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A cultural journey through the heart of Morocco
Explore Morocco's imperial cities and appreciate the rich cultural traditions of music, dance and arts. Walk through the colourful markets and renowned mediaeval medina of Fes in the company of our expert guide, before travelling across the foothills of the Middle Atlas to the deep orange dunes on the edge of the Sahara and the Kasbahs on the edge of the Atlas Mountains. In Marrakesh, one of the most important artistic centres in the Islamic world, there is time to bargain in the souqs which reflect a wide variety of handicrafts. Continuing to Essaouira, with its tranquil squares and cafes, there is plenty of time to explore the narrow lanes and whitewashed houses with their painted blue doors, which could be anywhere in the southern Mediterranean!
- Hassan II Mosque - Casablanca
- Fes, UNESCO-listed El-Bali medieval city
- Saharan sunrise and camel riding
- Views of the snow capped Atlas Mountains
- Gardens, mosques, palaces, and the souqs of Marrakesh
- Coastal town of Essaouira
Day 1 Arrive in Casablanca
On arrival in Casablanca you will be met and transferred to the group hotel if arriving on Day 1. There will be a group briefing around 7:00pm at the hotel (please check at reception for reconfirmation of timing). If you arrive in Casablanca prior to Day 1 of the trip, private transfers can be arranged at additional cost. Please ask your Reservations Consultant for details.
Day 2 Drive to Meknès via Rabat
In Rabat, the capital of Morocco, on the guided city tour we will visit the Mechouar and Royal Place (from the outside), Mausoleum Mohamed V and Hassan II with Hassan Tower, Chellah and Kasbah des Oudayas. In the afternoon we continue from Rabat to Meknès which takes approx. 2 1/2 hours. Overnight in Mekès.
Day 3 From Meknès to Fes, via Moulay Idriss & Volubilis
In the morning we visit the old imperial city of Meknès. The decoration of the Bab Mansour is known as one of the best of Morocco. During the guided sightseeing we visit the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail and the old stables of Dar El Ma and Heri. From Meknès we travel approx. 40 minutes to Moulay Idris and Volubilis. Moulay Idris is an important religious site - for many centuries it has been a place of pilgrimage, thanks to its tomb of the city's founder, Moulay Idriss el Akhbar, a decendent of the Prophet Muhammad. The ancient Roman city of Volubilis is an archaeological site and UNESCO World Heritage site. Continuing our journey, Volubilis to Fes is approx. 2 hours. Fes, founded in the late 8th Century shortly after the Arabs swept across North Africa and Spain, is arguably the symbolic heart of Morocco. It has become the cultural and religious centre of Morocco and has retained a distinctly Arab identity despite the arrival of some Berbers from the interior over the centuries. Today Fes is made up of three sections, the modern section, the Ville Nouvelle, with its chic cafe-lined avenues, Fes el-Jdid and Fes el-Bali. Fes el-Bali is the original Medina and is one of the largest living medieval cities in the world.
Day 4 In Fes, visit medieval and modern sectors
After a guided tour of the city and old Medina we depart and drive to Borj Sud, an old Christian fort built in the 17th Century, for an almost aerial view of the old city and its surrounding olive groves. From here we venture into the Medina of Fes el-Bali which dates back to the 8th Century. In 1976 UNESCO declared this Medina one of the world's cultural treasures; the palaces, mosques, medressas and fountains are among the most beautiful in Morocco. The colours and aromas of the olive and spice stores mixed in with communal bakeries and the mysterious perfume shops are just some of the delights that make this journey through the ancient alleyways, full of scurrying people and surprises, a memorable experience. We will also visit the tannery to watch the dying of leathers and a mosaic and tile factory to see how these stunning local handicrafts are mode. We will enjoy a lunch in a traditional Moroccan restaurant including many local dishes.
Day 5 Drive to Erg Chebbi (approx 9 hours), and Sahara desert
Today we need to be on the road by 7:00am. We drive in our air- conditioned minibus to Erg Chebbi, passing through the agricultural regions of north Morocco and the fertile plains irrigated by the Oued Aggai in the foothills of the Middle Atlas. Then we begin a long climb through an old cedar forest and holm oaks. Beyond Timhadite lies a completely barren plateau, reminiscent of a lunar landscape pitted as it is with small volcanic craters, the largest of which is Sidi Ali, an immense lake bordered by steep cliffs. After stopping for lunch at the breathtaking Ziz Gorges we continue on past palm-fringed towns to Erfoud, and to the sand dunes at Erg Chebbi. Here the deep orange-hued dunes of the vast Sahara stretch for miles. We spend the night in a local Hotel where you have the option to sleep on the roof under the stars.
Day 6 Camel ride, drive to Dadès Gorge (approx 3 1/2 hours)
Today we'll rise before dawn to experience the amazing colours of a Saharan sunrise from the saddle of the traditional Berber transport: a camel. On returning to the hotel we have breakfast and commence our journey – one of the best in Morocco – to the Dades Gorge. En route have lunch at the spectacular Todra Gorges and visit some of Morocco's greatest antiquities, the Kasbahs of the eastern slopes of the High Atlas (i.e. the market in Rissani). We drive on to the spectacular Dadès Gorge. We take time to explore the countryside and wander for a few hours through the fertile fields and local villages soaking in rural Morocco before returning to our hotel in Boumalne-Dadès.
Day 7 Visit Berber villages en route to Ouarzazate (approx 2 1/2 hours)
En-route to Ouarzazate (pronounced war-zar-zate), we explore the Kasbahs, oasis and Berber villages in the fertile valleys along the eastern flanks of the Atlas Mountains. We may visit the ancient Kasbah of Skoura. The earthen town of Ouarzazate lies among the shadows of date and pomegranate trees.
Day 8 Drive to Marrakesh
Leaving mid-morning, we drive 30 kms from Ouarzazate to the Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou, the most exotic and best preserved in the entire Atlas area. We will have lunch here before continuing on to Telouet and the former palace of Pasha El Glaoui, the Berber chieftain. Passing sandy coloured Kasbahs and the shy Berber women in their traditional black costumes, we leave the arid desert area and cross the High Atlas Mountains to arrive in Marrakesh late in the afternoon. Framed by the snowy heights of the Atlas Mountains and thousand-year-old palm groves, Marrakesh has a profound impact on all that visit it. Our accommodation in Marrakesh is at a lovely Riad: an ornately decorated house that displays craftsmanship indicative of the Moroccan passion for detail. Traditionally, riads have a central courtyard or entrance area, often with a fountain, plunge pool or garden.
Day 9 In Marrakesh
Today we are led by our expert guide to discover the soul of Marrakesh. We visit gardens, mosques, palaces, and the souqs of the old Medina before reaching the humming centre of Marrakesh: the Djemaa el-Fna. The atmosphere of this square is overwhelming with its jumble of food stalls, snake charmers, fortune- and storytellers and the wide variety of people that flock to its attractions. Lunch included. A return visit at night, when the square really comes alive, is a must to try the food stalls and the fresh squeezed orange juice.
Day 10 At leisure in Marrakesh
Today is completely at leisure. The guide can provide plenty of suggestions as to how to best fill your day, or you may simply choose to relax. In the evening we have arranged for dinner at a prestigious Riad (or similar) in the former Medina where fine food, wine and skilled belly dancers enrich our last evening in Marrakesh.
Day 11 Drive to Essaouira
For a change of pace we head to the peaceful Peninsula town of Essaouira. With its Greek-like whitewashed walls and its mixture of Portuguese, French and Berber fortifications, it has a completely different flavour to our previous destinations. Protected by the trade winds, Essaouira is a handicraft centre, particularly for artisans working with sandal, cedar and lemon wood. We will visit the city with our guide who will give you ideas of things you might like to do during your time at leisure in Essaouira. We can also take a relaxing walk along the Atlantic coastline. Fishing is another of the main industries of the town. The fresh catch is a specialty of the restaurants and the harbour side fish markets - either are a must for lunch.
Day 12 In Essaouira
Before heading back to Casablanca for our journey back home we have a wonderful, relaxing day in Essaouira where you are free to do as you please. The shopping is great and so is the beach with numerous water sports on offer.
Day 13 Drive to Casablanca
Leaving Essaouira we will travel north toward Casablanca, stopping at coastal villages where we may sample some of the local dishes. Rest of the day at leisure in Casablanca.
Day 14 Trip concludes in Casablanca
Our trip concludes this morning after breakfast. You will be transferred to the airport to meet onward flights if you depart Casablanca today. Transfers can be arranged on alternative days at additional cost, if required. Please ask us for details.
- 13 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 8 dinners
- English speaking Moroccan leader
- Airport transfers in Casablanca (Days 1 and 14 only)
- All internal transport as per itinerary (private minivan)
- Good quality hotels and riads in the main centres, best available in remote towns, all on twin share basis
- English speaking city guides in Fes, Marrakesh and Essaouira
- Sightseeing and visits as per program including entrance fees
- Camel ride Erg Chebbi
- Emergency medical kit
- 14 day trip
- 13 nights hotels
Group Size Min
Group Size Max
Specialist gear required include comfortable walking shoes and a day pack (a comprehensive gear list is provided in the pre-departure information provided on booking).
What You Carry
In your daypack you will need to carry extra warm clothing (depending on the altitude, location and weather), a rainjacket, water bottle, camera gear, valuables and personal items such as sunscreen, lip-eze etc.