Northern Spain

Barcelona, Andorra & the Spanish Pyrenees

October 14-23, 2018 • 10 Days • $3590

Starting in charming Barcelona, we walk the principality of Andorra, experiencing dramatic mountain scenery and the remote enclaves of the Pyrenees en route to Basque country in San Sebastian. From San Sebastian we make our way to Madrid, where travelers can depart for home or extend their stay to explore this cosmopolitan center of Spain!

Madrid Extension

October 23-25, 2018 • 3 Days • $775

This extension offers activities in Madrid and Segovia.

View Daily Itinerary

We’re happy to present one of our favorite Adventures, exploring  the vibrant culture, breathtaking scenery, and enthralling history of Barcelona, Andorra, & the Spanish Pyrenees!

The adventure begins in Barcelona, a modern Mediterranean metropolis with a fascinating story going back at least to the Roman era. A treasure trove of fascinating architecture ranges from ancient Roman (under the current city), to medieval Gothic, to 20th century Modernist. Barcelona also offers a wealth of cultural surprises linked to its position as capital of Catalan Spain. Andorra, one of the world’s smallest countries, yields its own surprises tucked away in the Pyrenees. From Andorra, we spend several days exploring the fascinatingly remote Pyrenees communities of Catalan and Aragon. Aran Valley charms us with scenic beauty and strikes a recurring theme of this Adventure—linguistic and cultural regionalism. Ordesa National Park is simply stunning, boasting breathtaking monolithic massifs and beckoning trails through sun-dappled beech forests. We first see the Bay of Biscay at San Sebastian, center of Basque culture, which is distinguished, among other things, by a passion for great food and quality cooking! We finish our time in Northern Spain with a stop in Madrid, where travelers fly home. An option to extend the adventure is now available on a new 3-day extension, exploring Madrid and Segovia with walks and activities.

Barcelona, Andorra & Spanish Pyrenees

Including:

  • All land travel by motorcoach as outlined
  • Superior tourist-class or better hotel accommodations
  • 17 meals: All breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 6 dinners as denoted (BLD)
  • All listed walks, with commentary by local or national guide
  • Fees for walking credit (if IVV approved)
  • Cultural and historical expertise of local and national guides throughout program
  • WAI guide service throughout (2 guides)
  • All tipping for guides and coach drivers
  • Pricing is based on double occupancy; a limited amount of single rooms are available for a supplement of $575

Activities/Visits to:

  • Parc Güell
  • Montjuïc teleferic gondola
  • Montjuïc Castle
  • Museo de Areny-Plandolit
  • Ordesa National Park
  • Loarre Castle
  • San Juan de la Peña Monastery
  • Mount Igueldo funicular
  • Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos
  • More fun stops than we can list!

Madrid Extension

Including:

  • All land travel as outlined
  • One group transfer provided to Madrid airport
  • Superior tourist-class or better hotel accommodations
  • 4 meals: All breakfasts and 1 dinner as denoted (BLD)
  • All walks as listed, with commentary by local or national guide
  • Fees for walking credit (if IVV approved)
  • Cultural and historical expertise of local and national guides throughout program
  • WAI guide service throughout (2 guides)
  • All tipping for guides and coach drivers
  • Pricing is based on double occupancy; a limited amount of single rooms are available for a supplement of $125

Activities/Visits to:

  • Prado Museum
  • Alcalá de Henares walking tour

“My first group travel, will not need to look for other company. This trip was beyond my expectations.”

-Linda P; Seattle, WA


“How different the North of Spain is from Madrid South. Loved it all… [Your] Trips are always new and appealing; fellow travelers make traveling comfortable; guides from WAI and local guides are always exceptional. Dan is terrific—makes each traveler feel ‘special.’…Cesar is fun but awesome in his breadth of knowledge and patience.”

-Valerie N; Camano Island, WA


“More opportunity to travel w/the same people and travel w/guides we’ve come to know—it is like family, as cliché as that sounds.”

-Diane H; Renton, WA


“It was the usual terrific tour! Thanks for all the effort to put the trip together!..[We enjoyed] Your effective organized program, the fantastic places you visit, meeting new and seeing old friends. Having fun.”

-John & Judi B; Goodyear, AZ


“Quality of content: Leaders, Guides, Hikes, etc.”

-Candace S; Albuquerque, NM


“Cesar is one of the best country guides we’ve had… [You offer a] Great mix of big city, small town and national parks/outdoor experiences. Excellent guides who provide overviews of history and culture. Flexible sturdy co-travelers. Action-packed schedules with lots of exercise.”

-Shirley M; Tacoma, WA


“Pre-planning, excellent organization, small and friendly groups, comfortable accommodations, good guides, great leadership, unique experiences—not too touristy…Interesting variety describes this trip—regions, history, scenery, food, wine and walks.”

-Jim & Donna S; Ventura, CA


“It was better than expected. Cesar is a keeper! The locations of walks were varied and beautiful!..Once again, knowledgeable in-country guides combined with organized, experienced WAI Guides have provided a rich cultural, historical and gastronomical experience. Add to that beautiful walks and hikes and it is the only way to travel to new foreign and exotic places!”

-Rick L; Lakewood, CO


“Each hotel had its own charm. Most were in a good location to walk to sights of interest…Good balance of city and country walks. Loved the country walks…Guides were awesome. WAI and local guides did everything possible to make the tour a success…WAI is a premier outfit and meets my expectations of how I prefer to tour. I’ve enjoyed every tour we’ve taken…[Walking Adventures features] Small groups; doesn’t follow large tour itineraries.”

-Judi B; Goodyear, AZ


“The tour quality, good camaraderie, great guides (WAI and Country) brings us back.”

-Mike N; Seattle, WA


“Great mix of walks and hikes. Great mix of city and country. Great mix of ancient and more recent history. Result: A very good and balanced insight into this region of Spain/Andorra.”

-Jean O; Vancouver, WA


“Visiting places ‘off the beaten path,’ interacting with local people, and learning about different cultures brings me back to WAI…Andorra was beautiful. Walking in the Pyrenees was ‘breath-taking.'”

– Tink M; Centerville, OH


“Just a great time learning, exploring and feeling like I really got a ‘taste’ for the places we visited.”

-Rod S; Oskaloosa, KS


“Loved the itinerary! Appreciated the thought devoted to seeking out special places and restaurants off the beaten path.”

-Diane S; Seminole, FL


“I like the fact that the tours are so well planned and that the WAI guides are well prepared and do an excellent job of meeting the needs of the travelers”.

-Karen H; Portland, OR

Adventure Pace

Tour Pace: 1 2 3 4 5
Walk Challenge: 1 2 3 4 5

Important Info

Group Size

25-30 travelers

Hotels

Strategically located Superior Tourist Class hotels or better

Meals

Breakfasts included with a selection of lunches and dinners. Letters BLD indicate which meals are included.

Airfare

Not Included. Start point is in Barcelona, finish point is in Madrid.

Transportation

Included. We use full-size motorcoaches with a seating capacity of 45+ seats.

Traveler Age

Our travelers usually range from 50–75 years of age. All ages welcome!

Your Guides

wai-guides-roger-jana-dorway

Roger & Jana Dorway have always appreciated the experiential, paradigm-expanding value of travel, and have been privileged to explore destinations on 5 continents. Since retirement, they’ve increased their commitment to discovering the world, fostering a growing desire to share cultural and historical insights as part of the WAI guide team. They look forward to sharing highlights of Northern Spain with you!

Local Guide César Higueras Sanz on the Northern Spain Tour 2016

César Higueras Sanz: Along with an exceedingly dry sense of humor, César brings a knowledge of languages (Spanish, English, Portuguese, and Italian), culture, and history to our Spanish experience. César is a highly qualified guide who has been leading our Walking Adventures in Spain since 2007 – he is looking forward to sharing the culture and history of Spain with you!

Itinerary

Click on each day for more details.

Barcelona, Andorra & the Spanish Pyrenees

DAY 1-Oct 14: Arrive Barcelona, Spain (D)

Upon arrival at the Barcelona-El Prat International Airport, taxis are available for convenient transportation to our hotel near Barcelona’s historic center. Travelers arrive throughout the day so our first group activity is a Welcome Orientation this evening followed by dinner.

DAY 2-Oct 15: Activities in Barcelona (B)

Barcelona, Medieval to Modern Walk – 10 km, rated 1B

This morning we visit our first UNESCO World Heritage Site – a whimsical creation of early 20th century modernist architect, Antonio Gaudi. Parc Güell is a delightfully strollable blend of garden greenery and bizarre, Disneyesque architecture. Later this morning, our Barcelona walk showcases a sizeable chunk of this remarkable city on the sea, incorporating a bird’s-eye view gondola ride up Montjuïc. Along with a plethora of uniquely Catalan delights, we walk the lively waterfront beach, through the old fishing neighborhood of Barceloneta, and up into the Gothic Quarter, oldest section of Barcelona supported in places by subterranean ruins of the 2000-year-old Roman settlement here.

DAY 3-Oct 16: Barcelona – La Massana, Andorra (BLD)

Route of Iron Walk – 4 km, rated 1B

Leaving Barcelona, our destination is the tiny principality of Andorra, one of Europe’s smallest countries. Along the way we enter the rugged Pyrenees Mountains, ancient geographic barrier between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. We enjoy time in the tiny village of Os de Civís, including a cultural lunch experience in this time-forgotten corner of Spain reachable only through Andorra. En route to our hotel, we explore a tributary valley on a lovely nature path along a stream where iron has been mined in centuries past.

DAY 4-Oct 17: Andorra – Vielha, Spain (BD)

Val d’Incles Walk – 4 km, rated 2A

The morning’s walk takes us into the Incles Valley, a wild and picturesque mountain valley on the northern edge of tiny Andorra. Following the walk, we enter one of the small but beautiful Romanesque stone churches that dot the hillsides of the Pyrenees. Before leaving Andorra, a visit to Museo de Areny-Plandolit provides a fascinating glimpse into life of the relatively isolated Andorran upper class between the 17th and 19th centuries. Our afternoon drive snakes along the foothills of the Pyrenees into the Aran Valley.

DAY 5-Oct 18: Vielha – Torla (BD)

Aran Valley Villages & Vistas Walk – 12 km, rated 3B

The Aran Valley has been virtually independent for much of its history, and retains a high degree of autonomy in governing local matters. Tucked away in the mountains next to the French border, the valley developed its own language, Aranese, a variant of the southern French tongue known as Occitan. Our walk connects several delightful, traditional villages along the valley floor, each with its own photogenic Romanesque Church. More Pyrenees panoramas are in store for us this afternoon as we make our way into the province of Aragón to Torla – our home for the next two evenings.

DAY 6-Oct 19: Activities from Torla (B)

Ordesa National Park Walk – 10 km, rated 3C

Ordesa National Park opens a window onto some of Spain’s most stunning scenery. The walk returns us to our hotel just outside Torla, a charming and durable village built of granite, the stone that seems to provide the very building blocks of life in the Pyrenees. The afternoon is free to enjoy the solitude and scenery of our hotel, or wander the picturesque village of Torla.

DAY 7-Oct 20: Torla - San Sebastian (BD)

One of Spain’s most impressive fortresses sits just above the village of Loarre, in Aragón. Built defiantly on a mountainside by the king of Aragón and Navarra nearly 1000 years ago, the castle served as command post for his resistance against the Moors. San Juan de la Peña Monastery, a one-hour scenic drive north, was the final resting place of Aragón and Navarre nobility, and preserves some of Spain’s best examples of Romanesque carving. We finish our day with a lovely drive north to San Sebastian, our base for the next two nights.

DAY 8-Oct 21: Activities in San Sebastian (BD)

San Sebastian on the Sea Walk – 10 km, rated 1B

A morning walk starts from our hotel and includes a funicular ride to Mount Igueldo for dramatic panoramic vistas of the city and its famous beaches. We continue along lovely La Concha Bay and up into the large city park on Mount Urgell, bordered by the sea. The afternoon is free to explore this delightful city on your own. Spaniards have developed an art form of preparing and consuming delicious hors d’oeuvres, and San Sebastian boasts Spain’s best pinchos (called tapas in other parts of Spain). Dinner together will be preceded by a Farewell Gathering and a chance to reminisce on all that Northern Spain has offered.

Day 9-Oct 22: San Sebastian to Madrid (B)

We’ve enjoyed the stunning scenery of the Pyrenees, bookended with two of Spain’s most appealing cities – Barcelona and San Sebastian – with tiny little Andorra sandwiched in between. En route to Madrid, our last stop lies in Burgos, historic capital of the Kingdom of Castile. Here, you have the opportunity for a relaxing lunch break in the picturesque old town, or join us for a visit to the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos, UNESCO World Heritage Site and final resting place of the legendary Spanish hero, El Cid. Travelers have the option to return home tomorrow, or extend their stay for another two days of activities in the Madrid region.

Day 10-Oct 23: Depart from Madrid (B)

We bid fond farewells to our walking comrades this morning at the close of Barcelona, Andorra & the Spanish Pyrenees, and return home with fond memories of fascinating regional differences, breathtaking scenery, fun culinary experiences, and a generous portion of food for thought.

Madrid Extension

Day 1-Oct 23: Madrid to Segovia (BD)

Madrid Prado & Parks Walk – 5 km, rated 1A

A morning walk through the highest capital in Europe introduces us to the charms of one of Spain’s youngest large cities (500 years old), including a visit to the superb Prado Museum, renowned for its fine collection of European and Spanish art. We make our way to Segovia by motorcoach this afternoon, with free time to explore this charming, off-the-tourist-track medieval gem before enjoying dinner together at a local restaurant.

Day 2-Oct 24: Segovia – Madrid (B)

Segovia Aquaduct & Alcazar Trail – 10 km, rated 2B

Today’s walk in Segovia showcases the city’s many architectural delights – a Roman aqueduct, a pervasive Mudejar (Moorish) architectural influence, and a gothic cathedral of stunning proportions. After free time for lunch in one of our favorite Spanish towns, we continue to Alcalá de Henares for the night. Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alcalá de Henares is recognized for its 13th century university, which played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Castilian Spanish language. Alcalá  is also known for its prolific population of white storks, and as the home of Miguel Cervantes, creator of the beloved, windmill-jousting figure, Don Quixote. Cervantes is widely considered the greatest writer in the Spanish language, and Don Quixote has been translated into more languages than any other book in the world except the Bible. A relaxing walking tour from our centrally located hotel is the perfect way to unwind on our last evening in Spain.

Day 3-Oct 25: Depart from Madrid (B)

After a fun and educational exposure to the Spanish capital, charming Segovia, and historic Alcalá de Henares, we say goodbye to Spain. Thanks for joining us for Madrid Extension!

More Details

How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?

We are now accepting reservations. Send in your registration ($500) to save your spot! A maximum of 30 travelers will be accepted.

Already Early Birded?

If you are among the travelers who submitted a $50 Early Bird deposit, you have until December 19 to secure your spot with an additional $450 (total of $500) registration.  After December 19, your spot on the tour would be released, and your Early Bird deposit would be available for refund or transfer to a different tour of your choice.

General Tour Conditions and Registration Form

To finalize your official registration, a completed and signed copy of the Registration Form is necessary. Please be sure to read all the fun stuff (the fine print) in the General Tour Conditions!

Travel Discounts

This tour is offered at the request of the Greater Des Moines Volkssport Association. But, because the walking club is not able to fill the tour, WAI travelers are welcome to join the adventure as well. Due to these special circumstances, the tour was priced at a discount and no additional discounts are accepted.

How is airfare arranged?

The official start point is Barcelona, Spain (Barcelona-El Prat Airport, BCN) and the end point is Madrid (Madrid-Barajas Airport, MAD).  We recommend that you contact Debbi Custer, the travel agent we work with, to help book your flight arrangements. In this age of airfare complications and airport uncertainty, using a travel agent is a good investment! More details about flight arrangements and travel agent contact information will be provided in the Adventure Advice flyer, mailed to you after you register for the Adventure. Please do not book your airfare prior to receiving the Adventure Advice flyer!

What about the walks?

We generally walk at a pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour. In most cases, we are not “strolling.” We are walking at a relaxed but steady pace. Your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. The success of the walks is therefore predicated upon walkers having this minimum level of fitness. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please talk with our office at 1.800.779.0353.

We have adopted a walk difficulty rating system which contains a numeric indicator for trail incline and an alpha indicator for trail terrain. The explanation for this system is presented below:

INCLINE

1. Very small hills or very little stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: up to 200 feet.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 200-1000 feet.
3. Some significant hill or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 1000-2000 feet.
4. Lots of significant hills or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 2000-3500 feet.
5. Many steep hills. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: more than 3500 feet.

TERRAIN

A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well-groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky / rooted paths or soft sand).
D. A significant part of the route is on very difficult terrain.
E. The majority of the route is on very difficult terrain.

Travel Insurance

WAI believes strongly in the importance of travel insurance for financial and medical protection from any number of unforeseen circumstances that can arise before departure or during your Adventure. Many travel insurance providers are available for you to consider. Debbi Custer of World Travel Inc., a travel agent who provides air travel services to many WAI travelers, can provide travel insurance options for your WAI tour as well as your airfare (email [email protected] -OR- call 888-276-0925 / 503-231-9507). For those of you who purchase airfare through Debbi, purchasing your travel insurance from her as well may be the simplest option. As always, do some shopping to ensure you are getting the best value. Using the Insuremytrip.com website can be a good way to compare pricing.

Other options include:

  • Allianz
  • Travel Guard
  • Travel Insured International

We suggest purchasing from a reputable, well-established insurance company (avoid buying insurance from an unknown company found only online). In addition, be aware that some travel insurance policies contain time-sensitive provisions—i.e. some benefits are available only if the policy is purchased within a certain number of days of the purchase of the travel package.

What happens next?

Upon registering for this Adventure, you will receive a welcome letter and initial invoice. The Adventure Advice flyer will be sent soon after, with important information about steps to take in the months before your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you receive the Adventure Advice flyer. Final payment for the program is due 90 days before departure, and you will receive a final billing about 3 weeks prior to that point, along with a factsheet of additional information about the Adventure to help you get prepared! Then, about 3 weeks before departure, you will receive a final packet with all the details of the program, including hotel names and contact information, a list of fellow travelers, and a more detailed daily schedule.

Now is a great time to begin planning your travels through breathtaking Northern Spain. The Pyrenees are one of our favorite corners of Europe, and we’re exciting to share them with you, along with bustling Barcelona, the mini-state of Andorra, and beautiful, Basque San Sebastian, on the lovely Bay of Biscay. Be prepared to get off the coach with us and experience a walking program that will open your eyes to a side of Northern Spain few travelers experience! We look forward to exploring the countryside, castles, cathedrals, culture, and cuisine of the Iberian Peninsula with you next year!