The Grand Morocco Tour- Cities, Coast, Mountains & the Desert

Enjoy culture, history, adventure, and relaxation during this two-week Morocco tour, beginning in Casablanca and ending in Essaouira. You’ll spend equal time in historic medinas of imperial cities as you explore the desert and Atlas Mountains. Plus, there will be enough time to lie out on a beach, soak in a hammam, and listen to traditional Berber music on a Sahara tour.

 

Hassan II Mosque

Day 1 –  Welcome to Morocco – Casablanca

 Welcome to Morocco, and the great city of Casablanca, the perfect place to acclimatize to the culture. Your adventure begins today with a welcome meeting at the airport, if you arrive with time to spare, then perhaps visit the art deco Villa des Arts, this gorgeous gallery dates back to the 1930s and holds numerous exhibitions of contemporary Moroccan and international art. If you are looking for a different type of cultural experience, then you can discover a unique and fascinating part of Moroccan history at the Museum of Judaism. After lunch and refreshments, you will visit the magnificent Hassan II Mosque and understand why this is considered the ‘diamond’ of the city. Completed in 1993, this architectural masterpiece has a retractable roof, and heated glass floors that look over the Atlantic Ocean, and is one of the most impressive religious monuments in the world. Hassan II Mosque can accommodate 25,000 worshippers and is one of the only religious sites open to non-Muslims. Dinner of Welcome and Overnight at your Hotel / Villa in Casablanca.

 

Hassan Tower

Day 2 – Casablanca – Rabat  – Chefchaouen

Today you’ll transfer up the coast and inland to Chefchaouen, stopping in your first imperial city and present-day capital, Rabat. Start with a visit to the medieval fortification of Chellah Necropolis, enter through the Kasbah des Oudaias, and wander through the Roman and Islamic ruins for a taste of Rabat’s original city center. Enjoy walking in the peaceful white and blue-washed streets of this residential area. Next, visit the 20th-century Andalusian Gardens for a respite from the crowds. Discover the Hassan Tower, a minaret of the incomplete mosque, and the Mausoleum of Mohamed V.  Take in the scenery en route to Chefchaoun as you enter the Rif Mountains. Dinner and overnight in  Chefchaouen.

 

Chaouen-Morocco

Day 3 – Explore the Blue Medina of Chefchaouen – Free Time

After breakfast, head to explore Morocco’s famed “blue city.” Wind through the city’s medina and its maze of picturesque streets while appreciating the relaxed atmosphere. From Plaza Uta el-Hammam, peruse nearby souks (markets), grab a bite to eat, and visit the Grand Mosque and Kasbah. Next, explore the Quartier Al Andalous with its houses painted white, green, or blue. End the day at Ras el Ma Spring and continue up the path for another 30 minutes to enjoy the exotic view from the Spanish Mosque. The afternoon will be free at your leisure.

 

 

Roman Archeological site

Day 4 –Chefchaouen – Roman Ruins of Volubilis and the imperial cities of Meknes and Fes

Rise early to snap photos of the people-less streets before leaving for Fes. Stop along the way at the UNESCO-protected Volubilis ruins—the Roman’s farthest reach in Africa. Wander the complex, exploring merchant homes with still-intact heating systems, temples, and many mosaics in situ. Continue on to the smaller, less busy version of Fes, Meknes, for an introduction to a historic imperial city. The two main points of interest are the Ville Impériale (Imperial City) and the medina. Be sure to visit the Bab al-Mansour gate, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, and the Royal Stables. Continue on to Fes. With its impressively large (and somewhat confusing) old medina, Fes is a city worth getting lost in. Dinner and overnight at your Riad / Hotel in Fez.

 

Bab-Boujelud

Day 5 – Exploring the Imperial City and Medieval Medina in Fez

Fes is the oldest of the imperial cities in Morocco (Meknes, Marrakech, and Rabat are the others) and perhaps the most interesting to explore. A UNESCO-protected site, the city hasn’t undergone much colonial development, leaving you to experience its medieval charm. Fes consists of two old medina quarters, Fes el Bali (where you will spend most of your time) and Fes el Jdid (a slightly newer part of the city), and the early 20th-century French designed Ville Nouvelle. Meet your guide to help you navigate the narrow and maze-like ancient streets of the medinas, starting in Fes el Bali (789 CE).

Note the Spanish and Tunisian-influenced architecture as you pass the variety of souks (markets) offering spices, leather goods, and pewter. Known for its tanneries and the acrid smell associated with them, visit the popular Chouara Tannery and climb to the roof of a nearby shop for a better view of the goings-on. Visit the 14th-century Al Attarine Madrasa and admire the zellij tilework before checking out one of the oldest, still operating universities in the world, Al-Qarawiyyin University (859 CE). Find the Mellah (old Jewish quarter) in Fes el Jdid for another encompassing view of the city.

Before ending your guided tour in Fez, take the time to visit the Merenid Tombs located just north of the city and enjoy the all-encompassing view of historic Fes and the surrounding area. Descend the hill and return to your accommodation in Fez.

 

To-Merzouga-Dunes

Day 6 –Fes- Ifrane – Cedar Forest – Atlas Mountains-Ziz valley-Merzouga-  Erg Chebbi Dunes 

Continue your journey south, over the Col du Zad pass (7,146 feet or 2,178 m) and through the cedar forests of the Middle Atlas mountains. You will see families of Barbary macaque monkeys in the trees and by the side of the road as you head to Midelt (the “apple city”) for lunch. Appreciate the scenery: the Moulouya River and the apple orchards. Next, travel over the Tizi n’Talremt pass and into the Ziz Valley dotted with oases and palm tree clusters. Notice the many ksars, fortified houses merchants built to protect their wares (gold, salt, and spices).

Nearing Erfoud, you will start to see the early signs of the Sahara sand dunes. Never stationary, the dunes travel as the winds shift. If you’re lucky, you may come across a nomadic Berber family and have the chance to drink tea together. Visit Erfoud and discover how the fossil-rich rock of its mines is transformed into decorative and practical objects. Continue on to the extensive sea of sand dunes of Erg Chebbi. Covering 13.5 square miles (35 square km), some dunes rise to over 656.2 feet (200 m), their color changing with the moving sun.

Outside of Merzouga, change the pace and prepare for a camel ride through the dunes, arriving at camp just before sunset. You will be welcomed with a mint tea before you mount upon camels and guided by an experienced camel man, to start your safari within the mysterious golden  Morocco Desert. Return to camp for dinner in the open air and an evening by the campfire enjoying traditional Berber music from the locals under a blanket of stars. Spend the night in a Bedouin-style tent.

 

Day 7 –Adventures around Merzouga, Rissani Market & Todra Gorge

Wake early to catch a desert sunrise, before trying your skill at sandboarding. You will also have the option of joining either an Erg Chebbi (sand dune) tour or an ATV tour. Visit nearby Khemliya, a traditional Saharan village, and experience traditional drumming music and dancing before taking a short walk around the village. Leave the dunes behind and stop in the market town of Rissani, entering through its impressive gate. Known for its livestock auction it’s worth your time finding the ‘donkey parking lot’ to delight your senses.

Continue on to Tinerhir. This desert town offers awesome views of neighboring towns hugging the length of the extensive river oasis (30 miles or 48 km of palm trees). Stop at today’s final destination, the Todra Gorge. 984 feet (300 m) high and carved by the Todra River through red limestone, here you can enjoy a leisurely walk in and around the gorge and relax in the cool waters of the shallow river below. Dinner and Overnight in Todra Valley.

 

Day 8 – Todra Valley – Dades Valley, Ouarzazate & Aït Benhaddou Kasbah

Travel along the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs to Morocco’s most famous kasbah, Aït Benhaddou. Pass through the Dades Valley and Boumalne Dades. Stop in Kelâat M’Gouna to admire the rose bushes bordering plots of farmland. Visit a rose cooperative to see the process of converting rose petals into rose water and oil. Continue west to stop in Ouarzazate and discover how its nearby regions have been featured in movies, including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, and Black Hawk Down. Join a movie studio tour and visit the Musée du Cinema to learn more about the filmmaking process and history of the area.

Travel to nearby Aït Benhaddou. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the old ksar dates from the 11th century when it held an important position along the trans-Saharan trade route. Settle into your accommodation in the old town, before wandering the near-empty alleys and passageways in the late afternoon. Climb up to the old Granary—an excellent vantage point to see the kasbah and surrounding area. Game of Thrones fans may want to trek down to the river to see the gates featured in the popular HBO series. Long after the day crowds have left, enjoy a quiet dinner overlooking the valley.

 

Day 10 – Ouarzazate- Taznakt – Taliouine – Taroudant

After breakfast, we will get on the road to Taroudant via Taznakt, stopping in Taliouine to visit the Safran co-operatives. If your visit coincides with the Safran harvest, you will have the opportunity to meet the Berber women with their families harvesting the Safran in their fields.

In the afternoon, we arrive at Taroudant, where you’ll see the ramparts and walk within the small alleys in the Medina. Taroudant is often referred to as “the smallest Marrakech” because most of its walls were built by the Saadian dynasty in the 16th century before they moved to the great “Red City”.

Dinner and overnight in your Riad / Hotel in Taroudant.

 

Essaouira-Harbor

Day 11 – Taroudant – Agadir – Essaouira

Say goodbye to the Anti-Atlas Mountains and make your way to the Atlantic coast. You’ll pass through the city of Agadir so you can enjoy a more scenic coastal route. Enjoy the views of the bright blue ocean, then head north to Essaouira, known as the “white pearl.” You can spend the rest of the day as you choose in this quaint coastal city, which provides a peaceful contrast to frenetic Marrakech. Essaouira is a prime location for surfing but has managed to escape mass tourism. A mecca for hippies during the 1970s, it’s still an artists’ town and is very fashionable with independent travelers.
Start by perusing the medina, which covers 75 acres (30 hectares) and twists through wide and bright streets. Stop into various traditional souks to chat with local artisans of ceramics, spices, art, leather goods, shoes, jewelry, rugs, wood crafts, and more. Then, relax in Mulay El-Hassan Square, the city’s central square lined with restaurants, cafés, and hotels. Later, you can hang out near the port, visit the market to watch the fishmongers in action, or walk to the 16th-century Portuguese Castelo Real of Mogador. You could also stop at the Synagogue Haïm Pinto, wander through the Mellah, or soak up the sun at Essaouira Beach. Dinner & Overnight in Essaouira

 

Day 12 –Private Morning Cooking Class in Essaouira

Discover Morocco’s flavorful cuisine with a cooking class at a traditional riad (house with a garden/courtyard) in Essaouira. Together with a local chef and culinary enthusiast, you’ll learn how to prepare one of Morocco’s most popular and authentic dishes: tagine. This dish is named after the signature ceramic pot used to cook it. Typically, tagine features meats, vegetables, and/or fruit, such as dates or apricots, to add sweetness to its savory flavors. This hands-on experience ends with a delicious lunch and conversation with your host and a cup of traditional mint tea.  You’ll have the rest of the afternoon free to explore the charming and historic city of Essaouira on your own. If you’d like to include an additional activity, you can spend this time on an ATV/quad bike adventure, horseback ride, or windsurfing/kitesurfing lesson.

 

Day 13 – Essaouira – Traditional Hammam Experience &  Dinner Overlooking Jemaa El Fna Square in Marrakech

As you travel from Essaouira to Marrakech, keep your eyes peeled for goats in the nearby argan trees. Goats climb the trees naturally to eat their fruit and leaves! However, many farmers now “encourage” the goats to eat from the trees, as the passing travelers have become an additional income source. In Marrakech, you’ll enjoy a relaxing and refreshing spa experience at a Moroccan hammam (public bath). Traditionally, visitors partake in a steam session followed by a scrub based on historical Roman bath practices. After your bathing experience, you’ll enjoy a relaxing massage using argan and essential oils to soothe and soften the skin. Hydrate by sipping on mint tea or herb-infused water, before returning to heading to spend the evening in the main square—and busiest square in all of Africa!—Jemaa el-Fna, which comes alive with musicians, performers, snake charmers, games, and food stalls, a catch-all of entertainment! If you want to enjoy the spectacle from a distance, choose one of the many cafés surrounding the square and enjoy a cup of mint tea and a meal.

 

The Old Kasbah

Day 14 –Marrakech: Explore the Red City

Nicknamed the “Red City” for its 1000-year-old red sandstone city walls and buildings, Marrakech has always been a thriving city dating back to the Berber Empire (1062 ACE). Meet your guide for a full-day tour, starting with browsing the stalls of Souk el Attarin (spices), Souk Haddadine (blacksmiths), and Souk Smata (slippers). Visit Souk des Teinturiers (the dyers’ souk) and visit the Koutoubia Mosque, along the way note the open spaces that extend off of some alleys. These fondouks were once medieval inns that provided travelers and merchants with shelter for themselves and their animals.

The hard-to-miss Mosque’s 253 feet (77 m) minaret is the tallest tower built in Marrakech. Relax in the adjoining gardens, before carrying on to Ben Youssef Madrasa. Built-in the 16th century, this madrasa once housed students of the nearby mosque. Admire the Moroccan artisanship: carved cedar, stucco plaster, and zellij tiling. Visit the Marrakech Museum or the Museum of Moroccan Arts for more examples of traditional art and woodwork. South of Jemaa el-Fna is the Kasbah area with several worthwhile sights: the Saadian Tombs, El Badi Palace, Bahia Palace, and the Jewish Mellah and cemetery. In the afternoon visit the Majorelle Gardens. Not far from the bustle of the medina, wandering the gardens filled with sub-tropical plants, bamboo, and lilies. Dinner and overnight in a deluxe Hotel / Riad

 

Day 15 –  Transfer to the Airport  in Marrakech or Casablanca

Say goodbye to Morocco as you transfer from your accommodation (or a pre-determined location) in Marrakech to Menara Airport (RAK) / or Mohamed V Airport in Casablanca. Your driver will ensure that you arrive at the airport with plenty of time before your flight. Have a safe and comfortable journey home, or to your next destination!

 

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