Madrid, Basque Country & La Rioja (8 days)

special Departure Year Round
Madrid, Basque Country & La Rioja (8 days) with Samuele Colombo is a gastronomical adventure which will fill your soul with cultural history along with traditional tastes of the different villages. Learn about Roman influences on Spins churches, palaces and hidden courtyards. Feast like a king and queen on local delicacies such as suckling pig, tapas and regional seafood entrees. Visit Pamplona, Navarra (Ernest Hemingway fame) and San Sebastian. Explore Basque country. End in Bilbao. This trip although only 8 days will make you feel a part of a place few travelers get to know as you will from a local.

All Photos courtesy of Samuele Colombo

Your Escort/Guide, Samuele Colombo

Madrid, Basque Country & La Rioja (8 days)
*Departure point could also be Bilbao. In that case, the tour will end in Madrid or can be done as a circular route back to Bilbao*

DAY 1 Arrive Madrid
Arrival in Barcelona where you will be met and driven to your lovely accommodation.
Dinner meet and greet with your escort/guide, Samuele.

DAY 2 Departure from Madrid, Segovia, and Ribera del Duero
After breakfast, we’ll leave the Spanish capital heading north to Segovia, where an impressive aqueduct from the days of the Roman Empire marks the entrance to this fairy-tale Castilian city, with the Sierra de Guadarrama in the background.

Time to visit towers, Romanesque churches, synagogues, Renaissance palaces, hidden courtyards and a surprising fortress which could have inspired the creators at Disney.

After a succulent lunch of the traditional roasted suckling pig we’ll drive shortly to the wine areaR ibera del Duero and we’ll visit the shining Abadia Retuerta winery and stay at their beautiful and cozy hotel/spa.

DAY 3 Castillian Castles, Burgos, and La Rioja
After an earthy breakfast, we will visit the impressive Castle of Peñafiel from the 10th century, built to protect from the Moorish invasion.

On to Burgos we will have plenty of time to visit the majestic cathedral (one of the most important sites of the Saint James’ way) and to stroll around the narrow alleys of the old town where we will enjoy some delicious and sophisticated tapas with local wines. In the afternoon we’ll dive into ancient history by visiting the Museum of Human Evolution, situated on the south bank of the river Arlanzón, roughly 16 kilometers west of the Sierra de Atapuerca, the location of some of the most important human fossil finds in the world.
The Archaeological site of Atapuerca was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000.

A final short drive will settle us in Rioja Alta, wine region per excellence, for a lovely dinner paired with potent reds.

DAY 4 Exploring la Rioja and its great wines and gastronomy
Wine day. Relax, quirky bodegas between history and innovation, endless landscapes of vineyards, Marques del Riscal winery complex designed by Frank Gehry, small villages along the Ebro riveraa and a fabulous lunch at a Michelin star restaurant up in the mountains.

After this feast of the senses, we will drive shortly to la Rioja Alavesa, to the village of la Guardia.

Built on a high natural hill and surrounded by thick walls this village is an absolute gem. It’s peppered with palaces and churches that denote its historical importance, still evident and incredibly well preserved. At its feet, and as far as the eye can see, a wide tapestry of vineyards fill the eye of the visitor. We’ll spend the night in a small rustic yet sophisticated hotel within the fortifications.

DAY 5 Vivanco Museum, Logroño, Pamplona and San Sebastian
We’ll start off our 4th day together with the Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture, a large modern functional space that offers a unique experience of wine history, wine making and human interactions sparkled by such craftmanship. A quick drive to the capitol city of La Rioja, Logroño we’ll see having a mouth watering tapas lunch in the old town before heading to Pamplona in the afternoon.

We visit the capitol city of Navarra, famous worldwide for hosting one of the world biggest parties, The Festival of San Fermin, where the incredible Running of the Bulls takes place, it certainly owes some of its fame to its adopted son Ernest Hemingway, who spent a considerable amount of time there during the Spanish Civil War. Perfectly sized for a pleasurable stroll, the old city will surprise us with hidden corners and cobblestone alleys and magnificent squares.

A last push in the evening and we’ll arrive to San Sebastian to check in to the hotel for 2 nights.

DAY 6 San Sebastián
One of the jewels of the Basque Country. Elegant,glamorous yet rustic, intriguing and relaxing. A full day to delve into the old town,the throbbing heart of the city. It lies at the foot of Mount Urgull, protected by the sea on one side and the River Urumea on the other. It is the real social pulse of San Sebastián; its streets bustling with life, full of bars offering the best and emblematic pintxos in the city and its historical buildings such as the Basilicao of St Mary of the Chorus and St Vincent’s Church. We’ll stroll along The Concha Beach, go up to Mount Igeldo with the classic funicular to enjoy superb views of the bay, enjoy the elegant 19th century design and eclectic style of the Romantic area, built right after the demolition of the city walls.

We will have a well earned free afternoon, with an optional “txakoli” tasting should we fancy more wine! Second night in San Sebastian.

DAY 7 Seaside villages along the Gulf of Biscay and Bilbao
Leaving San Sebastian we’ll be only 100km away from Bilbao. We’ll commence a scenic drive along the rugged coast passing through picturesque fishing villages with great views of the cliffs, typical landmark of the basque coastline. Here,we will hear a lot of Euskera, the mysterious basque language which bears no resemblance with any of the Indo-European languages spoken in Continental Europe.

Around noon, we’ll have the option of having lunch in one of these charming villages( or a possible incursion to Guernika, whose name was made sadly famous by the Picasso masterpiece) or moving on to our final destination Bilbao.

“The city of the Guggenheim” is an alternative name for the city as, since this original museum was built in 1997, Bilbao has been transformed forever. In fact, now it stands out for its ground-breaking structures created by prestigious architects, and which make it an international reference for modern design.

Although, curiously, its unique character comes from combining avant-garde with the traditional feel of its old town, full of charming streets and bars offering pintxos and lively feeling.

After exploring and taking in the stark contrast between the old and the vanguard of the city centre we’ll check in to the hotel with great views over the river and we’ll savour a traditional rich and earthy Basque dinner.

DAY 8 Bilbao and the Guggenheim
We finish this week long tour in style with a mandatory visit to the Guggenheim museum, one of the most astonishing creation by Frank Gehry and the symbol of the “rebirth” of Bilbao itself. The whole morning will be spent admiring the incredible building and surrounding and exploring the exquisite art collections hosted in it.

After a last succulent lunch, the tour will come to an end. Depart Bilbao.

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