Lonely Planet: Roads Less Travelled Morocco itinerary

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Start your journey in Fès, the country's spiritual and intellectual capital, where you can tour the tanneries and – if you time it right – catch the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music to hear Sufi music. For total cultural immersion, stay in the 1200-year-old Medina (ancient walled city), not the Ville Nouvelle (new city). Head south to under-visited Azrou, Morocco's wool-growing region – an ideal place to shop for carpets and a great jumping-off point to explore the Fôret de Cèdres (ancient cedar forests), where you can spot Barbary apes swinging in the trees. If you're here in winter, tack on an afternoon of sleigh-riding at Mischliffen. Make your way south through the mountains to the Sources de l'Oum-er-Rbia, where forty natural springs mark the beginning of Morocco's largest river. Arrange a homestay with a Berber family, or camp (summer only) by the edge of the river in tents laid with Moroccan rugs.

Market day in Beni-Mellal

Not many tourists stop in Beni-Mellal, the country's agricultural heartland, but it's worth a visit on a Tuesday morning – market day – to see what produce is in season. Leaving town, ready yourself for the hucksters, snake charmers, fancy nightclubs, winding souks and grand palaces of Marrakesh. Stay in a riad in the Medina for the maximum experience.

Telouet

Travel south across the Atlas Mountains, and find your way to the tiny town of Telouet to explore the eerie and decaying Glaoui Kasbah. Spend a couple of nights nearby at Auberge Irocha, in the tiny village of Tisselday, where there's great mountain hiking (tip: follow the shepherd on his morning departure). Wend your way eastward out of the mountains, toward the Sahara Desert. The end-of-the-road town M'Hamid is the main departure point for camel treks and 4WD excursions to Erg Chicaga, enormous mountains of shifting sand where you'll lose all perspective on scale and distance.

Related article: Musical Sufis in Turkistan

Marrakesh

John Vlahides travelled to Morocco on assignment for Lonely Planet. You can follow his adventures on Lonely Planet: Roads Less Travelled, screening internationally on National Geographic.