About Magic of Morocco - Private Journey 04
A magical private tour of Morocco on a fully inclusive basis - as much sightseeing and experiences as you can fit into 12 days!
START / FINISH - Casablanca
Activity code: ITCTAM01CP
Duration: 12 Days
An exclusive "Private Journey" with English-speaking driver and guides covering the main historic locations across Morocco. This is a highly recommended 'Grand Tour' of Morocco's cultural highlights and natural beauty.
This itinerary is also available as a self-drive itinerary on request.
The itinerary begins with the fabulous northern Imperial Cities then travels south on an incredible journey to the Sahara, traversing the Atlas Mountain ranges and visiting many kasbahs along the way. The tour finishes with free time in Marrakech and returns to Casablanca with a stunning drive up the Atlantic coast from Essaouira. A full schedule of sightseeing and cultural adventure is included in each location plus a unique two day desert adventure into the high dunes of Erg Chebbi. The tour includes the services of an English-speaking driver/guide who will provide you with lots of information as you travel, co-ordinate sightseeing and meals and make sure this is the finest tour of Morocco available.
This tour can be arranged for any dates as a private chauffeur-driven holiday itinerary; fully guided with air conditioned 4WD (or comfortable minibus if more than 4 persons) with plenty of stops to take photographs and stretch your legs en route. You can also choose your accommodation from our personal selection of hotels and riads in each location to make a bespoke itinerary suited for taste and budget - please contact us for more details.
Accommodation: we offer a personal selection of riads and hotels which offer high quality accommodation. You may prefer a small and friendly property or one of the luxurious boutique-style riads or perhaps a deluxe hotel with lots of facilities to enjoy during your stay, (please let us know if you'd prefer any alternative accommodation).
Transport: to take the stress out of arriving and departing we offer a private airport transfer service with our trusted drivers.
Extra Information: We're on hand to book activities and additional sightseeing, particularly in Marrakech - such as a guided day hike, a cookery class, golf or quad biking.
NB: Flights available to book with us through a range of airlines, from various UK airports.
On arrival in Casablanca airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel in the city centre. The remainder of the day is free for you to explore this bustling city before returning to your hotel for dinner.
After breakfast visit the Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest mosques outside Mecca. Afterwards travel along the Atlantic Ocean to Rabat; visit the main monuments, including the Hassan Tower and Mausoleum of the Kings; the Kasbah of the Oudayas and the Oudaya Gate. After a light lunch you'll have a 3 hour drive east across the plains to Fez.
On arrival in the late afternoon there will be a tour of Fez including Dar el Makhzen, the Royal Palace, Borj Sud (to take in the panoramic view of the Medina), a walking tour of the labyrinth of the ancient Fez Medina with all its souks (a UNESCO World Heritage Site); the impressive al-Quarawiyyin Mosque and University, the el-Atterine Medersa; the Kissaria and the Draz, where you’ll see materials being woven the traditional way on old-fashioned looms; the renowned Tanneries on the bank of the Oued Fes and the delightful el-Nejjarine Square with its fountain and caravanserai.
Today’s excursion takes in 2,000 years of history. Firstly, you'll visit the wonderful Roman ruins at Volubilis to see the ancient olive presses, villas, incredible mosaics, monumental arches and Corinthian columns. Leaving Volubilis behind you'll drive alongside the dark, outlaying ridges of the Zerhoun Hills to stop for a visit of the town of Moulay Idriss, the holiest Islamic town in the kingdom of Morocco, to which thousands of Moroccan faithful come on a pilgrimage (moussem) every August to pray at the tomb of this descendant of the Prophet Mohammed.
On now, to the Imperial City of Meknes (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) for a late lunch. Afterwards, visit the most beautiful Bab (gateway) in all of the Maghreb - the Bab Mansour; also included on the tour is the El Heri es-Souani - the granary of huge vaulted structures and stables built by Moulay Ismail’s soldiers next to a pool fed by underground channels that brought fresh water all the way from the distant Middle Atlas Mountains; the Moulay Ismail Mausoleum and the Place el-Hedim to see the famous state-owned stallion stables of Haras where these Arabo-Berber horses are bred.
After breakfast you will head south towards the Sahara (many photo opportunities during the 6 hour drive). En route you'll visit the small 1920s French-built hill station of Immouzer du Kandar, the pseudo-Swiss town of Ifrane with its slanted, russet-tiled rooves hidden amidst a forest of cedar. Onwards through to the first real town in the Middle Atlas, Azrou, which was for a long time a strategic settlement established to effect some form of control on the independent mountain Berber peoples. From Azrou you will travel through the Cedar Forest (where you are likely to encounter the Barbary Apes) to emerge at the Oued Gigou Valley and on through the High Atlas via the Tizi n’Zad to the Berber mountain town of Midelt for lunch. Midelt is so far inland that its microclimate is one of extremes: bitterly cold in winter and very hot in summer.
From Midelt travel through a lower pass of the High Atlas (Tizi n’Talrehmt, "she-camel") and on across a deserted plain with all the reminders of Beau Geste to a small gorge on the River Ziz (the Berber name meaning Gazelle). Here, now, is the scenic highlight of the dramatic and majestic canyon of the Ziz Gorges, massive erosions of rock carving a passage through the mountains dominating startlingly green oases and ochre-coloured ksours. The final stretch of the route passes the small palm grove at Meski, watered by a natural spring and the final sector of the Oued Ziz. Cross an arid reddish belt of desert to drop, suddenly, into the valley and the Tizimi Palmeraie and the French-built town of Erfoud which will give you your first impression of the over-powering proximity of the Sahara.
Up at the crack of dawn to witness the incredible sunrise over the ever-changing colours of the magnificent dunes; take breakfast before setting off at around 9am on dromedaries for some 3 hours across a sea of golden dunes. You'll arrive at a carpeted Berber Nomadic camp in a small oasis seemingly in the middle of nowhere to have lunch under canvas, away from the midday sun and there'll time to relax and take photos.
Mid-afternoon set off again on a circular trip of the mighty dunes to return to the camp to witness Nature’s incredible light show of sunset over the dunes. A tagine dinner is prepared and, after dessert, tea or coffee, you may clap and dance along to a Desert Berber folklore group and sing and chat to your heart’s content under the star-filled heavens.
A last brilliant sunrise, equal almost to last night’s unforgettable sunset; dromedaries saddled up for the return, set off back across the plain to the Auberge Du Sud, where you have the chance to freshen up before boarding the transport back to Erfoud. Once reunited with your driver head west to the oasis town of Tinejdad and the start of the Route of 1000 Kasbahs in the Dades Valley. At Tineghir (after checking in to your hotel) set out up the Oued Todra for 15 kms into the deepest, narrowest and most spectacular part of the Todra Gorge. Enjoy lunch in the Restaurant Les Roches, tucked tightly up against the sheer cliff face and more exploring of this remarkable canyon before returning to your hotel.
Today's travel is along the Route of 1000 Kasbahs to the small town of Boumalne du Dades situated at the mouth of the Dades Gorge. Then venture up between the wide, high limestone cliffs with their strangely-shaped erosions, green vegetation and many ksours and kasbahs passing the Glaoui kasbah at Ait Youl as far as Ait Arbi built against a volcanic twist in the rocks. Return to Boumalne for lunch before continuing west via Qlaa’t Des M’gouna, where thousands of small, pink roses, first planted by French settlers, are grown to make the rose oil essence - “Eau de Rose”. Proceed to Skoura and its famous Amerhidl Kasbah and the French Protectorate town of Ouarzazate.
Late afternoon you will have free time - you could pay a visit to the Kasbah of Taourirt or possibly the Atlas Film Studios (where Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, The Jewel of The Nile and many other Hollywood films were shot.)
Refreshed, breakfasted and raring to go, set forth north alongside the Oued Ouarzazate to the magnificently exotic kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou, a World Heritage Site. One of the more spectacular sights in the Atlas ranges, set upon a rock above a reed-strewn assif, commanding the area for miles around, this kasbah controlled the route to Marrakech until the French blasted a road through the Tizi n’Tichka in the late 1920s. The route to Marrakech takes you into the High Atlas Mountains on exhilarating hairpin bends to the Tizi n’Tichka (2260m) where your driver will arrange a lunch stop with a vista dominated by peaks of some 2500+m. After lunch descend via Ait Ourir and Taddert and across the Glaoua Plains to your hotel in Marrakech.
Later in the afternoon, visit the famous Djmaa El Fna Square with its myriad of street performers - soothsayers, story tellers, tooth pullers, snake-charmers and many, many more.
This morning, take a ride in a caleche around the magnificent ramparts of this Imperial City, quite the best introduction to Marrakech, then stop for a light lunch. In the early afternoon visit the dramatic Almohad Koutoubia Minaret and the lavishly-decorated 16th century Saadien Tombs, the 14th century Ben Youssef Medersa - one of the most beautiful buildings in Marrakech, the 12th century Menara Gardens and then through the labyrinth of narrow alleyways making up the renowned cool, colourful and aromatic souks of Marrakech. Finish your guided visit in the Djemaa El Fna Square (the ‘Assembly of the Dead’), where, until the 19th century, the severed heads of criminals were traditionally displayed.
Evening free *
* As an excellent finale to any stay in Marrakech, an (optional) visit to Chez Ali is truly a 1001 Nights’ experience. The journey this evening would take you out of the heat of the city on a road to palm groves, where twinkling lights beckon out of the darkness to a magnificent spectacle. Reclining on plump cushions in one of the Chieftain’s tents, or in the kasbah, various folklore groups pass through singing and dancing to their throbbing music. The highlight comes at the end of your meal, accompanied by performances of Moroccan dances and songs, when you are invited to witness charging robed warriors on horseback in a display of their old tribal power as, standing in their stirrups, they shout and fire off their muskets and muzzle-loaders, bringing their horses to a sudden halt before you. Above you, in the night sky, Scheherazade and her Prince fly to the heavens on their magic carpet ride whilst fireworks light the sky as your evening of magical splendour comes to an end.
Checking out after breakfast, drive west to the Atlantic coast and the ancient Phoenician town of Mogador – a corruption of the Berber word Amegdul, meaning ‘well-protected’ – and now, since Independence, called Essaouira - ‘Little Picture.’ Abandoned by the Portuguese in 1541, it was not until 1765 that the Alaouite Sultan Sidi Mohammad Ibn Abdullah transformed Mogador into a fortified city. The ramparts were never that effective in keeping out the marauding tribesmen but now, a charming artists’ town with its old port and cannons overlooking the fishing fleet, Essaouira invites you to wander through the narrow alleyways which make up the Medina to witness artisans at work.
After checking in to your hotel leave for a walk around this enchanting city, enjoy a lunch (not included) of Essaouira’s famed seafood, either on the quayside or in one of the several quaint cafes that decorate this charming historical town. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find what this artist-colony town has to offer.
This morning set off north along the beautiful Atlantic coast road to Safi with Portuguese buildings dating back more than five centuries and the world-renowned Safi pottery. Next stop is El Jadida, formerly called Mazagan by the Portuguese who seized the town in 1502. Repeatedly besieged by the Moroccans, it was finally captured in 1769. Lunch and then a visit of the ancient underground cisterns before continuing on the final drive to the commercial capital of the Kingdom of Morocco - Casablanca.
This evening is free for you to stroll around the city centre and choose from one of the many Moroccan and International restaurants this city has to offer.
After breakfast and in accordance with your flight schedule home (check-out from your hotel will be at 12:00) you will be transferred to Casablanca’s Mohammed V International airport in time for your flight home, taking with you some incredible memories of a land so full of remarkable contrasts and very friendly people.
Prices are on request as these depend on your chosen accommodation and room availability as well as time of travel. We always aim to match a high quality experience with exceptional value for money. Please note that discounts will apply if there are 6 or more people in your travelling party as fixed costs such as transportation and guides will be shared equally between the group (a supplement would apply if there are only 2 persons travelling, for the same reason). Rediscover the World reserves the right to amend the itineraries should it be necessary following any changes in the physical or political landscape of the areas concerned.
City Tours include an English-speaking guide, all transport, entry fees to historic monuments (including, for example, in Marrakech the incredible Ben Youssef Medersa, Saadian Tombs & Bahia Palace), an exploration of the souks and focal points of the medinas.
Arabic is the official language but it is not uncommon to meet older people in small villages who have little contact with the outside world and who speak only Berber. Most educated Moroccans speak French, but now many teenagers prefer to learn English. In the main tourist centres it is not rare to meet somebody who speaks French, Spanish, English, Berber and Arabic, with a bit if Italian and German thrown in. At the very least they will know enough of these languages to take you to a friend's shop or, of course, to sell you a carpet! But that is only to be expected.