PORTUGAL & SPAIN
The Algarve to Catalonia
24th April to 1st May and 15th to 22nd May 2016 (Itinerary reversed)
Encounter wonders both ancient and modern, from the Roman ruins of Cartagena, the Gothic cathedrals of Seville, to the avant-garde architecture of Valencia. Savour the rich flavours of Iberian cuisine, explore mountain trails and medieval fortresses, and delve into the musical traditions of two of Europe’s most captivating countries.
DAY 1: Lisbon, Portugal/Embark
Arrive in Lisbon and embark the National Geographic Orion. Take in splendid views of Portugal’s capital as we set sail. Tonight we have a performance of authentic fado music aboard the ship. (L,D)
DAY 2: Portimão/Algarve
Portimão is our gateway to Portugal’s southernmost province, the Algarve, known for its whitewashed villages, lush farmlands, and remnants of Moorish culture. Travel north to Silves, home to a fortified sandstone castle built by the Moors, and learn about the tradition of harvesting cork oak. Alternatively, explore the sea caves of the Algarvian coast by small boat while savoring a glass of Medronho, a local fruit brandy. (B,L,D)
Your transport into the Portuguese countryside today will be by off-road jeep, returning by way of small river boats along the Arade River. Keep an eye out for the large stork nests nestled atop cottage chimneys!
DAY 3: Cadiz, Spain/Seville
Arrive on the shores of Spain. From Cádiz, travel to the graceful Andalusian capital of Seville, where contemporary culture is interwoven with layers of history. In the old city, see one of the world’s largest Gothic cathedrals and the Alcázar palace, where the king and queen of Spain greeted Columbus on his return from the New World. Delve into the art of flamenco during a private performance at the intimate Museo del Baile Flamenco, and perhaps try some classic zapateado (footwork) yourself.(B,L,D)
Opt to visit one stop on the famed sherry triangle. Visit a traditional sherry bodega, interesting not only for its extra-aged sherries (20 or more years old), but because it houses the Colección Joaquín Rivera, a private Spanish art collection that includes important works by Goya, Velázquez and Zurbarán.
DAY 4: Gibraltar, U.K/Malaga, Spain
Stand on deck as we pass the tiny British colony of Gibraltar, which presides over the strait between Spain and Morocco. Enter the Mediterranean Sea on our way to Málaga, the birthplace of Picasso and a gem of a coastal city surrounded by charming Andalusian towns. Explore the city’s artistic treasures; ride along the newly finished bike path hugging beaches and beautiful coastline; or go hiking in Torcal de Antequera, a nature reserve adorned with limestone formations and fossils dating back roughly 150 million years. We gather for dinner at a special wine bar, featuring local Andalusian products. (B,L,D)
Feeling energetic? Grab a mountain bike and cycle through the natural paradise surrounding Málaga, with a pre-mapped route in hand.
DAY 5: Motril/Granada
A variety of excursions await today. For a deeply cultural experience, travel into Andalusian countryside past orange groves and olive trees for a specially prepared lunch in the homes of local women. Many of you will want to take the full day to see enchanting Granada, set high in the Sierra Nevada, exploring magnificent Moorish architecture including the 13th-century Alhambra Palace and Genera life gardens. (B,L,D)
Or, set out for an early morning trek following Mr. Henderson’s Railway to the neighboring city of Ronda, famous for its dramatic escarpments and views, and for the deep El Tajo gorge.
DAY 6: Mazarrón Escarpment/Cartagena
With our naturalists, look for whales and dolphins along the submerged volcanic mountains of the Mazarrón Escarpment. Later, arrive in the deep natural harbor of Cartagena—a historic naval base where Phoenicians, Romans, and Moors all left their mark. Set out on foot to explore the city’s medieval fortresses and modernist houses, or glide along the streets on an electric Segway scooter—for a modern way to see this ancient city! (B,L,D)
For a striking visual of the times, walk to the lookout at Parque Torres and look down on the ruins of the Roman amphitheater, now placed back-to-back with a modern-day one.
DAY 7: Valencia
In sunny Valencia, old-world cafés mingle with Gothic cathedrals and futurist architecture. Visit the City of Arts and Sciences, an otherworldly cultural complex designed by native architect Santiago Calatrava. Explore the rich birdlife of Albufera Natural Park, one of the most important wetland areas on the Iberian Peninsula. Enjoy a lunch of traditional paella—Valencia’s signature dish. (B,L,D)
Hop aboard private fishermen’s boats along the marshy canals of the Albufera Lake ecosystem, where they cultivate rice and harvest shellfish for paella—and learn how to make a delicious paella in the city it was invented.
DAY 8: Barcelona/Disembark
Wake up in Barcelona, and have breakfast on board. Disembark our ship and transfer to the airport for your return flight, or remain in Barcelona for an added stay. (B)