First port of call is Portugal’s capital, where an overnight stay allows time for city exploration and visits to the mountaintop town and royal palace of Sintra and the beach resort of Cascais.
Lisbon is a fascinating city, where the attractions start right in front of the wharf. The Alfama old quarter is where you’re likely to catch a late-night fado concert; the Bairro Alto is where you’ll find bars, restaurants and boutiques. A tiny yellow tram runs through it, taking the city’s steep, narrow streets with ease.
Dinner tip: The exceptional Aura Restaurant in Praca de Comercio, the city’s main square. The duck pie is strongly recommended.
Lunch tip: 5 Oceanos, fronting the marina near the bridge across the Tagus. Try the bacalhau – smoked cod with cream.
Snack tip: The only things you’ll get at the Manteigaria bakery are a powerful bica (espresso coffee) and the famed Portuguese custard tart, pasteis de nata.
The largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, Tenerife has eco-farming, excellent game fishing, a fast-growing wine industry, the highest mountain in Spain (snow-capped Teide at 3718 metres) and La Laguna, a World Heritage-listed town just minutes from Santa Cruz.
Lunch tip: Get up into the hills. The Casa Del Vino La Baranda is a brilliant winery/restaurant/museum with views over much of the island. The hacienda-style complex also displays honey and the products of biodiverse farming.
North of the Canaries but part of Portugal, for many travellers these four islands are less frenetic than Tenerife or Lanzarote. The mountains attract hikers and rock climbers, with villages scattered along the valleys and ridges.
The sweet wines of Madeira are making a comeback and are an important part of the islands’ economy. A tangle of ancient aqueducts uses tiny channels drilled into the mountain to get at the groundwater, and there are easy footpaths along all of them.
Lunch tip: The Quinta do Furao restaurant on a cliff near Santana. They serve rabbit stuffed with goat cheese and basil.
This is the last port of call, almost hidden up an inlet in north-west Spain. Do as I did and gain bragging rights with the Santiago de Compostela excursion, or stroll the harbour and old town.
Snack tip: You’ll find any number of bars that will sell you a plate of octopus backed up by a tortilla espagnol.
Celebrity Cruises visit the Canary Islands each October, with 10, 11 and 13-night itineraries from Southampton. Celebrity Silhouette’s 13-night cruise (from $3221pp twinshare including RACV member savings) departs 21 October 2018. Members save 5 per cent on Celebrity Cruises through RACV Cruises & Tours.
VISIT: racv.com.au/cruisesandtours or call 1300 850 884.