Widely regarded as Morocco’s holiest place, overnight visits to Moulay Idriss were prohibited to non-Muslims until 2005. Experience a homestay with a charming local family; if you’re lucky, you might even get an invite to a cooking demonstration by the ladies of the house. Enjoy plenty of time to practise your photography among the vivid blue houses of Chefchaouen. Scale the High Atlas Mountains and trek through scenic Berber villages, spending a night in a traditional Berber homestay. Discover the culture and tradition of an indigenous population who have stood the test of time. Negotiate your way through the winding alleys of Ait Benhaddou Kasbah, a superb example of Moroccan architecture rich in history and mystery
Discover Morocco, the land of contrasts – soaring mountains, lush valleys, the vast, unforgettable Sahara Desert and often missed pristine waters hiding in secret valleys and sprawling untouched beaches of southern Morocco. Travel in the footsteps of pirates, sultans and desert nomads, exploring the colonial architecture of Casablanca, the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis, the medieval city of Fes and the intricate clay architecture of the Ait Benhaddou Kasbah. Move further to the south to explore a new side to Morocco that has inspired writers, painters and travellers. Enjoy the warm local hospitality and embark on this exotic, three week long adventure that will allow you to fully discover Morocco, the jewel of North Africa.
Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Morocco. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. As there's no free time included in Casablanca on this trip, we highly recommend you book an additional night or two of accommodation before the trips starts so you can explore. Modelled after Marseille in France, the city is famous for its art deco buildings and the modern-day masterpiece, the Hassan II Mosque. A pleasant way to spend the day exploring Casablanca is to wander the old medina and the city walls, then jump in a taxi to visit the Quartiers des Habous, the new medina. Finish the day with a walk along the Corniche, watching the locals play football on the beach.
Today take an early morning 1-hour train to the historical town of Rabat. Rabat's history is long and colourful, having been host to Roman settlements, pirates and more recently the Moroccan parliament. It contains numerous fine Arab monuments, some dating to the Almohad and Merenid dynasties and others that are far older. The earliest known settlement is Sala, occupying an area now known as the Chellah. Store your luggage and spend a few hours strolling through the city's old quarter, then walk up to Kasbah des Oudaias and enjoy views over the Atlantic Ocean. Continue on to Meknes by train (approximately 3 hours), before taking a 45-minute taxi through scenic countryside to the sacred pilgrimage village of Moulay Idriss. At sunset see great views over the plains of Volubilis below. This evening, you will be treated with a stay at La Clombe Blanche – a family-run guesthouse operating exclusively for you. You’ll be able to share a meal and have an authentic interaction with the locals – it will feel like a home away from home. Also, be sure to catch the sunset from the rooftop!
Today, take a guided tour of the archaeological site of Volubilis. World Heritage-listed Volubilis was one of the Roman empire's most remote bases. The remains make an undeniably impressive sight as they come into view on the edge of a long, high plateau. When it was damaged by an earthquake in the 18th century, much of the marble was taken for construction in Meknes. Enjoy a tour of the ancient hilltop ruins with a local guide. Please remember to pack drinking water, hat, sunglasses and sun cream for this tour as it may get hot and you will be exposed to the sun. And, of course, don’t forget to take your camera as the town is filled with fantastic mosaics along the Decumanus Maximus, many of which remain intact. Afterwards, return to the nearby imperial city of Meknes, where you'll have a few hours to explore. Sultan Moulay Ismail set out to build his own version of Versailles in the form of Meknes, constructing walls, gates and palaces with a labour force of over 25,000 slaves. The adventurous may want to try a camel burger for lunch at a local restaurant in the medina – don’t knock it ‘til you try it! In the afternoon, take a 1-hour train to Fes, where you'll spend the next two nights. Fes is the most complete medieval city in the Arab world, and the most ancient of Morocco's imperial cities.
Take a guided group walking tour of the old city, known locally as Fes el Bali. Step back into the Middle Ages in the labyrinth of the Medina, which is alive with craftsmen, markets, tanneries and mosques. Pass donkeys piled high with goods (this is one of the largest car-free urban zones in the world) and explore the specialty sections that divide the souk. Look out for the Medersa Bou Inania: one of the city's most beautiful buildings, which has recently been restored and is now open to tourists. Visit Medresse el Attarine and the splendid Funduk Nejjarine: a beautifully restored 18th century inn. You'll also see the famous tannery, known for the iconic view overlooking its dye pits, and a ceramics factory where you can see potters working in the traditional way. After the tour, the afternoon is free to get lost in the city's maze of streets and alleys, take a photo outside the Royal Palace or visit the nearby hills for incredible views. You may also head to the Palais Jamai for a drink. Watching the sunset over the Medina while a dozen prayer calls vie for attention is an experience you'll likely remember for a long time. In the evening, enjoy a delicious group dinner of Moroccan specialities like harira (chickpea soup) and chicken-stuffed pastilla with couscous.
Take a local 4-hour bus to the isolated town of Chefchaouen today. Chefchaouen, or the Blue City, is known as one of the prettiest places in Morocco. Set against a wide valley and nestled between two peaks in the stunning Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen may take you by surprise. Its medina has been lovingly cared for with striking blue and whitewashed houses, red-tiled roofs and artistic doorways. Much of Chefchaouen was recreated by Andalusian refugees escaping the Reconquistia, so you might feel like you're in the hills of Spain while exploring its streets. Ease into the relaxed pace of life in this rural retreat. Take a stroll through the ancient medina and shop for handicrafts, go hiking in the Rif mountains, or simply sit at a cafe and enjoy the pleasure of time passing by. If you're feeling peckish, the goat’s cheese on offer is a popular treat enjoyed by many visitors.
Today is a free day to explore Chefchaouen. Perhaps take a guided tour of the sights, sounds, and smells of the medina, or sample the delicious local specialties at a cafe in the Plaza Uta el-Hammam. Admire the architecture of the 15th-century Grand Mosque (closed to non-Muslims) and browse the shops in the square selling woven goods and small sweets. Also, within the plaza is the walled fortress of the Kasbah. Wander through the tranquil gardens inside, check out the ethnographic museum and soak in wonderful views from the rooftop. Alternatively, you might prefer to get out of town and enjoy a hike and picnic in the surrounding hills. In the evening, how about tucking into a tagine at a local restaurant or visit a hammam a traditional Moroccan spa? The night is yours.
Take a 3-hour private minibus journey to the coastal town of Tangier – a place of strategic importance to the Mediterranean as gateway to Africa. Once a hotspot for artists, secret agents and millionaires, Tangier has been going through something of a renaissance of late thanks to the arrival of a new monarch in Morocco in 1999. Mohammed VI of Morocco and his forward-thinking ideas about commerce and tourism has suddenly woke up the community to the potential of this city. Today, the city's medina and kasbah are well worth exploring, as are the cafes and patisseries around the Place de la France in the Ville Nouvelle. Perhaps visit the American Legation Museum, the former palace of Dar el-Makhzen or the Caves of Hercules. The recently reconstructed beach promenade is lined with great restaurants. You could also enjoy a fresh seafood dinner by the port, watching the sun set over the Atlantic. Later tonight, you’ll board an overnight sleeper train bound for Marrakech.
Arrive early into Marrakech on your train, and then the day is free for you to explore. Marrakech is a feast for the senses. Explore the Medina and the city's seemingly endless mosaic of souqs, each is devoted to a separate trade: pottery, woodwork, copper, leather, carpets and spices. Perhaps visit the well-known Koutoubia Mosque and its 12th-century minaret, which was the famous prototype for the Giralda tower in Seville. Or, you could take a wander through the tropical gardens of the French painter Jacques Majorelle (now owned by Yves Saint Laurent). You might like to check out the Palais Bahia, a superb example of Muslim architecture, or the ruins of the Palais Badi, reputedly one of the most beautiful palaces in the world in its time. The Saadian tombs are a recently uncovered gem of the Medina. All of the above can be a challenge to locate, but that's all part of the experience of exploring the medinas of Morocco. In the evening, join the thronging crowds for an optional dinner in the Djemaa el Fna: the city's main square. When night falls it transforms into a hive of activity. Henna-painters, performers and storytellers share the square with a street food bazaar, packed with stalls loaded with Moroccan delicacies.
Today is a free day for you to discover Marrakech further. Perhaps explore the Medina for some shopping, where every step brings a new smell, a new sight or a new gift to buy. In the seemingly endless mosaic of souqs, each is devoted to a separate trade: pottery, woodwork, copper, leather, carpets and spices. Watch skilled artisans perfect their craft, practise your haggling skills or take a break from the hustle to sip on tea or share a tajine, filled with the
pure scent of Morocco. You can also venture out of Marrakech for a day trip; if you feel energetic, why not try one of the famous day walking trips. Oukaimeden or Ourika Valley are great places not far from Marrakech. If you would like to relax after the first part of your adventure, ask your leader to help you out with booking a session in one of the famous Moroccan Hammams.
Today, take a short drive up the towering High Atlas Mountains to the village of Imlil (approximately 2 hours), photographing snow-dappled mountains and valleys in full flower along the way. On arrival, store your main luggage and load daypacks onto pack mules before walking into traditional mountain village life with a one-hour trek up to the peaceful village of Aroumd. If you feel like the walk is too strenuous then there's the option of riding the mule. Perched on a rocky outcrop, the remote village of Aroumd offers stunning views across the High Atlas Mountains and a unique opportunity to experience traditional Berber culture. Spend the night in a family-run mountain home (gite) in Aroumd. Surrounded by the smell of woodstoves and bread, meet the host family and enjoy Berber hospitality and food. Facilities at the homestay are shared (both the bathroom and sleeping arrangements) but cosy, comfortable and definitely a unique Intrepid experience. Use the rest of the day to explore the village and the surrounding farmlands. If the group are up for it and weather permits, there will be a chance to hike of around eight kilometres to the pilgrimage shrine of Sidi Chamharouch (approximately 4 hours return). Regardless of fitness levels, the gentle pace of Aroumd makes it a special place to explore beyond the reach of the modern world.
This morning journey along mountain roads and over Morocco's highest pass, Tizi n'Tichka (2,260 metres), to Ait Benhaddou on the edges of the Sahara (approximately 6 hours). Perched on a hilltop and almost unchanged since the 11th century, Ait Benhaddou is one of Morocco's most iconic site. It was once an important stop for caravans passing through as they carried salt across the Sahara, returning with gold, ivory and slaves. Today its grand kasbah has been listed as a World Heritage site, with its fortified village being a fine example of clay architecture. If you think you recognise the place, you probably do, as the town has a long list of film and TV credits, including Lawrence of Arabia, Game of Thrones and Gladiator. Enjoy a walk through the winding streets of old town, making your way to the top of the hill, from where you can enjoy the views across the surrounding plains. In the evening, why not join a simple cooking demonstration of Morocco's most famous cuisine: couscous and tagine. The locals will explain the secrets and subtleties of these traditional meals, as the ladies of the kitchen prepare a feast.
This morning you'll journey south towards the Sahara, stopping in the regularly used film location of Ouarzazate along the way (approximately 5 hours in total). Continue to travel through the lush Draa Valley to Zagora, a small oasis town on the Sahara fringe that is perfect for an overnight stop. Take a stroll through the palm groves, explore the ksars and wander around the surrounding countryside.