Culture

Historic Wonders of Iberia

3 to 12 (or 17) October
Spain, Portugal

The PTG slogan is “rail and culture” and that is exactly what this tour sets out to achieve, with a combination of trains, historic towns and scenery, making this an attractive new tour.

Beginning in Madrid, we visit the historic cities of Segovia and Toledo with their important Roman sites before travelling south-west, taking in some of Spain’s most important historic locations, including Plasencia, Cáceres and Mérida. Crossing the border into Portugal, we see important Roman, Moorish and Medieval towns including the fortified town of Elvas, the hill-top settlements of Marvão and Monsaraz, and the UNESCO town of Évora. We end the trip in Lisbon, with an option of spending a few days in the Portuguese capital to explore all that it has to offer. With local guides in several of the locations we visit, scenic rail journeys and top-class hotels, including Paradores in Plasencia, Cáceres and Mérida, this is an exciting new tour.

Your Tour Manager for this trip is David. Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with him about the trip, please feel free to e-mail him on david@ptg.co.uk.

Highlights

  • Great hotels
  • Half-board – dinner included each evening
  • First class train travel
  • Historic towns
  • Local guides
  • Segovia
  • Roman sites
Itinerary

Day 1 Thursday 3 October Flights from several UK airports to Madrid, where we transfer to our city-centre hotel. Overnight in Madrid.

Day 2 Friday 4 October (B,D) Segovia is one of the most well-known Roman sites in Spain, and this is where we begin our adventure. A short train ride from Madrid and we find ourselves face-to-face with the 160-arch Roman aqueduct, much of it still in its original state, with mortar-less granite blocks. Over the centuries many peoples have left their marks here, and we also find a Gothic cathedral, Romanesque churches and medieval walls. Return to Madrid at the end of the day. Overnight in Madrid.

Day 3 Saturday 5 October (B,D) Another day out by train from Madrid, this time visiting the ancient city of Toledo, a UNESCO listed site. The walled city sits above the Castilla-Mancha plains and is known for its monuments left by Arab, Jewish and Christian cultures, including the Moorish Bisagara and Sol gates. The old quarter of the city is like a real-life museum. Overnight in Madrid.

Day 4 Sunday 6 October (B,D) Leaving Madrid by train. we start our exploration of the historic towns in South-West Spain, beginning with Plasencia, a walled market town. It is best known for the 12th century double line of walls, including 68 towers and six gates. We can also see the remains of a Roman aqueduct, and, in the old quarter, palaces, ancestral homes and magnificent cathedrals. Our home tonight is Plasencia Parador, located in an old convent and renowned for its excellent food.

Day 5 Monday 7 October (B,D) After a free morning to explore some more of Plasencia’s treasures, we take a train to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Cáceres. Though it was founded by the Romans, we can still see architecture of many other cultures that occupied the city, including the Moorish city walls and Renaissance and Gothic architecture. In fact, our home for the next three nights is Cáceres Parador, a former Renaissance palace. A local guide will lead us through the most important sights in the town this afternoon.

Day 6 Tuesday 8 October (B,D) A free day to explore the historic charms of Cáceres, wandering through the medieval cobbled streets, fortified homes and palaces. Optionally, join us on a train trip to Valencia de Alcántara. This line used to be the route of the overnight Lusitania train between Madrid and Lisbon, but after this was diverted by another route in 2012, the line into Portugal was closed. Today we travel out and back on the Spanish section of the line. Overnight in Cáceres.

Day 7 Wednesday 9 October (B,D) Today we visit Trujillo, on the Route of the Conquistadors. The highlight is Trujillo Castle, built in the 13th century on the site of an Arab fortress at the highest part of the town. It also boasts an important group of churches and manor houses near the central Plaza Mayor. This part of Spain is famous for its wine and Iberian ham, and we will include tastings. Overnight in Cáceres.

Day 8 Thursday 10 October (B,D) Our exploration of historic Iberia takes us to one of the most important and best preserved Roman sites in Spain, the World Heritage town of Mérida. Founded by the Romans in the 1st century B.C., the theatre they built is still in use today. Next to it is the amphitheatre. We can also find a 792-metre-long Roman bridge over the River Guadiana, the Temple of Diana and the Aqueduct of Los Milagros. This afternoon we have a guided tour with a local guide. Overnight in Mérida Parador.

Day 9 Friday 11 October (B,D) We have a free day in Mérida. The guided tour yesterday will have given us a taste for what there is to see, allowing us to visit the locations that most interest us. While in Mérida, we stay in the Parador, a former 18th-century convent built on top of the remains of a temple dedicated to the Augustan Concord.

Day 10 Saturday 12 October (B,D) After a free morning in Mérida, we catch our train to the border town of Badajoz, where we change to a Portuguese train for the cross-border journey to Elvas on a recently reintroduced daily service. Elvas itself is one of Portugal’s hidden gems. The old town is surrounded by a defensive wall, designed so that no side was left unprotected, resulting in the formation of a unique star arrangement comprising bastions and hidden passages, allowing Elvas to fend off three separate Spanish sieges, only falling in 1808 during the Napoleonic wars. Our hotel for the next two nights lies just outside the walls.

Note: anyone finishing their holiday here will return to Madrid by train, in time to catch late-afternoon flights home.

Day 11 Sunday 13 October (B,D) After breakfast, our coach takes us northwards along the border to the former Roman city of Ammaia. Though much of the remains have been destroyed over the centuries, the museum has an excellent collection of artefacts found in excavations. We then make the short journey to the hilltop village of Marvão, on the highest point of the Serra de São Mamede, overlooking the Spanish border. Only accessible from the east, due to steep slopes on the other sides, it played a fundamental role in many major military conflicts including the Peninsular Wars (1807-11). Inside the walled village you find a fascinating small town, and spectacular views in all directions. Overnight in Elvas.

Day 12 Monday 14 October (B,D) Leaving Elvas, we first stop at the town of Estremoz, often referred to as the white town due to the locally-quarried high-quality white marble. Highlights are the castle with its medieval walls and the former 13th century citadel. After time for lunch and your own exploration of the town, we continue to our final destination, the Roman town of Évora. Home for the next three nights, our hotel is just inside the city walls.

Day 13 Tuesday 15 October (B,D) UNESCO listed, Évora was conquered by the Romans in 59 B.C., and we can still see evidence of their occupation. Most well-known is the Temple of Diana, and the thermal baths, discovered below the floor of what is now the local council building. Parts of the original Roman wall can be seen, often incorporated in the walls of buildings. The focus of the town is Giraldo Square, with the narrow Moorish streets radiating out from here. Look out too for the aqueduct which can be seen in the old town. We have a local guide with us this morning, with a free afternoon.

Day 14 Wednesday 16 October (B,D) East of Évora we find another hilltop village, Monsaraz. Accompanied by our local guide, we explore the streets of his medieval town, from where we have views over the man-made Alqueva reservoir and into Spain. A small town, but it has its own bullring, still in use today. Free time for lunch and to explore the town. On our return journey to Évora, we will stop off to taste some excellent Alentejan wine.

Day 15 Thursday 17 October (B) After breakfast, we go to the railway station to catch our inter-city train to Lisbon. Transfer to the airport by metro in time for your flights home. Alternatively spend a few days exploring the fascinating Portuguese capital.

By its nature, on this trip you need to be able to walk around locations with steep hills, stairs and cobbled streets, and be able to lift your luggage on and off trains.

Flights

BA0462 15.40 Heathrow to Madrid (arr 19.10)
BA501 10:45 Lisbon to Heathrow

EZY8277 12.00 Gatwick to Madrid (arr 15.30)
EZ8720 19:45 Lisbon to Gatwick

FR5996 15.05 Stansted to Madrid (arr 18.35)
FR1887 15:05 Lisbon to Stansted

FR3187 17.15 Manchester to Madrid (arr 20.55)
TP322 16:05 Lisbon to Manchester

EZY6993 07.30 Edinburgh to Madrid (arr 11.40)
EZY6982 10:40 Lisbon – Edinburgh

Place(s) available

Revised Prices

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • Full 15 day holiday including flights from the UK: £2,250
  • Full 15 day holiday with own flights: £2,050
  • 10 day Spain only including flights from the UK: £1,795
  • 10 day Spain only with own flights: £1,595

Options

  • Single room supplement: £295 (15 days), £175 (10 days)
  • With flight prices might increase for late bookings

Deposit

  • Travelling by air: £750
  • Own travel: £400

Price includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • En-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary; B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted.
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