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Home » Destinations » Middle East » Morocco » Exodus Highlights of Morocco
For sheer diversity, Morocco is the perfect destination. We explore the imperial cities of Marrakech, Meknes and Fez and continue our journey to the mountain ranges to the south, where sand dunes and kasbahs are scattered among palm oases inhabited by friendly Berbers. A highlight of our trip is a camel trek in the Sahara and a night at a Bedouin camp. We fit in a visit to Todra Gorge, the beautiful 16th-century kasbah of Ait Benhaddou and enjoy a village walk in the picturesque Tijhza valley of the High Atlas. We complete the trip with a walk along the sandy beach of Essaouira.
Arrival at our hotel in the evening
A modern and commercial seaport, Casablanca is a complete contrast to the Morocco we are soon to explore. This morning we make our way to Casablanca to visit the Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest in the world. Afterwards, we drive 2 hours to Rabat, the political capital of Morocco, but second to Casablanca in importance. Although mostly modern, Rabat has an excellent old quarter that we take time to explore.
Strike out from Rabat over the Northern plain towards Meknes. The scenery changes as the land becomes more cultivated, this being one of the most fertile areas of Morocco. Sultan Moulay Ismail’s old capital of Meknes is our first example of one of the imperial cities of Morocco.We meet our guide and wander the narrow streets of the old city, and explore the souk, perhaps having your first chance at bartering for souvenirs. In the afternoon we take a short drive to the largest and best kept Roman ruins in Morocco – Volubilis, once a large Roman town and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This fascinating city is the intellectual and religious centre of Morocco. Founded over a thousand years ago, Fez has many mosques and medersas (theological colleges) including the 9th century al-Karaouine University, whose architecture is very similar to that seen in Moorish Spain. The medina in Fez is one of the largest in the world, an immense warren of souks, home to thousands of craftsmen with their tiny shops opening onto the narrow alleyways. Noisy and pungent, the medina of Fez is a totally absorbing and unique experience. Our city guide walks us through different sections of the souk – including those selling leather brass and copper.
Today we have a long journey of approximately 10 hours, however there will be frequent stops and beautiful scenery along the way. We travel over the stunning Middle Atlas, down through the picturesque Ziz Valley to the Hamada, a flat stony desert, gradually approaching the spectacular site of the golden sand dunes of Erg Chebbi. We stay in a small and welcoming auberge (inn) on the edge of the dunes from where it is easy to climb to watch the sunrise.
There is time today with a free morning to explore the largest sand sea in Morocco, or to relax in the shade of a palm tree by the dunes. The sand sea is famed for its pink tones that take on a spectacular rose colour at sunset. In the late afternoon, we partake in a genuine Saharan experience – a 1.5-hour camel trek through the dunes to an oasis, where we spend the night under the stars in a simple Bedouin camp.
After sunrise, we leave our desert camp and travel by camel back to the auberge where we can have breakfast and a shower. We then head towards the little city of Skoura, nestled on a beautiful palm grove and located near Ouarzazate. From here onwards to explore Todra Gorge, and the picturesque oases they hide in (journey time approximately 4 hours). Following the 1000 Kasbahs Road for approximately 2.5 hours, you will marvel at the breath-taking vistas of impressive ancient Kasbahs nestled in lush palm groves.
There is the opportunity to take a 1 hour drive to Toundout Valley and enjoy a four hour guided hike crossing through a Berber village, where you will learn a little of their culture. Alternatively, relax in and around the lodge walking through the magnificent lush palm groves. Considered as the palm grove capital of Morocco, Skoura will certainly offer peace and relaxation through its various walks discovering multiple palm groves, and Kasbahs.
Leaving Skoura, we re-join the main road and drive west along the ‘Route of the Thousand Kasbahs’ via the desert city of Ouarzazate and on to the well-preserved Kasbah Ait Benhaddou. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most spectacular sights of the Atlas, made famous as the location of several Hollywood films including ‘Gladiator’. After admiring the view, we may see something of the simple village houses. Continuing into the mountains we branch east through a wide flat mountain valley, finally arriving at Anmiter, where we leave our bus and take a 1.5-hour picturesque walk on a gentle uphill gradient to the village of Tigzha, where we spend the next two nights.
We start our day with an optional walk through the villages of the Tigzha Valley, heading up into the hills on mule tracks with the peaks of the High Atlas acting as a fitting backdrop to our walk. The length of our walk will depend on the ability of the group, but it is likely to be approximately 4 hours. The afternoon is free to relax with a book, enjoy the mountain views, take a stroll through the beautiful landscape or challenge the village children to a game of football!
Leaving the gite, we walk back to our bus for a short drive to the palace of Telouet. This once grand building stands abandoned and crumbling but we can visit a small part of this labyrinthine, fairy-tale like structure. We continue our scenic drive over the High Atlas Mountains to Marrakech, via the Tizi’n’Tichka pass, which at 2,260m is the highest road in Morocco. The scenery is spectacular and there are some wonderful views of the mountains. We stop at a women’s cooperative Argan Oil farm, where you can see the trees growing, get a demonstration of the production process as well as have the opportunity to purchase products.
A free day in Essaouira, a charming old Portuguese fishing port overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The settlement dates back to the 15th century but the present town was constructed around 1760 by Sidi Mohammed ben Abdullah, who needed a base from which to suppress a revolt from Agadir. Today, the town is extremely relaxed and its whitewashed houses with painted shutters, artisan workshops, boat yards and fishermen provide a marked contrast to the desert, kasbahs and cities we have so far visited.
After breakfast, we drive back to Marrakech, journey time approximately 2.5 hours. In the afternoon we enjoy a guided tour to help us find our bearings and soak up the atmosphere of this amazing city. Our guide will take us to the Bahia Palace and the Saadian tombs, ending in the Djemma el Fna, where the town becomes a maze of bustling bazaars, palaces and mosques. It is worth seeing this renowned landmark in the evening, as Marrakech revolves around this open-air central square, with food stalls, juice-sellers, snake charmers and acrobats.
Today is free in Marrakech and there is no shortage of things to do. You might wish to visit the largest mosque in Marrakech, Koutoubia, or venture through the souks and old streets of the medina. After bartering for souvenirs, there will be time for a short visit to the Koranic School and Museum of Marrakech. After this, you can unwind by taking a ½ hour calèche ride (a bright green horse-drawn carriage) to the Jardin Majorelle.
You will spend 10 nights in 3 star hotels with en suite bathrooms, 1 night in an auberge, 2 nights in a mountain gite and 1 night camping, all with shared facilities. Some accommodation standards are more often comparable with those found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Some hotel water supplies are heated via solar panels, so hot water can not always be guaranteed, especially in Tijhza. However, all are clean, comfortable, with traditional Moroccan elements.
Please note, prices listed are guide prices only and are based on 2 people sharing and don’t include any additional supplements. Holiday prices are fluid and dynamic and may be changed at a moment’s notice, prior to booking, at which point they are confirmed. Please call the team free on 0800 707 6229 for more departure dates available and a quote.
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