Why a tour of Iberia and Morocco transcends time and culture
Between the markets of Marrakech, the timeless beauty of old Lisbon and the intoxicating sights and sounds of Barcelona, the Iberian Peninsula and nearby Morocco are otherworldly travel destinations. An intersection of many different cultures and heritages, a tour of Spain, Portugal and Morocco is a golden opportunity to explore the majesty of the Old World alongside vibrant flashes of modernity, as well as enjoy the luxury of fantastic weather and beautiful beaches.
From art and architecture to fragrant spices and unbelievable food, Iberia and Morocco are magical destinations that overwhelm the senses and tickle the imagination.
Barcelona and Madrid
A cool gust of salty air greets you as you exit the airport and make your way into the heart of Barcelona. Located on Spain's eastern shore, the city has the unmistakable calm of a relaxed beach town, despite being one of Europe's most bustling cities. Fantastic churches and imperial buildings are nestled alongside incredibly modern and artistic architecture, while open air markets and street vendors reinforce the ageless charm of the city.
Barcelona is the center of the Catalonia Province in Spain and the epicenter of a special cultural heritage. At many points in history Catalonia was its own kingdom, and Barcelona carries that legacy with its distinct language - Catalán, a well-defined cuisine and a strong sense of identity that is tied to that history. Though there has been conversation centered around independence, for the time being this gives Barcelona and the surrounding region an easily distinguishable character.
The former home of Picasso and Dali, Barcelona has an undeniably rich history when it comes to art, and the city is dotted with famous landmarks and art museums and galleries. The Sagrada Familia is just one example of a unique and special location within Barcelona. Designed by Antoni Gaudí, this massive cathedral has been under construction for over a century. Unimaginably intricate in its design, it has become one of the most iconic buildings in the world.
When it comes to taking in the immense beauty of the Spain of old, you'll want to hop on the train to Madrid. The capital of the country, and one of the continent's largest cities, Madrid offers a chance to visit places like the Royal Palace, El Retiro - a huge public garden at the center of the city - and many historic squares.
Both Madrid and Barcelona are also great locations for exploring delicious food and drink. Red wine and soft, delicate cheeses are the perfect appetizer for cured meats or a heaping bowl of paella. Traditional small plates and an endless array of flavors give the Spanish culinary landscape a character all its own.
Leaving Spain behind, your next destination will be to Lisbon, the former capital of global exploration. The Portuguese were among the most prolific adventurers in the colonial era. As a result. the city has a proud maritime history and many outside cultural influences.
The city is lined with cobble-stoned streets and classic European cafes, and like its Spanish neighbors to the east, Lisbon is also home to many exquisite palaces, churches and castles. A beautiful waterfront on the eastern shores of the Atlantic, Lisbon is a romantic and striking destination.
At the same time, however, Lisbon is one of the world's best cities when it comes to street art, according to the Huffington Post. There are small, inconspicuous pieces of graffiti, as well as massive murals that take over entire buildings. Although this may stand as a sharp contrast to the old, regal feel to the rest of the city, both Lisbon and Barcelona have found ways to integrate a thriving street art culture in a way that is neither ostensibly bold nor timid. These works give the modern generation a voice and instrument for affecting today's culture without sacrificing or polluting the majesty of past work.
The final leg of your journey is just a short flight away. Unlike Casablanca or Gibraltar, Marrakech is one of Morocco's oldest cities and best kept secrets. It offers visitors an opportunity to see where Mediterranean lifestyle meshes with Arab culture. The Koutoubia Mosque, which was built in the 12th century, speaks to just how deep-seated this heritage is. Other locations, like the El-Bahia Palace and the Saadian Tombs display unbelievable artistic and architectural beauty in an era long forgotten. Like the other cities that you will visit on this trip, Marrakech has fantastic architecture and public places to see.
Marrakech also offers scenery found nowhere else in the world. The snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains overlook the entire city, a strange juxtaposition to the region's arid climate. By traveling up these hills, however, you can really appreciate how diverse an area Marrakech occupies. Traditional villages and majestic natural beauty will make this an unforgettable journey.