Day 1: Australia – – Casablanca, Morocco
Depart Australia today to begin your incredible adventure to Morocco!
Please note: some flights may depart 1 day later
Day 2: Arrive Casablanca (D)
Welcome to Morocco. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. If you arrive with time to spare, then a great option for your limited time in Casablanca is to visit the art deco Villa des Arts. This gorgeous gallery dates back to 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. In the evening, enjoy a welcome meeting at 6pm – check with hotel reception to confirm the time. Insurance and next of kin detail will be collected at this meeting, so please have these on-hand.
Day 3: Casablanca – Rabat – Meknes (B)
After breakfast today, drive to the capital of Rabat. Rabat’s history is long and colourful, having been host to Roman settlements, pirates and more recently the Moroccan parliament. It contains numerous fine Arab monuments, some dating from the 10th to 15th century Almohad and Merenid dynasties, and others that are far older. The earliest known settlement is Sala, occupying an area now known as the Chellah, where you will visit the remains of the citadel. You will also see the vast minaret of the Hassan Mosque and explore the lovely walled quarter known as the Kasbah des Oudaias. In the late afternoon, continue on to Meknes (approximately 2 hours), the sixth largest city in the kingdom, and former capital of Morocco.
Day 4: Meknes – Volubilis – Fes (B)
This morning you will discover the charming streets of Meknes’ medina – the old walled section of the city. Enter via the northern gate, Bab Berdaine, and walk to the shrine of Moulay Ismail who, in the 17th century, turned Meknes from a provincial town to a spectacular Imperial city. You will explore the elaborately decorated public buildings hidden in these winding streets, including the lovely Bou Inania Medresse (religious school). Take some time to soak up the bustling atmosphere of the old souk before driving out of the city to the ruins of Volubilis (approximately 45 minutes). Volubilis was once a provincial Roman capital, a distant outpost of the empire, and the remains make an undeniably impressive sight. Volubilis is the foremost Roman site in Morocco and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1997. Upon arrival you will take a tour around the ruins with a local guide. Please remember to pack drinking water, hat, sunglasses and sun cream for this tour as it may get hot and you will be exposed to the sun. And, of course, don’t forget to take your camera as the town is filled with fantastic mosaics along the Decumanus Maximus, many of which remain intact. After time spent imagining Volubulis as the bustling city it once was, continue on to the living museum of Fes for the night (approximately 1.5 hours). After checking in your hotel in late afternoon, the balance of the day is free for you to enjoy.
Day 5: Fes (B)
Fes is the spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco; vibrant, noisy, fascinating and overwhelming – a visual and pungent feast for the senses. It is made up of three distinct ‘cities’, or quarters, and you will stay in elegant, riad-style accommodation on the edge of the huge, well-preserved medieval old city – the mother of all medinas. Today head into the old city, known locally as Fes el Bali, arguably the world’s most fascinating and confounding old city. Medieval Fes was one of the world’s great centres of education and culture, both Islamic and Jewish. Its religious institutions and libraries are legendary, its mosques of great renown. Walk through the twisting streets and alleyways, passing donkeys piled high with goods, and explore the specialty sections that divide the souk. Filled with historic khans, medresses and dye-pits, stalls loaded with fruits, herbs and soups, and where the squawk of chickens, smell of spice and sound of hammering of copper fills the air, it’s not hard to imagine yourself back in the Middle Ages. Spend the day exploring the old city, visiting, Mederassa Bou Inania, the tanneries and the splendid Funduk Nejjarine, a beautifully restored 18th century inn. Return to your hotel in the late afternoon and enjoy a memorable dinner of one of the city’s signature dishes, the salty and sweet pastille.
Day 6: Fes – Erfoud (B)
Today, leave the intensity of the city behind for the simplicity of the scenic high Atlas Mountains to Erfoud a city known as “the Door to the Desert (approximately 7 hours). Drive south, inland through a variety of spectacular scenery – fertile valleys, cedar and pine forests and barren, rocky landscapes and flat desert.
Day 7: Erfoud – Merzouga (B,D)
Morning is at leisure. Today, board your 4WD to continue our journey to Merzouga. With a backdrop of the orange-coloured Erg Chebbi sand dunes, the charming Saharan village of Merzouga feels wonderfully isolated, like the modern world has left it behind. Enroute, visit a nomad family. The Erg Chebbi dunes are the most stunning in the country and an essential part of any visit to Morocco. An erg is a vast sea of shifting wind-swept sand that’s formed into picturesque, undulating crests and valleys. The Erg Chebbi is one of the world’s iconic landscapes, with towering dunes up to 150 meters in height. Located at the end of a sealed road and just 20 kilometres from the Algerian border this really feels like frontier country. You will leave your gear at a simple auberge and then ride camels into the edge of the Sahara Desert, enjoying a spectacular sunset along the way. The dunes are stunning, especially as the evening light plays across them and sets off the colours. Tonight, you will camp out in traditional style, with the chance to try some fantastic local cuisine while you sit around an open fire, enjoying lively music and dancing under the stars.
Day 8: Merzouga – Todra Gorge – Tinghir (B)
Enjoy a real Lawrence of Arabia moment this morning with a sunrise camel ride across the desert on the return journey to the auberge. Then drive to Todra Gorge (approximately 3.5 hours), a massive trench that rises over 250 meters to form one of the most dramatic and spectacular natural sights in Morocco. The limestone stacks make a perfect area for trekking, and so today you will take a short walk through the sheer cliffs.
Day 9: Tinghir – Ouarzazate – Ait Benhaddou (B)
Leaving Todra Gorge today, set off on the fabled ‘Road of 1,000 Kasbahs’ to Ait Benhaddou (approximately 4 hours). Pause for lunch in Ouarzazate, where productions such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Sheltering Sky and Black Hawk Down were filmed. Time permitting, you can take a tour of the Atlas Movie Studios. Perched on a hilltop and almost unchanged since the 11th century, Ait Benhaddou is one of Morocco’s most iconic sites. Its grant kasbah is one of the most beautiful in Morocco and the fortified village is a fine example of clay architecture. If you think you recognize the place, you probably do, as the town has a long list of film and TV credits, including Game of Thrones and Gladiator. Enjoy a walk through the winding streets of old town, making your way to the top of the hill, from where you can enjoy the views across the surrounding plains. After heading to your nearby hotel for the night, maybe sit back on the roof top terrace and watch the sun setting over the magical Kasbah.
Day 10: Ait Benhaddou – Marrakech (B)
Today you will drive for several hours through the winding roads of the Atlas, bound for Marrakech, an ancient, exotic city wrapped in European modernity. There’s no rush as the scenery through the High Atlas Mountain passes is magnificent, and there will surely be calls for several photo stops along the way. On arrival in Marrakech you will check in to your hotel. This evening, why not head to the great square of Jemaa el Fna, one of the largest public spaces in the world and unique to Marrakech. When night falls it transforms into a hive of activity. Henna-painters, performers and storytellers share the square with a street food bazaar, packed with stalls loaded with Moroccan delicacies. Enjoy a bite of famous Moroccan pastries with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, and then finish your day with a cup of tea on one of the rooftop restaurants overlooking the square.
Day 11: Marrakech (B,D)
After breakfast today, meet your local guide and set off on a morning tour of the old medina, through the bustling souks that are the lifeblood flowing through the city. Explore tranquil courtyards filled with the scent of orange blossom, and the many salons and chambers that make up Bahia Palace. This splendid mansion was built in 1866 for a former slave who rose to power within the government. Continue to the Marrakech Museum, itself a former palace, which houses a fine collection of Moroccan art and sculpture. Stop by the Koutoubia Mosque; its famous minaret is the prototype for others of its kind around the world, including La Giralda in Seville. Then walk back through the streets of the old medina to the Jemaa el Fna. The rest of the day is free to explore further or shop in the bazaar.
Afternoon is at leisure. Perhaps visit the tropical gardens of the French painter Jacques Majorelle or check out the ruins of the Palais Badi, once one of the most beautiful palaces in the world. Otherwise, perhaps head back into the medina, where every step brings a new smell, a new sight or a new gift to buy. Watch skilled artisans perfect their craft, practice your haggling skills or take a break from the hustle to sip on tea or share a tajine, filled with the pure scent of Morocco.
On your final evening, we enjoy a last dinner at Café clock where you will witness The Moroccan tradition of hikayat, or storytelling, dates back almost 1,000 years. Some stories were recorded and other stories are passed orally. Today this form of entertainment in danger of becoming extinct. Previously, hikayat was found in cities throughout Morocco, but today Marrakech’s Jema el-Fna’a square is one of the last place to find the old stories and there are fewer and fewer storytellers. Cafe Clock offers a new venue and an opportunity for young Moroccans to train in this ancient art.
Day 12: Marrakech – Essaouira – Marrakech (B)
Today travel towards the Atlantic Coast and the old fishing town of Essaouira, a city where the medina brushes up against the Atlantic Ocean. Sandstone walkways contrast with whitewashed houses, bright blue sky and the sand of the surrounding beaches and dunes. This artists’ town was once home to sizeable British and Jewish populations, and its charm has seduced people like Orson Welles and Jimi Hendrix, who (according to local legend) spent much of his time here in the 1960s. It is one of North Africa’s most attractive places, and you will soon find yourself slipping into the easy-going rhythm of this Moroccan town with a European seaside twist. On arrival, join a local guide for a walking tour through the old medina, Jewish mellah, port and skala (sea wall). Afterwards, use your free time to get under the skin of the town. In the late afternoon, travel back to Marrakech for last night in Morocco.
Day 13: Marrakesh – Casablanca – – Australia (B)
Today you will be transferred back to Casablanca airport for your homeward flight.
Day 14: Australia
Arrive home today.
Please note: some flights may arrive home one day later.