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16 February 2016

Spain is often overlooked as a cultural destination – astonishing for a country that is second only to Italy in its quantity of UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites. In fact, the country boasts a wealth of art, architecture, history and wildlife to explore, from wonderful pre-Romanesque architecture in Asturias to bird-watching in Monfragüe National Park, or from military history in Iberia to modern art in San Sebastián – the 2016 European Capital of Culture.

Spain is often overlooked as a cultural destination – astonishing for a country that is second only to Italy in its quantity of UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites. In fact, the country boasts a wealth of art, architecture, history and wildlife to explore, from wonderful pre-Romanesque architecture in Asturias to bird-watching in Monfragüe National Park, or from military history in Iberia to modern art in San Sebastián – the 2016 European Capital of Culture.

ACE Tour Director Rose Walker is an expert in Spanish medieval art whose period specialisation covers the golden age of al-Andalus. She has been travelling to Spain for many years, and reveals below why she is particularly looking forward to her upcoming tour along the ancient pilgrimage route of the camino primitivo to the city of Santiago de Compostela:

"I think Asturias is one of the most elemental and atmospheric regions of Spain. Travellers so often follow the text of the twelfth-century Pilgrim's Guide regardless, but our route, the camino primitivo, and many of its buildings belong with the earliest traditions around the tomb of St James in the ninth and tenth centuries.

Like Santiago de Compostela, Oviedo is built of mostly local stone, giving it a strong sense of place. More pilgrims now come to the Gothic cathedral but the surprises are to be found in the outskirts. One of my personal highlights on this tour is the unique belvedere that sits high above the city on Mount Naranco; its architectural prowess attracted the admiration of chroniclers for centuries. Below it lies the equally unexpected church of San Julian de los Prados, St Julian of the Meadows. It may have wall paintings and not mosaics, but it still seems to have been transported from Ravenna. Like so many of these early buildings, it is a puzzle.

 

THE OLD WAY TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA: THE CAMINO PRIMITIVO

May 30 – June 6, 2016; £1795

From the Atlantic coast and its sites from the early Reconquista, our route through the green and mountainous landscapes delivers an authentic sense of pilgrimage. We visit Oviedo and Lugo – with its entire circuit of late Roman walls surviving intact – before we join with the camino francés to arrive at the city of Santiago and its great Romanesque cathedral. More>>

WILDLIFE & WALKING IN EXTREMADURA

May 4–11, 2016; £1495

Our exploration of one of Spain’s most unspoilt areas takes in three nights in historic Cáceres before moving to a traditional, family-owned finca set deep within forests of cork oak, where bee-eaters and hoopoes can be spotted from the terrace. We look out for vultures and raptors at Peña Falcon Rock, walk amongst the steppe landscapes, and sample the local gastronomy. More>>

BILBAO & SAN SEBASTIAN

August 29 – September 4, 2016; £1675

Bilbao may be best known for Frank Gehry’s titanium masterpiece – to which we dedicate a day – but its charming medieval old town also boasts gems such as the 14th-century Gothic Cathedral of Santiago and the neoclassical style Plaza Nueva. In San Sebastián a particular highlight will be the completely renovated Museo San Telmo, with its art collection including works by El Greco, Alonso Cano, Rubens, Ribera and Zuloaga. More>>

THE PENINSULAR WAR: WELLINGTON’S VICTORIES IN SPAIN & PORTUGAL

October 11–17, 2016; £1595

Our journey begins in colourful Porto with Marshal Soult’s capture of the city in March 1809, and ends with an exploration of the battle of Salamanca – one of the greatest battles fought by Wellington, and one of the best-preserved battlefields in Iberia. Further highlights include the elaborate royal hunting lodge Buçaco Palace, as well as Wellington’s humble headquarters at Freineda. More>>

 

 
 
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