Marvels of Morocco Trip Notes
Trip code: FFMK
Trip length: 15 days
- Desert & Atlas Mountains
- Fez & Marrakech
- Pirate hideout of Essaouira
This itinerary undoubtedly covers the best that Morocco has to offer and provides a good balance of relaxation, sightseeing and activity. You see some fabulous architecture in Fez, the cultural capital, wander through colourful souks in Marrakech and the Roman ruins of Volubilis. To get more adventurous, you camp out in the Sahara Desert, ride camels and on your two-night stay in the Atlas Mountains, get off the beaten track on day walks to meet the friendly Berber people and explore their traditional villages. To round off your holiday at the end of the trip you visit the relaxing and atmospheric sea port of Essaouira, once a pirates’ lair.
The tour starts at the Fez hotel. You will receive full details of exactly where to meet your Group Leader on the Joining Instructions which will be sent to you 2-3 weeks before your trip starts.
Hotel (AAA) - 3 nights
Fez; city tour
Fez, the cultural capital, is one of the most complete medieval Islamic cities in the world. Passing through the gates and walls into the alleyways beyond transports you back in time. The streets are just as they were when they were built in the 8th century, with high walls that protect the courtyards inside from the heat of the midday sun. Enormous theosophical colleges, beautiful mosques and fascinating souks spilling their goods onto the pavement are all part of the scene. You'll take a walking tour to some of the major points of interest as well as having free time to wander at leisure. You’ll meander through the medina, past the Royal Palace, and through the Jewish quarter. Continue with your guide after lunch or take time to explore at your own pace or relax. (B)
Roman Volubilis & Meknes
This morning you drive to Volubilis (approx. 2 hrs) to some of the most comprehensive and ancient ruins in the kingdom. Some 1900 years ago Volubilis was one of the farthest flung outposts of the Roman Empire. Archaeologists found remarkable mosaics forming the floors of several houses lining the Decumanus Maximus. You can see representations of the Labours of Hercules, the Chariot of Amphitrite, which is drawn by a seahorse as well as the famous 'Nymphs Bathing'. Wandering among the ruins of the basilica, the capitol, oil press and the great houses of Orpheus and Ephebus, it is easy to imagine what life was like 2000 years ago. In the afternoon you’ll visit the city of Meknes, a place full of history and intrigue (drive to Meknes approx. 1 hour). The focal point of the old medina is the Bab Mansour, the gate that leads to Moulay Ismail's old imperial city and the mosques, souks and palaces beyond. You’ll return to Fez for the night. (B)
A change of scenery today as you leave the crowded streets of old Fez behind and set out across the mountains to the desert. There is a long drive ahead (7 hours), but using a chartered bus enables us to make frequent stops along the way. The wilderness you cross is incredibly diverse and can vary from rocky, sun-baked plains, to cedar-clad mountains and deep canyons. In the hills south of Azrou you may be lucky to spot a troupe of Barbary Apes; in fact not a true ape but a species of Macaque monkey. Once over the mountains you head to the old garrison town of Erfoud, where hopefully you’ll arrive in time to see the sun setting over the vast expanse of rolling desert dunes. Hotel (AA) – 1 night - swimming pool (B)
After yesterday’s long journey you have the morning free to relax. After lunch the charter bus takes you to Merzouga. (approx. 1 ¼ hrs)
The great ‘sand sea’ of Merzouga, a beautiful area of fine, apricot-coloured sand, stretches as far as the eye can see. The best time to experience its beauty is at sunset or at dawn when sunrise over this incredible landscape is breathtaking. Soak up the peacefulness of the Sahara with a refreshing glass of mint tea in the small auberge where you are staying for the night.
Basic resthouse with a view (AA) with shared facilities – 1 night - Swimming Pool (B)
Desert Camp; camel trek
The morning is free for you to further explore. If you can rouse yourself early in the morning you can be rewarded with stunning views of the dunes at sunrise. As the sun descends in the afternoon you commence your two-hour trek by camel to this evening’s camp in the desert (those who prefer may walk). You dine on traditional Moroccan fare under clear starry skies and sleep in large Bedouin-style tents. With luck, your camel drivers and camp staff may sing and play drums to round off the magical atmosphere of the evening. Camp (C) – 1 night (BD)
Todra Gorge; walk
After breakfast you mount your camels once more and head back to Merzouga where you say goodbye to your four-legged friends and revert back to motorised transport. Retracing your steps through Erfoud you reach the main road and turn south-west to the dramatic Todra Gorge, a spectacular gash in the hills that surround Tinerhir. The region is dotted with deserted kasbahs, palmeries and mud-brick villages creating a photographer’s paradise. The cliffs loom above as you approach the mouth of Todra Gorge. Rising to 300m, the honey-coloured hues of the sheer face change constantly as the sun moves across the sky. Local Berber people can often be seen moving their herds through the gorge and are apt to greet you as you pass! This afternoon you have the chance to take a walk in this impressive gorge and possibly spot a rare Bonelli’s Eagle that nest on the cliffs. Total driving time today approx. 3 1/2 hours.
Hotel (AAA) - 1 night (B)
Atlas Mountains & Valley of Roses; walks
The day begins with a drive from Todra via Boumalne to Dades gorge. You then drive to Boutaghrar, which will be your base for the next two nights to let you explore the Mgoun Valley and the Valley of the Roses on foot. (Driving time approx. 2 ½ hrs, some of it on gravel roads) The Berber house/gite in which you stay is a simple mud and brick affair, which blends almost imperceptibly into the landscape. There are a couple of large rooms for eating and sleeping, normally furnished with carpets. The flat roof serves as a terrace where you can sleep if it is warm. There is a toilet, washbasin and shower. You’ll eat and sleep communally in the rooms, so there is little place for false modesty. This afternoon you’ll head out into the surrounding countryside for a walk along one of many routes (approx 2 ½ hrs walking).
Gite (A) (multi-share) - 2 nights (BLD)
Day walks in the Atlas Mountains & Valley of the Roses
Today you’ll head out for a full day’s walk in the mountains following rough mule tracks with little to disturb the peace. After a few hours you’ll find some shade and stop for an informal picnic lunch. There’s no hurry, so it’s nice to relax in the midday heat and enjoy the timeless beauty of the landscape. There are no particularly steep climbs, although it can be rough underfoot and quite tiring in the summer heat. The route can vary depending on conditions and the group’s ability but will invariably take in some great views of the cultivated valleys and the chance to explore local villages. The area is very traditional and gives off an air of timeless tranquillity. (Approx. 5-6 hrs walking today). (BLD)
You drive along the Route des Kasbahs as you head for Ouarzazate and beyond to Ait Ben Haddou. This is probably the best preserved fortified ksour (a collection of kasbahs) in the country. With its dramatic walls of red earth, slit windows and crumbling towers, it is a magnificent example of a traditional stronghold. Chosen as a location for Hollywood films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Jewel in the Nile and more recently Gladiator, Ait Benhaddou sits upon a lofty pinnacle of rock overlooking a river. Dating from around the 15th century, its importance as a trading post gradually waned and today's inhabitants eke a living from farming … and as film extras! Driving time approx. 3 hours.
Hotel (AAA) – 1 night - Swimming Pool (B)
This morning there is time to visit the Kasbah before making the drive across Tizi-n-Tichka pass. As you drive across Tizi-n-Tichka (2260m), the highest of the three mountain passes which cross the dramatic High Atlas, you witness an extraordinary transition: the barren slopes of shattered rock on the southern side give way to green valleys as you descend from the treeless summit. Having crossed the plains you come to the evocative city of Marrakech. Even today, the name conjures up images of scenes from the Arabian Nights: alleyways, souks, stalls and markets. This remarkable city dating from the 11th century never fails to satisfy the curiosity of adventurous travellers. It has everything from the graceful architecture of the renowned Koutoubia Minaret, which dominates the skyline, to the wonderful throbbing atmosphere of a medieval fair in the great open square, the Djemaa el-Fna, at the heart of the medina. Driving time approx. 5 hours.
Hotel (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming pool (B)
The hotel is located just outside the city walls around the old Medina. It is about a 25 minute walk to the main square Djemaa el Fna but close to local shops and restaurants
Essaouira; city tour of Marrakech
This morning you start with a walking tour of the city centre to get your bearings and make your way into the sprawling souk. As is usual in a souk, individual trades and crafts are concentrated in one street or area, so the shoemakers are all next to each other, as are the jewellers, the potters, weavers etc. This must be the best place in Morocco to hone one’s haggling skills and you are sure to be tempted by some of the wonderful variety of merchandise on display, even if it's only a packet of exotic spices or a trinket. In the afternoon you leave Marrakech and head west to the Atlantic coast and the former pirate’s lair of Essaouira, one of Morocco’s most attractive coastal cities (approx. 3 1/2 hrs driving).
Hotel (AAA) – 2 nights (B)
Essaouira; free time
You have all day to explore this old pirate’s hideout. The maze of narrow lanes with tiny cafes looking out onto small squares is encircled by Portuguese, Berber and French battlements. Two fortresses look out over the ocean and on an offshore island stands another, even larger castle. As befits a seaport and large swathe of sandy beach, the pace of life is more relaxed here and the whitewashed streets lend a truly Mediterranean air to the city. (B)
You leave Essaouira in the morning to drive back to Marrakech. The rest of the day is free for you to fully explore Marrakech and the delights it has to offer. You could take in the Palais de la Bahia, built at the end of the 19th century for Si’ Ahmed ben Musa, the Grand Vizier of Soultan Moulay al Hassan. Only part of the palace is open, as the royal family still makes use of a fair proportion of the building. The beautiful courtyards and splendid living quarters provide a picture of a grand bygone lifestyle. Another possibility is the Dar Si Said, housing the Museum of Moroccan Arts. This former royal townhouse now contains beautiful art and craftwork from all corners of the country. If you prefer you can simply return to the souk and search for bargains, or sit at one of the many cafes on the Djemaa el- Fna and watch Marrakech life go by.
Hotel (AAA) – 1 night - Swimming pool (B)
The trip ends after breakfast. (B)
About The Imaginative Traveller
Our aim has always been to provide exceptional travel experiences. We believe that adventure travel should be stimulating, and that it should give you an authentic experience of a place. We want our travellers to relish the amazing diversity of countries and cultures the world has to offer. Our focus is on innovation, not imitation.
Obsessed with quality
One of our strengths has been our obsession with quality. We've always believed that our commitment to you doesn't end as soon as you've paid for your holiday. On the contrary, it is just beginning. Whilst most operators simply get a local company to handle the day to day operation of their tours, we do it all ourselves. We have managers for each of our key destinations around the world and all our small groups are escorted by our own leaders. Our local teams include guides, drivers, administration staff and contacts in the local community who help us ensure that our adventures are active and involving.
For comparability, all prices in this dossier are quoted in one currency. We use the US Dollar since that is familiar to most. However, once on tour you will need to pay for all goods and services in the local currency. See your Country Dossier for details of exchange rates.
Trip gradesBeach / coastal
Souks / Markets
UNESCO Heritage Sites
The walking in the Atlas Mountains is centre-based and considered ‘moderate’ (about 2½ hours on the first day and around 5½ hours on the middle day); a degree of fitness for the walks is essential but as you are centre-based you can easily opt out. Your night’s camp in the desert oasis involves a two hour journey each way. During this time you may walk or ride your camel as you please. Both the desert camp and the Berber villages offer basic accommodation. Facilities are limited, (there may not always be running water) so be prepared to rough it for a few days - the rewards are worth it! Minimum age: 7 years.
Transport - Minibus, taxi, camel, on foot.
Accommodation - Comfortable Hotels (10nts), hostel (1nt), Bedouin camp (1nt), gite (2nts).
Meals - 14 breakfasts, 2 picnic lunches & 3 dinners.
Single room supplementA single supplement is available for this trip priced from 106.00 GBP. This does not guarantee a single room for all accommodation. please contact us to discuss this.
Clothing and Footwear
Please note: Morocco is a Muslim country, so tight, skimpy clothing should be avoided out of respect for local customs, especially in the smaller, more remote villages. Loose knee-length shorts are acceptable but women especially should avoid tight, low-cut T-shirts and shoulders should be covered. Whilst hiking you should be covered up when passing through villages.
Below is a suggestion of what you might find useful to take on this trip. It is not an exhaustive packing list. If you need further advice, please call us or consult your nearest specialist outdoor clothing and equipment store.
- A windproof/ waterproof jacket/kagoul
- Warm mid-layer (fleece or wool) - for cool (sometimes very cold) mornings and evenings
- Warm clothing for sleeping in during winter months
- Walking/trail boots
- Swimming costume
- Trainers/ sandals for relaxing
- Sun-hat (local headscarf is useful against desert sand)
- A sarong or wrap to cover shoulders or legs is handy when walking through local villages. Alternatively, loose cotton trousers that can easily be pulled on over shorts are also useful.
- Sleeping bag - 2/3 season in Jul & Aug, otherwise 3/4-season (NB: We do our best to ensure bedding is provided each night of the tour however, during high season or should you feel the cold we recommend to bring a sleeping bag for comfort)
- Small towel
- Wet wipes – especially for the trek/desert
- Toilet paper and lighter (available locally)
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve
- Personal first aid kit
- Insect repellent
- Water purification tablets
- A laundry service may be available in some places, but we recommend you take biodegradable travel detergent so you can wash clothes as you choose.
For your comfort we recommend you travel as light as possible; many airlines impose a maximum weight limit of 20kg – we advise you to take 10kg as you will be on the move a good deal! For domestic flights using light aircraft the usual weight limit is 15 kg.
One main piece (a soft bag or rucksack, not a hard suitcase).
A daypack (25-30 litres), large enough to carry what you need for the day including camera, water, etc.
Don’t try to change money in the street in Morocco - it is illegal.
Mineral water in Morocco is usually referred to by brand name, Sidi Harazem, Sidi Ali or the naturally sparkling Oulmes. They're really cheap and you can get them anywhere.
Moroccan meals can consist of up to five courses! If you eat a little of each, you may just have enough appetite left to find some room for desert which is well worth saving some space for!
Some interesting reading:
Lords of the Atlas – Gavin Maxwell
The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles
A Year in Marrakech – Peter Mayne
Sahara – Michael Palin
Hideous Kinky – Esther Freud
By bus to the Sahara – Gordon West
A Hedonist’s Guide to Marrakech – Paul Sullivan
‘Time Out’ Marrakech: Essaouira & The High Atlas – Time Out
French is widely spoken throughout Morocco, but if you’d like to try some Arabic, here are a few phrases to get you started:
God willing - Insh ‘Allah
Thank you - Shukran
Aiwa – yes
La – no
Do you have vegetarian food available here?
Hal Ladaika taam nabaty?
Thank you; I would like to have tea with you
Shukran, ana owad an ashrab al shai maak
Which Arabic sweet or cake would you advise is the best?
Ma how tabak al hilo il mofadal ladaika?
I’m looking for the souk
Ana badawwar ‘ala as-sooq
Local Costs - Morocco
Average costs are given for guidance only, and may vary widely according to location and type of establishment.
Coffee/tea 8-15 MAD
Soft drink 10-20 MAD
Medium beer 20-40 MAD
Bottle of wine 80-220 MAD
Bottle of water 8-20 MAD
Local snack lunch 60-100 MAD
3-course dinner* 80-220 MAD
*reasonable mid-range tourist class restaurant.
Please note that there will often be a certain amount of repetition in the types of food available. Tagine and cous-cous are both examples of very common dishes that you will encounter, and you should be prepared that meal times may become a bit monotonous.
Visas & Permits - Morocco
Holders of UK & IRL passports do not require a visa. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the end date of the trip. Nationals of all other countries should contact their local embassy or consulate. Information can also be found on www.travcour.com. This information is given in good faith, but may be subject to change without warning. Please note that, where appropriate, obtaining a valid visa is ultimately your responsibility. Please consult a visa agency or the consular authorities 4-6 weeks before departure for the most up-to-date information.
Please note the British Honorary Consulate in Marrakech is closed until further notice. Should you require assistance you should contact the Consular Section at the British Embassy in Rabat. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. British Nationals with a genuine emergency outside normal office hours may call the Embassy switchboard on +212 (0) 537 63 33 33 where the Global Response Centre can assist you. Please note that only emergency calls can be handled out of office hours. Visa enquiries can only be dealt with during office hours.
Vaccinations - Morocco
The following are recommended:
- Hepatitis A
For detailed information and advice concerning vaccinations go to:www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk. Vaccination requirements change periodically so we advise that you check with your nearest specialist travel clinic 4-6 weeks before departure to get up-to-date information. A specialist travel clinic should also be able to advise regarding any special vaccination requirements for your children.
Please note - Henna tattoos are commonplace in Morocco. You should be aware that some henna tattoos contain the chemical para-phenylenediamine (PPD), which can cause a painful allergic reaction, including swelling and an itchy rash in some people.
International rules for carrying medicines vary. Some countries do not allow certain medicines to be imported, or require official documents, such as a doctor’s letter, to prove drugs have been prescribed by a doctor and obtained legally. It is sensible to contact the relevant embassy or high commission of your destination to check what their drug transportation rules are before you travel.
For better or worse, tipping is an accepted part of everyday life, and - although it is always at your discretion - you will be expected to tip to reward service. Your Group Leader will be able to give you an indication of when and how much is appropriate, but you can also use the following as a guideline:
Local guide (day / half day excursion): 10-15 MAD per person
Driver: 8 MAD per person per day
Porters / hotel staff: 5-10 MAD per piece of luggage
This can vary, but please calculate on the basis of £30 per person (including children) for this trip. Also, if you wish to tip your Group Leader (in recognition of their contribution towards your overall enjoyment of the holiday) a suggested guideline would be approximately £1 to £2 per person, per day.The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and The Imaginative Traveller.
Responsible Travel - Travellers' Guidelines
At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.
Responsible Travel is twofold. It’s about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.
- It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit.
- We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.
- Whilst it is our aim to show destinations and cultures in a positive light, we do not believe in papering over the cracks or shielding visitors from the realities of life. This does not mean, however, that we condone or endorse certain situations or regimes that may be in place.
Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.
Before you depart try to spend some time familiarising yourself with the destination you will be travelling to – their culture and customs. The country dossiers on our website offer detailed information about all the regions we visit. They also include some useful phrases in the local language for you to use on your trip! A few words of the local language can open up many more opportunities for you to interact with the people you will meet.
Although it is tempting to give out pens, sweets and money to people begging, and particularly tempting to give to children, we feel that this encourages a begging mentality and has a long-term negative impact on communities. If someone begging earns more than someone in the same community who works this can discourage local employment. If children regularly bring home money it may discourage their parents from sending them to school. It is of course your own personal choice but you could consider giving to registered charities or contributing to our Responsible Travel fund instead. Money donated through our fund to our worldwide projects is matched pound for pound by Imaginative Traveller and used to help local grassroots projects.
Always ask permission to photograph local people and respect their decision if they would prefer not to have their picture taken.
Respect local dress codes, especially at religious sites. Our tour leaders are always on hand to give you advice about this.
In many of the countries we visit you might see examples of animal cruelty (for example dancing bears, performing monkeys and snake charmers). Please do not take photographs of this or offer money as it encourages the activity.
Respect the environment you are in. It sounds obvious but do not throw litter, take it with you or use rubbish bins! You may see locals throwing rubbish on the street but do not follow their example!
When shopping in countries where haggling is the norm – enjoy it and only pay what you feel is a fair price for the goods you are purchasing. However, remember that the shopkeeper does have to make a living so do stop once you have reached a price you are happy with. Bargaining should be fun but always remember that a small amount can mean much more to the vendor than to you.
Endeavor to take home souvenirs made locally; the money you spend can be very important to the local communities. However, do use your common sense and don’t buy anything that you think might be made out of endangered animals or plants.
To help keep as much money as possible in the host country - try to eat in locally owned restaurants and order local drinks and produce rather than international brands.
In hotels do be conscious of how much water you are using. Many of the areas we visit regularly have shortages; try not to have hour long showers! Don’t leave lights, air conditioners or fans on when you leave the room – you wouldn’t at home!
Respect the environment you are in, especially when in national parks or reserves. Pay attention to rules about keeping on paths, keeping a distance from animals and not removing any of the natural habitat.
Relax and immerse yourself in the differences of the culture you are in – you’ll be back home in the familiar soon enough (and wishing you were still on holiday!). These cultural differences are part of what makes your experience special.
If you would like to offset the carbon dioxide that will be produced on your flights you can do this on our website (on our Responsible travel page). We work with climatecare, who will reduce the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that you produce in another part of the World through their emission reduction projects. These projects are low carbon efficient technologies in developing countries and not only serve to reduce emissions but also help to spread the adoption of low carbon technologies and improve the quality of life for local communities. Details of climatecare’s projects can be found on their website.
If you would like to contribute to our Worldwide projects, helping communities all over the World, you can also do this on our website or with a sales consultant. Please refer to our responsible travel page on the website for details of our current projects. Any donation you make will be matched £ for £ by Imaginative Traveller (up to a maximum of £1000).
Have a great trip!
Please do let us know if you have any comments about responsible travel at email@example.comThe Imaginative Traveller & The Adventure Company. This trip is operated by our partner company, The Adventure Company. They have more than 10 years experience in adventure travel and they share our ethos for offering unique holiday adventures. As this is a codeshared departure you can expect there to be both Imaginative Traveller and Adventure Company travellers on your trip.