At the rhythm of stages punctuated by visits and walks in the heart of the sites that are among the most beautiful in the world, let yourself be carried away by a journey where you take the time to live and travel. From one imperial city to another and from one sumptuous site to another, this self-drive will lead you from the gates and ramparts of the imperial cities at the foot of the mythical Atlas. An adventure rich in colors and punctuated by encounters.
Day by day
Welcome at the airport by your guide and transfer to town. City orientation tour: Mohammed V and United Nations squares, Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes church and its stained glass windows, residential area of Anfa, corniche.
Continue to the north of the country and towards the blue city, Chefchaouen. Its nickname comes from its many indigo-hued houses that adorn its magnificent Medina. On arrival, departure for a city tour with a short walk from Ouata El Hammam square to the sources of Ras El Ma. Another suggestion: hike in the heart of Talassemtane National Park, easily accessible from the village. Still isolated and very little frequented, it is characterized by the diversity of its landscapes. Do not miss the Akchour waterfalls and especially the Pont de Dieu, a rocky arch 25 meters high which overlooks the Farda river and which allows the inhabitants to rally on both sides of the gorge. Return to the village at the end of the day and overnight in a Riad in the heart of the city.
Leave the blue city. On the way, visit to the archaeological site of Volubilis, ancient Roman city: the Gallien thermal baths, the forum, the Capitol, the basilica, the triumphal arch and the villas which still have well-preserved mosaics. Continue to the holy city of Moulay Idriss, perched on a rocky promontory. Then, visit of Meknes, the former capital of Moulay Ismaïl (contemporary of Louis XIV), protected by its monumental doors (bab El-Khémis and bab Mansour): place El-Hedim, the mausoleum of Moulay Ismaïl (subject to reopening), vestiges of attics. Departure for Fez.
Day dedicated to the religious capital of Morocco. Panoramic view of this splendid site from Borj South or Borj North. Then, visits: Fez el-Jdid and its mellah (old Jewish quarter), gates of the Royal Palace. Discovery of the unique atmosphere of the medina of Fez el-Bali: Medersas Bou-Inania and Attarine (subject, a medersa that can always be closed), Islamic Karaouiyine University (ext.), Nejjarine fountain, souks, Nejjarine museum of arts and wood crafts (in an old caravanserai). Typical lunch in an old palace in the medina.
Today will be a long drive of 10 hours to get to Merzouga (Erg Chebbi desert) so we’ll want to start early.
Along the way, we’ll stop for lunch and other breaks to stretch our legs, take some photos, grab a drink and snacks, and use the restroom.
We’ll arrive at the edge of the Sahara in the late afternoon and then take a camel ride for a magnificent sunset on the dunes then head to our Luxury Camp for overnight. Our luggage will be taken by vehicle. The camel ride will take about an hour and we’ll have the chance to stop for photos along the way!
We’ll settle into our tents and enjoy a campfire before dinner. After dinner in the dining tent, we’ll then have a chance to sit by the campfire again, stargaze and listen to the drumming and singing by the local Brebers who are all quite talented!
Cap your morning off with a visit to Khamleya, a traditional Saharan village whose people originate from Mali. Enjoy local music, drumming and dancing before taking an easy walk around the village and its farmed plots in the sand. As you leave the Merzouga region, stop in Rissani, another market town with an impressive gate at the town's entrance. Walk around the traditional stalls, watch livestock sales, and stop by the "donkey parking lot."
Continue through the desert to the town of Tinerhir and take in a great view of the nearby towns that cling to the side of the green river oasis, which filled with verdant palm trees. The surrounding desert landscape reveals impressive buttes, mesas, and plateaus. You'll also stop by the Todra Gorge, which stands 984 feet (300 m) high, and features stunning red-stained limestones. Here you can enjoy an easy walk through the gorge, or relax in the cool water of the shallow river.
Your journey then travels along the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs, a fortified complex where chiefs and landowners once lived. You'll see various farms, many of which still use traditional methods, and will likely encounter Nomads herding sheep, goats, and camels. You'll then pass through the Dades Valley, where cultivated plots of farmland are bordered by rose bushes, which are used to make rose water and rose oil. If you're here in May, you might catch the annual Rose Festival that celebrating the year’s production. Stop at the rose collective, where you can watch the distillation process; on the roadside, you may even see boys selling various crafts made from the roses.
Your journey then travels along the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs, a Kasbah being a fortified “fort” where chiefs and landowners once lived. Many kasbahs are now in disrepair (having been made of pise mud). Between the small towns of this area you can see various farming activities, many still using traditional methods. You are likely to encounter Nomads here, herding their sheep, goats, and camels.
Aït Benhaddou is the most famous Kasbah in Morocco and a UNESCO world heritage site. People believe that the old ksar dates from the 11th century when it held an important position along the trans-Saharan trade route between Marrakech, Ouarzazate, and the southern desert.
Find the small hill across from the old town for another nice view, and head down to the river to see gates featured in Game of Thrones. Many big movies have been partly filmed here, including Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth and The Jewel of the Nile; the film industry continues here today.
Drive through the splendid Ounila valley where you can visit the Glaoui Kasbah before heading up and over the High Atlas, look out for the highest peak, Mount Toubkal 13,671 feet (4,167m). Near the top, you can enjoy great panoramic views over the mountain range, as well as the road ahead snakes down the mountainside.
Descending the north facing slopes of the High Atlas you will notice a dramatic change in climate and landscape, with river valleys carved into the hillsides. After all the tranquillity of the mountains and the desert, soon you will be in the midst of the hustle, bustle, and clamor of vibrant Marrakech.
You may want to spend the rest of the afternoon at a slower pace. In the early evening, the main square, Jemaa el Fna Square, comes alive, with musicians, performers, snake charmers, games, footstalls and more. If you want to enjoy from a distance, there are many cafes surrounding the square where you can sit and enjoy the show (and a meal).
Enjoy a morning walking tour of the city centre, taking in the main sights on your way to the sprawling Djemaa el-Fna main square and souq. As is usual in a souq, individual trades and crafts are concentrated in one street or area, so the shoemakers are all next to each other, as are the jewellers, potters and weavers. This is the best place in Morocco to sharpen your bargaining skills, and you are almost certain to be tempted by some of the extraordinary variety of merchandise on display – perhaps a pair of traditional Moroccan slippers or some spices. The market almost has the atmosphere of a medieval fair. Snake charmers and jugglers are among those who vie to entertain you. In the evening, wonderful smells waft by as food stalls cook up their local delicacies.
Time in Marrakech before transfer to the airport.