Spain, Portugal & Morocco 2022 Tour Blog Back to News List

Felix and I led the inaugural Spain, Portugal and Morocco tour in 2019 and it was also one of the last Compass Expeditions tours to run before the onset of the dreaded Covid.  Three years later it was time to run this magical tour again and knowing what was ahead, we were very excited.

With an invite I couldn’t refuse from Felix, I flew from Melbourne to beautiful Galicia region of Spain, where I spent a few days at his beautiful home preparing for the tour and swapping stories from the last couple of years since we had last seen each other.  Felix is one of our most experienced guides and has been leading tours with us for almost 10 years and I am delighted to have him as my support for the tour.

The majority of the group are Australian, but we also have Rex from California and Rob from BC, Canada, both of whom have travelled with Compass before.  In fact, most of the group have travelled with Compass before – though it was really nice to see some new faces at the tour briefing which took place at the beautiful Bessa hotel, conveniently located in downtown Lisbon.  Also coming along with us and driving a second support vehicle is Antonio, a local guide who also travelled with Felix and I back in 2019.  There was a sense of déjà vu about this trip!

Arriving to Lisbon we met with the group who had also taken advantage of spending a few weeks and in some cases, months travelling prior to the tour.  Being locked down for so long and with global borders open again, international travel was back on!

After collecting the bikes – all being new model BMW GS – we were very anxious to hit the road the next day.  

The first couple of the days of the tour were spent in the south of Portugal riding some amazing back roads around Sagres and Tavira crossing the heart of the Alentejo and Algarve regions.  

More beautiful back roads led us into Spain, crossing the Guadiana River and skirting the city of Seville.  Our accommodation was a 500-year-old hacienda (traditional ranch) in the south of Spain.   The hospitality provided by our host Dona Francisca was second to none and we had a wonderful meal which consisted mainly of produce grown at the hacienda and local wine.   

One comment from the group was “staying at places like this really makes the trip” and another couple of riders commented “Best riding day ever” and “Compass has the best tours and routes, that’s why I am customer for life”.  We were certainly off to a good start.

The next morning was a short ride to Tarifa port, where we would take a 1hr ferry ride crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to the African continent and where we would spend the next 10 days, in Morocco.  

Our first overnight stop was Chefchaouen, a beautiful Moroccan city known for its blue colors.  Feasting on tagine and non-alcoholic mojitos and pina coladas we enjoyed a traditional evening and music at our restaurant overlooking the main square.

Riding in Morocco is an amazing experience.  Whilst the traffic is crazy and the roads not quite what we are used to, the landscapes and scenery are fascinating.  Pedestrians, animals, overloaded trucks and confused car drivers keep us ever alert.  On the ride to Fez we enjoyed our first taste of Moroccan twisties, through the Rif mountains.  

Arriving into Fez we were treated to a picturesque sunset whilst enjoying dinner at the Palais de Fez, overlooking the old town.  What an evening this was as we reflected on the first week of the tour.

No visit to Fez is complete without a visit to the medina.  A medina is a walled part of the old town and the medina in Fez is considered to be the most extensive and best conserved historic towns of the Arab-Muslim world.  To give you an idea of the size, there are 9,000+ laneways and 80,000+ shops. Our local guide, Mohammed did a fantastic job explaining the history and culture of the people of his city and not losing anyone in our group!

On the way to the Sahara we stayed in Midelt which is a camp base for travelers en route from Fez to Merzouga.  From here we rode into the high Atlas Mountains before dropping down into a palm filled oasis, where we enjoyed a Compass picnic lunch.  The temperature was rising as we closed in on the Sahara.  With temperatures in the low 40’s we decided to take a swim and rest at our base hotel before mounting the camels and riding into the sunset to our overnight luxury tents.  Some clouds had started to gather and there was lightning and thunder in the distance.  It was still in the mid 30’s by the time we had finished our dinner and we were all praying for a change in the weather – and did it come:  by 11pm the storm was directly above us.  Thunder and lightning lit up the sky and we thought the sandstorm was going to blow our tents away!

Todra Gorge is made of pink-grey limestone rock walls carved out by the powerful Dades River and is one of Morocco’s highlights.  It was another fantastic day’s riding from the Sahara crossing an expanse of untouched Moroccan countryside which is still home to a number of Berber villages.  This region is also home to fossils dating back millions of years.

En route to Marrakesh we visited the Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah.  A kasbah is a fortified part of the city –  Ait Ait Ben Haddou is famous for being the set for many movies including The Mummy, Game of Thrones, Gladiator and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The Tizi – n – Tichka pass at 2,600m was super impressive and the weather cooled down as we had another afternoon thunderstorm, quite typical for this time of the year.

Two nights at the Es Saadi Resort in Marrakesh where we are now is a nice resting place for the halfway mark of the tour.  Marrakesh is one of Morocco’s largest cities and also has a very impressive medina.  Our local guide, Said, took us to the Bahia Palace, Koutoubia Mosque (the largest mosque in Marrakesh) and the market in the main plaza which is UNESCO heritage listed. This market is the largest in Morocco and famous globally for having some of the most exotic marketplaces to shop in the world.

After an afternoon rest by the resort pool and a few drinks in the hotel bar, the group is ready to ride into the second half of this wonderful tour.  Tomorrow our destination is Beni Mellal with a series of twisties in the Middle Atlas mountains.  Bring it on!

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