Spain & Portugal Aboard the Sea Cloud: Apr 14—24, 2019
Birds, Nature & Culture
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An enchanting voyage from Lisbon to Valencia combines rich Mediterranean history, culture, and landscapes with opportunities for birding, botany, and other natural history.
Vibrant cities, verdant pastoral landscapes, and alluring coastlines characterize two of Europe’s most romantic and evocative countries: Portugal and Spain.
For this voyage—VENT’s first-ever cruise to the western Mediterranean—we have chartered the peerless Sea Cloud, a four-masted barque widely regarded as the world’s most beautiful sailing vessel, for a trip that combines the lustrous history and architectural wonders of the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, and the Andalusia region of Spain, with emphasis on the region’s natural history highlights, particularly birds and botany.
An exciting itinerary begins in charming Lisbon, from which we’ll cruise a stretch of the Atlantic Ocean before tracing a route along the south coast of the Iberian Peninsula through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea en route to Valencia on the Spanish Riviera. We’ll call at Huelva and Motril, gateway ports to the famous cities of Seville and Granada. Here, we’ll visit an array of important landmarks, some of which are among the most visually appealing in Spain including the Real Alcázar, Royal Chapel of Grenada, and, above all, the monumental Alhambra. Rounding out the cultural offerings will be opportunities to visit charming coastal villages, partake in a wine-tasting excursion, enjoy an authentic Flamenco show in the heart of the country where that style of music and dance originated, and, if the timing is right, view an elaborate Holy Week procession (Semana Santa) in Seville. Meanwhile, those more interested in birding and natural history may join excursions to Doñana and Sierra Nevada national parks. These places, coupled with time at sea, promise a marvelous array of waterbirds and landbirds.
April is a splendid month to travel in Iberia, with spring flowers in bloom, mild temperatures, and birds on the move. Among the species we’ll seek are a range of regional specialties and passage migrants including White-headed Duck, Balearic Shearwater, Greater Flamingo, Spanish Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Purple Heron, Audouin’s Gull, European Bee-Eater, Pallid Swift, Iberian Magpie, Dartford Warbler, “Iberian” Southern Gray Shrike, and many others.
Paramount in the program is the opportunity to travel aboard the Sea Cloud. Ornate in her all-wood construction, resplendent under sail, and owner of a vivid history, this majestic ship sets a standard by which all other ships are measured.
With historical and natural history interpretation throughout the trip, there simply is no better way to experience the charm of Portugal and Spain. Joining VENT leaders Victor Emanuel and Barry Lyon for this special departure are Larry Wolff, the Silver Professor of European History at New York University and Director of the NYU Center for European and Mediterranean Studies; and Peter Zika, a superb field biologist and botanist at the herbarium of the University of Washington.
For those who want to see more of Portugal, a land-based Birds & History tour will be offered as an optional pre-trip on which we’ll travel from Lisbon to the varied interior of the Alentejo region, home to Great and Little bustards, Bonelli’s Eagle, granite hills, rolling plains, and historic towns.
A multi-themed program features one night in Lisbon and eight nights aboard the Sea Cloud; superior accommodations and cuisine; activities include city tours, birding, and cruising; light to moderate physical demands; warm temperatures and dry conditions expected.