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Travel through Morocco and Spain. From the splendidly chaotic medina of Marrakech, through the ancient city of Seville, to the artistic streets of Barcelona, come and explore the great Moorish metropolises of Morocco and Spain. Step back in time as you wander down medieval alleyways and through crumbling Roman ruins. From spectacular sunsets to exotic spice-filled souqs - with a good dose of tapas and flamenco in between - discover age-old cultures and bright, new beginnings on this exotic adventure.
Day 1: Marrakech
Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Marrakech, a feast for the senses. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting today at 6 pm, where you'll meet your fellow travellers and group leader – check with reception to confirm the time. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. After the meeting you have the option to join your leader and the rest of the group for a dinner. Later on why not go on a jaunt to Djemaa el-Fna, the square in the centre of the Medina. Huge crowds converge at night to see singers, drummers, dancers, fortune tellers, jugglers and even old medicine men and dentists come together in what has been called the 'greatest spectacle on earth'.
Day 2: Rabat
A three-hour train journey delivers you to iconic, bustling Casablanca. You’ll have a few hours to explore this French-influenced port city. Take a guided tour of the Hassan II Mosque, built over both land and sea to accommodate 25,000 worshippers. Built in synergy with the environment, it features an area where ocean is visible through the glass floor and a retractable roof that can create an open prayer room. Then, head to Rabat where your evening is free. Maybe take a walk along one of the palm-lined boulevards.
Day 3: Fes
Rabat's history is long and colourful, once host to Roman settlements, pirates and now the Moroccan parliament. It contains numerous fine Arab monuments dating from the 10th- to 15th-century Almohad and Merenid dynasties, and some that are even older. Store your luggage and spend a few hours strolling through the city's old quarter, then walk up to Kasbah des Oudaias and enjoy views over the Atlantic Ocean. Continue on to Fes by train (approximately 3 hours), where you'll spend the rest of the afternoon free to relax or explore this spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco. Vibrant, noisy, fascinating and overwhelming – a visual and pungent feast for the senses – Fes also has a huge, well-preserved medieval old city that’s the mother of all medinas.
Day 4: Fes
Take a guided group walking tour of the old city, known locally as Fes el Bali. Step back into the Middle Ages in the labyrinth of the Medina, which is alive with craftsmen, markets, tanneries and mosques. Pass donkeys piled high with goods (this is one of the largest car-free urban zones in the world) and explore the specialty sections that divide the souk. Look out for the Medersa Bou Inania, one of the city's most beautiful buildings, which has recently been restored and is now open to tourists. Visit the Belghazi Museum, Medresse el Attarine and the splendid Funduk Nejjarine, a beautifully restored 18th century inn. You'll also see the famous tannery, known for the iconic view overlooking its dye pits, and a ceramic factory where you can see potters working in the traditional way. In the evening, perhaps enjoy a delicious dinner of Moroccan specialities like harira (chickpea soup) and chicken-stuffed pastilla with couscous.
Day 5: Moulay Idriss
Transfer by taxi today to take a guided tour of the nearby archaeological site of Volubilis (approximately 1.5 hours). World Heritage-listed Volubilis was once a provincial Roman capital, a distant outpost of the empire, and the remains make an undeniably impressive sight. When it was damaged by an earthquake in the 18th century, much of the marble was taken for construction in nearby Meknes. Upon arrival, take a tour around the ruins with a local guide. Please remember to pack drinking water, hat, sunglasses and sun cream for this tour as it may get hot and you will be exposed to the sun. And, of course, don’t forget to take your camera as the town is filled with fantastic mosaics along the Decumanus Maximus, many of which remain intact. If you’re lucky, you may spot storks nesting on the ruins of this once important Roman settlement. After time spent imagining Volubulis as the bustling city it once was, make the short journey to the sacred pilgrimage village of Moulay Idriss. Explore the delightful medina of this ancient town, and see where the faithful pay homage to Morocco's founding father of Islam at an 8th-century mausoleum. At sunset, see great views over the plains of Volubilis below. Your accommodation for the night is in a guesthouse run by a local family.
Day 6: Tangier
Jump on a private transport and hit the road heading north. Your first stopover is Chefchaouen, picturesque city known for the striking, blue-washed buildings. Spend couple of hours discovering the old town, climb its steep cobbled lanes and grab a snack before boarding your transport again. Your final destination today is Tangier, the place of strategic importance to the Mediterranean and the gateway to Africa. Once a hotspot for artists, secret agents and millionaires, Tangier has been going through something of a renaissance of late thanks to the arrival of a new monarch in Morocco in 1999. Mohammed VI of Morocco and his forward-thinking ideas about commerce and tourism has suddenly woke up the community to the potential of this city. Today, the city's medina and kasbah are well worth exploring, as are the cafes and patisseries around the Place de la France in the Ville Nouvelle. Perhaps visit the American Legation Museum, the former palace of Dar el-Makhzen or the Caves of Hercules. The recently reconstructed beach promenade is lined with great restaurants and trendy clubs, where you can unwind and take in the charms of the city. Perhaps enjoy a fresh seafood dinner by the port this evening. You’ll spend a night in Tangier before leaving Africa behind and hoping over top pain tomorrow morning.
Day 7: Seville
Take a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar and land in Europe at Tarifa (approximately 1 hour). From here travel by bus to the vibrant Spanish city of Seville (approximately 3.5 hours). If the legends are to be believed, Seville was founded by Hercules and its origins are linked with the Tartessian civilisation. To the Romans it was Hispalis, to the Moorsm Isbiliya. After the Christian reconquest, it became thought of as the portal to the 'New World', and is today the capital of Andalucia and the largest city in southern Spain. Known for its important monuments and fascinating history, Seville is universally famous for being a joyous town. Sevillians are well known for their wit and sparkle, and the city itself is striking for its vitality and flamboyance – the city of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro. Seville is also famous for its oranges, tapas and flamenco, all three of which are ingrained in the fabric of the city and its proud people. As the rest of the day is free for you to explore, why not go and experience it all in person. Barrio Santa Cruz, with its multicultural history, is a great place to start. This shaded warren was designed in medieval times to provide refuge from the great Andalusian heat.
Day 8: Seville
Today is a free day to discover Seville. Checking out the world's largest Gothic cathedral is a must. You can also the climb the cathedral's adjoining Moorish tower, known as La Giralda. While you might have to line up, it's well worth it for the views over the city. Visit the magnificent Alcazar, a complex of palaces used by Moorish and Christian rulers through the ages. Wander through the fragrant gardens and examine the Moorish and Mudejar architecture. If you feel like an injection of culture, explore Seville's Museum of Fine Arts or the Archaeological Museum, or head to the Real Maestranza Bullring museum for an insight into the Spanish tradition of bull fighting. As Seville is the tapas capital of Spain, be sure to sample some of the tasty treats on offer in one of the city's many tapas bars. In the evening, catch a local flamenco performance with the group (included). Charged with emotion and drama, this is a real highlight.
Day 9: Granada
Take a train to Granada today (approximately 2.5 hours). Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Granada is packed with Moorish architecture, great tapas bars and natural beauty. Take a walk around the old Arab quarter of the Albaicin, a labyrinth of crooked alleys, fountains, plazas and whitewashed houses, or the 'Alcaiceria' (old silk market area) and observe the craftworks on sale that include ceramics, marquetry and leather goods. If you're feeling energetic, climb the steep streets up to the Mirador de San Nicolas for sunset views over the famous Alhambra. If you have time, perhaps check out the historic Renaissance Catedral and Capilla Real, or get geeky at the city's extensive Science Park. Granada is the kind of city to leave your guidebook behind and trust your intuition. Discovering the narrow streets of Albaicin and the white-walled house garden of Realejo quarter may lead your adventurous spirit to find something that you have long been looking for. In the evening, perhaps head to one of the small flamenco taverns around the city and see how the art form here differs from Seville's version.
Day 10: Granada
The focus of today will be a visit to Granada's impressive Alhambra Palace, set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Discover this 11th-century marvel and its dominating red fortress towers, sumptuous palace decor, multitude of architectural styles and magnificent gardens. An entrance ticket is included in the trip and grants you the visit of Nasrid Palace and the Gardens. The Alhambra was first built by the Moors as a fortress during the Muslim rule of Spain. A walk through the compound's luxurious rooms and gardens gives you an idea of the decadent lifestyle of the Moorish kings. Main parts of Alhambra are: the Alcazaba, the 11th-century Muslim wing which features spectacular views from its towers; the Palacio Nazaries, the centre of the complex; and Generalife, the summer palace of the sultans. This evening perhaps take yourself on a tapa tour of the city, through some of Granada’s lively squares beneath the Palace. Granada does this style of food like no other city in Spain.
Day 11: Madrid
Depart Granada and travel by local bus to Madrid (approximately 5 hours). Enjoy a picnic lunch in Madrid, Spain's central capital, known for its elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks. It’s renowned for its rich repositories of European art, including the Prado Museum’s works by Goya, Velázquez and other Spanish masters. The heart of old Hapsburg Madrid is the portico-lined Plaza Mayor, and nearby is the baroque Royal Palace and Armoury, displaying historic weaponry. As this stylish, cosmopolitan city is also well known for world-class restaurants, shopping and nightlife, enjoy your free afternoon, perhaps visiting some of these wonders. Sports fans, if you're lucky enough for your trip to fall on match day, you can don a white t-shirt and head to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to watch the mighty Real Madrid. You have two days in Madrid to soak it all in. At night, head out to Chueca, Plaza Dos de Mayo or Plaza Santa Ana, where the pulse of the city will lead you from bar to bar on a night out you are sure to remember.
Day 12: Madrid
Spend a day discovering Madrid in your own time. Perhaps while away the hours along the Paseo del Arte, or Art Walk, for an expansive history of Western art. Start with the Museo del Prado, home to one of the world's finest collections of European art from the 12th to 19th centuries. Discover modern Spanish masters, including Picasso and Dali, in the Museo Reina Sofia's 20th century collection. Finish at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which displays eight centuries of European painting. Take a break in the Real Jardin Botanico, a garden wonderland dating from the 18th century. Maybe simply people watch while you enjoy a coffee in one of the atmospheric streets and squares around the famous Plaza Mayor. You could also join an Urban Adventure to get a deeper insight into the city through its food and its markets. Take a tapas adventure and taste your way to the heart of the capital, or discover some of the local neighbourhoods, strolling though the area where the city was founded, through multicultural districts, and visit local food markets to taste local produce and see how the people of Madrid shop. Tonight it’s surely time for the Madrileños staple of tapas and Rioja wine.
Day 13: Barcelona
Today take the train to Barcelona (approximately 2.5 hours). Barcelona's quirky character and fabulous Catalan cuisine mixes seamlessly with a groundbreaking art scene, Gothic architecture, superb dining and a non-stop nightlife, making it a city you won't soon forget. In the afternoon, there are plenty of options to keep you busy. Wander the labyrinthine streets of the old Gothic Quarter and navigate your way through the throngs of tourists along La Rambla, Barcelona's famous tree-lined boulevard. Perhaps pay a visit to the Picasso Museum, the National Art Museum of Catalonia or the Museum of City History to brush up on your local knowledge. Take the funicular to the top of Montjuic or Tibidabo for panoramic views of Barcelona and the harbour. The heart of Catalonia prides itself as a gastronomic centre and so this evening perhaps head out to taste the reputation for yourself. Take a tapas crawl through rustic Catalan dishes in the funky neighbourhood of El Born. Try traditional satisfying bites likes croquettes, fresh anchovy fillets lightly pickled in vinegar with salt and garlic or chargrilled aubergines with peppers and onions.
Day 14: Barcelona
Today you are free to partake in some of the optional activities on offer in Barcelona. In the morning perhaps head to the stalls of Santa Catarina Market, a huge trove of local produce beneath a colourful, undulating roof, and hang out with the locals as they select the best produce that they’ll transform in to big weekend family meals. The city is famous for its architecture, from its impressive gothic main cathedral to the houses, concert halls, palaces and basilicas designed in the unique Catalan Modernista style. The master of this movement was Antonio Gaudi, who's eccentric creations are dotted all over the city. A visit to Gaudi's masterpiece, the modern basilica of La Sagrada Familia, is a must, even if it's just to see the outside. Gaudi worked on this hugely ambitious project for decades until his death, and it remains in constant construction. Perhaps check out the Neo-Gothic mansion of Guell Palace, or the wave-inspired structure of Casa Batlo. For more insight into the artist himself, head to the Gaudi House Museum inside Parc Guell, home to more colourful sculptures, including a long mosaic-covered bench overlooking the city. For something a little different, perhaps have a poke around the Old Santa Creu Hospital. For your final night, perhaps finish the day with a sip of red wine from a porro – a traditional glass pitcher.
Day 15: Barcelona
Today your adventure comes to an end after breakfast. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time, though you must comply with the hotel's internal check-out time.
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