Why book this trip?
Explore a wonderful world of mountains, markets and medinas on this grand tour of Morocco. Here, Andalusian-influenced architecture and French protectorate history meets the masters of the Atlas Mountains; the Berbers and traditional tastes of tagines.
Sahara Desert Sleep under the stars against a backdrop of towering sand dunes
Imperial cities Discover the ancient cities of Fes, Rabat and Marrakesh
Coastal towns Relax by the rugged beach of Mirleft and soak up the bohemian atmosphere of Essaouira
Day 1: Join Trip in Marrakech
Arrive in the red city of Marrakech. This atmospheric city encompasses the very essence of Morocco; opportunities to get lost in the narrow, winding lanes of the medina and the chance to people watch with a mint tea in Djemaa el Fna. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Marrakech at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, youll need to arrive into Marrakech Menara Airport (RAK), which is around 20 minutes from the hotel depending on traffic. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 8pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. Should you miss the meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you may wish to visit the gardens of Jardin Majorelle just a short distance from our hotel.
Day 2: Spend the morning discovering Marrakechs souks, squares and sites on foot, followed by a free afternoon
This morning well explore the iconic city of Marrakech in depth. Like many North African towns, Marrakech is divided into two distinct parts, the Gueliz (the modern French-built city) and the Medina (the Old City), a place where trade and barter amongst the colourful souks still renders its ancient heart a glittering cacophony of noise and colour. Well begin by wandering the narrow lanes of the souks, leading us eventually to the citys beating heart; spectacular Djemaa el Fna. This buzzing town square is a site not to be missed and a scene straight out of the pages of the Arabian Nights. Well continue to Koutoubia booksellers Mosque and then on to Saadian tombs. Built during the Saadian dynasty in the 1600s, the tombs were bricked up just a few decades later by Alawite Sultan Moulay Ismail who wanted to cover any memory of the prior royals, and were not rediscovered until the early 1900s. The afternoon is free to continue exploring at our own pace. Marrakech is a city like no other; with a staggering array of spectacular architecture and wonderful facades; other sites not to be missed are Ben Youssef Madrasa , the Dar Si Said Palace (now the Museum of Moroccan Art) and the Menara gardens. This evening there is also an opportunity to visit a traditional hammam.
Day 3: Visit Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca and travel to the countrys capital city, Rabat
Well have a leisurely morning, departing around 10am for Casablanca where well stop for lunch before an afternoon guided visit to the great mosque of Hassan II. The Hassan II Mosque is the largest on the African continent and this spectacular structure can hold up to 105,000 worshippers. Built in honour of the Kings 60th birthday, the mosque is a feat of engineering as well as a controversial use of public money. Well have a tour of the mosques interior which is intentionally perched above the water of the Atlantic to honour the Quran which states the throne of Allah was over the water. Later this afternoon well continue to Rabat. Rabat was established as the capital of their protectorate by the French in 1912 and since Moroccos independence has remained as the capital of a modern Morocco. Rabats history stretches back as far as 8bc when settlers first arrived. Upon arrival the evening will be free and you may choose to head down to the waterfront to watch the sunset over the estuary.
Day 4: Explore the mountainous town of Chefchaouen
In and around Chefchaouen
After breakfast well begin the day with a guided walk around the capital. Well head into the citys historic centre, to the Hassan Tower and spend time inside the marble interiors of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. Well also wander through cobbled streets of Kasbah des Oudaias, the fortified area of the city that is infused with a distinctly Andalusian flavour. When weve finished our guided tour well have a break for lunch before continuing our grand tour through the mountains to Chefchaouen. The drive will take a majority of the afternoon before we arrive into this historical town that is known for its Andalusian-influenced medina. Well be arriving in the early evening and there will be time to look around one of Moroccos most picture-perfect towns.
Day 5: Guided walk through the medina and kasbah before a free afternoon
This morning begins with a guided walk through the blue town. Chefchaouens atmosphere is far more relaxed than that of bustling Fes or Marrakech and its a prime example of how strong Andalusian influences once were over Morocco. Small wh ite and blue houses stacked upon one another along winding lanes make this town a highlight of northern Morocco. Well walk through the car-free lanes of the medina taking in the colours and sounds from the shops and restaurants that we pass. This afternoon will be free; a chance to continue immersing yourself in the laid-back way of life. People-watch with a mint tea in the towns charming square, Uta Lahmam or find a quiet terrace.
Day 6: Cross the Rif Mountains, visit ancient Volubilis and arrive into the imperial city of Fes
In and around Fes, Volubilis
Crossing the Rif Mountains our first stop is the ancient, Roman site of Volubilis. The ruins have intact, detailed mosaics and show the layout of a former provincial Roman capital. From Volubilis, well continue on a short drive to Meknes and take a guided walk around the beloved city. Smaller than its counterparts, Meknes was the great love of tyrant Sultan Moulay Ismail. We will visit the old granary of Heri es-Souni where food was stored for the sultans 12,000 royal horses before continuing on to his Mausoleum and the marble city gate of Bab Mansour. At the end of the afternoon well drive for an hour to Fes where we will stay for two nights.
Day 7: Discover the highlights of Fes with a local guide
Well have a full day today to take in the artisan capital of Morocco with a local guide. After breakfast we begin sightseeing in Fes el Jadid, known as new Fes despite dating back to the 13th century. The areas predominate feature is the Royal Palace, and although its not open to visitors, well visit from the outside to see the intricately designed gates. Well later drive out to North Borj viewpoint for some great views back across the city before taking a well deserved lunch break. After lunch our exploration of the city takes us into Fes el Bali (Old Fes). Within the bustling souks of the Fes el Bali, the craftwork is considered to be the finest in Morocco. Well wander through its artisan districts, where small doorways and narrow pathways reveal weavers and brass workshops, coppersmiths and tanners, all producing beautiful pieces as they have for many generations. Well also take in the opulent majesty of the 14th century Attarin Medersa, whose Moroccan decoration and elegant design makes it one of the citys most captivating medieval colleges. As we walk through the market lanes the smells of freshly cooked baghrir, or Berber pancakes will tempt and there may be a chance to try Harira soup, a tasty broth made from chickpeas, tomatoes and Moroccan spices.
Day 8: Drive over the Berber lands of the Middle Atlas to Erfoud
Today we have a full day driving as we climb steadily into the dramatic landscapes of the Middle Atlas, passing near the small mountain village of Azrou, which in the Berber tongue translates as the rock. This is the land of the fiercely independent Berbers, the Lords of the Atlas, whose traditions and ways still hold sway up here in their mountain strongholds far away from the cities below. The Berbers present us with a special view of a way of life lost to the rest of North Africa, where music and dance, even language and religion, are far removed from their Arab neighbours. Continuing into Berber sheep raising country we traverse a broad plateau past Meski Oasis, the so-called blue spring bordering the arid desert plains, from where our journey brings us at last on to the desert settlement of Erfoud, our base for the night.
Day 9: Explore fortified villages and take a camel ride through the Erg Chebbi sand dunes
Our day starts by following the meandering Ziz River towards Rissani, the last sizeable community and the end of the vegetation belt before the dunes of the sand sea begin. The settlement is the homeland of the Alaouite dynasty, which reigned in this region for 300 years, and this morning well have an opportunity to visit the founders mausoleum and explore something of the local ksour (fortified villages). After lunch, we then drive on to the settlement of Merzouga, which lies on the edge of Erg Chebbi, an area of high dunes that are amongst some of Moroccos most spectacular natural landscapes. From here well meet our traditional mode of transport camels. Well be taking a camel ride into the desert to explore the sandy landscape on the way to our Berber camp, home for the night. On arrival there may be the chance to climb the dunes and watch the sun go down over the Sahara. The crew will prepare us a traditional tagine dinner and there will be the opportunity to relax in the peaceful setting around a campfire. The tents accommodate up to four people each and mattresses, blankets and pillows are provided. There are simple shower facilities available, however due to the nature of the accommodation, hot water and water pressure cannot be guaranteed.
Day 10: See the sun rise over the dunes before travelling to the picturesque Todra Valley
In and around Todra Gorge
We recommend getting up early this morning to make your way to the top of the nearest dune to witness the sunrise; there is nothing like seeing the light of the sun spread over the vastness of the desert. Watching as the sand turns from a dark greyish colour to brilliant gold as the suns rays touch down. After breakfast we make our way back to Merzouga (either by camel or 4WD), board our bus and travel along the southern slopes of the High Atlas on our way to the Todra Gorge. The landscapes continues to change as sand dunes give way to hills which then start to turn green with a more tropical feel as we approach the town of Tinghir. We will stop here for a chance to have a walk around the huge date palm forest that skirts the town, after spending the night in the desert it is quite surreal to walk amongst lush palms trees a few hours later. We continue to our hotel in the upper Todra Valley where we will spend two nights.
Day 11: Discover the colourful Todra Gorge and walk to a panoramic viewpoint
Today we will explore the Todra Gorge where dramatic ochre-coloured cliffs rise vertically to leave just a narrow pass through which our track and the river struggle for right of way. In the morning Berber women drive their goats through the narrow gorge to the better grazing land higher up and we have an opportunity to follow their daily ritual and take in the stunning views, as we spend the morning exploring these deep, narrow mountain chasms on foot. You may choose to join your Leader on an optional walk to Abdelali viewpoint for some excellent panoramas across to the Jebel Sahro and down into the gorge. The walk generally takes around 5 hours in total and is considered a moderate graded trek, but be aware that in high temperatures it can be more demanding (walking boots with ankle support are essential). Alternatively you may opt to explore the valley floor following the path of the river and take in the local scenery from one of the nearby cafs.
Day 12: Enter the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs and explore UNESCO Ait Ben Haddou
In and around Ait Benhaddou
This morning we drive west, where we make a short stop in El Kelaa des MGouna positioned at the foot of a rocky outcrop that separates the Dades and Mgoun Valleys. Famed for its roses, the town lies blanketed under a landscape of scented blooms each spring, which are then harvested in May during the famous Festival of the Roses and processed into rosewater to be sold throughout the Islamic world. Driving on through the Dades Valley with its fertile oases, we enter the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs, where each of the oasis towns can boast their own distinctive character, the mud and straw structures becoming more plentiful and more ornate as we progress along the valley. Later this afternoon we make our way towards the small, fortified Berber settlement of Ait Ben Haddou, which has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered by many to be one of Moroccos most picturesque settings. Studded with crenelated towers and richly decorated, the towns kasbah is quite spectacular and provided an ideal location for filming scenes from Jesus of Nazareth and Lawrence of Arabia. After exploring the kasbah it is a short drive to the desert outpost of Ouarzazate where we stay the night.
Day 13: Visit a 15th century library and take a 4WD to our camp in the Sahara Desert
Today we head back into the desert and drive through the beautiful and fertile Draa Valley. Our route is lined with palm groves, with many kasbahs and ksours (villages) punctuating the impressive landscape on the way for a quick stop at a pottery cooperative in Tamgroute, a historical town featuring a 15th century library which contains books spanning back over 700 years. We will visit the library and then continue to Mhamid and board 4WD jeeps on our way to the towering Erg Chegaga sand dunes of the Sahara Desert. After arriving into camp our leader will take us on a walk up the dunes for panoramic views and to learn a bit more about the flora and fauna found in the desert. Our camp tonight is a traditional nomad camp with large tents sleeping 3-5 people each, the camp will also have a restaurant tent where we will eat dinner and breakfast, prepared by our camp crew. All bedding is provided at camp.
Day 14: Travel in 4WD through the wilderness of the Sahara Desert
We leave camp after breakfast, get in the 4WD and take a wilderness drive across the desert to the oasis town of Foum Zguid. This is a 90km drive but will take between three to four hours as we are off road and on desert tracks. Though the going is at times bumpy, this drive is a real adventure and we will barely see any human activity, even the camels here are wild. At Foum Zguid we will get back in the bus and make our way to Tata, stopping on the way at Tissinnt, where there is a large gorge filled by a lake which ends in a waterfall. The falls may not have a wow factor but there are often nomads in the area collecting water and we may have a chance to meet them. Our destination tonight is Tata, and depending on our arrival time there should be an opportunity to explore the towns pink buildings and laid back character.
Day 15: Cross the desolate Anti-Atlas and drive to Mirleft on the Atlantic coast
This morning we drive through the Anti-Atlas, a wild and barren world of rocky outcrops and remote, desolate landscapes. We pass primitive villages, consisting of a few small homes surround by palm trees, life in this area is tough as water is scarce and farming difficult. The main town in this region is Goulemin, known as the gateway of the Sahara; we will stop in the town for lunch and for a short walk through the Taghjijt Valley, a rare oasis of green lush date palms. Taghjijt is known for its high quality dates and there will be an opportunity to buy some from a local farmer. Our drive continues towards the Atlantic Ocean and as we get closer to the coast we notice the scenery becoming greener and brighter, our destination is Mirleft, a small town set just off the coast where well spend the night. Our accommodation is set in a rural area with coastal views just a short drive away from the town. Upon arrival there will be free time to take a ten minute stroll down to the beach or relax by the pool, before having dinner.
Day 16: Visit Sous-Massa National Park and try traditionally cooked meats in Taroudant
We drive north today through the fertile Sous Valley, passing forests and plantations; this area of Morocco has a more relaxed feel and we will find local people particularly welcoming and happy to see visitors. Our first stop is the Sous-Massa National Park, which is a large reserve situated between the estuary of the Sous-Massa River and the Atlantic Ocean, where we will enjoy a couple hours of walking. The park has seven traditional Berber villages but the main attraction is the bird life, and its in this area that we may be lucky enough to see the Bald Ibis. We will also see flamingos and there are some old fisherman caves which can be also explored. Well then make our way to Taroudant, the former capital of the south of Morocco and on arrival our Leader will take us on an orientation tour of the town. Taroudant is enclosed by a huge rectangle of golden fortified walls, dotted with towers which are still in good repair and are an impressive sight. We will explore the market, where there are lots of small food stalls selling cooked meats and flat breads, filling the air with smoky barbecue aromas.
Day 17: Travel along the Atlantic coastal to the charming port town of Essaouira
Well drive for around four hours this morning into the early afternoon to our the historic seaport of Essaouira. This small town on the Atlantic coast is home for the next two nights. Well arrive in time to have lunch, and there is ample choice including small, traditional Moroccan restaurants or for a quick bite head to the port to eat at one of the stalls serving fresh seafood grilled over charcoal. After lunch our Leader will take us on a walking tour, ensuring we have our bearings for a free day tomorrow. The town is encircled by 18th century battlements and we will explore the old walled medina, passing through the narrow, highly decorated arched entrance to find a host of merchants selling local handicrafts and women carrying out their daily routines, veiled in their traditional dress. While in Essaouira we will be staying in a traditional riad. A riad is a Moroccan house that is built in a rectangular or square shape around a central garden or courtyard. Normally standing at least two stories tall, the focal point of a riad is the central courtyard which will often have a water feature of some kind and many also have roof top terraces perfect for a morning coffee. Riads have a small number of rooms and are very popular among visitors wanting an authentic experience, so for this reason we may change riads with little or no notice but well do our best to ensure the style and standard is equal to our listed property.
Day 18: Day at leisure in Essaouira, relax on the beach or wander through the souk
Today is free to spend at leisure in Essaouira. Just south of the town there is a long sandy beach which is slightly sheltered from sea-wind and depending on the time of the year the water is great for swimming (it might be a bit cold in the winter). Alternatively, explore the harbour, area with its famous line-up of blue boats, explore the Jewish quarter and take in the sights and smells of the market.
Day 19: Return to the red city of Marrakech
After breakfast we will say goodbye to the coast and begin the three hour drive inland to Marrakech. Well arrive into the city around lunchtime and the afternoon is free for any final sightseeing or shopping you may wish to do. This evening, we can choose one of the many Moroccan restaurants in the city centre to enjoy a final group meal and toast the end of this Moroccan adventure. To make the most of our final night on this epic Moroccan tour, we will stay in a Marrakech riad. A riad is a Moroccan house that is built in a rectangular or square shape around a central garden or courtyard. Normally standing at least two stories tall, the focal point of a riad is the central courtyard which will often have a water feature of some kind and many also have roof top terraces perfect for a morning coffee. Riads have a small number of rooms and are in very high demand particularly in Marrakech, therefore, we may change riads with little or no notice but well do our best to ensure the style and standard is equal to our listed property.
Day 20: Trip ends in Marrakech
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Marrakech. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Marrakech at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, youll need to depart from Marrakech Menara Airport (RAK), which is a 20 minute drive from the hotel depending on traffic.