Spain & Morocco UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tour

A More than 18 day trip to Morocco & Spain 
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Take a journey into the past, where the medinas whisper of ancient secrets and the old cities impose a creative legacy. Spain and Morocco are where World Heritage Sites arouse all the senses. They aren’t museum pieces but destinations that feel like an exotic time and space. This handcrafted itinerary will visit almost all of Morocco’s sites, before going off trail in Spain to discover those that see few tourists. It will be 17 sites in three weeks with some wonderful experiences in between.

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Places: Casablanca, Rabat, Hassan II Mosque, El Jadida, Marrakech, Djemaa El-Fna, Ait Ben Haddou, Ouarzazate, Merzouga, Sahara Desert, High Atlas, Middle Atlas, Meknes, Volubilis, Fes, Madrid, Plaza Mayor, Aranjuez, Toledo, Avila, Segovia, Leon, San Marcos, Leon Cathedral, Burgos, Burgos Cathedral, San Millan de la Cogolla, Monasteries of Suso and Yuso, Pamplona, Zaragoza, Cathedral of San Salvador, Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo

World Heritage Sites: Rabat (Modern Capital and Historic City), Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida), Medina of Marrakech, Medina of Essaouira, Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, Historic City of Meknes, Archaeological Site of Volubilis, Medina of Fes, Aranjuez Cultural Landscape, Historic City of Toledo, Old Town of Avila with its Extra-Muros Churches, Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct, Burgos Cathedral, San Millan Yuso and Suso Monasteries, Mudejar Architecture of Aragon, Works of Antoni Gaudi, Palau de la Musica Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Rabat – The Old and the New: A Timeless Moroccan Introduction

Rabat will be your introduction to Morocco and this three-week journey. It is perhaps the most unusual of all the World Heritage Sites on your trip since it is not listed for its old quarter, nor a particular building or style. It is the harmony of centuries that makes the quaint Moroccan capital so enchanting, as the old and the new blend seamlessly in their show of architectural unity. This is also a relaxed city that defies its status as capital. You’ll be greeted at the airport in Casablanca and transferred to Rabat, where a local guide takes you on a walking tour of the city. For a soft introduction to the country, there’s nowhere quite as enchanting.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation, tour

Day 2: El Jadida – Hassan II Mosque and a Portuguese Legacy

Drive back through Casablanca this morning and stop at the monumental Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest Islamic buildings ever constructed. Tranquil and euphonic, the mosque is an insightful look into a much-maligned religion. Then, you’ll continue a little further south to El Jadida, the hypnotic old city that the Portuguese called Mazagan. Sand sweeps in along the whitewashed lanes, ruins and remains feel like the 16th century, and there’s a European flair that contrasts what you found in Rabat. The sunsets are exquisite from here and your hotel has the ultimate view.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Days 3 – 4: Marrakech – Surreal Beauty of the Ancient Medina

Then, you’ll travel to Marrakech, where camels still populate the edge of the medina and donkey carts rumble across the cobbles. Scents from the souks arouse your nose, including spices, leather, and the cool fragrant air beneath the domes. With every turn you can initially feel more lost, until you realize that every lane travels somewhere and most lanes pass something exquisite. You’ll discover a mosque, an adorned wooden door, a stall spilling its goods, and the surreal beauty of what hides around corners. You’ll also go on a walking tour of the city, ending on Djemaa El-Fna to listen to the storytellers before you spend a day at your leisure discovering the city.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Marrakech – Day Trip to the Coast and Fortified Essaouira

Out on the coast, the medina is more spacious, protected by cannons and towering walls that repel the waves. Olives provide a new scent and great barrels of them are found in the souk. Artisanal workshops dot the backstreets and there’s the laid-back rhythm that only the coast can create. The whole medina is a World Heritage Site and there’s something extra special about the lanes. Essaouira is also a major world hub for Sufi music and you’ll spend the afternoon with local mystics to learn the basic drumming and chanting of a style that has evolved over many centuries.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Ouarzazate – A Mud-Brick Medieval Town and the Famous Movie Sets

Today, you’ll leave Marrakech and travel deep in the mountains to gaze across at sun-scorched valleys and tiny Berber villages. The journey across the pass is sublime, a visual feast that allows you to compare two opposing climates. To the west will be a sea of green and to the east the land will be brutally dry and ochre-toned. You’re now in the desert and the sandstone castle-village (kasr) of Ait Ben Haddou is a wonderful insight into history. The structure is constructed from mud brick and more than one thousand years old, making it the most evocative of all the Atlas villages. Take tea and lunch on the rooftop of a local house, before you walk across the Gladiator movie arena and spend a relaxed afternoon and evening in Ouarzazate. Although it doesn’t have specific sights, Ouarzazate has an atmosphere that you will adore.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Merzouga – Through the Wilderness to a Night in the Saharan Sand Dunes

The journey to Merzouga isn’t short but it will offer a true immersion in the colors and charms of the Sahara. Dusty landscapes extend beyond the horizon, and it can feel like you’re traveling across a lost frontier. The sand dunes rise and rove more than a hundred feet high, glistening with orange and red hues unique to the desert. From Merzouga, you travel by camel and cross the ridges to an isolated luxury camp sheltered within the dunes. Berber hospitality meets contemporary flair as the desert stars shine above. While it feels like an adventure, the silence of the desert creates a serenity that no other landscape can rival.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Meknes – Across the Atlas Mountains to the Artisanal City

Travel west through the Middle Atlas Mountains today, with the chance to stop at Berber villages and old desert towns on route. While most tourists flock to Fes, nearby Meknes is also a World Heritage Site. It’s quieter and calmer, small enough to get to know yet large enough for you to always be discovering. This is Morocco’s most artisanal city and the dedication to creativity manifests itself through the doors, lanterns, vernacular homes, alleyway art, and roof terraces exquisitely adorned in green tiles and carved wood. It’s Morocco’s most beautiful city, and you’ll spend half the day discovering why it is so unique.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Meknes – Volubilis Day Trip and Relaxing in Meknes

Nearby Volubilis isn’t just a set of fabulous Roman ruins. This is the site where Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were introduced to northwestern Africa. The city is a spiritual heartbeat that remains a pilgrimage site to this day. You can almost hear the stories from the columns and carvings, the secrets whispered from 2000-year-old stone. After a morning in Volubilis, you have a free afternoon in Meknes, which will be a chance to relax on the rooftop and take a walk through the labyrinth. Unlike some Moroccan cities, you won’t be hassled by traders in Meknes as this is the city where the Moroccans go to buy their artisanal goods and there are only a small handful of stalls catered to tourists.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Fes – Another Fabulous Medina to Discover

The medinas of Meknes and Fes are both World Heritage Sites but they couldn’t be more different. Fes is on a monumental scale since the maze can twist and turn for days if you don’t know where to go. While one city is serene the other defines colorful chaos, a concoction of sights and smells and sounds. The energy will compel you and there is far too much to possibly experience. Fes has an effervescence that you have never witnessed, which will be the ultimate highlight of the city. A knowledgeable local guide is essential and you’ll have an experienced insider show you around to ensure you don’t get lost amid the colorful chaos.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 11: Madrid – Relaxed Day in the Spanish Capital

Today, the second part of your journey will begin. You land in Madrid in the early afternoon and the day will be at your leisure, an opportunity to absorb the change of rhythm and get a flavor for the second country on your trip. Your hotel will be located in the heart of the city, within walking distance of the Plaza Mayor and the quaint pedestrianized lanes. Traveling from Fes to Madrid can be quite a change, so there’s no need to rush into anything. Relax, take your time, try out the Spanish cuisine, and spend a quiet evening on an open-air terrace.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, breakfast

Day 12: Madrid – Day Trip to Aranjuez and Toledo

To the south of Madrid, you find World Heritage Sites that narrate Spain’s Golden Age. A royal palace dominates the landscape of Aranjuez, and a single glance will instill an image of regal excess in your memory. When you try to imagine a lavish European palace it looks very similar to Aranjuez, with porticoes lining the façade and interiors that push the boundaries of pomp and grandeur. Nearby Toledo is completely different, even though it dates back to a similar time. While the royals moved to Aranjuez it was the people that built Toledo, a medieval city of twisting spires and cobbled lanes. Spend the whole afternoon here, admiring the mosaics of El Greco and the stories that forever tied religions together.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 13: Segovia – Two Exquisite Cities From the Past

Spain’s World Heritage cities are living monuments, where the glory of history continues to influence the present, and Avila and Segovia are two sublime examples of this. Travel to Avila by train and you’ll enter the city through thick white city walls. An abundance of churches fill the streets, as their Romanesque and early Gothic styles are effortlessly preserved. Avila feels like the 16th century, while nearby Segovia still has the fragrances of a Roman era. After you collect your luggage you continue by train to this fabulous place of Roman grandeur where the roving aqueduct is just one site preserved from a civilization that has long since past.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 14: Leon – World Heritage Often Overlooked by Tourists

Most visitors travel west across Castilla y Leon, to World Heritage cities like Salamanca. This morning, you’ll travel north, going further back in history to cities and structures that receive far fewer tourists, which creates a more authentic experience. In Leon, the city’s cathedral provides a seductive introduction. A legacy of Baroque and neoclassical styles, it contrasts the rest of the historic center, where Gothic churches and a Romanesque pantheon of frescoes point to different eras. Leon crosses all the centuries and on the walking tour, you’ll also find the architecture of Gaudi. Travel here on a private tour and spend the night in a superbly restored monastery.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 15: Burgos – Fabulous Architectural Legacies

The next day, you’ll travel east to stop in Burgos, a city defined by its cathedral. One of the most spectacular cathedrals in Spain, it took more than 300 years to build and is an epic masterpiece of Gothic design that influenced architecture across France and Iberia. There’s a fervent atmosphere in the afternoons when lines of pilgrims arrive to give their blessing to the Virgin Mary, and eyes seem to watch you from the sculpture-filled cloisters. Burgos is also a great city to get a real taste of Spain, and there will be a superb local restaurant to try the food of the plains tonight.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 16: Pamplona – Language, Vineyards and Medieval Flair

Spain is a rural country and the journeys will be sublime, as you weave across empty landscapes, and pass the remains of villages that now appear abandoned. Today’s route takes you across La Rioja, where the vineyards dominate and a mostly unknown heritage is found in two serene monasteries. It was here that the Spanish language originated and the story is inspiring since a remote place in the hills pioneered the second most spoken language on the planet. There will be plenty of time to stop at a vineyard for lunch and wine tasting before you continue across the open valleys to Pamplona, a city that surprises almost every visitor.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 17: Pamplona – Free Day in Pamplona

Pamplona is on the television every year when hundreds of thousands come to participate in San Fermin or the Running of the Bulls festival. It’s an old city protected by castle walls that emanates a sense of local pride and a determination to be unique. It’s full of corners and niche experiences, from coffee with a view to marching bands and the Basque specialty of pintxos, which are similar to tapas. After a few days of fast travel, this day will be free for you to easily explore Pamplona without a map or a guide.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast

Day 18: Zaragoza – Stunning Mudejar Art and a Cathedral to Inspire

The following day, you will take the train to Zaragoza into the rarely visited region of Aragon. Back in the middle ages, Aragon provided refuge to the Moors, who were persecuted across most of Iberia. The Islamic immigrants brought their distinctive style of art and design to this old-world region, covering archways and windows with superb ornamentation. Another of Spain’s vastly underrated cities, Zaragoza holds further architectural legacies, such as a Visigoth memoir that matches those you found in Burgos and Toledo. The Mudejar art of Zaragoza is a World Heritage Site and the cathedral brings a day of exploration to an inspiring conclusion.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 19: Barcelona – The Works of Antoni Gaudi and Lluis Domenech i Montaner

End your vacation in the flamboyant capital of Catalonia and embrace a city that has a little of everything including art, architecture, museums, beaches, restaurants, castles, local style and more than 2000 years of history. The most famous attractions are the UNESCO-recognized masterpieces of the Modernistas. Lluis Domenech i Montaner was the first and his hospital building is unlike anything anywhere in the world. Gaudi was his pupil who forged the art nouveau legacy, found in the superb casas (houses) of Eixample and the cathedral still under construction. After an early train into the city a guide will accompany you to all the mind-boggling works.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 20: Barcelona – Free Day in Barcelona

In a city with a little of everything, your last full day in Spain could travel in many directions. Perhaps you have a drink on one of the terraces and recall the last three weeks. Alternatively, you could spend a day at the beach, take a tapas crawl, visit one of the outstanding art galleries in the city, or sit back and soak up the Catalan style.

What’s Included: accommodation, breakfast

Day 21: Barcelona – Departure

Enjoy a morning at leisure before a private transfer to the airport.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$4,180
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.