Amateur Traveler Trip – Morocco April 2015 – 10 days
The Amateur Traveler community was planning a trip to Morocco and you are invited.
As with all Amateur Traveler trips our rule is bring your sense of humor and bring your flexibility. If you are someone who needs to be waited on hand and foot this is not your trip. If you plan on complaining that “we don’t do it that way at home”, this is not your trip. Things may go wrong, so remember:
“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things”… except maybe your camel.
April 10-19 2015
We are working with Intrepid Travel and are taking their “South Morocco Discovery Overview” tour:
Experience the wonder, heritage and culture of magical Morocco
From the colourful, chaotic Marrakech medinas to the moody Sahara desert landscape, Morocco is a land filled with wonder and rich culture. Stay in traditional accommodation and explore villages off the beaten track. Learn the secret to the perfect Moroccan couscous, visit the grand Ait Benhaddou kasbah, travel through the Sahara on a camel and relax on Essaouira beach. Abounding with myths and legends, Morocco offers a surprise around every corner – this fast-paced tour will delight travellers looking to discover all of its hidden treasures.
- Investigate ancient manuscripts in Tamegroute
- Learn to master Moroccan couscous
- Enjoy the spoils of Essaouira beach
- Travel through the Sahara desert in a camel convoy
- Trek into the High Atlas Mountains
- Experience the colour and chaos of Djemaa el-Fna
- Travel through the Sahara desert in a camel convoy
- Wander the winding alleyways of the grand Ait Benhaddou kasbah
- Day 1 Marrakech
- Day 2 Aroumd
- Day 3 Ait Benhaddou
- Day 4 Zagora
- Day 5 Sahara Camp
- Day 6 Taroudannt
- Days 7-8 Essaouira
- Days 9-10 Marrakech
Days 1: Marrakech
Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Morocco.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can’t arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you’re able to attend. We’ll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you’re going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We’ll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Marrakech is a feast for the senses. Be enticed by the alluring scents and brilliant colours of the spice markets, the sounds of the musicians, the rich folds of carpets, delectable foods, acrobats and perfumed gardens.
You have the option to join your leader in Djemaa el Fna, the amazing square in the centre of the Medina which transforms at night with huge crowds converging to see the singers, drummers, dancers, snake charmers, fortune tellers, storytellers, jugglers and even old medicine men and dentists, who together make up what has been dubbed the ‘greatest spectacle on earth’. An al fresco dinner at one of the many stalls is a real life experience.
There’s not much time to explore Marrakech on this itinerary but if you arrive early there’s plenty to see and do.
Explore the amazing Medina and the seemingly endless mosaic of souqs. Each is devoted to a separate trade: pottery, woodwork, copper, leather, carpets and spices. A wander amongst them is a sensory delight.
The monuments of Marrakech are numerous and range from the well-known Koutoubia Mosque and its superb minaret – famous throughout the Islamic world and the ‘sister’ to the Giralda in far-away Seville, to the lesser-known tropical gardens of the French painter Jacques Majorelle (now owned by Yves Saint Laurent). There’s the Palais Bahia, a superb example of Muslim architecture, and the ruins of the Palais Badi, reputedly one of the most beautiful palaces in the world in its time. The Saadian tombs are a recently uncovered gem of the Medina. All of the above can be a challenge to locate, but that’s all part of the experience of exploring the phenomenal medinas of Morocco.
- Koutoubia Mosque and minaret – Free
- Marjorelle Gardens – MAD60
- Palais Bahia – MAD10
- Palais Badi – MAD10
- Saadien Tombs – MAD10
- Medersa Ben Youssef – MAD40
- Museum of Marrakech – MAD40
- Hamam (public baths) – MAD250
- Photography Museum – MAD40
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 2: Aroumd
A short drive takes us into the towering High Atlas Mountains to the village of Imlil (approx 2 hrs).
We’ll store our main luggage and load daypacks on to pack mules before taking a 1 hour walk up to the peaceful village of Aroumd where we spend the night. If you don’t feel you can complete walk, don’t worry and take the option of riding a mule up to Aroumd.
A family-run mountain home (gite) will be our accommodation tonight, and perched on a great rocky outcrop we have an incredible sight to appreciate from our terrace: views of North Africa’s highest peak – Mount Toubkal. Facilities at the mountain gite are shared – both the bathroom and sleeping arrangements – but cosy, comfortable and a unique Intrepid experience.
We have the rest of the day to explore the village and surrounding farmlands. Depending on the energy levels of the group, we can make the moderate 8 km trek to the pilgrimage shrine of Sidi Chamarouch (approx 4 hrs return). This interesting destination is the burial place of a medieval saint and is a popular route for both serious trekkers en route to Toubkal and for Moroccan faithful wishing to receive baraka (blessings) from this sacred place.
Regardless of your level of fitness, the gentle pace of Aroumd makes it a special place beyond the reach of the modern world – and an opportunity not to be missed.
- Guided trek in the High Atlas Mountains
- Mule ride – Imlil to Aroumd – MAD50
Gite (1 nt)
Day 3: Ait Benhaddou
Journey along spectacular mountain roads and over Morocco’s highest pass, the Tizi n’Tichka (2260 m) to Ait Benhaddou on the barren edges of the Sahara (approx 6 hrs).
Centuries ago, Ait Benhaddou was an important stop for the caravans passing through as they carried salt across the Sahara, returning with gold, ivory and slaves. Today, its grand kasbah is still one of the most beautiful in all of Morocco and a World Heritage site. This fortified village is a fine example of clay architecture and is also famous for its role on the silver screen, featuring in numerous films such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile and Gladiator.
Why not join a simple cooking demonstration of Morocco’s most famous cuisine: couscous and tagine. Our local friends will explain the secrets and subtleties of these traditional meals as the ladies of the kitchen prepare a feast.
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 4: Zagora
Journey south towards the mighty Sahara (approx 5 hrs), stopping en route in Ouarzazate.
The film capital of Morocco, Ouarzazate is the location where productions such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Sheltering Sky and Black Hawk Down were filmed.
Make a short visit to Project Handicapped Horizon, an organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation, health and empowerment of people with disabilities. Some of the amazing services they provide include the building and fitting of prosthetic limbs, custom-made wheelchairs, and physio and social therapy for sufferers of accidents and illness. They also operate an artisans workshop which trains local people in trades such as pottery, weaving, metal work and jewellery making. This is a wonderful visit and we’re very proud to support this project through The Intrepid Foundation.
Travel through the lush Draa Valley to Zagora, home to the famous ‘Tombouctou 52 Jours’ sign.
Zagora is known as the ‘doors of the desert’, as it’s the last town before the Draa River. This is a palmerie town with great pottery and ceramic workshops on the way into the desert.
Take a stroll through the palm groves of Amazrou, exploring the ksars and surrounding countryside.
- Project Handicapped Horizon
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 5: Sahara Camp
Our route continues along the rugged, jagged and desolate Jbel Tadrart Mountain ranges taking us through seas of sand occasionally punctuated by lush oasis of date palms, to the interesting township of Tamegroute.
Once a famous settlement and home to religious scholars since the 11th century, Tamegroute houses a shrine to its spiritual leader.
Visit an intriguing library filled with ancient scripts of science, literature, the Koran and stories of the prophet Mohammed. We’ll also join a local friend to uncover the underground kasbah and its famous, but unique, ceramic pottery industry. A great spot to pick up a memorable souvenir.
Drive on until we reach the end of the road at the frontier town of M’Hamid.
Take a short camel ride, with the dunes as a magical backdrop.
Head into the dunes in 4WD vehicles. Our rough piste track runs parallel to the Algerian border, across stony Hamada desert whose only populace is small scatterings of hardy nomadic people and their camels, until we reach the massive Erg Chigaga dunes in the late afternoon.
An erg is a vast sea of shifting wind-swept sand that has formed into picturesque undulating crests and valleys, and the Erg Chigaga is one of the world’s classic landscapes.
Our nomad-style camp is a simple affair with bedding and basic toilet facilities provided. Our local friends will prepare a hearty feast so all we have to do is soak up the experience. The camp consists of two large fixed traditional nomadic-style woollen tents. Our camp does provide blankets and simple mattresses but for extra warmth and your own comfort, you might like to bring your own sleeping bag in the winter months from November to March.
Due to passenger feedback, all departures in the summer months of July and August use a slightly altered itinerary in the Sahara. We’ll take a 4WD safari to the remote Erg Chigaga dunes but instead of camping in the dunes, we stay at a fixed camp in Ouled Idriss. This camp is more comfortable and better suited during the high summer temperatures.
- Ancient library
- Camel ride
- 4WD adventure and desert camp
Camp site (1 nt)
Days 6: Taroudannt
Rejoin our minivan and continue towards Taroudannt (approx 6 hrs). This drive takes us through more superb desert scenery and along a route that’s a reserve for the indigenous argan trees – if we’re lucky we might come across the famous image of goats climbing these trees in search of their tasty nuts.
Please note that this is a long travel day and we won’t arrive at our accommodation until late afternoon/early evening. Our riad tonight is 45 km outside of Taroudannt and offers the chance to relax by the pool or take a steamed bath.
Riad (1 nt)
Days 7-8: Essaouira
This morning we’ll visit Taroudannt en route to Essaouira.
Taroudannt is a vibrant market town located in the fertile Souss plains. With an energetic, bustling city centre this is a great opportunity to see an untouched traditional Berber lifestyle. The souqs of the medina teem with sights, sound and colour, with terrific bargains to be found.
Leave the valleys of the magical High Atlas Mountains behind and head towards the windswept Atlantic Coast and Essaouira (approx 4.5 hrs).
The name Essaouira means image, which is appropriate since it’s such a picturesque town. Its charm is undeniable – within the stone ramparts you’ll find whitewashed houses with bright blue shutters, art galleries and wood workshops. This laidback 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.
It’s still a busy fishing port and its pretty harbour is filled with tiny colourful boats which go out early every morning for the day’s catch. Visitors who have been seduced by its charms include 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.
Join our local guide for a walking tour through the old Medina, Jewish mellah, port and skala (sea wall). You have some free time to soak up the romantic ambience.
Everything in the small centre is within walking distance and the beach is clean. Wander the harbour and its adjacent fish markets where you can witness the daily auction. A freshly-cooked plate of the day’s catch is highly recommended. Browse the plentiful shops and intriguing art galleries that make this little town a particularly pleasant place to unwind for a few days. It has a growing reputation for its unique art and is becoming even more famous for its burled Thuya wood – delicately formed and inlaid in tiny shops, which are built into the thick walls of the Portuguese ramparts. The scent from the oils used to polish the richly coloured wood permeates the air and makes walking down the streets incredibly pleasant.
Essaouira is a world-famous windsurfing destination. Give it go or you may like to try your hand at the increasingly popular sport of kite surfing.
Don’t miss the opportunity to go to a hammam or local-style bath to be spoilt with a good scrub, a mud pack and a relaxing massage with argan oil.
- Walking tour
Riad (2 nts)
Days 9-10: Marrakech
Reflect on our incredible journey with an optional farewell dinner.
As this trip spends limited time in Marrakech, we recommend you arrange a few extra nights of accommodation to make the most of what this city has to offer.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Hotel (1 nt)
- Intrepid Leader
- Accommodation (9 nights at Original hotels)
- Transportation (Private Bus, Public Bus, Taxi)
- Meals Included:
- Breakfast x 9
- Lunch x 1
- Dinner x 2
- Arrival and Departure Transfer on group basis
- Activities mentioned in itinerary
- Any meals not mentioned in the above itinerary
- Tips/Gratuities to Drivers/Guides/Tour Leader
- Travel Insurance
- International Airfare
- Optional activities
- Spending money
- Pre or Post Accommodation
- Non-group Transfer
USD $1,000/person twin-share
Single Supplement: USD $220
Deposit of $250 is required at time of booking and full payment due 60 days ahead of departure date.
How to book
We will be working with Connor from Intrepid to book. Connor has been to Morocco personally, btw.
Connor Frey – Private Groups Coordinator | North America
t: (direct) 510 285 0673 | t: (toll free) 855 394 3021