Morocco Sahara and Beyond
Day 1 Casablanca (1D)
Arrive at any time. Transfer to hotel is included. In the evening there will be a brief meeting where you will meet your CEO and fellow group members to go over the details of your trip. On arrival, check the notice board (or ask reception) to see the exact time and location of this group meeting. Afterwards, go out for a welcome dinner in a nearby local restaurant. If you arrive late, no worries, your leader will leave you a message at the front desk.
Day 2 Meknes/Volubilis/Fes (1B)
Enjoy a guided tour of the imperial city of Meknes. Continue on to the ruins of Volubilis, the best-preserved Roman ruins in Morocco, before arriving in Fes. Meknes is one of the four Imperial cities and its name and fame are closely linked to that of the Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail, who made Meknes the center of his empire and built many of the monuments that remain today. We start our tour in front of the impressive 18th century Bab Mansour, the ornamental gate to the imperial city of Meknes built by Sultan Moulay Ismail in honour of himself. The gate faces Place el-Hadim, where, after dark fills with many Moroccan families coming to be entertained by story-tellers, snake-charmers, horse rides & medicine men. To the left of the square you’ll find one of Morocco’s most colourful & friendliest fresh produce souqs & home to the city’s famous confectionaries. Behind the square is the entrance to the rambling souqs where you can discover the many artisans and their crafts. From here we enter what is left of the imperial city (Meknes was flatten by a huge earthquake in 1755) & visit the small but impressive Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, pass by the entrance of the Meknes Royal Palace & end up at Moulay Ismail’s massive Heri es Souani. This was his personal stable & granary for his 12,000 horses. Continue through the rolling hills to the Roman ruins of Volubilis, the best preserved Roman ruins in Morocco. Once an important Roman town situated near the westernmost border of Roman conquests, in 1997 Volubilis was listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site. Wandering through the deserted streets where chariots once passed, you can envision the vibrance the town once held. Have your local guide explain about life in the old Roman Empire - peering into old bathhouses, marvelling at the still-present mosaic floors and gazing up at the towering marble pillars. Continue to Fez, where we spend the night. We will be staying in the the new city of Fez, built by the French during their Protectorate of Morocco. This area has the feel of a French provincial town, with its cafés, restaurants and wide boulevards. Head off for a Moroccan feast at one of the many restaurants and finish off the night with some famous Moroccan mint tea and a shisha! Approx travel times: Casablanca to Meknes - 4 hours Meknes to Volubilis - 45mins Volubilis to Fez - 2 hours. Please note this is actual driving time, not including stops. As we stop to explore Meknes and Volubilis, we will not arrive in Fez until evening.
Day 3 Fes (1B)
Step back in time and embark on a walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage-rated Fes medina, exploring the winding lanes and alleys by visiting the many artisans, tanneries and shops. We enter through one of the great gates into the chaotic, confusing & melee that is the Fez medina. With a local expert guide, we explore the medina’s many artisans’ quarters, such as the brass & copper souqs, the wedding souq & the carpenters plus its bakers, butchers & spice sellers, ending up at Fez’s famous Tannery, where we have great views from its panoramic viewpoints. We’ll also get to see its religious & historical heart when we visit Moulay Idriss II’s Mausoleum (the founder of Fez), the 14th century Bou Inania Medersa & the 9th century Al Karaouine University. This evening there may be the chance to partake in an optional dinner in a grand old Fez riad which has been converted into a spectacular restaurant. You would not only enjoy a delicious meal of local specialities, but also an evening of entertainment such as singing, music and belly dancing.
Day 4-5 Marrakech (2B,1D)
Travel to Marrakech. In the evening, experience all the colour and chaos of the famous Djemaa el Fna square. Watch storytellers, snake charmers and acrobats, while enjoying a simple and delicious local meal at a market food stall. On Day 5, explore with a local expert guide including the historical sites of Koutoubia Minaret, Palais Bahia, Palais Badi and Medresa Ben Youssef, the medina (old quarter) and the alleys of the bustling souks. A great place to start your exploration of Marrakech is Djemaa el Fna square, the heart of Marrakech, that changes its offerings throughout the day. In the morning you’ll wander past the fresh orange juice stalls, water sellers in colourful costumes with traditional leather water bags and brass cups, and snake charmers reminiscent of an era past. As the day progresses the snake charmers are replaced by Chleuh dancing-boys, story-tellers, magicians, and peddlers of traditional medicines. As the sun sets, the square fills with dozens of food-stalls, packed with locals and the entertaining chefs and waiters. Grab a spot on a bench with the other diners and try the Tanjia (slow cooked lamb), Harira soup, grilled seafood, famous Moroccan couscous, tajine, snails or even sheep’s head for the truly adventurous, and wash it all down with some spiced tea. To really get a taste of everyday life in Marrakech, head into the maze of tiny streets and alleyways of the ancient medina. Tourists and locals alike will find everything they desire in the souks, whether it’s spices, traditional jalabas and slippers, or famous Moroccan lanterns, the selection here is exhaustive, and don’t forget to bargain, it's definitely part of the fun. For history and architecture buffs Marrakech is sure to dazzle. The Koutoubia Mosque, Bahia Palace, Saadian Tombs, Ben Youseff Medersa and Almovid Koubba are all easy to get to and well worth a visit. Once you’ve tired yourself out, relax at one of the tea houses around the square, indulging in the ubiquitous sweet mint tea, watching the hustle and bustle from your shady spot. Approx travel time: Fes to Marrakech 6hrs
Day 6 Aït Ben Haddou (1B,1D)
Travel to Aït Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Atlas Mountains, and explore this ancient kasbah village. Aït Benhaddou is a wonderful example of a kasbah, which is a type of fortress. Carefully restored over the years and now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is now considered to be one of the best preserved kasbahs in Morocco. A few families still call the kasbah their home, but the majority of locals have gradually moved to the nearby settlement. During our visit to the Kasbah, lose yourself in the narrow, winding passageways and feel the magical atmosphere of this incredible structure. Opt to take a tagine cooking course in your free time. Approx travel time: Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou 5hrs
Day 7 Erg Cheggaga Desert Camp (1B,1L,1D)
Travel through the Draa Valley to Zagora and embark on 4x4s into the desert. Stop at Tamegroute to visit the library of ancient Islamic texts and local pottery studios. Continue off-road to the great dunes of Erg Cheggaga to stay at a deluxe desert camp. Enjoy a camel ride or climb to the top of the dunes for views of the vast Sahara. Tonight, enjoy a traditional dinner under the stars. Approx travel time: Ait Benhaddou to Zagora 3hrs Approx travel time: Zagora to Erg Chegagga 3hrs on a 4x4
Day 8 Zagora (1B)
Cross the desert back to Zagora and enjoy a talk of the history of the Draa region, and visit local historical sites. Approx travel time: Erg Chegagga to Zagora 3hrs
Day 9 Taroudant (1B)
Head towards the Anti-Atlas region to the carpet town of Tazenakht and Taliouine, where saffron is harvested. In Taroudant, visit the famed leather tanneries and local markets. Approx travel time: Zagora toTaroudant 6-7 hrs
Day 10-11 Tafraoute (2B,1L)
Enter the Anti-Atlas region to view natural rock formations. This afternoon, explore the town centre and its local markets. On Day 11, visit Aït Mansour Gorge, the Painted Rocks and the Chapeau du Napoleon. Walk through a palm valley and have lunch in a local village house. Visit a women's cooperative that produces handicrafts and argan oil. Approx travel time: Taroudant to Tafraout 4hrs
Day 12-13 Essaouira (2B,1L)
Travel to the Atlantic Coast to the port town of Essaouira. Head down to the port to see the fishing fleet unload their catch and discover the local artisans and woodworkers. Option to take a camel ride on the beach, go sailing or visit a hammam (traditional spa and steam baths). Enjoy this coastal city and don't miss the colourful and lively spectacle of the return of the boats to the port, with their baskets full of fish. Afterwards, head up to the ramparts on the old city wall for a great view over the city and out to sea. Browse the shops and art galleries or take a stroll along the long, sandy beach. This is the perfect place to unwind and relax with a cold beer or shisha pipe (waterpipe). The active might choose to take a surfing or windsurfing lesson, hire a fishing rod or just take a long walk on the beach. In the evening, head to one of the local barbeque fish cafes where you can pick out the catch of the day and have it cooked to perfection for the perfect sea food dinner. Essaouira is also famous for its music scene and a great chance to check out a live performance. Approx travel time: Tafraout to Essaouira 5-6hrs
Days 14 Marrakech (1B,1D)
Return to Marrakech and visit Menara Gardens and the Jardin Majorelle. Enjoy a farewell dinner at a palace-style restaurant with local folklore entertainment. Approx travel time: Essaouira to Marrakech 2.5-3hrs
Day 15 Marrakech (1B)
Depart at any time.