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South Morocco Discovery

Trip type: 
Cultural
Adventure level: 
2. Gentle
Max group size: 
12
Avg user rating: 
Awaiting reviews
Africa, Morocco | 11 days
Trip code: 
XMSF
What's included: 

Transport - Minibus, 4x4, bus, taxi, camel, on foot.

Accommodation - Hotel (4 nts), Riad (3 nts), Gite (1 nt), Guesthouse (1 nt), Camp site (1 nt)

Meals - 9 breakfasts, 1 lunch & 2 dinners.

Trip Highlights: 
Kasbahs & Atlas villages
Ait Benhaddou
Nomad desert camp
Coastal Essaouira
see full itinerary >>

Trip Highlights: 
Kasbahs & Atlas villages
Ait Benhaddou
Nomad desert camp
Coastal Essaouira
see full itinerary >>
What's included: 

Transport - Minibus, 4x4, bus, taxi, camel, on foot.

Accommodation - Hotel (4 nts), Riad (3 nts), Gite (1 nt), Guesthouse (1 nt), Camp site (1 nt)

Meals - 9 breakfasts, 1 lunch & 2 dinners.

Trip Overview: 

This trip has a lot of highlights and is a great introduction to Morocco. Experience the bustling bazaars of Marrakech, the grand kasbah at Ait Benhaddou and the traditional tanneries and markets of Taroudant. You will enjoy beautiful Atlas scenery staying in a Berber village and hiking through the mountains. Then in complete contrast experience the vast Sahara desert, reaching your nomad camp by camel ride and sleeping under the stars is a great adventure. Coastal Essaouira is the perfect place to unwind at the end of the trip.

Itinerary: 
Day
1-2

Marrakech

Fly to Marrakech. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Morocco.

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 2. We will be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Marrakech is a feast for the senses. Be enticed by the alluring scents and brilliant colours of the spice markets, the sounds of the musicians, the rich folds of carpets, delectable foods, acrobats and perfumed gardens.

You have the option to join your leader in Djemaa el Fna, the amazing square in the centre of the Medina which transforms at night with huge crowds converging to see the singers, drummers, dancers, snake charmers, fortune tellers, storytellers, jugglers and even old medicine men and dentists, who together make up what has been dubbed the 'greatest spectacle on earth'. An al fresco dinner at one of the many stalls is a real life experience.

There's not much time to explore Marrakech on this itinerary but if you arrive early there's plenty to see and do.

Explore the amazing Medina and the seemingly endless mosaic of souqs. Each is devoted to a separate trade: pottery, woodwork, copper, leather, carpets and spices. A wander amongst them is a sensory delight.

The monuments of Marrakech are numerous and range from the well-known Koutoubia Mosque and its superb minaret - famous throughout the Islamic world and the 'sister' to the Giralda in far-away Seville, to the lesser-known tropical gardens of the French painter Jacques Majorelle (now owned by Yves Saint Laurent). There's the Palais Bahia, a superb example of Muslim architecture, and the ruins of the Palais Badi, reputedly one of the most beautiful palaces in the world in its time. The Saadian tombs are a recently uncovered gem of the Medina. All of the above can be a challenge to locate, but that's all part of the experience of exploring the phenomenal medinas of Morocco.

Optional Activities

  • Koutoubia Mosque and minaret - Free
  • Marjorelle Gardens - MAD50
  • Palais Bahia - MAD10
  • Palais Badi - MAD10
  • Saadien Tombs - MAD10
  • Medersa Ben Youssef - MAD40
  • Museum of Marrakech - MAD40
  • Hamam (public baths) - MAD250
  • Photography Museum - MAD40

Accommodation

Hotel (1 nt)

 

Day
3
Aroumd

Aroumd

A short drive takes you into the towering High Atlas Mountains to the village of Imlil (approx 2 hrs).

You'll store our main luggage and load daypacks on to pack mules before taking a 1 hour walk up to the peaceful village of Aroumd where you spend the night. If you don't feel you can complete the walk, don't worry and take the option of riding a mule up to Aroumd.

A family-run mountain home (gite) will be our accommodation tonight, and perched on a great rocky outcrop you have an incredible sight to appreciate from our terrace: views of North Africa's highest peak - Mount Toubkal. Facilities at the mountain gite are shared - both the bathroom and sleeping arrangements - but cosy, comfortable and a unique Intrepid experience.

You have the rest of the day to explore the village and surrounding farmlands. Depending on the energy levels of the group, you can make the moderate 8 km trek to the pilgrimage shrine of Sidi Chamarouch (approx 4 hrs return). This interesting destination is the burial place of a medieval saint and is a popular route for both serious trekkers en route to Toubkal and for Moroccan faithful wishing to receive baraka (blessings) from this sacred place.

Regardless of your level of fitness, the gentle pace of Aroumd makes it a special place beyond the reach of the modern world - and an opportunity not to be missed.

Included Activities

  • Guided trek in the High Atlas Mountains

Optional Activities

  • Mule ride - Imlil to Aroumd - MAD50

Accommodation

Gite (1 nt)

Day
4
Ait Benhaddou

Ait Benhaddou

Journey along spectacular mountain roads and over Morocco's highest pass, the Tizi n'Tichka (2260 m) to Ait Benhaddou on the barren edges of the Sahara (approx 6 hrs).

Centuries ago, Ait Benhaddou was an important stop for the caravans passing through as they carried salt across the Sahara, returning with gold, ivory and slaves. Today, its grand kasbah is still one of the most beautiful in all of Morocco and a World Heritage site. This fortified village is a fine example of clay architecture and is also famous for its role on the silver screen, featuring in numerous films such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile and Gladiator.

Why not join a simple cooking demonstration of Morocco's most famous cuisine: couscous and tagine. Our local friends will explain the secrets and subtleties of these traditional meals as the ladies of the kitchen prepare a feast.

Optional Activities

  • Cooking class and dinner - MAD100
  • Henna tattooing - MAD50

Accommodation

Guesthouse (1 nt)

 

Day
5
Zagora

Zagora

Journey south towards the mighty Sahara (approx 5 hrs), stopping en route in Ouarzazate.

The film capital of Morocco, Ouarzazate is the location where productions such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Sheltering Sky and Black Hawk Down were filmed.

Make a short visit to Project Handicapped Horizon, an organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation, health and empowerment of people with disabilities. Some of the amazing services they provide include the building and fitting of prosthetic limbs, custom-made wheelchairs, and physio and social therapy for sufferers of accidents and illness. They also operate an artisans workshop which trains local people in trades such as pottery, weaving, metal work and jewellery making. This is a wonderful visit and we're very proud to support this project through our sister company’s “Intrepid Foundation”.

Travel through the lush Draa Valley to Zagora, home to the famous 'Tombouctou 52 Jours' sign.

Zagora is known as the 'doors of the desert', as it's the last town before the Draa River. This is a palmerie town with great pottery and ceramic workshops on the way into the desert.

Take a stroll through the palm groves of Amazrou, exploring the ksars and surrounding countryside.

Included Activities

  • Project Handicapped Horizon

Optional Activities

  • Atlas Movie Studios - MAD50
  • Kasbah Taourirt - MAD20

Accommodation

Hotel (1 nt)

 

Day
6

Sahara Camp

Our route continues along the rugged, jagged and desolate Jbel Tadrart Mountain ranges taking us through seas of sand occasionally punctuated by lush oasis of date palms, to the interesting township of Tamegroute.

Once a famous settlement and home to religious scholars since the 11th century, Tamegroute houses a shrine to its spiritual leader.

Visit an intriguing library filled with ancient scripts of science, literature, the Koran and stories of the prophet Mohammed. You'll also join a local friend to uncover the underground kasbah and its famous, but unique, ceramic pottery industry. A great spot to pick up a memorable souvenir.

Drive on until you reach the end of the road at the frontier town of M'Hamid.

Take a short camel ride, with the dunes as a magical backdrop.

Head into the dunes in 4WD vehicles. Our rough piste track runs parallel to the Algerian border, across stony Hamada desert whose only populace is small scatterings of hardy nomadic people and their camels, until you reach the massive Erg Chigaga dunes in the late afternoon.

An erg is a vast sea of shifting wind-swept sand that has formed into picturesque undulating crests and valleys, and the Erg Chigaga is one of the world's classic landscapes.

Our nomad-style camp is a simple affair with bedding and basic toilet facilities provided. Our local friends will prepare a hearty feast so all you have to do is soak up the experience. The camp consists of two large fixed traditional nomadic-style woollen tents. Our camp does provide blankets and simple mattresses but for extra warmth and your own comfort, you might like to bring your own sleeping bag in the winter months from November to March.

Due to passenger feedback, all departures in the summer months of July and August use a slightly altered itinerary in the Sahara. You'll take a 4WD safari to the remote Erg Chigaga dunes but instead of camping in the dunes, you stay at a fixed camp in Ouled Idriss. This camp is more comfortable and better suited during the high summer temperatures.

Included Activities

  • Ancient library
  • Camel ride
  • 4WD adventure and desert camp

Accommodation

Camp site (1 nt)

 

Day
7

Taroudannt

Rejoin your minivan and continue towards Taroudannt (approx 6 hrs). This drive takes you through more superb desert scenery and along a route that's a reserve for the indigenous argan trees - if you're lucky you might come across the famous image of goats climbing these trees in search of their tasty argan nuts.

Please note that this is a long travel day and you won't arrive at our accommodation until late afternoon/early evening. Our riad tonight is 45 km outside of Taroudannt and offers the chance to relax by the pool or take a steamed bath.

Accommodation

Riad (1 nt)

 

Day
8/9

Essaouira

This morning you'll visit Taroudannt en route to Essaouira.

Taroudannt is a vibrant market town located in the fertile Souss plains. With an energetic, bustling city centre this is a great opportunity to see an untouched traditional Berber lifestyle. The souqs of the medina teem with sights, sound and colour, with terrific bargains to be found.

Leave the valleys of the magical High Atlas Mountains behind and head towards the windswept Atlantic Coast and Essaouira (approx 4.5 hrs).

The name Essaouira means image, which is appropriate since it's such a picturesque town. Its charm is undeniable - within the stone ramparts you'll find whitewashed houses with bright blue shutters, art galleries and wood workshops. This laidback artists' town is a former Portuguese trading colony and was once home to sizeable British and Jewish populations. The town faces a group of rocky islands - called the Mogador - and is surrounded by an expanse of sandy beaches and dunes.

It's still a busy fishing port and its pretty harbour is filled with tiny colourful boats which go out early every morning for the day's catch. Visitors who have been seduced by its charms include Orson Welles and Jimi Hendrix, who (according to local legend) spent much of his time here in the 1960s. More recently, filmmaker Ridley Scott chose the ramparts as an important location for his film, Kingdom of Heaven.

Join our local guide for a walking tour through the old Medina, Jewish mellah, port and skala (sea wall).

You have some free time to soak up the romantic ambience.

Everything in the small centre is within walking distance and the beach is clean. Wander the harbour and its adjacent fish markets where you can witness the daily auction. A freshly-cooked plate of the day's catch is highly recommended. Browse the plentiful shops and intriguing art galleries that make this little town a particularly pleasant place to unwind for a few days. It has a growing reputation for its unique art and is becoming even more famous for its burled Thuya wood - delicately formed and inlaid in tiny shops, which are built into the thick walls of the Portuguese ramparts. The scent from the oils used to polish the richly coloured wood permeates the air and makes walking down the streets incredibly pleasant.

Essaouira is a world-famous windsurfing destination. Give it go or you may like to try your hand at the increasingly popular sport of kite surfing.

Don't miss the opportunity to go to a hammam or local-style bath to be spoilt with a good scrub, a mud pack and a relaxing massage with argan oil.

Included Activities

  • Walking tour

Optional Activities

  • Hamam (public baths) - MAD200
  • Berber massage - MAD350
  • Windsurfing / kitesurfing - MAD300
  • Quad biking in dunes - MAD350

Accommodation

Riad (2 nts)

 

Day
10
Marrakech

Marrakech

Reflect on your incredible journey with an optional farewell dinner.

As this trip spends limited time in Marrakech, we recommend you arrange a few extra nights of accommodation to make the most of what this city has to offer.

Accommodation

Hotel (1 nt)

Day
11

Tour ends

Your adventure ends today and you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home to London.

 

Marrakech & Atlas Mountains

Arriving in Morocco you head to Marrakech and discover the lively bazaar and colourful main square, the Djemaa el-Fna, that comes to life at sunset with snake charmers, jugglers, musicians and acrobats. You’ll then head to the Atlas Mountains and hike to the birthplace of a medieval saint.

Ait Benhaddou

Discover the village of Ait Benhaddou, where red-towered kasbahs are dramatically set on a hillside. This stunning area of Morocco was used as the setting for the film ‘Gladiator’.

Desert & Essaouira

Driving through the Draa Valley you reach the Oasis town of Zagora on the fringe of the Sahara. Onwards along rugged mountain ranges and across seas of sand with an occassional oaisis. A nighttime camel trek takes you to your nomad camp where you sleep under the stars like a true desert explorer. Finally the atmospheric port of Essaouira with its dramatic ramparts, Atlantic Ocean, quiet backstreets and expansive beach offers a great place to relax before returning to Marrakech.

 

Our Moroccan Adventure trip is just one of our many Morocco tours. To find out more visit our Morocco holidays page