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The best Spain and Portugal have to offer
The Iberian peninsula has long been a cultural crossroads, mixing Catholic and Arabic influences while maintaining a fierce local pride. Visit the Moorish palaces and Catholic cathedrals of Seville, Cordoba, and Granada, before crossing into Portugal, where the mountains of Alentejo offer plunging views of the Guadiana River’s blue water. Do as the locals do by enjoying tapas, rich with manchego cheese and Iberian ham, as the long nights draw in. Satisfy your appetite on this Iberian tour.
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Start your day at the city’s highest point, the Moorish Alcázar fortress, where a collection of rare and curious weapons are testament to Toledo’s steel-making heritage. Head to Europe’s oldest synagogue in the Juderia, or “City of the Jews”, for intricate masonry on top of columns. End a day with a huge plate of crispy-skinned suckling pig cooked over an open flame behind a taverna, the perfect fuel for your Iberian journey.
Cross the plains of La Mancha en route to Cordoba, stopping at the village of Valdepenas to taste their Tempranillo wines. Head first to the old mosque and prepare to lose yourself among the forest of columns and the Catholic cathedral that fits tightly in the center. Wander through the old town, stopping off at an outdoor bistro for wine and tapas as the evening unwinds.
Climb Granada’s steep hills to the Alhambra, the mightiest of Andalusia’s Moorish palaces. Walk the ramparts and through gardens where nightingales swoop among elms planted by the Duke of Wellington in 1812. Cross the mosaiced squares of the old town to the Ablaicín district, where people have dwelled in caves for centuries. End an afternoon watching the Alhambra turn pink, a fitting way to enjoy such splendor.
Ronda straddles a plunging gorge and provides one of the most dramatic cityscapes in Spain. Go from a hip new town bar and wander down winding back streets of old town, joined by the Puente Nuevo bridge that crosses the Tajo gorge. While on the bridge, keep a lookout for the Griffon Vulture, a bird with a nine-foot wingspan.
Once known to the Romans as Hispalis and to the Moors as Ishbiliya, Seville is a city defined by its Arabic architecture. Walk around the water gardens of the Alcázar palace, where the air is filled with the scent of Seville oranges. Don’t miss out on the whirling colors and hypnotizing dancing of a traditional Flamenco show and the intense flavors of the local Jerez sherry.
Head out of town to the wide open expanse of Andalusia and hike the oak-lined trails of the Sierra de Aracena National Park. This part of Spain is home to black Iberian pigs, who produce the world’s best ham: Jamón Ibérico. A plate of this delicacy is best enjoyed with a glass or two of Rioja, making sure you get your fill of this luxurious lunchtime option among the open vistas.
Drive west over the border into Portugal and explore Monsaraz, where a village exists within castle walls. Climb the central tower for spectacular views of the Guadiana River’s pastel-blue waters. End the day in the town of Estremoz, where everything, including the cobbles you walk on, are made of local marble. Sip a sundowner in the shadow of the Church of St Francis as the cool evening arrives.
Head west to Évora, an ancient town that predates the Romans. Visit the ruined columns of the Temple of Augustus, only a stone’s throw from the Cathedral of Évora, where the rose windows have inspired travelers for generations. End your vacation in Lisbon, riding one of the city’s yellow trams down to the waterfront for a meal of locally caught sardines and Alvarinho wine.
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