Portugal Spain

Portugal and Spain

12 day Portugal and Spain Jewish Heritage Tours

The Soul of Sefarad

The Jewish presence in Spain and Portugal dates back centuries, and its gifts to the arts, philosophy, commerce and sciences helped forge the cultural heritage of Iberia. In Portugal, this unique tour focuses on places related to our heritage, particularly on the descendants of the Inquisition, often referred to as Marranos. Forced to convert during those awful days, many secretly, and over the centuries, retained their Jewish practices and their pride. You will see many Portuguese jewels: Porto with a revived and steadily growing Jewish community; Belmonte, with its Jewish Quarter, Synagogue, and Jewish Museum; Lisbon with its upcoming world-class Jewish Museum; and Cascais, a chic seaside resort with a new and thriving Jewish center. In Spain, travel to the source of great sages like Maimonides and the Kabbalists of the “Golden Age.” While Jewish communities are no longer active in Cordoba, Lucena, and Toledo, their history still radiates in these jewels of Sefarad. Throughout, you will gain a rare insight to the Jewish soul of Iberia, spanning over more than 500 years.

EXPLORE OUR 7 DAY JEWISH TOURS TO PORTUGAL

EXPLORE OUR 10 DAY JEWISH TOURS TO PORTUGAL

Jewish Porto Day 1

Porto

Jewish Trancoso Belmonte Day 3

Trancoso – Belmonte – Tomar

Jewish Lisbon Day 5

Lisbon – Cascais

Jewish Seville Day 7

Faro – Seville

Jewish Cordoba Day 9

Cordoba – Lucena

Jewish Toledo Day 11

Granada – Toledo

Tour Information
Portugal and Spain heritage tour
Porto – Trancoso – Belmonte – Lisbon – Cascais – Faro – Seville – Cordoba – Granada – Toledo
Duration: 12 days.
2024 Departures:
May 20 – May 31
September 16 – September 27
Price Per Person:
$4,999 Land Only
$1,150 Single Supplement
2025 Spring Departure:
March 24 – April 4
Price Per Person:
$5,499 Land Only
$1,350 Single Supplement
Accommodations:
Porto, 2 nights PortoBay Flores
Belmonte, 1 night
Mt. Sinai Hotel/ Pousada de Belmonte
Lisbon, 3 nights PortoBay Liberdade
Seville, 2 nights Inglaterra Hotel
Cordoba, 1 night NH Amistad hotel
Granada, 1 night Alhambra Palace
Toledo, 1 night San Juan de los Reyes
Meals:
11 breakfasts (B)
Included Highlights:
Private transfers
Private touring and sightseeing
Private licensed guides
Full time Tour Director
Deluxe hotel in Porto, Lisbon, Seville, Granada
First Class hotel in Belmonte, Cordoba, Toledo
Breakfast daily at the hotels
Complete program with insights
to the Jewish history of Portugal and Spain
All taxes and fees
These departures are guaranteed (8 travelers minimum)
Pre/Post Tours:
We can accommodate pre/post tour arrangements in conjunction with this departure. To Madrid or other places of your choice.
Passport & Visa:
No visa is required for travel to Portugal and Spain. Always make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after the tour ends.
Not Included:
Flights
Pre, post or other private tour arrangements
Services and meals not mentioned
Tips
Expenses of personal nature
Travel insurance (we strongly recommend travelers to purchase insurance)
Jewish tours of the Baltics map

Itinerary

Day 1 Arrival in Porto (Monday)

Private transfer to your hotel in the heart of the capital of northern Portugal, beautifully located above the river Douro. In the afternoon, enjoy a walking tour in the old quarter or Baixa, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. Descend to the Ribeira area, where the characteristic stone quays are beautifully restored. Porto was well known among the Jewish traders during the Middle Ages, and today its Jewish Quarter remains. You will see both “Rua Monte Judeus” and “Escadas da Esnoga” (which mean “Street of the Jewish Hill” and “Stairway to the Synagogue”), as well as a panoramic view of Dona Maria Bridge (designed by the famous Gustave Eiffel). Besides it historic aspects, Porto is also a contemporary and artistic city. This is visible everywhere, in the streets, architecture, art galleries and museums, and also in the restaurants and boutiques the city offers. PortoBay Flores.

Day 2 Porto (Tuesday)

This morning, visit the Makor Haim Synagogue (“Source of Life”). With help from abroad in the early 20th Century, this was the first synagogue built in Portugal for native Portuguese Jews in over 400 years. Captain Barros Bastos, also known as “Ben Rosh,” pushed the construction to assist the many Crypto-Jews returning to the open practice of Judaism. While discovering Porto, you will find many surprises. Besides its welcoming yet rather conservative atmosphere and look, Porto is also a very much contemporary and artistic city. This is visible a bit everywhere, in the streets, architecture, art galleries and museums but also in the terraces, restaurants, and all the leisure and shopping facilities the city has to offer. Remainder of the day at leisure. PortoBay Flores. (B)

Day 3 Porto – Trancoso – Belmonte (Wednesday)

Drive to Trancoso, a well-preserved sample of a Portugese walled town. The Jewish presence in Trancoso dates back to the 12th century. In the Medieval Era, Jews prospered in the middle and upper classes. Jewish and “New Christian” legacy still lives in the written documents, local traditions and in buildings such as the Gato Preto House, or Poço do Mestre (Master’s well), and other dwellings of the historic center. The town of Trancoso has honored its Jewish heritage with the establishment of the Isaac Cardoso Center for Jewish Interpretation, along with a new synagogue called Beit Mayim Hayim – “the House of Living Waters.” A mezuza was affixed to the entrance of the synagogue – the first mezuza in the village for hundreds of years!  Continue to Belmonte, crowned by a medieval castle. Belmonte stands out for the beauty of its landscapes and monuments, for its fabulous strategic position, which has made it dominate, from immemorial times, territories and communication routes. To its credit, Belmonte also welcomed people of other creeds and cultures.

A Jewish community was established that has survived for centuries. It still exists today – heir to the ancient historical presence of the Sephardic Jews. Even throughout the time of the Inquisition, Jews managed to preserve many of their rites, prayers, and social relations. Despite the pressure of the Catholics, many “New Christians” continued to marry only among themselves for centuries. In 1989, the community was officially recognized, and in 1996, it inaugurated the synagogue “Beit Eliahu” (Elijah’s House), appropriately located in the old Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Cemetery was restored in 2001, and in 2005, the Jewish Museum opened, portraying the history of the Sephardic presence in Portugal, and including a memorial of the Inquisition. Since 2011, Belmonte has also hosted the “Portuguese Network of Jewish Quarters.”  This Community consists of twenty-five families, all descendants of the “Secret Jews” who perpetuated their religion against all odds for centuries. In Belmonte’s old Jewish Quarter, we can observe small houses with crosses engraved on them – a protective pretence by Jewish people to escape persecution. Mt Sinai Hotel or Pousada de Belmonte. (B)

Day 4 Belmonte – Tomar – Lisbon (Thursday)

Begin this day with a visit to the Jewish Museum portraying the history of the Sephardic presence in Portugal, including a memorial of the Inquisition. Since 2011, Belmonte has also hosted the “Portuguese Network of Jewish Quarters.”  Later depart for Lisbon. En route, visit Tomar, one of the oldest and most charming towns in Portugal, founded by the Order of Knights Templar. Visit the 15th Century Synagogue, now the Museum Luso-Hebraico Abraão Zacuto, located on what was once Rua da Judiaria. Here you will find a significant reminder of one of the greatest Sephardic Jewish communities, now classified as a national monument. With Gothic vaults upheld by four central columns, this structure houses Jewish gravestones, the cornerstones of the 13th Century Synagogue of Belmonte and the 14th Century Lisbon Synagogue, and other remains of Tomar’s medieval Jewish community. Arrive in Lisbon in the later afternoon. PortoBay Liberdade. (B)

Day 5 Lisbon – Estoril – Cascais – Sintra – Lisbon (Friday)

In the morning, visit the Shaare Tikva Synagogue, restored in 2004. Next, depart for a small but significant Portuguese treasure, Cascais, a beach resort beloved by Lisbon’s Jewish community. During the Holocaust, this town also sheltered Jewish refugees, and Cascais’ Municipality has opened the Espaço do Exilio Estoril (Exiles’ Memorial Center) to honor this memory. Recently, the Rabbi of the vibrant Jewish Center, R. Eli Rosenfeld, published a groundbreaking book, Jewish Voices for Portugal, which highlights the wisdom of six Portuguese-Jewish commentators (among them, the 15th century scholars Isaac Abarbanel and Joseph Karo) on the Torah. It is worth noticing, the preface of the book was written by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of the Portuguese Republic, and Carlos Carreiras, Mayor of Caiscais. During the visit to the center, you will see documents dating back 500 years. Next, continue to Sintra, a World Heritage Site also known as “Lord Byron’s Glorious Eden.” Sintra was used as a retreat by the Romans, the Moors, and the Portuguese Kings, all of whom revelled in its location, beauty, wooded ravines, and natural water springs. Its former Jewish Quarter, where Jews lived and mixed at the Court before the forced conversions of 1497, is still visible today. Visit the glorious National Royal Palace. In the afternoon, return to Lisbon. PortoBay Liberdade. (B)

Day 6 Lisbon (Saturday)

Enjoy a day at leisure or a full day to visit Lisbon and its various neighborhoods.  Begin with a panoramic visit to the Riverside area. Passing the Rossio, reach the Largo da Graça, from where you can admire the magnificent city view, the Tagus River, and the “Seven Hills” of Lisbon. Continue to Porta do Sol, descending on foot through Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest area, to the “Rua da Judiaria,” the old Jewish Quarter, with its narrow, cobbled streets. You will also stand in the Praça do Comércio, where the dreaded “Autos-de-Fé” of the Inquisition took place.

Later, see the Belém-Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the most representative monuments of Manueline style in Portugal. View the Monument to the Discoveries, which owes much to the Portuguese Jews and “New-Christians,” as many forced converts were called. From Torre de Belém, guarding the mouth of the Tagus River, explorers once set out on voyages to discover trade routes to Africa, Asia, and the New World. (Brazil, of course, is the most famous product of these journeys.) See the striking monument, Padrão dos Descobrimentos, which celebrates the Portuguese adventurers who took part in the Golden Age of Discovery. Return to the hotel in the afternoon. PortoBay Liberdade. (B)

Day 7 Lisbon – Faro – Seville (Sunday)

This morning, depart Lisbon and drive towards the famous Algarve Coast of Portugal. Visit Faro, capital of the Algarve coast. Its Jewish population was expelled in the late 15th century. At its peak, Faro was a well-known center of Hebrew printing – in fact, in 1481, Samuel Porteira printed the first book in the history of Portugal: a Bible, in Hebrew. Jews began to resettle in Faro in the 19th century, and a small community was formed. Today, Faro boasts a restored cemetery with several well-preserved tombs, as well as a small Jewish museum and synagogue. The rededication occurred in 1993, in the company of the President of Portugal (who planted 18 trees) as well as many honorable visitors from Spain, France, Belgium, South Africa, Israel and the United States. Later, continue to Seville in Spain. Upon arrival in the afternoon, check-in at the centrally located hotel. Inglaterra. (B)

Day 8 Seville (Monday)

Today, enjoy a visit to the elegant and classic Seville, immortalized in opera classics such as “The Barber of Seville,” “Don Giovanni,” and “Carmen.” From the hotel, walk past the imposing Cathedral, one of the largest in the world. Here, find the resting place of Spanish Kings and Queens, as well as the impressive sepulcher of Christopher Columbus – but are his remains actually there? Continue past the Alcazar Palace, still used as a residence for the Spanish Royal Family, to the grand Plaza Espana, site of the pavilion of the great 1929 Exhibition. Last, but not least, visit the exciting Barrio de Santa Cruz – the former Jewish Quarter. Today, it is one of Seville’s most charming areas, with several references to the historic Jewish presence in Seville. Visit Santa María la Blanca, formerly an exquisite synagogue. Continue in the Bario de Santa Cruz to a parking lot, where (sadly) the remains of the former Jewish Cemetery can be traced. In the afternoon, enjoy the time to browse the elegant pedestrian area and its vast and elegant shops. If you ever dreamed of watching a flamenco show, Seville might be the perfect option. Remainder of the day at leisure. Inglaterra. (B)

Day 9 Seville – Cordoba (Tuesday)

Today, a short drive takes you to nearby Cordoba, former home of many Jewish scholars and poets. Once the biggest city in all of Europe, Cordoba thrived and expanded with its unique blend of cultures. Upon arrival, begin a walking tour with a visit to Mezquita, the most significant Muslim architectural achievement in the Western world. This 8th century structure was first a church, later a mosque, and now has a cathedral placed in its center. Next, walk the street leading up to the Juderia, with its whitewashed houses and colorful courtyards and shops. Although not Jewish in its current expression, a few signs still hint of the Golden Age. Note, for example, the tiny, gem-like synagogue, not to mention the statue of the great court doctor and Torah sage, Maimonides (Rambam, or Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon). Later, check-in at the hotel located in the heart of the Juderia. Remainder of the day at leisure, with ample opportunity to browse the colorful streets of the Old Town. NH Amistad. (B)

Day 10 Cordoba – Lucena – Granada (Wednesday)

Depart on a short drive to Lucena, formerly the principal Jewish town in Andalusia. Here was  the home of many prominent Jews, including the family of Maimonides. Lucena was, in fact, known as the “Pearl of Sefarad.” A Jewish cemetery was discovered here in 2006, telling the story of a culture that once flourished. Since then, the city has decided to honor the site, preserving more than 340 tombs in accordance with traditional Jewish law. Jewish historians and prominent Rabbis have helped, making this the most important Jewish cemetery in Spain. Next, walk the narrow streets to the Torre Del Moral, site of two tombstones that were found at the cemetery, and see the Palace of the Counts, housing a small Jewish Museum. Afterwards, depart for Granada. Upon arrival, visit one of the Wonders of the World — the Moorish Palace of Alhambra and the Generalife. Located on a hilltop with the Sierra Nevada Mountains behind it, Alhambra’s exquisite layout and breathtaking design have few rivals. Be filled with a sense of mystique as you are guided past graceful courtyards, splashing fountains, and lavish rooms. Now, check-in at the luxurious hotel in this historic town. Remainder of the day at Leisure. Alhambra Palace. (B)

Day 11 Granada – Toledo (Thursday)

This morning, drive to Toledo. With its naturally fortified location, Toledo was once the true center of Spain, and it is also revered for its subtle beauty. Additionally, Toledo was once the center for Jewish Spain, with a rich, creative heritage; you will feel this atmosphere as you stroll the narrow alleys in its historic section. See El Greco’s house, formerly the palace of the prominent Samuel Halevy, treasurer of King Pedro I and architect of the El Transito synagogue. Continue to Sinagoga de Santa Maria La Blanca, later converted to a church, and Sinagoga del Transito, today the Sephardic Museum. Check-in at your historic hotel, located in the former Jewish Quarter. In Toledo, history seems to have stopped, and you will feel this as your hotel is surrounded by synagogues and the Samuel Halevy Statue. This is the final stop on this remarkable journey through Iberia’s Jewish story — and the setting couldn’t be more perfect. The remainder of the day at leisure. Hotel San Juan de los Reyes. (B)

Day 12 Toledo – Madrid – Home flights (Friday)

This morning, transfer to the Madrid international airport for the flights back home. Alternatively, choose to extend your stay with a day in Madrid. (B)

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