Price

$5249 AUD per person twin share

$1065 AUD Single supplement

Inclusions

  • Return airport transfers
  • 13 nights accommodation
  • 13 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 5 Dinners
  • Private air conditioned vehicle
  • Camel ride
  • 4×4 jeep in desert
  • English speaking tour leader
  • All entrance fees as per the itinerary
  • Scrubba Wash Bag

Exclusions

  • International & domestic flights
  • Visas
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • All services, meals other than those indicated above
  • Any changes to the proposed and confirmed program.
  • All items of a personal nature e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone calls, tips etc

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Berber Heartlands

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An exotic gateway to Africa - welcome to Morocco! Its mountains, desert and coast are populated by Berbers and nomads, and its ancient medina lanes lead to souqs and traditional riads. Explore from the Saharan dunes to the Atlas Mountains on this sensory journey. Landscapes carpet this sublime slice of North Africa like the richly coloured rugs you’ll lust after in local cooperatives. The mountains lead you to Saharan oases – offering simple, breathtaking pleasures: night skies glistening in the thin air; views over a fluffy cloudbank from the Tizi n’Test pass. On lower ground, discover the rugged coastlines and caves in forested hills, and of course the mighty desert.

Day 1 - Arrive Marrakech

Welcome to Morocco! Upon arrival at Marrakech Airport, you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. Let your senses take over and lead the way. The tangled maze like web of alleyways challenge your orientation in the old medina as you dodge donkeys pulling rickety carts, tarot readers and snake charmers with their cobras dancing to screeching music. Henna painters, clanging water sellers and carpet sellers will try their best sales pitch as monkeys are thrust into your hands and tea offered to you from the shopkeepers.

While this is an arrival day and you may arrive at any time, please note that hotel rooms are generally only available after midday, and that there will be a welcome meeting this evening. At 6.00pm, join your local guide for a foodie tour to discover the hidden food shops of Marrakech. Visit the souks, sampling olives, dried fruits, seeds, pastries, and other Moroccan specialties. Learn how spices are used in Moroccan dishes at a local spice market and then enjoy dinner in one of the many great restaurants lining the square. Overnight at Riad Amina or similar. (D)

Day 2 - Tamatert

This morning is yours at leisure to explore the buzzing city of Marrakech. After lunch, head into the heart of the High Atlas, to Tamatert, a village so remote the last hour or so of your journey is on foot to reach the mountain Kasbah. After the hour and a half drive along the winding roads from Marrakech, it’s a pleasure to stretch your legs as you walk past walnut, apple and fig trees up to the Berber village nestled in a peaceful valley near Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. Overnight Douar Samra or similar. (B,D)

Day 3 - Tamatert Hiking

Today you have the option to choose between an easy or difficult full day hike with a guide through the pure air of the Atlas Mountains. You will take a picnic lunch and spend all day in this spectacular region, before returning to the guest house for a delicious meal. As if transported back centuries in time, Tamatert is lined with mud houses, goats foraging for food and children shyly peeking from behind the long robes of their mothers. Overnight Douar Samra or similar. (B,L,D)

Day 4 - Ait Benhaddou

This morning, journey along mountain roads and over Morocco’s highest pass, Tizi n’Tichka (2,260m), to Ait Benhaddou on the edges of the Sahara (approx. 6hrs). Perched on a hilltop and almost unchanged since the 11th century, Ait Benhaddou is one of Morocco’s most iconic sites. It was once an important stop for caravans passing through as they carried salt across the Sahara, returning with gold, ivory and slaves. Today its grand kasbah has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its fortified village being a fine example of clay architecture. You may recognise the city as it has a long list of film and TV credits, including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and Game of Thrones.

Enjoy a walk through the winding streets of the old town, making your way to the top of the hill, from which you can enjoy the views across the surrounding plains. Overnight Riad Maktoub or similar. (B,D)

Day 5 - Erg Cheggaga

Continue along the rugged and desolate Jebel Tadrart ranges, through seas of sand and past the occasional desert oasis of date palms to the township of Tamegroute. Visit an intriguing library filled with ancient scripts of science, literature, the Koran and stories of the prophet Mohammed (subject to opening times). Join a local guide to discover the underground kasbah and its unique ceramic pottery industry. Leaving Tamegroute behind, you will carry on driving to the end of the road to the frontier town of M’Hamid (approx. 1hr). From here, take a short camel ride through the dunes, where you’ll jump into a 4WD vehicle. The rough track runs parallel to the Algerian border, across the stony Hamada desert, whose only populace are small scatterings of nomadic people and their camels.

You will reach the massive Erg Cheggaga dunes in the late afternoon. An erg is a vast sea of shifting windswept sand that’s formed into picturesque, undulating crests and valleys. The Erg Cheggaga is one of the world’s iconic landscapes, with towering dunes up to 150m in height. Your camp for the night is fairly basic with bedding, mattresses and toilet facilities provided. (B,D)

Day 6 – Taroudant

Today, rejoin your minivan and venture towards the market town of Taroudant, also known as ‘Little Marrakech’. The journey should take around six hours, travelling through desert scenery and along a route that’s a reserve for the indigenous argan trees. Argan oil is highly prized for its culinary, cosmetic and medicinal uses and is only produced in Morocco. It is certainly a trademark of Morocco around the world. Keep a lookout for goats climbing these trees foraging for nuts. Please note that this is a long travel day, and you won’t arrive at tonight’s accommodation until late afternoon/early evening. The riad (house) tonight is 45km outside of Taroudant and offers the chance to relax by the pool or take a steamed bath. Overnight Riad Hida or similar. (B)

Day 7 - Tafraoute

In the morning, take to the souqs and haggle with local traders for silver jewellery or colourful Moroccan ceramics and mosaics. Afterwards, travel to the lesser known village of Tafraoute which is truly off the tourist route. The natural beauty surrounding Tafraoute is simply astounding. Explore the charming villages and experience the traditional Berber culture, including arts and crafts and their way of life. Check out the unique rock formations and agadirs (hilltop granaries) in the villages of Amtoudi and Ikouka. Never heard of these places? That’s what makes this place so wonderful! Overnight Chez Amalya or similar. (B)

Day 8 – Mirleft

After breakfast, travel to Mirlef, a small Berber town located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the mountains. Positioned by the seaside, the peaceful, un-commercialised town is known for its beautiful, tranquil beaches. The town itself stands on a small hill which still has remains of an old military fort built by the Spanish in 1935. The day is yours at leisure to explore. Overnight at Kasbah Tabelkoukt or similar. (B)

Day 9 - Mirleft

Today is yours at leisure. Historically popular with artists, musicians and overlanders recovering from Saharan crossings, this cosmopolitan little spot is developing as local fans of water and wind sports discover the area. (B)

Day 10 - Essaouira

Today after breakfast, head west to the coastal town of Essaouira. Its charm is undeniable; within the stone ramparts you’ll find whitewashed houses with bright blue shutters, art galleries and wood workshops. This laid back artists’ town is a former Portuguese trading colony and was once home to sizeable British and Jewish populations. The town faces a group of rocky islands, called the Mogador, and is surrounded by an expanse of sandy beaches and dunes.

On route, you will visit an Argan Oil cooperative where you will discover the strenuous process behind its production (one litre can take 20hrs to produce) and sample its distinctly nutty flavor as you dip in a piece of bread. Arrive in Essaouira in the late afternoon. Overnight Riad Maison du Sud or similar. (B)

Day 11 - Essaouira

Get into the laid back vibe of this Moroccan town with a European seaside twist. The name Essaouira means ‘image’, which is appropriate since it’s such a picturesque town. Its charm has seduced people like Orson Welles and Jimi Hendrix, who (according to local legend) spent much of his time here in the 1960s. More recently, filmmaker Ridley Scott chose the ramparts as an important location for his film, Kingdom of Heaven.

On a guided walk, give way to the cart-haulers calling ‘ballak, ballak’ in streets of art galleries and workshops, pass the harbour filled with colourful boats which go out early every morning for the day’s catch, see camels and surfers sharing the beach and finish with an exploration of the fish souk. Choose your own catch of the day and follow your guide to a hidden restaurant well off the tourist path. Here, locals drop off their fresh produce in the morning and return later in the day to a hot cooked meal, made by the cook, from their ingredients. Follow their lead and hand over your market purchase for the freshest grilled lunch! Take the rest of the day to search the less hectic medina, enjoy cafe life in the main square or sit back and watch the kite-surfers ride the crashing waves. Overnight Riad Maison du Sud or similar. (B,L)

Day 12 - El-Jadida

Today, travel to El-Jadida. This old Portuguese town, often known as the Cité Portugaise, is home to a sleepy but atmospheric UNESCO listed World Heritage medina. A lack of investment has helped maintain the integrity of the town’s rambling alleys and ramparts. For much of the year El-Jadida is a quiet backwater, disturbed only by Moroccans flocking to its beautiful beaches and strolling its boulevards in July and August.

In 1506 the Portuguese built a fortress here to protect their ships and baptised it Mazagan, which soon developed into the country’s most important trading post. Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah seized Mazagan from the Portuguese following a siege in 1769, but the Portuguese blew up most of the fort before leaving. Most of the new settlers preferred to live in the new town and the citadel remained a ruin until the early 19th century when Sultan Abd er-Rahman resettled some of the Jews of Azemmour in old Mazagan, and renamed the town El-Jadida, ‘the New One’ in Arabic. Overnight at Hotel L’iglesia or similar. (B)

Day 13 - Casablanca

Today, travel to Casablanca. Modelled after Marseille in France, the city is famous for its art deco buildings and the modern-day masterpiece, the Hassan II Mosque. A pleasant way to spend the day exploring Casablanca is to wander the old medina and the city walls, then jump in a taxi to visit the Quartiers des Habous, the new medina. Finish the day with a walk along the Corniche, watching the locals play football on the beach, or take it easy with a glass of sweet mint tea in one of the many great cafes. Overnight at Hotel Les Saisons or similar. (B)
Optional Activities
• Jewish Museum – MAD40
• Villa des Arts – art gallery & museum – Free
• Guided tour of Hassan II Mosque – MAD120

Day 14 - Departure

Following breakfast, today is at leisure until it is time for your transfer to the airport for your onward departure. (B)