The following itinerary describes a range of sites which we plan to include. Some are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & dinners indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.
Seville - 3 nights
Day 1: Tuesday 23 September, Arrive Seville
- Tour commences at 10am in the foyer of the Hotel Inglaterra
- Welcome Meeting
- Santa Cruz Quarter and the Hospital de los Venerables (Fundación Focus)
- Cathedral and Giralda of Seville
- Welcome Dinner at a private 17-century palace
Meeting Point: The tour commences at 10am in the foyer of the Hotel Inglaterra situated 250 metres from the Cathedral, overlooking the Plaza Nueva.
Seville gained great importance and prosperity in the 12th century when the Almohad dynasty of North African Berbers made it their capital in al-Andalus (the Muslim ruled area of the Iberian Peninsula); and again in the 16th century, when it became the Spanish entrepôt for silver and gold from the Americas. Its major monuments and most important works of art date from these periods and from the 13th and 14th centuries, when Ferdinand III of Castile wrested the province from the Muslims in 1248. Seville therefore boasts fine Muslim, Gothic, Mudéjar and Baroque monuments (‘Mudéjar’ is the term which denotes buildings built for Christians by Muslim craftsmen). In the 17th century it vied with Madrid as the centre of Spanish sculpture and painting. Zurbarán, Velázquez and Murillo all worked in Seville and the city produced a fine school of polychrome wood sculpture, examples of which are still used in processions for Holy Week (Semana Santa). In the 19th century, Seville became a picturesque setting for Northern European Romantic novels, artworks and operas, because of the popularity of Murillo’s paintings of street urchins, Seville’s famous bullfights, and the magnificence of its celebrations during Holy Week.
We commence our tour with a Welcome Meeting which will include an introductory talk by Anneli. This will be followed by a walk through the Santa Cruz quarter, Seville’s medieval ghetto. Despite its narrow winding streets, this precinct grew in popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Aristocrats built small palaces here, without disturbing its original, picturesque street plan.
We also visit the 17th-century Hospital de los Venerables. Originally a residence of elderly priests, this is now a cultural centre. Of particular interest is its very original sunken courtyard, with arcaded galleries at a higher level and a central fountain, which is descended via circular steps decorated with tiles. Its design is a pleasant interplay of spaces of square and curved plan.
This afternoon we visit Seville’s Cathedral. This huge building, which is the largest Gothic structure of its type in Europe, was built upon the foundations of the Almohad Friday Mosque by the Christian conquerors of the city. It retains the general plan and dimensions of the mosque and its courtyard that was used by the Islamic population for ritual ablutions. The courtyard, as its name – Patio de los Naranjos – suggests, is now dominated by a veritable forest of orange trees. Although now used primarily as a thoroughfare, the courtyard would once have provided Islamic students with a quiet shady place for the study of the Qur’an; plantings would have been more diverse at that time. The cathedral boasts what is arguably Spain’s greatest retablo mayor, a massive gilt and painted wood retable occupying the whole of the chancel wall. It also contains a number of major medieval, Renaissance and Baroque artworks (including paintings by Goya and Murillo) and the tomb of Christopher Columbus.
The cathedral’s bell tower, originally the minaret of the Almohad Friday mosque, is in the same style as those at Rabat and Marrakesh in Morocco. It is a monumental, square tower that houses seven superimposed rooms. Access is provided by a ramp up which the Imam once rode a donkey five times a day to call the faithful to prayer. The exquisite brick patterns on its four façades assured its survival when Seville fell to the Christians. Upon it they placed a belfry (bells are anathema to Islam) and a weather vane, or Giraldillo, which gives the tower its modern name, ‘Giralda’.
This evening we enjoy an exclusive Welcome Dinner at an elegantly restored private 17th-century Casa Palacio (stately home) in the heart of Seville, a short walk from our hotel. (Overnight Hotel Inglaterra, Seville) D
Day 2: Wednesday 24 September, Seville
- Archivo General de Indias
- Casa de Pilatos
- Royal Alcázar of Seville
This morning we visit the Archivo General de Indias. The archive, established in 1785, houses an extremely valuable collection of documents and maps illustrating the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and Asia. Here we may view some fascinating letters and hand-drawn maps. The building itself dates to 1572 when Philip II commissioned architect, Juan de Herrera (architect of the Escorial) to house the Consulado de mercaderes – the merchant guild of Seville. It represents a fine example of Italianate Spanish Renaissance architecture and was registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site together with the adjoining Cathedral and Alcázar in 1987.
Seville’s noble palaces are usually found, not in exclusive suburbs, but in the narrow streets of the city that in the past would have been inhabited by vendors, craftsmen, beggars, and Murillo’s street urchins. Their often bland façades, however, give on to lovely patios and gardens which, following Islamic tradition, are enclosed, secret paradises embedded in, but contrasting dramatically to, the noisy, dirty, smelly city outside the walls.
Late morning, we visit a Sevillian mansion of the late-15th and 16th centuries, the Casa de Pilatos. Built by Fabrique de Ribera in 1519, it owes its name to a legend that it was modelled upon Pilate’s house in Jerusalem. Processions during Holy Week used to leave this building, winding their way out of the city to the Cruz del Campo, the distance believed to be exactly that from Pilate’s Jerusalem Praetorium to Golgotha, where Christ was crucified. The house, organised around a great patio, is a fascinating mix of Mudéjar, Flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance elements. An antique sculpture collection, adorning the main patio and the Jardín Chico (small garden), reflects the humanist tastes of its original owners. This garden also has a delightful pool, which was the water tank of the original house. This, and the Jardín Grande, have a marvellous variety of plants, including clusters of citrus and banana trees that thrive in Seville’s warm climate, and myriad flowers.
We continue with a visit to Seville’s Alcázar, a sublime collection of gardens, patios and architecture which is a journey through the soul of Seville; it represents a fusion of the cultures that shaped the city’s art and history. The first fortified palace dates from the tenth century, and was built by Islamic rulers on an old Roman settlement, later transformed by the Christians after the conquest of Seville in 1248, when it became the palace of Fernando ‘the Holy’. It is the oldest continually occupied palace in Europe. Traces of Gothic architecture date from this early Christian era, but far more important are the mudéjar elements from the reigns of Pedro I ‘the Cruel’ in the fourteenth century. The term mudéjar refers to the work of Muslims who were permitted to stay in the newly Christian territory, a unique fusion of the oriental and occidental. The garden created by Pedro I in 1366 has recently been rediscovered, having been hidden under marble paving for 400 years. A curious sunken garden with a central pool and planted borders edged with interlaced brickwork, it exemplifies the Christian king’s fascination with the Hispano-Arabic world. With the coming of the Habsburg dynasty in the sixteenth century, the Royal Palace and its gardens entered another heyday. The ancient orchards were transformed into Italianate gardens, at first in accordance with Renaissance precepts and later in a mannerist style. In 1526 the Emperor Charles V converted an old Muslim oratory into an exquisite pavilion which combined Renaissance style with a mudéjar heritage. The new gardens were grander and more palatial, very different to their intimate and enclosed Hispano-Arabic antecedents. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the old orchards around the Alcázar were transformed into new gardens. Magnolia grandiflora, myrtle , palms, roses and bitter oranges share this garden with fascinating Central and South American species brought back to Spain when Seville prospered as the country’s gateway to its overseas territories colonies. (Overnight Seville) B
Day 3: Thursday 25 September, Seville – Itálica – Seville
- Archeological Ensemble Itálica
- Museo de las Bellas Artes
- Hospital de la Caridad
- Torre del Oro (exterior)
This morning we take a short drive north of Seville to Itálica, birthplace of Roman Emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Founded by General Scipio in 206 BC during the second Punic War, Itálica is home to many Roman remains, including the Colossus of Trajan, ancient cobbled streets, and one of the largest amphitheatres in the Empire.
Returning to Seville, we visit the Museo de las Bellas Artes, a large museum of Andalucían art. The museum is located in the former convent of the Merced Calzada whose architecture exemplifies Andalucían 17th-century mannerism, designed around three patios and a large stairway. It opened its doors to the public in 1841 with the works from closed down convents and monasteries. Today it is one of the best fine arts museums in Spain, whose impressive collection extends from the medieval to the modern, focusing on the work of Seville School artists such as Francisco de Zurbarán, Juan de Valdés Leal and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.
The Hospital de la Caridad is a Baroque hospital commissioned by Don Miguel de Mañara (1661-1664) to care for the sick, the poor and the starving. Mañara was a typical Counter-Reformation Spaniard in that he believed that salvation could be gained by good works. The hospital’s chapel contains Valdés Leal’s two extraordinary images of death, In Ictu Oculi and Finis Gloriae Mundi (1672), which visually explore the themes of death, decay and the transitory nature of life. The great masterpieces of this chapel are, however, Murillo’s beautiful cycle of paintings depicting mercy executed between 1660 and 1674. The Feeding of the 5,000, Moses Striking the Rock, and St Elizabeth Nursing the Lepers, are particularly fine examples of Murillo’s masterful handling of light and shade.
Nearby we view the exterior of the Almohad Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold) which was part of the Almohad river fortifications guarding the port of Seville. It was originally one of a pair of towers either side of the river which held the great defensive chain stretching across the Guadalquivir River. (Overnight Seville) B
Cádiz – 2 nights
Day 4: Friday 26 September, Seville – Jerez de la Frontera – Cádiz
- Fundación Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre (Royal Andalucían School of Equestrian Art)
- Bodega Tio Pepe – Gonzalez Byass
- Alcázar and Cathedral of Jerez de la Frontera
Today we travel to Jerez de la Frontera where we experience a quintessential Andalucían itinerary of thoroughbred Spanish horses, fine Islamic and Christian architecture and a drop of sherry.
Our tour begins with a visit to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, home to some of the finest horses in the world which are trained to ‘dance’ to classical music. Archaeological evidence suggests that the ancestors of Spanish horses inhabited the Iberian Peninsula more than 3000 years ago. However, the origin of the pure Spanish horses called “Pura Raza Española” (PRE) that star in this performance dates to 1567 and the reign of King Philip II. In his personal quest to create a Spanish horse in the ideal image found in centuries-old mythology, folklore and art, he ordered the royal horse master to acquire numerous Spanish mares and stallions throughout Andalucía for selective breeding. We shall tour the Royal School facilities including: the Recreo de las Cadenas (Harness Workshop, Palace and Gardens), Museum of Equestrian Art, the Carriage Museum, and the Stables and Saddlery. We also watch some of these fine animals go through their paces during their daily training sessions in the outdoor exercise rings and inside the Picadero (indoor arena).
Following lunch and a glass or copita of sherry wine at one of Jerez’s famous bodegas, we take a walking tour of Jerez. The 12th-century Alcázar, which is considered one of Andalucía’s best-preserved Almohad monuments, was erected as both residence and fortress for the Almohad Caliphate. It features an octagonal tower, Islamic-style gardens and a beautiful small mosque later transformed into a chapel. The Catedral de San Salvador erected between 1695 and 1778 is a mix of Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical style. The interior houses Zubarán’s Virgen niña meditando (Virgin Mary as a Child, Asleep). (Overnight Cádiz) BL
Day 5: Saturday 27 September, Cádiz
- Museo de las Cortes de Cádiz
- Guided walking tour of the Old Town: Catedral de Cádiz & Oratorio de la Santa Cueva
- Torre Tavira
- Palacio de Mora – by special appointment
- Museo de Cadiz
- Dinner at Café Royalty
Located on a peninsula on a large bay, Cádiz was founded in 1100 BC as a Phoenician port, prospered under the Romans, but declined under the Visigoths (5th century). Córdoba and later Seville eclipsed it during the Muslim period and it only revived with the American trade in the 16th century. When the Casa de Contratación (Office of the Americas) was moved here from Seville in 1717, Cádiz prospered as Seville had done, through a virtual monopoly of American trade. Surrounded in the 18th century by fortifications, the French laid siege to the city from 5 February 1810 until withdrawing on 24 August 1812. During this siege Cádiz’s Spanish patriots promulgated Spain’s first modern constitution. This act heralded the development of the concept of liberalism in Western politics. We make a brief visit to the Museo de las Cortes de Cádiz to view the 1770s model of 18th-century Cádiz made in mahogany, silver and ivory.
We continue with a walking tour of the old town including a visit to the golden-domed cathedral. The church was known as “The Cathedral of The Americas” because it was built with money from the trade between Spain and America. This largely Baroque-style Cathedral, built between 1722 and 1838, was initially designed by architect Vicente Acero who also built the Granada Cathedral. However, Acero was later succeeded by several other architects who made changes to the original design adding Neoclassical elements to the dome, towers and main façade. Within the cathedral is one of Andalucía’s finest intricate wood-carved choirs. In the crypt lies the tomb of composer and pianist, Manuel de Falla, an important musician of the first half of the 20th century. We also visit the Oratorio de la Santa Cueva, an exquisite example of 18th century Baroque, which sports three restored works by Goya.
We also visit the 18th-century Torre Tavira, one of 128 miradors (watch towers) remaining from approximately 170 towers that overlooked the sea from the centre of Cádiz. By this time Cádiz had become the major entrepôt for trade with the Americas; the river port of Seville had collapsed because silting had closed the Guadalquivir to navigation. Cádiz merchants added these towers to their residences; from them they would scan the horizon, anxiously awaiting the return of their precious cargoes.
Following some time at leisure for lunch, by special appointment we visit a private palace located in the historic centre of the city. This mid-19th century palace was designed by architect Juan de la Vega y Correa who was also responsible for directing the works of the Cathedral during its last phase. It was inaugurated with a gala ball, presided over by Queen Isabel II, on September 26, 1862.
We end the day in the archaeological, fine arts and ethnographic sections of the Museo de Cádiz. The archaeological section documents the city’s important ancient history and features two Phoenician marble sarcophagi and a giant marble 2nd-century statue of Emperor Trajan from Baelo Claudia. The highlight of the Fine Arts section is the collection of 18 superb 17th-century canvases of saints, angels and monks by Zurbarán.
This evening we dine together at the Café Royalty, one of the few preserved grand romantic cafes in Andalucía, located in Cádiz’s historic centre. The Café features rich paintings by well-known Spanish artists such as Felipe Abarzuza, beautifully handcrafted carpentry from the era, and gold leaf plaster details together with early 20th century furnishings. Inaugurated in 1912, it soon became the most popular spot in Cádiz, and was frequented by renowned writers, intellectuals, politicians, artists and musicians, such as the great local composer Manuel de Falla, who delighted customers with his concerts. (Overnight Cadiz) BD
Ronda – 2 nights
Day 6: Sunday 28 September, Cádiz – Tarifa – Algeciras – Ronda
- Baelo Claudia: Roman Archaeological Site
- Tarifa Old Town
- Algeciras and view of the Rock of Gibraltar
- Jimena de la Frontera, Andalucían White Town
This morning we drive south to the archaeological site of Baelo Claudia, one of the best and most complete Roman urban sites in Spain, surrounded by beautiful vistas of the Gibraltar Range National Park. This small Roman coastal town is thought to have emerged at the end of the 2nd century BC, and subsisted mainly on tuna-fishing, sauce-making and olive-oil pressing industries. Its origins and subsequent development are closely linked to its commerce with North Africa, and it is thought to have served as a main port of embarkation for Tingis (modern Tangier). It became a Roman municipium under the Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) and displays features of centralised town planning of the early imperial period with an interest in public buildings, such as the forum, temple complex, market and public bath complex built along the Decumanus Maximus, the principal thoroughfare.
We then follow the coastline road south-east to Tarifa, which offers spectacular views of the Strait of Gibraltar over to Morocco and the Rif mountain ranges. We stop for lunch in Tarifa, named after the Moorish leader Tarif Ibn Malik who led a first expedition to the southern tip of Spain in 710, a year before the main Moorish invasion of the peninsula. We will have time to explore the attractive old town with its narrow streets, white-washed houses and flowered balconies, and view its Moorish castle dating back to the 10th century. Christians took over the town in 1292 but suffered several counter-attacks, during which it was defended by Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, nicknamed El Bueno “the good”, for allowing his son to be captured and killed rather than surrender the town to the Moors.
Strategically located on the far side of the bay opposite Algeciras stands the dramatic Rock of Gibraltar. We will stop briefly for a chance to view and photograph this famous landmark, which to the ancient Greeks and Romans was one of the two Pillars of Hercules marking the western edge of the known world.
From Algeciras we continue inland to Ronda making a brief coffee stop at the foot of Jimena de la Frontera, a small historic white town of narrow cobbled streets built on a rock escarpment dominated by its castle. The landscape we encounter this afternoon and for the next two days is dominated by the white towns for which Andalucía is justly famous.
We spend the next two nights in the Parador de Ronda, housed in a former 18th century town house; it is located in the historical centre alongside the famous Tagus River, next to the Puente Nuevo and the bullring. Tonight we dine together in the restaurant of the parador which serves Andalucían specialties. (Overnight Ronda) BD
Day 7: Monday 29 September, Ronda – Benaoján – Ronda
- Puente Nuevo
- Plaza de Toros (Bullring) and home to the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda (Royal Riding School)
- Plaza de Toros (Bullring) and
- Baños Árabes (Arab Baths)
- Exclusive visit to private palace (by special appointment, subject to confirmation in 2025)
- Cueva de la Pileta, Benaoján: Guided tour of prehistoric caves conducted by torch and paraffin lamps
The iconic Andalucían town of Ronda is dramatically sited on sheer cliffs above a deep ravine, with grand panoramic views framed by mountains. The early 19th-century artists David Roberts and J.F. Lewis both painted the picturesque view of the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) which spans the deep ravine, ‘El Tajo‘, separating the two parts of Ronda, the old Muslim town and the Christian district, the Mercadillo. The Guadelvin River cut this ravine, and the high bridge which spans it was built in the late 18th century. Of Roman origin, Ronda became an almost impregnable Muslim fortress city until the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella took it in 1485. It retains a Roman bridge which we cross to visit the 13-century Arab baths which feature horseshoe arches, columns and clearly designated divisions between the hot and cold thermal areas.
In 1493, eight years after the Christian capture of the city, the Maestranza, a Company of Knights was formed here for the supervision of bullfighting. Ronda’s bullring, the second oldest in Spain after that of Seville, was built here in 1785. In the 18th century Ronda’s greatest matador was Pedro Romero, who is believed to have developed the classical bull-fighting style of the School of Ronda. We shall visit the bullring, including the small museum, Museo Taurino, which contains various memorabilia, costumes as well as artwork by Picasso and photos of famous fans such as Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway.
Following some time at leisure for lunch, we enjoy special access to one of Ronda’s finest stately residences. The palacio is an 18th-century renovation of an earlier 16th-century building, gifted to the current owner’s family by the Reyes Católicos. Its impressive Baroque entrance displays sculpted figures believed to represent natives of South America. The classical garden was conceived to frame the superb views of Ronda city walls and surrounding landscape.
In the late afternoon we reconvene for our journey south to Harillo Farm, located outside the rural village of Benaoján, to visit the Cueva de la Pileta. This cave features beautiful prehistoric art including depictions of fish, a pregnant mare, cattle, horses, reindeer and mountain goat – the quality of which is comparable with the famous caves of the same period found in Cantabria and France. The cave is formed in Jurassic limestone and contains over 3000 artworks from the Upper Palaeolithic through to the Bronze Age. There are figurative paintings in the French and Cantabrian styles, Palaeolithic engravings, and schematic art from the Neolithic era. The first cavern, containing paintings, pottery shards and skeletal remains were discovered in 1905 by José Bullón Lobato. The cave, which was declared a National Monument in 1924, continues to be cared for by the Bullón family who will provide us with a private guided tour which tells the story of their discovery, early settlers and their art. To protect the artworks, the tours are conducted by paraffin lamp and torchlight. (Overnight Ronda) B
Málaga – 2 nights
Day 8: Tuesday 30 September, Ronda – Pizarra – Málaga
- Visit and lunch at a private country house hosted by the owners, province of Málaga (by special appointment, subject to confirmation in 2025)
- Walking tour of Málaga
- Picasso Museum
This morning we drive through the hills above the Mediterranean coast to Málaga. En-route we visit an outstanding example of a Mediterranean classical garden created with cypresses and geometric hedges in terraces. The owners, who are keen gardeners, will give us a tour of their creation and host a delicious lunch of Andalucían and Catalan specialties.
Málaga, (malaka: fish salting place), was founded by the Phoenicians around 800 BC. The city grew to become a major port in Roman times, exporting olive oil and garum (fish paste), as well as copper, lead and iron from the mines in the mountains around Ronda. Málaga continued to flourish under Moorish rule from the 8th century AD and became a prosperous port of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. The city held out against the invading Christian armies until 1487 and displayed equal tenacity against Franco’s fascists during the Spanish Civil War.
We arrive in Málaga in the afternoon and commence with a walking tour visiting the remains of the Roman theatre and the exterior of Málaga’s Alcázar (citadel).
We also visit the Picasso Museum, housed in a fine 16th-century palace built on 2500-year-old Phoenician remains. Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga in 1881 and in 2003 a Picasso Museum was established here in response to the artist’s desire for his work to be exhibited in his city of birth; it features 233 paintings, sculptures and ceramics created between 1892 to 1972. This rich collection was donated by Christine and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, the artist’s daughter-in-law and grandson. The opening of the Picasso Museum initiated a revival in the cultural life of the city. (Overnight Málaga) BL
Day 9: Wednesday 1 October, Málaga – Antequera – El Torcal – Málaga
- Dolmens of Antequera: UNESCO World Heritage Site
- White town of Antequera
- Walking tour of El Torcal de Antequera National Park: UNESCO World Heritage Site (1hr walk)
This morning we journey 50km north of Málaga to the foothills of La Peña de los Enamorados which rise nearly 900m above sea level to tower over the Antequera plains. This ancient landscape, which has captivated the imagination of people here for millennia, was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2016. The site comprises a megalithic ensemble along with two natural monuments: the mountainous formations of La Peña de los Enamorados and El Torcal. Their UNESCO World Heritage status not only reflects the astounding beauty of the region, but also its cultural influence in prehistoric times thanks to its location at the natural gateway to central Iberia from the Mediterranean.
We begin with a visit to Antequera’s dolmens – large earth-covered burial mounds. They were constructed of megalithic slabs of stone by Bronze Age people; the oldest tomb dates back to the year 2500 BC. The site consists of three megaliths: the Tholos Romeral, the Viera Dolmen and the Menga Dolmen (the largest and one of the most impressive megalithic monuments to be built in Europe).
Roman Antikiera became a Muslim fortress city, dominated by a castle. First taken by the Christians in 1410, it became a major centre of humanist learning in the 16th century. At this time it gained palaces to rival the masterpieces of Baeza and Ubeda. Mid-morning we drive to the town centre where we walk through this white town to view its palace façades and churches built in the Spanish-Baroque style. Lunch will be enjoyed at a local restaurant whose dishes are based on traditional recipes from the region.
En route back to Málaga we take a guided walk through the limestone rock formations of El Torcal de Antequera National Park. The area is regarded as one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe. These formations were formed during the Jurassic Period, 150 million years ago. This ancient sea floor has been uplifted by tectonic activity to the extent that it now lies some 1200 metres above current sea level. There will also be time to watch the documentary and explore the exhibits on karst landscape, wildlife and vegetation, or enjoy a coffee break at the impressive visitors centre. (Overnight Málaga) BL
Granada – 3 nights
Day 10: Thursday 2 October, Málaga – Granada
- Centre Pompidou Málaga
- Visit and lunch at a private Andalucían farmhouse hosted by the owners, Málaga (by special appointment, subject to confirmation in 2025)
- Historical-Botanical Garden La Concepción, Málaga
We begin with a visit to a branch of Paris’ famous Pompidou Centre, which opened on Málaga’s waterfront in 2015. Housed in an extraordinary post-modernist coloured glass cube, the Centre, like its Parisian parent, has a collection of 20th century art, including works by Robert Delauney, Vassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, René Magritte and Frida Kahlo, and also holds interesting temporary exhibitions.
We then drive south of the city to a traditional Andalucían cortijo (country estate), owned by one of Spain’s most well-known literary families. The estate features a lush subtropical garden with an outstanding Phytolacca dioica tree and an alley of Pecan trees. Following a tour of the garden, we enjoy a sumptuous lunch of local specialities hosted by the owners and learn about the estate’s literary history.
Nearby we visit Málaga’s La Concepción garden, a romantic tropical garden laid out in the mid 19th century by Jorge Loring and his wife Amalia who were one of the many wealthy cosmopolitan families of Málaga, which at this time was the second most important industrial region in Spain. Through their international business contacts the founders obtained species from the five continents creating a dense exotic paradise where they hosted leading social events, political meetings and cultural salons.
We continue our drive through the Sierra Nevada, which acted as a barrier, protecting Spain’s last Muslim kingdom, Granada, from Christian incursions. We shall gain a deeper understanding about the way the mountains isolated Granada from the grand views we encounter along this road. (Overnight Granada) BL
Day 11: Friday 3 October, Granada
- Alhambra and Generalife
- Carmen of the Fundacion Rodriguez Acosta (optional visit)
- Dinner at the Mirador de Morayma Restaurant
Today we visit the Alhambra (1354-1391) and Generalife (summer palace and villa of the Nasrid rulers) to study the architecture and garden design of Nasrid Granada. We visit palaces and villas in the complex that centre upon the Court of the Myrtles, the Court of the Lions, and the Generalife. The first complex – comprising of the Patio de Machuca, the Mexuar, the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, and the Patio de Comares (Court of the Myrtles) – gives a sense of the disposition of an Islamic palace, the discrete, hermetic spaces of which bespeak Islam’s emphasis on privacy. This complex combines areas where the ruler sat in court or received ambassadors with a harem designed to isolate the royal household from the outside world. In essence the palace is introverted, its main façade secreted within the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, rather than turning outwards to announce to the outside world the palaces within, in the way of a Western façade. The Hall of the Ambassadors is an example of the spatial rhetoric of power, while the Patio de Comares used a great pool and trees (later replaced by hedges of myrtle) to create a paradisal, secluded core to the complex. Next to this group is the villa of the Nasrids, built about the Court of the Lions, whose fine stucco arches and slender columns are, some scholars argue, the architectural evocation of an oasis. Here we find rooms decorated with exquisite detailing, such as the Abencerrajes Gallery, the Sala de los Reyes, and the Sala de las Dos Hermanas, two of which have extraordinary stucco domes reproducing star bursts in the desert sky. Beneath this villa there is yet another villa, to which are attached the Royal Baths.
We then walk out across the pine-forested hills of the Alhambra Mountain to the Generalife, an exquisite villa retreat and hunting lodge of the Nasrids. Here we see gardens to rival the Villa d’Este outside Rome, with fine fountains whose sounds were intended to provide a poetic counterpoint to the architectural aesthetics of the Arab palace or villa.
Finally, we shall visit the Alcazaba, the fortress of the Alhambra, which has a broad panorama of the Sierra Nevada. The Alhambra and Generalife complexes sit within what could almost be termed a ‘forest’ that covers their hills. Watered by conduits from the Sierra Nevada, this lush environment enabled not only the inimitable orchestration of buildings and plants in the main complex, but also a proliferation of fine small villas with gardens called carmenes. A carmen is a typical house of the old quarter of Granada that has a walled garden, the counterpart of, but different to the patios of Córdoba. The word comes from the Arabic word for garden: karm. These villas became fashionable in the 16th century when wealthy Christians purchased a number of old, Islamic, town houses and demolished parts of them to make a walled garden. They often employed Moorish craftsmen to design and decorate them. The carmenes of Granada were, of course, both inspired by, and measured, the great Islamic palace and villa complex of the Alhambra.
Just a short walk away is the Carmen of the Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta, arguably the best Spanish example of interplay between early modern architecture and gardening. Built by the painter José María Rodríguez-Acosta, a native of Granada and friend of the musician de Falla, this fine modernist house develops the local carmen tradition to create a unique interplay of simple brilliant white architecture and the various greens of the garden. The garden, an extraordinary balance of art and nature, classical and modern, East and West, is made up of a number of terraces oriented towards the plain and the Sierra Nevada in which the fragments of walls and columns in the purest modernist style interplay with cypress hedges whose shapes are ‘architectural’ in their composition, massing and the precise lines of their profiles. The Foundation, which occupies the original house, has works collected by Acosta supplemented by an important collection of Manuel Gómez Moreno composed of works from most periods of Spanish art history. This visit is optional.
Tonight we shall dine together at the restaurant Mirador de Morayma, in Granada’s ancient Moorish quarter, the Albaicín, with breathtaking views of the Alhambra. This elegant restaurant housed in a traditional carmen, features traditional local cuisine and ecological wine produced at the restaurant’s own country estate in the Alpujarra region. (Overnight Granada) BD
Day 12: Saturday 4 October, Granada
- Albaicín quarter
- Casa del Chapiz
- Capilla Real
- Corral del Carbón
- Afternoon at leisure
We begin this morning by exploring Granada’s most important residential quarter, the Albaicín which nestles below the Alhambra. The Albaicín was the last refuge of the Muslims of Granada and traces of its Islamic heritage remain to be discovered, including a beautiful and tranquil bathhouse, and fragments of minarets converted into church towers.
We also visit Muslim and Christian sites in the centre of Granada. The Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), built in flamboyant late Gothic style, houses the magnificent Renaissance tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, their daughter Joan ‘the Mad’ and her husband Philip ‘the Handsome’. In the adjacent Sacristy is a dazzling collection of royal regalia and Flemish paintings. We then walk to the cathedral, one of Spain’s last, which was envisaged by its founder, Charles V, as a model of the heavenly Jerusalem.
We end our tour at the market centre of Islamic Granada where we shall visit the Corral del Carbón, a 14th-century warehouse and inn for merchants, which is the only one of its type to have survived in Spain. Despite recent restoration, the ground plan, the central water trough for animals, and the delicately carved brick and plaster gateway date to the Middle Ages. From here we shall make our way through the Alcaicería, an area of narrow gridded streets which were once part of the covered market (Arabic: al-Qaysariyya) of the Muslim rulers of Granada.
The afternoon will be at leisure. (Overnight Granada) B
Baeza – 2 nights
Day 13: Sunday 5 October, Granada – Almagruz – Guadix – Baeza
- Casas Cuevas Almagruz y Centro de Interpretación Hábitat Troglodita Almagruz
- Walking tour of Guadix including the Cathedral
- Barrio de las Cuevas: Troglodyte Village, Guadix
- Alfareria José Balbao Pottery, Guadix
This morning we journey west to visit Almagruz and Guadix, located within the Granada Geopark which was declared a World Geopark by UNESCO in 2020. Our journey takes us through the Sierra de Huétor whose mountainous area features dramatic geological features characteristic of limestone areas, with narrow ravines, steep cliffs and springs. Almagruz and Guadix, which lie on a high plain at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, are located in a strange, heavily eroded landscape likened by some to Göreme in Turkey, and have similar troglodyte dwellings. In Guadix, over two thousand caves, hewn over centuries from the bizarrely shaped countryside, form the biggest concentration of inhabited caves in Europe.
We begin with a visit to the Almagruz Trogodyte Interpretation Centre where we learn how, for centuries, the inhabitants of the area used the steep slopes of the badlands to dig out their dwellings, taking advantage of a temperature that is practically constant in the different seasons of the year. In both Almagruz and Guadix we also visit private cave dwellings, and learn about the diversity of troglodyte constructions which, from medieval times, included not only domestic dwellings but also watch towers, granaries and dovecotes.
While in Guadix we also take a walking tour of the old town, visiting the Cathedral which was built between the 16th and 18th centuries in a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Gothic styles; and make a special visit to the pottery workshop of José Balbao Félix Balboa. Here we may view his traditional pieces which are characteristic of the Guadix region – distinguished by their very reddish colour which is typical of the clay in the area.
In the late afternoon we journey north to the UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Baeza. (Overnight Baeza) B
Day 14: Monday 6 October, Baeza – Puente del Obispo – Baeza
- Walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Baeza incl. the Cathedral, historic university and Romanesque Church of Santa Cruz
- Museo de la cultura del Olivo & Olive oil tasting Hacienda La Laguna, Puenta del Obispo
This morning we explore the small city of Baeza. Baeza and its twin, Úbeda, arguably have the best preserved examples of Renaissance urban planning and architecture in Spain. Located on a Roman road to eastern Spain, these two cities rose to prominence during the Muslim period. They were captured by Ferdinand III in 1234 who settled a number of aristocratic families here, making them Christian bastions against the Nasrid kingdom of Granada. The towns experienced great prosperity again in the 16th century through agriculture and the production of textiles and it is from this period that most of their finest palaces and churches derive. We shall walk through Baeza’s historic university which was founded in 1538; view the magnificent Isabelline Gothic façade of the Palacio de Jabalquinto (sometimes also known as the Palacio de los Condes-Duques de Benavente); and visit the cathedral, built between the 13th and 16th centuries. We also view the small, 13th-century Church of Santa Cruz which is considered a very rare example of Romanesque architecture in Andalucía.
The Olive Grove Landscapes of Andalucía, a designated cultural landscape, is among the contenders to receive protected status from the United Nations at UNESCO’s July 2024 meeting. Andalucía is one of the main locations where olive trees are grown extensively. The Romans consumed olives and olive oil from the province of Hispania Baetica (roughly corresponding to modern Andalucía) on a large scale, and helped improve the techniques for cultivation and transportation. It is estimated that during this period Hispania exported more than 30 million vessels of olive oil, with thousands of them being sent to Rome. Today, in the province of Jaén, olive trees occupy nearly 600,000 hectares. This sea of 70 million olive trees is the biggest tree plantation in Europe. The region produces 43% of Spain’s olive oil and 28% of the world’s supply.
Following some time at leisure for lunch we journey 8kms from Baeza to Puente del Obispo where we visit The Museum of the Culture of the Olive Tree. Here we may view models of old oil mills demonstrating the process of oil production: grinding, pressing and decantation. There is also a garden containing different varieties of olive trees and a winery. We also enjoy an olive oil tasting at the Hacienda La Laguna. (Overnight Baeza) B
Córdoba - 3 nights
Day 15: Tuesday 7 October, Baeza – Úbeda – Córdoba
- Walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Úbeda including the Chapel of San Salvador
- Sinagoga del Agua, Úbeda
- Ubedíes Artesanía con Esparto
- Late afternoon walking tour of Córdoba Patios including the patios of the Palacio de Viana
This morning we depart Baeza for Úbeda where we take a walking tour through the city’s historic quarter visiting the Holy Chapel of San Salvador. It is rare in Spain to find a church built during a short period in a unified style without a large number of later accretions. Such is Ubeda’s Chapel of San Salvador, particularly the interior, whose decoration and furnishings have altered little since its construction. We also visit the medieval Sinagoga del Agua (Water Sinagogue), discovered by chance during renovation works in 2006. The complex includes the rabbi’s house, women’s gallery, a bodega with giant storage vessels, and a miqvé (ritual bath).
Úbeda has one of the largest and most varied concentrations of artisan workshops in Andalucía. Many of the traditional techniques used by artisans include Arab, Mudéjar and Renaissance influences. For example, Úbeda’s pottery, which is identified by its intensive olive green colour, is cooked in traditional Arabic wood-fired ovens. The production of crafts made from esparto grass, a vegetable fibre known as ubedíes dates to the 11th century. By special appointment we visit the workshop of Pedro Antonio and Jesús Blanco who are sixth generation esparto artisans. Here we learn about traditional esparto weaving and view their products which include mats, baskets and the renowned ubedíes rugs.
Following some time at leisure for lunch we drive to Córdoba, capital of the great Caliphate of Córdoba, the earliest Muslim State in Spain (712-1031). This city has some of the loveliest small urban gardens in Spain, located in the courtyards of old Córdoban houses. Some of these houses are very, very old; everywhere in the ancient city fragments of Muslim dwellings built before the end of the 11th century can be found. On arrival in Córdoba we begin our exploration of these the patios with a visit to the Palacio de Viana. Located on the northern edge of the old town, this traditional Andalucían mansion features twelve patios covering the Renaissance and Baroque periods with fountains, formal parterres, citrus trees, date palms and roses with a profusion of pots, pebbled floors and elegant arches. (Overnight Córdoba) B
Day 16: Wednesday 8 October, Córdoba
- Synagogue, Córdoba
- Great Mosque, Córdoba
- Museo Arqueológico
After breakfast at our hotel located in the Jewish Quarter (Judería) of the city, we visit Córdoba’s delightful small synagogue. The Jews arrived in Córdoba before the Muslims and almost immediately made it a centre of learning. They established the Jewish Quarter after the city had become the capital of Muslim Spain. Its 14th-century synagogue is one of three surviving medieval synagogues in Spain. It has a women’s gallery, and the upper reaches of its walls are in the Mudéjar stucco style, with Hebrew inscriptions. These stuccoes, like those of many mosques, alternate geometrical and vegetal motifs.
We continue with a visit to the Great Mosque of Córdoba. The mosque (c.786-986), one of the earliest and finest still standing, was constructed by successive members of the Ummayad dynasty. Its outer façades boast exquisite geometrical and floral patterns set in the tympana of horseshoe arches and in panels above them. Within the prayer hall is a forest of columns supporting superimposed tiers of polychrome arches thought to have been modelled upon the Roman aqueduct at Mérida. The mihrab (prayer niche) is adorned with exquisite abstract designs in mosaic executed by a school of Byzantine mosaicists from Constantinople. These mosaics, and those of the domes above the mihrab, give meaning to Allah’s prescription to the prophet concerning images: that they should act as a simile to nature, not an abstraction of it; and that they should convey by their delicacy the notion that nothing material has meaning or permanence. The mosque is punctured by a huge cathedral; its minaret became the cathedral bell tower.
This afternoon we visit Córdoba’s Archaeological Museum which contains a diverse collection of artefacts dating from the prehistoric period to the 18th century. Highlights of the collection include Roman mosaics, Islamic ceramics and Visigothic goldwork. The Romain mosaics, which are considered to be some of the finest in Spain, were excavated from the nearby Roman city of Colonia Patricia, founded in the 2nd century BC. In the basement lies the remains of the city’s Roman theatre. (Overnight Córdoba) B
Day 17: Thursday 9 October, Córdoba
- Medina Azahara – Conjunto Arqueológico Madinat al-Zahra
- Afternoon at leisure
- Farewell dinner at a local restaurant
This morning we visit the ruins of Madinat al- Zahra’, the palace complex of ‘Abd al-Rahman III and his son al-Hakam II. ‘Abd al-Rahman was the first Umayyad to take the title ‘caliph’ and he built the magnificent palace of Madinat al-Zahra’ as the architectural expression of his dynasty’s power and wealth. It was started in 936 and finally finished in 986. In style, orientation and structure it resembled contemporary and earlier Middle Eastern palace complexes: the ‘Abbasid complexes in Iraq and the Fatimid complex in Cairo. When the Umayyad state fragmented in the early 11th century, Madinat al-Zahra’ was looted systematically and destroyed.
Following an afternoon at leisure we enjoy a Farewell Meal at a local restaurant. (Overnight Córdoba) BD
Day 18: Friday 10 October, tour ends, Córdoba
- Tour concludes in the morning
- At leisure/Check out
Our tour ends in Córdoba after breakfast. In the morning you will be required to check out of the hotel. Please contact ASA if you require assistance. Note: there is a high-speed train (bullet train run by AVE) from Córdoba to Madrid. This scenic journey of 318km travels takes just under two hours. B