Travel through France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco from Paris to Marrakech

Tour France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco on an incredible adventure from Paris to Marrakech. Travel from romantic Paris, over the sun-soaked Iberian Peninsula and into the mesmerising markets of Marrakech. Cycle through wildflowers in the Loire Valley in France, experience the electric atmosphere of Spain and breeze through Portugal for red wine and piri-piri en route to Africa, where the adventure concludes in mysterious Morocco.

Start
Paris, France
Finish
Marrakech, Morocco
Countries
France,
Morocco,
Portugal,
Spain
Themes
Explorer
Code
AMSBC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
413kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Be romanced by Paris, the City of Love. The Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees are unforgettable when lit up at night
  • Enjoy a day of cycling through the Loire Valley, and tour the exquisite 16th-century ornamental gardens of the Chateau Villandry
  • There's nothing like tasting wine from the source. Visit one of the many wineries in Bordeaux to gain insight into the wine-making process
  • Canoe down a calm river in the unspoiled Dordogne region of southwestern France
  • Hike through the forests and slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains. This mighty range separates the Iberian peninsula from the rest of Europe
  • Experience the Basque way of life on the sandy shores of San Sebastian. Indulge at the local pintos bars and throw yourself into northern Spanish nightlife
  • The Art Walk in Madrid is every art lover's dream. In one small stretch you can browse the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, the Reina Sofia and the Prado, one of the world's most celebrated galleries
  • Wander around Salamanca's Plaza Mayor at night, lit up to reveal its intricate architecture
  • Sample the culinary delights and contrasts of Spain, Portugal and Morocco - three countries that are celebrated around the world for their cuisine
  • The Algarve in Portugal is the perfect middle point of the trip. Soak up the sun on the coast's gorgeous beaches, walk across rocky cliff tops, explore remote coves and enjoy a sunset over the Atlantic Ocean
  • Relive a glorious medieval past in Fes city. While many tourists get lost in the labyrinthine streets of the medina, you'll have a local guide to show you the way
  • Where else would you find drummers, dancers, snake charmers, fortune tellers, jugglers and old medicine men in one place? Marrakech is the perfect place to share a final group meal and stock up on treasures in the city's colourful souqs

Itinerary

Bonjour! Welcome to Paris. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting which is usually around 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you have all these to provide to your leader. If you arrive early, get out and explore this 'City of Light'. Perhaps go for a wander around the Champs-Elysees, the student-filled Latin Quarter and the bohemian Montmartre. This will give you a good feel for the city. Arriving earlier to see Paris' iconic sights is highly recommended.

Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend the meeting. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Say au revoir to Paris this morning and travel by train to Tours (approximately 3 hours). On arrival, the day is yours to spend as you please. This city is based on the lower reaches of the River Loire. Being a crucial frontier between northern and southern France, it held many feudal strongholds, country seats and even some of the posh playhouses of many of the French nobles. You'll soon see why the city of Tours is acclaimed as a town of art and history. Explore the narrow streets, the outdoor cafes and bars in the main square, and the Rue Colbert and Rue Grand Marche, lined with half-timbered houses. This is also a great place for a tipple, as the city is well known for its wines.
There are many ways to discover the beauty of Loire Valley, but cycling is perhaps best for exploring this rolling countryside and its historic chateaux. Enjoy a day's cycling and tour the Chateau Villandry, which has a beautiful ornamental garden dating back to the 16th century. This is where French and English kings used to discuss peace. It was brought to today's shape by Joachim Carvallo in the 20th century. You'll see just by looking at it what an enormous amount of money and time it took. It's known to many as one of the most beautiful set of gardens in the world. In the late afternoon or early evening, the rest of your day is then free.

Notes: The cycling trip is a mostly flat 35 kilometres, but you will need appropriate footwear (no flip-flops) to cycle in. Bring a day pack for your essentials such as water, sunglasses, sun cream and a camera.
Journey south by train to the small medieval town of Sarlat, located in the Dordogne region (approximately 6 hours). This is a great area to enjoy a more relaxed pace of life, known for its rich cuisine and prehistoric history. Time seems to have stood still in Sarat-la-Caneda itself, with a slow winding river and a town so impeccably preserved that it still resembles its 14th-century state. On arrival, check into your hotel and use your free time getting to know the town. Simply enjoy the atmosphere of Sarlat by sitting in one of the roadside cafes and watching locals going about their everyday tasks.
Today's a fun, active day. Head out on the Dordogne River, where you'll paddle a canoe down the river for around 15 kilometres. This is a picturesque setting, and you'll be able to take in sights such as the gorgeous Chateau de Beynac. It sits atop a limestone cliff, dominating the townscape and north bank of the Dordogne River. Another option for later in the day is to hire a bike, which is the ideal way to get around in this pretty region. Check with your leader for timings, though, as often it may be difficult to fit both canoeing and cycling on the same day. The evening is yours to spend as you please.
Travel by train to the capital of the Gascony region, Bordeaux (approximately 3 hours). On arrival, drop your luggage off at the hotel and start to get a feel for the place. Famed for its wine, this region has some fascinating history, and most of the architecture visible today in Bordeaux dates from the 18th century (which is considered its golden age). Perhaps scale the Gothic bell tower of the Tour Pey-Berland for great views of the city. Visit famous Cathédrale St-André, as well as its many fine and contemporary art museums and 18th- and 19th-century mansions. Public gardens line the curving river quays, and grand Place de la Bourse opens to the water, with the Three Graces fountain at its centre. The rest of your day is then free to do as you wish.
Today you will find out for yourself why Bordeaux wines are so popular all over the globe. Venture out on a day tour to a nearby vineyard for a tasting of some of the region's vintages. Perfect your palate as you're taken through some of France's most celebrated grapes. In the evening, enjoy some free time. Perhaps pop out for dinner with the group to spoil your taste buds even more. Bordeaux has a long list of excellent places to dine. Ask your leader for the best recommendation; or, if you’re adventurous, take a chance on one that looks promising.
Travel by train and bus to the French Pyrenees and the spa town of Bagneres de Luchon (approximately 6 hours). The French Pyrenees stretch from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and form a natural 450-kilometre barrier between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. As well as their spectacular natural beauty, they are also famous for their thermal springs; curistes (those seeking a cure) have been coming here for centuries. Luchon is one of the spa towns, and a great base for exploring the surrounding trails. There won't be too much time to explore today, so perhaps take a brief walk around town before you head out for dinner.
Today is another active day. Kick things off nice and early as you take to the hills for a day of hiking in the Pyrenees. Be prepared for some steep ascents through the forest. You'll arrive at a fantastic vantage. If the weather is clear, you'll see some incredible mountainous vistas from up here. These surrounds are well and truly alpine, so try not to forget your camera! The terrain can be quite unpredictable, so remember to bring appropriate footwear. Sturdy trainers or light hiking boots will suffice. Pack your waterproof items, plenty of water, and energy bar or two so you can be in peak condition to enjoy the beautiful hills.
Take a private transfer across the border to Spain and continue to the coastal town of San Sebastian (approximately 5 hours). With its family friendly beaches, innovative gastronomy and vibrant old city, San Sebastian is an ideal place to take it easy. Stroll along the promenade, shop, feast on pintxos (Basque-style tapas) or simply laze on the sand and soak up the sun. If you’re up for a different perspective of La Concha (the most central beach), climb or catch a cable car to Monte Igueldo. The panoramic views form the summit makes one feel like a hawk.
You have a full day to explore San Sebastian today. Perhaps catch the one-hour local bus to Bilbao. If you do decide to head there, the world-famous and architecturally sublime Guggenheim Museum is well worth your time. If you have enough time in the afternoon, the San Telmo Museum displays a good collection of history, art and photography of the Basque country. Otherwise, San Sebastian has still plenty on offer. An interesting thing to see is the well-known Aquarium, which is proud to be the first natural science museum founded in Spain. Since opening in 1928 it has hosted 12 million visitors, and though it has undergone some remodelling over the years its original character and principles has remained true. In the evening, it might be a good idea to enjoy one more night of tapas in San Sebastian.
Say goodbye to San Sebastian and head to the remarkable walled town of Segovia. You'll get there by train and bus (approximately 6 hours). There's plenty to do and see in this town, which is located in the heart of mountainous Castile. There's stunning scenery, twisting alleyways and delicious local cuisine, not to mention the world's highest concentration of Romanesque churches. Check out the aqueduct – the largest and best-preserved of its kind. For something different, there are two rivers bordering the medieval walls, and an extensive green belt park with miles of shaded walks. Enjoy your evening relaxing and taking in the atmosphere.
Today you'll take a sightseeing walk of the World Heritage-listed old town, visiting the spectacular fortified castle of Alcazar. As an inspiration to the iconic Walt Disney structure, this is where Queen Isabel met with Columbus before he set sail on the epic journey that led to the discovery of the Americas. Alcazar rises out on a rocky crag above the river and, due to its interesting shape, looks a bit like the bow of a ship. You'll have plenty of time to explore this most distinctive Spanish landmark, so make sure you take comfortable footwear for your walk. Rest of the afternoon is free for you to relax.
Journey by train to Madrid this morning (approximately 1 hour). On arrival, perhaps while away the hours on the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk) for a panoramic perspective of western art history. Perhaps wander through the pristine gardens of Real Jardin Botanico and then delve deeper into the art of the city at Museo Reina Sofia and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Sports fans, if you're lucky enough for your trip to fall on match day, you can don a white t-shirt and head to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to watch the mighty Real Madrid.
With incredible restaurants, art galleries, shopping and nightlife on offer, Madrid is a truly world-class city that exudes confidence and style through every pore.
While away hours on the Paseo del Arte, or Art Walk, for a panoramic perspective of Western art history. Start with the Museo del Prado, one of the world's finest collections of European art from the 12th-19th centuries and an unmissable stop on any art tour. Discover modern Spanish masters, including Picasso and Dali, in the Museo Reina Sofia's 20th century collection. Finish with the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which spans eight centuries of European painting.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting at around 6pm today to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Say farewell to Madrid this morning and head north-west by bus to the historical university town of Salamanca (approximately 3.5 hours). Situated amongst beautiful pastures and rolling green hills on Spain's northern plateau, the rose-hued medieval town of Salamanca is great to explore on foot. Your leader will take you on an orientation walk on arrival, where you can explore the central Plaza Mayor and discover the beautiful Renaissance and baroque architecture of the historic stone buildings that the city is known for. Plaza Mayor is a true centre of local life, perhaps the most perfect city square in Spain. Not only is it architecturally unique, but it also thrives with activity as locals meet and take coffee, tapas or cocktails on the square. The rest of your afternoon and evening is then free. You can admire the intricate detail of the Casa de Las Conchas, or ‘House of the Shells’, see the contrasting Old and New Cathedrals, and climb to the top to get a view across the terracotta-coloured rooftops. Thanks to the large student population the town has a vibrant nightlife, so maybe soak up the buzzing vibe tonight.
Head further west by bus today and cross the border into Portugal to the laidback city of Coimbra (approximately 5 hours). Coimbra will be your base for next two nights. Sitting dignified on the banks of the River Mondego, Coimbra was once the capital of the county, and its royal heritage can be felt in its ancient streets and buildings. On arrival, your leader will escort you on a walk to help you orientate yourself in the maze of alleyways of this riverfront city. Half the fun of Coimbra is wandering and exploring, so use your free time getting to know the city. Coimbra features typical white stone buildings with several excellent examples of colourful azulejos tiling. Some of the historical structures were originally built in the 12th century (like the Cathedral Sé Velha), and you can find some of the Portugal's best examples of Romanesque churches and elegant museums here. The University of Coimbra – the oldest in Portugal – and the famous baroque library, the Biblioteca Joanina, with its 18th-century bell tower, are highlights.
Enjoy a free day of exploration in Coimbra before witnessing a traditional Fado performance in the splendour of a lovely old chapel (held daily in the centre of the old town). Fado songs must follow a particular structure, and though this traditional music can really be about anything, it popularly features mournful tunes with lyrics about the sea or the life of the poor. In Coimbra, male university students would often serenade their sweethearts with this music, with songs here tending to be literary translations or follow themes students can relate to. In your free time, perhaps head out into the countryside in search of ancient Roman ruins, which takes around 30 minutes by bus. The ruins of Conimbriga are rich in well-preserved mosaics and offer a great insight into ancient Roman life. There are several options to return, including a three kilometre walk through the countryside to the unspoiled rural town of Condeixa (optional). If you have time, you can take a short boat tour to take in the view of Coimbra from a different angle.
Today, jump on a train through the countryside of central Portugal to Lisbon (approximately 3.5 hours). As one of Europe's most pleasant and affordable capital cities, Lisbon combines the best elements of Portuguese life, offering fantastic architecture, a multicultural population, delicious seafood and non-stop nightlife. On arrival to the city, head out on an orientation walk of Lisbon, city located on the banks of the Tagus (Tejo) River. Much of Lisbon’s character and charm lies in its beautiful renovated buildings, grand boulevards and impressive castles and churches. On the orientation walk of this truly one of Europe’s great cities, you will visit the medieval citadel in the city centre of Lisbon. Citadel of Sao Jorge Castle dates back to Moorish times and sits on the highest point of the Old Town. Look down on a city swarming with endless angular white houses and buildings with distinct red terracotta rooftops. From the citadel, this makes a contrasting panorama when viewed against the deep blue of the sky and ocean. Your afternoon and evening is then free, so perhaps see quirky pieces in the Folk Art Museum, or head to the grand Naval Museum for an insight into the history of Portuguese navigation. You can roam through the charming narrow streets of local neighbourhoods and see local life play out. A visit to the symbolic Lisbon Cathedral Belem Tower (a wonderful building originally designed as a lighthouse) is recommended, as is the vast, spectacular Monastery of the Jeronimos. Maybe simply sit back in one of many outdoors restaurants and cafes – watching the life go by is definitely one of the best ways to relax in Lisbon. Barrio Alto is the place to head to check out the nightlife.
Today is free for you to explore more of Lisbon, or maybe take a 45 minute train ride out to the mountainous region of Sintra, an absolute jewel of Portugal. This area offers great walking, stunning cliff-top palaces and unique Moorish architecture. The 8th century Castle of the Moors looks down on the old town, and the views from the battlements across the Serra de Sintra mountain range are stunning.
Take a long bus journey of around 5 hours today to the southern coastline of Portugal, the Algarve. Known for its fertile plains, rich with orange and olive groves, fig trees, almonds and maize fields, this region is perfect to explore on foot. Your base is Olhao, the Algarve’s biggest fishing port, with an active waterfront, Moorish buildings and bustling lanes in its old quarters that have a North African feel. Check in to your accommodation on arrival and then use the rest of the evening getting to know the place; you can wander the city centre and get a great view of the town from the church bell tower, perhaps try Olhao’s famous fish restaurants, or stroll along the coastal road Rua 5 de Outubro, the eastern Algarve’s food mile, filled with delicious and authentic local flavours.
This morning, venture out on an included beach excursion with the rest of the group. Sandy beach islands can be reached by the boats that are used by local people on a daily basis to provide goods for those who live away from the coastline. While on the excursion, visit some of the Algarve's lesser-known areas with great walking paths and vast swathes of golden sandy beaches. Head towards the Ria Formosa Nature Reserves, a beautiful landscape of canals, salt pans, lagoons and sand banks, separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a series of barrier islands. One of these is Ilha de Culatra, where you can wander along a series of boardwalks, leading away from the fishermen’s settlements, and cross over dunes and lagoons to beaches that are so long that they disappear into the heat haze of the horizon. Soak up the laid back atmosphere of this place, a deserted expanses of shimmering white sand dunes and the glistening ocean, disturbed only by the occasional cry of a seagull. After a peaceful day of either relaxation or walking, return to Olhao. With a historical old town and ideal location for stunning sunsets, the town offers a more relaxed pace of life. Perhaps use your free time in the evening to try some true Portuguese fare.
Leave Portugal and return to Spain, heading for the hills of Andalucía today, travelling by bus to the traditional and historic town of Jerez de la Frontera (approximately 7 hours). With its ancient Alcazar (Moorish fortress), eclectic cathedral, cobbled alleys, plazas, baroque churches, and huge selection of high quality tapas bars, Jerez is an undiscovered jewel in the heart of Andalucía. The name ‘Jerez’ is derived from Arabic and has now become synonymous with the English word ‘sherry’, the city’s most famous export. Jerez is equally famous for its fine horses, Flamenco music and dance. Once settled into your accommodation, why not head into the Moorish baths to see classic Arabic tiling, or discover the concentration of tapas bars east from Calle Larga to Barrio San Miguel (Ruta de los Tabancos), then catch a flurry of flamenco in the tight confines of a small bar.
Today will be a long day of travel, as you leave Spain behind and head to Morocco. To raise the spirits for that, we will head out on a bodega tour and sample some of the finniest Sherries on offer. Travel by bus to the port town of Algecira (approximately 3 hours). Here you'll enjoy spectacular views of the Rock of Gibraltar, then catch another bus to Tarifa while enjoying the view of hills covered with windmills and possibly the African coastline in the background and finally board a ferry to cross the straits to the city of Tangier (approximately 1.5 hours). After leaving the ferry, jump on a bus for around three hours to a sleepy mountain town peppered with blue-washed buildings and ambient restaurants – Chefchaouen, which is in the centre of a mountainous agricultural region. There may not be much time to explore this rural retreat by the time your arrive today, but you might just have time to look over the architecture of the 15th-century Grand Mosque and the medina, the walled fortress of the Kasbah, and maybe tuck into some popular local goats’ cheese or a tagine tonight, before settling into your hotel and relax before your walking tour tomorrow.
Meet your local guide early in the day to explore the maze of streets in Chefchaouen. The ‘blue city’ is arguably one of the prettiest places in Morocco. Set against a wide valley and nestled between two peaks in the stunning Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen may take you by surprise. Its medina has been lovingly cared for with striking blue and whitewashed houses, red-tiled roofs and artistic doorways, and it's filled with handircrafts, while the main square has shops selling woven goods and small sweets. Much of Chefchaouen was recreated by Andalusian refugees escaping the Reconquistia, so you might feel like you're still in the hills of Spain while exploring its streets. Learn about general life in a small Moroccan community, visit a communal bakery, watch local women do their laundry, and walk up to a former church for a great view over the town that's nestled between two mountain peaks. As a popular shopping destination for handicrafts, carpets, blankets or woolen garments, you may also see the artisans at work. Possibly relax after your walking tour in a traditional Moroccan hammam.
Say farewell to Chefchaouen today and take a public bus for around five hours to the spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco. Arrive in the city of Fes and step back in time at a medieval medina thick with exotic smells, tastes and sounds. Vibrant, noisy, fascinating and overwhelming – a visual and pungent feast for the senses – Fes is the mother of all medinas. Maybe fuel explorations of this imperial city with a glass of mint tea and some sweet Moroccan dates. Your day is free once you arrive, so perhaps get your bearings of the most complete medieval city in the Arab world. The adventurous may want to try a camel burger for dinner at a local restaurant in the medina. In the evening why not head off to enjoy a dinner of Moroccan specialities like harira (chickpea soup) and chicken-stuffed pastilla with couscous. You may also head to the Palais Jamai for a drink. Watching the sunset over the Medina while a dozen melodic prayer calls vie for attention is an experience you'll likely remember for a long time.
Take a guided group walking tour of the old city, known locally as Fes el Bali. Step back into the Middle Ages in the labyrinth of the Medina, which is alive with craftsmen, markets, tanneries and mosques. Pass donkeys piled high with goods (this is one of the largest car-free urban zones in the world) and explore the specialty sections that divide the souk. Medieval Fes was one of the world's great centres of education and culture: both Islamic and Jewish. Its religious institutions and its libraries are legendary. Its mosques are of great renown. Look out for the Medersa Bou Inania, one of the city's most beautiful buildings, which has recently been restored and is now open to tourists. Pass the Belghazi Museum, Medresse el Attarine and the splendid Funduk Nejjarine, a beautifully restored 18th century inn. You'll also see the famous tannery, known for the iconic view overlooking its dye pits, and a ceramics factory where you can see potters working in the traditional way. After the tour, the afternoon is free for you to enjoy as you please.

Notes: Today’s experience will include shopping in carefully selected places. As the receipt of commissions or kickbacks in exchange for recommending particular shops, services or activities is ingrained in the culture of the Moroccan tourism industry, Intrepid has established a centralised system of receiving and distributing payments from these recommended suppliers. For more information, please refer to ‘Important Notes’ section or talk to your Tour leader on the ground.
Travel by train this morning to Marrakech (approximately 8 hours). Be enticed by the alluring scents and brilliant colours of the spice markets, the sounds of the musicians, the rich folds of carpets, delectable foods, acrobats and perfumed gardens. On arrival, head out on an included tour to see the Koutoubia Mosque and its minaret – famous throughout the world as one of the greatest minarets and the 'sister' to the Giralda in Seville. Please note it is not possible for non-Muslims to enter the minaret, and you will only visit its beautiful surroundings. If you have time, explore the ruins of Palais Badi, once one of the most beautiful palaces in the world, or comb the spectacular bazaar, where every step to a new souq brings a new smell, a new sight or a new gift to buy. Perhaps end you adventure with dinner with the group in the unique great square of Djemma el Fna. When night falls, it transforms into a hive of activity. Snake-charmers, henna-painters, performers and storytellers share the square with a street food bazaar, packed with stalls loaded with Moroccan delicacies.
Your Madrid to Marrakech adventure ends this morning. There are no activities planned for the final day and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time. As there's not much time spent in Marrakech, we recommend booking an extra few nights accommodation so you can fully explore this amazing city. Our reservations team will be happy to help (subject to availability).
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
12 breakfasts
Transport
Bicycle, Bus, Ferry, Kayak, Metro, Private vehicle, Public bus, Taxi, Train
Accommodation
Hotel (26 nights), Pension (2 nights)
Included activities
  • Chateaux Villandry & Gardens
  • Cycling tour
  • Canoeing - Sarlat
  • Wine tasting Bordeaux
  • Hiking in the Pyrenees
  • Alcazar Segovia
  • Orientation walk
  • Fado performance
  • Orientation Walk
  • Citadel
  • Algarve beach excursion
  • Bodega tour and sherry tasting
  • Walking tour with local guide
  • Guided walking tour Fes

Dates

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Important notes

A single supplement is available on this trip, please see trip notes for details.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

Our Paris to Marrakech trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 2 reviews in the last year.

Paris to Marrakech , August 2015

Paris to Marrakech , July 2015

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