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Highlights

  • Indulge in an authentic Pintxos dinner in San Sebastian
  • Travel rural Northern Spain aboard the privately chartered Transcantabrico Gran Lujo Train
  • Visit Bilbao’s iconic Guggenheim Museum, well known for its architecture and its art collection
  • Explore Covadonga Sanctuary in Picos de Europa and Santiago de Compostela
  • Pamper yourself at La Hermida Spa in the idyllic village of Potes.
  • Cruise the Douro River aboard the privately chartered Spirit of Chartwell Barge, which the Queen Elizabeth II travelled upon for her Diamond Jubilee.
  • Learn about famous Port wine at Morgadio da Calcada
  • Enjoy a Flamenco show in Spain’s most prestigious University City of Salamanca
El Transcantabrico Gran Lujo crossing bridge, grassy hills behind

We were all spoilt from day one and all made to feel that Captain's Choice were continually focused on our well being and on our enjoyment.

Col Bradford - Ancient & Holy Lands, 2016

Travel with a small party

Our groups are deliberately kept small. Travel in numbers that exceed a standard dinner party but not so many that you get lost in the crowd. With a group size that is usually limited to just 20, it is very much an exclusive club, where the like-minded come together to share experiences that are never ordinary, seldom typical and that always aim to exceed even the highest expectations.

Solo Travellers Welcome

Captain’s Choice travellers are remarkably easy going and friendly. But to make it easier for you to meet your fellow solo travellers, you will be invited to a solo travellers-only welcome reception at the start of the journey. Our naturally engaging World Hosts love to chat or share a meal, but are empathetic enough to know when you want some time alone.

Where we visit

Northern Spain & the Douro Valley tour map

Full Itinerary

DEPART AUSTRALIA

Day 1: Monday 27 August

We look forward to immersing ourselves in the relaxed culture of Spain as our evening flight takes us to Dubai en route to Barcelona. 

BARCELONA (SPAIN)

Day 2: Tuesday 28 August

As soon as the plane touches down, we check in for the next three nights at El Palace Hotel, close to Las Ramblas, the heart of Barcelona, the capital of the Catalan region. The afternoon is for relaxation, or to explore the city on your own. Dinner will be served on the roof terrace, beside an organic garden with views of the Mediterranean and Sagrada Familia. 

BARCELONA

Day 3: Wednesday 29 August

We begin our first full day in the oldest part of the city. The Gothic Quarter was once the centre of Barcino, as Barcelona was called in Roman times. In the maze of streets and squares, you can still see the remains of the temple of Augustus. Today, the neighbourhood is also a great place to go shopping. At the beach, we savour a seafood and paella lunch, which is followed by an exploration of Gaudí’s genius. We visit Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, La Predrera and Casa Batlló.

Sagrada Familia Basilica, Spain

BARCELONA

Day 4: Thursday 30 August

Today, explore the region around Barcelona with one of these Your World experiences.

  • The Catalans are proud of their culture. We spend a full day visiting the region’s artisanal meat and cheese makers, wine cellars, fishermen and chefs, immersing ourselves in the culture via the cuisine.
  • Montserrat, or ‘saw mountain’, is a string of rocky formations on the edge of the city renowned for its sweeping views. It is also the site of the Basilica de Montserrat, where you will find the Virgin of Montserrat, and some say, the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend.

This evening, we dine around the city. As is expected of Captain’s Choice, our guides are no less than the Aborígens, opinionated Catalan culinary journalists with encyclopaedic knowledge of their town.

SAN SEBASTIÁN

Day 5: Friday 31 August

We leave the region of Catalonia for Basque Country today. After a tapas lunch, a short flight places us in San Sebastián. We are in the Hotel Maria Cristina for one night. Dinner tonight will be a selection of the most traditional pintxos in the historic centre of town.

JOIN EL TRANSCANTABRICO GRAN LUJO

Day 6: Saturday 1 September

After lunch in San Sebastián, we drive to Bilbao, where we join the sumptuous El Transcantabrico Gran Lujo train, which has been privately chartered just for us. The crew welcomes us with drinks, then we begin the first leg of our journey, towards Villasana de Mena. A gourmet regional Spanish dinner awaits us in the evening and we overnight in town.

BILBAO & SANTANDER

Day 7: Sunday 2 September

The train takes us back to Bilbao to discover the city. Ours is a classic El Transcantabrico Gran Lujo itinerary. In Bilbao, we visit the Guggenheim Museum, iconic for its architecture and the art inside. Once we return to the train, we continue our journey to Santander in the Cantabria region, where we stop for the day. We arrive after lunch and take a tour of the port city. You are free to wander in the second half of the afternoon, and those amongst us who wish to may head to El Gran Casino once dinner is over.

POTES & CABEZÓN DE LA SAL

Day 8: Monday 3 September

This morning our train drops us off at Unquera station. From here, we drive through the narrow gorge of La Hermida to the idyllic village of Potes. After exploring the town, pamper yourself at La Hermida Spa. Rejuvenated, we rejoin our train for the trip to Cabezón de la Sal. Gaudí designed few buildings outside Catalonia, and in Comillas, we have the chance to see one. El Capricho, or The Folly, was once a private summer villa.

SANTILLANA DEL MAR

Day 9: Tuesday 4 September

The medieval town of Santillana del Mar welcomes us in the morning. It is also a stepping stone to the famed Cave of Altamira, where paintings from the Upper Paleolithic period, over 18,500 years ago, are to be found. Most remarkable are the images of bison – the artists even took advantage of the rock’s contours to create a three-dimensional effect. After lunch, our train brings us to the Asturias region, stopping at Ribadesella and then Arriondas, where we dine and spend the night.

OVIEDO & CANDÁS

Day 10: Wednesday 5 September

Rugged mountains, green slopes and glacial lakes make up the breakthtaking scenery of Picos de Europa National Park – an invigorating start to the day. At the Shrine of Covadonga, hear how the Visigoths defeated the Moors. Oviedo is the capital of Asturias, and its compact old town bears many striking examples of the region’s Romanesque architecture, including the Basilica of San Julián de los Prados. Tonight, we dine on our train as we travel on to Candás for the night.

AVILÉS, GIJÓN & LUARCA

Day 11: Thursday 6 September

We continue our discovery of Asturian towns today. As in other parts of Northern Spain, the area around Avilés was probably already occupied in the Upper Paleolithic era. The charming old town dates from at least the 900s, when documents report the endowment of two churches by the king. Nearby, Gijón sits photogenically on the Bay of Biscay, and has its origins in the 5th century BC. After our history lesson, we return to our train and continue west to Luarca.

RIBADEO & VIVEIRO

Day 12: Friday 7 September

Today, the Galicia region welcomes us. The train takes us to Ribadeo, where we follow the dramatic coastline to reach Las Catedrales Beach, so named for its numerous soaring rock arches and caves. Wander through the formations and don’t forget to look up to fully appreciate the geological wonders. Back in Ribadeo, explore the city and relax. We rejoin our train and travel on to Viveiro for the night.

EMBARK SPIRIT OF CHARTWELL (PORTUGAL)

Day 13: Saturday 8 September

We savour our last breakfast on the train as we make the final leg of our journey to Ferrol. From here, we drive to Santiago de Compostela, a World Heritage-listed city. The city holds the remains of Saint James, one of the Twelve Apostles and patron saint of Spain. Since the Early Middle Ages, Catholics have been making pilgrimages, involving a 100 kilometre walk, to the city. After our city tour, we cross the border to Porto in Portugal, where we join the M/V Spirit of Chartwell, a river barge that carried Queen Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee. The newly refurbished vessel is our residence for six nights.

Exterior, Spirit of Chartwell, Portugal
Spirit of Chartwell suite Royal Suite

RéGUA

Day 14: Sunday 9 September

Our discovery of the Douro Valley begins in earnest today. The morning starts with an informative talk about the river and the land it flows through. Steep terraced vineyards, whitewashed wine estate houses and gentle hills characterise the landscape. Lunch is at the 14th century Convento de Alpendurada, followed by a tour of the Douro Museum. Back on our ship, we are treated to a fado and folk music show. Fado is a traditional Portuguese form of song typified by its melancholy tune and lyrics. Our vessel stops for the night in Régua.

PINHÃO

Day 15: Monday 10 September

We leave our boat for a morning tour of the town of Vila Real and the fairytale Mateus Palace within it. Learn a little about Portuguese cuisine during a culinary demonstration today, then savour its flavours at dinner, which takes place at Morgadio de Calçada, a major wine house and producer of Port. After dinner, we enjoy a private vintage port wine celebration. We dock at Pinhão for the night.

BARCA D’ALVA

Day 16: Tuesday 11 September

High on a hilltop, the village of Castelo Rodrigo looks over the plateau that stretches into Spain, as well as the Douro that flows at its feet. It has been fought for and won by both Spain and Portugal, several times over. On our ship, we learn more about Portugal’s fascinating history as the greens and golds of the countryside pass by. This evening, we indulge in a special dinner before docking at Barca d’Alva for the night.

SALAMANCA (SPAIN)

Day 17: Wednesday 12 September

Salamanca is an ancient Celtic city that has been under Carthaginian, Roman, Visigothic and Moorish rule. It is known for its ornate sandstone architecture, which, when bathed in sunlight, glows richly golden. Lunch here is accompanied by a flamenco show at the historic University of Salamanca, founded in 1218. Back on our vessel, we savour an authentic Portuguese barbecue at dinner.

ENTRE-OS-RIOS (PORTUGAL)

Day 18: Thursday 13 September

Modern Portugal is a fascinating subject that scholars have written books about. This morning though, you will be treated to an abridged version that will be as entertaining as it is educational. After, enjoy an indulgent day of simply drifting on the river. Come dusk we’ll be admiring the sunset glows with a harbour cruise at Entre-os-Rios, before we retire here for the night.

PORTO

Day 19: Friday 14 September

Our ship returns us to Porto this morning, where we disembark for the last time. Today, we check in to the Palácio do Freixo, a fine example of Portuguese Baroque architecture - the government declared its façade a National Monument in 1910. Our home for two nights welcomes us with cocktails. Later that evening, we dine in.

PORTO

Day 20: Saturday 15 September

We spend the day discovering two towns near Porto. Guimarães, a World Heritage-listed city, is known as the birthplace of Portugal. In 1128, Afonso Henriques fought a battle and crowned himself King, signalling a new Portugal, independent of Spanish influence. Braga is the country’s third largest city and has seen human population since the Iron Age. Today, it maintains its narrow medieval lanes, pretty plazas and Baroque churches remarkably well. Lunch today is in a restaurant serving traditional cuisine.

LISBON

Day 21: Sunday 16 September

On route to Lisbon, we stop in Coimbra, Portugal’s medieval capital for a hundred years. Its old town is set on a hill, with buildings from every era. In Lisbon, we call the Lapa Palace Hotel, overlooking the scenic Tagus River, home. After a welcome reception, we tour the city on foot, leaving time for a wine tasting. This evening, we dine on the most authentic and delicious of meals in restaurants frequented by Lisbonites.

LISBON

Day 22: Monday 17 September

Acquaint yourself with Lisbon and its surrounds with one of two Your World experiences.

  • Begin the day in Lisbon, then continue on to Sintra, a town set on pine-covered hills. The cooler highland air meant that Portuguese nobles built the most fanciful and extravagant retreats up here.
  • Spend the full day in Lisbon and eat like locals who well and truly know their way around, indulging in an array of gastronomic delights.

We bid Lisbon a fond farewell with dinner in the hotel’s historical room and commit those river views to memory.

PORTUGAL TO AUSTRALIA

Day 23 - 24: Tuesday 18 September - Wednesday 19 September

Today, we leave Portugal and head home. Take a moment to consider our two momentous journeys, one by train and one by river boat. We catch our connecting flight in Dubai.

Luxury All Inclusive Journeys

Everything has been Considered & Included

Sometimes travelling can be a chore, distracting you from the fascinating places you are in. That’s why everything mundane has been moved behind the scenes. You will never have to carry a map, luggage, small change for tips or bargain for a taxi fare.

There are no hidden costs. Everything is included – flights and other travel arrangements, luxurious accommodation, travel insurance, all dining and drinks, and sightseeing trips. Even the Your World experiences within your itinerary and internet access when available.

Accommodation Hotel Bell

RESIDENCES OF THE HIGHEST STANDARD

Welcome to your homes away from home. Each one has a certain something that sets it apart from every other residence at its location. Whether for its history, cultural significance or natural setting, we’ve selected only the very best.

El Palace Hotel, Spain
Barcelona

El Palace Hotel

A landmark of Barcelona since it opened in 1919, El Palace’s grand halls have played host to the who’s who of the world. In its heyday, Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala were regular guests of its Royal Suite, while Sophia Loren and Pierre Cardin both called it their temporary home in the city.

Maria Cristina Hotel, Spain
San Sebastián

Maria Cristina Hotel

Quite possibly the most elegant place to stay in San Sebastián, this 1912 hotel combines old world Belle Époque glamour and contemporary indulgences. It hosts the yearly San Sebastián Film Festival and counts, among its exalted guests, Bette Davis and Pedro Almodóvar.

Palacio Do Freixo, Portugal
Porto

Palácio Do Freixo

An 18th century baroque palace and a 19th century factory combine for an eclectic and enchanting residence. The buildings are surrounded by Versailles-style gardens, and from its superior rooms, the Douro is a wide, glittering ribbon of water.

NORTHERN SPAIN AND THE DOURO VALLEY

From Cave Drawings To Cathedrals
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Fares are based on a Deluxe Suite aboard the Transcantabrico Gran Lujo and Stateroom aboard the Spirit of Chartwell. With Flights, per person, twin share.

Fares include Emirates flights from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Prices from other cities available on request.

Cruise & Land Only guests join the tour in Barcelona for dinner on Day 2 and depart Lisbon after breakfast on Day 23.

Includes supplements for single hotel rooms. Solo suites at above prices are limited. Contact our Tour Sales Consultants for details on other suite upgrades.

Note: This journey is exclusively reserved for a group of just 26 travellers.

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