Elegant Madrid kick-starts your exciting journey across Spain, Morocco and Portugal. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel and relax. If you'd prefer to skip the siesta, take to the city's golden streets for a glimpse of what this football-crazed metropolis has in store. The real fun begins this evening when you meet your Travel Director and fellow travel compañeros, followed by some time to curb your craving for tapas and get to grips with why the Madrileños adore their nightlife.
There is plenty to see in the lively Spanish capital, so we get right to it this morning, joining a Local Specialist for a sightseeing tour to view the Cibeles Fountain, the Gran Vía and Paseo de la Castellana. Admire the Royal Palace the spend your afternoon exploring the city further or consider an Optional Experience to the UNESCO-listed city of Segovia. Marvel at the impressive towering arches of the ancient Roman aqueduct and trace the ornate esgrafiado façades that are characteristic of the city's most important buildings before returning to Madrid.
Set your sights firmly on Toledo today, embarking on a scenic journey south through the windswept plateau of La Mancha where the fictional Don Quixote and his trusty companion Sancho Panza once roamed. View the enchanting skyline of the ancient hilltop city known as the "City of Three Cultures" - the influences of Christians, Muslims and Jews are reflected in the city's history, culture and religion. Then, join your Local Specialist who will lead you on a captivating walking tour past the impressive cathedral to an ancient white and golden synagogue. Visit a steel workshop to see first-hand how Toledo's famous steel-craft has evolved over centuries, then continue to the former Moorish stronghold of Granada. What better way to end the day than by choosing to watch an optional fiery Gypsy performance in Old Granada?
Lace up your walking shoes and take to Granada's narrow cobbled streets for an independent exploration of a city whose Arab influences remain in its Moorish architecture, tetería tea houses and even hammams. Delve into its Arab history and culture during an Optional Experience visit to the Albaicín Quarter, the city's oldest neighbourhood and its characteristic cármenes (Moorish houses). On the hilltop overlooking the city is the fortified citadel of the Alhambra - its opulent palaces and gardens the former seat of Granada's Nasrid emirs. Later, continue south to the sun-kissed Andalusian holiday retreat of Malaga, the gateway to Spain's popular Costa del Sol and the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. This evening an Optional Experience could see you visit the hill-top village of Mijas for spectacular coastal views followed by a Mediterranean dinner.
Follow the coast to the edge of the Strait of Gibraltar, which you'll cross this morning bound for Moroccan shores. A short ferry ride brings us to Tangier. There's more to Morocco than mint tea and medinas, and you'll have an opportunity to explore the country's rich and diverse experiences over the coming days. Your Moroccan guide will reveal insights into Morocco's proud culture, heritage and cuisine as you wind your way south. The dramatic Rif Mountains, labyrinthine markets and ornate palaces are just some of the highlights to look forward to during your stay here.
We journey south to the Moroccan capital, Rabat, to view the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and the 19th-century Royal Palace. Our next stop is the city that inspired a Hollywood classic. Our scenic drive through the sophisticated city of Casablanca reveals both Arabic and French influences as we embark on a panoramic drive of the Corniche and enjoy views of the impressive Hassan II Mosque, featuring the world's tallest minaret. The Red City beckons and we leave Casablanca behind, following in the footsteps of traders who would journey to Marrakesh to sell their ceramics, glassware, spices and handmade carpets. Enjoy dinner at your hotel this evening.
Today Marrakesh remains home to some of Morocco's most vibrant souks, enveloped in the city's characteristic red sandstone façades, which you will have an opportunity to explore during your stay. The endless streets of Marrakesh have long enticed curious travellers like you, seeking to uncover its bewitching blend of Arab and Berber influences, so prepare for sensory overload and some hearty haggling. Visit the Bahia Palace during your walking tour with a Local Specialist and see Djemaa el-Fna Square in the Old Quarter with its palm-readers, acrobats and snake charmers. The rest of the day is yours to explore. Don't miss the chance to shop for bargains in the souks and bazaars or perhaps join an Optional Experience visit to a local Berber village.
Departing Marrakesh, we journey north to Fes, the cultural capital of Morocco and home the world's oldest university. The oldest of Morocco's imperial cities, Fes sits at the crossroads of Morocco's most important and influential centres. Relax are your journey and enjoy dinner at your hotel tonight.
Join a Local Specialist for a sightseeing tour through the cultural and spiritual centre of Morocco. There's no out haggling the enterprising vendors of the Fes Medina as you'll experience for yourself during a guided visit through the hidden alleyways and main squares of this ancient marketplace. Visit a carpet weaving cooperative and admire the delicate craftsmanship and stories behind every deliberate knot, images immortalised in silk and wool, and the colours symbolising special occasions. With your afternoon free, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy Fes on your own terms. You could choose an Optional Experience - Arabian dinner in a traditional Riad.
We return to Spain this morning, crossing the Straits of Gibraltar and heading north to Seville, home of the flamenco, the Seville orange and scorching Spanish summers. But it is the 16th-century Cathedral of Seville, the Plaza de España (hidden behind deceptively understated walls) and one of Spain's most beautiful Alcázars that make Seville a true feast for the senses. Spend the evening relaxing in preparation for a day of sightseeing tomorrow which will reveal why the city has been the favourite winter retreat of Spanish royalty for centuries.
Admire the great monuments, handsome pavilions and lush gardens of Seville when you join a Local Specialist for a sightseeing tour of the Plaza de España, Maria Luisa Park and Seville's Old Quarter. View the spectacular Cathedral of Seville, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the site of Christopher Columbus's tomb. Its Giralda bell tower was originally built as a minaret for the Great Mosque of Seville and you'll get to see it in all its glory, before enjoying the rest of the day on your own. When the sun sets over this golden city, with the aroma of jasmine and orange blossom lingering around every turn, consider a foot-tapping Optional Experience at a flamenco show.
Our visit to Spain is short-lived, but it's not farewell forever, as we head west across the Iberian Peninsula to Portugal. Our journey takes us through the rolling golden and green plains of the Alentejo, Portugal's bread-basket. Continuing north, we arrive in the seafaring capital of Lisbon to enjoy an evening on your own to unwind after the day's journey. If you're tempted to take to its cobblestone streets, join your Travel Director for a poignant Optional Experience in the city's Bairro Alto district for a traditional meal accompanied with the melancholic sounds of fado.
Explore the Age of the Discoveries and Portugal's role as a global maritime power many centuries ago when you join a Local Specialist for a sightseeing tour to Belém on the edge of the Tagus River. See the alabaster-white Belém Tower, the Monument to the Discoveries and the iconic Hieronymite before taking the rest of the day to explore on your own. Hop on one of Lisbon's signature trams rolling along the city's cinematic hillsides and you'll quickly discover leafy squares and countless corner tascas (taverns) for a quick coffee and pasteis de nata (custard tartlet) fix. Perhaps choose an Optional Experience where you will visit Portugal's Golden Triangle of Cascais, Estoril and Sintra and see some of the country's most extravagant palaces during your free afternoon. This evening, consider an optional seafood dinner and views of the mighty Tagus for the perfect end to your Lisbon visit.
We travel to Fátima where three young shepherds are said to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1917. You'll rub shoulders with visiting pilgrims who have come to pray and seek divine guidance as you explore the Basilica Chapel and Sanctuary on your own. Leaving this site of celebrated religious miracles behind, you'll continue your journey across the border to Spain and arrive in Salamanca later. Join your Travel Director for a brief orientation of the city, past golden façades and ancient university buildings followed by an evening on your own. Sit back in the city's 18th-century Plaza Mayor and wait for sunset when the square lights up and its Baroque buildings provide a gleaming backdrop for a drink or two.
Your return journey to Madrid includes a scenic drive through the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains. There's time for an optional visit to El Escorial Palace and the Valley of the Fallen. Then you'll have the rest of the day to get your final fix of Madrid, whatever form that may take - retail therapy, artistic flair in the Prado Museum or decompressing in the leafy midst of El Retiro Park. What better way to end your epic adventure through Spain, Morocco and Portugal then with a final dinner with your new friends to toast to shared memories and your next holiday? Salud!
Fill your heart with memories of your epic journey filled with colour, culture and the generous spirit of the locals, as the curtain closes on a mesmerising journey through Spain, Morocco and Portugal. Bid your Travel Director and newfound friends a fond farewell. Find out more about your free airport transfer at costsavertour.com/freetransfers.