entire “Foodie-Inspired” Itinerary in Portugal, which you can find here. Plus, Jamie offers some of her own “Do”s and “Don’t”s for travel in Portugal, which you can find here

But, for now, Spain and Portugal, here we come!

Let’s Go!

Day 1

Welcome to your adventure! Upon your arrival in Spain, you’ll be met by your private driver who will whisk you away in style and comfort, eliminating any transportation worries. As you settle into your luxury accommodations in Barcelona, you’ll receive a personalized welcome package filled with essential documents and insider tips to enhance your journey. 

To make your arrival even smoother, an English-speaking assistant will be waiting in the hotel lobby to guide you through your welcome package and assist with your hotel check-in. Of course, the hotel concierge will be more than happy to provide you with local recommendations for your first night’s dinner!

Day 2

After breakfast at your hotel, you’ll meet your private guide, and hop into your comfortable transport for an exhilarating full-day tour of Barcelona. Prepare to dive into the world of the legendary Antoni Gaudí and his extraordinary creations that define the city’s skyline. Your adventure kicks off on the Paseo de Gracia, a bustling avenue renowned for its high-end shopping and iconic architecture. Here, you’ll explore Gaudí’s masterpieces, Casa Batlló and Casa Milà (La Pedrera). Casa Batlló’s whimsical, colorful façade and intricate details will leave you spellbound, while La Pedrera’s sculpted form offers a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of early 20th-century elites.

Next, you’ll venture to the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and monumental marvel, still under construction for over a century, is a testament to Gaudí’s unparalleled vision. As the largest unfinished Roman Catholic church in the world, its unique design is an absolute must-see.

Continue your journey through time as you admire the ancient Roman Walls and the 13th-century Cathedral in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. Feel the city’s rich history come alive before strolling down Las Ramblas, where the local culture buzzes with energy.

Cap off your day at the enchanting Parc Guell in upper Barcelona. This colorful, imaginative park offers stunning views of the city and showcases Gaudí’s creativity in one of the most impressive public parks in the world. This is an adventure through Barcelona you’ll never forget.

Day 3

Begin your day by meeting your private driver and guide for a half-day journey through the picturesque Catalunya countryside. Your destination is the awe-inspiring mountaintop monastery of Montserrat, a revered pilgrimage site for nearly a thousand years. Just an hour outside of Barcelona, Montserrat is home to a community of Benedictine monks who welcome visitors to explore their serene sanctuary.

As you ascend to this iconic monastery, you’ll wander through its historic complex and marvel at the Renaissance Basilica, a masterpiece from the 16th century. Inside, you’ll encounter the 12th-century carving of the world-famous Black Madonna, the Patron Saint of Catalunya, a deeply revered symbol of faith and devotion.

Perched dramatically on a rocky outcrop, the Monastery of Montserrat offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, providing a perfect blend of natural beauty and spiritual tranquility. This adventure is a journey not just through stunning scenery, but also through centuries of rich history and profound spirituality.

Once you’ve returned to Barcelona from your mountain adventure, you’ll have the rest of the afternoon and evening free to explore the city and partake in any activities you don’t want to miss before leaving Barcelona. Maybe head back to some of those high end shops along the Paseo de Gracia, or perhaps a cooking class to learn some traditional Spanish techniques, and enjoy the fruits of your labor for dinner? Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong!

Day 4

Start your day with a smooth transfer to the train station, where you’ll board a high-speed train from Barcelona to Madrid, and enjoy a scenic journey of about 2.5 hours through the beautiful Spanish countryside.

Upon arrival in Madrid, your private driver will be ready to transfer you to your next hotel, and after that, onto your next adventure. Lace up your walking shoes and set off on a half-day tour with your private guide, exploring Madrid’s oldest quarters and tracing the rich legacies of the Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties. 

Begin your exploration at Puerta del Sol, the vibrant heart of Madrid since the 17th century, then stroll along Calle Mayor to Plaza Mayor, a stunning porticoed square that echoes tales of medieval duels and lively markets. Delve into the hidden taverns of Arco and Calle Cuchilleros, and admire the architectural splendor of Plaza de la Villa.

Your tour culminates with a visit to the magnificent Royal Palace, the largest in Western Europe, and the elegant Plaza de Oriente, where gardens and statues pay tribute to Spain’s early rulers. This immersive journey through Madrid’s storied past will leave you with a deep appreciation for its cultural and historical richness.

As always, your guides and hotel concierge will be able to provide excellent recommendations for dinner.

Day 5

Today, you’ll embark on a half-day adventure to the enchanting city of Toledo with your private driver and a local guide. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and Spain’s medieval capital, Toledo is a treasure trove of history and inspiration, famously captured by the 16th-century master El Greco. Encircled by the River Tajo, this walled town brims with ancient churches, fascinating museums, and traditional steel workshops where master artisans continue the legacy of Toledo’s renowned medieval swordsmiths.

Upon arrival, meet your local guide and step back in time as you stroll along the city’s cobblestone alleyways. Marvel at the 14th-century Toledo Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece hailed as one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Spain. Explore the Jewish Quarter and visit the Santa Maria la Blanca Synagogue, Europe’s oldest standing synagogue, a testament to Toledo’s rich cultural tapestry.

Take in the sight of the imposing Alcazar of Toledo, a historic fortress offering panoramic views of the city and the River Tagus. Conclude your tour with a look at the exterior of the medieval Castle of San Servando, once the stronghold of the Knights Templar. This journey through Toledo’s storied past will leave you captivated by its timeless charm and historical depth.

Upon your return to Madrid, you’ll have the remainder of the afternoon and evening to explore as you please, though a highly suggested activity is dinner with a Flamenco dance show to cap off your time in Spain before heading to Portugal tomorrow.

Day 6

Today is all about planes, trains and automobiles, though you won’t believe how seamless and easy your transfer will be as your private guides help you make your way from Madrid to Lisbon. Plus, as a bonus, your swift two hour flight will give you a glimpse of the Iberian Peninsula from the skies.

Upon landing in Lisbon, you’ll be greeted by your driver for a private transfer. For added ease, an English-speaking assistant will meet you outside customs, holding a personalized sign for a warm welcome. Your representative will coordinate with your driver and accompany you to your accommodation, ensuring a smooth transition.

As you settle in, you’ll receive a Welcome Package filled with all the essential documents and tickets for your upcoming adventures. After your day of travel, you’ll get to relax and get ready to explore the vibrant city of Lisbon, starting with your hotel concierge’s local dinner recommendation.

Day 7

After breakfast at your hotel, today you’ll set out on a half-day tour of Lisbon, the captivating City of Seven Hills, with your knowledgeable private guide and driver. Immerse yourself in Portugal’s vibrant capital, steeped in layers of history from the Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors.

Begin your adventure at Rossio Square, the bustling heart of the city, before winding your way through the narrow, charming streets of Alfama, the Old Quarter. Visit the majestic Lisbon Cathedral, a 12th-century gem, and gaze upon the ancient Moorish fortification of St. George’s Castle.

Take in a breathtaking panorama of the city from the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte lookout, offering views that stretch across Lisbon’s unique landscape. Continue to Belem, the monumental district, where you’ll stroll alongside two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the stunning 16th-century Jeronimos Monastery and the iconic Belem Tower, perched on the bank of the Tagus River.

Pause at the Monument to the Discoveries, a tribute to Portugal’s influential Age of Discovery, before your driver returns you to your hotel. You’ll have the rest of the day to explore and shop on your own, and you’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Fado performance.

Day 8

Get ready for a full day of adventure today as you embark on a scenic coastal drive from Lisbon, discovering hidden sandy beaches nestled within rugged cliffs, all guarded by 17th-century fortresses. Your first stop is the beautiful resort town of Estoril, famed for Casino Estoril and Hotel Palácio, once the secret meeting spots for WWII spies. Stroll along the Tamariz Beach promenade, where the 17th-century Forte da Cruz castle stands elegantly amid palm trees.

Continue to Cascais, a charming fishing village turned luxurious resort town on the Portuguese Riviera. Wander through its lively town center, experiencing the blend of cosmopolitan life and stunning Atlantic beaches. Then, journey to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe, and take in the breathtaking views of the Atlantic stretching to the horizon.

You’ll continue your journey to Sintra, a town rich in history and culture. A short walk through the old city center reveals quaint handicraft boutiques and traditional pastry shops housed in historic buildings. Ascend the mountain by shuttle to the 19th-century Pena Palace, the highlight of Sintra. With its fantastical blend of architectural styles, colors, and shapes, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a fairytale.

End your day with a celebratory farewell dinner at a recommendation from your guide or hotel concierge!

Day 9

This morning, you’ll meet your driver for a private airport transfer as your journey through Spain and Portugal comes to its bittersweet close. Though surely you’ll have taken plenty of photos, and picked up lots of local souvenirs (and maybe even a few bottles of wine) to remind you of the gorgeous landscapes, storied architecture, and lovely people you encountered along the way. As your flight across the Atlantic gives you one last glimpse of the Iberian Peninsula, remember that just over the horizon lies your next great travel adventure…

Ready to Plan?

If you are ready to experience the cultural richness of Spain and Portugal for yourself, and would like to plan your Perfect Journey Through Spain and Portugal, contact your Love of the Magic Travel Agent today, or email hello@LOTMV.com.  And of course, whether you want to travel to the Iberian Peninsula, or plan your next adventure somewhere totally different, your favorite LOTMV Travel Advisor will work with you to create the unique experience you’re looking for. 

Looking for more of our Inspiring Itinerary series?

You can find links to all of 2023’s Inspiring Itineraries in this Blog: 2023 Inspiring Itineraries Recap and even links to all of 2022’s Inspiring Itineraries here: A Year of Inspired Travel: 2022’s Inspiring Itineraries, Month by Month

So far in 2024, we have:

January 2024 Inspiring Itinerary: The Perfect Christmas River Market Cruise

February 2024 Inspiring Itinerary: The Perfect Myriad of Mexico Vacation

March 2024 Inspiring Itinerary: The Perfect Journey Through Japan

April 2024 Inspiring Itinerary: The Perfect Caribbean Escape to St. Lucia

May 2024 Inspiring Itinerary: The Perfect Disney Besties Cruise to Alaska

June 2024 Inspiring Itinerary: The Perfect All American Beach Vacation

Just like always, a new Inspiring Itinerary will come out each month!

And don’t forget to check out our Friday Blog Series: Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s, where our favorite Travel Planning Aficionado shares her wealth of knowledge and experiences about traveling the world! You can find links to all of Jamie’s 2023 Travel Tips here: Jamie’s 2023 Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s, A Recap, and to all of Jamie’s 2022 Travel Tips at this Blog: Jamie’s 2022 Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: A Recap

Ready to plan The Perfect Journey Through Spain and Portugal? Contact your Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor today or email hello@LOTMV.com 

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