Morocco Highlights

Morocco,

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16 people
14 days
Code: GEKCC
Activity and Adventure, Adventure, Discovery, Tours
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Overview of Morocco Highlights

Arrive in Casablanca then head on to Meknes and Fes. Next up is Midelt, Merzouga and Erg Chebbi for walks, ruins and desert camps. Then Todra Gorge, Dades Valley and Ait Benhaddou (ie ALL THE COOL STUFF). Finish with a visit to High Atlas then a few days in rad Marrakech.

Trip Summary for Morocco Highlights

Start Location: Casablanca,   End Location: Marrakech

Countries Visited: Morocco, 
Meals Included: Breakfast: 13   Lunches: 0   Dinners: 3
Highlights:

    • Pre-2005, you wouldn’t have been able to spend a night in holy Moulay Idriss if you weren’t a Muslim. These days you can stay with an awesome local family and eat their delicious home-cooked fare no matter your beliefs
    • It’s easy to get lost in a labyrinth (think less David Bowie film, more medieval maze), especially when there are enticing distractions at every turn. Never fear, your local guide knows the city of Fes like a lifelong friend
    • How about tasting some Berber Whisky? Even better, how about learning how to prepare this traditional drink? Learn from the experts on one of the exclusive demonstrations
    • Don’t get in a hoof when you’re offered a camel burger in Meknes. Like all good food in the medina, this exotic lunch is cooked before your eyes at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant
    • Sleep under the stars in the Sahara, watch the sun rise over the dunes, ride a camel through the desert and explore the spectacular Todra Gorge. Is this all a dream?
    • Souq and ye shall find. The Marrakech marketplace is even more chaotic than you’d imagine. Take a deep breath before you start haggling your socks off with the locals
    • Who knows where the best street food is in Marrakech? Those who knows the streets of Marrakech best. Venture out for some street food tasting in the maze of Marrakech streets with the local expert
    • Kick back in the coastal town of Essaouira, find yourself slipping into the easy-going rhythm of this Moroccan town with a European seaside twist

 

Day 1 - Casablanca
Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Morocco. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at around 6 pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned until this important meeting. Check the hotel reception for the exact time and place of the meeting. If you can't arrange a flight in time, you might want to arrive a day early – we can book additional accommodation for you, depending on availability. If you're going to be late, please contact the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so make sure you have these ready to give your trip leader. If you do arrive early in Casablanca, get out and explore the city. A good place to start is the Old Medina. Try some hot, syrupy mint tea along the way.

Notes: Some travellers in Casablanca are being approached by locals offering excursions before their Geckos trip commences. This has been particularly common in and around the hotels used by Geckos. These guides are in no way connected to Geckos and we cannot guarantee the safety or quality standards of their tours. We strongly advise customers not to join any tour offered by unauthorised guides. Geckos assesses the safety of all optional excursions offered by our local leaders. If you would like more information on the excursions available, please contact us before you travel, or see the Geckos-branded notice in the reception of your hotel.

Day 2 - Meknes - Moulay Idriss
After breakfast it's time for an optional guided tour of the Hassan II Mosque. Please advise your leader if you would like to take this option. Entrance fees are paid locally. More than 6,000 craftsmen joined forces to build this beauty in 1993. It's one of the few mosques in Morocco that foreigners are allowed to enter. You'll be joining other people for this tour, but you can upgrade to your own guide if you like – just talk to your leader. Later, head to the station and take a local train to Meknes (approximately 2.5 hours). When you arrive, you'll jump into a taxi and pop over to the whitewashed village of Moulay Idriss, one of Morocco's most important pilgrimage sites. You'll stay with a local family here this evening. Staying overnight here has only been allowed for foreigners since 2005. Lucky you!

Notes: Your guided tour of Meknes will be either today or tomorrow.

Day 3 - Fes
Take a drive through the beautiful rolling hills to Volubilis for a guided tour of these epic Roman ruins. After Volubilis, head back to Meknes where you'll meet your local guide for a tour. Prepare for an unusual lunchtime – you'll be able to get a camel burger. Now that's a burger bar with a difference! Fear not if you’re a vegetarian, there will be an option for you too. Travel by train from Meknes to Fes (approximately 40 minutes). It's an amazing living museum, like stepping into medieval times. Fes is the spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco; vibrant, noisy, fascinating and overwhelming – a visual and pungent feast for the senses – with a huge, well-preserved medieval old city that’s the mother of all medinas. With the free afternoon, take a walk around, perhaps find a quiet place and listen to the evening ‘call for prayer’. It’s a cool thing to do.

Notes: The tour of Meknes, if it hasn’t happened yesterday, will take place today morning.

Day 4 - Fes
Fes. Getting lost here is half the fun, but you'll have an orientation walk, so you won't actually get lost, or at least you shouldn’t, however, noting down the name and address of your hotel isn’t a bad idea. Just in case. Browse market stalls, meet craftsmen and see beautiful mosques. Look out for the Medersa Bou Inania, one of the city's coolest buildings which has recently been restored and is now open to visitors. You'll also visit the famous tannery, which is also famously stinky, but famously well worth it. Stop for that famous view, overlooking the dye pits. You'll also visit a ceramic factory where you can see potters working in the traditional way. Then enjoy some free time and maybe check out the exquisite carvings and magnificent tile work at the Medersa el Attarine (near the spice and perfume market). Fes is a shopping heaven for those who want to pick up a souvenir or two. Just bury in mind, today is going to be long. Very long and quite tiring, but well worth the tiredness at the end.

Day 5 - Midelt
Travelling south across a bunch of different terrain, you will reach Ifrane, a mountain resort established by the French in 1929. After a short stop for coffee and a leg-stretch, continue further south. Then, at Midelt, the landscape opens up, giving way to awesome views to the west. This smallish market town, surrounded by farmland and orchards, is a great spot to break up the journey to the Sahara. It was originally built as a base for mining in the area. You'll see Berber people and nomadic shepherds tending to their flocks. You'll stay the night in Midelt. But first it's time for a nice walk (approximately 1.5–2 hours). The walk itself is easy, but the terrain is rocky in some places, so wear your best walking shoes. Bring your camera too, or your smartphone or whatever, because the scenes along the way might just make your Instagram account explode.

Day 6 - Merzouga
On your way to the desert, stop at the spectacular narrow defile known as the Gorges du Ziz. Then head to the large town of Er Rachidia. Pass the 500-year old ruins of the Ksar of Meski then descend into the Ziz Valley, a particularly fertile region that produces figs, olives, dates and tamarisk – a fruit grown for its tannin and used in the curing of leather skins. Arrive in Merzouga, drop your main bags off at a simple Auberge (that's French for 'inn'), then take your day pack filled with overnight essentials. Time to experience a desert full of awesome. The mode of transport: camel, of course. Brace yourself for one heck of a sunset. This ride takes about an hour, going through the sea of sand to your private desert camp for an overnight stay. In the camp, you'll have a thin mattress, blankets and sheets. Make sure you bring a sleeping sheet if it's winter (you'd be surprised how cold it can get). Sleep under the stars and have a really romantic 'I am so far from home' kinda moment.

Day 7 - Todra Gorge - Dades Valley
Hope you remembered to set your alarm this morning, because you'll be getting up well before the crack of dawn. Climb to a nearby sand dune to catch the sunrise. Watch the Sahara come alive! You'll also enjoy another fun camel ride through the sand dunes while the sun is rising higher and higher. Head back to the Auberge, collect the rest of your gear and then travel west to Todra. Then you'll come across a bright tablecloth of green that might seem so out of place you'll think you are dreaming. This valley is pretty impressive, with all its palm trees and mud-brick villages. Arrive at your hotel at the top of the valley, then take a hike into the gorge where sheer cliffs rise more than 1,000 feet above you.

Day 8 - Ait Benhaddou
From Todra Gorge, travel along the ‘Road of 1,000 Kasbahs’ and enjoy views of the Dades Gorge. You'll also travel past the town of Skoura, home to the beautiful little houses rising like a mirage beyond a dry riverbed. Continue to the medieval mud-brick town of Ait Benhaddou, which is at its best in the late afternoon sun. If you wonder why Ait Benhaddou looks familiar to you, it is because you have seen it before! Perhaps not live, but certainly on the silver screen. Gladiator, Game of Thrones and loads of other movies and shows were filmed in this kasbah. Explore the many old streets and climb up to the fortress for a superb view over the old town. You can also – for a small fee – enter one of the most interesting of the old houses, climbing up to the turrets for a view over the river. You'll spend the night just outside the walls.

Day 9 - High Atlas - Marrakech
Continue west, passing a few Berber villages. Take in those epic views of the countryside. Wind your way up towards Tizi ‘n Tichka. This is a whopping 2,260 metres above sea level, the highest pass on the road to Marrakech. It often gets covered with snow during the winter months. Leaving the Atlas behind, you'll descend into the plains that surround Marrakech and arrive late afternoon. Marrakech is a feast for the senses. Take an orientation walk around the old medina and the city's seemingly endless mosaic of souqs. Each is devoted to a separate trade: pottery, woodwork, copper, leather, carpets and spices. Sample some of the best street food in the world on the way. Then enjoy some free time. This is a good chance to get lost in the fun of Jemaa el Fna, where there are so many fire-eaters, fortune-tellers, actors, musicians and hawkers vying for your attention.

Day 10 - Marrakech
Free day in Marrakech so where to start? Cycling trip, maybe a day trip out for some walking? No? Luxury Hammam and Spa, cooking class, quad-biking? Options are endless. Or, if you want to keep it simple, make a beeline to the food stalls for some tagine or some other Moroccan treat (nothing says 'I can't give you any money' like a face full of fava-bean dip). You might also like to visit the 16th-century ruins of the El Badi Palace, the famous Majorelle Garden or the adjacent Museum of Islamic Art. In the evening you will no doubt be drawn back to Jemaa el Fna for a night out with your new pals. Remember, some of them may not continue with you on to the Essaouira part of this trip, so take a chance and say farewell in style.

Day 11 - Essaouira
Travel west (approximately 2–3 hours) to the coastal town of Essaouira (avoid embarrassment: pronounce it 'Essa-weera'), city where the medina brushes up against the Atlantic Ocean. Sandstone walkways contrast with whitewashed houses, bright blue sky and the sand of the surrounding beaches and dunes. This artists' town was once home to sizeable British and Jewish populations, and 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. It is one of North Africa's most attractive places, and you will soon find yourself slipping into the easy-going rhythm of this Moroccan town with a European seaside twist.This part of the trip is a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure, designed to give you freedom and flexibility. You’ll have plenty of free time to do what you like, but you’ll also be provided with recommendations.

Day 12 - Essaouira
Essaouira is a very photogenic old port town. Embrace the chilled-out pace. Grab a traditional Moroccan breakfast, and maybe wander to the harbour and its adjacent fish markets (you’ll have to get up early if you want to see the daily catch being auctioned off). You might like to check out the Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah Museum for a look at its collection of artefacts, woodwork, carpets and stringed instruments. In the medina there are loads of shops to browse. If you want to take a refreshing dip, the Plage de Safi is a good spot if it’s not too windy. If you feel romantic, why not go on an optional horse riding along the sandy beaches of Atlantic Ocean.

Day 13 - Essaouira to Marrakech
Use the morning to see the last of Essaouira, then catch a bus back to Marrakech in the afternoon (approximately 3 hours). Check into your hotel and head out into the centre of Marrakech with the group for one final night together.

Day 14 - Marrakech
Your Moroccan adventure ends after breakfast on Day 14. Checkout time is usually around 12 pm, but you’re free to leave any time before then. Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring Marrakech (subject to availability). If you're interested, speak to your leader before Day 10.

Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Meals Included: Breakfast: 13 Lunches: 0 Dinners: 3
Highlights:

Pre-2005, you wouldn't have been able to spend a night in holy Moulay Idriss if you weren't a Muslim. These days you can stay with an awesome local family and eat their delicious home-cooked fare no matter your beliefs
It's easy to get lost in a labyrinth (think less David Bowie film, more medieval maze), especially when there are enticing distractions at every turn. Never fear, your local guide knows the city of Fes like a lifelong friend
How about tasting some Berber Whisky? Even better, how about learning how to prepare this traditional drink? Learn from the experts on one of the exclusive demonstrations
Don't get in a hoof when you're offered a camel burger in Meknes. Like all good food in the medina, this exotic lunch is cooked before your eyes at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant
Sleep under the stars in the Sahara, watch the sun rise over the dunes, ride a camel through the desert and explore the spectacular Todra Gorge. Is this all a dream?
Souq and ye shall find. The Marrakech marketplace is even more chaotic than you'd imagine. Take a deep breath before you start haggling your socks off with the locals
Who knows where the best street food is in Marrakech? Those who knows the streets of Marrakech best. Venture out for some street food tasting in the maze of Marrakech streets with the local expert
Kick back in the coastal town of Essaouira, find yourself slipping into the easy-going rhythm of this Moroccan town with a European seaside twist

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