Spain and Portugal

Portugal and Taste of Spain

  • May 15-22
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Trip details

8 Days on the Trail of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewry, the Crypto-Jews, the views, the culture, and the Portuguese cuisine

Price per person in double room :€1550
Extra price per single person in double room :€320

Included:

  • Direct flights Tel-Aviv-Madrid-Tel-Aviv
  • High standard 4-star hotels
  • Comfort coach bus for the entire trip as described
  • Gamla Tours Hebrew speaking guide
  • Exquisite Spanish and Portuguese meals from our kosher mobile kitchen (Half Board, Full Board on Shabbat)
  • Entry to sites as described

Trip days

Monday : Madrid-Salamanca

Take a morning flight to Madrid. Upon arrival, explore the famous uppity squares of the Spanish capital before we go west. A couple hours will see us in Salamanca, the old and exciting university town. Cross from the New City to the Old by the ancient Roman stone bridge, and immerse yourself in the world of such architectural pearls as Plaza Mayor and Casa de Las Conchas.

After quenching our thirst for romantics with narrow cobbled alleys and medieval courtyards, we bid Salamanca farewell on the posh pedestrian streets Zamora and Calle Toro.

Time to leave Spain and go to Guarda area, our first overnight stop in Portugal.

Overnight near Guarda

Tuesday : Porto

In a day charged with impressions catering to all our senses, we are going to the grand Porto, a city second in size and importance only to Lisbon in Portugal.

We begin the day with a jolly ride along the valley of the quaint Douro river, leisurely weaving its way between farms and vineyards. 

Our first encounter with Porto will begin with the view from the waterfront, as we board a small boat to cruise in tranquility under its six bridges. We will see the opulent Monastery Sierra do Pilar, admire the skyline, and experience the sensation of being in the middle of not one but two cities, Porto and Gaia, connected only by these bridges across the lazy waves.

Upon disembarking, we will walk to the heart of the city. Visit the largest synagogue in the entire Iberian peninsula and the adjoining Jewish museum. Pass the impressive cathedral on the way to the old river port, Cais da Ribeira. Admire the palatial Paço Episcopal, and learn how Porto became the centre of port wine production.

Dinner at the hotel, overnight in Porto area.

Wednesday : Coimbra-Lisbon

Strikingly beautiful Coimbra is a former Portuguese capital. It will take us about 90 minutes to get there, but no time at all to be wowed by its majestic palaces, baroque university structures (we'll be sure to visit its amazing library Biblioteca Joanina), and the imposing Romanesque cathedral of 12th c.

We could walk the steep cobblestone roads of Coimbra hills endlessly, or at least till we drop with fatigue; but, Lisbon awaits us ahead.

An early dinner will enable us to take an evening stroll in Alfama, one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods of Lisbon.

Overnight in Lisbon

Thursday : Lisbon

The whole day will be dedicated to Lisbon and its surroundings. First, we will ride to the nearby Sintra, a town of magic and romance. A longtime royal sanctuary, its forested terrain is studded with pastel-colored villas and palaces. We'll see the Moorish-style National Palace distinguished by dramatic twin chimneys and elaborate tilework, and enjoy the whimsical design and sweeping views of the fancy aristocratic palaces and mansions.

Returning to Lisbon downtown after lunch, we immerse ourselves in its ebullient ambiance. See the old Chiado and Baixa, walk around Praca do Figueira and adjacent pedestrian malls, come to admire the Santa Justa elevator, a creation combining Neo-Gothic and steampunk (the view from up above doesn't hurt the overall impression at all). The evening will be crowned with a visit to the trendy Bairro Alto for an evening of Fado music in one of the more authentic clubs in the city.

Overnight in Lisbon

Friday : Lisbon-Castelo de Vide

We begin the morning with a visit to the Synagogue, which will enable us not only to daven but also mingle with some of the local Jews, learn about their everyday life and immerse ourselves in their world.

After the synagogue, we'll go down to the river to admire, besides the gorgeous panorama, the Tower of Belem, Jeronimite monastery, and a monument to the seafarers - most befitting for a country that once ruled over the seas of half the planet.

Lunch will be followed by relocation to Castelo de Vide with enough time to get ready for Shabbat.

Kabbalat Shabbat, Kiddush, Seudah.

Overnight in Castelo de Vide

Saturday : Castelo de Vide

Shabbat services, festive meals, walking tours of medieval Judiaria, or Jewish Quarter, where time seems to have stood still, with cobbled streets and whitewashed houses (most of them with Gothic doorways and potted plants on the doorsteps). The oldest synagogue in the country was here, although all that remains is one modest little room. 

We will go down from the Jewish Quarter, both to the pretty little square with a covered Renaissance fountain, and the lower new part of town, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, with wider, less steep streets and an elegant main square, Praça Dom Pedro V, surrounded by a celebration of Baroque in stone and tile.

Castelo de Vide is not only a huge chunk of the Portuguese Jewish history; it also promises an eyeful. You will not forget any of it in a hurry.

Havdalah and overnight in Castelo de Vide.

Sunday : Belmonte

The Jewish congregation of Belmonte is one of the most original and fascinating in the world. An ancient centre of Crypto-Jews who went into hiding from the terror of the Inquisition, just a little over 100 years ago they were certain that there were no more Jews left in the world except for their own little and very private community.

Understandably private and wary of strangers, only in the last couple decades did the Crypto-Jews of Belmonte start sharing their customs and traditions with the visiting Jewish guests; and today, that's us.

We will stay and pray in their old synagogue, converse with the members, learn of their customs and beliefs, and if we are really lucky, one of them might even invite us in to their home (don't hold your breath folks but it did happen to us once there).

In the evening, we return to Castelo de Vide for a farewell dinner before the last night of the trip.

Overnight in Castelo de Vide.

Monday : Casares-Toledo

After breakfast, we cross the border back into Spanish territory, and pause for a visit in Cáceres, capital to the eponymous province in the prosperous horticultural community of Extremadura. The city's rich architecture is a blend of Roman, Islamic, Northern Gothic and Italian Renaissance styles. We'll see the famous Torre del Bujaco - heritage of the Moors - and follow the narrow streets as they twist and climb among ancient stone walls lined with palaces, mansions, arches and churches, while the skyline is decorated with turrets, spires, gargoyles and enormous storks' nests.

The old Juderia here boasts not one but two synagogues.

We could stay in Cáceres alone for a week, were it not for Toledo, the majestic city of Rabbi Yhudah haLevi, Ibn Ezra, and Rosh (not to mention Cervantes and El Greco, l'havdil) waiting for us on the horizon.

Its daunting medieval walls are hiding, in a labyrinth of winding pedestrian streets, some ofthe  most important historical landmarks in the country. Magnificent old stone buildings and quiet cobblestone streets whisper the legacy of the past. For centuries, Jews managed to flourish in this "city of three cultures" alongside their Christian and Muslim neighbours. A dazzling array of churches, convents, palaces, fortresses, mosques, and of course synagogues still remind of those times long gone. Wander the atmospheric narrow lanes, relax in quiet courtyards, and visit artisan shops tucked away in little alleys. Wander down the dusty passageways of Juderia, see the Sinagoga del Transito, pass from the Gates of the Sun to the New Gate, and admire the magnificent Moorish fortress of Alcázar.

When we drive you in the evening to Madrid airport for your flight home, you will not believe it has only been 8 days.

Thank you for entrusting Gamla K GeoTours with bringing the Iberian peninsula into your lives. 

The Kitchen

The kosher traveler is no longer willing to accept days of canned tuna and sliced bread. Lately, we have seen the rise of excellent professionally organized glatt kosher tours operating day trips from the single base hotel.