This 14 – night Magical Morocco Itinerary will not only take you to the Imperial cities but to many out of the way destinations. Visit cities, UNESCO Heritage Sites, villages, mountains and the desert.
Meet and greet at the airport. Tour Casablanca if time permits. The name Casablanca evokes thoughts of good living, romance and adventure in a tropical setting, an image that the 1943 Humphrey Bogart film conveyed to cinema goers. Originally settled by Berbers in the 7th century, Casablanca’s fairly recent growth has made it the bustling French influenced business center of Morocco.
Visit the magnificent Hassan II Grand Mosque. The mosque is amongst the largest in the world and can house as many as 25,000 worshippers. Built on reclaimed land, almost half of the surface of the mosque lies over the waters of the Atlantic. Your sightseeing will also include the Mohammed V Square, the United Nations Square and the Arab League Park. During a stroll in the Quartier Habbous, you will be able to discover a modern version of a medina.
Depart for Rabat for overnight.
Explore Rabat, the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco and the seat of its government, situated at the mouth of the River Bou Regreg, opposite the city of Sale. Emerging from the boulevards of the new city of Rabat, you will discover the ruins of the Citadel of Challah. Once the thriving walled Roman port city of Sala Colonia, it was abandoned in 1154 in favor of Sale across the other side of the river mouth. Visit Hassan mosque. The Mohammed V Mausoleum was inaugurated in 1967. Your city tour of Rabat will include a visit of the Kasbah des Oudayas. Inside the Kasbah are a palace and the Andalusian gardens as well as a broad terrace where you can enjoy beautiful views of the river and sea while sipping a mint tea. Visit Mohamed VI museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, a great introduction to Moroccan history and contemporary Moroccan artists.
Continue to Chefchaouen. It is one of the most beautiful towns of the Rif Mountains. Chefchaouen is famous for its white and blue houses and the Arab Andulusian heritage that it has kept safe for centuries. Visit the lime washed white streets and the local markets animated by the local Berbers dressed in festive colorful clothes.
This morning, head to Akchour for a 4 – hour guided hike. This valley is located in the eastern portion of the Limestone ridge of the Rif. It encompasses deep valleys dug by torrential wadis, gorges with impressive cliffs and abundant caves. It is also home to a large number of remarkable plant species: the endemic Moroccan fir, as well as Atlas cedar and black pine. More than 100 species of birds, including rare raptors (Golden Eagle and Bearded Vulture), are observed at the site. Reptiles and amphibians are also represented by around thirty species.
Stop for lunch at a local restaurant.
Return to Chefchaouen.
After breakfast, enjoy a scenic drive across the Rif Mountains to join the fertile Saiss plain. You will see a varied landscape as you drive south, including green forests, isolated villages and olive groves. Visit Volubilis, the Roman capital of Morocco built over two thousand years ago when this part of the country was a Roman province. Discovering the Roman part of the Moroccan history, you will admire one of the most beautiful collections of mosaics which have never been moved from their original site since their discovery in the early 20th century.
Continue to Moulay Idriss, the holiest town for the Muslims in Morocco, where the first King is buried.
Stop for lunch at Dar Zerhoun.
Drive across the Saiss plain to Meknes, a medieval city, rebuilt by the King Moulay Ismail in the 17th century to become his capital. Being one of the Imperial cities of Morocco, Meknes has various monuments to visit: the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail and its harmonious Moorish design, Bab El Mansour Gate, the most beautiful in North Africa and an amazing combination of tile work. At the end of your visit, take a walk to El Hdim Square and visit its food market.
Late in the afternoon drive to Fez for overnight.
Take a step back in time to the middle Ages with a visit to Fez El Bali, the world’s largest living medieval medina city and the cultural heart of Morocco. Explore some of the 9,000 narrow lanes, alleys and souks that make up the labyrinth of the city’s old quarter. The medieval Medina is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fez was a renowned center of medieval learning and at its heart lays the Karaouine, one of the oldest, still functioning universities in the world. In the neighboring building is the Attarine Medersa (Koranic college), a jewel of Hispano-Moorish architecture, built in the 14th century. Continue on to Nejjarine Square, whose centerpiece is a beautiful fountain made up of mosaics and elaborate tile work.
The nearby Fondouq (Caravanserai) has now been converted into a museum of carpentry artefacts. The leather produced in Fez is renowned worldwide and the manufacturing methods remain the same today as in the medieval times. During your visit to the tanneries, learn about the different methods that are used to process the skins of goats and cows to prepare them for the beautiful leather goods seen at the markets.
Next on your itinerary is Dar Batha and the Museum of Moroccan Arts, which houses historical and artistic collections of wood carvings, embroidery, tribal carpets and ceramics. Then, it is on to Fez El Jedid (New Fez), built by the Merinides Dynasty in the 13th century. Admire the Royal Palace, mosques, medersas (schools), souks and the city wall. Most notably, Fez El Jedid is home to the mellah, the old Jewish quarter, which provides an interesting insight into Jewish architecture. Finally, visit a pottery factory to discover how the beautiful zellij tiles are made. These tiles are fantastic examples of Arabo-Andalusian décor and are also used in the manufacture of the famous tagines.
After breakfast head to Bhalil, a hamlet built in a narrow mountain valley. It claims ancient Christian origins even prior to the arrival of Islam. Your driver will guide you first towards the Berber caves in Bhalil town where nomadic tribes are still living their lifestyle. Once you come into one of the caves, the woman from the hosting family will make you a homemade delicious tea while your guide helps you talk to other members of the family to explain to you the traditions.
Continue to the ancient town of Sefrou with its ochre walls and its nine ‘Babs’ or gateways. Visit the 8th century Ksar el Kelaa, once the barracks of the Berber army of Moulay Idriss I, passing by the small medina and maze like mellah or Jewish Quarter. Late in the afternoon, return back to Fez.
Discover some of Morocco’s beautiful mountainous landscape today as you leave Fez and follow ancient caravan routes up into the hills. Along the way stop at Ifrane, known as the ”Switzerland of Morocco” and a huge contrast to some of the other more Moroccan feeling cities you’ll see in Morocco. The French built Ifrane in the 1930s with the intention of recreating an alpine style resort.
Continue through the scenic Ziz Valley this morning and descend to Erfoud on the edge of the Sahara Desert. Make the short trip to Rissani, the birthplace of the Alaouite dynasty (Morocco’s current royal family).
Continue to Merzouga and drive in a 4WD vehicle through the desert to the famous Erg Chebbi sand desert and take a sunset camel ride through the sand dunes to a traditional Berber camp nestled right on the edge of the dunes. Enjoy spectacular views over the sand dunes as the sun sinks below the horizon before enjoying a hearty Bedouin meal and a campfire this evening with local musicians. Spend the night sleeping in comfortable Berber camel hair tents.
After breakfast, head to Tinghir, a gorgeous 40km oasis which boasts a massive steep sided canyon carved by the river through the limestone in this area of the High Atlas Mountains. The gorge is spectacular with the sides rising near vertically to over 500 ft on each side of a smooth pass. Take a hike between the incredible Canyon walls reaching for the sky with a river at the bottom so the water cools the air.
After that, head to Dades and enjoy a short walk at the famous Dades Gorges.
After breakfast, head to Skoura the southern oasis surrounded by acres of palm groves which are a paradise of palm and olive trees dotted with kasbahs and small villages. The area around your hotel is particularly lovely. Enjoy a tour between villages to discover the real Berber life. Cross the valley of roses. Visit Kasbah Amerdil dating to the 14th century. Stroll for an hour in the gardens of the north side of the town past almond and olive trees. In the afternoon, enjoy biking through the palmery in an oasis seeing many old Kasbahs, date palms and little fields of wheat.
Continue to Ouarzazate known as “Morocco’s Hollywood”. Enjoy a brief tour that includes the Taourirt Kasbah, a magnificent structure built by the Glaoui. At one point in the 1930’s, Kasbah Taourirt was considered the largest Kasbah in Morocco and today is classified as a historical monument giving tribute to the Glaoui. The next stop is at one of the film studios where some of the most famous desert landscapes were and are still being shot.
Continue to Ait Benhaddou for dinner and overnight.
After breakfast, explore the World Heritage Site of Ait Benhaddou. Inscribed by UNESCO in 1987 as a ‘World Heritage Site’, the Ksar of Ait Benhaddou is a striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco. The Ksar, a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls, is a traditional pre-Saharan habitat. The houses crowd together within the defensive walls, which are reinforced by corner towers. Continue along the ancient caravan route through the High Atlas Mountains and the dramatic pass of Tizn Tichka. This hairpin road is one of only two passes through the largest mountain chain in Africa and contains spectacular scenery. The drive takes you to the countryside surrounded by the astonishing views of the High Atlas Mountains. Asni is an Amazigh (Berber) village at an altitude of 1500 meters.
Ride on mules to the Ouaoufghast pine woods, a spot offering good views over the Atlas peaks and the Ait Mizane valley with its perching Berber villages. Continue through Tidli 2200 m to Armed village located at the foot of Toubkal summit. You will stop to visit a Berber house and share tea with locals before you head to a Berber restaurant for a deserved lunch.
Afterwards head back through local orchards to Imlil before getting back to Asni.
Enjoy a morning at leisure to enjoy the facilities of your hotel.
In the afternoon, head to Marrakech, the Imperial city and the capital of the mid-southwestern region. Take a seat in a horse drawn carriage for a ride through Marrakech’s famous, beautiful gardens which are dotted around the city. The area is fed by a basin that was created to irrigate the surrounding gardens and orchards using a sophisticated system called Qanat. The basin is supplied with water via an old hydraulic system which conveys water from the mountains located at nearly 20 miles away. Begin with a visit to the Menara gardens, which date back to the 12th century and are set among extensive orchards and olive groves. From here it’s on to visit the Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle Gardens), originally designed in 1924 by the French artist Jacques Majorelle. After taking up residence in Marrakech, Majorelle transformed the property’s existing garden into a tropical paradise surrounded by vivid cobalt blue buildings with verdant exotic groves, lily-covered pools and enormous sculptural cactuses. New in Marrakech and near the Majorelle Gardens is the Yves Saint Laurent Museum where the most precious YSL works are gathered. Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé fell in love with the colors of Marrakech and therefore resided here for some of the most beautiful years of their lives. The Museum, a 43,000 square foot building, was designed by the Paris based firm Studio KO. Inspired by the contemporary and Moroccan architecture, you can find blues and greens on one side of the entrance hall, reds and tangerines on the other.
The remainder of the day is at leisure.
Unearth the secrets of Marrakech, beginning in the medina, the old walled section of town and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This thousand – year – old city was long a political, economic and cultural center. Marvel at its architectural jewels, including the soaring Koutoubia minaret. Continue to the Bahia Palace, an exemplary of privileged life in the 19th century. Your next stop is at the Tiskiwin Museum, founded by a Dutch anthropologist which houses an impressive collection of North African arts and crafts organized into geographically themed exhibits with each room focusing on artifacts from different towns and regions along the ancient trade route from Marrakech to Timbuktu.
Later visit Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech’s main square where you will find orange juice stalls and vendors, along with fire eaters, mime artists, snake charmers and street musicians performing at every turn. You may also take the opportunity to explore the city’s fabled, labyrinthine souks, their bustling alleyways brimming with all manner of wares.
Day is at leisure.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home.