Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Morocco. Aromatic tajines, red-earthed landscapes and limitless generosity define this friendly, vibrant and flavourful Berber-Arab-Spanish-Portuguese-French melting pot. Modelled after Marseille in France, the bustling port city of Casablanca has a curious architectural style – famous for its art deco French-colonial buildings, an old medina, and the modern-day masterpiece of the Hassan II Mosque. On arrival at Casablanca Airport, you will be met by a Peregrine representative and transferred to your hotel. You can arrive at any time during the day, as there are no activities planned until an important meeting with your leader at 6pm. Please ask at hotel reception where this meeting will take place. Your gourmet adventure starts after this meeting. Dine with your new travel companions at the iconic Rick’s Café, which recreates the bar made famous by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the movie classic, Casablanca.
Start the day with a typical Casablanca market breakfast. Choose from dishes like msmen (layered, grilled bread), khlea (a type of Moroccan preserved meat), bessara soup, or a variety of other options found amongst the stalls. Breakfast must, of course, be served with mint tea, the perfect beverage to shake off the cobwebs and begin a day in Morocco. After breakfast, take a turn around the characterful Central Market, where fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetable sellers call out their prices and local women bargain for their daily ingredients. Here you’ll discover an array of produce that makes up the building blocks of Moroccan cuisine – the grains, herbs and, of course, the spices. Continue on to the sight that dominates the city – the vast Hassan II Mosque. Opened in 1993, and second only in size to the great mosque at Mecca, the huge building is part on land and part on sea, and in one area water can be seen through a glass floor. Leave Casablanca and travel north. Stop at the seaside city of Kenitra for lunch, then stretch your legs in the delightful fishing village of Asilah (approximately 3.5 hours). Enclosed by Portuguese fortifications, white-and-blue washed houses give the town a very Mediterranean feel. Continue on to Chefchaouen, arriving by early evening (approximately 2.5 hours).
Set against a wide valley and nestled between two peaks in the stunning Rif Mountains, the isolated town of Chefchaouen is a surprising delight. Much of Chefchaouen was recreated by Andalusian refugees escaping the Reconquistia, so its striking blue and whitewashed houses, red-tiled roofs and artistic doorways give it the feel of the Spanish hills. Spend your morning exploring the sights, sounds, and smells of the medina, the shops in the square selling woven goods and small sweets, and, most importantly, enjoy a taste of the town’s famous goat’s cheese. Herds of goats wander the sparse hillsides that surround Chefchaouen, and their cheese is sold in great fresh rounds in the street markets. The afternoon is free to relax or explore more of the town. Within the plaza is the walled fortress of the Kasbah – you can wander through the tranquil gardens inside, visit the ethnographic museum, and soak in wonderful views from the rooftop. Alternatively, you might prefer to get out of town and enjoy a short hike in the surrounding hills. This evening you’ll get a real insight into Moroccan food with a home-cooked dinner prepared with seasonal ingredients – bursting with flavour and made with love.
Descend from the hills and travel south through the centre of the peninsula towards the sacred pilgrimage town of Moulay Idriss (approximately 3 hours). From here it’s a short journey out to the World Heritage site of Volubilis. The remains of this Roman city make an undeniably impressive sight as they come into view on the edge of a long, high plateau. Take a tour around the arches, basilicas, and superb mosaics along the Decumanus Maximus, many of which remain intact. The reward for walking in the sun lies in a memorable lunch of traditional Roman recipes in the shadow of the ancient ruins. Recline on Moroccan Kilims and dine on locally-sourced ingredients, much like the Romans did a thousand years ago. Once forbidden to non-Muslims, your next stop at ancient Moulay Idriss offers a great insight into traditional Moroccan life. Here the faithful gather to pay homage at the tomb of Moulay Idriss I – the great-grandson of Mohammed and the man who brought Islam to Morocco. Perhaps sampling the famous nougat candy sold at street-side stalls and stop at an olive press and see how this golden unctuous liquid is extracted from the olives which grow in abundance around this region. Continue on to Fes, arriving by evening (approximately 1.5 hours), the spiritual heart of Morocco. Perhaps seek out some Fassi specialties for dinner, or enjoy a rooftop drink at your riad. Watching the sun set over the medina while a dozen prayer calls vie for attention is an experience you'll likely remember.
The old city of Fes el Bali is home to perhaps the greatest of all medinas. Descending into its labyrinthine alleyways is like stepping back to the Middle Ages. Donkeys wander the streets and the smell of spices fills the air. With a local guide, navigate narrow streets alive with craftsmen, markets, tanneries, mosques and colourful local characters. Explore the different speciality sections of the Medina that are known for specific types of food – from natural butters and fats, to pastries, to crepes and soups to dried and fresh produce. Taste your way through dried meats, milawi, harsha, briwats, spicy sardines, spicy potato cakes, soups and olives. Move on to the honey souk, where you’ll discover the importance of this liquid gold to Moroccan cooking. Get a closer insight into the culinary traditions of the city by visiting a 400-year-old communal oven and bakery. In the late afternoon, complete the gourmet day with a cooking demonstration, learning to create one of the city's signature dishes – pastilla (or b’stilla) – a salty and sweet pastry parcel.
Today, leave the intensity of the city behind for the simplicity of the High Atlas Mountains. Drive south, inland through a variety of spectacular scenery – fertile valleys, cedar and pine forests and barren, rocky landscapes – to the small town of Midelt (approximately 3.5 hours). Midelt is a market town nestled in the high plains surrounding the Moulouya River, between the Middle and High Atlas mountain ranges. Join some local Berber women for an insight into the preparation of hand-rolled couscous. Find out how much more delicious it tastes after all that effort. After lunch, stretch your legs for a few hours on an easy hike in the nearby hills. Be prepared for some astonishing views of the Atlas Mountains, with snowy peaks almost touching the sky. Wander through plantations of apple trees on the way back to your accommodation for a relaxing evening.
This morning there's time to haggle in the markets before driving through shifting scenery on the journey to Merzouga. With a backdrop of the orange-coloured Erg Chebbi sand dunes, this charming Saharan village feels wonderfully isolated, like the modern world has left it behind. Erg Chebbi’s dunes are the most stunning in the country, towering up to 150 metres in height. They’re easily an essential part of any visit to Morocco. Located at the end of a sealed road and just 20 kilometres from the Algerian border - this truly 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, where you will be be treated to a demonstration of medfouna (also called Berber pizza). Stay late after the dinner, enjoying lively music, drumming, Bedouin stories and dancing under the stars.
Continue your journey inland for tonight’s destination, M’goun (approximately 1 hour). Your accommodation for the next two nights is at a charming family-run guest-house in an area known as the Valley of Roses. In the spring-time, this region is covered in flowers and forms a centre of Moroccan rose-water production. Dinner this evening will be a feast of mechoui - slow-cooked lamb on the spit - lovingly prepared by our hosts.
While the morning holds the option of exploring the nearby village souk of Kelaat M'gouna or witnessing Moroccan bread-making techniques in action, today’s adventure will give you until sunset to explore the beauty of this largely untouched Moroccan backcountry. Accompanied by a local guide, pass through Berber villages, meeting local people along the way. Learn tea-making secrets with a Berber family. You’ll take a trail that undulates slightly here and there, but isn't too challenging if you have a basic level of fitness - plus a picnic in theses beautiful surrounds is definitely worth the walk.
Travel to the Moroccan city of Marrakech (approximately 6 hours), an exotic place where European modernity has meshed with ancient traditions. On the way, stop for lunch at the impressive Ait Benhaddouu. 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 recognise the place, you probably do, as the town has a long list of film and TV credits, including Lawrence of Arabia, Game of Thrones and Gladiator. Arrive in Marrakech by late afternoon. On arrival, join a passionate local foodie for a true insider's guide to the medina and a tasting tour of the incredible Djemma el Fna. Smell and see the famous spice mix, ras el hanout, prepared fresh to order; drop past a traditional wood-fired bakery and watch the smoking stalls of the Djemma el Fna night market come to life. This is one of the largest public spaces in the world and unique to Marrakech. Snake-charmers, henna-painters, performers and storytellers share the square with a street food bazaar of stalls laden with Moroccan delicacies – it’s sure to be a memorable start to your time in this city.
This morning, rise early for a hands-on cooking class with a celebrated local chef. You will explore his organic kitchen garden surrounded by beautiful olive groves and orchards set in a traditional Berber douar. Harvest ingredients fresh from the garden and let the chef teach you the art of seasoning with aromatic Moroccan herbs. Learn to cook tagines and salads, and then savour your creations over a delicious lunch. Return to the city for a guided tour of some of the famed sites of Marrakech, incuding the Palais Bahia, a superb example of Muslim architecture, as well as the well-known Koutoubia Mosque and its 12th-century minaret, which was the famous prototype for the Giralda tower in Seville. For your final evening, choose to join your fellow travellers for a final celebratory meal. There are a plethora of options, a favourite restaurant of ours being Al Fassiah, renowned for outstanding renditions of traditional dishes. Others may be drawn back to Djemaa el Fna for a bowl of snails or a slow-cooked tanjia.
Your gourmet expedition across Morocco comes to an end this morning. If you are extending your stay, perhaps stroll through the tropical gardens of the French painter Jacques Majorelle (now owned by Yves Saint Laurent), or return to the medina, where every corner brings a new flash of colour, an enticing new smell, or a souvenir to haggle over. The Saadian tombs are another recently uncovered gem of the Medina. Be sure to take a break from the bustle to sip on tea or eat a tajine, filled with the quintessential flavours of Morocco.