Morocco Souks and Sahara

A Moroccan cultural tour from Fez into the Sahara and Atlas Mountains and on to Marrakech
Overview

overview

Join a small group of adventuresome travelers on an exploration of Morocco's imperial past and vibrant present.  Travel from the Atlantic coast of North Africa through holy cities and Roman ruins, then into the desert and back to Marrakech. Explore the walled medinas (old cities). Wander the fragrant suks (markets). Stay in atmospheric riads (manor homes of the old cities).  Engage the spirit of a land steeped in tradition that is also eager to embrace the future. 

Begin in Rabat and Meknes. Visit the holy city of Moulay Idriss and the Roman remains of Volubilis. Wander deep into the ancient medina in Fez, experience the breathtaking desert vistas of the Sahara and Todra Gorge en route to Ouarazazate, and behold exciting Marrakech where ancient history and non-stop street entertainment equally entrance those who are fortunate enough to spend time here.

Lodging on most nights will be in riads -- courtyard mansions which were formerly royal homes.  This trip, a version of which was first offered in spring 2011, is an amazing experience and sure to fill up fast, so don't delay in reserving a place.

itinerary

itinerary

  • Day 1: Arrive Rabat
    Rabat street musician

    Your tour starts after breakfast this morning in Casablanca with a brief tour of the city and then transfer to your lovely four-star riad (manor home) accommodations in nearby Rabat, Morocco's capital, to congregate with the group and receive an orientation from your guide.

     

    The distance between Casablanca and Rabat is approximately 60 miles.

    Meals
    Dinner
    Lodging
    Riad Oudaya, located in the old medina (or similar)
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  • Day 2: Meknes / Volubilis
    Wander the atmospheric ruins of Meknes, its granary, and horse stables

    After breakfast, travel from Rabat approximately 150 miles to Meknes. This is the most modest of Morocco's four imperial cities -- smaller, quieter, and more relaxed than Rabat, Fez, or Marrakech.  This was the Ismailian capital in the 17th century,  famous now for its 25-mile-long walls and its monumental landmark gate of Bab el-Mansour. Wander the lanes of the old medina. Visit the Mellah Jewish quarter and the Royal stables. The Dar Jamai palace houses one of the country's best museums, exhibiting glorious ceramics, jewelry, rugs, and textiles with distinct ornate Meknesi needlework. Enjoy the setting of this town in a region of olives, wine, and citrus. Drive 20 miles to Volubilis, where our accommodations are set overlooking the ancient Roman ruins.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging
    Volubilis Inn (or similar)
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  • Day 3: Volubilis / Moulay Idriss / Fez
    Marvel at the mosaics of the Roman ruins at Volubilis

    Today, explore the Roman ruins at Volubilis and the holy city of Moulay Idriss.  The UNESCO World Heritage site at Volubilis is considered the best-preserved archaeological site in Morocco. The lovely white-washed town of Moulay Idriss is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the country, named for Morocco's most revered saint, the great-grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. (It is said that five pilgrimages or "moussems" to Moulay Idriss equal one haj to Mecca.) Continue on to Fez.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging
    Riad Jaouhara (or similar)
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  • Day 4: Fez
    Immerse yourself in the medina, or take a local 'taxi' if you tire

    Today will be devoted to Fez, the world's only walled medieval Arab city that remains completely intact.  It may be cliche, but visitors often compare their first visit to the medina (the maze of shop-lined alleyways that comprise the old city) to an encounter with the tales of One Thousand and One Nights (a.k.a. the Arabian Nights). The medina has UNESCO World Heritage status.  Note the Attarine and Bouanania Medersas, the Nejjarine fountain, the Moulay Idriss mausoleum, and the Quaraouine mosque.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging
    Riad Jaouhara (or similar)
    Show on a map
  • Day 5: Fez

    Behold and partake in Fez in the manner which will feel most satisfying to you. Perhaps you'd like to pleasantly lose yourself in the enormous medina ... bathe in a traditional hamman ... try a cooking class.  We will also have a group excursion for additional touring, should you choose to do this instead of a solo adventure today.

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  • Day 6: Erfoud
    Admire Berber villages on your drive among the Atlas Mountains

    After an early breakfast, begin your ascent across the Middle Atlas Mountains, with most of the day spent winding your way through beautiful forests, jagged rock faces, and intriguing Berber villages as you make your way to the Sahara Desert.  Continue to Errachidia and the Ziz Valley, known for its date palm trees.  Overnight in Erfoud.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging
    Kasbah Xaluca (or similar)
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  • Day 7: Sahara Desert / Berber Tent Camp
    Explore nature's art -- vast sand dunes -- at sunrise

    After breakfast and a leisurely morning in Erfoud, head off in four-wheel-drive vehicles across the barren, yet otherworldly beautiful and majestic Sahara sand dunes.  At the end of the 4x4 drive, board camels for a two-hour trek through the desert's stark beauty to an oasis where you will spend the night in comfortable Berber tents, enjoying a traditional dinner and Berber storytelling.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging
    Berber tent camping
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  • Day 8: Todra / Dades Gorges
    Enjoy your time in and around the Sahara

    Those who wake early can enjoy  sunrise over the sand dunes. After breakfast, return by camel to the 4x4 vehicles and head back to Erfoud.  From there, set out along the eastern side of the High Atlas Mountains en route to Todra Gorge.  In the afternoon, take a walk up in towering Todra Gorge (with walls rising 600 feet high from the gorge's narrow bottom), where the picturesque river valleys provide a dramatic setting for a beautiful journey toward the southeast of Morocco.

    Travel to Rissani, the holy city where Moulay Ali Cherif, ancestor of the Alaouite dynasty, is buried. Visit the kasbah of the 17th century and the ksar Abbar ruins, and continue to the Oasis of Tineghir via Tinjdad road. Visit the magnificent Todra canyons, where the rock walls reach up more than 820 feet. Visit the Dades canyons and continue to Ouarzazate. You'll be following the road of the thousand kasbahs and the Dades Valley, famous for its roses and its annual rose festival (which occurs annually every May).

    Meals
    Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging
    Xaluca Dades (or similar)
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  • Day 9: Quarzazate / Marrakech
    Explore atmospheric ancient kasbahs such as Ait Ben Haddou

    After an early breakfast,  depart for Marrakech via Ouarzazate (war-za-zat) via the mountains of the high Atlas. Ascend through oak and walnut and oleander on an ever-steeper road to the Tizi n'Tichka pass at approximately 7,000 feet.  The lunar-like landscape on this side of the pass, referred to as the Anti Atlas, is dotted with palm groves and kasbahs (citadel forts). Visit one of the jewels of Morocco, Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, moving off the beaten path in true Moroccan tradition to find hidden gems.  Visit kasbah Taourirt and, from the road, view kasbah Tiffoultoute (presently under renovation and closed to the public).  After lunch, head over the mountains to Marrakech and your hotel, your base for the next three nights.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging
    Riad Moucharabieh (or similar)
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  • Days 10-11: Marrakech
    Admire Marrakech's many sights, including Djemaa El-Fna Square

    Aah -- Marrakech! After breakfast, embark on a guided tour of the city, including its maze of streets in the medina, the Palace of the Bahia, the Saadian Tombs, and many other hidden treasures.

    While some may say that nothing rivals Fez and its ancient medina, there are many others who say that Marrakech is the Masterpiece. In fact, UNESCO has selected Marrakech's grand plaza -- the Djemaa El-Fna Square -- as a "Masterpiece of Cultural Heritage," ranking it high on a short list of the planet's "intangible" cultural treasures.  It's the performance art rather than the architecture that wins the award; find street theater and snake charmers and musicians in the plaza 16 hours a day in a tradition that dates back a thousand years.   Djeema El-Fna alone would merit a visit to Marrakech, but there is much more:  the magnificent Ali ben Youssef Medersa, the impressive Koutoubia Mosque, and the marvel of Moroccan artistry, the Bahia Palace. Of course, there are also the thousands of shops in the souq, offering a distinct and creative blend of traditional and contemporary artisanry.  You will have plenty of free time for exploring and losing yourself in the warren of streets and shops of this enchanting city.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging
    Riad Moucharabieh (or similar)
  • Day 12: Marrakech / Onward
    Bid farewell, or linger in Morocco for more adventure if time permits

    Departure transfer to the airport in Marrakech will be provided today, unless you've decided to linger here or to continue your exploration of Morocco. Consider an extension of a few days just 120 miles from Marrakech in the charming Atlantic port town of Essaouira, known for its sea walls and sea breezes, and its fish grills and musicians.

    Meals
    Breakfast
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Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Oct 11-22, 2014
Mar 14-25, 2015
Oct 10-21, 2015
Or Privately on Request
Land Cost:
$3,550
- $4,775
2-3 travelers - $4,775 4-5 travelers - $3,850 6-9 travelers - $3,550 4-Star Riads Private Full-Time Guide
Single Supplement:
$950
2015 Price: $1,175
Need to Know

Need to Know

Duration:
12 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost. The total number of days includes the time required to travel between the USA and the destination country.
Comfort Level:
3
comfortable & delightful riads & small hotels
Group Size:
2-9
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Activity Level:
1
comfortable & delightful riads & small hotels

Resources

Trip Extensions

Trip Extensions

Essaouira

Duration: 3 days

This extension takes you to the Atlantic coastal towns of Essaouira, Safi and El Jadida. 

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