San Sebastián, Lourdes & Barcelona – Ingrid Yap
23 February - 02 March 2020
The Basque Country has been attracting visitors for centuries. In the beginning it was pilgrims, making their way to Santiago de Compostela to visit the tomb of the apostle St. James. Today, although the pilgrimages continue, the Basque Country now attracts visitors because of its wonderful coast, laced with quaint and isolated villages and towns, as well as its reputation for some of the finest food in Europe.
For more than 150 years, the town of Lourdes, France has been attracting pilgrims after a series of visions by a young local girl, Bernadette Soubrious. Each evening the Torchlight Procession takes place on the sanctuary esplanade. This moving tribute touches the hearts of all that see it most notably John Paul II who in 1983 said:
““In this peaceful night we keep watch, we pray, no longer in the secret of our hearts, but as a great crowd on the move, following the risen Jesus Christ, each one lighting the way for the other”
Barcelona has grown to become one of the premium tourist destinations in Europe. A wonderful Mediterranean location combine with some of the best art nouveau architecture anywhere in the world make a visit a must for anyone visiting Spain.
This itinerary not only covers many of the highlights of both San Sebastián and Barcelona but is also relaxing enough to allow you to spend time experiencing the many sights and not just seeing them. A great selection of hotels and local guides combine to make sure you leave Spain not just with wonderful photos, but with wonderful memories also.
In pictures View
Itinerary (click day to see full itinerary)
On arrival in San Sebastián, you will be met at the airport by a local guide who will then transfer you to your hotel located in the heart of San Sebastián. The rest of the afternoon is free to explore with maybe a visit to the old town or walk along the city’s famed beach, Playa de la Concha.
Your local guide will meet you at your hotel this morning to show you this wonderful Basque city. You will begin with a visit to Monte Igueldo for the iconic views that have made the city so famous. You will then drive the beaches of Ondaretta and Playa de la Concha stopping for a photo at the Miramar Palace, the once a summer home for the Spanish Royal family. You will then continue to the New Town, to see the cathedral as well as the elegant shopping streets before arriving at the Old Town. Once there, you will continue on foot to see Plaza de Constitution with its numbered balconies, the 16th century San Vincente Church as well as the 18th century Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro. Your sightseeing will finish with a wonderful tour of three pinxos bars, to experience a style of eating that is synonymous with the city. The rest of the afternoon and evening will be at leisure.
This morning you will head to Bilbao, the largest city in the Basque country and home to the famed Guggenheim Museum. Opened in 1997 and designed by the Canadian/American Frank Gehry, the building is considered by many to be one of the most influential constructions of the last century. With a local expert you will not only visit the building, but a selection of some of the museums most well-known pieces by artists such as Jeff Koons, Richard Serra and Louis Bourgeois. After some free time, you will then head to the Basque Coast where you will visit one of the most picturesque towns of the region, Getaria. Your local guide will show you this amazing town, the once home of Juan Sebastián Elcano, the first man to circumnavigate the globe, including a visit to the Church of San Salvador as well as the town’s harbour with its fishing fleet. You will then return to San Sebastián for the rest of the afternoon and evening at leisure.
This morning we cross the French border and onto the pilgrimage town of Lourdes which lies at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains. In 1858 a local girl, Bernadette Soubirous, had a series of visions of the Virgin Mary. These visions were authenticated by the Vatican thus beginning the Veneration of Our Lady of Lourdes. On arrival you will check in to your hotel, located near the Sanctuary, to spend the rest of the day exploring this spiritual place. You may like to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, completed in 1899, or the incredible underground Basilica of Pius X. This evening, after dinner, you should head down to the Sanctuary to experience moving torchlight procession.
This morning you leave Lourdes and follow the Pyrenees Mountains, passing Toulouse, and towards the Mediterranean. It is then over the border and back in Spain, and the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, to head to Barcelona, the regions capital. The evening is free to explore the Ciudad Condal from your centrally located hotel.
This morning you will explore the city of Barcelona with a local guide by Segway. Beginning at your hotel, your tour will include the Barri Gòtico (Gothic Quarter), the heart of the old city, before heading down to Port Vell (Old Port) where you will see two of the city’s most well-known sights, Columbus monument and El Cap de Barcelona. You will then ride to Port Olympic, built for the 1992 Olympics and to Nova Icaria Beach, the most famous beach in the city. Next it will by the Arc de Triomf, a triumphal arch built for the 1988 Barcelona Universal Exhibition, as well as the Parc de Ciutadella where you will see the Castel dels Tres Dragones (Castle of the Three Dragons) and the Fountain Cascada Monument. After a short break you will be then taken to the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, one of the largest markets in the city as well as one of the most well-known. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Your local expert this morning takes you outside the city to one on the famous pilgrimage destinations in Spain, Montserrat. In your coach you will climb the 720m to visit the 11th century monastery that is today home to the Patron Saint of Catalonia, Our Lady of Montserrat. On a clear day the views are simply stunning, being able to see from the Pyrenees Mountain in the north to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. After your guided visit you will be then given free time to explore or maybe climb above the altar to pay your respects the Black Madonna. You will then return to the city for a free afternoon to maybe walk the Rambla, the most famous thoroughfare of the city. This afternoon our Gaudi experience will continue with a visit to Park Güell, a fantasy wonderland created by Gaudi overlooking the city. Our local guide will show you the main square with its mosaic bench, the undercover market and of course Gaudi’s dragon. Afterwards you will drive the maritime front and onto Port Olympic, built for the sailing events of the 1992 Olympics, to enjoy your final night in Barcelona on the edge of the Mediterranean.
Today in entirely at leisure to explore this magnificent city. You may like to visit Montjuic with its wonderful views over the city and the Mediterranean or maybe walk the medieval streets and lanes of the EL Born district, immortalised in the book Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
This morning after breakfast your trip ends with a transfer to the airport.
- 8-nights accommodation in 4-5 star hotels including all service charges and taxes
- A luxury air-conditioned coach
- 9 full buffet breakfasts
- one Pinxos Tour to three pinxos bars with three drinks included
- In depth tours with local guides in San Sebastián, Bilbao, Barcelona & Montserrat
- Porterage (1 large bag) at all hotels
- Arrival and departure transfers with tour coach at the time specified
From the man in the front seat
I designed this trip focusing around four main points;
- Convenience is necessary for any trip to be successful. All your accommodation is at least 4-star and centrally located to allow you to not only travel in comfort but have the ability to explore places on your own. There is no Optional Excursion package, all sights and meals which I think should be included are.
- The opportunity to see as much of San Sebastián, Lourdes & Barcelona as possible in the time we have available. I have included guided visits to Bilbao, the Basque coast as well as Montserrat in Barcelona with local guides. Guides are important so you don’t just see a sight or attraction, but you understand it.
- The north of Spain is rich and varied when it comes to gastronomy. So as an introduction I have included a pinxos tour as part of your introduction to San Sebastián.
- All trips need down time. This could be anything from relaxing in the hotel, getting lost in back streets or just sitting in a café trying local beers and wines. This tour includes several ‘at-leisure’ afternoons which give you the chance to do whatever you want, nothing planned and nothing booked.
This is a wonderfully planned itinerary, comprehensive enough for the avid fan of Spain whilst being relaxing and enjoyable enough for those that are just curious.
Bradley W. Dick