Expedition Details: Imperial Cities, mountain villages, coastal communities
Discover the Magic of Morocco as you travel with your Berber guide through snow-capped Atlas Mountains (many peaking above 4,000 metres), to the sea. Visit four Imperial Cities (historical capitals of one or more dynasties): Fés, Rabat, Marrakech, and Meknes and traditional Berber villages of the Atlas Mountains. Experience the sights and sounds of Morocco’s largest marketplace, revel in the exquisite and lush gardens of Marrakech. Explore coastal communities combining Moorish and European cultures.
Whether you are here for the photographs, or just for the memories, this will be the journey of a lifetime.
Optional Excursions also available.
Related information: Morocco’s history, geography, attractions and sites.
♦ Rabat. Morocco’s capital, where you will see the 12th century Hassan Tower accessed by ramps rather than stairs, so horsemen could easily ride to the top to issue the call to prayer.
♦ Fés. UNESCO World Heritage site, its colorful medina and the University of Al-Karaouine, founded in AD 859 and the oldest continuously functioning university in the world.
♦ Marrakech. Lush gardens and exotic Islamic architecture. Largest souq (open air market) in Morocco (and Africa). Enjoy a delicious Moroccan dinner while being entertained by a show of Berber horsemen.
♦ Essaouira and coastal communities. Historical blend of many cultures, some dating from prehistoric times, and including Phoenician, Roman, Portuguese, Spanish, and Islamic influence.
Itinerary – 9 Days
Day 1 Arrival in Casablanca الدار البيضاء
Casablanca. Morocco’s largest city and chief port. Economic capital and commercial center of Morocco. Upon arrival in either Casablanca or Rabat (depending on your flight), you will be met by your guide and transported to your hotel (ryad) in Rabat. If you arrive early, you may have time to enjoy some time in Casablanca. Stroll through the city’s Habous district, exploring the Mechouar, ceremonial meeting place outside the Royal Palace, the Mohamed V Square and Corniche of Ain Diab, and the Mosque Hassan II, with the world’s tallest minaret. Casablanca (made famous by the movie of the same name) is Morocco’s largest city and its chief port—one of the largest ports in the world. (And, the country’s primary naval base.)
The city’s original name was Anfa. Built by the Phoenicians and later settled by the Berbers, the term is still used for the old residential area. The modern name ‘Casablanca’ is Spanish for “white house.” Locals often refer to their city as “casa.” Originally settled by the Berbers by the 7th Century BC, the city was used as a port by the Phoenicians and the Romans, and later the French, whose language is still used by many Moroccans.
For late arriving flights, you will go straight to your ryad in Rabat, where we begin our tour in the morning. There will be time on the last day of the tour to visit Casablanca.
¤ Dinner: At your hotel (ryad)
¤ Accommodation: Rabat
Day 2 Rabat, Volubilis, Meknes, Fés
Rabat. Administrative capital of Morocco and the “Imperial “White City.” After a short tour of Rabat, where you will see the Mechouar of the Royal Palace and the 12th century Hassan Tower and its Esplande, we will continue on to Meknes, Morocco’s youngest Imperial City.
En-route, we will stop to explore Volubilis, a UNESCO site of Roman ruins dating from 100 B.C. when this was the capital of Roman Africa and called Mauritania Tingitana. Our day ends at Fés, where you will have the opportunity to visit with your guide about your tour expectations.
¤ Dinner: Welcome dinner with Folklore Show
¤ Accommodation: Fes (2 nights)
Day 3 Fés فاس
Fés. Intellectual and religious capital of Morocco. Imperial City founded in 808 by Maulay Indriss II. Some say it is the “most imperial city of Morocco.” Spend the day exploring palaces and monuments and educational institutions such as Bou Inania Madrasa built by Marinid Sultan Abu Inan Faris in the 14th Century, Al-Attarine Madrasa, and the University of Al-Karaouine, founded in 859 and considered the oldest university in the world.
Other stops may include the Zaouia Moulay Idriss II, a shrine honoring Fes’ founder, the fascinating “water clock” at Dar al-Magana (connected to the Bou Inania Madrasa school), and the Jewish Aben Danan Synagogue.
We also visit the largest souk (open-air marketplace) in Morocco and Africa.
¤ Dinner: At your ryad
¤ Accommodation: Fes
Day 4 Berber Villages, Atlas Mountains, Marrakech
Travel through the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech in southern Morocco. Home to a number of plant and animal species unique to Africa, these mountains are located mostly in the center and south of the country. The highest peak, Djebel Toubkal (pictured on left, and 63 KM south of Marrakech), is over 4,167 meters (13,671 ft). A dozen of these mountains near Marrakech peak above 4,000 meters.
We will stop at Ifrane, a ski village (established by the French when they occupied Morocco), and known as the Switzerland of Morocco in the northern Atlas Mountains. It is the place where the lowest temperature (-24c) has ever been recorded in Africa. First established in the 16th century, Ifrane is a colonial “hill station,” and a “garden city.” It is also an “imperial city,” a mountain resort, a provincial administrative center, and a college town.
Approaching Marrakech, (a garden oasis at the southern end of the Atlas), we will travel through the Grand Atlas village of Tanaghmeil and the spectacular Ouzoud Falls. Ouzoud is the Berber word for ‘olive,’ referring to the nearby olive groves. This area is one of the most visited in the region, with green valleys, mills, orchards, and a narrow footpath to the falls. At the top, there are several old mills still in use. The canyon below the falls descends to nearly 600 meters.
The native population of the mountain villages is mostly Berber. You will travel through several small towns and Berber villages where you will see weaving, small markets, and historic Kasbahs (or old fortified cities), some still lived in today. Our final stop is the lovely city of Marrakech where we will spend three nights and have an opportunity for some optional excursions.
More on the Atlas Mountains
¤ Dinner: At your ryad
¤ Accommodation: Marrakech (3 nights)
Day 5 Marrakech مراكش
Marrakech, known as the “Ochre City” and “the Pearl of the South,” is the third largest and most important former Imperial City in Morocco. Situated at the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, this beautiful city is filled with myriad sights, scents, and sounds, with lush gardens of fruit and olive trees, palms, giant bamboo, yucca, and many fragrant flowers, colorful traditional Islamic architecture, and the largest traditional Berber market (souq) in Morocco and one of the busiest squares in Africa, Djemaa el Fna.
Here, we will be entertained by dancers, storytellers, acrobats, snake charmers, musicians, fortune tellers, and fire eaters. This is a wonderful place to do some souvenir shopping!
In the old, fortified city (medina) we will also visit the lovely 19th century Bahia Palace and Gardens. The palace is an outstanding example of Islamic architecture. After stops at the Madersa Mosque and the Saadian tombs, and Majorelle Garden.
This lovely 12-acre Botanical Garden, cobalt blue villa, and former studio of French painter Jacques Majorelles was once owned by Yves St. Laurent. Also located here is the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech.
Marrakech, known for its lovely gardens and the vibrant, exciting souq and special entertainment in the evening, is a highlight of your trip. Your next stops, after leaving the mountains, will be to visit coastal villages. Tonight – a spectacular dinner and show with Berber horsemen!
¤ Dinner and Entertainment: Spectacular Marrakech dinner held under the Royal Khaima Berber tents. ‘Fantasia’ show with famous Berber horsemen in ‘Battle on Arab Horses.’
¤ Accommodation: Marrakech
Day 6 Marrakech Optional Excursions
A day of options! Spend the day relaxing in Marrakech, do some extra shopping, return to the souq to enjoy the entertainment, or take one of the optional day-trip excursions. The day is yours for discovery and exploration. In the evening we will depart for a short drive to the coastal town of Essaouira where we spend the night.
• Walking Garden Tour. Bahia Palace, built in the 19th century and intended to capture the essence of Islamic and Moroccan styles, it has a two-acre garden and rooms opening into courtyards. El Badi Palace, presently undergoing restoration rebuilding the pools and gardens. Majorelle Gardens, 12-acre botanical garden and artist’s landscape garden with a lovely blue villa once owned by Yves St. Laurent. Ask your guide for additional gardens you might want to visit in this beautiful city.
• ATV 4×4 day-trip from Marrakech travel through Berber villages, where you will see traditional activities such as weaving, sample mint tea, and tour and the lovely Ourika River Valley, with many waterfalls and rare plants. Lunch will be with a traditional Berber family. You should have an opportunity to view some of the Kasbahs (old forts) in the area.
¤ Dinner: At your ryad
¤ Accommodation: Marrakech
Day 7 Essaouira الصويرة
Essaouira. Relax by the sea and explore coastal fishing towns with beautifully designed fortifications and Kasbah areas. Portugese ramparts and red walls surround Essaouria and neighboring towns.
Occupied since prehistoric times, Essaouira has a fascinating history which includes remnants of Phoenician, Roman, and Portuguese settlements. The medina is home to many small arts and crafts businesses (notably ‘thuya’ wood carving using roots of the native Tetraclinis tree), which have been practised in Essaouira for centuries. During your visit, you will have an opportunity to watch the craftsmen at work, and later, stroll along the beach.
More on Essaouira
¤ Dinner: At your ryad
¤ Accommodation: Essaouria
Day 8 El Jadida, Casablanca الدار البيضاء
Early departure for Casablanca. Stop along the way at El Jadida (previously known as Mazagan by the Portuguese who controlled this city from 1502-1769), which is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the combined influence of European and Moroccan cultures. The Manueline Church of the Assumption is one of the city’s highlights.
Arriving in Casablanca, spend the afternoon exploring Morocco’s largest city, on this your last formal tour day. Many Moroccan and international companies are headquartered here. Casablanca is also the largest port in Africa with heavy shipping traffic of imports and exports for many industries. You will find several museums and gardens. The modern city offers many shopping opportunities for last minute gifts and souvenirs before you leave tomorrow. Ask your guide for suggestions as you travel toward this city.
¤ Dinner: Farewell Dinner with your guide and tour guests
¤ Accommodation: Casablanca
Day 9 Depart Casablanca
You will be picked up at your hotel and transported to the airport.
√ What is Included
Tours include lodging, breakfast & dinner, tour transportation in comfortable vehicles, airport transpoft, all applicable attraction and entry fees, and trip insurance in Morocco. Your tour guide is also your driver, and there are also “official” guides in Fés and Marrakech. Not included are tips, alcoholic beverages, optional excursions, air travel and air travel insurance, trip cancellation insurance.