Day 1: Australia – – Casablanca
Make your way to the airport and board your flight bound for Morocco!
Day 2: Casablanca (B)
Your flight touches down in Casablanca and you are met upon arrival by a tour representative who sees you transferred to the hotel for check in. Head down to the lobby in the evening to join the tour’s welcome meeting, begin to get to know your fellow travellers and then sit down to a group dinner at a nearby restaurant.
There is more to Casablanca as a city than just serving as the background for the iconic black-and-white movie. It is the largest city in Morocco and is the country’s major port. Throughout its history, Casablanca has been under the influence of Portuguese, Spanish and French rule. These colonial nuances can be seen throughout the city’s architecture, especially in the downtown area, and travellers with a keen architectural eye will also note Moorish and Art Deco styles.
Day 3: Casablanca – Meknes (B, L)
Your first full day of touring Morocco begins on the most satisfying of notes: a traditional breakfast at Café Maure-La Sqala, a renowned diner located within the city’s 18th-century ramparts. Take a bite out of one of the many flatbread varieties – baghir, msemen, harcha and sfenj – and nibble from mezze such as goat’s cheese, olives, dried fruit and khili tagine. There will also be juices, tea and coffee. Once you have taken your fill at breakfast, your group sets out to see the Mosque of Hassan II, one of Casablanca’s best-recognised landmarks. The construction of the mosque took seven years and it boasts the tallest minaret in the world. It is one of the only religious sites in Morocco to permit non-Muslim visitors so exploring this site is truly a unique experience. Your time at the mosque is followed by a tour of Casablanca’s medina.
Later on, your group hits the road to drive to Meknes, a small Ismaili city that doubles as the wine capital of Morocco! Lunch today is a regional delicacy – camel burgers. Afterwards, enjoy a walking tour around Meknes and take the monuments and sites that denote its former imperial history. See Bab Mansour Laleuj, Heri es-Souani, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail and the Place El Hedim.
Day 4: Meknes – Chefchaouen (B, L)
Leave Meknes behind and depart for Chefchaouen. You arrive at around midday and feast on a traditional northern Moroccan lunch following check in at the hotel. Meet up with your guide again for a walk around the medina to see its blue-rinsed and whitewashed houses. Chefchaouen has a strong Andalusian influence as those escaping the Reconquista in Spain and Portugal settled here as refugees. The ruins of the kasbah are one of the most popular things to see, however there are great shopping opportunities in the main square and souks for those on the look-out for souvenirs. A product Chefchaouen is especially known for is its goat’s cheese – a tasting of this regional specialty is included in the day’s activities.
Day 5: Chefchaouen – Fes (B, L)
The ruins of Volubilis are your first pitstop upon leaving Chefchaouen this morning. This ancient site dates back to the 3 BC and was a strategically important outpost during the heyday of the Roman Empire. It is now an invaluable archaeological site and finds continue to be uncovered. You will see some of what has already been recovered – structures and mosaics – while here. Continue onto Fes, the cultural capital of Morocco. A stop at the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss (located in the eponymous village) is made enroute. This town is actually a pilgrimage site and its main square is lined with shops selling incense, prayer beds and candles. Lunch is taken in Moulay Idriss with a local family and there may be opportunity to sample olive oil made from a communal olive press. Arrive in Fes in the afternoon.
Day 6: Fes (B)
Fes is widely considered to be the cultural and artistic epicentre of Morocco. The second-largest city in the country, Fes has rich medieval origins and a landscape of king-commissioned mosques, lavish palaces, religious schools, merchant stalls and, now, the world’s largest car-free urban area. A guided walking tour is the perfect way to begin your discovery of everything Fes offers. This excursion focuses on the Old Town and may have you feeling as though you’ve been transported back into the Middle Ages. One of the top sights you see is Medersa Bou Inania, a theological college founded in 1351 that has become of the city’s finest examples of Merinid architecture. Carry on to Funduq al-Najjariyyin. Keep your tastebuds at the ready as you may have the chance to savour bites of local Fes cuisine as you walk – think pastilla (meat pie), harira (spiced soup) and some sweets. You have the afternoon as free time to wander and explore Fes however you like. Some other top things to do in Fes include seeing the gates of the Royal Palace, meandering through the Jewish Quarter and visiting the Bou Jeloud Gardens. You might also duck into a local hammam, haggle for a locally-made carpet, or track down other examples of Moroccan cuisine.
Day 7: Fes – Merzouga (B, L, D)
It is an early morning wake-up call as your group begins its journey into the Middle Atlas Mountains. The first stop of the day is Bhalil, a hillside village off the major tourist track. Bhalil is unique in that most of its residents live in cave houses. Djelleba buttons are also produced here – you may see local women at work to make these handicrafts as you walk around the village. Meet with a local guide who will take you into his cave home and share a pot of refreshing mint tea. The second visit of the day is to Sefrou, a small Berber town. Have lunch in Sefrou before setting back out on the road, travelling through a landscape of mountains, remote villages and farmlands on the way to reach the sands of the Sahara Desert, at Merzouga. Your luggage is left safely behind as you climb onto the back of a camel for a ride across the dunes to your campsite for the night. Have dinner under the stars and alongside the campfire, and listen to a Gnawa music performance before retiring for the night in your Bedouin-style tent.
Day 8: Merzouga – Boumalne Dades (B, L, D)
Rise before the sun to be back astride your camel and out in the sands in time for sunrise – undoubtedly one of the most glorious you will ever experience. Your group returns to Merzouga and commit as much of the beauty of the Erg Chebbi dunes to memory as you can. Breakfast is taken in a riad in the village, and your group departs for Khamlia. The ancestors of the village locals arrived in the area as part of the slave trade, crossing the Sahara Desert in human caravans. Learn about this ancestral relationship with the desert and their nomadic legacy as you have tea and listen to more Gnawa music. It is then onto Todra Gorges. These limestone river canyons are famed for its striking cliff-sides and ravines. There is an option to undertake a one-hour hike through the Gorge. Lunch is also enjoyed at a site within the heart of the Gorge. Afterwards, your group travels through the majestic Dades Valley, seeing incredible rock formations on the drive, and towards Boumalne Dades for this evening’s overnight stay.
Day 9: Boumalne Dades – Ait Benhaddou (B, D)
Savour the freshness and flavour of just-baked local bread for breakfast this morning. You even get to watch local women bake this traditional Berber bread in specially-built clay ovens. Set out for Ait Benhaddou afterwards. This journey is broken up with a pitstop in Skoura in the Ouarzazate Province. This small town has an historic merchant past, serving as a hub for desert traders traversing the Sahara Desert. Skoura is also the home of one of Morocco’s most remarkable kasbahs, Kasbah Amridil. Perhaps you recognise this 17th-century structure from the 50 dirham note? The final destination of the day is the UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed Ait Benhaddou, an ighrem famous the world-over for its earthen buildings and the five families that still live in these ancient residences. Of course, you might have already seen Ait Benhaddou from its appearances in Game of Thrones, Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia.
Day 10: Ait Benhaddou – Marrakech (B)
Follow the Tizi n’Tichka on the journey to Marrakech today. This mountain pass cuts through the High Atlas Mountains and promises magnificent views as it winds around hairpin turns and to an altitude of more than 2000 metres above sea level. Arrive in Marrakech and have some time in your accommodate to freshen up before reconvening with your group and guide for a tasting tour of the city’s medina. Feed your appetite for Moroccan fare as you learn about the history of this cuisine and the importance it plays in local culture. Be taken deep into the market by your local guide, as you move from a fresh olive tasting, to a neighbourhood oven to sample just-baked breads, and then onto a nearby café to try msemen (a type of pancake) and sfenj (a style of donuts). Wash it all down with mint tea. The culinary indulgence isn’t over for the day yet though, as tonight your group makes for more market stalls to feast on roast lamb, tanjia (slow-cooked stew) and spiced herbal tea known as khoudenjal.
Day 11: Marrakech (B)
A guided tour of the Marrakech medina awaits after breakfast. Your medina meander starts at Koutoubia Mosque to see its minaret, and then onto Bahia Palace, the Royal Palace and the Jewish Quarter. The Bahia Palace was intended to be one of the grandest palaces ever built and is a resplendent example of a blended Islamic and Moroccan architecture style. Those looking for mementoes or keepsakes of their time in Morocco have a treasure trove of souvenir opportunities in the markets; peruse spices, handicrafts, handmade jewellery and more, snapping up anything that catches your eye. Later on, head to La Maison Arabe for a one-hour cooking class. Pick up any tips and tricks to replicate in your cooking back home, and then get to enjoy the fruit of your hard work at the end of the class. The remainder of the afternoon and evening are yours as free time.
Day 12: Marrakech – Essaouira (B, L)
Move on from Marrakech and towards Essaouira. First however, there is a morning visit to an argan oil cooperative. The women working in this coop produce this oil, which has been renowned among Berber tribes for its cosmetic and culinary purposes. Another stop on today’s itinerary is a local vineyard. Learn about the extensive varietals grown on the 52-hectare site and enjoy a tasting and lunch here. Your group arrives in Essaouira in the afternoon and has the opportunity for independent exploration after checking into the accommodation. This port city, located on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, delights with its breezy and laidback atmosphere – a stark contrast to the frequent chaos of Marrakech! Uncover the hues of the blue-and-white medina, take a walk along the oceanfront promenades or the beach, or get lost in the laneways in search of galleries, boutiques and hidden-away restaurants.
Day 13: Essaouira (B, L)
You have this morning as free time to spend leisurely strolling around Essaouira or relaxing at the accommodation. Touch base with your guide at lunchtime to be taken to the port to buy some seafood and then have it grilled up to order in the market! The afternoon is yours.
Day 14: Essaouira – Casablanca (B, D)
A driver picks up this morning for the journey back to Casablanca. The day is yours to fit in any last-minute sightseeing, shopping or feasting. Tonight’s farewell dinner with your group is your final chance to share stories and recount highlights of the tour with your travelling companions.
Day 15: Casablanca – – Australia (B)
Your final morning in Morocco is at your leisure until it is time to check out (around midday) and take a transfer to the airport to board your return flights to Australia.
Day 16: Australia
Arrive back in Australia today.