- Alongside a National Geographic expert, explore eight UNESCO World Heritage sites including the medieval city of Toledo, Seville’s Gothic cathedral and Alcázar, and the enchanting medina of Fez.
- Encounter an array of architectural marvels, from Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque to the spectacular Alhambra in Granada, and see the masterpieces of world-renowned artists at Madrid’s Museo del Prado.
- Enjoy an insider’s visit to an art restoration studio in Seville, and attend a traditional dinner and Sufi musical performance in Fez.
- Sample local culinary specialties, from savory tapas to spice-scented tagines, and delve into Moroccan cuisine during a hands-on cooking class.
Trace the footsteps of Spanish monarchs, Moorish sultans, and legendary artists on an unforgettable journey in Spain and Morocco. From the grand plazas of Madrid to the lively neighborhoods of Casablanca, encounter an array of architectural masterpieces: Gothic cathedrals and Moorish palaces, ancient medinas and charming whitewashed towns. Delve into the local culture as you visit medieval cities, bustling souks, and private homes. Along the way, explore a wealth of World Heritage sites, and enjoy an authentic performance of Spanish flamenco.
Upon arrival in Madrid, transfer to our historic hotel situated in the heart of the city. After time to settle in, set out on an afternoon tour of Madrid’s elegant squares and leafy boulevards. Visit the grand Plaza de Oriente; see the elegant Royal Palace; and stroll through the 17th-century Plaza Mayor, a baroque square lined with arcades and picturesque cafés. Trace the reign of the Habsburg dynasty in Los Austrias, a neighborhood replete with monuments, churches, and palaces. Later, visit the world-renowned Museo del Prado, which houses works by masters including Velázquez, El Greco, and Goya. This evening, gather for a lively tapas dinner at a local restaurant.
Drive south to Toledo, a medieval city situated on a rocky headland and bordered by the Tagus River. Set out on a tour of this World Heritage city brimming with churches, synagogues, mosques, and plazas. Venture inside the soaring Gothic cathedral to see paintings by Goya and Caravaggio, among others, and visit the Church of Santo Tomé, which houses El Greco’s The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, one of the artist’s most celebrated works. After lunch, enjoy time at leisure to continue your exploration of the city before returning to Madrid.
Take the high-speed train to Córdoba, an alluring Andalusian town with a rich history. As the capital of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) until its fall in 1236, Córdoba was the largest city in Europe, known for its mosques, palaces, and libraries. Venture into the historic center, one of the largest medieval quarters in Europe, and a World Heritage site. Visit the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, or Mezquita, a Catholic cathedral built within a former Moorish mosque. Afterwards, stroll the former Jewish quarter’s maze of winding lanes and traditional whitewashed houses. Savor Córdoba’s culinary specialties during lunch at a local restaurant. Later, transfer to Granada and check in to our hotel.
Moorish architecture in Spain reached its zenith in Granada, and the extraordinary Alhambra is arguably the Moors’ greatest legacy in Europe. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the city, this fortress and palace of the Nasrid sultans is a marvel of intricate stuccowork, elegant archways, and intimate courtyards bursting with blooms. On an in-depth exploration of this breathtaking World Heritage site, visit the Nasrid palaces around the Court of the Lions and walk past the splashing fountains and tranquil pools of the splendid Generalife gardens. This evening, take a stroll through the old Moorish quarter, the Albayzín. Take in magnificent views of the Alhambra as twilight falls and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Drive into the mountains to the walled town of Ronda, one of Spain’s most spectacular villages. Steeped in history, Ronda is set high above a deep gorge that separates the medieval from the “new” post 16th-century part of town. Walk along picturesque alleys edged by whitewashed houses with wrought-iron balconies, and see Spain’s oldest bullring. Explore the town’s impressive architectural heritage, from Moorish and Roman sites to the Church of Santa María la Mayor. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before continuing on to Seville. Time permitting, take a quick detour to Zahara de la Sierra, a charming village set on a rocky mount with a castle at its highest point.
Step out into Seville, one of Spain’s most beautiful cities. Visit the striking Real Alcázar de Sevilla, a Mudéjar palace and World Heritage site. Stroll through the Moorish-style gardens and head to the charming neighborhood of Santa Cruz, the medieval Jewish quarter. Walk down one of the naves of the largest Gothic cathedral in the world—another part of Seville’s World Heritage site—and see the tomb of Christopher Columbus within. This evening, enjoy a private visit to one of Seville’s most beautiful churches at the Hospital de la Caridad. Enjoy an exclusive tour of the church by candlelight and venture into the crypt.
This morning, enjoy a memorable visit to the studio of two of Seville’s most renowned art restorers, who invite us into their 19th-century home. Learn about the techniques used to repair paintings, sculptures, and other art pieces, bringing them back to life. Depending on the day, you might find Dutch Golden Age paintings, rococo mirrors, and ancient Roman pottery among the many valuable objects that are in the process of being restored. After observing the masters at work, try your hand at restoring a piece. This evening, relish a unique opportunity to discover the gypsy world of flamenco with a special flamenco experience, where we will witness this soulful dance in an intimate, authentic setting far from the crowds. Then continue to a local restaurant to sample more of Seville’s culinary delights.
Transfer to the town of Tarifa on the southernmost coast of Spain and board an early afternoon ferry to Tangier—our gateway to Morocco. Upon arrival, have lunch, check in to our hotel, and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Spend the next day exploring vibrant Tangier, known as a crossroads between Europe and Africa. Observe the contrasting architecture, which reflects the many powers that have occupied the city over the centuries, including the Spanish, English, and French. Venture into the old town to explore the winding streets of the medina, Mendoubia Gardens, and the historic synagogue of the Jewish quarter. Continue to Chefchaouene, arriving in the afternoon.
Nestled amid the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouene was founded in 1471 and became a fortress from which Moorish exiles fought off Portuguese invasions of northern Morocco. Visit the remains of the original fortress, or kasbah, still standing today, and meander the streets of the old town, where the buildings are painted striking shades of blue. Later, learn the secrets of Moroccan cuisine during a hands-on cooking class, followed by an all-female Andalusian musical performance that includes an opportunity to meet and interact with the band members. This evening, enjoy a traditional meal at one Chefchaouene’s charming restaurants.
Journey south to Fez, stopping along the way to visit two World Heritage sites: Meknès and Volubilis. In the medieval walled city of Meknès, which served as Morocco’s imperial capital in the 17th century, explore the Jewish quarter, the photogenic Bab Mansour gate, and vestiges of the royal palace. Continue to the Roman ruins at Volubilis, which date back to the third century B.C. Encounter the remnants of ancient arches, baths, and a basilica, and explore a rich history spanning from the Phoenicians to the Berbers. Afterwards, transfer to Fez and check in to our traditional Moroccan guesthouse.
Spend a day exploring the imperial city of Fez. Begin in Fès Jdid—the “new city” that dates back more than 700 years—and stroll its wide, elegant avenues. Then venture into the labyrinthine alleyways of Fès el-bali, the old walled city, which boasts a wealth of historic monuments and architectural delights. Discover the 14th-century Bou Inania Madrasa, an Islamic theological college characterized by its intricately carved stucco walls, arches, and cornices. See the Nejjarine Fountain, covered in splendid mosaics, and the ornate Bab Boujloud gate. Soak up the atmosphere of the bustling souk, where merchants sell everything from colorful spices to leather goods and musical instruments. This evening, visit a traditional Moroccan home for a homemade dinner of local specialties and a private performance of Sufi chanting and whirling dances.
Drive to Casablanca, stopping en route to visit the World Heritage site of Rabat. Explore the city’s highlights, including the walled medina and the 12th-century Hassan Tower. Continue south to Casablanca, where we will visit the magnificent Hassan II Mosque, set on an outcrop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and capped by a soaring minaret—and a removable roof. Celebrate our journey at a farewell dinner this evening. The following morning, transfer to the airport and connect with your flight home.
WHAT TO EXPECT
This trip has an activity rating of light/moderate; travelers should be in good health, comfortable walking or standing for extended periods, and prepared for multiple hours of activity on some days. Excursions may include navigating uneven terrain, climbing stairs without handrails, and walking on paths with some steep ascents/descents. Please note that there are some long travel days.
Throughout the trip, we stay in ideally located, high-end hotels with many amenities.
A National Geographic expert and an expedition leader will accompany this trip, and local guides join us along the way.
PRICES & DATES
Mar 17-30, 2019
Apr 7-20, 2019
Sep 22-Oct 5, 2019
Oct 20-Nov 2, 2019
- Transfers upon arrival and departure
- Accommodation as indicated in the itinerary
- Meals as indicated in the itinerary
- Daily activities and excursions as indicated in the itinerary
- All gratuities
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED
- Airfare to and from destination, as well as internal airfare where applicable
- Trip cancellation insurance or any other travel insurance
- Alcoholic beverages
EXPERTS ON THIS TRIP
A National Geographic expert will accompany each departure to share insights and a rare behind-the-scenes perspective. Listed here are some of the experts that will be joining departures on this trip.
Alexander “Alec” Murphy is senior vice president of the American Geographical Society and a professor of geography at the University of Oregon. He has also served as a member of the Advisory Committee for National Geographic Education. Alec co-authored Human Geography: People, Place, and Culture, a comprehensive look at global phenomena, ranging from India and East Africa to Peru and China. He has traveled and conducted research on five continents. An engaging speaker with a wealth of knowledge on political, cultural, historical, and environmental geography, he will offer his insights into the human and physical forces that shape the places we visit.
David Scott Silverberg is a geographer working on conservation projects spanning six continents. His mix of exploration, research, and digital photo-video storytelling has been popular with National Geographic travelers for many years. A National Geographic grantee and a fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Asia Society, David was the executive science director at Earthwatch Institute, set up and managed Boston University environmental field research programs in British Columbia and eastern Africa, and was a founding White House staff member for AmeriCorps. David has worked in more than 100 countries, manages the Environmental Learning Institute, and teaches at several international universities.