Northern Spain & the Pyrenees Tour

17 Superb Days

  •     Leisurely 2 and 3 night stays
  •     Small group size from 10 to 28
  •     Genuinely inclusive, no additional on tour costs
  •     Character hotels in superb locations
  •     Designed for Australians & New Zealanders
  •     'My Time' guaranteed

Tour Overview

From the rich, rolling vineyards of the Rioja region, follow Spain’s Costa Verde to elegant San Sebastian. Explore the mighty French Pyrenees and stay in the walled city of Carcassonne. Ride high in mountain cable cars, cruise down the Canal du Midi and sip wine and dine as the lucky locals do!


  • Stay 3 nights in an 800 year old Parador hotel in the Rioja region
  • See the walled medieval city of Laguardia and beautiful Haro 
  • Enjoy a tasting at the fabulous Marques de Riscal winery
  • Stay 3 nights in Santander on the Atlantic Coast
  • Take the spectacular cable car ride up to the summit of the Picos de Europa
  • Stay 3 nights in Spain’s culinary capital of San Sebastián
  • Explore Bilbao and enjoy lunchtime in the grand old quarter
  • See the world famous Guggenheim Museum
  • Visit Saint Jean de Luz and the dramatic French coastal resort of Biarritz
  • Stay 3 nights in the heart of historical Carcassonne
  • Sip bubbly where it was actually first invented
  • Visit the medieval time capsule of Mirepoix
  • Visit Figueres, once home to Salvador Dali
  • Spend your final night in the very heart of Barcelona

Get yourself ready for the Northern Spain & Pyrenees by reading more information on Spain and France from our helpful destination section!


Northern Spain and the Pyrenees Tour

Message from the Mo

A peek at two peaks!!

Why do we include 2 cable car rides on this trip? Because the days are so different. You see, it is not just about the dramatic views from the  top of each, it is about the journey, the mountain experience – it is about the whole day itself. Take the Picos de Europa ride. Our journey  takes us up through the dramatic gorges and villages, deep into the wild Picos National Park. Here we also enjoy a ‘Fabada’ mountain lunch (included, of course, after all this is Albatross). So the cable car itself is not the destination, but an excuse for a great day out. And in the Pic Du Midi, in the French Pyrenees? Much higher, much bigger views, and a huge observatory at the top like something out of a James Bond movie. And the journey? We follow a part of the famous Tour de France bicycle route over the Tourmalet Pass, an experience enhanced by the struggling cyclists we pass up hill. Albatross always include those extra days to really experience additional, unusual, sensational sights. There’s more to travel than simply ticking highlight cities off a list. There’s also the experiences. Whether travelling from peak to peak, or visiting the cliff top citadel of Minerve, or the cafés by the Canal du Midi, we do these extra things because they simply can’t be missed!

Tour Itinerary

Day 1: Madrid welcome

Your tour commences this evening in Spain’s cosmopolitan capital city, Madrid. Join us tonight for a welcome drink before dinner in your hotel. This is an ideal chance to meet, and get to know, your Tour Manager and fellow travellers.


Melia Madrid Princesa Hotel

Day 2: Burgos El Cid and the Rioja Region

Travelling north, we soon reach Burgos, the historical capital of the Castile and León region, which was one of the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. This stunning medieval city is a masterpiece of Spanish Gothic architecture.
We have included a self-guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Listed cathedral, where you will find the tomb of the famous, 11th century warrior, El Cid. Later, we enter the famous Rioja region of Spain where we stay three nights in the charming town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Set on the banks of the River Oja, this town sits astride the Pilgrims Route to Santiago de Compostela – the Way of St James. The network of medieval streets within the old city walls are declared as a National Historic Site. The rich soil of the Rioja has also enabled the town to become famous for its gastronomy and local wines.
Parador de Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Day 3: Ancient Pamplona and Olite

Today we visit the ancient town of Pamplona, in the Navarre Province. Whilst Pamplona is famous for its annual ‘Sanfermines festival of the bulls’, it actually has a rich and proud history dating back 2000 years. After time exploring the traditional historical centre with a local guide, make sure you relax in a restaurant or café and sample the local Navarre cuisine with food drawn from the surrounding, fertile, Arga plain. This afternoon we will stop in the small town of Olite to visit the magnificent Palacio Real de Olite - the Royal Palace of the kings of Navarre, one of the ancient kingdoms of Spain. Your evening is at leisure in Santo Domingo de la Calzada.

Day 4: Haro, Laguardia and Marques de Riscal vineyard

This morning we visit Haro, one of the Rioja's most famous wine producing towns with its beautiful square and wonderful baroque church. After a scenic drive through the famous Rioja wine region, lunchtime is at leisure in the fortified hill top town of Laguardia in Rioja Alavesa, a walled medieval town with spectacular views across the Sierra de Cantabria. On arrival we have included a visit to the Church of Santa Maria De Los Reyes, famous for its late-14th century Gothic doorway, adorned with beautiful sculptures. This afternoon we will make a special stop at the flamboyant Marques de Riscal vineyard. On approach the winery is a sensational sight with a design looking more like a giant chocolate box covered with huge wild colourful ribbons. Here we enjoy a vineyard tour and tasting.

Day 5: Elegant Vitoria and coastal Santander

First stop of the day will be in Vitoria, the capital city of the Basque Country. A local guide joins us for a walking tour of this elegant city of parks, gardens and a beautiful main square. This is also the site of the battle in which the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon in the Peninsular War. In  the afternoon we reach Santander, capital of the Cantabria region, on the Atlantic Coast. Famous for its wide sandy El Sardinero beach and glamorous hotels, we stay here the next three nights.
Hotel Hoyuela

Day 6: Picos de Europa

There is nothing like a day in the mountains! Today we drive through the dramatic La Hermida Gorge and venture into the Picos de Europa, northern Spain’s highest mountains. At Fuente De we will enjoy a spectacular cable car ride which will take you high up into the jagged mountains, offering terrific views across this remote national park. In the small mountain town of Potes, we enjoy a typical Picos lunch of ‘Fabada’ – the local mountain stew with beans and sausages, and a glass of Orujo schnapps.



Day 7: Santander ‘My Time’, Altamira Caves and Santillana de Mar

This morning is at leisure to go shopping and explore the exciting city centre. Maybe take a walk to the Magdalena Palace on the headland with its lush green gardens and sweeping views across the beach and estuary. In the afternoon we will take a drive along the coast to visit the Altamira Caves museum with its stunning ‘neocave’ (replica), on the site of the original UNESCO World Heritage Listed cave system. A local guide will join us to explain how the actual original cave structure and paintings of bison, wild horses deer and other animals have all been accurately reproduced, using the original painting techniques and materials. A unique and fascinating visit! Later we will enjoy a relaxing stop nearby in one of Spain’s most beautiful towns – Santillana de Mar – with its private noble palaces and romanesque church. The town is also famous for its local handicraft and local produce. Your evening is at leisure.


Altamira Caves, Spain

Hand Selected Experience

Altamira Caves, so close, so real

The UNESCO World Heritage Listed Altamira Caves date back up to 35,000 years, and are said to be the highest quality cave art found anywhere in all of Europe. So perfect, that when discovered, archaeologists doubted they were actually genuine. To preserve the astonishing cave art depicting bison, horses, wolves, and more, the caves have been sealed but we can still see and
admire them in the amazing replica cave built beside the cave entrance, as part of a fascinating museum. So close, so real,
our local guide will breathe life into the ancient story

Day 8: Castro Urdiales, Bilbao and San Sebastián

Following the Costa Verde or ‘Green Coast’ we enjoy a morning stop at Castro Urdiales with its colourful fishing fleet and Knights Templar castle. Later we continue to Bilbao, one of Spain’s largest cities, where we are joined by a local guide for an orientation tour. Enjoy ‘My Time’ for lunch in  the charming Casco Viejo – the old quarter, or you may choose to visit the world-famous Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, with its extraordinary swirling, groundbreaking design. Leaving Bilbao behind, we will cross the lush green hills of the Basque country to reach the chic coastal city of San Sebastián, one of Spain’s most elegant cities. We will spend three nights here.
Mercure Monte Igueldo

Day 9: San Sebastián sightseeing and ‘My Time’

This morning an expert local guide will join us to bring San Sebastián to life. We begin up at the famous Monte Igueldo to take in the amazing views  across the horse shoe bay, and the city ringed by mountains. Following that our guide will take us on a guided walk through the narrow streets and old port, before introducing us to the city’s famous tapas bars. San Sebastián is noted as the gourmet capital of Europe so it is a perfect time to really focus on enjoying some Pintxo, the local name for tapas, washed down by a glass of local white wine called Taxkoli. The rest of the day is free to explore and shop in this lively, cosmopolitan city.

Day 10: Seaside Saint Jean De Luz and Biarritz

Crossing the border into France, we pass through the small town of Ciboure, birthplace of the famous composer Ravel. Our first stop of the day will be in the delightful seaside town of Saint Jean De Luz where Louis 14th, the ‘Sun King’, married Maria Theresa of Spain in the 17th century. Later we will continue to the elegant seaside resort of Biarritz, on the Bay of Biscay. Patronised by European royalty since the 1800s Biarritz is still a very chic and thriving beach resort, with a big surfing influence. Biarritz, with its distinctly French feel, is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll along the seaside promenade. Tonight we enjoy dinner in a local restaurant.



Day 11: City of Pau, Lourdes and Tarbes

Crossing into Aquitaine in France we reach the city of Pau. Time to take a stroll along the Boulevard des Pyrenees or visit the Château de Pau, birthplace of France’s King Henry IV. On a clear day the views of the Pyrenees are excellent. In the afternoon we will also make a stop in the pilgrimage city of Lourdes where in 1858 a vision of the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared before Bernadette Soubirous in the Grotto of Massabielle. Later we reach Tarbes where we will stay the next two nights.


Le Rex

Day 12: Hautes-Pyrenees and Pic du Midi cable car

Today we drive into the heart of the Hautes-Pyrenees and classic Tour de France country. At 2115 metres high, the Col du Tourmalet is the highest paved mountain pass in the French Pyrenees, and one of the most famous climbs on the Tour de France bicycle route. As we climb up higher and higher we see bike signs showing the distance to the top, and the gradient over the next kilometre! Often passing struggling cyclists we will make a stop at the large statue of the famous rider Octave Lapize, gasping for air as he struggles to make the climb. In La Mongie we will board a large cable car which will take us up to the summit of the Pic Du Midi de Bigorre. At 2877 metres or nearly 10,000 feet the views are stupendous. Because of the reliable, clear, blue skies they built a massive white observatory up here, and it is like a scene from a science fiction movie. Here there is also an observatory museum, restaurants and deckchairs to sit in and relax and enjoy the panoramic views – one way down onto the broad French plains and the other along the massive Pyrenees into Spain. Lunch is included up at the summit. Memorable!

Day 13: Mirepoix and Abbey of St Hilaire in Limoux

A leisurely start today as we head across the vine covered hills to enjoy lunchtime in the perfectly preserved time capsule of Mirepoix. Without doubt this is one of the most beautiful medieval town squares in Europe, with its colourfully painted, half-timbered houses that date back to between the 13th and 15th centuries. Sitting atop centuries old wooden rafters carved at the ends with monsters, animals and gargoyles, these rows of shuttered houses provide shady covered walkways for cafés and shops. We are now in the ‘Pays Cathare’, or Cathar country, in the lovely Languedoc Roussillon region. Just south of Carcassonne near Limoux we will make a special visit to the Abbey of St Hilaire, a jewel of Romanesque architecture. Originally dating back possibly 1300 years, the more recently added Abbey church and 14th century cloisters are a delight. The Benedictine monks of the Abbey are also credited with inventing the sparkling wine known as Blanquette de Limoux, a full century before their counterparts created ‘bubbly’ in Champagne! Our stay for the next three nights is right in the very heart of the massive, UNESCO World Heritage Listed, walled city of Carcassonne.
The Best Western le Donjon
Abbey of St. Hilaire

Hand Selected Experience

Sip bubbly, where it was first invented

Everyone thinks ‘bubbly’ was invented in the Champagne region. Not so! A full 100 years beforehand, the monks of St Hilaire
Abbey created this celebratory brew, and they did it so well too! Known as ‘Blanquette de Limoux’, it tastes terrific. Maybe that is because the abbey and cloisters where it is made is a 600 year old jewel of Romanesque architecture, or maybe because sipping it, where bubbly was first invented, adds dreaminess and nostalgia to the flavour. Or maybe because it is just so good!

Day 14: Carcassonne sightseeing and ‘My Time’

Dating back to Roman times, the existing 13th century fortress city of Carcassonne is an extraordinary timepiece. This morning we are joined by a local guide as we explore the ramparts and old town of Carcassonne. The medieval castle, with its gigantic double walled fortifications and 53  watchtowers, is the 2nd most visited site in France outside of Paris. We have also included entrance into the château of the Counts of Carcassonne. The rest of the day is completely free to wander amongst the cafés, shops and boutiques within this exceptional town.

Day 15: Minerve, Le Somail and Canal du Midi

A leisurely start as we crisscross the Canal du Midi and then head into the Languedoc hills, to the dramatic gorge and perched, stone village of Minerve. In 1210, during the Cathar Crusade, Simon de Montfort destroyed this village stronghold and burned alive 140 ‘heretics’. Today Minerve boasts a small, sleepy, 12th century church surrounded by cobblestoned streets and narrow alleys, craft shops and restaurants. Perched by the ravine, the town is delightful and the scenery dramatic. Make sure you walk down to the Cassiere River and through the cavernous tunnel which drills right under and through the hillside. Later, we descend through the vineyards of the Minervois region to stop and explore the picturesque hamlet of  Le Somail, sitting astride the Canal du Midi. Here we enjoy lunch on the leafy terrace of an Auberge, beside the humped back bridge that crosses the canal. Delightful!



Day 16: Figueres and Barcelona

Heading into Spain we reach the Girona province where we will enjoy a morning stop in Figueres. Time to stroll amongst the shops of the tree lined La Rambla, the city’s shaded central avenue, and stop in one of the café filled squares. Make sure you visit the Placa Gala, with its Dali statues and  the Salvador Dali museum housed in the old municipal theatre. This afternoon we reach the vibrant, cosmopolitan city of Barcelona. On arrival we will enjoy a panoramic drive past many of its famous sights, including Gaudi’s incredible Sagrada Familia Basilica. Tonight we will enjoy a farewell dinner in a local restaurant.
Crowne Plaza Barcelona Fira Center

Day 17: Barcelona

Your tour ends today after breakfast.

Incredible Value Inclusions

  • ALL excursions, scenic drives, sightseeing and entrances as described
  • Fully escorted by our experienced Tour Manager
  • Travel in a first class air-conditioned touring coach
  • 16 nights specially selected hotel accommodation
  • Hotel porterage (1 bag per person)
  • 27 meals – including breakfast daily (B), 3 lunches (L) ‘Fabada’ mountain lunch in Potes, lunch at the summit of the Pic Du Midi de Bigorre and beside the Canal du Midi and 8 dinners (D)
  • Tea, coffee and a complimentary beverage with all included dinners
  • Hand Selected Albatross Experiences - cable car rides Picos de Europa and Pic du Midi, barge cruise on the Canal du Midi
  • Local guides as described in the itinerary
  • ALL tips to your Tour Manager, Driver and Local Guides
  • Personal audio system whilst on tour
  • Free WiFi at hotels

No additional 'on tour' costs!

Your Hotels

Parador de Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Rioja

Parador de Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Rioja- 3 nights

As defined by the Paradores Hotel organisation, a ‘Parador’ is a “kind of luxury hotel, usually located in a converted historical building such as a monastery or castle”. Our first class hotel for these three nights, the Parador de Santo Domingo de la Calzada, will not disappoint. Dating back to the 12th century and sitting in the heart of the old town, this former hospital building was built to house pilgrims on the Way of St James. It now boasts stone gothic archways and magnificent lounges and grand hallways.

Hotel Hoyuela, Santander

Hotel Hoyuela, Santander - 3 nights

This elegantly designed 4-star hotel is conveniently located nearby the beach, and within walking distance of the Magdalena Palace and all the other notable sights. Hotel Hoyuela offers unbeatable service and facilities. The guest rooms are comfortable and well-equipped. 
Mercure Monte Igueldo, San Sebastian

Mercure Monte Igueldo, San Sebastian - 3 nights

Set on Mount Igueldo overlooking the Bay of La Concha, this modern 4-star hotel is connected to the city by a fully functional 100-year-old funicular railway. The air conditioned guest rooms are spacious and functional. Enjoy panoramic ocean views from the hotel’s restaurant which specialises in Basque cuisine. 

Le Rex, Tarbes

Le Rex, Tarbes - 2 nights

In a fantastic location right in the heart of town, ‘Le Rex’ is a superb first class, modern designer hotel. 

The Best Western le Donjon, Carcassonne

The Best Western le Donjon, Carcassonne - 3 nights

This 4-star, authentic, medieval hotel is spread within three medieval buildings they call the Donjon, the Ramparts and the Count Roger. It is wonderfully located within the ramparts, amongst the winding cobbled streets of the old town, close to the Count’s Castle. A perfect place to immerse yourself in this magical fortress town. 

Tour Reviews

Albatross you have done it again! I waited for this tour for 2 years and it has exceeded all expectations. From the wonderful countryside we travelled through to the small villages with so much character, all handpicked I'm sure. It was a gastronomic event unsurpassed, wow such delights! The tour was run at a leisurely pace and I still love the 3 night stops. It was so well organised you wouldn't believe it was an inaugural tour. The coach was excellent, the USB ports for each seat are terrific and WiFi exellent. Our coach driver Jose was superb driving in those small rural towns, missing by a whisker sometimes. He was always cheery and helped us with our bags and entering and leaving the coach, a cool customer indeed. Darren our tour manager was amazing. Extremely well organised. We knew what was happening all the time. His commentary was expansive and captivating. How he does it all amazes me. On top of that he is a very kind, courteous and caring person. I loved it all and shall treasure the memories always!


This tour exceeded all expectations. It was great to relax and have full confidence in both the tour manager and the coach driver as they handled their roles professionally, efficiently and calmly. On pre-arrival into our stops we were given a history of the area and optional activities which was extremely helpful for us to manage our time to it's full potential and our energy levels at the time. There were moments of free time as we strolled beside the beaches that it felt more like a holiday than a tour, then there were other times that it felt more like an adventure. I loved the mix of cultures that we experienced and the variety of countryside, and of course, the food. For the inaugural tour I felt it ran very smoothly only for the exception of Biarritz when it was a public holiday weekend and very busy.

We had a fabulous time. Thank you!!


We had 4 main reasons for choosing an Albatross tour:

  1. Size of groups
  2. Quality of the hotels
  3. Quality of the food
  4. No tipping

In each of these areas we were extremely happy. 

Darren, our tour manager, was exceptional, very knowledgeable, extraordinarily talented and fluent in languages, helpful and caring. The tour was extremely well organised considering it was the inaugural tour. It was a wonderful tour, thank you very much.



I booked this tour with confidence having travelled with Albatross Tours on two previous occasions. Once again the varied itinerary, inclusions, high standard of hotels, restaurants, coach and driver was synonymous with Albatross. Pre and post-tour information (including the Travel app) was helpful but above all, our efficient and thoughtful multi-lingual Tour Manager was invaluable. I believe Albatross Tours deliver value for money and a reliability you can depend upon.


I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. Three night stays in most places was really appreciated. Our guide, Darren Wheatley, was informative, caring and attended to the needs of us all. The mix of guided tours and free time was ideal. Pic du Midi excursion was the highlight for me. It was a wonderful day and the weather was perfect!

Lynette Paige, July 2018

Rioja region, Spain

Dates and Prices

Start Date End Date Price Per Person Availability
18 Aug 2021 3 Sep 2021 Not Yet Open For Sale
10 Sep 2021 26 Sep 2021 Not Yet Open For Sale
25 May 2022 10 Jun 2022 Not Yet Open For Sale
15 Jun 2022 1 Jul 2022 Not Yet Open For Sale
17 Aug 2022 2 Sep 2022 Not Yet Open For Sale
7 Sep 2022 23 Sep 2022 Not Yet Open For Sale