Although it was early March, winter didn’t want to surrender any time soon as a thin layer of snow was still clinging to the icebound ground in Sligo and temperatures below zero were forecasted overnight.
Dreary woodlands, filled with silence, were casting long and eerie silhouettes, a scene we were more than happy to swap for something more exciting and colourful.
An idea to leave Ireland behind and travel to Morocco followed by a trip to Spain was born shortly before Christmas. And with so many places and countries still unseen, I was delighted we finally choose to visit Northern Africa and planned to make it happen.
Stepping foot for the very first time on Africa’s soil was yet another big dream come true moment for our family. Despite snowstorms and cancelled flights from Ireland to heavy rainstorms, redirected flights and an unexpected 5-hour bus journey through the night in Northern Africa, we finally made it to the windy city where teething Ericeira had a chance to ride a camel on the beach.
Our journey started in UNESCO town Essaouira, then we travelled to Marrakech where the density of colours and sights were so spectacular it was difficult to determine in which direction to point the camera.
Holding hands and listening to the gypsie cries and absorbing the chaos, we realised how privileged we are to have 365 days a year to travel, to learn, to interact and to explore.
A perfect 12 days Morocco and Spain itinerary for you to borrow
This blog post covers one of our best trips where we travelled from Ireland to Morocco and then to Spain.
Your trip to Morocco and Southern Spain will include various UNESCO world heritage sites, incredibly beautiful historical cities, Northern Africa’s traditional markets, incredible castles and palaces and fantastic Spanish Food.
We decided to visit in early spring because summer temperatures can be extreme both in Morocco and Spain.
Our Crossings Tip* – For anyone that plans a similar trip – please carefully consider the time of the year you wish to travel and your suitability for that season.
Cities visited: Essaouira, Marrakech, Seville, Madrid and Segovia
Time of the year: Middle of the March
Trip length: 12 days of sightseeing + travel days
Transportation: plains, trains, buses and lots of walking
Accommodation: Variety of hotels, Airbnb’s and traditional riads
Languages: Spanish, French and Arab
Currency: Euro and Moroccan dirhams
Day 1 – 4 Start your trip by exploring Essaouira, Morocco
Getting through the crazy rainstorm upon our arrival in Essaouira, we scored some blue skies and coming into the Old Medina, we were greeted with the most beautiful colours and sights.
As this was our first day in Morocco, it was spent slowly settling in and strolling around Essaouiras most popular sights like the beachfront and Old Medina. Although you won’t find many must-see sights, it’s a very pretty town and a wonderful introduction to Moroccan culture and traditions.
After indulging in a delicious breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice and baked bread, we set our sights inland and made our way to Essaouiras bus station.
Top things to do in Essaouira:
- Try camel milk cheese | One of the great things for foodies to try out in Marrakesh is camel milk cheese. Visit La Fromagerie, located along the dusty road to Villa Anouk for a very unique culinary experience and a chance to sample freshly made cheeses.
- Walk the city walls | Constructed in the late 18th century, by a French military architect, Theodore Cornut, to defend the town from invasion, the thick walls surrounding the medina of Essaouira are worth the visit to learn more about the history and to admire incredible sea views.
- Explore markets | If you are lucky to visit Essaouira, you can’t miss wandering around its market known as souks, where beautiful patterns and bright colours are on constant display.
- Try Moroccan sweets | Morocco has no shortage of delicious sweets, usually made from dates, cinnamon, figs, oranges and honey, worth trying out. Halwa dyal Makina, chocolate-coated biscuits, make for a great snack on the go and sesame cookies known as chebakia are super sticky and delicious.
Day 4 – 6 Wander around Marrakech, Morocco
Steeped in history and local tradition, Marrakech is an unmissable place for anyone travelling to Northern Africa. While we explored Essaouira without the guide, in Marrakech, we decided to go ahead and hire a local man to guide us through the maze of old Medina and shine a light on its history.
While seeing the city and its snaking alleyways filled with arts, crafts and incredible corners would be just enough to fill us brim with joy, we also desired to learn about how the city was founded, we wanted to marvel at important historic buildings and meet local craftsman.
It still baffles me how only a 3-hour plane ride away from Europe is a place so profoundly charming and characteristically different. Going to Morocco helped us reset our brains, and along the way, we learned more about ourselves.
In Marrakech, after we had a chance to witness the sun rising over the beautiful city, we experienced a different side to it. We wandered outside our riad where the streets were empty, and we watched sellers arrive and set up their stalls for a busy day ahead.
Top things to do in Marrakech:
- Take a cooking class | One of the many wonderful things to do in Marrakesh is to learn to cook local meals from products bought at the local market. Taking part in one of the cooking classes and learning secrets to mastering traditional dishes such as tajines and couscous is one of the best souvenirs you can bring home with you.
- Get lost in the Medina | For a full-on Marrakech and once in a lifetime experience you have to embrace the old towns sheltered labyrinths. Inevitably, sooner or later, you’ll get lost but don’t let it from holding you back as it can result in a positive outcome such as stumbling upon architectural wonders and lovely shops. For the first time visitors, it can be challenging and at times unsettling, to find your way around, but it adds a little touch of adventure to your day.
- See the Koutoubia Mosque | Not only is the Koutoubia Mosque an amazing structure surrounded by lovely gardens but also the largest mosque in Marrakesh. Although it is closed to non-muslims, you can still walk around the perimeter and use it as your guide if you get lost in the Medina.
- Have a hammam | One of the things that can leave a lasting impression in Marrakech is to have a hammam in a Moroccan bathhouse. A traditional bathing and cleansing ritual that will leave anyone feeling fresh and anew. The bathing process usually begins in a dry, heated zone to relax and open pores followed by a steam room and lots of scrubbing.
Day 6-8 See the top sights in Seville, Andalusia
Savouring some of Seville’s best traditional tapas and exploring the Moorish history at the Alcazar Palace – seeing it for the first time is a memory I won’t forget – are just some of the reasons why we decided to fly from Marrakech to Seville.
In the short span of time, we had the privilege to see many amazing places, so upon descending in Andalusia’s capital, we were brimming with joy and gratitude for having life and experiences universally desirable.
Top things to do in Seville
- Museum of flamenco dance | As the home of flamenco, Seville is a great place to experience authentic shows and music and passion-fuelled dancing to feel their spirit. Museum of Flamenco Dance showcases various exhibitions, shows and tailor-made workshops for anyone interested in mastering onstage performance.
- Seville Cathedral | A unmissable UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, Seville Cathedral is on most of the tourists wish list who flock to visit Andalusia’s capital. It took over a century to complete the imposing building
- Real Alcázar | From the incredible Islamic architecture to the blooming gardens, Real Alcazar, is a must-see sight in Seville – it’s impressive and sprawling and a place to be for Game of Throne fans. Give yourself a few hours to wander from room to room and make sure you sit down and take in all the surrounding beauty.
Day 8-10 Be Amazed by Madrid, Spain
From rainy Seville, we took a train to Madrid where we visited Valters best friend. I thought we had escaped the heavy rainstorms once we boarded the train to Madrid only for it to start snowing once we arrived in the city.
Madrid is full of life and gorgeous light, and there are countless little things that can make a trip to the beautiful Spanish city so memorable. Known for its elegant boulevards and beautiful parks, she also offers visitors artistic masterpieces and architectural wonders. David with Head of Goliath by Caravaggio and Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights are just a few of the things anyone should see.
Start your day at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which displays eight centuries of European painting followed by a walk along the Gran Vía to get the sense of the city and finish with a visit to a beautiful renaissance square known as Plaza Mayor.
Top things to do in Madrid:
- Retiro park | One of the must-see places in Madrid is the beautiful Buen Retiro Park – “The Park of the Pleasant Retreat” with the monument of King Alfonso XII overlooking the manmade lake. Located just a few steps east from the Prado art museum, it’s a great place to see the iron and glass pavilion built to house the Philippine Exhibition in 1887 and to go on a boat ride.
- Royal Palace | The largest royal palace in western Europe was built in the mid-1700s for King Philip V and houses the works by Caravaggio, Velázquez and Goya and amazing displays of porcelain, silverware and tapestries.
- Gran Vía | When you visit Madrid, Gran Via – cities premier street with beautifully grandiose buildings and bright advertisement signs- it is impossible to avoid, and you shouldn’t. Besides the display of early 20th-century architectural delights, you’ll find the best shops, including international brands and boutiques as well as an exciting nightlife.
- The Plaza Mayor | One of Madrid’s best-known public places, the Plaza Mayor is a beautiful courtyard with lots of stylish cafes, shops, restaurants and bars, often used for public celebration. Once a chaotic market back in the 16th century, today the plaza is where you’ll find street performers, musicians and artists selling their work.
Day 10 -11 Go on a day trip to Segovia, Spain
One of the main reasons why we wanted to visit Segovia was to see the remarkably preserved Roman aqueduct remaining on the Iberian Peninsula. Reaching almost 94 feet at its highest point it’s also a symbol of Segovia and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The narrow streets filled with cafes, small boutiques and restaurants are a joy to explore, and if you are an avid photographer, you’ll find plenty of subjects to capture from buildings to the Door of San Andres.
Located close to the Guadarrama Mountains, Segovia can be easily reached by high-speed train from Madrid. The journey to Segovia-Guiomar station which rather inconveniently, is located about 8 km away from the city centre, can be easily reached in 30 minutes. The train to Segovia leaves regularly from Madrid Chamartín Station and costs a little over €20 for a day return.
Top things to do in Segovia:
- Aqueduct of Segovia | Standing underneath and gazing at never-ending arches of the Roman aqueduct, a terrific engineering masterpiece in a remarkably well-preserved condition is a sight to remember. The best place to see the aqueduct that begins the Granja Palace outside of Segovia is at the Plaza del Azoguejo.
- The Alcázar of Segovia | Dating back to the 12th century, The Alcazar of Segovia is a more than 1,000-year-old royal palace that sits on a rock and its one of the most famous castle in Spain. For amazing views of the surrounding landscape and arid plains of Spain, climb up the 156 crooked steps of the Tower of Juan II.
- Segovia Cathedral | Located in the main city square, Segovia Cathedral is the last true Gothic cathedral in Spain. The true gem of the cathedral that was destroyed during the Communions War is the climb up to its tower to see the amazing view from the top.
- Walls of Segovia | The city walls of Segovia is a very important part of Segovia’s history, and they provide fantastic views and photo opportunities. The walls are 3.5 km long, and the best bit is located on the northern side of the city, near the Puerta de San Cebrian.
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Now, over to you!
Have you ever been on a similar trip? Let us know in the comments!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Morocco or Spain and have travel-related questions!