EFA Morocco Atlas Mountains group photo

Give Back While Traveling

So many of our amazing clients want ways to give back while traveling. They're not only looking to see and experience a new place and culture but want to leave a positive impact. And we at Spain Savvy have been looking for our own ways to give back with an official philanthropic partner that matches our company values and also feels connected to the places we live and work. Education For All (EFA) Morocco was the perfect choice! EFA Morocco provides education for girls living in rural communities in the Atlas Mountains that would otherwise not have the opportunity to study.

The Story of Education for All Morocco

EFA Morocco girls in school in Atlas Mountains
Photo courtesy of EFA Morocco

There is an old African prover that says,

"If you educate a man, you educate an individual. If you educate a woman, you educate a nation."

This still rings true today. EFA Morocco, which started in 2007 with just 10 girls ages 12-18, builds and runs safe schools and boarding houses in rural, remote areas so these girls can live and study for six years without having to worry about transport or funds. Most girls come from far-off villages, making a daily commute impossible; education often ends after elementary school. This complication has lead to about a 70% illiteracy rate amongst women in rural regions, making it difficult for them to overcome poverty and uplift their communities. EFA Morocco is changing that.

Here at the EFA schools and boarding houses, the girls have comfortable beds, showers, three healthy meals a day, and access to books and the right technology. They also have 3-4 supportive house mothers who are there care for their educational and emotional well being whenever needed.

How EFA Morocco Makes a Difference

EFA Morocco girls in computer lab
Photo courtesy of EFA Morocco

EFA Morocco has grown from their humble beginnings to now encompass 6 different boarding houses throughout the Atlas Mountain region with an average of 250 girls utilizing these facilities and schools at one time. The impacts are huge! Since 2007, 450 girls have passed through EFA's six-year program! And since 2013, 170 girls have gone on to study in universities and many are now employed in industries like teaching, travel, law, and business. Some are even getting their masters degrees.

Want to learn more details about EFA's impact? Check out their informative and easy-to-read 2022 impact report.

The September Earthquake in Morocco

EFA Morocco earthquake damage
Courtesy of EFA Morocco

If you've followed the news over the past month or kept up with our newsletter and social media, you probably saw that a massive earthquake struck Morocco in the Atlas Mountain region in September. This devastating natural disaster destroyed 4 of the EFA houses and damaged the 2 others. EFA was forced to shut down and relocate girls to schools and facilities in and around Marrakech. Unfortunately, the homes of many of their families were also destroyed and damaged, and lives of loved ones were lost, exacerbating the situation. The organization is doing their best to get them into temporary EFA-style housing so they can continue their studies while the houses are rebuilt. But this is a tough transition for the girls, who are also dealing with their own personal losses.

How You Can Help

EFA Morocco girls in boarding house
Photo courtesy of EFA Morocco

Most of us are fortunate enough to have been educated or live in a place where education is incredibly accessible. As an organization of women, female business owners, and human beings, we at Spain Savvy believe every person, regardless of gender or income level, has the right to a quality education. Funding EFA Morocco brings us one step closer to that reality.

The most impactful way you can give back while traveling to or near Morocco (Spain and Portugal are surprisingly close!) is to donate! Feeding, housing, and educating so many students comes with ongoing financial costs. And these girls need even more funds right now to rebuild their schools and boarding houses after the earthquake. So let's gather around this beloved and beautiful country and send them some love. Let's give back while traveling! Click here to donate to Education For All Morocco!

EFA Morocco girls in Marrakech
Photo courtesy of EFA Morocco

Looking to finally take that trip of a lifetime to Morocco this year or the next? Luckily, tourism is running at full force post earthquake. Tourism is another incredible way to support economies post disaster. For more details on booking your trip, reach out to us!

madrid arch plaza mayor

Get to Know Your Travel Designer: Cyra Alcock

We're thrilled to announce the newest member of our travel design team here at Spain Savvy: Cyra Alcock. Cyra comes to us with years of experience in the tourism industry. With her expert knowledge and deep love for all things Spanish culture, she's already been a fantastic addition to Spain Savvy. She's only been with us a few months, but she's already sent over 35 clients on some of the most incredible journeys around Spain and Portugal, and done so with great success!

Read on to learn more about Cyra—you'll be lucky to have her as your travel designer.

cyra alcock travel designer

Where are you from originally?

I grew up in Sydney, Australia where I lived until I decided I wanted to head over to Europe and explore the world. It was supposed to be a gap year....

How long have you been living in Spain? And what first brought you here?

I actually was based in Italy before living in Spain, and worked there for a company called Intrepid Travel as a Tour Leader. I began leading tours in Italy, which eventually grew to leading tours through Italy, Spain, France and Portugal. So in the beginning I was lucky enough to travel all over Spain and Portugal (and even had a brief stint living in Logroño in La Rioja). While travelling in Spain I met a ton of people in industry, including someone who had just started what was then a new food tour start-up in Madrid, Devour Tours. Eventually, I decided to move on from leading group tours and so I joined Devour Tours and moved to Seville to lead the operation of Devour Tours in Seville and drive the subsequent expansion of the company to two other cities in Andalusia. I've been living in Seville for nearly 9 years now (and travelling almost full time in the country - at least during the high season! - for a few years before that, too).

What inspired you to start working as a travel designer?

One of my first jobs in London (nearly 20 years ago!!!) was actually in a travel agency. It was an entry level job, very boring and not creative at all, but I was always curious to learn more about it. Given that for 12+ years all of my work has revolved (and continues to revolve) around creating amazing travel experiences, it's something that I've always had in the back of my mind that I'd like to give a shot. As it turns out, I really enjoy it!

You’re very well traveled. What do you think is one of the biggest benefits of working with a travel designer?

For me the biggest benefit is being able to share the knowledge that I've gained over the years and being able to help people have the best trip possible! I truly get a kick out of it!. I've actually been to almost every place and eaten in almost every restaurant personally that I recommend to my clients which honestly is rare - if someone was using a travel designer based locally to them, they would not have so much first hand experience. I've been to every region in Spain and the top destinations more times than I can count (places like Barcelona I have been to 50 to 100 times, probably closer to 100 by now!) so that is a ton of experience that I love being able to share.

Tell us about a trip you designed that you’re really proud of or were really excited about.

One of the first trips I designed was for a family who were travelling in Northern Spain. I was so proud of that itinerary as it really was Spain 'off the beaten path'. Also, they were into nice food experiences which is what I love most, so I had food envy just putting together their trip for them! It made me want to revisit Northern Spain, that's for sure.

What’s a great destination in Spain, Portugal, or Morocco that you think folks HAVE to explore? Or a place people overlook that they shouldn’t?

That's really, really, hard but if I had to choose one that I know a lot of people don't visit or don't dedicate more than a day trip, it would be Ronda! Maybe that's because it's only a couple of hours from Seville, but I have taken so many visitors to Ronda (both as a tour leader and people who come to visit me in Seville) and it's always the place that people expected the least from (or didn't know what to expect) but ended up falling in love with. For me and my interests, it's got a bit of everything - some great restaurants, amazing local wines (and wineries you can visit just walking from the city), beautiful hikes, and it's just super cute to wander around and enjoy being there!

And just for fun, what’s your absolute favorite Spanish dish? 

Also a really tough question and I could honestly list 10 different things, but if I had to choose one - and perhaps not an obvious one - one of my favourite dishes is papas con choco (cuttlefish or calamari stewed with potatoes). And, I'll never say no to a perfectly prepared papas aliñas.

rural Andalusia

Get to Know Your Guide: Luis Andrade of Andalusia Guided Tours

If you traveled with us before, you know one of the best choices you can make is to book a tour with a private guide. Be it a historical tour of Gaudí's Barcelona, an urban art tour in Lisbon, or a multi-day excursion through small towns, privately guided tours offer some of the most unique insight and local experiences out there. Which is why we're taking the time to help you get to know some of our local guide partners—the folks that take a new travel experience from great to totally unforgettable. Here, we're chatting with Luis Andrade of Andalusia Guided Tours. He takes guests out of the traditional urban areas, and into rural settings and small towns throughout Andalusia.

Learn more about Andalusia Guided tours here and follow Luis and Andalusia Guided Tours on Instagram.

Luis of Andalusia Guided Tours

Where are you from originally? And where do you live now?

I'm originally from Sevilla, and right now, I actually live in the same apartment where I've spent my entire life, very close to the city center. I've lived here for most of my life, but I've also been fortunate to live for almost two years in Vejer de la Frontera, a town in the province of Cádiz, very close to the Atlantic.

How long have you been touring people around  the region of Andalusia?

I've been providing guided tours of Andalusia for 14 years now. I started right after I graduated from university, where I studied Environmental Sciences.

How long have you been working with Spain Savvy?

I believe it's been more than 6 years working together already. I'm thrilled about it and hope for many more to come.

What inspired you to start the company and guide full time?

The summers of my childhood spent with my grandparents at our beach house in Sanlúcar de Barrameda played a significant role. I think that's where my love for nature and the sea was born. This led me to work as a nature tour guide in the Doñana National Park and other natural parks in Andalusia. I used to wander through the river marshes and go fishing with my brother when we were kids. Years later, when I was in university, I took my parents to show them the area and told them that's what I wanted my job to be...and so it began :)

What do you think makes Andalusia such a unique area of Spain?

To me, Andalusia is the soul of Spain, with all due respect to other regions. I believe that the image exported to the rest of the world primarily revolves around Andalusian traditions, culture, history, and customs. Powerful elements of Spanish culture like flamenco, Arab influence, the joy of the people, and the great weather find their truest expression in Andalusia.

What do you think is one of the biggest benefits people get from adding a privately guided tour to their itinerary as opposed to exploring on their own?

I think it maximizes the experience entirely. Exploring a place is always a beautiful thing, but doing it with someone who lives there and opens the doors to their daily life, sharing details and information that aren't immediately visible, makes all the difference.

What are some of your favorite tours to do with clients?

I believe there's so much to see outside of the big cities. Personally, I love rural and nature tourism. Combining culture, nature, villages, traditions, landscapes, and gastronomy in a single day is a crucial part of my work. That's why I would say my two favorite tours are the "White Villages of Cádiz and Ronda," and also, the "Atlantic Coast of Cádiz" tour. This reflects a bit of what I mentioned earlier about my childhood and why I started working as a guide.

What’s your dream for Andalusia Guided Tours?

My dream is for the world to become a little better each day. I would love to achieve that through my profession, though it's a tough challenge. But I'm trying to contribute by emphasizing the importance of caring for nature. I hope to grow and gain more strength to lead a good life and achieve that goal.

And just for fun, what’s your absolute favorite Andalusian dish?

For a sevillano, where eating is one of life's greatest pleasures, it's impossible to pick just one favorite dish... puntillitas (small fried squid), zamburiñas (scallops), shrimp salad, gazpacho, grilled fish, beef sirloin, and I can think of about 20 more things.

Our clients exploring with Luis via Andalusia Guided Tours

Luis of Andalusia Guided Tours

what to pack for Spain

What to Pack for Spain and Portugal

As your trip to Spain or Portugal approaches, you may feel a panicky question arise: "What do I pack for Spain and Portugal?"

We get that it can be overwhelming, especially if you've never traveled abroad before. It's important to keep in mind that what to pack for Spain and/or Portugal is dependent on the location, the season of travel (check that weather app!), and your personal needs. Regardless, we're offering some suggestions based on years of working with hundreds of clients and our own personal travels.

Our biggest tip? Pack light! Packing light can be a lot more pleasant in almost every aspect of traveling, from not having to worry about the weight limits on airlines or hauling bags up stairs, through train stations and luggage racks, especially if you are moving from destination to destination every few days. In other words, you want to limit the stuff you cart around with you.

Heading out soon and organizing your bags? Here's what to pack for Spain:

Your Handy Trip Plans App

use your travel app for SpainIt goes without saying that you'll need your phone to snap pictures, get directions, or check in with family while you're away. But even more important is your handy Trip Plans App which contains your itinerary and other crucial documents like museum tickets, your tour guide's contact, and reservation confirmation numbers. Our clients (even the more tech-averse ones) rave about Trip Plans and how incredibly helpful it is throughout the entire journey. Don't forget to download it before you leave.

Personal Documents

a passport is what to pack for Spain

Along with the documents uploaded in the Trip Plans App, don't forget those other important documents like your passport, driver's license (especially if you're renting a car), and copies of each of them in case there are issues.

Travel Insurance

If we've learned anything from the past few years, it's to be prepared for the unexpected. Which is why Spain Savvy partners with Global Rescue for travel insurance. For Global Rescue, CFAR ("cancel for any reason") insurance must be contracted within 20 days of making the first trip payment.

Debit and Credit Card

credit cards in Spain

We recommend bringing both a debit and credit card on the trip. There are multiple banks that offer debit and credit cards without international fees, which will save you a ton of money while traveling. When you can, a credit card is the best way to pay, as you won't incur excessive or exchange bank fees. But when you need to take out cash (for small purchases, tipping, traditional shops), we recommend using a debit card rather than exchanging dollars. You can even take out money in the airport when you arrive.

The Right Luggage

suitcases for travel

Airlines have substantially tightened their luggage policies for both carry-on and checked baggage; and their requirements are subject to change without notice. Check with specific airline carriers to determine weight restrictions and fees that might be applicable. Most airlines now charge for checked bags, sometimes even on international flights.

If you'll be traveling for more than two weeks, a checked bag is probably necessary. However, keep in mind that hauling big bags from trains to taxis, or occasionally up stairs and along cobblestone streets, can be challenging. Again, pack light!

Once you're in Europe, and if you'll be taking short flights from Spain to Portugal, you may even be charged for carry-on luggage. And the size requirements are more limited than what you can carry on in the US. It's best to check with each airline's requirements ahead of time.

Electrical Power Adapters

adapters and european chargers

The electrical current in Spain and Portugal is 220V, which is not the same as the current in North America (110V). When it comes to bringing items such as a hairdryer, curling iron, or straightener, you simply should refrain from it. The vast majority of accommodations will have at least a hairdryer on-site and, when traveling from the U.S. to Europe, the voltage in the plugs is completely different and you risk completely ruining your devices should you use them, even if you are using an adapter. Your phones are usually fine and work well with adapters. Check out universal adapters which contain plugs for multiple countries across the globe.

The same goes for laptops. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions to see that your device will operate at 220V. If the company makes special plug adapters (i.e. as Apple does for its Macbooks) we recommend that you purchase and use those instead of plugging into a separate converter or adapter. In the case of a power surge you may risk the destruction of your laptop. If using a converter, the wattage of the converter must match the wattage of the appliance. Please make sure that your laptop’s voltage range, found on your power cord, will be compatible with the electrical current.

Packing Cubes

packing cubes are what to pack for SpainLiving out of a suitcase can be one of the most uncomfortable parts of travel. Which is why we LOVE packing cubes. They keep all your clothes, shoes, and toiletries organized into individual blocks, making it way easier to find that favorite shirt you were hoping to wear on your tapas tour. Our favorite brand? Bag-All. Not only are they functional, they also come in different colors and you can even get them monogramed.

Good Walking Shoes

shoes for travel

When our clients ask us what to pack for Spain and Portugal or anywhere else Europe or Morocco, "comfortable shoes!" is always our first response. Unlike most cities in the US, European cities and towns require lots of walking! And that means you'll need extra-comfy shoes to get around. A good pair of casual walking shoes, as well as another pair of slightly dressier shoes you can wear to a nice dinner that are still comfy (leave the stilettos at home), are really all you need. If hiking is a part of your itinerary, hiking shoes or good tennis shoes are also a great idea. And if you're planning on visiting one of Spain's incredible beaches or lounging by the pool, throw in some lightweight flip-flops too.

Comfortable, Weather-Appropriate Clothes

comfortable in Spain

International travel has become much more casual than it used to be. There are exceptions, of course, when more formal attire is required, but the first rule is to dress for comfort.

Once you’ve done your destination research, determined the weather in the regions you plan to visit, and thought about the activities you plan to do, go through your closet and select items that you feel will work for your trip.

Insider Tips for What Clothing to Pack for Spain and Portugal

  • Layering is the way to go in Europe year-round.
  • A shawl, pashmina, scarf, or other wrap can serve as an accessory as well as a blanket for the plane or a chilly museum.
  • Special travel clothing is available in many wrinkle-resistant and light-weight materials, making packing easier than ever.
  • Rolling rather than folding your clothes in your suitcase results in less wrinkles.
  • Consider the capsule wardrobe. Color coordinate your clothes for maximum utility with limited pieces. Use one main color and one or two accent colors to mix and match for maximum flexibility.
  • Bring a rain jacket. No matter the region or season, a rain jacket is always a good idea, as you can get caught out in a storm regardless of where and when you are traveling.
  • Pack a swimsuit. Regardless of whether or not you're traveling in winter or summer, or going to the north or south, we always recommend you pack a swimsuit. Many of your hotels will have pools, or you may want to enjoy the hotel's spa, sauna, or book a session at the Arabic baths in cities like Barcelona or Seville.

Reusable Water Bottle

pack your water bottle for Spain

A reusable water bottle is ideal for staying hydrated throughout your travel (staying hydrated on the plane is crucial!). All the walking is bound to leave you thirsty, and a ready-to-use bottle will remind you to drink water and keep you energized. Barcelona is one of the few cities where locals don't recommend drinking the tap water, but many cities around Spain and Portugal have refillable water stations or drinking fountains. While you can easily purchase plastic water bottles while in country, a reusable one will save you a few bucks and is much better for the environment.

Extra Space for Souvenirs

souvenir woven baskets in Spain

Don't fill your suitcase to the brim! It's always a good idea to leave a little space in your luggage for fun Portuguese and Spanish souvenirs you find along the way, be it gifts, clothes, bottles of wine, or artisan goods. Knowing you have some room will give you the freedom to take back whatever treats you fancy.


pack your travel patience in Spain

If you have traveled with us before, you know we always remind folks to "pack their patience." After all, this is a vacation! Spain and Portugal move at a different pace than the US, meaning you may have to wait a little longer to order tapas or catch a taxi. While things may not always go perfectly, it's all part of the travel experience. Be a responsible tourist and embrace the waiting! It's a time to revel in the culture and be present in such a privileged place. We love this quote from the editorial director of Condé Nast Traveler, Jesse Ashlock:

"There will be lines, and there could be meltdowns. You can save yourself a lot of grief by planning smartly and getting to the airport early, but sometimes the headaches are impossible to avoid. When they come, remember how worth it is...Even when travel isn't perfect, we're all so lucky that we get to be travelers."

Ready to get your bags packed and head to Spain? Reach out to us and we'll help you plan the trip of a lifetime.

overhead of Azores island

7 Reasons to Visit the Azores

Portugal continues to top our travel lists. Whether it's the boutique hotels in Lisbon, the quaint streets of Porto, or the golden cliffs of its southern beaches, this small country snuggled up to Spain seems to have it all. And that includes islands! Along with the island of Madeira, Portugal also raises its flag in the Azores, a cluster of nine volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. If you've never heard of this little archipelago, you're not the only one. It's a relatively new destination for U.S. travelers. But after several visits, we honestly can't understand what's taken us all so long to get there— there are so many reasons to visit the Azores!

Looking to head to Portugal? Tack on some time (or make a stopover) to visit this idyllic little paradise. Read more for the inside scoop on our top 7 reasons to visit the Azores this year. Keep in mind that while there are eight other islands you can visit on your Azorean journey, we're focusing primarily on the largest, São Miguel.

Direct Flights from the USA

plane flying to Azores islands

You may think a place so remote (about 900 miles west of Lisbon) requires a stopover in Portugal. But think again! Easy access is definitely one of the top reasons to visit the Azores. SATA Azores Airlines, TAP Portugal, and United (and a few other United partner airlines) all offer direct flights to the Azores via New York and Boston all year round. Flights will get you right into the capital in Ponta Delgada, which is a great starting point to get your bearings.

The direct flight advantage from these major cities means you're one or two flights will get you straight to paradise. And once you're there, you're even closer to mainland Europe.

Unremarkable Natural Beauty

the natural landscape is the prime reason to visit the azores

The natural beauty of the area is by far definitely the biggest draw. The Azores are often referred to as the "Hawaii of Europe," due to the volcanic terrain and the lush land. In São Miguel, for example, it's as though every square inch is teeming with life! Moss and ferns burst from the earth, radiant green grass blankets every hill, and trees like redwoods and eucalyptus create dark, cooling forests. The monstrous pastel hydrangeas, which have become rather emblematic, line the highways like a painting. Volcanic craters have evolved into turquoise lakes with picturesque viewpoints, and there are beaches all over the islands, from black rocks to snowy white sand. It's truly remarkable.

Fantastic Hiking

volcanic lake hiking trails are a great reason to visit the Azores

All this spectacular landscape means there's also a whole of great hiking trails in the Azores. Whether you're looking for a coastal hike with ocean views, a deep forest excursion, or a rainforest-like trek to an epic waterfall, there is something for everyone and everybody.

Tourism-Ready in All the Right Ways

Despite its remote location, rural setting, and being a relatively new European tourist destination, São Miguel in particular is very equipped to handle tourism of all kinds. The well-paved roads, for example, are easy to navigate with great signage and indicators for all the best lookout points. The towns and sights are well-connected, so you're rarely doing any off-roading or driving down precarious dirt roads.

hotel WHITE pool in Sao Miguel Azores

In addition, the Azores offers superb hospitality. Not only are people incredibly kind wherever you go, but the service in both restaurants and hotels is excellent. The WHITE Azores boutique hotel is a prime example: The service is absolutely phenomenal, the property (which includes stunning suites and villas, and a pristine infinity pool) is true island elegance, and the food is exceptional. In other words, the islands have all the comforts and facilities to welcome travelers, while still maintaining that authentic and serene atmosphere you look for in a remote island.

Moderate Weather

tea fields Azores islands

It's true that a tropical island in the middle of the ocean experiences quite a bit of rainfall and cloudy moments. But what's great about the Azores is that even though the rain and clouds may come, they pass quickly. And the misty drizzle can even be a magical part of a hike or stroll, illuminating the vegetation around you. Temperatures are also very moderate: winter temperatures stay between 53ºF and 64ºF, and summers range from 63ºF to 79ºF. You'll never experience freezing or scorching temperatures. Yes, you'll need to bring a rain jacket just in case, but our team recently had five full days of perfect sunshine on our early June trip.

Excellent Food and Drink

Portugal's island food scene does not disappoint. Seafood abounds with heaping bowls of fish stew, freshly grilled cod, and these funny little local bivalves ("lapas") bathed in garlic and the famous Azorean butter. The islands are known for the large population of cows, which means tons of this delicious butter and fresh cheese abound. There's also a famous bread called "bolo lêvedo" (similar to an English muffin but better), which is especially popular in the town of Furnas. The Azores also grow their own special variety of pineapple!

Azorean pineapple

In terms of drink, the Azores is home to the only tea farms in Europe. Not only can you tour the two factories on São Miguel (and grab free tea), you can also hike through the tea leaf fields. Additionally, the Azores also has great local wines which have a unique volcanic terroir you'll be hard-pressed to find in other parts of Portugal, or even Europe. And if you're looking for a great cocktail, head to the Gin Library, which houses Europe's largest selection of gins (over 1,000). You can grab a G&T or experience their top-notch gin masterclass.

To really get the full Azorean culinary experience, Hungry Whales offers fantastic food tours in Ponta Delgada. You'll visit tons of unique and local food spots, learn all the ins and outs of the Azorean culinary culture, and leave impressively full!

Perfect for the Whole Family

family at sunset

São Miguel is the perfect place for a family vacation— if you have kiddos, this is one of the best reasons to visit the Azores. There are hikes for all ages, tons of outdoor space and parks for kids to run around, activities like kayaking, and oceanside (and ocean-fed) pools where the waves are calm and whole family can spend the day relaxing and playing together. It's an incredibly safe island and also a calm environment.

Ready to add the Azores to your Portugal trip? Send us a quick message and we'll offer you even more unique insight on this spectacular island destination.

Lisbon views

Lisbon Travel Guide and Tips

For so long Lisbon has been one Europe's hidden gems. Now, the word is out and the city is even more equipped than ever to accommodate tourism of all kinds. Along with its historical sites and picturesque architecture, Lisbon is chock-full of Michelin-star dining, boutique hotels, and great art museums that celebrate the city's best artisans. And while the place has truly evolved and grown over the past decade or so, its quaint, Portuguese charm still remains. Here we're offering just a taste of some our expert Lisbon travel tips to whet your palate and get you excited about your first (or 10th!) visit to this magical city.

How to Get to Lisbon

tiles in Lisbon

One of the biggest draws to traveling to Lisbon is how easy it is to get there from the United States. TAP Portugal (a United Star Alliance partner) has direct flights to Lisbon from six U.S cities: New York City, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. That means you can get to Portugal in 7-11 hours with zero layovers.

Once you arrive, you can easily take the subway into town. But we also recommend a quick taxi or private transfer to the city for the easiest Lisbon travel experience. Your driver will stealthily navigate the winding, steep streets and drop you off right in front of your hotel.

Where to Stay in Lisbon

Lisbon's hotel scene is booming and only continues to grow. While there are Airbnb's available, hotels will give you the full city experience and provide an extra layer of comfort. We have a number of trusted partners in the city, but these are some of our favorites:

H10 Duque de Loulé

H10 duque Loulé lisbon room

Set in a historic building in the city center, this four-star boutique hotel fuses traditional Portuguese décor with modern touches, like the hand-painted tiles made specially for the property. The bright and elegantly decorated rooms with touches of stunning blues and clean whites, are beyond comfortable, much like all our favorite H10 properties across Spain and Portugal. Some even feature cozy window reading corners and the rooftop bar is our favorite for a nightcap.

LX Boutique Hotel

lx boutique hotel

The LX Boutique is the only hotel in downtown Lisbon with views of both the river estuary and the city. And its blue-forward design is clearly inspired by the city's tiles. Not only is the hotel bright and cozy but it's perfectly located and within walking distance to so many of the best sights and neighborhoods, like Chiado, Mercado da Ribeira, and the Lisbon Cathedral.

The Lumiares

the luminaries hotel

This five-star hotel and spa was a collaboration of Portugal's local brands, makers, and artists. Almost every item in their rooms have been designed and made in Portugal, and yet it still feels like a home away from home. They also offer two-bedroom suites, which are perfect for families or groups looking to relax after a long day of travel. Don't miss the Lumi Rooftop bar, which looks over Lisbon's skyline and the Tagus River.

Barrio Alto Hotel

barrio alto hotel BAHR

One of our favorite five-star properties in all of Lisbon, this boutique hotel is located in the heart of Barrio Alto with views of Chiado. It's a perfect location for accessing the best of city's sights. Rooms here are all luxe but unpretentious, and offer the exact peace and quiet you need to rest. Their popular rooftop bar, BAHR, also features exquisitely crafted cocktails and is worth visiting even if you aren't a hotel guest.

What to Do in Lisbon

While Lisbon is a fairly small city, there's so much to do and see. One of our favorite ways to experience the city is simply wandering around the various neighborhoods (be prepared for steep treks!), like Chiado, Alfama, and Barrio Alto. While wandering, you'll happen upon various lookout points throughout the city, called miradouros, where you can snap gorgeous photos of those picturesque rooftops and the water below.

Be sure to pay a visit to Belém area where you can tour the historical tower, as well as various history and art museums, and the Jerónimo's Monastery. Also plan some time to go to the Castelo de São Jorge, a Moorish castle dating back to the medieval period. The castle occupies a commanding hilltop overlooking Lisbon.

A day trip to Sintra is a total must when planning your Lisbon travel. Sintra is the first cultural landscape to be noted as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Here you can visit various palaces and gardens, and stroll the narrow streets of the historic center. Pena Palace, nested on the top of Sintra Mountain, is definitely one of the highlights.

Where to Eat in Lisbon

dish in Lisbon at Amago

With so many fantastic dining options, it's almost impossible to have a bad meal in Lisbon. The biggest challenge is deciding which to choose. The famous Pastéis de Belém, which sells addicting custard tarts is a not only a must, but a total right of passage to experiencing Lisbon's gastronomy. For traditional Portuguese dining, we love Casa dos Passarinhos, which is a classic lunchtime spot off the beaten path that's filled with locals.

amago plating lisbon

Also check out the city's man tascas, which are small, no-frills eateries serving affordable Portuguese cuisine. Places like Tasca Baldracca are reinventing the traditional tasca feel with their own funky menus using highly seasonal ingredients and house-made ferments. For a truly exquisite high-end tasting menu, check out one of the city's many Michelin-starred restaurants like Alma or Belcanto. Or head to Amago's open kitchen, for an intimate tasting with a communal 10-seat dining table featuring some truly exquisite Portuguese-inspired cuisine.

To get even more tips on Lisbon travel, send us a message and we'll make sure you have the most unforgettable, tailored experience of Lisbon imaginable.

Aveiro canal in Portugal

How to Travel Responsibly in Spain and Portugal

Conscious Americans are often concerned about how to be responsible tourists in some of the most heavily-traveled places in the world. It's true that tourism can make or break a local way of life. Which is why we're offering you a few key ways that you can travel responsibly in Spain and Portugal.

Responsible travel is not about blending in or avoiding museums. It's about being aware of your surroundings, caring for the local environment, and giving more than you take. That's how these treasured places keep their magic, and locals keep creating the unique cultures we have the privilege of experiencing.

Travel in Off Season  spain town in catalonia in winter

Most areas of Spain and Portugal are highly seasonal. Which means an average town could experience an overwhelming influx of visitors in July, but seem more like a ghost town in February. Traveling in low season offsets the unbalanced cash flow in restaurants and hotels, and helps out local guides who are often working nonstop one month and scraping by the next. It also gives you the opportunity to see how folks live and work in their normal lives. You'll avoid the crowds and save a good amount of money in the process.

Take Public Transportation

train station portugal

Opting for public transportation instead of a car is a great way to practice sustainable and responsible tourism. Most major cities are a total nightmare with a vehicle, so riding the bus or metro is a no-brainer. But when it comes to getting from one city to another, trains are an excellent eco-friendly option. Spain in particular has a fantastic and comfortable railway system, with high-speed train travel connecting most of its major cities and normal trains connecting smaller ones.

Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodations

eco friendly hotel in portugal

All sorts of new hotels are popping up around Spain and Portugal, with sustainable practices built right into their business model. They're using clean energy, producing less waste, and saving water. Some are even opting for more plant-based options in their dining facilities or sourcing hyper-local ingredients. Offset your carbon footprint and look for eco-friendly accommodations.

Try to Speak the Language

person writing and studying language

Our clients often ask if it's better to try and speak the local language, or simply resort to English. We always encourage people to try! Whether you're fluent or barely remember how to count to three from your high school Spanish class, a little goes a long way to show locals you're adaptive and recognize you're on their turf. If they speak back to you in English, don't sweat it and go with the flow. They're just trying to be accommodating! If you don't know a lick of Spanish or Portuguese, try taking a language immersion class before your trip. And if that's not in the cards, the Duolingo app is a great way to get down some basics. Even memorizing a few key phrases and greetings is a true courtesy.

Be Kind to Service Workers

woman ordering food at restaurant

Much like a "muchas gracias," a little kindness goes a long way. As a tourist, so many of your interactions are likely to be with service workers in restaurants, hotels, tours, etc. These hardworking people are the heartbeat of these countries' biggest cities and smallest towns. Even if you're having one of those stressful travel moments (yes, they do happen!) do your best to treat people with kindness and respect. A smile, a sincere thank you, and a bit of patience is one of the best ways to travel responsibly in Spain and Portugal. And it will also make your trip more enjoyable.

Eat Local Food

casa paca restaurant in salamanca

Skip the Starbucks and McDonalds and eat local dishes at locally-owned restaurants. Eating locally is a key way to travel responsibly in Spain and Portugal for a few reasons. You'll get an inside look at how people in different parts of the world approach food (there's always a lot of history involved!), you'll contribute to the local economy, and you'll eat far better. Spain and Portugal are very regional countries, meaning the gastronomy changes drastically from one area to the next. Find out what the local dishes and drinks are and look for those. Insider tip: Only eat paella in Valencia.

Book Private Tours

woman walking in Barcelona under arch

While big group tours may be more economical, small or private tours help manage foot traffic and keep a calm, quiet, local vibe, especially in big cities. In Seville, for example, there are actual legal limits on group tour sizes. Additionally, large tour companies are often owned by folks outside of the countries in which they operate. Hire a private local guide and you'll not only get a far more unique experience (and probably see some off-the-beaten-path gems), you'll keep more money in local pockets and keep the peace.

Yes, You Should Tip

euro cash

While it's true that tipping culture is different in Spain and Portugal than it is in the U.S., tipping is a great way to show your appreciation for services. Keep in mind that the average annual salary in Spain in 2018 was 29,994€ and 18,236€ in Portugal (before tax), and tourism can inflate housing costs for locals. Leave a few extra euros at dinner, some cash on your nightstand for hotel housekeeping, and generous tips for all of your tour guides.

Buy from Local Artisans

man throwing pottery in portugal

Skip the gimmicky tourist stores (where most of the stuff is made overseas) and look for small artisan shops selling local products like handmade ceramics, jewelry, or textiles. You can even check out small art galleries to decorate your home and office, or wine shops for local bottles and preserved snacks. Flea markets are also great spots to get funky local goods.

Give Back

man cleaning out river

A great way to travel responsibly in Spain and Portugal is to give back. Look for local community organizations and non-profits, and donate or volunteer your time while traveling. If you need a few options, we'll be happy to suggest some close to our hearts.

Use a Local Travel Designer

For an insider experiences, access to locals, and a responsible mindset, hire a local, on-the-ground travel planner to design your itinerary. Folks like us at Spain Savvy are living where we work, which means we care deeply about what happens to our local economies and social systems. We design all of our itineraries with local preservation in mind, which means you can trust you're traveling responsibly in Spain and Portugal. To get started on your tailor-made itinerary, reach out to us here.

Setenil de las Bodegas Spain

Best White Villages in Andalusia

Southern Spain's big cities may be the first stop on your route (and rightly so). But if you have a few extra days to explore and need some fresh countryside air, Andalusia's pristine white villages are the place to go. Called the pueblos blancos, these small towns are nestled into the hills, mountains, and forests of rural Andalusia. Their building facades are all painted a stark white, which is said to reflect the harsh sunlight and keep the air cool inside. Even with modern technology, these areas have kept their architectural tradition, which makes for an idyllic setting and some absolutely stunning photo ops.

While the villages may have a relatively similar design, each charming spot has its own character and unique feel. And with the sweeping views of olive groves or winding streets draped in magenta bougainvillea, it's no wonder why many were given the distinction of "The Most Beautiful Villages in Spain."

We're offering our personal picks for the best white villages to visit in Andalusia. See a few in just a day (many are quite close together), or take your time and stay overnight in any of the area's fantastic rural and/or luxurious hotels, and enjoy each to the fullest.

Vejer de la Frontera

Vejer de la Frontera Spain

Vejer de la Frontera is not only one of the best white villages to visit in Andalusia, it's als one of our favorite towns in the whole country. Historical remains show the village likely existed as early as the 7th century B.C. Many civilizations have left their mark, the most notable being the Moors, whose architecture is visible in the city walls and the network of labyrinth-like streets. Along with the fantastic views of the neighboring coast and memorable sunsets, Vejer has a small but bustling restaurant scene and some fabulous hotels. And you can't miss a quick drive down to fisherman's town of Barbate for world-renown bluefin tuna.

Setenil de las Bodegas

Setenil de las Bodegas Spain

Most of the region's white-washed villages were constructed on top of the mountain to create protection from invaders. But Setenil de las Bodegas was built directly down into the clefts of the rocks. This style of housing provides extra insulation in both the hot summer months and chilly winter season. Houses and shops are built into the walls, and cliffs hang suspended over the cobblestone streets. The main drag, Cueva del Sol, is one of the best spots to see the architectural marvel. A narrow river also runs along the street, making for a lovely stroll through town and an ideal spot to stop for tapas. There are even accommodations built into the rocks so you'll feel just like a local cave dweller during your stay.

Zahara de la Sierra

Zahara de la Sierra Spain

Not to be confused with Zahara de los Atunes (which we also highly recommended for a few beach days), Zahara de la Sierra is an absolute must. The town sits overlooking a pristine, turquoise-blue reservoir. An ancient castle is perched on the highest point of an elegant rocky incline; the drive up to the town just as impressive as the journey within. Once you're there, throw on your best walking shoes and take the steep trek up to the castle for some of the most breathtaking views of the Andalusian countryside.

Arcos de la Frontera

Arcos de la Frontera Spain

Surrounded by the Guadalete River, which encircles the town on all sides, Arcos de la Frontera towers over the valley below on its majestic limestone cliffs. Spend the day hiking the trails in the area or kayaking on the river and dam below. At dusk, wander through the historic town and peak out from the many ancient arches (arcos means arches in Spanish) tucked into the city walls. Along with great restaurants offering Spanish-Moroccan cuisine, don't forget to snag tasty treats on your way out at some of their gourmet food stores. Think local cheeses, freshly-pressed olive oils, and spiced pastries made by the town's nuns.


Zahara de la Sierra Spain

The contrast of stark-white homes pressed against the vibrant evergreen forest is what sets Grazalema apart from the rest. Additionally, the town sits in a national park, the Sierra de Grazalema, which means you're close to fantastic hikes deep into the lush pinsapo forests, a native Spanish fir. Also check out neighboring villages like El Bosque and Benamahoma while you're there for additional routes. The town itself also offers pristine hotels with epic pools for relaxing those post-hike muscles and enjoying the spectacular views.

Other White Villages to Check Out

Zuheros Spain

  • We'll never stop waxing poetic about Ronda
  • Take in the expansive views of the Costa del Sol and walk the cobblestone mosaics in Frigiliana. 
  • Far less touristy, Zuheros is a sleepy town near Córdoba with jaw-dropping vistas and vertical cliffs (see photo above).
  • A quick drive from Seville will get you into the heart of neighboring Carmona.

Looking to visit the best white villages in Andalusia? We have some especially fantastic guides that specialize in historical and outdoor routes through these dreamy little Spanish towns. Send us a message and find out how to get there.

Best Hotel Rooftop Bars in Seville

As soon as those first scents of spring hit the city (we're talking as early as March here), Seville's residents and visitors make their way up to the many of best hotel rooftop bars in Seville scattered around the city. There's a certain sense of secrecy watching the city from above—the towering moorish Giralda and gothic cathedral, the tiled church domes, the calm current of the Guadalquivir River. Even the swinging clotheslines and rooftop gardens offer a sweet respite from below, and give you a glimpse into a world apart. So whether it's an afternoon cerveza or a late-night G&T, there are few better places to drink in spring and enjoy the breeze than a hotel rooftop bar.

While some hotel rooftop hotel bars in Seville are only reserved for hotel guests, most are open to all, which means you can check out a few them while you're in town. Just keep in mind that many have seasonal hours. Here's our list of our personal picks for the best hotel rooftop bars in Seville.

Puravida Terrace at Fontecruz Seises

pura vida terraza flamenco
Courtesy of Pura Vida Terraza

The Fontecruz Hotel is housed in a 16th-century palace, and their Pura Vida bar snuggled right up to the cathedral has a number of deal-closing advantages. Giralda view, check. Entertainment (live flamenco on Sunday nights), check. Separate zones offering different vibes (cozy shaded booths with packing-crate seats; tables with chairs to watch the show; more private corners with sofas), check. Food to order (jamón ibérico, cured cheese, salads, etc.), check. Public access to the pool (limited spaces and reservations suggested), check. Our cocktail of choice: tamarind mojito.

  • Hours: Mon. to Thurs. 3-10pm; Fri. and Sat 3pm-2am; Sun 3pm-12am
  • Address: Calle Segovia 6

Rooftop at The Corner House Hotel

hotel, hotel bar, hotel rooftop bar, hotel roof terrace bar
Courtesy of Fiona Watson

For a more boho scene, head to this bar in the buzzing Alameda at the fun Corner House Hotel. With a pérgola covered in trailing plants, plus brilliant pink and orange bougainvillea, its relaxed secret garden feel is perfect for soaking up the sun or winding down the evening. The hotel is known for their award-winning gastronomy at the restaurant below, so their wine list is especially noteworthy.

  • Hours: varies seasonally 
  • Address: Alameda de Hercules 31

La Terraza at Doña Maria      

Dona maria terraza
Courtesy of Hotel Doña María                                                                                                       

If you want the best views of the 900-year-old Giralda (formerly a minaret, now a church bell tower), surrounded by murals of orange trees, head to this coveted rooftop bar. You can practically touch the Giralda from this elegant terrace. Even summertime in Seville is beyond bearable here with their refreshing water misters to cool you right off. Cocktails help too, so flex your tastebuds with creative gin and tonic renditions, like strawberry rosé.

  •  Hours: varies seasonally 
  • Address: Calle Don Reomondo 19 

La Terraza at Hotel Inglaterra

Terraza at Hotel Inglaterra
Courtesy of Hotel Inglaterra Instagram

This rooftop bar in Seville, in a majestic spot looking onto Plaza Nueva, has an open, spacious feel. A small shaded area with sofas is perfect for sunny daytime, while the larger unshaded part offers high tops, ideal for catching the night breeze. Bonus: handy power points for phone-charging. You can order the award-winning Manilva cocktail with whisky, martini rosso, orange liqueur, and lime, as well as snacks from the excellent Seis restaurant downstairs (croquetas are always a win).

  • Hours: Sun. to Thurs. 11am -1pm; Fri. and Sat. 11am - 2am
  • Address: Plaza Nueva 7

La Terraza Bar at EME Catedral Mercer

Hotel EME bar
Courtesy of EME Catedral Mercer Hotel

EME's terrace is widely known as one of the best hotel rooftop bars in Seville. Across the street from the cathedral, the bar offers spectacular sunset views over the historical center and live music every single day. Their classic cocktails are superb and their liquor list is extensive and stocked with premium bottles from all over the world, with a special attention to gins. It's an intimate and privileged space for a romantic nightcap. Keep in mind they don't take reservations. Here, it's first come, first serve.

  • Hours: 1:30pm - 1am 
  • Calle Alemanes 27

Terraza Fulton at Palacio Alcazar

Courtesy of Fiona Watson

If you want a quiet, intimate drink, with no big groups, this small terrace next to the Alcázar palace is your best bet. Sit next to the candy-pink oleander and take in the panorama of the palace fortress’ walls and the cathedral. Order a plate of jamón and cheese with your crisp glass of dry local sherry, or even grab a full meal.

  • Hours: 8am-12am
  • Address: Plaza Alianza

Terraza Atalaya at Eurostars Torre Seville

Terraza Atalaya torres Sevilla
Courtesy of Terraza Atalaya

On top of Seville (and Andalusia)’s tallest building known as La Torre, you get outstanding bird’s-eye views from its panoramic 360-degree bar. The 5* hotel, located at the top of the skyscraper, is across the river and right next door to the Caixa Forum cultural museum, making for a great post museum drink, a long stroll before, or a quick cab ride over for a nightcap. See the city spread out before you with a negroni in hand. Of all the best rooftop bars in Seville, this is definitely the highest!

  • Hours: Sun. to Thurs. 11am-7pm; Sat. and Sun. 11am-1am.
  • Address: Calle Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada 2

ROOF at Casa Romana

Rooftop bar ROOF at Casa Romana
Courtesy of ROOF at Casa Romana

Depending on the season, you can enjoy lunch and dinner up at this newly renovated 4* boutique hotel's bar, ROOF. At night, the multi-level space turns into a relaxed rooftop cocktail lounge with impressive views of the brightly lit Metropol Parasol (the largest wooden structure in the world, also called Las Setas) and the surrounding areas. Enjoy fun and refreshing gin and tonic renditions, or a nice selection of wines while listening to the resident DJ's relaxing beats.

  • Hours: varies seasonally 
  • Address: Calle Trajano 15

Terraza Kivir at Hotel Kivir  

Kivir Terrace
Courtesy of Kivir Terrace

Built right along the Guadalquivir River, Hotel Kivir's rooftop terrace is open all year round and offers spectacular views of the iron bridges (which are light up at night) and the Triana neighborhood. The elegant bar even has a few miniature olive trees planted around it, offering a fresh accompaniment to an ice cold beer or martini. If you happen to be staying at Kivir, you'll also have the privilege of enjoying the views with your breakfast spread.

  • Hours: varies seasonally
  • Address: Paseo de Cristóbal Colón 3

Rooftop at Casa de Indias

Casa de Indias rooftop
Courtesy of Casa de Indias

Right next to the brightly lit Metropol Parasol, this rooftop bar set on top of Casa de Indias Hotel is perfect for a late night drink. Cocktails are light and refreshing, and looking over the Plaza de Encarnación makes you feel like you're still a part of the hustle and bustle of the city, but with even more comfortable views from above.

  • Hours: 3pm-close 
  • Address: Plaza de Encarnación 5

Looking for more cocktail-laden views of one of the most charming cities in Spain? Reach out to us and we'll make sure you find the best hotel rooftop bars in Seville.

Ronda bridge

Day Trip to Ronda: Must-See Sights & Stays

When our clients stay in Seville for more than a few days, we always recommend an easy day trip to explore some of the rural areas and white towns of Andalusia. And a day trip to Ronda is one of our absolute favorites. Why? Ronda is both quaint and magnificent. It has simple pleasures and jaw-dropping views. It's in the middle of the countryside and yet you you have access to everything you could possibly need: rich history, great wineries, phenomenal food, plush hotels, and more.

Ronda is great for families too and there are activities for everyone (as you'll see in the photos below!). It's also somehow lovely in every season and less than a two-hour drive from Seville, meaning in no time at all you can be hiking green trails and getting a taste of small-town Spanish life. In other words, a day trip to Ronda is a serious must. Here's how to make the most of it.

Where to Sleep in Ronda

pool fuente de la higuera

fuente de la higuera bath tub

Bedroom fuente de la higuera

There is truly no better spot in Ronda than Hotel Fuente de la Higuera. It's technically just outside the main town, but the remote feeling of countryside life is part of the draw. The small boutique property overlooks a valley of olive groves and has perfectly designed rooms, many of which include a luxurious bathtub with a view. The food is perfect, and though there's so much to explore in town, it's often so hard to leave this idyllic little enclave!

What to See & Do in Ronda

Walk the bridge

Ronda bridge

Ronda's most famous emblem is the Puente Nuevo (the new bridge) that stretches from one side of the city to the next and sits atop of bracingly steep gorge. Despite the name, the bridge was complete in the late 1700s, and offers up some of the most phenomenal views and photo ops everywhere you turn. There is an official viewpoint area on one side of the city, as well as various viewpoints above and below, which are absolute musts on your day trop to Ronda.

Hike the trails

Hike in Ronda

Below the bridge and down the gorge, Ronda opens up into a plethora of fields, forests, and lush trails. Take the steps down from the bridge and go on a morning hike around the area. Another option is a venture to La Casa del Rey Moro, where you can wander down the many steps into a secret water mine in the middle of the Tajo River. Michelle Obama even toured this spot when she was in Ronda!

Visit a local winery

Along with olives, grapes are one of the primary crops in the area, so you'd be remiss to not give the local juice a try. Bodega Descalzos Viejos, just a quick 10-minute drive from Hotel Fuente de la Higuera, is the perfect spot. The winery is tucked into the hills and housed in an ancient convent. Luckily, their wines are just as stunning as the surroundings.

Where to Eat in Ronda

Casa Maria Ronda

As in most parts of Andalusia, good meals abound. And Ronda is no exception. For a really excellent meal on the traditional side, we love Casa María. Just make sure you come hungry, cause this family-owned kitchen knows how to fill your stomach! For slightly more upscale and innovative, Tragatá continues to wow us with their creative takes on classic tapas. Do not miss their famous ensaladilla, a style of potato salad popular in the area.

fuente de la higuera dish

For an even more stunning meal, check out the Michelin-star experience at Bardal, the upscale sister restaurant of Tragatá. And if you feel like staying in for the night, the kitchen at Fuente de la Higuera, also turns out especially fresh and elegant food you can't miss on your stay.

Already planning your trip to Seville? Add Ronda to your wishlist and we'll be sure you see and experience each of these musts and more. Reach out to us at Spain Savvy and we'll make it happen.