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.
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. Overnight in Meknès at Riad Yacout or Palais Didi. Approx driving time: 4 hrs.
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. Overnight in Fes at Riad Yacout or Riad Salam. Approx driving time: 2.5 hrs.
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. Overnight in Fes at Riad Yacout or Riad Salam.
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. Approx driving time: 8 hrs.
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 Gorge 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 (Hotel Xaluca or similar). Approx driving time: 5 hrs.
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 Kasbahs of Skoura and depending on the day, explore the markets of El-Klaa Mgouna. The earthen town of Ouarzazate lies among the shadows of date and pomegranate trees on the banks of the Dades River. Overnight Dar Mouna guesthouse near Ait Ben Haddou (or similar in Ouarzazate). Approx driving time: 2.5 hrs.
This morning we will visit 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. Overnight Riad Berta (or similar). Approx driving time: 4.5 hrs.
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. Overnight Riad Berta (or similar).
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. Overnight Riad Berta (or similar)
Our trip concludes this morning after breakfast. You will be transferred to the airport to meet onward flights if you depart Marrakesh today. Transfers on alternative days or an extension to Essaouira can be arranged at an additional cost. Please ask us for details