After breakfast, we'll enjoy a sightseeing tour including a visit to the Hassan II Mosque - the second largest mosque in the world, the Marché Central and Ain Diab Esplanade. Made up of white-walled stalls and green clay tiled roofs, the Marché Central or Central Market is smaller in size and therefore less chaotic than the overflowing markets in Fez and elsewhere in Morocco. Vendors here sell a range of products including argan oil, a traditional Moroccan elixir. Following our morning sightseeing, we'll depart Casablanca and make our way to Marrakesh
Special Experience: Experience the atmosphere of Marrakesh's main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. Pass through a wondrous mix of food, music and entertainment, getting a taste of this lively city. We'll experience a real taste of Morocco at tonight's group welcome dinner, complete with dancers and musicians, in a local restaurant (B/D)
One of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco, Marrakesh was founded in the 11th century by the Berber dynasty, Almoravid. It soon became the capital of the Islamic Empire that stretched as far as Spain and Western Africa. During the rule of Yousef Ben Tachfine, Marrakesh was blessed with fine gardens, palaces, mosques and legendary walls and was influenced by the Almoravid conquest of southern Spain. Morocco was colonised by the French in the 20th century and the strong influences from these countries can be felt today. The red royal city of Marrakesh is the real heartbeat of Morocco, set within sight of the snowy peaks of the High Atlas Mountains.
Our entire day is dedicated to sightseeing here. First, we visit the 16th century monument site of the Saadian Tombs which remained sealed until 1917 when they were rediscovered. The tombs are brilliantly decorated with intricate carvings, colourful tiles and Arabic scripts. We'll then continue to the aristocratic Bahia Palace which functions as a Royal residence. We also see the Koutoubia Mosque, considered a masterpiece of Islamic architecture
Special Experience: Take a cooking lesson in a beautiful Moroccan riad, then enjoy the food we've prepared for lunch. (B/L)
After breakfast we'll spend the day discovering the sights of the city. We visit the famous Medina which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed in 1981, where the narrow lanes and colourful traders make for some fantastic photo opportunities. This includes the Karaouine Mosque and the fountains of Carpenter's Square. The Mosque is one of the oldest of its kind in the western Muslim world and does not allow non-Muslims to enter, so the best place to view this magnificent building is from the top of Medersa Attarine (when open).
After our morning sightseeing, we'll enjoy lunch at a private palace inside the Medina. This afternoon we'll also visit the famous operation tannery, processing the hides of sheep and goat in stone vessels filled with a range of colourful dyes. (B/L)
Today we travel to the magical blue city of Chefchaouen in northwest Morocco. From Fez we first head to Meknes, one of the kingdom's Imperial Cities founded in the 11th century. On arrival we'll enjoy a tour of the old city known as the ‘Versailles of Morocco' and visit the old medina, Royal Stables and the Bab el Mansour Gate.
After some free time, we will continue to the Roman ruins of Volubilis. Once a Roman settlement, dating from the 3rd century BC, Volubilis was a central administrative city for this part of Roman Africa, responsible for grain production and exports to Rome.
Special Experience: Spend two nights in the magical town of Chefchaouen, one of the prettiest in Morocco, washed in hundreds of shades of blue. (B)
Located in the eastern part of the Andalusia region with a spectacular backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Granada has long inspired the spirit of romance among its inhabitants and visitors alike. With its rich history and Moorish influences, the city boasts some breathtaking landscapes and steep, narrow streets where one could easily lose themselves amongst the numerous hidden nooks. Our sightseeing today includes a visit to the famous Alhambra Palace, a Moorish citadel and one of Spain's most famous attractions. Alhambra Palace was named because of its reddish coloured walls (it translates to Red Castle in Arabic) and is located strategically on top of a hill with views over the whole city.
A short stroll away from the main Alhambra buildings are the Generalife Gardens, the tranquil 14th century summer gardens of the Kings of Granada - a place where they could escape the official affairs of the palace. We'll also walk through the old part of the city and see the outside of the Royal Chapel, where King Ferdinand and Queen Elizabeth are buried. The remainder of the day is free for you to enjoy at leisure before a group dinner this evening. Special Experience: Taste traditional Spanish Tapas, enjoying a range of delicious bite-sized savoury dishes, richly seasoned with local spices (B/D)
Today we journey to vibrant Seville, the birthplace of tapas, capital of Andalusia and Spain's fourth largest city. Once called ‘Hispalis' by the Romans and ‘Ishbiliya' by the Muslims, Seville's Roman and Muslim past is still evident today. Nowadays Seville is very much a modern city, yet it has retained much of its past. This is most prominent in the Old Town where it feels as though you have stepped back in time to an old Spanish village.
On the way we'll stop in Ronda, one of Andalusia's famous ‘white' villages. Perched above the Tajo del Ronda, a deep, narrow gorge that plunges 150 metres into the valley, the town's location is truly spectacular. Here we'll see the bullring and the gorge, as well as the old town full of shopping and restaurants. Enjoy some free time here to explore before continuing to Seville. Arriving in the late afternoon, we'll take a short orientation tour to get to know the area. (B)
According to legend, Seville was founded by Hercules and has origins linked to the Tartessian civilisation. Famous for its joyous and passionate locals, it is the city of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro. After breakfast we discover some of the highlights on a city tour. We begin at the impressive Plaza de España, characterised by its iconic semi-circular lake, twin towers and benches depicting the 48 provinces of Spain in ceramic tiles.
We then visit the Royal Alcázar, a string of royal palaces built by the Catholic Kings during the 14th century which is today home to the Spanish Royal Family. We'll also see the stunning exterior of the Cathedral of Santa Maria and Giralda Bell Tower - the biggest cathedral in Spain and the site where Christopher Columbus is buried. Our sightseeing for the day concludes after exploring the historical Jewish Quarter of Santa Cruz. This afternoon is at leisure for you to discover the delights of this beautiful city.
Optional Excursion: Flamenco Show, 'El Palacio Andaluz' - Located in the beautiful city of Seville is El Patio Andaluz, a place where passionate Flamenco dancers (known as bailaores or bailaoras) perform group and solo dances. The Flamenco style of dance originated in the Andalusian region and is expressed by the performer with intricate hand, arm and body movements whilst clapping their hands and rhythmically stomping their feet. The dances are usually accompanied by guitars and as the song builds so does the tempo and volume. Enjoy a traditional Flamenco show accompanied with one drink (beer, wine or soft drink) on arrival. 1hr 30mins - from Euro 44pp (no minimum number required) (B)
Lisbon is a cosmopolitan city situated on the banks of the River Tagus, where modern life mixes with historical buildings. Perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon is built on seven hills and is in fact Europe's second oldest capital after Athens. Along our journey to Lisbon, we will stop in historic Evora, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site and one of Portugal's most beautifully preserved medieval towns.
This city is an open-air museum with exquisitely restored buildings and monuments. Evora achieves a great harmony across all the different époques and architectural styles that have marked its prestigious history, dating back some 2,000 years. Gain great perspective on the town as we travel through Giraldo Square, the main focal point and social centre. Within the walled city centre, we'll see the historical quarter, with the Cathedral of Evora, the Roman Temple and Saint Francis Church with its Chapel of Bones. (B/D)
Today we discover the sights of this amazing city. Our tour commences with a panoramic and walking tour of the most historical and traditional points including the Park Edward VII, Liberty Avenue, Restauradores Square, Rossio Square, Belém, Downtown (rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755) and Commerce Square. We'll also visit the Jerónimos Monastery. Built in Manueline style in the 16th century, this monument celebrates the power of King Manuel I and the magnificence of the empire.
Special Experience: Taste the famous Portuguese custard tart at Antiga Confeitaria. No visit to Lisbon would be complete without it!Afterwards we continue to Alfama, one of Lisbon's oldest areas. From here you have the rest of the afternoon to enjoy at leisure (B)
Inhabited by Romans and Arabs, Coimbra was once the capital of Portugal. The city is divided by the Mondego River: the Baixa (lower town) is the main commercial centre and Cidade Alta (upper town) is the older part of the city where the university and many of Coimbra's main attractions are located. As we make our way to Coimbra today, we will stop in the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Sintra, situated on the green slopes of a mountain range. This town was once the residence of the Portuguese royal family during the Middle Ages. Here we will have the opportunity to visit the impressive Sintra Palace.
We then continue to the medieval fortress village of Óbidos, still surrounded by high walls which date back to the 12th century, before continuing to Coimbra. While here, we'll also enjoy a tasting of the renowned local liquor, Ginjinha. Made from ginja berries (a type of sour cherry), in Óbidos you'll find it comes served in a chocolate cup! Arriving in Coimbra, we'll have the evening at leisure to get familiar with the city. (B)
This morning we enjoy a guided tour through the narrow streets of the ancient part of town and see the historic Cathedral, dating back to the 12th century. We'll also visit the historic Coimbra University and its incredibly beautiful library which was established in the early 17th century. After departing Coimbra, we first make our way to Aveiro, a city of colourful houses and numerous canals, known as the ‘Portuguese Venice'.
Here we'll have time to see the graceful gondola-like 'moliceiros' boats and taste the local 'Ovos Moles de Aveiro' sweets (made from egg yolks and sugar, wrapped in a thin crust and moulded into various shapes). After a short orientation tour, take some time to stroll around this unique town before we depart for the coastal city of Porto. (B)
After breakfast we depart Salamanca for Madrid, the capital of the Spanish Empire and once the richest and most powerful city on Earth. Today, its palaces, museums and concerts are up there with the best in the world. We'll visit the town of Ávila on the way, famous as the birthplace of Santa Teresa de Jesus, a great mystic woman of the Catholic Church, Ávila also conserves the most ancient and complete fortified complex in Spain. Its 2,500 metre wall and 90 fortified towers surround the old city, housing a great part of its monumental treasures, including many Romanesque-style churches, Gothic palaces and a cathedral from the 12th century.
After an orientation tour, we'll continue to Segovia, well known for the 16 kilometre long Aqueduct built by the Romans to carry water from the mountains to the city. Whilst in Segovia we'll see the exterior of the Cathedral which stands in the Plaza Mayor - the last Gothic cathedral to be built in Spain. The cathedral is considered ‘the Lady of the Cathedrals' thanks to its elegance. We'll arrive in the vibrant city of Madrid in the early evening. (B)
It's time to explore Madrid today with a guided city tour. Our tour includes driving past the well-known avenues of Gran Via and Castellana, as well as famous squares such as Plaza de España, Atocha, Neptuno, Cibeles, Puerta de Alcalá, and Colon. Next, we walk through Oriente, Mayor and Puerta del Sol. Today we'll also see Oeste and Retiro Parks, Madrid's bullring and the Santiago Bernabeu soccer stadium.
The afternoon is free to enjoy at leisure. You may wish to sit back and relax at a café and be entranced by Madrid's energy as you people-watch, view eclectic architecture along the Gran Via or savour Spanish fare in Puerta Del Sol. If you enjoy art, take some time to visit the Reina Sofia Art Museum, famous for housing Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica', or the Museo del Prado, known for having one of the finest art collections in the world. (B)
This morning we depart for the coastal town of Valencia, one of the most lively and friendly cities in Spain. The city features numerous gardens and a wealth of inspiring architecture, the epitome of which is the Cathedral, making the city a living museum. Along the way we stop in the historic walled city of Cuenca. Built by Moors in a strategically defensive location in the heart of the Caliphate of Cordoba, Cuenca was later conquered by the Castilians in the 12th century when it became a regal town and was blessed with impressive buildings such as Spain's first Gothic cathedral.
Recognised as UNESCO World Heritage-listed, Cuenca's position allows it to tower above the splendid countryside and is famous for its casas colgadas (hanging houses) that are suspended from sheer cliffs over-looking the Huécar River. Enjoy some free time here exploring this impressively well-maintained fortified city before we continue to Valencia. (B)
Today we will enjoy a morning tour of Barcelona where we'll discover famous architect Antoni Gaudí's renowned buildings Casa Batlló and Casa Milà along Passeig de Gracia, one of Barcelona's largest avenues. We then visit the famous Gaudí's unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia (Holy Family Church).
Next, we pass by Barcelona's monumental Bull Ring and the city park La Ciutadella, site of the international expo 1888 with the old triumphal arch of Barcelona. We also see the famous Villa Olimpica neighbourhood and Port Olimpic marina, before continuing to the Montjuic Mountain to take a scenic picture of the city. The afternoon is at leisure to further explore. Why not take some time to visit the popular Las Ramblas Street with its cafés, restaurants and street artists? (B)
Our sightseeing continues this morning. We visit the amazing Park Guell, declared an artistic monument and World Heritage site by UNESCO. We then drive down to the oldest part of the city and see the Gothic Quarter, former Roman village and heart of Medieval Barcelona. We also explore the Cathedral Square and lovely narrow streets lined with beautiful handicraft shops, quaint local restaurants and buildings as old as the 14th century.
Next, we walk to Saint James Square, political heart of the city and end our tour at Catalonia Square. The afternoon is at leisure before tonight's group farewell dinner at a local restaurant. Art lovers might like to visit the Picasso Museum which exhibits works from his ‘Blue' and ‘Pink' periods. Your Tour Director can help with directions. (B/D)
Spanish monuments and majesties
Treasures of Portugal
A Spanish farewell