WHET YOUR APPETITE
If asked what Northern Spain evokes in the traveler’s mind, many would conjure up Gehry’s glittering Guggenheim, San Sebastian’s cult of culinary superstars and Santiago de Compostela’s legendary pilgrimage road. Additional compelling facets of this northern Iberian jewel reveal themselves upon further reflection, from half a dozen UNESCO World Heritage sites to a similar number of protected Domination of Origin wines & cheeses.
And while world class art & architecture, fine wines, Michelin-starred restaurants and a bevy of UNESCO world heritage sites are indeed beguiling features of this remarkable region, it is the fascinating personality beneath the surface which captivates & transforms the traveler fortunate enough to experience it.
It is the fierce independence of the region’s proud people, the unbreakable bonds of sacred social institutions, millennial myths, rituals & traditions and the supreme importance placed on family, friends and food that leave their indelible mark on us. This is the hidden world of Northern Spain we are eager to share with you, our faithful family of fellow Xplorers.
After a morning foraging together in the local market, share history and a home-hosted meal with a former Basque engineer who, after learning that his family’s pig-farming roots date back to at least 1575, re-dedicated his life to saving & developing a market for the region’s last remaining heritage breed.
LIFE AT GROUND LEVEL
Engage all five senses during a ritual queimada, a mystical folk-tradition dating to Pagan times & still thriving amongst Galician friends and family of today.
Savor N. Spain’s justly famous, bite-sized pintxos at the side of a prize-winning pintxo chef as he crafts miniature masterpieces for our gustatory delight.
ACCESS & EXPERTISE
Txokos are members-only gastronomic societies and a pillar of Basque social life. It’s the place where Basque men go to cook & socialize. In recent years, women have gained access and are also welcomed (as guests) to partake in the fun. We are grateful to our Basque friends & society members who welcome us in to share an unforgettable afternoon of cooking & camaraderie.
EXTEND YOUR EXPERIENCE
From the tattered, timeless charm of historic Porto, to the dramatically terraced vineyards of the Alto Douro, to the stoic legacy of medieval Guimarães’ — all three UNESCO World Heritage sites — Northern Portugal is a land of colorful contrasts and deep-rooted traditions.
Local friends and special hosts help us uncork the region’s concentrated cultural milieu, from the workshops of Tras Os Montes’ artisan mask-makers, to the Minho’s vibrant weekly crafts markets, to the tasting rooms of some of country’s finest port wine producers.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
At Culture Xplorers, we insist on being not only responsible travelers, but on making a positive impact on the communities with which we come into contact. We work hand-in-hand with local leaders in the destinations we visit to spend time as well as money in their communities, to exchange views and to support the living traditions that make these destinations unique.
As a catalyst to these deep-rooted partnerships in each of our destinations, the non-profit Culture Xplorers Foundation was created in 2007 with the goal of fostering the sustainability of local culture in indigenous communities worldwide.
We constantly look for ways to minimize our carbon footprint before, during and even after our travels. We start in the office by not producing or printing any printed brochures. We have adhered to this leading-edge environmental practice since 2005, sending all our correspondence electronically as PDFʼs, from program itineraries to comprehensive pre-departure materials, to invoices, to our feedback & evaluation forms after the journey ends.
Traveling in extremely small groups (maximum 10 travelers) helps us minimize our ecological footprint in other ways. We stay in locally run, upscale boutique lodging brimming with local character — often in converted historic buildings, rural haciendas & renovated manor homes. This re-purposed lodging not only transmit a deeply authentic sense of place, they eliminate the need for additional tourism infrastructure.
When it comes to food ways and traditions, we emphasize visits with farmers and local producers and during each of our trips we participate in a hands-on culinary workshop focused on locally sourced foods & regional specialties.