Belem tower, Lisbon, Porugal
Belem tower, Lisbon, Porugal

Portugal & Spain: Iberian Empires of Antiquity


17 days From $8,995

May 22 2019

The Iberian peninsula’s ancient heartlands of Portugal and Spain span a vast canvas of Western European history and cultures – on which the impact of successive eras of invasion and occupation through many centuries has imposed an enduring signature. While this eventful patrimony is readily apparent in their flamboyant architectural and artistic traditions, both countries can also boast an equally colorful spectrum of historic sites and monuments of special interest to the archaeologically-minded traveler.

First to arrive here were the Iberians – perhaps from Africa. While they and the Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians who followed each left their own individual marks, it was from conquest and centuries-long domination by the Romans and later the Moors that the impressive archaeology of Spain and Portugal derived its richest and most influential inheritance.

Our far-ranging journey from picturesque Lisbon to lively Madrid travels first to picturesque medieval Évora before entering Spain’s dazzling Andalusia. Here we take time out in the historic cities of Seville, Cadiz, Cordoba and Granada (home of the legendary Alhambra Palace) and finally Toledo in Castilla-La Mancha. Visits also featured are to major Roman sites (including Mérida, Itálica and Gadir), the ruins of a vast Moorish palace-city, megalithic complexes, several outstanding archaeological museums – and much more.

What's included?

  •  Expert Scholar & Tour Manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Local Transport
  •  Entries & Tips

Led by...

Prof. Ori Soltes

Prof. Ori Soltes

Professor Ori Soltes is Professorial Lecturer at Georgetown University and has also taught in the Classics Department at Johns Hopkins and Cleveland State Universities.

Book Now $8,995
Includes deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,750

Tour highlights:

  • Enjoy a walking tour of Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Portugal’s most delightful medieval towns, with many Roman sites
  • Explore magnificent Roman ruins in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mérida
  • Discover Granada’s magical Alhambra Palace, an eternal love letter to Moorish culture
  • Savor the exclusive world of Bodegas Lustau in Jerez de la Frontera with an afternoon sherry-tasting
  • Wander through the monumental tombs of Carmona Necropolis, an intriguing complex of Iron Age and Roman tombs

Tour details

Dates May 22 2019 - June 7 2019
Duration 17 days
Cost $8,995
Single supplement: $1,750
Deposit: $1,250 , balance due by February 27 2019
Activity Level Moderate
Tour code A19SPO

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

May 22 2019: Itinerary

We arrive in Lisbon, Portugal’s welcoming capital, and transfer to our hotel. We have the rest of the day to relax after our flight. In the evening we enjoy our first dinner as a group.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: BessaHotel Liberdade, Lisbon

Draped across seven low hills rising from the River Tejo, the colorful patchwork of ancient sunburnt domes, towers and terra-cotta rooftops that characterizes the Lisbon skyline provides an obvious clue to the antiquity of Europe's second-oldest capital. Founded by the Phoenicians, and later invaded by the Moors from Africa, Lisbon was the launchpad for some of the greatest early maritime explorers, whose discoveries so enriched the city that it became the hub of a world-wide empire. To this historic, tradition-steeped legacy today’s Lisbon adds an impressively dynamic modern pulse and vibrant cultural scene. Our first morning’s walking tour begins at the riverside Belém Tower, a gem-like Manuelino-style 16th century monument to Portugal’s great era of discovery (first serving to defend the harbor and then as a lighthouse and custom house). We follow the river to view the remarkable collection at the National Archaeological Museum, continuing to the 15th century heritage-listed and discoveries-themed Jerónimos Monastery. After lunch we visit the Millenium bcp Foundation’s Archaeological Center and the Roman Theater Museum, where we view the remaining traces and artefacts of this 1st century BCE site.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: BessaHotel Liberdade, Lisbon

This morning we travel across the Tejo river to the Tróia Peninsula, whose Roman ruins feature a former production center (the largest-known of its kind in the Roman world) where fish was salted and made into a fermented sauce named garum. After our visit we turn east to the walled town of Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose history reaches back to Roman times. It particularly flourished in the 15th century, when it became the residence of the Portuguese monarchs. Many of its whitewashed houses are decorated with traditional old glazed “azulejo” tiles and wrought-iron balconies. Our afternoon includes a walking tour of the principal Roman sites (most notably the colonnaded remains of the Templo Romano de Diana) and the extraordinary 16th-century Chapel of Bones, whose walls and pillars are adorned with thousands of human bones and skulls.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: M'AR De AR Muralhas, Évora

Our morning focuses on the Almendres Cromlech, just outside Évora and a megalithic Stone Age complex containing the largest existing group of structured menhirs (95 in all) in the Iberian Peninsula. On our return to Évora we visit the charming little museum, with 20,000 exhibits telling the story of the town and the surrounding Alentejo area. Afterwards we continue to Elvasa for a short stop at the 16th century Amoreira Aqueduct, a gigantic construction spanning the length of the municipality. We then cross the frontier into Spain’s Extremadura region, where our day ends at the ancient city of Mérida.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hotel Ilunion Mérida Palace

Founded by veterans of Emperor Augustus’ army in around 25 BCE as the capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, heritage-listed Mérida is a city of great historical significance, priding itself on its legacy of what are some of Spain’s most impressive, extensive and best-preserved Roman ruins. We do them ample justice with a full-day’s comprehensive exploration. Our morning visits focus upon the amphitheater (which could seat 14,000), the atmospheric theater and the Archaeological Museum, home to a marvelous display of paintings, tombstones and sculptures. After lunch, we enjoy a walking tour revealing the city’s other major monuments, among them the colossal Trajan Arch (an access gateway to the holy space around a giant temple) and the Puente Romano, longest of all the surviving Roman bridges, still in use for pedestrians to this day.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hotel Ilunion Mérida Palace

Heading out of the city this morning, we soon reach the Dolmen of Lacara, a megalithic complex from 3000-4000 BCE, peacefully located amid meadowland. Our next stop is the burial site of Huerta Montero Tholos, remarkable for its exact alignment so that at the winter solstice the sun crosses the corridor illuminating the wall at the back of the chamber. Following lunch a two-hour journey south soon brings us to Andalusia’s charismatic city of Seville, our vivacious base for the next four nights. After our hotel check-in there’s time for an independent stroll amid some of the city’s handsome streets and squares.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: NH Sevilla Plaza de Armas

An early start takes us just a few miles north to Itálica, birthplace of the Emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Important Roman remains here feature mosaic floors (with elaborate designs of birds, Neptune, and the planets) and an amphitheater accommodating up to 25,000 spectators. On our return to Seville after lunch we dedicate time to the Archaeological Museum, covering the period from the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages and home to the matchless crafted gold pieces of El Carambolo treasure - found locally and thought to have been buried in the 6th century BCE. Later we enjoy a leisurely walk through elegant Maria Luisa Park and admire the immense Plaza de España, a city landmark embellished by beautiful ceramic depictions of the provinces of Spain.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: NH Sevilla Plaza de Armas

This morning’s tour introduces us to two of Seville’s finest architectural monuments, both UNESCO-listed. We begin at the magnificent Alcázar – over 11 centuries old and a palace of both Moorish rulers and Christian kings. This is a masterly amalgam of architectural styles through the ages, both Mudéjar and Christian, its ensemble further adorned by beautiful gardens. No less stunning in its grandeur and rich decoration is Seville Cathedral, said to be Europe’s largest gothic building. Completed in its present form in the 16th century, it stands on the site of the city’s former Great Mosque - whose original minaret was incorporated within the great bell tower (known as “La Giralda”). The interior, awesome in its vastness, houses a number of notable paintings - as well as the remains of Christopher Columbus! Our afternoon is free for relaxation or sightseeing and shopping

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: NH Sevilla Plaza de Armas

Today a 70-mile journey south brings us to the ancient Mediterranean port-city of Cádiz for a visit to the Archaeological Museum - whose exhibits include jewelery, glassware and pottery all certifying to the long history of possibly the Western Mediterranean’s oldest continuously inhabited settlement, by turn Phoenician, Punic and Roman. We then explore the archaeological site of Gadir (the city’s Phoenician name), whose streets, homes and tools dating back almost 3,000 years offer us a fuller appreciation of the early Phoenician traders’ way of life. After lunch we see the partially-excavated remains of the 1st century BCE Roman theater - said to be the second-largest theater in the Roman world and mentioned in Cicero’s “Letters to His Friends”. We return to Seville later in the afternoon.

 

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: NH Sevilla Plaza de Armas

An easy morning drive to Córdoba allows us to break our journey at Carmona to view an intriguing necropolis complex of Roman tombs as well as the remains of a Roman amphitheater. The necropolis preserves traces of frescoes and features two especially spectacular tombs, the Tomb of the Elephant and the Tomb of Servilia. We then press on to Córdoba, the one-time capital of Muslim Spain, where we have time to marvel at this Andalusian city’s extraordinary “Mezquita” Mosque-Cathedral – architecturally unique in its intricate and dazzling fusion of an original Moorish structure with a later Christian cathedral (which itself took over 200 years to complete). A Roman temple that previously occupied its site and other destroyed Roman buildings were the source of one of the interior’s most outstanding Moorish features - giant patterned arches and a forest of over 800 columns of jasper, onyx, marble and granite.

 

All meals included

Hotel: Parador de Córdoba

This morning we enjoy an excursion to the Córdoba outskirts at Medina Azahara, heritage-listed by UNESCO in 2018 and Spain’s largest archaeological site. This exceptionally interesting 10th century Moorish palace-city was built as to be the new capital of “Al-Andalus” (Muslim Spain) - but survived for just 65 years before destruction by Berber soldiers. Our afternoon back in Córdoba is free to enjoy as we wish. Perhaps to stroll through the picturesque medieval quarter, visit the fascinating Flamenco Museum - or just watch the Andalusian world go buy in the noble Plaza de la Corredera.

 

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Parador de Córdoba

We continue east this morning towards the Sierra Nevada mountains, at whose feet lies renowned Granada - the last Moorish stronghold to fall (in 1492) to Spain’s Christian Kings, but where today the influence of the Moors’ cultural legacy remains vibrantly alive. On our way into the city we pause at the Cartuja Granada Monastery, a 16th century charterhouse important for its extravagant baroque art and architecture, in particular a lavishly-decorated tabernacle. After lunch we spend time viewing Granada’s resplendent cathedral, a 16th century showpiece of Spanish Renaissance style. before taking a gentle walk amid the narrow cobbled streets and Moorish-style houses of the old Albaicin Arab quarter.

 

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Vincci Albayzin, Granada

No Granada visit is complete, of course, without exploring the city’s near-legendary landmark: the peerless Alhambra Palace (meaning “Crimson Castle”) and adjacent Generalife Gardens, a hilltop Moorish and Renaissance fantasy silhouetted against the backdrop of the Sierra Morena. Today we devote the morning to this outstanding UNESCO World Heritage Site’s magical complex of enigmatic carvings, cool tile-walled rooms, beautiful pools and fountains, flawless courtyards and peaceful gardens. In the afternoon we relax on the drive north to Toledo, awaiting us amid the plains of Castilla-La Mancha.

 

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Sercotel Pintor El Greco, Toledo

After breakfast we take a walking tour of atmospheric Toledo. Dramatically sited high above a gorge on the Río Tajo, Toledo has roots dating back to Visigothic and Roman times – while the Christian, Muslim and Jewish influences that all later shaped its unique character earned medieval Toledo the name of the “City of the Three Cultures”. Our morning route takes us to the ancient mosque of Cristo de la Luz, former 12th century synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca, arguably Europe’s oldest synagogue building still standing (and now a museum), and the ornate El Transito synagogue. After pausing for lunch we admire Toledo’s soaring Gothic cathedral, a serene 13th century sanctuary streaming with natural light - and the Church of Santo Tomé, home to “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz”, the celebrated 1580s masterwork by El Greco (who spent much of his life here).

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Sercotel Pintor El Greco, Toledo

This morning we have a leisurely start before our short drive to Madrid, the buzzing Spanish capital. Here lunch is followed by an afternoon visit to the Prado Museum, to enjoy what is widely considered to be among the world's finest collections of European art.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Catalonia Las Cortes, Madrid

Our final full day starts with an informative tour of the National Archaeology Museum, whose collections have gathered artefacts from all over Spain, including the possibly Greek-influenced “Dama de Elche”, the most famous piece of ancient Iberian art in existence. The afternoon is free to relax or to explore more of Madrid: the opulent grandeur of the Royal Palace, the classical elegance of the Plaza Mayor or the chic of the upscale Gran Via. We mark our last night with a special farewell dinner as a group.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Catalonia Las Cortes, Madrid

We transfer to the airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.

Meals include: Breakfast

May 22 2019: Additional Info

May 22 2019: Accommodation

Centrally located in Lisbon’s prestigious Avenida da Liberdade, a few minutes’ from Restauradores Square, BessaHotel offers a fitness center, a Turkish bath, a sauna and an indoor pool. Free WiFi is available.

The air-conditioned luxurious rooms of BessaHotel are decorated in a vintage style. All rooms have a Bluetooth integrated sound system, a work desk and a satellite/cable flat-screen TV. Some rooms have balconies with views of the city.

Featuring a 24-hour reception and an à la carte restaurant, BessaHotel provides a business center and therapeutic massages upon request. Other facilities offered at the property include luggage storage and laundry facilities.

The 4-star hotel in Évora’s historic center is just a 5-minute walk from Giraldo Square. It offers a spacious outdoor terrace with sun loungers and a pool in the gardenRooms at M’AR De AR Muralhas are bright and elegant and include a spacious seating area with an LCD TV. Each room also has a CD player, DVD player and free bathroom amenities. Some rooms have a balcony. Restaurant Sabores do Alentejo serves traditional Portuguese cuisine as well as international meals. Room service provides in-room breakfast upon request. Guests can enjoy a refreshing drink on the terrace, which overlooks the exotic garden. For colder days, there is also a cozy lounge with a fireplace where guests enjoy music while having a warm drink.

Located in Plaza de España Square, this restored 15th-century palace offers a rooftop terrace with a small seasonal pool and city views. Hotel Mérida Palace is 200 yards from the Roman Temple of Diana.

Rooms at the Mérida Palace have elegant décor and feature air conditioning and free wired internet. Each room offers satellite TV, a minibar and a safe. Bathrooms include a hairdryer and toiletries.

Guests can use the hotel’s gym and sauna, or relax in the peaceful interior courtyards. There is also an on-site tapas bar and a restaurant serving traditional Extremaduran cuisine.

The Roman Amphitheater and Roman Art Museum are just a 10-minute walk from the Hotel Mérida Palace. Staff at the hotel can provide information about the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

This hotel overlooks Seville’s Plaza de Armas Square. Just 200 yards from Seville Bus Station, it is a 15-minute walk from the cathedral and Giralda. Its rooftop pool offers superb city views.

Rooms at Hotel NH Sevilla Plaza de Armas have free WiFi, elegant modern design and smart wooden floors. All rooms offer air conditioning, a minibar and satellite TV. The stylish bathrooms include a hairdryer and a toiletries set.

The spacious restaurant offers a traditional Spanish cuisine and a varied Antiox breakfast buffet, which includes a range of healthy option. The hotel also has a stylish bar.

Situated on the former site of Al-Rusafa, Abderramán I's summer palace, the Parador de Córdoba is set on a hill surrounded by lush gardens with a seasonal pool. This hotel offers exceptional views of the Sierra and this legendary city.

The feeling of well-being is enhanced by the swimming pool and gardens that surround the Parador Córdoba. You can visit the garden named Los Naranjos where the first palms that were brought to Europe were planted.

The spacious, elegant rooms include free Wi-Fi and some feature a terrace with city views.

The Parador Córdoba has spacious lounges and a large terrace where you can enjoy unimaginable panoramic views of the city. Relax and chat with friends, enjoy a siesta or sip a refreshing drink in the cool interiors. The lounges are grandly decorated with smart, luxurious fabrics and antique furniture which create the feel of a fine, country home.

Set around a traditional Andalusian-style courtyard Vincci Albayzin features air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi and 24-hour reception. It boasts a fitness centre including a sauna and Granada Cathedral is 750 yards away.

Featuring a classic décor, each room has a satellite flat-screen TV, a minibar and a safe. The marble bathroom with bath or shower includes free toiletries and hairdryer.

The hotel boasts a la carte restaurant serving a combination of traditional and international cuisine. Guest will found a wide range of traditional tapas bars within a 10-minute walk and the El Corte Inglés Shopping Center is just 40 yards away.

Set in a renovated 17th-century bakery, Pintor El Greco is located 50 yards from the El Greco Museum in Toledo’s historic Jewish quarter. It offers a cocktail bar, and rustic rooms with free WiFi. The chic rooms at Sercotel Pintor El Greco include authentic wooden beams and exposed brick work. They come with a modern bathroom with a hairdryer and some feature a hydromassage bath. A buffet breakfast is served and there are vending machines for snacks. 

Set in a beautiful 18th-century building, Catalonia Las Cortes offers air-conditioned rooms and free WiFi. It is located in Madrid City Center, 10 minutes' walk from El Prado Museum.

All rooms in Catalonia Las Cortes include classic décor and a flat-screen satellite TV. The impressive superior rooms and suites feature antique furnishings and authentic frescoes on their ceilings. Guest will also find a Nespresso® coffee machine and a kettle in the rooms.

The restaurant is open for dinner daily and serves international dishes. There is also a cafeteria.

There is also a snack area with free sandwiches, salads, pastries, teas and drinks, open 13:00 - 00:00 from Monday to Friday, and 14:00 - 00:00 on Saturday and Sunday. Breakfast is served until 12:00 at weekends.

May 22 2019: Enquiries

Enquiry Form

Contact Us