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Spain, Morocco and Portugal Print E-mail

Southern Spain and the Kingdom of Morocco are bound together by a chapter of history that lasted for more than 500 years. Within a few decades of the death of the Prophet Mohammed, the cavalry armies of his heirs had galloped along the North African coast, subduing the Berber tribes of Morocco and sweeping through Spain. Here they founded the city of Granada, site of the magnificent Alhambra. On this tour, you can witness their rich legacy on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar. Portugal’s imperial ambitions date back to Prince Henry the Navigator’s 15th century discoveries in West Africa and did not subside until the 1970s. History has also left its mark here in striking contrast with modern features.

In the northwest corner of Africa, just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain, lies the Kingdom of Morocco, one of the most exotic countries in the world and a "must-see" destination for the international traveller. Our unique itinerary shows you the best of Morocco from the northern green belt with cities like Rabat, Casablanca and Fes, to the oases of Marrakech and Ouarzazate, to the rugged Atlas Mountains and the vast expanse of the Sahara Desert.

Day 1 - Depart North America
Depart North America, transatlantic overnight flight. A night flight such as this makes it easier to sleep on the plane and adjust to the new time.

Day 2 - Continue to Madrid the capital of Spain
We change planes and continue to Madrid, the capital of Spain. Here we meet our European tour guide, and the motorcoach driver who are with us until we fly home from Lisbon. Our motorcoach has European styling with climate control, reclining seats, restroom, sink, refrigerator and coffee machine. We stay 2 nights at Gran Hotel Conde Duque, an elegant downtown hotel next to a square with gardens.

Day 3 - Guided tour of Madrid
A guided tour of Madrid includes Puerta del Sol, Plaza Espana with its monument of Cervantes, the Parliament, splendid Calle Alcala, the Royal Palace and the Paseo de Castellana. You might want to visit a cultural highlight this afternoon, the Prado Museum, completed in 1809, which contains priceless treasures of art and sculpture. The afternoon is leisure time.

Day 4 - Drive to the ancient capital of Toledo
We drive to the ancient capital of Toledo which perches on a hilltop surrounded by a loop of the Tagus River. A local expert takes us through the city to the Moorish bridge, El Transito Synagogue, the 13th century Gothic cathedral (with 40 chapels) and the masterpiece paintings of El Greco. During the afternoon, our route passes through Don Quixote’s La Mancha and the wine country of Valdepenas. On arrival in Granada, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, we stay 2 nights at the Hotel Carmen.

Day 5 - Visit Alhambra Citadel
Granada’s main attraction is the renowned Alhambra Citadel, a 13th century Arab palace built by ruler Al Ahamar. It consists of the massive Alcazaba Fortress, the exotic Generalife water gardens and the Royal Palace. This evening, we enjoy a Gypsy Flamenco song and dance show which reflects this multicultural region of Spain.

Day 6 - Morning drive takes us to Spain’s southern coast
A short morning drive takes us to Spain’s southern coast and the famous resort area of Costa Del Sol. As we approach Algeciras Bay, there are terrific views of the Rock of Gibraltar which rises 1400 feet from the ocean. We visit this strategic fortress, in British hands since 1704, and also the colony of Barbary apes. We stay overnight at the town of Gibraltar at The Caleta Hotel.

Day 7 - Leave Europe and visit Africa!
Get ready to leave Europe and visit Africa! We board the ferry for the 2½-hour crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar, docking in the Kingdom of Morocco at Tangiers. After passing customs and immigration, we drive along the North African coast to Rabat, the capital. Overnight at Hotel Golden Tulip Farah.

Day 8 - Sightseeing tour of Rabat
A sightseeing tour of Rabat includes the beautiful gardens and stately monuments of Morocco’s capital, the famous tower of Hassan and the Royal Palace. Continuing west to Casablanca, we visit the spectacular Grand Mosque Hassan II with its 600-foot minaret, United Nations Square, the Arab League Park and Anfa’s residential quarters. Perhaps this modern seaport with a strong French influence will remind you of the 1942 Academy Award winning film Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. After lunch in a popular fish restaurant, we leave the coast, head south to the walled city of Marrakech, and stay 2 nights at the fabulous Hotel Atlas or Hotel Tichka.

Day 9 - Sightseeing tour explores Djemaa del Fna Square and Menara Park
A half-day sightseeing tour explores this oasis in the desert fringed with palm trees. Highlights are the Djemaa del Fna Square with its acrobats, jugglers and snake charmers, and the Menara Park. You can bargain at the souks afterwards and relax by the pool in the afternoon. Tonight we enjoy a Moroccan Evening Dinner show.

Day 10 - Ascend into the Atlas Mountains
We leave the cultivated land and ascend into the Atlas Mountains, past terraced Berber villages, to the 7400-foot Tizi-n-Tichka Pass. Beyond the mountains is the vast expanse of the legendary Sahara Desert. We visit the "Hollywood of Morocco" where famous movies like Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator were filmed. Then we drive along the Draa Valley to the oasis of Ouarzate and stay overnight at the Hotel Ibis Moussafir

Day 11 - Journey through Roses and Dades Valley continuing on to Todra Gorge
First is a journey through the "Roses Valley", named for the intense scent from the cultivation of roses. We continue through the Dades Valley, nicknamed "Valley of the Thousand Kasbahs" for its splendid and noble fortresses. Next is one of Morocco’s most impressive natural sights, the Todra Gorge, 950 feet deep and 33 feet across at its narrowest point. We pass the oasis of Tineghir and stop for 2 nights in Erfoud at the Kasbah Hotel Xaluca.

Day 12 - Travel with 4-wheel drive vehicles to Merzouga at Erg Chebbi
Today is a highlight of our Morocco tour. We leave the hotel long before dawn and travel with 4-wheel drive vehicles to Merzouga at Erg Chebbi, a huge sand dune on the edge of the Sahara Desert. Breakfast is served among the dunes while watching the sun rise over the world’s greatest desert, complete with constantly changing colours and lighting. Back at the hotel, there is leisure time during the hottest part of the day. Later, we visit holy Rissani which, for a thousand years, was the principal trading post for caravans from the Niger River and Timbuktu. A unique experience is a visit to the colourful souks, the desert tribes’ market, where Tuareg, Berber and Blue people trade silver jewellery for vegetables, salt and other goods by slapping each other’s hand.

Day 13 - Traveling via the Ziz Gorges
Traveling via the Ziz Gorges, we cross the Atlas Mountains again with magnificent views of the desert and farmlands. Lunch is in Ifane, a charming ski resort, then we drive through the fertile valley of Saiss to FES. We stay 2 nights at the Hotel Menzeh Zalagh.

Day 14 - visiting the old town of Fes-el Bali
Fes was founded in 807 and is considered the most complete medieval town of the Arabic world. A highlight is visiting the old town of Fes-el Bali, Morocco’s largest medina, consisting of a labyrinth of narrow alleys. We also drive through the Mellah and view the magnificent entrance to the Royal Palace. A traditional Moroccan lunch with mint tea is served in an old residence, then the afternoon is free time to relax by the pool.

Day 15 - Back to Tangiers and bid farewell to Morocco and Africa
We head back to Tangiers and bid farewell to Morocco and Africa. In the afternoon, we board the fast ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain. Overnight at Riu Hotel Chiclana.

Day 16 - Leave the Mediterranean and travel north to Seville
We leave the Mediterranean and travel north to Seville, visiting the great cathedral where Christopher Columbus is buried, the picturesque streets of the Santa del Cruz quarter and the splendid Maria Luisa Park with the Plaza Espana. Our destination is the famous resort of the Algarve where another fabulous hotel awaits, the Riu Atlantico, situated on Isla Canela. We stay 2 nights here.

Day 17 - Day at leisure
This is a whole day at leisure. Choose from relaxing by the pool, strolling the sandy beaches or browsing in boutiques.

Day 18 - Cross the border from Spain into Portugal
We cross the border from Spain into Portugal via the lofty cable-stayed Guadiana bridge, then we follow the enchanting south coast of Portugal to the wind-swept promontory of Sagres. Henry the Navigator, Prince of Portugal, lived here in the 15th century and established his observatory and school for navigators. Nearby is Cabo San Vincente, the southwestern corner of continental Europe, where a dramatic cliff defies the angry Atlantic Ocean. We head north through Setubal, a major port, and take the scenic route over the Serra da Arrabida to savour views of the Troia Peninsula. After crossing the Bridge we arrive in Lisbon, capital of Portugal, and stay 2 nights at the Holiday Inn.

Day 19 - Explore Both the Belem Tower and Jeronimo's Monastery
Our morning sightseeing with a local guide features two jewels: Belem Tower guarding the estuary of Rio Tejo and Jeronimo’s Monastery containing the tomb of Vasco da Gama. The afternoon is leisure time to find some last souvenirs. Our farewell dinner is a chance to reminisce about our adventures for the past 3 weeks and say good bye to our guide and driver.

Day 20 - Return to North America
Transfer to the Lisbon airport for our flight back to North America.


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