On this fabulous vacation, explore Portugal and Spain as well as Lourdes in France. Start your tour in Lisbon with guided sightseeing and a visit to Jeronimos Monastery, which dates to the mid-1400s. Travel to Fatima, where the Virgin Mary appeared to three children in 1917 and site of one of the world’s most famous Catholic shrines. In Fatima, visit Our Lady of Fatima Shrine and the Chapel of the Apparitions. Maybe join the evening’s rosary and candlelight procession. Journey to Braga, one of the oldest Christian cities in the world, where you will ride the water funicular, built in 1882, to the Bom Jesus do Monte sanctuary. Cross into Spain and travel to Santiago de Compostela, one of the top pilgrimage sites during the Middle Ages. Next is Burgos, historic capital of Old Castile, with a visit to the magnificent cathedral. On the way to Lourdes, visit the 17th-century Sanctuary of Loyola, built in honor of San Ignacio de Loyola, founder of the Jesuit religious order. In Lourdes, one of the world’s most famous pilgrimage sites, visit the grotto where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858, Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine, and St. Bernadette’s birthplace and family home. While still in France, visit Carcassonne, the most medieval-looking city in France, where you will see the ramparts, castle walls, and drawbridges still well preserved from the Middle Ages. Your vacation ends with overnights and guided sightseeing tours in Barcelona and Madrid, the capital of Spain. Be sure to pack your camera and get ready for a wonderful vacation!
Day #1 Arrive in Lisbon, Portugal. Welcome to Portugal! Check into your hotel, and tonight, meet your Tour Director and fellow travelers.
Day #2 Lisbon–Alcobaça–Fátima. Henry the Navigator made Lisbon the 15th-century “Mistress of the Seas.” On your guided sightseeing tour you’ll see the enormous monument to him, as well as the fortified 16th-century Belém Tower, the Moorish citadel, impressive Black Horse Square, and visit the Cathedral La Sé and Jerónimos Monastery, which dates back to the mid-1400s. Later, head north for a stop in Alcobaça to visit the 12th-century Church of Santa Maria Monastery, built for 999 Cistercian monks and one of the most important medieval monasteries in Portugal. In the late-afternoon, arrive in Fátima, site of one of the world’s most famous Catholic shrines. This evening, why not join the rosary and candlelight procession at the Our Lady of Fátima Basilica? (B,D)
Day #3 Fátima. This morning, time to visit the Our Lady of Fátima Shrine with the tombs of the visionaries, and the Chapel of the Apparitions, made famous by the Virgin Mary’s apparition to three shepherd children—Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia—on May 13, 1917. This afternoon, join the optional excursion with a Local Guide to visit Tomar’s Convent of Christ, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The land housing the magnificent 12th-century castle and convent was given by the Portuguese king to the Order of the Knights Templar in return for their support against the Moors. (B,D)
Day #4 Fátima–Braga–Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Journey north this morning and stop in Braga, one of the oldest Christian cities in the world and nicknamed the “Portuguese Rome.” Enjoy a unique experience as you ride the water funicular, built in 1882, to reach the Bom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the Mount) sanctuary. See the unique zigzag stairway that is dedicated to the five senses—sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste—and the three theological virtues—faith, hope, and charity. Later, cross into Spain and head for Santiago de Compostela for an overnight. (B)
Day #5 Santiago de Compostela–Burgos. Santiago de Compostela has been known throughout history for the key 9th-century pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James, to its cathedral, which houses the Apostle James’ remains beneath the high altar. After lunch, travel to Burgos, the historic capital of Old Castile. (B,D)
Day #6 Burgos–San Ignacio de Loyola–Lourdes, France. Your visit this morning takes you to the magnificent cathedral in Burgos, a masterpiece of gothic architecture and the burial place of Spanish national hero El Cid. Later, travel through the Basque region toward Lourdes. En route, visit the 17th-century Sanctuary of Loyola, built in honor of San Ignacio de Loyola, founder of the Jesuit religious order. See its spectacular dome and main altarpiece, built in marble and jasper. Cross the border into France, and overnight in Lourdes, home to another of the world’s most famous places of pilgrimage. (B,D)
Day #7 Lourdes. Today’s guided walking tour includes the grotto where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858, Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine, Bernadette’s birthplace, and her family home. The afternoon is at leisure to further explore this little market town that became a pilgrimage place of world renown during the 19th century. (B,D)
Day #8 Lourdes–Carcassonne–Barcelona, Spain. Leave France this morning and head for the French-Spanish border. En route, visit fortified Carcassonne, founded by the Visigoths in the 5th century and the most medieval-looking city in France. See the ramparts, castle walls, and drawbridges that are still well preserved from the Middle Ages. Overnight in Catalonia’s lively and beautiful capital, Barcelona. (B)
Day #9 Barcelona. Guided sightseeing includes a drive around Montjuïc to see the Olympic Stadium and a great panoramic view of the port and city. Continue to the city center to Plaza Catalunya and Paseo de Gracia to admire the fascinating eccentricity of Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces in Houses Battló and Mila and the Sagrada Familia (entrance fees not included). Join the optional excursion to Montserrat, situated 4,055 feet above sea level in a mountain range composed of strikingly pink conglomerate, a form of sedimentary rock, and site of the Benedictine abbey that hosts the Virgin of Montserrat Sanctuary, patron saint of Catalonia. (B)
Day #10 Barcelona–Madrid. Enjoy vistas of the Spanish countryside as you drive via Saragossa, situated on the banks of the River Ebro, toward Madrid, the capital of Spain. (B)
Day #11 Madrid. Situated 2,180 feet above sea level, the Spanish rightly say that Madrid is the nearest thing to Heaven. Guided sightseeing today includes a full panoramic drive by way of the Avenida Mayor, Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun), Parliament Square, and a picture stop outside the Royal Palace. Afternoon at leisure. Maybe join the optional excursion to Avila to visit St. Theresa's Convent. (B,D)
Day #12 Madrid. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)