Classic Morocco

Morocco

Culture | Family

Imperial cities, Sahara Desert and the Atlantic Coast

Dates & Prices

Intro

Wander around the bustling streets of Morocco`s capital, Rabat. Experience the history of Fez in its ancient medina and the Roman ruins of Volubilis. Explore the buzzing souks of Marrakech and ride a camel through the golden sand dunes of Erg Chebbi in the Sahara. Venture into the High Atlas Mountains before watching the boats unload the daily catch in the picturesque fishing town of Essaouira. Staying in elegant riads, authentic kasbahs and traditional guesthouses; you’ll get to experience Moroccan hospitality first hand.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Make bread and soups in Fes
  • Cook Moroccan delicacies
  • Sample wines in Meknes
  • Spice shopping in Marrakesh
  • Eat street food in Djemaa el-Fna
  • Dine in a hidden Marrakshi palace
  • Barter in Marrakesh's colourful souks
  • Soak up coastal charm of Essaouira

Places Visited

Hassan II Mosque - Rabat - Fes - Meknes - Erg Chebbi - Todra Gorge - Marrakesh - Ait Benhaddou - Imlil - Essaouira

What's Included

Airport pick-ups & transfers
Ground transportation (4x4 jeep)
Accommodation
Meals: all breakfasts, some other meals
All entrance fees
Activities as per itinerary
Camel trek in Sahara
English speaking guide throughout
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Casablanca - Rabat

On arrival in Casablanca you will be met by your guide and taken to the Hassan II Mosque on the seafront in Casablanca (time permitting and dependent on flight timings). Here you will be taken on a guided tour of the mosque, which is the second largest in the world, after Mecca. A construction project funded by public donations, the mosque’s dramatic exterior and opulent interior remain one of the most accomplished works of art and construction in Morocco. After your tour you will be transferred to the country’s capital city, Rabat, for the night.

Meal plan: n/a

The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is one of the largest mosques in the world. It took seventeen years to build and cost over 800 million dollars. Its spectacular setting above the Atlantic Ocean makes it one of the most scenic religious sites in the world.

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Day 2 : Rabat - Fes

In the morning you will enjoy a half day city tour of Rabat with an English-speaking guide before your onward journey to Fes, which takes around three hours. The journey will take you across the rolling hills and plains between the Middle Atlas and Rif mountain ranges. Arriving in Fes you will be taken to your guesthouse, where you will stay for three nights.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Rabat is Morocco’s capital city and has a more sedate air about it than other cities in the country. It has an interesting medina and important monuments, such as the Tour Hassan II and the Mohamed V mausoleum. It is always worth taking the time to explore the Oudaya Kasbah which is picturesquely-situated overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the new marina.

The new town is one of the largest and most ambitious modern urban projects built in Africa in the 20th century and probably the most complete. The older parts include Hassan Mosque (begun in 1184) and the Almohad ramparts and gates, the only surviving parts of the project for a great capital city of the Almohad caliphate, as well as remains from the Moorish, or Andalusian, principality of the 17th century.


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Day 3 : Fes

Today is spent exploring the extraordinary Fes medina with a local guide. You’ll visit the famous tanneries, workshops and madrassas of the city before being taken by vehicle outside the city walls onto the lower flanks of Mt Zelagh for a sublime late afternoon panorama of the jewel that is the Fes medina. This is one of the best views in the country and as the sun sets, the sound of the call to prayer from the city’s mosques is a memorable experience. Overnight in Fes.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Situated in rolling hills between the Middle Atlas and the Rif Mountains, Fes is one of the world’s last remaining pockets of medieval civilisation. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the most impressive medina in Morocco, full of colour and movement. Fes is known as the intellectual heart of Morocco and the city boasts some of the country’s finest craftsmen and most impressive monuments, such as the Bou Inania and Attarine Madrassas. This bustling metropolis is full of sights, smells and sounds just waiting to be explored.

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Day 4 : Meknes - Volubilis

After breakfast, your guide and driver(s) will take you into the Fes hinterland; first to the vineyards of Meknes before a short journey takes you, via the hilltop shrine of Moulay Idriss, to the southernmost ruins of the Roman Empire, Volubilis. Here you will be treated to a picnic with a difference in a local farm, in which only ingredients available in Roman times are used! In the afternoon you’ll head back to Fes by an alternative route and spend the night there.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Founded in the 11th century by the Almoravids as a military settlement, Meknès became a capital under Sultan Moulay Ismaïl (1672–1727), the founder of the Alawite dynasty. The sultan turned it into a impressive city in Spanish-Moorish style, surrounded by high walls with great doors, where the harmonious blending of the Islamic and European styles of the 17th century Maghreb are still evident today. Due to its numerous mosques Meknès has earned the nickname of a "city of a hundred minarets". Among them, the Great Mosque, probably founded in the 12th century, is remarkable for its gates with beautiful sculpted canopies. Its medina and the remains of the royal palace earned Meknès a place on Unesco's world heritage list. The city is still prosperous, benefiting from the harvests of the fertile Saïs plains (grain, olives and grapes).

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Day 5 : Middle Atlas Mountains - Erg Chebbi

It’s an early start this morning as you start your full day journey through the Middle Atlas Mountains and the Ziz Gorge to the dunes of Merzouga. This drive is notable for its rapid changes of scenery, from cedar forests (where families of Barbary Apes can be sighted) to rugged mountain gorges and finally the highest desert sand dunes in Morocco – Erg Chebbi, the gateway to the Sahara Desert. On arrival in the Erg Chebbi area, you will check into your guest house which is situated close to the dunes.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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Day 6 : Erg Chebbi

Wake up to a restful morning to recover from yesterday’s long journey. After a leisurely lunch you’ll transfer to the foot of the dunes where you will be joined by a team of dromedaries (single-humped camels) for a camel trek into the dunes. Late afternoon and early morning are the best times to view the dunes so this trip allows you to take advantage of the superior light that these times offer. In the evening you’ll enjoy a traditional meal under the stars and sleep out in camel-haired Bedouin tents comfortably furnished with beds and sheets. Toilet facilities are not en-suite.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Erg Chebbi is one of two ergs in Morocco – large, windswept areas of sand without no plants or trees. Their deep red colour and perfectly formed peaks of soft sand are the classic image of the Saharan Desert and watching the sun set behind the tall ridges is sure to be one of the most impressive sights of the whole trip. A camel ride through the golden desert will also be an experience you never forget.

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Day 7 : Todra Gorge - Skoura

After breakfast in the camp, you’ll begin your journey towards Marrakesh. The first part of the journey from Merzouga takes us to the oasis town of Tinerhir, the gateway to the Todra Gorge where you’ll stop for lunch. The route westward skirts the south side of the High Atlas Mountains and offers some excellent panoramas of the snow capped range. In the afternoon you continue a further two hours to Skoura, a sleepy palm oasis with a network of shady paths and dirt roads through farmers’ fields and crumbling mud-brick villages. On arrival you’ll check into your guest-house for two nights.

Meal plan: Breakfast

The Todra Gorge is a dramatic sandstone ravine where 300m cliffs tower above a passage only 20m wide. It is possible for you to take an easy hike through the upper part of the gorge – a scenic landscape of sand-coloured rock and palm oases. The red rock is one of the iconic images of Morocco, cut into the landscape where the river once flowed.

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Day 8 : Ait Benhaddou

Today’s journey takes around five hours and takes you out of Morocco’s deep south, following an ancient trade route over the mountains to Marrakesh. The journey starts with a quick passage through Ouarzazate – home of the country’s successful international film industry – and onto another of Morocco’s most iconic sites, Ait Benhaddou. After this it’s an hour’s journey to Telouet, a crumbling, and now uninhabited, Kasbah, built over four centuries and once owned by the ex-governor of Marrakesh. Here makes a good lunch stop, with a wander around the scenic and atmospheric Kasbah. The journey continues over one of the highest tarmac roads in Morocco – the Tichka Pass – and down onto the plains around Marrakesh, where, on arrival, you will be taken to your hotel in the ancient medina.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Ait Benhaddou is the most celebrated and best preserved kasbah in Morocco. Ait Benhaddou is an 11th century “ksour” (a collection of kasbahs, or fortified houses) which is still inhabited by a handful of families. The kasbah has been restored with the help of UNESCO and the film industry and is one of the finest examples of mudbrick architecture in Morocco. The kasbah gained particular notoriety when scenes from Ridley Scott's epic “Gladiator” were filmed there.

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Day 9 : Marrakesh

Waking up in ancient Marrakesh you have the opportunity to explore the ancient medina with a local guide, with emphasis placed on some more unusual sites such as communal bread ovens, workshops and a walk through a traditional neighbourhood, as well as visits to some of the city’s best monuments and souks (markets). Another option is to join a cookery workshop where participants shop for ingredients in the markets prior to preparing a traditional meal in a riad close to the souks. After preparation students dine on what they have created, washing it down with a glass or two of Moroccan wine! Overnight in Marrakesh.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Marrakesh (Marrakech in French) is the capital of the Moroccan south, an oasis town in hues of red, ochre and pink, rising up out of the dusty plains to the north of the Atlas Mountains. The ancient centre, a UNESCO Heritage Site, is said to be the second largest medieval complex in the world after Cairo. The medina (old town) of Marrakech is a beguiling labyrinth of alleyways, souks (markets) and workshops where little has changed since the Middle Ages. Although Marrakesh has a small selection of monuments and museums, such as the ancient Badi and Bahia Palaces, a world-famous botanical garden - Les Jardins Majorelle - and an impressive 12th Century rampart surrounding the city's medina, the real draw is the colourful, lively and exotic atmosphere of the main square, Djemaa El-Fna. The square is famous for it's orange-juice vendors, healers, henna tattoo artists, snake charmers, astrologers and acrobats. There are around 100 restaurants on Djemaa El-Fna, specializing in barbecues, tasty cooked salads and steaming snails. For the ultimate dinner theatre, look no further than the Gnaoua drummers, male belly dancers and Berber musicians surrounding the Djemaa dining action.

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Day 10 : Imlil

This morning you will venture out into the High Atlas Mountains, the highest and most extensive range of mountains in North Africa. After your hour and a half journey, you will check into a mountain auberge (inn) and your guide will take you on a half day hike exploring the hamlets which surround the area’s main village, Imlil. Overnight in the mountains.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The village of Imlil lies at the base of Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. The draw of the surrounding High Atlas peaks has transformed this small village into a bustling trailhead but without eroding its character. Set in picturesque walnut groves and watered by the streams of the Atlas, Imlil is an oasis of calm offering cool relief from the heat of the desert.

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Day 11 : Essaouira

Today is a half day journey to Essaouira on the Atlantic coast, which can be taken in the morning or afternoon depending on the walking requirements of the group. Free evening to relax after your journey. Overnight in Essaouira.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 12 : Essaouira

Today is a free day for you to explore the picturesque medina of Essaouira or participate in one of the many optional activities available in and around town. There are opportunities to surf, wind surf, horse ride, fish, sail and take a Moroccan cookery class at the L’Atelier Madada. Overnight in Essaouira.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Due west of Marrakech on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, lies Essaouira, a strikingly picturesque 18th century fort town. The town boasts an attractive main square, a whitewashed medina and a wide, sweeping bay. Scattered with blue fishing boats, the harbour is a hive of activity full of people pulling in the daily catch. Seeing the original European cannons of the ruined fortress is an interesting way of spending the day, letting Essaouira's long history invade your senses. As a classic Atlantic town its hassle-free atmosphere makes Essaouira a great place to buy local crafts and bask in the laid back end to your trip.

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Day 13 : Departure

The final day arrives as you are transferred the two and a half hours or so to Marrakesh airport for your onward travel home.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Extensions

Southern Morocco Explorer (14 days)

The Anti Atlas, Berber villages & Sahara Desert

Classic Morocco (13 days)

Imperial cities, Sahara Desert and the Atlantic Coast

Exotic Flavours of Morocco (8 days)

Discover Berber culture & cuisine

Reviews

What`s staggering about this journey is the sheer beauty and drama of places which are hardly known to most travellers - from the jaw-dropping granite rock faces of the Anti-Atlas Mountains to the wild shores and tranquil fishing villages of the Atlantic Coast.

Charlie , Southern Morocco Explorer, Morocco

The trip was fabulous. I can’t imagine why it wasn’t booked fully immediately when you announced it. There were no major glitches, and really no minor glitches. The electrical grid was down for 13 hours at Traditional Maison area, but that is far beyond the control of Travel the Unknown, and, frankly, it adds to the charm of the experience!!! As for our guide Omar and our driver Mohammad for two weeks, they were the BEST !!!! Smart, bright, great sense of humor, good command of English — everything you could ask for. We highly recommend them, and would request them again, if we go to Morocco. Form & balance: perfect balance between travel, sightseeing and free time. Again, many, many thanks for a GREAT trip. We could not have asked for a better adventure !!!

Kenneth Gassman - Southern Morocco Explorer ,
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