Insight Vacations Review – Treasures of Spain, Portugal & Morocco

Insight Vacations Review – Treasures of Spain, Portugal & Morocco

Insight Vacations Review - Treasures of Spain, Portugal & Morocco

Insight Vacations coach during a photo stop at Avila in Spain

WJ Tested: Insight Vacations Review – Treasures of Spain, Portugal & Morocco 16-Night Motorcoach Trip in 2011

Europe is our favorite continent for experiencing an immensely diversified super-serving of culture within a geographic area that allows for easy travel connections. At every turn history sparks our curiosity, while food from each region delights our tastebuds. Wine, beer and liquors have their own uniqueness rooted in the different regions which requires diligent sampling.  And people-watching expands our horizons giving us a glimpse into what makes each town, city and country special. So when WAVEJourney was invited to join the 16-night Insight Vacations Treasures of Spain, Portugal & Morocco motorcoach tour at the end of April we readily agreed to climb aboard.

Whenever we take trips like this and plan on reporting about the experience, we tend to prefer to travel to places with which we are familiar (just to make sure the tour guide knows his/her stuff), but we also like to be surprised by brand-new-to-us locations. While we had previously travelled to a fair number of the Spanish and Portuguese itinerary destinations this tour offered, the Gibraltar and Morocco legs would be a first for both of us, therefore a good mix of both familiar and new experiences.

Insight Vacations Tour Director Extraordinaire, Javier Rodriguez Soto

Insight Vacations Tour Director Extraordinaire, Javier Rodriguez Soto

Jill and I joined the Insight Vacations tour at the Hotel Conde Duque in Madrid, Spain where we first met our Tour Director Extraordinaire, Javier Rodriguez Soto, and fellow passengers (22 in total) for a one-hour briefing and welcome drink. Javier (a dishy Spaniard with a twinkle in his eye and great sense of humor) quickly impressed us with his extensive knowledge, passion for travel and enthusiasm for the places he would introduce us to during the course of the trip.

Our collective was comprised of nationalities from around the world, including: South Africa (2); New Zealand (2); Australia (8); USA (9); Canada (1). The age range of this fun, friendly, considerate and compatible group of travellers was from 40s to 80s, with the majority being married couples.

During the tour our itinerary slated us for 8 nights in Spain, 2 nights in Portugal and 6 nights in Morocco. We started with a two-night stay in Madrid, then it was off to Salamanca for one night before heading into Portugal and spending two nights in Lisbon. After that we returned to Spain for two nights in Seville, followed by a brief sightseeing visit to Gibraltar before a late-afternoon sailing to Morocco with one night in Tangier. Two nights were then spent in Fes, another two nights in Marrakesh and the final night in Morocco was spent in Rabat. Following an afternoon sailing back to Spain we stayed one night in Torremolinos, one night in Granada and our final night in Madrid concluded the tour.

This was a tour that had a good mix of one and two-night stays in 4 and 5-star hotels, with some situated centrally and others on the outskirts of the towns and cities we visited.

Although our coach had enough seating for 40 passengers (the extra leg room on Insight coaches is well worth the price), we were very fortunate that with only 22 adventurers (plus driver and tour director) we could really spread out and have our own row and window seat.

For anyone considering a motorcoach tour, keep in mind that this type of sightseeing tour is jam-packed with things to see, places to go and territory to cover — so not the best pick for those not wanting to be up and at it and exploring each and every day. Saying that, only a couple of mornings required very early rise (5:30 am) and departure times (7:00 am). Typically we were up at 6:30 am (Javier arranged wake-up calls for everyone at every hotel) followed by an included breakfast buffet and on the road by 8 am. Our very compatible group was all on board with the schedule; we didn’t have any grumblers or complainers, and best of all, we were all incredibly punctual for departure times.

Insight Vacations Review - Treasures of Spain, Portugal & Morocco

Insight Vacations Review – Treasures of Spain, Portugal & Morocco

Towns and cities that we visited on our journey reflected some of the best sightseeing each country had to offer, and while we didn’t spend a huge amount of time in any one place we did come away with a good sense of the highlights and where we would want to return and spend more time exploring in the future.

We will never forget the sights, sounds and smells of the Medina in Fes or being invited into the home of a Berber family in Morocco’s Ourika Valley for a traditional tea ceremony. We treasure our memories of visiting UNESCO heritage sites in Spain, which included: Segovia’s Roman Aqueduct; Granada’s Alhambra Palace; and the Mosque of Cordoba.  We revel in having followed the Pilgrim’s footsteps in Fatima, Portugal on the way to Lisbon where we saw Belem Tower and visited nearby Sintra. We have all-too-vivid memories of dodging Barbary Macaques (monkeys) in Gibraltar during a visit to St. Michael’s Cave… and the list goes on and on.

The countryside was magnificent and Javier’s request for perfect weather conditions was graciously granted by Mother Nature. As part of the tour we spent time with local guides exploring on foot the smaller towns (while listening to the commentary via the VOX system) and driving around larger cities. Javier kept us enthralled with his commentary expounding on the local history and providing tantilizing tidbits of information for each area as we drove from place to place.

During the tour we had two excellent drivers, both from Portugal. Joao started with us in Madrid and drove us for the first 4 days and then Philip took over for the remainder of the journey from Lisbon all the way back to Madrid. We couldn’t have asked for better and nicer drivers and they did terrific job of keeping the coach cleaned and ready for us each morning.

Javier gives our group a detailed history on Salamanca in Spain

Javier gives our group a detailed history on Salamanca in Spain

Optional excursions (for an additional fee) were available throughout the tour and all of our group members signed up for most of them (i.e. non-seafood lovers didn’t go to the Lisbon seafood dinner).

Whether it was a night out in Lisbon for dinner while being entertained by Fado music, taking a horse buggy ride through the streets of Marrakesh to a restaurant for traditional Moroccan music, dancing and dining, or an afternoon drive to Segovia for sightseeing, we were pleased with our choices and felt further enriched by the experiences.

Our Insight Vacations tour provided us with a great way to cover a lot of ground and see an impressive number of sights in a stress-free manner. Letting somebody else do the driving, having all our hotels pre-booked and arranged, following local tour guides through their town or city while getting the lowdown on the history and culture, being in the hands of an expert tour director and making 20 new like-minded friends from around the world… for us, equals a perfect way to vacation!

If You Go:

WAVEJourney’s Insight Vacations Treasures of Spain, Portugal & Morocco Review:

Overview | Itinerary | Hotels | Photos | Day 1: Madrid | Day 2: Segovia | Day 3: Toledo & Salamanca | Day 4: Fatima & Lisbon | Day 5: Lisbon & Cascais | Day 6: Sevilla | Day 7: Cordoba | Day 8: Gibraltar & Tangier | Day 9: Fes | Day 10: Fes & Meknes | Day 11: Marrakesh | Day 12: Ourika Valley & Marrakesh | Day 13: Casablanca & Rabat | Day 14: Torremolinos | Day 15: Granada | Day 16: Madrid |

 

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