Travel to Europe continues to lead the way in destinations most often chosen for a diverse, cultural and active getaway. And, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned explorer of the continent, Spain and Portugal have caught the eye of many looking to experience a mix of scenery, culture, history and culinary delight.
Of the two countries making up the Iberian Peninsula, Spain is no doubt the most known. With glorious cities such as Barcelona, Madrid and Seville, Americans have ventured to the country for food/wine tours, stop overs on Mediterranean cruises, extensions from France and more. It is a land of soaring cathedrals, flamenco dancers, cafe-lined plazas and white hillside villages.
People may not realize that the country is a land of diversity. It’s a relatively modern country that offers top-notch art museums, inventive cuisine and exciting night life. The culture and landscapes are varied as you venture from the majestic Pyrenees Mountains to the coast.
There are many unique opportunities to experience the variety Spain has to offer – private hiking and biking adventures, gourmet food tours (in addition to tastings, many include cooking classes), private tours through the cathedrals and museums and so much more.
As Spain’s neighbor to the West, Portugal is often one of the less familiar European countries. But once people learn more about this beautiful land and culture, it’s often added to their bucket list of must see places.
Portugal has 530 miles of beach set along the Atlantic Ocean and boasts more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year. The country has the oldest borders in Europe with an exceptional range of different landscapes, an array of leisure activities and a unique cultural heritage. The port city of Lisbon offers elegant shopping, a famous street-car system, a vibrant café and club scene in the Old City and more.
Mountains run through the central, northern and eastern parts of the country. These mountains and their valleys are home to some of the most fruitful and flavorful vineyards in all of Europe. In fact, private or small group wine tours through the Douro Valley rival any of those in other nearby regions. A fun, interactive way to experience the wine region here is through a Harvest Tour. Learn about the various grapes, help hand-pick the bunches, climb into a traditional stone lagar to help stomp grapes and, of course, enjoy various tastings along the way.
These countries are easily combinable, although each could fill an itinerary all on its own. One unique way to get a taste of each, is a river cruise on the Douro River. Itineraries most always start and end in Porto, Portugal but often take you West to East on the river where you may also may get a chance to head into Spain (for a day-trip by vehicle) to experience Salamanaca – known as a “living museum” and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Want to learn more about travels and experiences in Spain and Portugal? Email our European Specialist Ann Coleman at AnnC@PiqueTravel.com.