Past Trips

It's time to rock the kasbah! MOROCCO here we come! (Sept)

Trip At A Glance

  • Trip type: International
  • Category: Easy
  • Dates: September 20-30, 2017
  • Duration: 11 days (10 nights)
  • Booking Deadline: April 4, 2017
  • Price: $1,475.00
  • Single Supplement: $500.00
  • Deposit: $442.50 (30.0%)
  • Group size: 15

This Fall, for our big 2017 international trip, we're off to the North African country of Morocco!   

Why? Because there’s nowhere else in the world quite like Morocco. Get lost in mind-boggling medinas & souks, experience the traditional ritual of the hammans, stay in authentic kasbahs & riads, visit ancient, mystical imperial cities, relax at beautiful beachside coastal towns, gaze at spectacular cliff-sided canyons, discover famed lush forests with endangered Barbery apes, hang with the indigenous Berbers - the original Pre-Arab inhabitants of Morocco, camel trek through the endless sand dunes of the surreal Sahara desert, hike in the remote, serene Valley of the Roses, and take in sweeping views from the incredible, rugged Altas & Rif Mountains - all on one vacation in one single country. Wowza. Sounds pretty cool. Sounds like our Morocco trip!  

And bonus, we can take advantage of the brand new nonstop flight direct from Dulles Airport to Casablanca that started just last year! Not only visit a super cool destination, but do so conveniently. 

 

A little background

Similar in size to the state of California, the Kingdom of Morocco is the most westerly of the North African countries. This little corner of Africa, located just 8 miles off the coast of Spain bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the most moderate and peaceful countries in the region. Morocco reflects a mix of cultures - African traditions, Middle Eastern magic, Berber tradition and European (French & Spanish) flair. As you move from city to city and region to region, you'll notice these influences that comprise the rich culture of Morocco.

Geographically, Morocco is made up of four different areas: the Sahara desert, full of Berber towns and oases; the Atlas and Rif Mountains, perfect for hikers; the plains which are home to the imperial cities of Marrakesh and Fez; and finally the sandy coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean with small beach towns and the cities of Rabat and Casablanca.

 

What to expect - What you'll see & do 

Designed in partnership with local Moroccan travel professionals, the trip reflects highlights of this ancient, mysterious and breathtakingly beautiful country and provides an opportunity to sample the amazing contrasts Morocco offers. Morocco shows off incredibly varied features from imperial cities that at some point in history served as the capital of Morocco, to beachside towns to the desert to mountains to the valley. These contradictions are all part of Morocco's vibrant and unique charm. One common thread of Morocco is that it's quite a foodie scene with not-to-be-missed couscous, mouthwatering melt-in-your mouth tajines, and the infamous mint tea, which is a sign of hospitality - preparing this national drink is an art form.

You'll get to experience all of this coolness on the trip. You'll check out the sights, places, and adventures that a first-time visitor should totally do & see. Important historical sightseeing mixed in with more local, in-the-know outings along with unique activities. We'll chat & hang with locals throughout our journey. You'll have all manner of accommodations - riads, kasbahs, Berber/nomad tents. And as is the case on all our trips, you'll be treated to a very thoughtful itinerary where feel like you are traveling with friends who are showing you around their country. High-quality, non-touristy, responsible travel (local guides & driver and independently owned "hotels" only) is the way we do it.   

 

A few highlights 

Magical, beautiful blue Andalusian town of Chefchaouen nestled in the Rif Mountains known as Morocco’s Blue Pearl.

Capitol city of Rabat, Berber-era royal fort located on the shores of the Bouregreg River and the Atlantic Ocean with its famous landmarks including the Kasbah of the Udayas & iconic Hassan Tower, a 12th-century minaret.  

Mystical, medieval Fez the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities with its innovative foodie scene and serpentine streets. Fez, the country's cultural and spiritual centre is an adventure in art, architecture and cuisine. The old city of Fez, Fez El Bali, is the world’s largest car-free urban space and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Bustling, vibrant Marrakesh with a modern mix of Moroccan and international culture. Its famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square is truly one of the most hectic, but fascinating people-watching places in the country. Its maze-like medina overflows with a labyrinth of souks.  

Impressive panoramic hiking in the Rif Mountains to the Cascades d'Akchour - nothing more than paradise in the mountains.

The famous, enchanting Atlas Forests of Cedar - the largest cedar forest in Africa and home to the endangered Barbery apes (aka Atlas Monkeys) who are sure to entertain.  

Camel trek through the awe-inspiring Sahara desert at sunset to a small oasis in the middle of the dunes, overnight under the starry skies at our Berber camp with tent accommodations, & wake up to a stunning desert sunrise. As amazing of an adventure as it sounds.  

Spectacular, sweeping views while trekking over the M'goun Mountain, the fourth highest peak of the Atlas Mountains & inhabited by the Ait Atta tribe as we make our way into the Valley of the Roses for a real taste of Berber culture.

The desert town of Merzouga a little village in the Tafilalet Valley on the edge of the Sahara Desert with the impressive, massive Erg Chebbi sand dunes that reach 525 feet in height. 

Kalaat M’gouna, aka Valley of Roses, sits at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains where the mountains meet the Dadès Valley. This area is known for one thing: roses. In the late spring months, the city is literally covered in a blanket of roses.  

The gorgeous Ait Ben Haddou, one of sub-Saharan Morocco’s great sights where you will visit this UNESCO World Heritage site featured in Game of Thrones, Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia.

Lose yourself and relax at the laid-back coastal city of Essaouira, this one-time Portuguese trading post where you'll feel as though you are stepping back in time.

Hope you can join us on our trip to explore the magical Kingdom of Morocco full of cultural and natural wonders to discover and experience. You just know this adventure will not disappoint!

Only high-quality, accommodations with great reviews from past travelers. You'll have all manner of great accommodations including riads, casbahs and Berber/nomad tents. Click on the links to visit the web pages of the places we'll be staying while in Morocco.

Summary

  • Day 1. Casablanca – Rabat – Chefchaouen
  • Day 2. Chefchaouen
  • Day 3. Chefchaouen - Volubilis - Moulay Idriss Zerhoun - Meknes - Fez
  • Day 4. Fez (also spelled Fès)
  • Day 5. Fez - Azrou - Midelt - Merzouga
  • Day 6. Merzouga - Valley of Roses
  • Day 7. Valley of Roses
  • Day 8. Valley of Roses — Ouarzazate — Ait Ben Haddou — Marrakech
  • Day 9. Marrakech
  • Day 10. Marrakech - Essaouira
  • Day 11. Essaouira – Casablanca (Departure day)

Details

Wed, Sep 20 Day 1. Casablanca – Rabat – Chefchaouen

Arrival — Your personal driver/guide will greet you at the airport and take you to your hotel in Casablanca where you can rest and recover from your journey. Depending on your arrival time, your driver will be available to you all day should you wish to explore and visit Hassan II Mosque.

After you will depart from Casablanca and make your way up the coast of Morocco to the capitol city of Rabat. Here you will visit Hassan Tower and Kasbah of the Udayas. After visiting the imperial city of Rabat, you will make your way further north to the beautiful blue city of Chefchaouen nestled in the Rif Mountains. This picture perfect town is know as Morocco’s Blue Pearl. You’ll have some free time here in the afternoon to explore this small magical city.

Total Drive Time: Approximately 4.5 hours (1 hour to Rabat; 3.5 hours to Chefchaouen)

Thu, Sep 21 Day 2. Chefchaouen

You will have another day to relax in this beautiful city and discover the narrow blue streets on your own. Choice between hiking trip to nearby Cascade D’Akchour or Guided Tour of Chefchaouen.

Meals Included: Breakfast

No driving!

Fri, Sep 22 Day 3. Chefchaouen - Volubilis - Moulay Idriss Zerhoun - Meknes - Fez

After breakfast this morning, you’ll depart Chefchaouen and head to another Imperial City of Meknes. Along the way, you’ll visit the Roman ruins of Volubilis and the nearby town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun. This sacred city which was once forbidden to non-muslim visitors features the tomb of the founder of Morocco and ruler of the first Dynasty Idriss I. (Side note: my husband/business partner is a director descendant of this ruler). After this visit you will continue on to Meknes. Your visit will include the beautiful gate of Bab Mansour, the tomb of Sultan Moulay Ismail, Agdal reservoir, and Heri es-Souani (a former granary and stable). You will have some free time in El Hadim Square before driving the rest of the way to Fez.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Total Drive Time approximately 4.5 hours (3.5 hours to Volubilis/Meknes; 1 hour Meknes – Fes)

Sat, Sep 23 Day 4. Fez (also spelled Fès)

Today after breakfast, your local guide will meet your local city guide at your riad for a guided walking tour of the city with a certified local city guide. The tour will take you into the medina of Fez through Bab Boujloud (the Blue Gate), where you will discover the ancient streets and neighborhoods, as well as Al-Qarawaiyin University Founded in 864 AD and still in operation today, it holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest continually operated university in the world. After discovering all that the Medina has to offer, you will be taken to get a high up panoramic view of the old city before returning to your riad for the evening.

Meals Included: Breakfast

No Driving - except locally if needed

Sun, Sep 24 Day 5. Fez - Azrou - Midelt - Merzouga

After breakfast, you will depart from Fez and head to the sand dune of Erg Chebbi near Merzouga. On the way, you will travel through the largest cedar forest in Africa which is also home to the barbary apes (aka Atlas Monkeys) which are sure to entertain. You will arrive in Erg Chebbi, before sunset and here you will transfer to your next mode of transportation, a camel, and begin your trek into the dunes to your Berber camp for the night. Once there, you will have an opportunity, if you wish, to sand board on the massive dunes. Dinner will be served and traditional music will be played, before retiring to your tent for the night. Note: This will be the longest day of driving. The goal is to get to the desert before sunset!

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Total Drive Time approximately 7 hours (Long day but plenty of stops)

Mon, Sep 25 Day 6. Merzouga - Valley of Roses

Today your camel guide will wake you early so that you can watch the sunrise over the dunes. Afterwards, you will once again take to your ship of the desert (i.e. your camel) and trek back to the kasbah on the edge of the sand sea where breakfast will be served and you will have an opportunity to shower and prepare for the day. After breakfast and showers, you will travel towards the oasis of Tinghir. Along the way, you will stop to visit the ancient irrigation system that once brought water from the Saghro Mountain range (30 km away) to the desert. After a quick stop here, you’ll continue on to Tinghir where you will go on a guided walk through the palmeraie and the old Mellah (Jewish neighborhood). After you've explored Tinghir, you will stop at Todgha Gorge where you will have an opportunity to walk through the most impressive part of the canyon. In this narrow section of the gorge (as little as 33 feet wide), the rock walls climb straight up 525 feet on either side. After seeing this gorge, you will head to the valley of roses where you will spend the night.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Total Drive Time approximately 4 hours (3 hours from Merzouga to Tinghir; 1 hour Tinghir to Kelaat M’Gouna)

 

Tue, Sep 26 Day 7. Valley of Roses

Today you will enjoy a full day of hiking over M’Goun Mountain into the Valley of Roses. Along the way, you will have a unique opportunity to have lunch with a nomad family. When the hiking is finished, you will meet your transportation and head to your hilltop Kasbah for sweeping vistas of the Valley and a delicious well-earned dinner. (If some people do not wish to do a full day of hiking, we can offer an option for a shorter hike and a traditional lunch and/or cooking class at our family home in the Valley of Roses.)

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

No Driving except locally as needed

Wed, Sep 27 Day 8. Valley of Roses — Ouarzazate — Ait Ben Haddou — Marrakech

After breakfast, you will have an early start today as you take the road of 1000 Kasbahs on your way to the city of Ouarzazate (pronounced: Wor-za-zet and known as the Hollywood of Morocco). Once here, you will be treated to a traditional Moroccan Hammam (spa) which should feel great after your day of hiking! (NOTE: anyone not wishing to experience the Hammam, will be given the option to do a backlot tour of Atlas Film Studios, where The Mummy and Kingdom of Heaven were filmed). After you’ve been refreshed in Ouarzazate you make the short drive to nearby the village near Ait Ben Haddou where you will visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ait Ben Haddou. You will also have the opportunity to try your hand at Moroccan sugar painting — a form of water color painting using natural elements such as green tea, saffron, and indigo as pigments. This is a little trickier than it might seem, since the colors do not become visible until you hold the sheet of paper over a flame. When you’ve completed your visit of Ait Ben Haddou, you will travel over the High Atlas Mountains via the Tizi n’Tichka path, reaching an altitude of nearly 7500 feet above sea level. There will be plenty of stops for tea and photographs as you take in the breathtaking vistas before arriving in the evening to Marrakech. 

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Total Drive Time approximately 5.5 hours (1.5 hours from Kelaat M’Gouna to Ouarzazate; 30 minutes from Ouarzazate to Ait Ben Haddou; 3.5 hours from Ait Ben Haddou to Marrakech)

Thu, Sep 28 Day 9. Marrakech

After breakfast, you will have an early start today as you take the road of 1000 Kasbahs on your way to the city of Ouarzazate (pronounced: Wor-za-zet and known as the Hollywood of Morocco). Once here, you will be treated to a traditional Moroccan Hammam (spa) which should feel great after your day of hiking! (NOTE: anyone not wishing to experience the Hammam, will be given the option to do a backlot tour of Atlas Film Studios, where The Mummy and Kingdom of Heaven were filmed). After you’ve been refreshed in Ouarzazate you make the short drive to nearby the village near Ait Ben Haddou where you will visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ait Ben Haddou. You will also have the opportunity to try your hand at Moroccan sugar painting — a form of water color painting using natural elements such as green tea, saffron, and indigo as pigments. This is a little trickier than it might seem, since the colors do not become visible until you hold the sheet of paper over a flame. When you’ve completed your visit of Ait Ben Haddou, you will travel over the High Atlas Mountains via the Tizi n’Tichka path, reaching an altitude of nearly 7500 feet above sea level. There will be plenty of stops for tea and photographs as you take in the breathtaking vistas before arriving in the evening to Marrakech. 

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Total Drive Time approximately 5.5 hours (1.5 hours from Kelaat M’Gouna to Ouarzazate; 30 minutes from Ouarzazate to Ait Ben Haddou; 3.5 hours from Ait Ben Haddou to Marrakech)

Fri, Sep 29 Day 10. Marrakech - Essaouira

After breakfast, you will head to the relaxing coastal city of Essaouira, known by the Portuguese as Mogador. Although evidence exists that this area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, the medina as it exists today was designed by French engineer, Theodore Cornut, under the direction of Mohammed III in the 18th century. Under Mohammed III’s rule, Essaouira served briefly as an imperial city and it was from here that Morocco became the first country to recognize the sovereignty of the United States after the Declaration of Independence from England. On your way to this picturesque city, you will see groves of Argan trees from which Morocco’s liquid gold (Argan oil) is produced with the unique help of local goats and visit a cooperative to see the traditional methods by which the oil is still produced today. Upon arrival in Essaouira and after checking into your riad, you will be taken to the edge of the sea to have your pick of fresh seafood for lunch. After lunch, you will have the afternoon to discover this beautiful city before returning back to Marrakech.  

Meals Included: Breakfast

Total Drive Time approximately 2.5 hours

Sat, Sep 30 Day 11. Essaouira – Casablanca (Departure day)

This morning you will have an early start as you travel along the scenic coastline of Morocco through several beach towns such as Oulidia and El Jadida on your way back to the Casablanca. You’ll have time for one more Moroccan meal and one more glass of mint tea before arriving at the airport in plenty of time for your flight back to DC.

Meals Included: Breakfast
Total Drive Time approximately 5 hours

Inclusions

  • 10 Nights of Accommodations (3/4 star premium riads, hotels, & kasbahs)
  • 11 Days of Private Transportation and all related costs (gas, tolls, parking, etc)
  • English speaking driver/guide
  • Airport ground transfers
  • 10 Breakfasts
  • 4 Dinners
  • 1 Lunch
  • Guided Tour of Volubilis
  • Guided Tour of Fez
  • Camel Trek and Overnight stay in Berber Bivouac
  • Guided Walk through Tinghir Palmeraie
  • Guided Hike over M’Goun Mountain/Lunch with Nomad Family OR shorter guided hike with cooking class and/or lunch with local family
  • Traditional Moroccan Hammam Experience OR Backlot Tour of Atlas Film Studios
  • Moroccan Sugar Painting Class in Ait Ben Haddou
  • Guided Tour of Marrakech
  • All Entrance Fees (for tours specified above)

Lots of fun, smiles, laughs and adventure!

Exclusions

  • International airfare to/from Morocco
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance  
  • Meals other than specified

This is adventure is 10 nights & 11 days. 

Early bird pricing: $1,475 (based on double occupancy)

Early bird booking deadline: Feb 1, 2017

Regular price: $1,525 (based on double occupancy)

Drop dead booking deadline: April 4, 2017

Single Supplement: $500

Deposit: 30% of trip price due at booking ($442.50) 

Final balance July 6, 2017 (2.5 months prior to departure).

 

 

Flight info

You are responsible for getting your flight. Preferred flight is the nonstop, direct flight on Royal Airi Maroc leaving from Dulles airport (IAD) on Tues Sept 19, 2017, arriving at the Casablanca airport (CMN) on Wed Sept 20, and returning on Sat Sept 30, 2017. The price for this flight is typically about $800 give or take $50. It's a 7-hour flight there, 8.5 hrs on the return.  
www.royalairmaroc.com/

If you don't get this flight, then you must arrive at the Casablanca airport on Oct 4 before the preferred flight arrives so we can all leave the airport together as a group and get our ground transportation.

We always recommend trip insurance & suggest ® insurance - a reputable company with competitive pricing and great coverage options. Here are a few reasons to get trip insurance: Reimbursement for cancellation penalties (which can be 100% of your investment) in the event of an unforeseeable illness, injury or death of you, your travel companion or a family member. Reimbursement for cancellation penalties if you are called for jury duty, your home is damaged due to fire, windstorm, flood or vandalism or military leave cancelled. Health insurance coverage while traveling outside of the U.S. as many health insurance companies limit or do not provide coverage outside of the U.S. Reimbursement for unused portion of your trip if it is interrupted. Medical evacuation/repatriation expenses to an appropriate medical facility or back home in the event of a serious illness or injury while traveling. 24-hour help line for any travel emergency, such as medical, lost tickets, lost passports, and other travel documents.