Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Morocco. An airport arrival transfer is included, although this transfer is only valid if arriving on Day 1 or if you have booked pre-trip accommodation through Intrepid. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or at least 15 days prior to travel. Your adventure begins today with a welcome meeting at 6pm – check with hotel reception to confirm the time. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. 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.
Please Note: Please be aware that some of our travellers to Casablanca are being approached by locals offering excursions before their Intrepid trip commences. This has been particularly prevalent in and around the hotels used by Intrepid. These guides are in no way connected to Intrepid Travel and we cannot guarantee the safety or quality standards of their tours. We strongly advise customers against joining any tour offered by unauthorised guides. Intrepid Travel assesses the safety of all optional excursions offered by our tour leaders. If you would like more information on the excursions available, please contact us before you travel or see the Intrepid-branded notice in the reception of your hotel.
2 Casablanca / Rabat / Meknes
After breakfast today, Casablanca beckons. Take a 45-minute guided tour of the Hassan II Mosque. Completed in 1993, this extraordinary monument was the late king's most ambitious project and his legacy to the city. Its 200 metre-high minaret is the tallest in the world. Hassan II Mosque can accommodate 25,000 worshippers and is one of the only religious sites open to non-Muslims. Next, it's about a one-hour and half 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. Start your visit with the walk through Medina and Souks, then explore the lovely walled quarter known as the Kasbah des Oudaias and enjoy an included local drink. Afterwards, continue the walk to visit Mohamed the 5th Mausoleum the vast minaret of the Hassan Mosque. In the late afternoon, continue on to Meknes (approximately 2 hours), the sixth largest city in the kingdom, and former capital of Morocco. (B)
3 Meknes / Volubilis / Chefchaouen
Today enjoy a morning tour of Meknes. Discover the charming streets of the old medina. From the northern gate of Bab Berdaine walk to the shrine of Moulay Ismail, who turned Meknes from a provincial town to an imperial city in the 17th century. You will explore the elaborately decorated public buildings hidden in these winding streets, including thegranary of Mouly Ismail and the old souq. Next, you will drive to the nearby archeological site of Volubilis. World Heritage-listed Volubilis was one of the Roman empire's most remote bases. The remains make an undeniably impressive sight as they come into view on the edge of a long, high plateau. When it was damaged by an earthquake in the 18th century, much of the marble was taken for construction in Meknes. Enjoy a tour of the ancient hilltop 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.
Discover the sea creature mosaic in the House of Orpheus, and see the exploits and labours of Hercules, which are depicted in stunning detail. Afterwards, make the three-hour drive to Chefchaouen, or the ‘blue city', which is arguably one of the prettiest places in Morocco. Set against a wide valley and nestled between two peaks in the stunning Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen may take you by surprise. Its medina has been lovingly cared for with striking blue and whitewashed houses, red-tiled roofs and artistic doorways. Much of Chefchaouen was recreated by Andalusian refugees escaping the Reconquistia, so you might feel like you're in the hills of Spain while exploring its streets. Ease into the relaxed pace of life in this rural retreat. Take an orientation walk through the ancient medina and shop for handicrafts, or simply sit at a cafe and enjoy the pleasure of time passing by. If you're feeling peckish, the goats' cheese on offer is a popular treat enjoyed by many visitors. (B)
Enjoy free morning to further discover Chefchaouen. Take another stroll around the streets and search for your favourite shade of blue. Then perhaps enjoy lunch before boarding our private minibus on a long journey to Fes (approximately 4 hours) for the night. The living museum of Fes has disputable origins; some believe its origins come from ancient Greece, other claim it comes from the Balkans. Nevertheless, the city is a best example of medieval Arab world, and you are soon to find out more of its past and modern times. After checking in your hotel in late afternoon, perhaps enjoy a memorable dinner of one of the city's signature dishes, the salty and sweet pastille. (B/D)
Today you will discover the city of Fes, the spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco; vibrant, noisy, fascinating and overwhelming – a visual and pungent feast for the senses. 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, Medresse el Attarine, the tanneries and the splendid Fondouk Nejjarine, a beautifully restored 18th century inn. Return to your hotel in the late afternoon and perhaps spend the evening relaxing in this calming oasis, away from the buzz of the medina. (B)
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, originally built as a base for mining in the area, and is nestled between the Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains at an elevation of just over 1,500 metres. It's a perfect spot to break up the journey to the Sahara, and is a great base for some easy walks. Many of the locals are Berber, and the town can offer an insight into their way of life. 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, resting up before the Sahara tomorrow. (B)
7 Merzouga (Sahara Camp)
This morning there's little bit of time to relax before hitting the road again. Drive through changing scenery, from barren mountainsides to fertile valleys, on the 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. 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 metres 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 your overnight camp set next to a simple hotel 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. (B/D)
8 Todra Gorge / Dades Valley / M'goun Valley
Enjoy a real Lawrence of Arabia moment this morning with yet another camel ride, this time for unforgettable sunrise across the desert. After breakfast drive to Todra Gorge (approximately 4 hours), a massive trench that rises over 250 metres 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. Continue your journey inland for tonight's destination, M'goun (approximately 2 hours). You will get closer to the customs and lifestyle of the Berber this evening with the night spent in a traditional Berber house. (B/D)
9 M'goun Valley
You have a full day to explore the beauty of this largely untouched Moroccan backcountry. On foot is the best way to discover the natural and man-made landscape and the rural way of life. There are a couple of circuits to choose from, but the most popular choice, and the one we recommend, is a 10 kilometre circuit that will take about four hours. Accompanied by a local guide, you'll walk a trail that undulates slightly here and there, but isn't too challenging if you have a basic level of fitness. On the walk you'll pass Berber villages, meeting local Berbers along the way and perhaps having a chance to share a cup of mint tea with some of them. The surrounding mountains and the famous Rose Valley make a sensational setting. (B/D)
10 Skoura-Ait Benhaddou
Leaving the M'goun Valley today, set off on the fabled ‘Road of 1,000 Kasbahs'. The first stop is at Skoura Oasis (after approximately 2 hours), home to several privately owned kasbahs. Here visit the Kasbah Ameridhl, with its extravagant decorations and mud-brick fortifications. Continue on your journey to Ait Benhaddou (approximately 2 hours). 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. 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. (B/D)
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, 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 an included dinner on this magical square with your new friends on one of the outdoor street food vendors and then perhaps finish your day with a cup of tea on one of the roof-top restaurants overlooking the square. (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. 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. (B)
Your trip ends today after breakfast. Check-out time is usually around midday and you are free to leave at any time. If you have arranged a private airport transfer you will be advised of the pick-up time. Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring here. Speak to your leader about the wealth of extra activities to do around Marrakech. (B)