Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Spain:  Moors and Christians, Olives and Wine
Tracing the Cultural and Agricultural Roots of the Southwest
Offered exclusively for Museum members! Membership information can be found in FEE section below.



Day 1:  September 21   BARCELONA
Arrival, Meet, Rest,
Gothic Cathedral
After arrival at Barcelona’s El Prat de Llobregat International Airport we check into our hotel, rest, and at 6 p. m. meet in the lobby. Those that arrive earlier in the day can enjoy a stroll through the Barri Gotic, a densely packed area of narrow lanes with a mixture of medieval and stately Renaissance buildings.  In the Barri Gotic sits the impressive Gothic Cathedral with its adjacent enclosure where Ferdinand and Isabella received Columbus in December 1492. If you would like to visit the Picasso Museum on your own any day other than Monday (when it is closed), it is advisable to reserve tickets a day ahead of time at . Overnight Hotel Portal del Angel (or similar).

Day 2:  September 22   BARCELONA
Charter bus and guide to La Sagrada Familia and Parque Guell, Las Ramblas, Central Market.
For those that are not going to the Picasso Museum, and are not sleeping in, there is an optional morning walking tour which stops at the Casa Mila and other examples of Modernismo Architecture. In the early afternoon we embark on a half day guided bus tour.  First, we visit Parque Guell, one of the numerous Gaudi creations in the city, then on to Barcelona's most famous and most photographed attraction, La Sagrada Familia Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Family), an amalgam of fantasy and Gothic impulses, and Gaudi's most unique piece of architecture. The end of the day offers the opportunity to walk down the avenue Las Ramblas, the exotic "spine of Barcelona," stopping at the central market, St Josephis, and possibly going as far as the port or beach for an evening swim.  Overnight Hotel Portal del Angel (or similar).  (B)

Day 3:   September 23   MORELLA
Drive to Morella, Morella Castle, Basilica
Today we drive to Morella (350 km / 3.5 hrs), a beautiful medieval fortified town high in the mountains near the Valencia-Aragon border. Morella was built in the 13th century by the Knights Templar (crusaders against the infidels). In the afternoon we take a walking tour of the town visiting the Gothic Basilica, the 14th century Aqueduct and the Castle which sits defiantly on the hill in the old Citadel, built by the Arabs during the Moorish occupation. Inside, we see the upper ramparts, the Governor's Palace, the old prison, and the tower. This small town also hosts a paleontology museum which may be visited on your own and contains dinosaur as well as other fossils from the vicinity. Overnight Hotel Rey Don Jaime (or similar). (B)

Day 4:   September 24   VALENCIA
Drive to Valencia, Horta Viva tour of Valencian Coastal Plain, Horchata, Paella at Toni Montelou
Today we drive to Valencia (130 km / 1.5 hrs). On the route, we pass orange orchards and discuss their distant origins, including the surprisingly “American” origin of the Valencia orange. In Alboraya, we stop at three farms of the coastal plain. At the first we learn all about horchata – the sweet, refreshing, regional drink of Valencia. We see how the chufa bean, from which horchata is rendered, is grown in the field and how it is ground, separated, and filtered. The second is a community supported agriculture farm. And, at our third stop we enter a barraca – a traditional Valencian farm house – where we settle in for dinner. Here is a peek at Mr. Toni Montelou's paella! We pull into Valencia at nightfall. Over the last 2000 years, this city has been occupied by Romans, Visigoths, Moors (who stayed for over 500 years!), and Christians. It attracted the attention of legendary Spanish hero, El Cid, who conquered the city in 1094 and chose to spend his final years here. After his death, the Moors re-took Valencia, only to lose it again in 1238, this time to King Jaime I of Aragon. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Valencia enjoyed its glory years, replacing Barcelona as the financial capital of the western Mediterranean. Overnight Hotel Melia Plaza (or similar).  (B, D)

Day 5:  September 25   VALENCIA
Archeological Museum, L’ Almoina, River Park
Today we depart on a full day walking tour. We begin with the Museo de Prehistoria y Arqueología (Museum of Archeology), containing many of the city's most precious excavated treasures. We then walk to la Plaza de la Virgin where the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, basilica of the patron saint of Valencia, is located. Here we take lunch in one of the many cafés. Afterwards, we visit L’Almoina, located on the Plaza de l’Almoina where, in the 1980s, an excavation revealed a remarkable number of artifacts and ruins dating from the birth of the city up until the present day. Valencia sits on a crossroads of two major Roman thoroughfares and has had a turbulent and dramatic history. The excavation site has since been converted into a museum displaying artifacts of the city’s five imperial epochs. We then return to the hotel for a rest. In the late afternoon, we can head off to stroll or bike through the Turia River Park. The river’s original course was diverted in the 1950s due to a damaging inundation and the old river bed was converted into a green belt of parks, gardens, and, in 1997, the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. Local celebrity architect, Santiago Calatrava, was commissioned to design the entire project which has resulted in one of the most elegant, modern day, architectural accomplishments in Europe. Overnight Hotel Melia Plaza (or similar).  (B)

Day 6:  September 26   VALENCIA
La Lonja, Central Market, Marques de dos Aguas Palace/National Ceramics Museum
This morning we start our full day walking tour visiting La Lonja de la Seda (the Silk Exchange). Built by the city's prosperous silk merchants circa 1483, it is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, and arguably, Valencia's best known monument. We then walk across the street to leisurely explore the central market, before taking lunch. Afterwards we visit the Marques de dos Aguas Palace, which contains the National Ceramics Museum. While the original Iberians, as well as the Romans, utilized pottery, it was the Arabs who expanded the palette of glazes and the Christians who added and refined motifs. This ceramics/tile work tradition eventually made its way into Spanish America. For those who wish to continue, we can take a short stroll to the Colegio del Patriarca which contains a small but choice collection of paintings, including three El Grecos. Overnight Hotel Melia Plaza (or similar).  (B, L)

Day 7:   September 27   VALENCIA
El Micalet, Cathedral, Rice Museum, Sana Santa Museum, Beach Promenade, Wine Tasting and Tapas
We begin Sunday morning by climbing El Micalet, the bell tower of the cathedral on the Plaza de la Reina. This tower offers the best view of Valencia in the city.  The cathedral was consecrated in 1238 by the first bishop of Valencia after the re-conquest.  It was built over the site of Valencia’s former Visigothic cathedral which, under the Moors, had been turned into a mosque. One of the supposed Holy Chalices is housed in the cathedral’s Capilla del Santo Caliz (Chapel of the Holy Grail) and many Christian historians believe the Valencia chalice to be the cup used at the Last Supper. We, then, head to the harbor district, first visiting the Sana Santa Museum. Semana Santa, or Holy Week (Easter), is the second biggest fiesta in Valencia and consists of ten days of colorful processions in the maritime district of El Cabanyal. The museum displays all the uniforms and regalia of the 28 participating brotherhoods. Next door sits the Rice Museum, which is a completely reconstructed 19th century rice processing factory. Its giant, inter-connected five-floor rice machine is impressive! It is now time to relax with wine and tapas in the Bodega Casa Montaña. This upscale bodega is considered the most authentic tapas bar in the city. Some of the offerings include tangy Santoña anchovies, cod croquettes with pine nuts and michirones (spicy fava beans). Wine is taken seriously:  there is a top-notch, by-the-glass selection, and regular themed tastings are organized. We finish the day with a stroll along the beach promenade, or even taking a splash in the Mediterranean. Overnight Hotel Melia Plaza  (or similar).  (B, wine tasting and tapas L)

Day 8:   September 28   VILLAR DEL ARZOBISPO
Drive to Villar, Cooking Class, Orchard Walk
Today we drive to Villar Del Arzobispo  (50 km / 1 hr). The two days that we spend here allow us a peek into a non-tourist agricultural economy. On arrival, we check into our casa rural - a rambling, two-hundred year old village home.  After settling in, we depart to the local markets to purchase ingredients for our paella cooking class, the product of which we will consume for lunch. There will be ample time to relax in the courtyard and enjoy the afternoon. Throughout our stay in Villar, we highlight traditional farming and foods. Late in the afternoon, we walk into the countryside of vineyards, figs, almonds, and olive orchards where we discuss Mediterranean dry land agriculture. Overnight Casa Rural La Boticaria.  (B, L)

Day 9:   September 29   VILLAR DEL ARZOBISPO
Tour Winery, Wine Tasting & Tapas, Old House Museum
The morning can be spent having coffee and pastries in a local bakery or wandering around town on your own. At mid-day, we regroup and head to the local winery. As September is harvest time, the tractors will be coming in from the fields with their grapes. At the winery, we are given a tour, then sample local wines paired with tapas. In the afternoon, we visit the Casa de los Cinteros, a small, house-museum showcasing village ethnography in a building that dates back to the 19th century. The Casa de los Cinteros conserves its history in the preserved stables, workroom, cellar, kitchen, and bedrooms, all of which contain furnishings and tools of the era. Overnight Casa Rural La Boticaria.  (wine tasting and tapas L)

Day 10:   September 30   VALENCIA
Drive to Valencia, La Albufera Estuary Boat Ride, Paella
This morning we board our bus and drive back toward the coast, south of the city, to visit La Albufera, an estuary surrounded by rice fields. Here, we take a short boat trip and learn about the cultivation of rice. Rice has always played an important part in Valencian life and, for centuries, has been one of the city's major exports as well as the mainstay of regional cuisine. Since Valencia is the birthplace of paella, and this will be our last day here, we will enjoy this typical dish once again. On the way to La Albufera we stop at La Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias. Overnight Zenit Hotel Valencia (or similar).  (L)

Day 11:   October 1   TOLEDO
AVE train to Toledo, Explore Streets, Shops and River Trail
Today we catch the high speed train (186 mph) to Toledo. On arrival, we transfer to our hotel. Toledo is a city with a unique blend of Arab, Jewish, Christian, Roman, and Visigoth elements, located on a rocky promontory isolated on three sides by a looping gorge of the Tagus River. The history of several different cultures is contained within this region represented by the houses, churches, synagogues, and mosques.  After dropping off our luggage at the hotel, we walk to our restaurant where we experience some of the culinary specialties of the Spanish high plains such as partridge, quail, and cascaruns (a stew of pork, chorizo and sweet peas). Afternoon is free for exploring the streets or walking down to the river. Overnight Hotel El Cardenal  (or similar).  (B, L)

Day 12:  October 2   TOLEDO
Guided Walking Tour: Synagogue El Trasito, Jewish Sephardic Museum, Santa Maria La Blanca, Santo Tome, Cathedral
This morning we depart on a half day walking tour of Toledo. We wander through the narrow streets arriving at the Jewish quarter which houses two former synagogues. The most elaborate Mudejar interior in the city is hidden behind the deceptively humble facade of the Synagogue del Transito. It was built in the 14th century by Samuel Ha-Levi, the Jewish treasurer to Christian Pedro the Cruel. The ornate ceiling has carved arabesques, not in Arabic, but in Hebrew. Adjoining the synagogue is a museum dedicated to Jewish Sephardic culture.  We then see one of Toledo's most outstanding attractions, El Greco's masterpiece "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz" located inside the Church of Santo Tome. Our final stop on the tour is Toledo’s immense Gothic Cathedral. Afternoon suggestions include visiting the Santa Cruz art museum to view several more El Greco’s as well as Mudejar, Roman and Arabic works, or walking the nature path along the river. Overnight Hotel El Cardenal (or similar).  (B)

Day 13:  October 3   MADRID
Train to Madrid, Royal Botanical Gardens, El Prado, El Retiro Park
This morning we depart by train for Madrid. En route, we discuss wheat, the main agricultural product of La Mancha - the high plain of Spain, as contrasted with those of the Valencian coastal plain. Our Madrid hotel is conveniently located across the street in the heart of the museum and park district. After checking into our hotel we walk to the Royal Botanical Gardens where our focus will be on the great interchange of Old and New World plants that began with the Age Exploration. Lunch is in a restaurant situated at the entrance to the Gardens, and adjacent to El Prado.  The Prado is one of the most important repositories of art in the world, including a vast collection of Italian paintings. Following our guided museum tour we have afternoon time to spend strolling through El Retiro Park where musicians, artists, cafes, rowboats, manicured flower gardens, a crystal palace entertain and offer respite for the city residents. Those that have energy for one last night out on the town, can then visit the Plaza Major in the heart of the old town which offers classic bars and restaurants. Overnight Hotel Mediodia (or similar).  (B, L)

Day 14:  October 4   FLY

Sonya Norman will provide perspective on being the daughter of a Spanish "Valenciana" - sharing the gastronomy, history and sites of her mother's cosmopolitan port city and of her grandfather's farming town of Villar del Arzobispo. Sonya is the Public Programs Coordinator for the museum.

Jesús García will provide perspective from the Kino Heritage Fruit Trees Project - detailing the legacy of Jesuits missionaries on modern Mexican agriculture, and the connections between Old World and Sonoran traditional knowledge. Jesús grew up in the farming and ranching town of Magdalena, Sonora.

All entrance fees and guides
2 nights Barcelona 3 star hotel in twin share rooms
1 night Morella 3 star hotel in twin share rooms
5 nights Valencia 4 star hotel in twin share rooms
2 nights in Villar del Arzobispo lodge in twin share rooms
2 nights Toledo 4 star hotel in twin share rooms
1 night Madrid 2 star hotel in twin share rooms
9 breakfasts
7 lunches
1 dinner

International flights
Porterage at airports or hotels
Transfers to/from airports

We prefer to work with smaller groups, and therefore have limited registration to only 20 travelers.

There is a good amount of walking involved every day, as well as climbing up and down stairs. You should be able to roll your suitcase several blocks, sometimes over uneven surfaces.

This special travel opportunity is offered exclusively to Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum members. If you currently are not a member, but would like to join us, you may do so by following this link.  Trip price is $4790 and the single supplement is an additional $750. We will assist in matching up singles with roommates, however if a roommate cannot be found, then the single supplement must be paid.

We require that all participants be vaccinated against Covid-19, unless there is an underlying health condition, in which case we will need to be informed beforehand. This policy is subject to change as the CDC issues new recommendations.

Should you need to cancel your trip, you must notify us in writing, by letter, e-mail. Cancellations made before April 1st will be subject to a $200/person administrative fee. After this date, all monies paid are 100% non-refundable. We may cancel departures if forced to do so by political unrest, acts of God, and circumstances known as force majeure. If such events occur within 60 days of scheduled departure and we cancel, we will postpone your trip to another departure of the same tour within 13 months of the original tour start date; or, if circumstances do not permit, an alternative will be offered. If we cancel your tour due to insufficient enrollment, all monies paid to the Museum will be refunded and will constitute full settlement. We will not be responsible for any outside expenses incurred such as for airfare.

We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance, as insurable risks may be covered under such policies.  If you have any pre-existing conditions for which you would like coverage, most companies require that you purchase the insurance within 14 days of your first payment.  While we do not suggest one company over another, we provide here the names of a few which you may contact:  Travelex, Travel Guard, Trip Mate, and Allianz.

We reserve the right to change components, substitute hotels or alter the itinerary (either before departure or en route), and to make any other changes deemed necessary to carry out and maintain the quality and safety of the tour in good faith to the participants.
Inquiries about logistics and itinerary should be directed to tour leaders Sonya Norman 520-883-3030 /  or Jesus Garcia 520-883-3089 / Those regarding registration/payment should be directed to the Reservations Coordinator at 520-883-3025 or at

This tour is run by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum with most overseas arrangements being made through Ambia Tours.