Magical Morocco – Ancient History – Modern Monuments – Mountains, Deserts & Coasts
Day 1: Marrakech – Safi – Oualidia
We depart Marrakech and heading northwest towards the coast over the flat country surrounding this evocative city, drive through numerous small market & farming towns. This fertile stretch of country produces a huge variety of crops and is very different to the lands south of the mountains, as you will see.
We pass through the small port city of Safi, well known for its sardine fleet, pottery and Portuguese fort, then north along the spectacular coastal road….high atop the rugged cliffs, the Atlantic Ocean making landfall with long thundering sweeping surf and isolated beaches beneath you. We reach Oualidia, with its picturesque lagoon, town and small fishing port.
Oualidia has a long history, having a prized sheltered harbour on this rugged coast. Today it is largely a holiday and tourist town and due to its lagoon has extensive oyster farms; the sheltered wetlands stretching for many kilometres are perhaps the best bird habitat and bird watching area in Morocco. Spend the night in a hotel, with dinner and breakfast.
Day 2: Oualidia – El Jadida – Casablanca – Rabat
Continue along the coast to El Jadida. We have a short tour of this historic town with its UNESCO World Heritage Protected Portuguese Medina dating back to at least the early 1500’s, and fascinating Portuguese Cistern or underground vault where you will marvel at the brickwork. Today El Jadida is a holiday resort with popular beach. Continue along the coast, through the town of Azemour on the mouth of the Oum er Rbia River, a mighty river that has its source high in the Middle Atlas.
You will know when we reach Casablanca as its star attraction sits squarely on the coast … the majestic Hassan II Mosque, its minaret the tallest in the world. After a visit to this religiously significant site we tour the City taking in the old Habous Quarter, the European style business district, and the popular Corniche or promenade with its abundance of clubs, restaurants and modern accommodation.
We continue to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. It strides two hills with huge old Almohad walls still visible in sections with their massive decorated gates. We see the Royal Palace, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, and dating back to the early 1100’s the Kasbah des Oudaias – an old village quarter perched on the cliffs near the river mouth – and the amazing ruins of Chellah, a once thriving city and port. Dinner and breakfast in your hotel.
Day 3: Rabat – Meknes – Moulay Idriss – Volubilis – Fes
After breakfast, leave Rabat/Sale to travel through rolling, intensively farmed hills to Meknes, and our first stop for today. There is much history in Meknes, so we tour the old city ramparts, the massive gate of Bab Mansour, past the old Ville Imperiale (Palace) with its ancient granary, stables and adjacent gardens. Stop for photos at these historic sites. Leaving Meknes, we drive to the holy town of Moulay Idriss named after the founder of the first Arab dynasty in Morocco. Perched tenaciously on a steep hillside it is a revered site. We travel 4kms to Volubilis and the ruins of once the furthest point of the Roman Empire until their withdrawal in 285AD – impressive columns, walls & remains of buildings are all that is left today. After a brief stop, continue to Fes. Dinner and breakfast in your hotel/riad.
Day 4: Fes – Fes
After breakfast, spend the day touring this city so important to Morocco’s history both spiritually and intellectually. You will have a guided tour of the medina, tanneries, Medersa, the pottery, old Merenid tombs and take in the sweeping city panorama from this high point. It will likely bombard all your senses! Have dinner and breakfast in your hotel/riad.
Day 5: Fes – Ifrane – Azrou – Kasba Tadla – Cascades d’Ouzoud
Today we leave the frenetic pace of medinas, souks and shopping behind to head into the Middle Atlas, then the foothills of the mighty High Atlas Mountains. We climb to the town of Ifrane, built to almost Swiss Alpine architecture and quite unlike anything else you will see in Morocco. This scenic drive continues through great stands of mountain cedar forests, fruit growing valleys, and majestic hills towards Kasbah Tadla, once an important fortress, then higher into the foothills to your overnight stay near the spectacular waterfalls of Cascades d’Ouzoud. Visit the waterfalls, where the water tumbles over high cliffs to pools below creating a lush environment for scenic walks and picnic spots. Dinner and breakfast in your accommodation.
Day 6: Cascades d’Ouzoud – Bin el-Ouidane – Imilchil & the Lakes – Tamtattouchte
After breakfast, we head to Bin el-Ouidane driving over the lake dam, then continue into the High Atlas Mountains. This spectacular route takes us to Imilchil, and the special twin lakes of Tislit and Isli where you will have wonderful photo opportunities, then to your overnight stay in the village of Tamtattouchte. This is an incomparable drive of timeless villages, fertile valleys and wonderful gorges surrounded by barren, dominating mountain peaks. It will take your breath away. Dinner and breakfast in your auberge/hotel.
Day 7: Tamtattouchte – Todra Gorge – Tinerhir – Alnif – N’Kob – Zagora
Leaving the wonderful hospitality of your overnight hosts, we continue towards the narrow, towering Todra Gorge, hewed out over millions of years by its river. Exiting this Gorge means stepping into another environment – that of the great dry sandy desert and tough hammada plains of southern Morocco. It is an awesome journey, thought provoking. We join the beautiful Draa Valley to go south, home to thousands of huge date palmeries, traditional mud-brick villages, herds of goats & sheep and old Kasbahs. We reach the regional centre of Zagora where we spend the night. Dinner and breakfast in your hotel/riad or guesthouse.
Day 8: Zagora – Tamegroute – Erg Chegaga (Atta Desert Camp)
After breakfast, continue south to the desert. At the town of Tamegroute visit the old (partly underground) Kasbah still inhabited by families, a famous small pottery – renowned for its green glazed earthenware – and historic Quranic Library housing thousands (once 40,000) important religious books, documents & parchments (some beautifully and elaborately illustrated). We soon leave sealed roads behind and travel 55kms over varied desert terrain to the Atta Desert Camp nestled in the mighty dunes of this protected wilderness area. On reaching the camp, stretch your legs, get to know your tent, enjoy wonderful Berber hospitality with a welcome glass of hot Moroccan tea, and explore around you. Dinner will be served under the stars around the camp fire or in the unique restaurant, followed by traditional entertainment.
Day 9: Atta Desert Camp
Wake early and climb the adjacent high dune to watch the sun rise to gently touch this amazing peaceful landscape as it brings a soft early light to the desert. Enjoy breakfast, then explore the “neighbourhood”! Drive by 4×4 to nearby oases, visit a nomad school, visit nomads if they are in the area, take a camel ride – have a picnic lunch! The choice is yours. At the camp try sandboarding! At the end of the day relax, have a hot shower; while your dinner is being prepared perhaps climb the dunes again to watch the sun set, giving a magical golden glow to your pictures (yes, bring plenty of SD card capacity and spare camera battery!) The camp has solar power so we provide most modern facilities including lighting to your tents, and comfortable European beds. Enjoy another fun night of wonderful Berber food and entertainment.
We have 2 options to continue your tour:
OPTION 1: FROM Atta Desert Camp – VIA the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass, High Atlas Mountains
Day 10: Atta Desert Camp – Foum Zguid – Tazenakht – Ouarzazate
Reluctantly say good bye to the great Erg Chegaga and the Atta Desert Camp and head across the plains and large dry Lake Iriki. This extensive flat dry lake bed was once part of the route for the Paris-Dakar Rally; stop along the way at a ridge of fossil bearing rocks, proof of times when this area was underwater. As we leave the plains, pass through the rural town of Foum Zguid then the Anti-Atlas Mountains with colourful valleys and villages. Stop at Tazenakht to see traditional carpet weaving, then continue to Ouarzazate. Dinner and breakfast in your hotel.
Day 11: Ouarzazate – Ait Ben Haddou – Kasbah Telouet- Tizi n’ Tichka Pass – Marrakech
After breakfast, tour the famous Atlas Studios, home to the making of many famous movies, then visit the imposing old Kzar or fortress of Ait Ben Haddou which sits defiantly and magnificently piled up its hillside above a river, now a UNESCO protected site. It is not hard to see why it is the backdrop to many famous films including Lawrence of Arabia. From here we reach the imposing Kasbah Telouet for a quick tour, abandoned only in 1956 by the powerful Glaoumi family. Our route climbs over the highest vehicle pass in Morocco, the spectacular Tizi n’ Tichka Pass of the High Atlas Mountains offering superb vistas in all directions and countless hair-pin bends, before dropping down to the plains of Marrakech. Dinner and breakfast in your hotel/riad in Marrakech.
Day 12: Marrakech – Marrakech
After breakfast, you will have a city sights tour. This guided tour will test your senses (and direction!) as you go through the old Medina, the labyrinth of alleyways and small shops that make up the traditional souks, the Koutoubia Mosque, Saardian Tombs, Bahia Palace and of course the colourful, exotic, noisy, unforgettable Jmaa El Fna Square. Be surprised at nothing! We will take you to the Jardin Marjorelle and the beautiful Menara Gardens by vehicle (or horse drawn caleche if you prefer!) Dinner and breakfast in your hotel/riad.
Day 13: Marrakech – Transfer Home
We will transfer you to your departure point for the return home.
OPTION 2 – FROM Atta Desert Camp – VIA The Coast
Day 10: Atta Desert Camp – Foum Zguid- Tazenakht – Talioiune – Taroudannt
Reluctantly we say good bye to the great Erg Chegaga and the Atta Desert Camp and head across the plains and large dry Lake Iriki. This extensive flat dry lake bed was once part of the route for the Paris-Dakar Rally; stop along the way at a ridge of fossil bearing rocks, proof of times when this area was underwater. As we leave the plains, pass through the rural town of Foum Zguid then head into Anti-Atlas Mountains with colourful valleys and villages. Stop at Tazenakht to see traditional carpet weaving, then enjoy the drive through rolling hills around Taliouine (one of the major saffron growing regions of Africa), and the fertile Souss Valley as we near Taroudannt. We explore this friendly market town with its own long history and huge encircling golden walls, the market with specialties such as leather, jewellery and carpets. Spend the night in your hotel/riad with dinner and breakfast.
Day 11: Taroudannt – Tafraoute – Mirhleft
After breakfast we leave the Souss Valley and drive across remote country with isolated villages of the stunning Anti Atlas Mountains, to Tafraoute. We have a look at the eccentrically painted (blue & pink) large rocks, set in their dramatic landscape in the Ameln Valley before reaching the coastal village of Mirhleft. The wild beaches and big surf of this area attract serious surfers! We visit the spectacular beach of Legzira a short distance from Mirhleft where huge natural red stone arches stretch out across the beach from high cliff tops, providing an unforgettable sight, especially in the evening. Spend the night in your hotel/auberge in Mirhleft with dinner and breakfast.
Day 12: Mirhleft – Agadir – Essaouira
Leaving these beautiful wild beaches and coves behind we head north to Agadir, where we have a quick tour and perhaps lunch. The drive continues above this rugged Atlantic coast passing argan trees famous for their oils, to our overnight stop at picturesque Essaouira. At Essaouira we tour the very busy fishing port, visit the old Portuguese ramparts, the medina and the beach. Stay overnight in your accommodation with dinner and breakfast.
Day 13: Essaouira – Casablanca/ Marrakech
Today we transfer you to your departure point for return home.