Conquest, Reconquista, and the world of the Conquistadors: From Rome and Arabs to the Americas
The kingdom of Spain has had one of the greatest impacts on world history and civilization. 500 years ago the Conquistadors had just conquered the Aztec Empire of Mexico and were about to start their conquest of the Maya kingdoms. Within a decade they would conquer the Inca of Peru and the wealth in gold and silver that they seized would help make 16th century Spain the richest kingdom and most powerful empire on earth. Who were these conquistadors who took on indigenous American empires many times larger than their own kingdom and, in the face of enormous odds, conquered them for “gold, god, and glory” and ended up creating the first empire in history “on which the sun never set”?
The Spanish were not always conquistadors and, eight hundred years before they created their American and world empire in the 16th century, it was they who were the conquered. In 711, Arab and Berber Muslim forces crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and quickly defeated and took over almost the entire kingdom of the Visigoths, a Germanic group that had themselves conquered the Iberian peninsula from the Romans, Byzantines, and other invading Germanic groups. The culture and mindset of the Spanish conquistadors was born over the long period of the Reconquista of the next eight centuries, during which Spain was contested between the Islamic Moors of fabled al-Andalus and the Christians of the north, whose kingdoms of Asturias, Leon, Castile, and Aragon would eventually merge to become the powerful Spanish kingdom and empire of the 16th century.
One cannot understand the Conquistadors without understanding the Reconquista. It is poignant that Christopher Columbus was finally granted official permission and funding from the Spanish crown to sail west across the Atlantic, the voyage on which he would discover the Americas for what would forever after be known as the “Old World”, in January of 1492 in Granada, immediately after that last capital of the Moors on Spanish soil was captured and ending the era of the Reconquista. On this trip we will visit the famed lands of Castile and its many castle-topped hills, lands over which proto-conquistadors contended with Moorish armies over many centuries, and where Don Quixote would chase their ghosts as he tilted at windmills. We will also visit Extremadura, the parched land of western Castile where Cortes and Pizzaro and so many of the other fearsome conquistadors came from. Toledo is located in the very center of Spain and was the capital of the Visigothic kingdom and its archbishop is still the head of the Catholic church in all of Spain. Toledo is a wonderfully preserved medieval city and its major sites include churches, mosques, and synagogues, attesting to the remarkable religious tolerance of the Moorish emirs and caliphs of al-Andalus.
Our trip will take us to the heartland of the fabled al-Andalus, including its capitals Córdoba and Granada. Both are World Heritage Centers and the mosque-cathedral of Córdoba and the Alhambra fortress palace of Granada are two of the most beautiful and stunning works of architecture of the medieval world. We will also visit Seville, the port in southern Spain from which the Spanish ships of discovery and conquest would set sail for the Americas. Here Christopher Columbus is buried in the gigantic cathedral, whose bell tower is actually a soaring Moorish minaret, known as the “Giralda”. Merida is an ancient Roman city in western Spain whose ruins so impressed the Conquistadors that they renamed the Maya capital of Yucatan, famous for its own extensive ruins, in its honor. Our trip will conclude with visits to the wonderfully preserved medieval cities of Salamanca and Avila and a special tour of the castle of Zorita de los Canes, where Dr. Guenter has worked and which perfectly exemplifies the diverse ethnic history of medieval Spain and where the terrifying war dogs the Conquistadors would unleash on the Americas were first bred.
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.