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Essential Guided Tours of Spain

...For people who don't normally take guided tours

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If you're planning your Spain vacation on the internet, you're probably quite an independent traveler and don't normally take guided tours. However, there are a number of logistical issues to take into account when planning particular trips in Spain which mean that at times, a guided tour is a very good idea.

Guided tours don't need to be all-inclusive Package Tours of Spain. It often makes sense to add a single tour to your vacation, to get to see a place that is not practical to visit by yourself.

Why would somewhere not be practical in Spain? Logistical issues that might get in the way of your day trip could include:

  • Too many sights to realistically find and see them all without a guide to show you where everything is.
  • Poor public transport combined with other reasons why you might not want to drive in Spain such as the desire to drink alcohol.
  • Getting access to some sights can be tricky The Alhambra and most wineries are much easier to get into if you go with a guide.

The following sights are essential places to visit on Spain and where having everything organized for you can be a real weight off your mind!

If none of these guided tours appeal to you, check out this list of Guided Tours of Spain

1. Guided Tour of the Alhambra, Granada

Image: Damian Corrigan
What is it? Spectacular Moorish fortress and garden complex.

Where is it? Granada

Why take a guided tour? Tickets are limited and the line to get them can be ridiculous - you can expect to wait for two or three hours at peak times. Guided tours, on the other hand, guarantee entry (if booked in advance) and eliminate standing in line. 

Guided Tour of the Alhambra

More on the Alhambra

2. Winery Visits in Spain

 What is it? Visits to wineries and vineyards around Spain, with wine tasting and an explanation of the wine production techniques.
Where is it? La Rioja and Ribera del Duero are the most common districts to visit.

Why take a guided tour? For two great reasons. Firstly, public transport in these rural areas is difficult. You'll have to drive, which mean a designated driver. I wouldn't want to be the designated driver at a winery! Secondly, many wineries only open by appointment and may not have full-time English-speaking staff. 

With a tour, you don't need to find someone to drive you and you can guarantee the wineries will be open for you.

Read about Wine Tours in Spain or the various La Rioja Wine Tours available (including some self-guided tours).

3. Guided Tour of Ronda, Andalusia

What is it? Beautiful town built over a stunning ravine.

Where is it? Andalusia (north of Marbella)

Why take a guided tour? The pueblo blanco of Ronda is notoriously difficult to get to by public transport, and it isn't much easier to reach by private car either! An organized tour that visits Ronda is the easiest way of seeing the town. Click on 'Buy Direct' for a one-day tour of Ronda or read more about Ronda below.

Ronda Guided Tour from the Costa del Sol

More on the Alhambra

4. Guided Tour of El Escorial & the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caidos)

What is it? The majority of Spain's kings are interred in El Escorial's monastery, while the nearby Valley of the Fallen is a civil war memorial built by the war's prisoners held captive by the victors.

Where is it? Near Madrid.

Why take a guided tour? It takes 20 minutes to drive from El Escorial to the entrance to the Valley of the Fallen. It then takes an extra 10 minutes to drive from the entrance (where you have to pay) to the monument itself, which rules out taking a normal taxi or a standard bus (unless you want to pay for your driver to get in! There is only one bus per day that takes you into the grounds itself. The logistics of packing El Escorial and the Valley into one day are a nightmare - I've tried (and failed).

El Escorial and Valle de los Caidos Guided Tour

5. Costa del Sol to Madrid via Granada and Toledo

What is it? A tour of two of Spain's most popular attractions - Granada, with its Alhambra fortress and great tapas and the walled city of Toledo

Where is it? Starting on the south coast of Spain, this tour takes you north through the cities of Granada and Toledo, leaving you in Madrid in central Spain.

Why take a guided tour?

Getting from the Costa del Sol is a little tricky - unless you take the train from Malaga, you'll have a very dull and long bus journey. And it is pretty much impossible to visit Granada and Toledo by public transport in such a short time.

Two-Day Tour of Granada and Toledo from the Costa del Sol finishing in Madrid.

More on Toledo and Granada

6. Guided Tour of Galicia

What is it? The lush and green corner of Spain most tourists never venture near.

Where is it? North-west Spain.

Why take a guided tour? The wet, windy and very, very green Galicia is one of the highlights of Spain, up in the north-west of the country. While it is easy to explore the cities of Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña on your own, it is the small villages and spectacular coastline which require a little more planning - and with public transport quite infrequent, a guided tour is your best bet.

These guided tours usually take in at least four or five stops in a single day, departing from both A Coruña and Santiago de Compostela.

7. Guided Tour of the Alpujarras

Trevelez, Alpujarras, Granada
Image: Damian Corrigan
What is it? Green mountain range with great ham and wine.

Where is it? Near Granada

Why take a guided tour? The Alpujarras mountain range is just south of Granada (and was where Gerald Brennan wrote South of Granada). It is an amazing area of lush greenery, natural springs and impressive mountains. There are a couple of buses per day that weave their way through the villages, but catching these will not allow you more than a couple of stops. You could hire a car, but due to the nature of the roads, you'd need to be very good at map reading. This tour is the easiest option.

Guided Tour of Alpujarras from Granada

There is also a private version of this tour: book direct.

8. Guided Tours of Seville and Cordoba from Madrid

What is it? Two of Spain's greatest cities, accessible from Madrid like never before.

Where is it? Andalusia (southern Spain)

Why take a guided tour? Seville and Cordoba are so far from Madrid, you wouldn't think they'd be viable trips from Madrid - but they are. The AVE high-speed train service makes such a journey possible. But if you want to get the most of such a short stop in some of Spain's best sights, a guided tour is the only way to go. It's a little expensive, but all train tickets and accommodation are sorted out for you.

Really, Seville and Cordoba deserve more time than two days for the pair of them, but if it's now or never, make it now.

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