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The Leader in Small Groups on the Road Less Traveled
Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

2018 Spain's Northern Coast & the Bay of Biscay

England: London, Poole • France: Mont St. Michel, Saint-Malo, Locronan, La Rochelle, Bordeaux • Spain: La Coruna, Santiago de Compostela, Vigo • Portugal: Porto, Lisbon

86% Traveler Excellence Rating Read reviews

18 Days from only $7995 including international airfare

Activity Level:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Courtesy Ria Murphy and Ian Cross
Historic Walks: Albertopolis, London

Explore one of Prince Albert's richest legacies: an incredible London neighborhood full of museums and grandeur.

Courtesy Ria Murphy and Ian Cross
Bazaar: London - Design City

Take a tour of one of Europe’s most iconic cities, where arts, architecture, and design thrive.

©2014 The New York Times
The Voices of Montserrat

Go inside Europe’s oldest boys’ choir in Montserrat and learn how the school has persevered for so long.

Courtesy of Matt Hopkins

Meet Richard, a London piano tuner who gave up his home and possessions to live a simpler life outside.

Courtesy Morgan Jouquand

Discover Portugal's contrasts—from its shimmering coast to its bustling city markets.

including international airfare
17 DAYS FROM $6795 Small Ship Adventure Only
Extend Your Trip

Best Value—Guaranteed
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including saving up to 10%.


Did you know you can arrive
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Find the Adventure That’s Right for You

Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.

Activity Level 1:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

Itinerary Overview

Spain's Northern Coast & the Bay of Biscay links the diverse cultures of Western Europe through their shared maritime heritage. Bookended by three-night hotel stays in Lisbon and London, you’ll follow the storied bay from Portugal to northern Spain into Bordeaux and Brittany. Explore clifftop Mont St. Michel ... discover icons of religious devotion in Santiago de Compostela, Spain ... savor true tastes of local culture as you sip Portuguese cherry liqueur and sample local wine in Bordeaux. Spanning four nations and two millennia of history, it’s an epic European voyage.

Make It Your Adventure

Personalize your trip to meet your individual needs, from preferred flights and air routing, to “breaking away” to spend more time in a destination.

  • Did you know that you have control over the way you want to fly with us? O.A.T’s team of Adventure Specialists makes every effort to provide you with non-stop flights and acceptable connection times to and from your destination. You also have several other ways you can personalize your air itinerary, which include:

    • Choose your departure city and airline: We list the most popular gateway cities on our website, but not all of them. If you don’t see yours listed, or there’s one that better suits your needs, let us know. You can also tell us if you have an airline preference and we will try to accommodation your request.
    • Depart from one city and return from another: Just because your flight leaves from one city doesn’t mean you have to return there. Maybe you flew out of Boston and wish to visit friends in Los Angeles after your trip is over. Tell us where you want to go and we’ll do our best to get you there.
    • Upgrade your seat: We’ll gladly arrange a flight upgrade to business or premium economy class if it’s available. 
    • Fly the way you want to: When you fly economy class, we’ll do our best to see that you get your choice of seating preference or even add a special meal request if you have dietary restrictions or needs.
  • You can extend your time abroad and "break away" anywhere you'd like to do more exploring on your own. Consider arriving a few days early in Lisbon to get a fresh start or stay for a day, a week, or even a month in London after your Small Ship Adventure ends to make even more discoveries. Our Travel Counselors can provide you with information on the accommodations we will use at the beginning of your trip so that you can make your own arrangements. That way, you'll know that you will be exactly where you need to be to meet your group.

  • Many of our travelers choose to take another trip directly after their first one ends. Think about it: If you’re already overseas, why not see more of the region and avoid the expense and length of another international flight? Many of our travelers have taken two or three consecutive trips before returning home. Some of the most common trips combined with Spain's Northern Coast & the Bay of Biscay are Iberian Voyage: Lisbon to Barcelona and Maritime Jewels of the British Isles & Ireland. And now you’ll save an additional $250-$350 per person when you reserve two trips right after one another.

  • Many Grand Circle travelers simply don’t want their trips to end. With an array of pre- and post-trip extensions to choose from, you have the chance to experience more of the places you’ve traveled so far to see, including The Island of Madeira, Portugal and Paris, France. Plus, you lower your average per-day costs because you’re taking advantage of your already included international airfare.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

London Lisbon Expand All
  • Depart today on your flight to London, England. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times. 

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Arrive in London, where a Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your transfer to your hotel. After settling in, you'll get acquainted with your surroundings during an orientation walk with your Trip Leader.

    This evening, you’ll preview the discoveries ahead during a welcome briefing and drink with your fellow travelers, followed by a Welcome Dinner together.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    There's no better place to launch your discoveries than the actual Crown Jewel of the United Kingdom: London. This morning, a local guide will take you on a panoramic sightseeing tour of the city about which Samuel Johnson wrote, “there is in London all that life can afford.” Begin your exploration with a stop at the famous London Eye, the city's remarkable Ferris wheel.

    After savoring a true taste of British daily life—anincluded lunch at a local pub—enjoy the balance of the day to make discoveries at leisure. Take advantage of your two-day “Oyster Pass,” a multiple-use card for public transportation that will allow you to explore the city’s royal palaces, world-famous museums, and posh shopping districts to your heart's content.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Take further advantage of your included London transit pass to make your own discoveries today. Consider the Victoria and Albert Museum, a spacious building full of art galleries and artistic displays. You may also visit Kensington Palace, built for joint monarchs William and Mary, and once home to Princess Diana and Princess Margaret.

    Or join our optional Windsor Castle tour. Discover the historically-rich site, which was home to royalty, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Explore the castle's ornate state apartments, St. George's Chapel, and the iconic Round Tower.

    After lunch on your own, enjoy an afternoon of discoveries at your own pace.

  • After enjoying breakfast in your hotel this morning, travel southwest to Poole—home to the largest natural harbor in Europe. It’s here that you’ll embark the Grand Circle small ship that will be your home for the duration of your cruise. Enjoy lunch onboard today.

    This evening, enjoy a Captain's Welcome Drink and Welcome Dinner onboard.

  • After breakfast aboard your ship in Saint-Malo, head to the tiny town of Mont St. Michel, connected by a causeway to the mainland and home to only a few dozen full-time residents. Enjoy an included tour of the medieval town and its eleventh century Romanesque Abbey, world-famous for its dramatic cliff-top perch, as well as its rich history. Breton legend has it that the archangel Michael appeared to Aubert, the local bishop, in AD 708 and demanded that a church be built on this stony promontory, but Aubert—somehow unfazed by the appearance of a celestial visitor—said no. He quickly changed his mind, so the story goes, when Michael burned a hole into the bishop's skull with a single finger. The first structure was built soon after, and was then expanded dramatically in the eleventh century, taking the striking form we see today.

    After an included lunch, you’ll stop in Cancale, a picturesque fishing port and the so-called “oyster capital” of Brittany, before returning to Saint-Malo for a brief walking tour.

    Following your Port Talk and dinner onboard this evening, your ship departs for Douarnenez.

  • After breakfast, your ship docks in Douarnenez. From there, you'll travel overland to the French commune of Locronan. A member of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (The Most Beautiful Villages of France) association, Locronan is full of medieval finery, which you'll discover on a walking tour this morning.

    After stopping at a local restaurant to savor a traditional light lunch of Breton crepes, you will have some free time this afternoon to further explore Locronan. Perhaps you'll stop in to the local chocolatier for a sweet finish to your local lunch. Or, visit the glassblowing shop to peruse the artist's wares.

    Return to Douarnenez late this afternoon to board your ship. This evening, you'll enjoy a Port Talk as we sail toward La Rochelle.

  • Enjoy a leisurely morning at sea as your ship cruises toward La Rochelle, located on the Bay of Biscay.

    After lunch onboard, disembark for a walking tour of this timeless seaside city. As you explore, bathe in the sunlight as it reflects off the cityscape's limestone facades. A seaport since Roman times, this maritime city is a pastiche of vaulted walkways and homes shingled in slate tiles, with grinning gargoyles waiting for you at every turn.

    Return to you ship late this afternoon, where you'll enjoy a Port Talk before joining your fellow travelers in the dining room for dinner.

  • Following a leisurely morning onboard, your ship arrives in Bordeaux. After lunch, set off for the heart of this iconic city—whose historic center is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site—to begin your included tour.

    Originally established as a trading center by the Romans, Bordeaux lies on the western side of the Garonne River and includes lovely walking paths wending through its elegant 18th- and 19th-century buildings laced with wrought-iron and stone figures in Old Town. Bordeaux is home to more protected buildings than any other city in France besides Paris, blending both Classical and Neo-classical architecture. As you explore, you'll admire the beautiful façades along its waterfront, and witness the Place de la Bourse—Bordeaux's royal palace—designed by famed architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, who also designed Paris's Place de la Concorde and parts of the Palace of Versailles.

    Dinner is on your ship this evening.

  • This morning, you'll explore the town of Bazas, perhaps stopping to visit its 13th-century cathedral,  before setting off for a local château and hear about the wine-growing history in Bordeaux, the largest wine-growing region of France. Enjoy a stroll of the property and through the vineyards—learning all about how grapes are grown and picked. Afterward, put your knowledge to use as you sample the locally made wine. You'll also enjoy an included lunch here.

    This afternoon, return to the ship and spend the rest of the day at leisure. You can choose to relax onboard, or head into Bordeaux to make your own discoveries before returning to the ship for dinner.

  • Enjoy incredible views of the Atlantic's horizon as we sail south toward Spain today, crossing the Bay of Biscay (known to the English as the Cantabrian Sea during the age of Sir Francis Drake).

    Your Trip Leader will provide several informative programs aboard ship today as you sail, and your ship’s crew will treat you to a cooking demonstration. Or you may simply enjoy the day at leisure. All meals will be onboard. This evening, you'll hear a Port Talk about Coruna and Santiago de Compostela, which you’ll explore tomorrow.

  • After breakfast onboard, go ashore to visit La Coruna, the city from which Spain launched its armada in the 16th century. When Sir Francis Drake tried to take the city for the English, his crew was repelled by locals, inspired by Maria Pita, who climbed the ramparts waving a spear and shouting, "Quen tena honra, que me siga" ("Whoever has honor, follow me!").

    Today, you'll visit the Plaza Maria Pita, named in her honor, then stroll the Old Town overlooking the harbor, and view both the Castle of San Anton and the Tower of Hercules. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tower of Hercules—an ancient Roman lighthouse—is still operational after 2,000 years, making it the world's oldest working lighthouse. Your tour wraps up with a photo stop at the Mirador de San Pedro, an overlook with sweeping views of the city and the harbor.

    Following your tour, you'll travel overland to Santiago de Compostela. The capital of Spain's Galicia region, Santiago de Compostela is dedicated to the apostle St. James, who is buried here, according to legend. Since the early first century, the city has been a site of Christian pilgrimages, especially among the Catholic faithful, who believe a visit here will reduce their sentence in purgatory. Construction on the city's cathedral began in 1075 and continued to expand over the centuries, with embellishments continuing into the 19th century. The culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, it is common to see modern-day pilgrims walking through the square. 

    After enjoying an included lunch, you'll see this epic house of worship, as well as the 700-year-old Obradoiro Square and Platerias Plaza, where locals and visitors alike ascend an 18th-century staircase for the views of the city's bustling square below.

    Return to your ship this evening for dinner.

  • Your Spanish discoveries continue today in Vigo. After breakfast onboard, you'll depart for a walking tour to explore the city's medieval plazas and discover its rich maritime traditions—with oyster farming chief among them. Every day, freshly picked oysters are transported to city center to be sold in an area known locally as Calle de las Ostras (Oyster Street). From delivery until dusk, the street bustles with locals sipping wine and savoring the fruits of the sea.

    Following your tour, you'll enjoy free time to explore Vigo before returning to your ship for lunch. This afternoon, you'll travel overland to Combarro, an historic fishing village on the estuary of Pontevedra. Embark on a walking tour here to see how locals have adapted their customs and architecture to life by the sea.

    Then return to your ship, where you'll enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event: a traditional Galician dance performance featuring students from a local dance school. Following the performance, your nightly Port Talk will preview the next day's discoveries in Porto, Portugal before dinner.

  • After breakfast onboard, go ashore in Porto, Portugal this morning. With a romantic mix of Medieval, Baroque, and modern architecture, Porto beckons from the banks of the Douro River like a storybook town come to life. The birthplace of port, it has long been a favorite destination for those who appreciate a fine vintage. Here, you'll embark on a panoramic city tour, which will lead you past colorful buildings, seemingly piled one atop the other as they cascade down steep cliffs to the water's edge.

    Upon arrival in the historical center of Porto—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—you will visit the Palacio de Bolsa. Serving as the city's stock market, this Neo-classical building was constructed in the 19th century after a fire destroyed the Franciscan convent that originally stood on the spot. The interior boasts magnificent rooms, each decorated by a different artist.

    Next, you will discover Sao Francisco Church, the most extravagantly decorated church in all of Porto. Its simple Gothic exterior belies the wonders you will find within—a wealth of baroque-style wooden carvings covering columns, arches, and ceiling alike, each one of them coated in pure gold. The few items that are not gilded are made of gleaming marble.

    Reconvene with your group this afternoon for lunch at a local restaurant, followed by a tour of one of Porto's famous port wine cellars, where you will enjoy a tasting of the city’s namesake vintage.

    After your final Port Talk on Lisbon this evening, toast to your discoveries with your fellow travelers with a farewell cocktail, followed by your Captain's Farewell dinner.

  • After breakfast, you’ll disembark in Lisbon before beginning a panoramic tour that includes Belem, the historic neighborhood overlooking the harbor, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating from the early 16th century—Jeronimos Monastery, where Vasco de Gama prayed for success before sailing to India, and where he was later laid to rest. De Gama is among the heroes immortalized in the Monument to the Discoveries, the massive stone sculpture depicting 33 legendary Portuguese explorers and artists, including Magellan and Henry the Navigator.

    Then, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event in which you'll sample Pasteis de Belem, the egg tart pastries first concocted by 18th-century monks at the Jeronimos Monastery.

    Check in to your hotel this afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day to make your own discoveries in Lisbon.Lunch and dinner are on your own today.

  • After breakfast, depart for Sintra, a village situated within a fairy-tale landscape of lush forests, turreted palaces, and castle ruins. Here, you'll visit the 14th-century Royal Palace, often the summer residence of the royal family. With its two dominating conical kitchen chimneys, it contains some of the oldest tiles in Portugal. Its central courtyard and many of its architectural details reflect its Moorish origin, though it was further embellished and restored in Spanish style during the 19th century, when it was the favorite getaway for the nation's rulers. You'll see why well-traveled English poet Lord Byron described the “palaces and gardens rising from the rocks” of Sintra as “the most beautiful in Europe.”

    After lunch in a local restaurant, you'll travel to Cascais, a one-time humble fishing village that has grown into a lively coastal resort town. Following a brief visit here, you'll return to your hotel in Lisbon. The rest of the day is yours to do as you please. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • After breakfast this morning, the day is yours to discover Lisbon on your own. Perhaps you’ll re-visit a few of the sites you passed on your included tour. Or, stroll through Alfama, Lisbon's oldest neighborhood, which boasts charming red-roofed homes and whitewashed facades.

    This evening, reminisce with your fellow travelers over an included Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, transfer from your hotel to the airport for your flight home. Or begin your post-trip extension to The Island of Madeira, Portugal.

    The Island of Madeira, Portugal

    4 nights from only $795

    Before visiting Portugal’s mainland, discover the lush Atlantic island of Madeira, known as the “floating garden of the Atlantic.” From your base at a seaside hotel in Funchal, the island’s capital, you’ll enjoy a tour of this flower-bedecked and culturally rich city. Later, you can explore the east and west sides of the island on optional tours, or seek out the vineyards where Madeira wine is made.

    View Extension Itinerary

Click below to read our Travel Planning Guide on Spain's Northern Coast & the Bay of Biscay

Read Travel Planning Guide

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