ES4 SPAIN & MOROCCO TOUR

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'Andalucia & the Imperial Cities'

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Madrid: City tour & Prado; The Alhambra Museum; Arab, Jewish, Christian, Roman, Visigothic legacies; Andalucia: Orange groves, flower-filled patios; 'Imperial cities', Meknes, Fes, Marrakech; Djemma el-Fna night festival, Marrakech; Berber culture, Islamic monuments

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Thu 24 Sep 2015Sun 11 Oct 2015 $4390
Thu 21 Apr 2016Sun 08 May 2016 $4390
Thu 22 Sep 2016Sun 09 Oct 2016 $4390

Optional Single Supplement: $890 (number of singles limited).


Tour Overview


Once we arrive in Madrid, we soon realize why it is considered one of the most fascinating cities in all of Europe. We feel the allure of the city's Royal Palace as we have a chance to walk from the Gala dining room to the throne room. The Prado Museum is the perfect destination for the art enthusiast, who will surely appreciate not only its collection of Spanish paintings, but also its assortment of Italian art, which includes the work of Botticelli. The visible mixture of cultural influence throughout the country is part of its charm. Toledo is an excellent example of Arab, Jewish, Roman and Visigothic background and centuries of eclectic history shines through the comparable beauty of numerous synagogues, mosques and churches. Then we travel to off to Morocco, where we see a new variety of history and natural beauty as we admire the sheer size of Casablanca's Hassan II mosque that is second in size only to Islam's most important site, Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Watching the sunset over the dunes of Merzouga is a sight that will be etched in each of our memories for years to come.

Regions visited: Western Europe and North And West Africa
Countries visited: Spain and Morocco


Testimonials


The local guides were outstanding--especially Mattie in Madrid and Elisa in Granada. In Toledo, I loved going to the knife factory. Fes was my favorite city, and I loved going through the medina. Mattie was funny, knowledgeable, and very interesting. I loved the fact that she told us about some of the politics in Spain with the prince and the demonstrations. Her explanation of the paintings in the Prado was outstanding--even worth repeating! Elisa was also very informative and friendly. Khaled in Fes was also outstanding.

Laura was very knowledgeable as to history and the culture in each of Spain and Morocco. Her language skills...Spanish, Arabic, French certainly made it easier for us to move about and have issues negotiated. I think she set the right tone of friendlyness; to her clients. She made her self available to help solve medical issues as well as ATM issues.

Full Itinerary

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Day 1 Arrive in Madrid
Today we arrive in Madrid and transfer to our hotel.

The capital of Spain, located in the heart of the peninsula and right in the center of the Castillian plain, is a cosmopolitan city, a business center, headquarters for the Public Administration, Government, Spanish Parliament and the home of the Spanish Royal Family.

Overnight in Madrid.

Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Madrid & The Prado
This morning we have a panoramic tour of broader Madrid, terminating at the Prado Museum for a guided tour. Our route to the museum likely takes us past Plaza Espana point and the Cervantes Monument.

Originally opened to the public in 1819, the Prado houses all of the finest works collected by Spanish Royalty as well as Spanish paintings gathered from other sources over the past two centuries. The Prado is one of the most important repositories of art in the world, including a vast collection of Italian paintings. For the purposes of our visit, however, we will concentrate on works by Spanish masters -- Velasquez, Goya, Ribera, El Greco, Zurbaran, to name a few.

After our tour, we'll head off on foot for an informal stroll up Gran Via and into the old quarter of Madrid. You'll then have free time for lunch and an afternoon of independent exploration. Your Tour Leader can help you plan your free time, with recommended shopping, other historical sites and galleries. You may want to visit the nearby Reina Sofia for the important modern art collection, including Picasso's masterpiece, "Guernica." Or visit the Museo Naval, one of the world's most important Navy Museums, to learn about the history of the Spanish Armada.

Overnight in Madrid.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Madrid - Toledo - Madrid
This morning we travel to Toledo, a city with a unique blend of Arab, Jewish, Christian, Roman, and Visigothic elements. Toledo sits on a rocky promontory isolated on three sides by a looping gorge of the Tagus River. The history of several different cultures is contained within this region, represented by the houses, synagogues, churches, and mosques.

Our excursion includes a visit to the Cathedral, as well as the Santa Maria la Blanca Synagogue, which shows the influence of the Granada Moors. It has an ornate ceiling and carved arabesques, not in Arabic, but in Hebrew. The most elaborate Mudejar interior in the city is hidden behind the deceptively humble facade of this former synagogue, built in the 14th century by Samuel Ha-Levi, the Jewish treasurer to Pedro the Cruel. The interlaced frieze of the lofty prayer hall harmoniously fuses Islamic, Gothic and Hebrew geometric motifs below a wonderful coffered ceiling. Adjoining the synagogue is an interesting museum dedicated to Jewish Sephardi culture.

We also see one of Toledo's most outstanding attractions, El Greco's masterpiece "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz" located inside the Church of Santo Tome.

After lunch and some free time in Toledo, we return to Madrid.

Overnight in Madrid.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Madrid - Cordoba
Today we travel by fast train to travel by train to Cordoba (+/- 2 hours), crossing the Despenaperros Mountains and the border pass between Castile and Andalucia.

During our time in Cordoba (a World Heritage City), we will gain a sense of the city's long and varied past and multicultural nature. Our tour* starts at the Roman Bridge and the Calahorra Tower, an Arab defensive tower. We continue to the Cathedral-Mosque, the only Catholic cathedral built in the heart of a mosque. Next we arrive at the Alcazar fortress, built by King Alfonso XI, and containing mosaics and sarcophagi. Finally we will have a stroll in the Jewish Quarter where the synagogue is located.

Overnight in Cordoba.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Cordoba - Granada
Today we depart for Granada by bus.

We'll include a visit to the Granada Archaeological Museum (likely today upon arrival). The museum is located in the Castril Palace from the 16th century. It hosts many artefacts from the many different civilizations that settled in Granada, including the Carthaginians, Phoenicians, the Romans, and the Arabs.

Overnight in Granada.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Granada: The Alhambra
Today we tour Granada, set in the heart of Andalucia with the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains as a backdrop. Conquered by the Moors in AD 711, Granada blossomed into one of Europe's wealthiest and most refined cities. The legacy of Granada's rich history and heritage remain visible throughout the city centre with its cobblestone streets and lovely plazas. In 1992 Granada celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Christian re-conquest by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella.

The focus of our sightseeing today is Granada's main attraction, the Alhambra, a mighty fortress that houses an extraordinarily delicate and beautiful Moorish palace begun in the 13th century. This was the palace of the Nasrid Sultans, rulers of the last Spanish Moorish Kingdom. A fantasy of "lace in stone" surrounded by arabesque gardens and fountains, it affords superb views of the Old Quarter and Sacromonte, a mountain occupied by gypsy cave dwellers. In many ways, the Alhambra represents the Moorish concept of life itself -- something glorious to be ennobled by learning and enlivened by every kind of pleasure.

We also visit the nearby Generalife Gardens as well as the old Moorish quarter of the Albaicin.

Overnight in Granada.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Granada - Pileta Caves - Ronda: Town Tour
We continue our tour (by road) to Ronda, a historic town located on a towering plateau in the mountains of Malaga Province. En route we visit the well-preserved rock paintings at the Pileta Caves (some walking required). The 25,000 year old Neolithic and Paleolithic drawings of black, ochre, and red are mostly just lines or patterns, but there are also horses, goats, cattle, and a rare giant fish, made from a mixture of clay and fat. This is not a well-developed tourist attraction; you must be steady on your feet and prepared for some slow walking.

In Ronda, we will walk around the old town where you will learn the origins of this ancient town where Romans, Arabs, and Christians left their traces. We visit the Mondragon Palace, built in a Mudejar style and finally to the Bullring, the oldest in the country. Ronda is famous for its dramatic escarpments and views, and for the deep El Tajo gorge that carries the rio Guadalevin through its centre. We suggest a walk to the 18th century Puente Nuevo 'new' bridge, which straddles the 100m / 328 ft chasm below, for its unparalleled views out over the Serrania de Ronda mountains.

Overnight in Ronda.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Ronda - Reserva Tauro - Sevilla
Today we travel to Seville via a stop at Reserva Tauro, a 500 acre bull and horse breeding farm. Here we have the opportunity to get close to bulls and gain an understanding of the culture without attending a bull fight.

We then follow (by road) the route known as "the route of the white villages" for the singularity of the scenery. Lunch and time to explore Grazalema, a white hill down nestled in Grazalema National Park. Prior to arrival in Sevilla (Seville), we stop in the little hilltown of Zahara, for a nice walk up to the castle.

Overnight in Sevilla.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 Sevilla: City Tour
Sevilla, the fourth largest city in Spain, is the picture-perfect image of Andalucia, complete with restored Andalusian architecture, orange groves, flower-filled patios, and castanet-rattling Gypsies.

While in Sevilla we visit the largest cathedral in Spain, built in a Gothic style with lovely stained glass windows, choir, and chapels. We visit the Giralda Tower, with its spectacular views of the city. We will also see the Moorish Alcazar Palace, a 14th century palace, the oldest royal residence in Europe and still in use. King Juan Carlos resides here while in Sevilla, as King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella once did. Later we will walk along the Guadalquivir riverbank and view historic monuments like the Maestranza Bullring, the Torre del Oro, and the Monument to the Tolerance by Eduardo Chillida.

Overnight in Sevilla.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Sevilla - Tarifa, Spain - Tangier, Morocco
Today we travel by road to the Spanish port of Tarifa from where we ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Africa and the Moroccan city of Tangier.

Tangier is a fascinating Moroccan city to visit. It has many of the things that travellers love -- a sense of exotic mystery, interesting history, beautiful vistas, unspoiled beaches, and friendly people. Tangier is an interesting mix of north Africa, Spain, Portugal and France. Upon arrival we'll have a tour of this quickly growing and very colourful city.

Overnight in Tangier.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Tangier - Casablanca
Today we travel by road to Casablanca with a stop for lunch en route.

Casablanca is believed to have been a Phoenician settlement and later a Berber town. It was conquered by the Almohads in 1188, and developed by Sutlan Abd el-Moumen as a port. In the 14th century the Portuguese established a settlement here on the site of the village of Anfa, but when it became a pirates' base in 1468, they destroyed it, repeating this act in 1515. The Portuguese reestablished themselves in the late 16th century, renaming the town Casa Blanca, staying until 1755, when an earthquake destroyed the settlement.

Overnight in Casablanca.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 12 Casablanca - Rabat - Fes
This morning we visit the Hassan II Mosque, a glorious structure believed to be only second in size to Islam's most important site, Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The mosque was inaugurated in August 1993, the culmination of five years of intensive labour by over 30,000 workers and craftsmen. Non-Muslims may enter as part of a guided tour.

From Casablanca we travel to Rabat, Morocco's third oldest Imperial City and modern capital. Among the sites in Rabat that we will visit are the the Hassan Tower and the Mohammed V Mausoleum. Leaving Rabat we travel to Fes arriving in time for dinner.

The historic city of Fes lies in the Oued Sebou basin, astride the traditional trade route from the Sahara to the Mediterranean and the path from Algeria and the Islamic heartland beyond. For centuries the dominant axis within Morocco was of Fes and Marrakech, two cities linked by their immense power and rivalry. Fes is still seen as the spiritual and cultural capital and holds an enduring fascination for visitors with one of the largest historic medinas full of monuments reflecting the different periods of Morocco's imperial past.

Overnight in Fes.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 13 Fes - Volubilis - Meknes - Fes
This morning we visit the impressive site of Volubulis, the only Roman site in Morocco. Situated on the ledge of a long plateau, the dramatic site was once one of the Roman Empire's most remote outposts. Our local guide here will take you on tour of the site; we also allow free time for photographs.

We also see the sacred town of Moulay Idriss (photo stop only). Moulay Idriss is a dramatic sight, houses and mosques piled up around two rock outcrops, with the 'zaouia,' or sanctuary, in between.

We continue to Meknes, Morocco's youngest Imperial City. We feature the Bab El Mansour gate dating from 1752, complete with its Corinthian columns. The city was built by a massive army of slaves, both Moroccan and Christian, and the Sultan was in particular famed for his barbaric treatment of these people, supposedly interring them in the walls. The city contained within it all that was necessary for such a large population and military machine, with store houses, stables, armouries, exercise areas, gardens and ponds.

We return to Fes.

Overnight in Fes.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 14 Fes: City Tour
Today we will have a walking tour of Fes El Bali, the extraordinary medieval walled city. Once inside the gates of this great spectacle, you will see an entirely different view of life in Morocco. In contrast to the well-planned Ville Nouvelle, the old city is a labyrinth of alleys and lanes lined with shops, mosques, homes and schools. In 1980 UNESCO designated the medina a World Heritage Site.

Our guide will take us to the medina to view the market shops, or suqs. Everything from food to clothing can be purchased. We will see the famous dying works with the brightly coloured cloth hanging to dry. A visit to the Royal Palace, several mosques, theological schools, and shops where we can see craftsmen tailoring their work will round out the day's tour. Today's walk is an amazing look into the life of the Moroccan city dweller where little has changed over the centuries.

Overnight in Fes.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 15 Fes - Erfoud
We have a morning departure for the Middle Atlas, a region of folded mountains and high, windswept plateaux, vast forests of cork oak and cedar, and lakes and streams full of trout. This is Berber country and sheep and goat-rearing is the main occupation of these resilient, friendly people. We drive via the Berber villages of Imouzzer du Kandar; Ifrane, a fairy-tale town unlike any other in Morocco with white-walled French-style villas with steep red roofs and gables. As the altitude increases, we come to a bare, arid, sandy plateau with another range of mountains in the distance.

We continue to Erfoud, an attractive town -- red and sandy, exuding desert ambiance.

Overnight in Erfoud.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 16 Rissani & Merzouga Dunes
This morning we journey to the historic 8th century caravan town of Rissani to visit the Tafilalt Oasis. The first capital of the Tafilalt and the last stop on the caravan routes south, Rissani has a special place in Moroccan lore. The ruling Alaouite dynasty (from whom Morocco's current ruler, Mohammed VI, is a descendant) launched its bid for power here before triumphing finally in Fes and Marrakech. Today, a quarter of Rissani's population still inhabits a large 17th-century ksar in the center of town.

Later this afternoon we drive by 4WD vehicle to Merzouga to witness sunset over the dunes. We have time to explore the dunes on foot, or by camel! This is a magical landscape, with huge drifting expanses of sand dunes reaching heights of more than 45 metres (148 ft). Their colour shifts from pink to gold to red to white depending on the time of day.

Overnight at Merzouga. Merzouga Inn.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 17 Merzouga - Todra Gorge - Ouarzazate
This morning we depart for the Todra Gorge, one of Morocco's most spectacular sights. It is a vast fault in the plateau separating the High Atlas from the Jbel Sarhro, two sheer cliffs over 300 metres (958 ft) high separated by a narrow corridor only 20 metres (66 ft) wide.

Later we cross the southern slopes of the High Atlas before arriving at the captivating city of Ouarzazate. We stop en route in the heart of the Dades Valley at the oasis of Kelaa Mgouna.

Overnight in Ouarzazate.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 18 Ouarzazate - Casablanca - Depart
Today we fly back to Casablanca and connect with flights that generally leave late in the evening.

NOTE: Land only passengers need to take into account the timing of the flight from Ouarzazate before booking their air from Casa.

BON VOYAGE!!

Meal plan: breakfast

Tour Map

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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Sol Melia Tryp Rex

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Madrid
Country: Spain

The Tryp Rex hotel is located in the Gran Via. Between the Plaza de España and the Plaza Callao, close
... the famous museums and the historical city center of Madrid. Rooms feature bathroom with hair-dryer, individual climate control, satellite TV, safe deposit box, wireless internet connection (WI-FI)throughout the hotel.

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Eurostar Maimonides

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Cordoba
Country: Spain

Its privileged location in the very heart of the Jewish Quarter (in front of the Mosque) and 50 meters from
... Convention Center makes it a tourist reference point in the center of Córdoba. The Hotel has 82 bedrooms with spectacular sights of the old town, all of them completely equipped, provided with Air Conditioner, Central Heating, Amenities, PC and Fax connection, Minibar, Parabolic TV, Telephone, Hair Dryer and Desk.


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Novotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Casablanca
Country: Morocco

Located in the center of Casablanca just a short walk from the Casa Port train station at the heart of
... business district, this 281-room 4-star Novotel offers an unrivalled view of the Hassan II Mosque and the port of Casablanca. Our banquet team knows how to create the ideal setting in one of the 5 meeting rooms, equipped with the latest technology and able to accommodate up to 220 people. The Mohammed V Airport lies 19 miles (30 km) and 30 minutes away from the hotel.
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Hotel Fint

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Ouarzazate
Country: Morocco

Le Fint in Ouarzazate is one of the few international hotels among all the Hotels in Ouarzazate; this hotel is
... for tourists that want exemplary amenities and services.





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Trip Information

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Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner (hotels & local restaurants) daily. All sightseeing, transport and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters. Airport transfers for land & air customers arriving / departing on tour dates.

Exclusions

Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international air taxes (if applicable), excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs and shopping.

Seasonality and Weather

This tour is offered in spring and fall when temperatures are mild. Showers are possible in spring and possible in late fall and winter.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Land transport throughout by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Though we will have some full bus days (especially in Morocco) there are plenty of stops of interest. Train journeys are comfortable (2nd class). YOU MUST BE ABLE TO MANAGE YOUR OWN BAGS ON / OFF TRAINS AND IN TRAIN STATIONS. Roads are in good condition though winding on some stretches. Ferry travel between Spain and Morocco. Numerous walking tours on uneven surfaces.

Accommodation

Well-located, air- conditioned, mid-range hotels (3-4 star) throughout. All hotels have en suite bath, though some may have shower only. Porter service is usually available is Morocco (see 'inclusions'), not so likely in Iberia-you should be independent with your luggage. Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than twins.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader throughout, driver, local step-on guides in various locales.

Group Size

10-21 (plus Tour Leader)

ES4 TRIP DETAILS

DURATION18 days

TOUR STARTMadrid

TOUR ENDCasablanca