Small group tours in Spain

Our group trips to Spain certainly cover a lot of ground over two weeks. From the capital, Madrid, you can continue south to the architectural grandeur of Seville and Granada, the coastal beauty of Tarifa and Valencia, and the Catalan charm of Valencia and Barcelona.

However, things never feel rushed – and that’s intentional, because the aim is to give you a far deeper cultural immersion than you’d find on a tour dedicated to ticking off as many of the ‘big sights’ as possible. By slowing things down, it helps you to come away feeling as though you haven’t simply seen Spain – you’ve lived it a little bit too.

You’ll get from place to place using public transport, trains and buses, rubbing shoulders with local people. Several activities are included, such as a tour of Granada’s magnificent Alhambra palace and a dramatic flamenco show in Seville, but a great deal of your time is purposefully left free, so that you can wander around and get a real taste of each city on the route.

These are windows when you can explore as purposefully or aimlessly as you please – opportunities to escape the main tourist areas and burrow into quieter neighbourhoods. Pause for a coffee and some people-watching here, try some friendly bartering with a shopkeeper there...
When our travellers go out for dinner in Spain, it’s like a group of friends getting together.
“Some of the most memorable moments on a trip like this are the ones which are completely unplanned,” says Karen Zhao from our partner Intrepid Travel, who run some of our top small group tours in Spain.

This freedom extends to mealtimes too – your tour leader will be happy to make recommendations of where to go, but there’s no stopping you seeking out your own gastronomic delights. You can choose restaurants based on your budget, appetite, or the kind of ambience you’re looking for. And with a readymade set of dining companions accompanying you the whole way round, you’ll never be starved of conversation.

“When our travellers go out for dinner in Spain, it’s not like a coach group taking over a restaurant, but more a group of friends getting together,” says Karen. “We don’t want our trips to be too sanitised. Instead, we create opportunities for people to really submerge themselves into each place, and one of the best ways to do that is to simply travel with, and be around, local people in their daily lives.”

Small group tours in Spain: our highlights

Barcelona

Interspersed with the iconic but often crowded Gaudí-designed houses and parks, and the bustle of the hellishly over touristed Las Ramblas, there are pockets of Barcelona where you can escape the camera-wielding coach groups. Neighbourhoods such as El Born, Barceloneta and El Raval offer Catalan cuisine in stylish eateries, effervescent nightlife and myriad cultural curios, all without having to join a long queue.

Granada

The 11th-century Alhambra dominates Granada, but while you won’t want to miss its palatial architecture and beautiful gardens, there are also plenty of more peaceful parts of this very touristy city. The Moorish Albaicín quarter, for instance, is home to traditional teahouses, historic Arab baths, and a restaurant specialising in a wide range of delicious snail dishes.

Ronda

Split in two by a 100m-deep gorge, Ronda has a bloody bullfighting past, while the mountains outside the town once provided hideouts for smugglers and bandits. There are award-winning wineries to roam here, famously colourful sunsets and, just 30km away, the hikers’ paradise of Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park – over which griffon vultures and golden eagles soar – is a very doable adventurous day trip.

Seville

The jewel in Seville’s crown may be the magnificent Real Alcázar, which is still used as a residence by the Spanish royal family, but La Triana, over the river from the touristy Barrio Santa Cruz and known for its ceramics and exceptional tapas bars, has its own understated charm. Elsewhere in Seville, don’t miss the spectacular Las Setas (The Mushrooms), thought to be the largest wooden structure in the world, or your chance to catch a fiery flamenco performance.

Tarifa & Costa da Luz

The Costa da Luz is a relatively undeveloped stretch of the Spanish coast with strong North African influences. Morocco is just over the water, and in fact you can easily make a day trip to effervescent Tangiers with a short ferry crossing from Tarifa. This laid-back beach town is also a hotspot for whale and dolphin watching tours in the Strait of Gibraltar; look for responsible operators that follow a code of conduct, such as Firmm, which also acts as a research foundation.

Valencia

The port city of Valencia is Spain’s gateway to the Mediterranean. You can wander the beach promenade or the old town, which is set a little further back. But for those looking to leave the more well-known areas behind and see other parts of Valencia, it’s an easy city to cycle, and bikes can be hired on the street. Stop if you see a sign for Valenciana, the city’s rustic take on paella made with rabbit, chicken and snails.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Spain or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Small group tours in Spain: the practicalities

Transport

Using public transport all the way round on tours in Spain is, like eating locally produced food as much as possible, an excellent way to keep your holiday’s carbon footprint to a minimum. There’s no need to worry about missed connections or keeping track of lots of tickets, either. You’ll be accompanied throughout by an expert tour leader, ensuring that all the little logistical bumps in the road are smoothed out while you enjoy the journey.

Tour leader & guide

These highly experienced tour leaders are not there simply to ensure you make your transport connections of course, or to explain what a word means on a menu. They are founts of knowledge to be tapped for their favourite shopping, tapas or flamenco haunts as you take fascinating orientation walks. They can fill you in on little-known viewpoints for sunset, and they will happily bring you into a conversation with a stallholder in the market or with a fellow passenger on the train. Think of them as a local friend-of-a-friend showing you round their home.

Duration & group size

Our Spain small group tours are typically around two weeks in length, so that if you want to do a little wandering at each stop, as well as admiring the key attractions such as Granada’s Alhambra or Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, then you will always have at least a half-day to yourself. And group sizes are purposefully kept low, to a maximum of 16 or so, meaning that it will only take a day or two for everyone to be on first-name terms, and you’ll avoid the delays that can come with coordinating much larger groups.

Accommodation

Rather than the faceless international chain hotels typically required by larger sightseeing groups, our Spain group tours can stay in a succession of small, locally owned hotels and guest houses. The friendly hola at breakfast every day, the encouraging smile as you try out a few rudimentary Spanish phrases, the personalised recommendations of where to go from people who live in the neighbourhood you’re staying in – these all contribute to the wonderful sense of cultural immersion that these trips foster at every turn.

What else can you do on a Spain small group tour?

There are so many different types of small group tour that it’s easy to find one that suits your interests as well as the region you’d like to visit. Walking, for instance, from the Canary Islands to Las Alpujarras, the iconic pilgrimage route the Camino de Santiago, or hikes combined with language lessons in the dramatic Picos de Europa National Park.

You can join like-minded photographers, artists, musicians and singers following creative pursuits in Spain, take wellness and yoga retrea or a cycling holiday, or dive headlong into Spanish food and wine. It’s quite rare to find a country where a small group tour can take so many forms. Whatever takes your fancy in Spain, you can be confident there are plenty of other people from many different backgrounds, but all with a similar interest.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Fresco Tours] [Intro: Javier Allegue Barros] [Barcelona: Dorian D1] [Seville: Joan Oger] [Transport: M. R.]