Highlights of Morocco
|Resort:||Highlights of Morocco|
Discover the highlights of captivating Morocco on this fast-paced, adventurous trip. From the iconic imperial cities of Marrakech, Fez and Meknes to the golden sand dunes of Erg Chebbi and the friendly Berber villages in the Atlas Mountains.
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 to people watch with a traditional mint tea in Djemma el-Fnaa.
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, you’ll 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 6pm 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.
DAY 2 – Discover the narrow lanes of Marrakech’s souks before driving to isolated Bin el Ouidane lake
After breakfast we will explore the city. Marrakech is the spiritual heart of the country, a cultural melting pot of the mountain Berbers and the desert nomads of the south. Blessed with some of the most stunning architecture in Morocco, its mix of tradition, colour and history makes for a fascinating walk. A local guide will lead us through the narrow pathways of the medina this morning to explore the colourful souks, busy with both visitors and locals. We’ll also visit the remarkable Bahia Palace, a fusion of Moroccan and Islamic styles that is excellently preserved within the medina.
Following our tour we then depart Marrakech, for the beautiful waterfalls at Cascades of Ouzoud where we will have a break for lunch, before continuing on to our stop for tonight in Bin el Ouidane. The drive is around three hours, with stops along the way to stretch our legs, before arriving in the late afternoon. Our hotel for this evening is hidden peacefully in the Atlas Mountains boasting views across Bin el Ouidane lake.
DAY 3 – Drive to Fes; visit the imperial city of Meknes and the Roman ruins of Volubilis
We will have a very early start this morning for the full day journey to Fes via Meknes and ancient Volubilis. The drive will follow the northern slopes of the Middle Atlas Mountains, into the Oued Boufekrane River Valley and into the city of Meknes in time for lunch.
Once the heart of the Moroccan Sultanate, Meknes was built by the tyrant, Moulay Ismail, and was once filled with palaces and grand gateways. Although much of Ismail’s capital has crumbled to dust, it still exudes a sense of its former regal grandeur. In the company of a guide we will visit the old granary of Heri es-Souni and the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail himself. In spite of the sultan’s infamous blood lust and cruelty, many still see his reign as a golden age and the tomb is held in high regard.
After time in Meknes we’ll take a short 45 minute drive to the ancient site to Volubilis. Once the capital of the Roman province of Mauritania Tingitana, Volubilis is Morocco’s’ best-preserved Roman site, set among rolling, fertile plans, and was once a thriving city home to an estimated 20,000 residents. We’ll have time to explore and learn about the extensive history of the area. The day ends with another hour drive to Fes, our home for the next two nights.
DAY 4 – Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fes medina; free time this afternoon
Fes is the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities, home to the world’s oldest university and certainly boasts the most well-preserved medieval quarters in the Arab world. This morning we enjoy a guided tour of the city that has long been regarded as Morocco’s ‘artisan capital’, taking in the medina and the souks and paying a visit to the Royal Palace (Fes El Jedid). Craft work made and sold in the Fes medina is considered amongst the finest in Morocco and a wander through its artisan districts reveals an array of weavers and brass workshops, coppersmiths and tanners, producing beautiful pieces much as they have for generations. It’s difficult to get a sense of the size and complexity of the medina, so after our tour we’ll drive outside of the city to the viewpoint at Borj Nord, for great panoramic views of the city.
This afternoon is free to enjoy at your own pace. As with many Moroccan cities, Fes is divided into old and new. After a busy morning in the bustling medina you may choose to take a seat at one of the many European-influenced cafes, which line the pavements in a Parisian fashion and watch the world go by in the French Ville Nouvelle area of the city. Alternatively, you may choose to head back into the souks for some time to explore at your own pace and take the chance to buy some of the city’s handicrafts.
DAY 5 – Drive over the Middle Atlas Mountains; spend the night under a blanket of stars in the desert
Today we have a long, but very scenic drive over the Middle Atlas Mountains to Erg Chebbi. The lands we cross today are home to the fiercely independent Berbers, the ‘Lords of the Atlas’, whose timeless traditions still hold sway up here in their mountain strongholds far away from the cities. The road takes us through Ifrane and Azrou where we will take a short walk through the Atlas cedar forest, home of the endangered Barabary macaques. We then continue our drive into the Gorge du Ziz and across the broad plateau towards the desert settlement of Erfoud. Following the meandering course of the Ziz River we then head into the dunes of the Sand Sea, the traditional homeland of the Alaouite, who ruled this region for some 300 years.
Towards the end of the day we will arrive into Merzouga where we’ll leave our bus and get into 4WD vehicles for the exhilarating journey into the desert. Our final destination this evening is Erg Chebbi, an area of high dunes that are among the most spectacular natural landscapes anywhere in Morocco. We’ll be staying in a simple camp to experience the unrivalled tranquillity of this desert setting. We’ll have a traditional tagine dinner and the crew will set up a campfire for everyone to sit around in the evening. The tents can sleep up to 4 people and mattresses, blankets and pillows are provided and simple washing facilities are available, however, hot water cannot be guaranteed.
DAY 6 – See the sunrise over the sand dunes and experience a camel ride; afternoon walk in the Todra Valley
Waking early we’ll climb the sand dunes to see the sun come up over the desert before. The word ‘erg’ is Arabic for ‘great sand dune area’ and although many people imagine the Sahara as an endless sea of rolling golden sand dunes, they actually cover only about one-fifth of its surface. After breakfast we’ll then have the chance to experience a camel ride among the dunes taking us back to Merzouga to meet the bus.
From Merzouga, we’ll begin the long drive along the southern slopes of the Atlas towards Rissani and Tinjdad, where we will stop for lunch. After a break to eat and stretch our legs we continue to the town of Tinerhir, set among the dramatic ochre-coloured cliffs of the Todra Gorge. Upon arrival we’ll check in to the hotel before departing on foot for our walk through the narrow gorge. Our leader will lead us through cultivated fields and into the gorge of towering, sheer sided walls that in some places are up to 300 metres high and little more than 10 metres wide. The walk will take between 2-2.5 hours along well marked paths and we’ll return to the hotel in the early evening.
DAY 7 – Drive to Bou Tharar via the Road of a 1000 Kasbahs; visit a Berber village
This morning we will drive along the famous Road of a 1,000 Kasbahs to Boumaine-Dades where will stop for a lunch break. The Dades Valley boasts some of Morocco’s most authentic Berber settlements, with each of the oasis towns offering up its own distinctive charm and character. Many of the original kasbahs lie in ruins now, but enough remain to provide a real flavour of Morocco’s ancient heritage. We continue through to El Kelaa Mgouna via the Valley of the Roses, where we will stop and take a scenic, easy hour-long walk through fields to learn more about the agriculture here.
In the afternoon we will arrive into the Berber village of Bou Tharar, located at the entrance to the wonderfully scenic Mgoun Gorge. After checking in, we will head back out on foot to walk through this stunning area and along the way our leader will take us to visit a local Berber villages. The walking route will be decided by the leader but will be along a well marked trail with an ascent to a panoramic view point.
After a busy day, we’ll all have the chance to relax at the small, locally run auberge. Our accommodation is traditionally decorated and staffed by people from the local village. Our evening meal is included and is a chance to try the local tagine and pastilla (pastries stuffed with meat).
DAY 8 – Drive to Marrakech via Ouarzazate and the Tizi n’Tichka mountain pass
We’ll begin the day with an early breakfast, before departing Bou Tharar to drive to the oasis town of Skoura, where we pay a visit to Kasbah Amredhil. Kasbahs are traditional walled-neighbourhoods which were once very common throughout Morocco. Dating back to the 17th century, Kasbah Amredhil is a symbol of Morocco, appearing on the 50 dirham note, and today is an open-air museum.
From here we then continue to Ouarzazate, a desert outpost lying to the south of the High Atlas, sandwiched between the high mountains and the expansive sands of the Sahara. We’ll journey over the Tizi n’Tichka Pass, taking in the extensive views of the surrounding landscapes which changes in colour and terrain as we ascend and descend over the mountains. We then continue to Marrakech, where we have a free evening to enjoy the many delights of the city. Marrakech is a city like no other, a place where trade and barter still renders its centre a delightful chaos of noise and colour and at its heart you’ll find the spectacular Djemma-el-Fna, a site not to be missed.
DAY 9 – 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, you’ll need to depart from Marrakech Menara Airport (RAK), which is a 20 minute drive from the hotel depending on traffic.