With this journey South, and then westwards towards the Atlantic coast, we cover all the extremes of Morocco's amazing geography .
The Sahara desert is, in my experience, not to be rushed. The remoteness needs to be acclimatised to, then savoured, for its wilderness is beautiful, and part of the experience is understanding how Berber people can withstand its extremes, make it their home - and not to wish to be elsewhere. We're also going to meet my friends there, make a little Berber-inspired art together, and spend all of our time in luxurious tents ... a rare indulgence, but stay with me on this ... it only gets better!
From here we travel west to stay in an elegant Ksar - a desert fortress in Morocco's only permanent oasis, with all its luxuries, a hammam, swimming pool, great wine list, before turning to visit the ancient mellah - Jewish medina - of Quarzzazate. Rarely visited, its museum is a hidden gem, and through it we will come to understand the rich history of Morocco's peoples, which will continue once we reach our final destination, Essaouira on the Atlantic coast. In between, three wonderful art and fashion-filled days await you in Marrakech ....
Throughout this journey you'll stay at elegant riads, super luxury tents, and the last two nights in Essaouira your hotel is the stunning Heure Bleue by Relais and Chateaux ... truly Marvellous in Morocco!
27 April 2024
FES to MERZOUGA, Sahara Desert
This is an epic drive over the Atlas mountains (3 nights)
Departing Fes and travelling through the verdant mountains that surround it, we pass through high grassy plains then cross into the Middle Atlas mountains before the descent into the vast Saharan Desert where splendid golden dunes, Berber nomads and star-filled nights beneath that 'Sheltering Sky' made so famous by that C.20th luminary author, Paul Bowles.
Your gorgeously exotic time here includes three nights under canvas in two different luxury tented camps. We will not be rushing to see that famous sunset the first day, as it's a long day and you'll be glad for the comfy bed that awaits you after a rousing welcome and traditional Berber hospitality this evening.
HOTEL: luxury tented camp #1 (or if you prefer a room in the beautiful riad, it's available). We have 4 suite tents with bathtubs. 2 nights
MEALS: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
28 April 2024
MERZOUGA, Sahara Desert
Meet the peopele who live here
How about greeting the sun this morning from a sun-kissed dune with your camel quietly sitting alongside you ?
You've come all this way, so let's do this ?
After breakfast, you're invited into the charming mud-brick home of a friend of mine who has made her second home in the dunes here. Artistic and inventive, and with decades of experience of living amongst Berber people, meeting Anne and making art with her alongside the Berber ladies we'll spend the morning with, is a truly rare opportunity to chat with these women, who will just as interested in your lifestyle, as you will be in theirs. As a moment of meaningful cultural exchange, our session at Riad Saf Saf today will be unforgettable - everything is provided, including a delicious Berber lunch and Anne's deliciously fresh salads!.
This afternoon you have the opportunity to explore MERZOUGA township and visit the RISSANI markets, the bus is at your disposal, and/or you may wish to enjoy the swimming pool and the horizon of golden dunes from your deck chair.
Tonight we have a treat for you - lets' walk out to the dunes a bit after dinner and enjoy the big telescopes and our Berber sky-guide to introduce you to the navigation of the heavens, the way its been done for millennia.
HOTEL : luxury tented camp #1 (or if you prefer a room, it's available). as above. 2/2 nights
MEALS: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
29 April 2024
Sahara Desert Exploration
to meet Berber nomads
No need to pack everything, we can leave our luggage and just travel for the next day with an over-night bag, as we'll be travelling by 4x4 vehicles today to explore the outlying regions of this part of the Sahara; It's so special - I don't really want to show you all of my photos, as I really would love for you to see it all for the first time with your own eyes!
We'll enjoy lunch, Berber style, beneath a palm grove and relax, as all desert people do, during the heat of the day, before we travel to meet our camels for this evening more extensive camel safari to our next tented campsite deeper within the desert.
Travelling in the cool part of the late afternoon, spectacular Saharan sunsets often await you ... we'll stop to enjoy this golden hour in the distant dunes before making our way, by camel, into our new desert camp, where dinner awaits.
This is not an arduous day, the 4x4 are there for your convenience, and should you wish to 'pass' on the camel ride, there will be a vehicle to take you to the camp.
HOTEL : luxury tented camp #2 -we will all stay in tents. (1 night)
MEALS: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
30 April 2024
MERZOUGA to SKOURA OASIS
The Road of a Thousand Kasbahs in Springtime!
Your luggage will already be on board our bus when we return by 4x4 this morning to the main road, for our journey westwards.
There could not be a more beautiful time to travel this desert road. it's a long one, for sure, but punctuated by desert towns where we can stop for refreshments. to your right, the craggy profile of the Ante Atlas Mountain range (Morocco has 3 mountain ranges,), and to your left, the endless stoney desert leading to Mauretania. Our route will take us through Morocco's famous rose gardens whose fragrant petals will be harvested next month ... Morocco is famed for its rosewater, rose flavoured pastries and rosewater beauty preparations.
Today you'll witness spectacular scenery and visit the TODRA GORGE and refresh at a pretty auberge hidden deep within the gorge.
Late this afternoon we will reach the only permanent oasis in Morocco - SKOURA, an ancient watering hole - literally - for nomads and traders who maintained ksars here - large fortified fortress homes which offered protection to those who worked, and those who served with the grand landowners. Your home tonight is an exquisite ksar created by its owner right alongside the ancient one built by his ancestors hundreds of years before. The gardens are a salve to the weary traveller, its swimming pool and hammam complete indulgence amongst the palm grove. A beautiful room and impressive dinner await you tonight.
Morocco's only permanent oasis creates an Eden of date palms and fruit trees, and tomorrow morning you may wish to take an optional guided OASIS WALK.
HOTEL :Luxury Ksar (1 night)
MEALS: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
1st May 2024
SKOURA to MARRAKECH via QUARZZAZATE
A day of extremes!
Departing after a good breakfast we will stop to briefly visit the frontier town of QUARZZAZATE. I recall it being no more than a row of shops in 1986, it now boats a university and exemplifies Morocco's emerging generation. The King Mohammed VI has erected a gigantic solar array out here, and it is the centre of the Moroccan film industry. Film buffs will enjoy the museum of cinema, whilst others may like to walk into the ancient mellah to visit the old synagogue museum - the story of Jewish Morocco starts here and will continue when we reach the coast.
There are two routes from here to Marrakech. We will take the shortest, bringing us to Marrakech before dusk, so that we can check into our beautiful riad - it's all ours - and relax on the terrace as the call to prayer floats across the medina.
Your hotel is an artfully-restored authentic riad on the edge of the medina, making it easy to locate if you're wandering on your own.
the swimming pool is spacious and surrounded by fragrant orange trees, and there is a hammam for a massage.
You have three nights here with two fabulous days ahead.
HOTEL :Medina Riad with swimming pool (1/3nights)
MEALS: Breakfast, Lunch
2 May 2024
"All Kinds of Everything"
This morning we're going to be met by our guide, a lady whom I've known for several years whose walking tours of Marrakech are as memorable as she is stylish. With Ouidad you'll unravel Marrakech's 1000-year history and visit places of astonishing beauty and invention before we stop for lunch at what the Guardian newspaper rated as "one of the ten best restaurants in Marrakech".
This afternoon we'll able through the market area of the medina, with time to stop, savour, taste, test try on and have fun in the area known as The Slave Market (yes, it really was - most Moroccan towns which were especially important for trade dealt in human cargo (and if you came on the Marvellous in Morocco North Tour you'll recall the Sultan of Meknes' exploits in this department), before stepping into the shaded depth s of the carpet souk to see the fascinating business of carpet trading amongst Moroccan traders.
By now it's later afternoon and time for a drink and ringside seat at Cafe Du France to have the best view in town of the greatest sight Marrakech ... the UNESCO World Heritage Jma el Fna the biggest market square in Africa - "all types of everything" you'll find here, from Malian snake charmers to Moroccan storytellers ... enthralling
The remainder of the day is for you to enjoy with your own dining choices - or perhaps a quite evening in the scented coutryard of our riad.
HOTEL :Medina Riad with swimming pool (2/3nights)
3 May 2024
Discover the museums, souks - time for shopping
Today you'll take a short ride to enjoy the Yves St Laurent Museum with its several exhibitions and fascinating short film, and then a short walk to the Majorelle Oasis Gardens and Pierre Bergé Museum - the famous blue gardens designed by Jaques Majorelle and later owned by Yves St Laurent and Pierre Bergé. We'll start early so there's plenty of time, because this is a lovely place to enjoy lunch in the garden.
This afternoon is at leisure - there's so much to choose from, but one of my favourites is the Photography Museum in the heart of the medina.
Both our full-time national guide and I are there to assist you getting to whatever part of the medina you'd like to visit, so that this part of Marrakech is tailor-made for your own interests.
HOTEL :Medina Riad with swimming pool (3/3nights)
4 May 2024
MARRAKECH to ESSAOUIRA
another UNESCO World Heritage destination
After breakfast this morning we are going to take a very brief walk to a brilliant new museum of costume and jewellery. Nothing short of enthralling, it tracks the transition of desert- and nomad styles from South East Asia across the silk Route to Morocco in a breathtaking exposition which in itself is just a pleasure to be amongst.
Your luggage has already been loaded onto the bus, so there's time here to take a refreshment on the beautiful terrace before we begin our 2 hour drove to the Atlantic coast for two fabulous nights in Essaouira.
Late Lunch will be at a small coastal village south of Essaouira, and from here we'll drive into Essaouira where the evening is at leisure.
Essaouira is a complete change of pace, and a really relaxing final destination. the bracing Atlantic air whips the coast where 2000 years ago Phoenician traders gathered the shells for the purple dye which became synonymous with royalty in classical times. Mogador, as it was known by the later Portuguese traders is a UNESCO World Heritage medina, but a very laid-back one.
White and blue architecture, punctuated by heavily sculpted stone portals define the median whose archways and covered alleys lend it a mysterious atmosphere that's just fun to get a bit lost in.
The perfect pace to complete your shopping, find some Berber silver or glazed green pottery from Tamgroute. It's an arty place with good food and boutiques and hammams.
Optional Dinner at a wonderful open air restaurant this evening.
HOTEL :Heure Bleue Hotel by Relaix et Chateaux (1/2 nights)
5 May 2024
Relax, wander and bask in this arty sea-side medina - your 4th World Heritage site on this journey (2 nights)
Immortalised by Jimi Hendrix but famed for centuries before that as a Portuguese sea port of significance, the C.16th medina of Essaouira is a relaxed and laid back place to shop, eat and take in the sea air in a leisurely way. Enjoy the day here, in the medina, perhaps make time to walk the promenade hugging the coast for lunch at a seaside cafe ?
Famed for sardines, salt and raffia, Essaouira offers the freshest seafood imaginable.
Your hotel offers amazing cuisine, which we'll enjoy together at a gala dinner, tonight, our final night of Marvellous in Morocco.
HOTEL :Heure Bleue Hotel by Relaix et Chateaux (2/2 nights)
MEALS: Breakfast, Gala Farewell Dinner
Morocco is a shopper's paradise, but it can be really annoying in a group if you're not a shopper, can't it ? The tour is designed so that the shopping days are towards to end when you have the confidence to wander on your own in Essaouira (and the shopkeepers are easier to deal with than most other places), whilst in Marrakech, there will be time to shop the boutiques & souks outside of the group program.
NORTH TOUR : Casablanca (1) - Tangier (3) - Meknes (1) - Fes (2) - ART RETREAT: ' Fes Fantasy' with Este MacLeod starts on 21st and is for 6 full days (21- 26 April, inclusive) - SOUTH TOUR : Merzouga (Sahara desert) (3) - Skoura Oasis (1) - Marrakech (3) - Essaouira (2).
Tour ends in Essaouira with options to return to airports in Casablanca, Marrakech or Essaouira, which all serve domestic and international flights
RESTING DAYS & FITNESS LEVEL
A good average level of fitness is required for this tour, as we spend most of our time exploring the medinas- the original walled cities - but there are always options.
Along with myself, we have a full-time guide, so should you need to get back to your hotel earlier than planned, we can organise that.
Each day has a guided tour, and we share lunch or dinner together each day, but our hotels are located so that you can take time out to explore on your own,
9 Nights accommodation with YOUR OWN ROOM
5 dinners in 4/5-star restaurants and boutique hotels
5 lunches throughout our touring in the medinas
bottled water provided with all meals
The services of a full-time national guide
The services of specialist guides in Merzouga, Marrakech
All entrances to monuments and museums on the itinerary
A/C Coach with reclining seats throughout the tour
taxi transfers where necessary
ALL TIPS and GRAUTUITIES
Please note that the links on the pricelist below are not live - you can download the PDF by hitting the button below and can access live links from that.
all photos by Anna. copyright 2022