Dive into the historic region of Umayyad Caliphate: mysterious Morocco and grandiose Spain await! Explore the maze of old city quarters, admire magnificent palaces of the countries’ royal families and visit treasured mosques like Great Aljama Mosque of Cordoba and Karaouine Mosque, listed among the UNESCO Heritage Sites. From the medieval Berber old town of Fez to the buzzing Western Madrid, enjoy a first-hand experience of Spanish and Moroccan lifestyles! Join this 9-day tour itinerary to experience the top travel destinations in Spain and Morocco!
Morocco and Spain itinerary highlights:
- Historical old cities of Marrakech, Kasbah of the Udaya, Santa Cruz quarter and Cordoba Arab quarter
- Magnificent palaces: famous Alhambra palace, Dar al-Makhzen, Fez Palais Royale and Madrid Royal Palace
- Mosques: Great Aljama Mosque of Cordoba, Karaouine Mosque, Almohad minaret and New Mosque of Granada
- 6 (!) UNESCO protected Heritage sites
- Northern African bazaars and souks for local handicrafts
- Ferry trip from Morocco to Spain
- Try special halal Paella
Spain and Morocco itinerary:
Day 1: Kuala Lumpur – Marrakech
Welcome to Marrakech Morocco! Founded in 1062 and important city of Berber empires, today Marrakech is one of the top spots for tourism and busiest cities in Africa in terms of economic activity. After you drop your luggage and freshen up, dive in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed walled historical city head first! Enter through one of the beautiful gates – Bab Rob or Bab Agnaou – and navigate the streets to the Koutoubia Mosque, the largest mosque in the city, whose minaret is visible from everywhere in Marrakech. It is said that it serves as a “landmark to travellers lost on these flat land at the foot of the Atlas (as it) can be seen more than 30 km”!
The mosque overlooks the very famous Djemaa El Fna square with its surroundings, the bazaars, souks and handicraft quarters, busy from early mornings till late evenings. I’d recommend you to grab your brunch here. You can look for bread with sausages, harira soup or riifa, a local version of a pancake. And be sure to get some fresh orange juice and/or tea! Once you have eaten, explore the endless labyrinths of surrounding souks, the local bazaars, where you can buy almost anything. Don’t forget to bargain! After all the noise and bargaining, find some peace in the Saadian Tombs that weren’t discovered until the beginning of the 20th century.
From here walk on Kasbah street past the Royal palace to the Badi palace ruins that offer an amazing panorama of the city, and next to the Bahia Palace and explore its beautiful and ornate halls, as well as the garden and peaceful courtyards. Dive back to the labyrinth of streets, passing the Dar Si Saïd Museum for Moroccan historic handcrafts, and take a peek into riads, Moroccan houses with an internal courtyard, and continue till the Medersa Ben Youssef, one of the largest madrassas in the North Africa, famous for its art and architecture. Hungry? Head back to Djemaa El Fna square or find a nice cosy restaurant serving authentic tajine.
Day 2: Marrakech – Casablanca
Continue enjoying Marrakech. Founded in 1070-72 by the Almoravids, this magical city remained a political, economic and cultural centre for a long period. Tired of yesterday walking and bargaining? Take a breather at one of many Marrakech hammams, the local bath and beauty centres for a few hours. You’ll definitely feel more refreshed, before grabbing lunch and hopping on the train or bus to Casablanca, the economic capital of Morocco (3 hours).
Check-in and visit Hassan II Mosque, a breathtaking mosque that is able to accommodate more than 100,000 worshipers, and Old Medina. Relax in one of many picturesque cafes and take your time to observe people and local city life.
Day 3: Casablanca – Rabat – Fez
Day 3 is about covering some distance! Start your day early and catch a bus or train to Rabat (1 hour). The capital of Morocco is located on the Atlantic Ocean shore. Start with the main highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city: Hassan Tower, a part of never completed mosque, and the modern Mausoleum of Mohammed V. Snap a pic of the mounted guards around the area! The next stop is Kasbah of the Udaya, the picture-worthy citadel famous for its half white and blue walls and lovely Andalusian gardens.
Walkthrough Rabat’s Medina and then take a tram to the Rabat Royal Palace (Dar al-Makhzen). While you won’t be allowed inside as the official residence of the Morocco Royal family, it’s still worth a trip to admire its exterior. It’s time to say goodbyes to Rabat and transfer to Fez (or Fes), the medieval capital of Morocco and often referred to as its cultural capital, 3.5 hours by bus. If you aren’t too tired by the time you arrive and check-in, walk to the gates of the Royal Palace. It is known for its woodcarvings, ornate brass and tilework.
Day 4: Fez – Tangier
After the breakfast, visit the Medina of Fez. It is one of the best-preserved old city in the Arab world and declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The labyrinth of narrow streets translated into the modern car-free zone so you can really feel and experience what the medieval city was like. If you start at the main gate Bab Boujloud, the Talaa Kbira street will lead you to Karaouine Mosque, founded in 859, that also serves as a university.
According to the guides, “it is the oldest existing, continually operating and the first degree-awarding educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records and is sometimes referred to as the oldest university”. While the latter claim is often questioned, it has been one of the leading Muslim spiritual and educational centres and boasts a long list of famous alumni.
Walkthrough well preserved Attarine Madrasa, named after the spice and perfume market Souk al-Attarine. Also, don’t miss a chance to stroll around Bou Inania Madrasa with its stunning courtyard, carved interior and a minaret, as well as Nejjarine Fountain. For the views of the city, visit the Moulay Idriss Mausoleum, the tomb of Fes founder Idris I, or Merenid Tombs. Have lunch at a local restaurant and take a bus or train to Tangier (4.5 hours).
Day 5: Tangier – Tarifa – Seville
Tangier has a pretty Kasbah and a beach, however, it usually serves a stop for those travelling to/from Spain. After a short morning walk, proceed to the harbour to catch a ferry to cross the Gibraltar Strait and arrive in Tarifa. I’d recommend not to stop here and transfer to Seville (the Islamic Ishbiliya). The current capital of Andalusia, filled with the scent of Azahar (orange blossom) and famous for the flamenco dance.
Check-in and start your Seville city tour visiting the highlights of this charming city, considered by many the most beautiful of Spain. Start your walk with the emblematic Giralda, a former Almohad minaret that was adjoined to the Cathedral of Seville. Climb the stairs for a great view of the Santa Cruz quarter and pay the respects to the final resting place of the remains of Christopher Columbus. When you’re on the go, grab some sweet torrijas or churros, the real deal edition. Then head to the banks of the Guadalquivir River and walk till you reach the Torre del Oro, a 13- century tower that has been converted a maritime museum.
Venture back to the city to walk around Alcázar of Seville, a Moorish royal palace with gardens, fountains, ponds and lovely courtyards and one of the 3 UNESCO protected historical sites in the city. One of the rooms is said to be the place where Christopher Columbus’s journey has started. Then head to another Seville landmarks – the beautiful Plaza de Espana, the site of the 1929 World’s Fair. If you’re interested in learning more about flamenco, join one of the special tours covering the dance’s history and a demonstration show. Some visitors also attend a bullfight at the Plaza de Toros – consult a local tourist information centre for timing or visit its museum otherwise.
For dinner, try some of the must-have Seville traditional Espinacas con garbanzos (chickpeas with spinach) and Spanish favourite Berenjenas fritas (fried eggplants with honey topping). You can also try calamares and Papas a lo pobre (fried potatoes, bell peppers and onion) at the tapeo, the tapas bars.
Day 6: Seville – Cordoba
Try a a delicious tostada topped with tomato and olive oil for breakfast, and pack up for the AVE train ride to Córdoba (around 45mins). The old Umayyad capital boasts the superb historic centre and, of course, the exquisite Great Aljama Mosque of Cordoba. It is the most splendid Islamic monument in the Western world and most recognised for its “forest” of columns and red and white striped arches. Built-in 786, it was later converted into a cathedral nearly 450 years later.
Today treat yourself with a special lunch of Paella de marisco (seafood paella). While originally this dish comes from Valencia, you can get a pretty good knockoff on the streets of Cordoba. After a great meal, visit the Arab quarter of the old medina with its lively shops and Roman remains in the city: Torre de la Calahorra, the Roman Bridge, and the temple at Calle Capitulares. Just get lost in the old part of the city and grab some tapas along the way: Papas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy sauce), tortilla de patatas (potato pancake) and Gazpacho.
Day 7: Cordoba – Granada
Today you will head to one of the most famous attractions in the world. Ready? Well, first you will have to take a train to Granada (2.5 hours), rich in history and cultural attractions. It was an economic centre of Roman Hispania, an important city of the last Muslim Kingdom in Al Andalus, a capital of Emirate of Granada and UNESCO World Heritage Site. So, it’s no wonder visitors choose to spend more than one day.
Start your city exploration at New Mosque of Granada, the first built in Spain by Spanish Muslims, and the famous Saint Nicholas Mirador, a picturesque square offering a great view of the Alhambra Palace. But don’t head there yet! I’d suggest a stop at the 16th century Granada Cathedral and Royal Chapel of Granada that holds the tombs of Catholic Monarchs (King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I) who conquered the city and ended all Islamic rule on the Iberian peninsula.
After a hearty Spanish lunch, visit the wonderful Alhambra, the red fortress and palace built on top of a hill. Actually, it’s the most visited attraction in Spain! Explore the citadel Alcazaba, the three Nasrid Palaces and the magnificent gardens of the Generalife. You can also take a peek at El Bañuelo, 11th-century Arab baths (and remember your hammam visit in Morocco) and wander through numerous plazas, including the famed Plaza Isabel la Catolica with a statue of Columbus signing a contract with Queen Isabel.
Day 8: Granada – Madrid
After breakfast, transfer to Madrid, the capital of Spain (4 hours). On the way, you will cross the natural border called “Despeñaperros” (that means “Where the dogs fall down”) and say goodbye to Andalusia, and pass La Mancha, Don Quixote’s land, a landscape full of vineyards and beautiful windmills. For lunch, I’d recommend stopping by Taberna Mas Al Sur for delicious seafood dishes. I hope you aren’t too full, as a city tour of the highlights of Madrid is next! By the way, did you know that it’s the only western capital founded by Muslims? Now Madrid is an elegant city with wide boulevards and manicured gardens. It’s also voted as one of the liveliest and most charming cities in Europe.
Start your tour at Plaza de Oriente facing the 18th century Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral and Teatro Real. After passing the Sabatini gardens you’ll reach Plaza de España, one of the main squares in Madrid. Next, do some more plaza hopping with stops at Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol and stop for a lunch or a cup of coffee at one of the cafes.
Head north to the upscale shopping street Gran Vía and continue past the Cibeles Fountain and Puerta de Alcalá to reach Buen Retiro Park, which personally I find the best park in the capital. Previously, this park is only accessible only to the royal family. However, nowadays the park is open to the public. Locals and tourists can stroll around the ponds, the rose garden and numerous fountains. P.S. You can rent a boat and row around at a leisurely pace, or stop at the Crystal Palace that hosts art exhibitions.
To experience the vast boulevards of Madrid, return to the Cibeles Fountain and turn right for a stroll on Paseo de Recoletos and Paseo de la Castellana. No visit to Madrid would be complete without a photo stop at Real Madrid Stadium that you can reach within an hour on foot.
Day 9: Madrid – Kuala Lumpur
Lastly, enjoy the last morning in Spain and transfer to the airport, leaving plenty of time – just in case. The end of our Morocco and Spain itinerary and flight back to Malaysia! Join us for the Morroco and Spain tour.
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