ATLAS TOUR 17 DAY & 16 NIGHTS
Day 1: Arrive Casablanca
Arrive in Casablanca in the afternoon where we will be met and transferred to our hotel in the city. Tonight we offer a dinner at exotic restaurant in the style of the original made famous in the movie Casablanca.
Day 2: Hassan 11 Mosque, Rabat/Sale
After a leisurely morning in the hotel we will visit the amazing Hassan 11 Mosque. This massive structure and its vast Medersa complex is one of the largest religious buildings in the world. The site covers nine hectares and the main prayer hall can accommodate twenty five thousand worshippers. After our visit we will have lunch in one of Casablanca’s most popular restaurants on the harbour. Later we drive north to the capital Rabat and check into our hotel across the river in the sister city of Sale.
Day 3: Rabat, Chellah Gardens, Hassan Tower, Oudaya Kasbah
In the morning we will visit the Chellah Gardens (14th century Merinid necropolis), Hassan Tower and Oudaya Kasbah where we will have lunch within the walls of the 13th century Andalusian style quarter. In the afternoon we return to our hotel where we can relax by the pool before dinner.
Day 4: Meknes, Dar el-Ma, Madersa Bou Inania, ceramic and tile workshop, Fes
We drive to Meknes where we visit the 17th century Dar el-Ma (Water House), subterranean granaries and the medina of the old city, then on to the Medersa Bou Inania, a koranic school from the 14th century. In the afternoon we drive to visit one of the famous ceramic workshops before arriving at our wonderful hotel overlooking the ancient Imperial walled city of Fes. Tonight at dinner we will be entertained by Andalusian musicans.
Day 5: Fes, old city, Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss II, Nejjarine fountain, old tannery
Walking through the amazing souk in the old city medina you can believe you are still in the 15th century, visiting medersas,Nejjarine fountain and the fascinating tanneries. Lunch will be at a restaurant in the old medina and later in the afternoon we will return to our hotel where there will be time for a swim in the pool. In the evening we will have dinner in another local restaurant overlooking the city.
Day 6: Middle Atlas Mountains, cedar forests, Azrou, Beni Mellal, Bin El Ouidan
Today we start our journey into the Atlas Mountains first driving through a flowering landscape that leads us to the town of Ifrane. Developed by the French, the ski resort town has the feeling of an alpine village. Later in the morning we drive through the magnificent cedar forests of the Middle Atlas to the town of M’rirt where we will have lunch. In the afternoon we drive further south to Beni Mellal where we climb the steep first stage of the High Atlas. In the late afternoon we arrive at Bin El Ouidan, the largest man-made reservoir in Morocco, where we spend the night in our hotel overlooking the lake and with time for a swim in the pool.
Day 7: Azilal, High Atlas picnic, Ait Boughmez Valley, Tabant
After breakfast we drive up through the mountains to the village of Azilal where Wilfried Stanzer has his second carpet project which weaves beautiful long piled wool rugs using the inspiration of old Berber designs. In 2009 and 2011 carpets from this project were awarded “best tribal carpets” at the prestigious Dometex Carpet Fair in Hanover, Germany. Later we drive further through the High Atlas up to a 2500m high pass where we will have a picnic lunch among Aleppo pines. In the afternoon we drive on through the peaceful Ait Boughmez Valley where we spend the night in a wonderful rammed earth eco lodge with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
Day 8: High passes (2700m), Hansali, Cathedral Rock, Mountain picnic, Bin El Ouidan
This morning we drive further through the beautiful Ait Boughmez valley passing the nests of storks sitting on the top of the traditional mud buildings of the local inhabitants. Climbing higher we cross a soaring mountain pass where we will see wonderful vegetation including the ghostly Thuya trees, some more than two meters in diameter. The wood from these unique trees is made into beautiful craft items and sold in the souks all over the country. At lunch time we arrive at the impressive Cathedral Rock, so named because it looks much like the dome of the Milan Cathedral in Italy. Here we will have a picnic lunch. In the afternoon we drive on through wonderful mountain scenery and later go back down to sea level and the same hotel overlooking the Bin El Ouidan reservoir.
Day 9: Cascade de Ouzoud, Demnate, Iminifri, Dades Valley,Ouarzazate, Ait Benhaddou
This morning we drive up through the mountains to the highest waterfall in Morocco, Cascade de Ouzoud. This spectacular site is also home to Berber monkeys and they spend much of their time playing in the trees above the one hundred and ten metre drop of the falls. After a walk in the area we have lunch at a wonderful Riad built in the Spanish style and perched high above the cascade. After lunch we drive via Demnate to the natural stone bridge at Iminifri where we can see birds flying about inside the massive cave. We then drive further up crossing the High Atlas and arriving at the Dades Valley eighteen kilometres before Ouarzazate. From there it is a short drive to the most impressive Kasbah, Ait Benhaddou, which has been used as the backdrop for many well known movies including ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.
Day 10: Amassine village and the Ait Khozema project
Today we drive into the mountains once more and in the shadow of the volcanic peak Jebel Siroua (3305m) we arrive at the village of Amassine where we will spend two nights in the Ait Khozema project house. After lunch Wilfried Stanzer and his assistants will give us a firsthand look at the process of rug making including combing and spinning the lustrous mountain wool, weaving, and the art of natural dyeing. We will also have the opportunity to walk through the village visiting weavers in their homes and finally reaching the important village storehouse known as an Agadir. The project house has a small Turkish Hamam (bath) and a wonderful view out over the valley. The night sky is ablaze with millions of stars.
Day 11: Amassine (summer village), World Creation Valley, Mule ride (optional) and Ait Khozema carpets
With the car we climb higher to the summer village of Amassine (all villagers spend the summer here). From there we ride on mules (optional) up to 2800 meters to have a spectacular view on one side to the highest mountains of the High Atlas (4165 meters in the Toubkal National Park) and to be in the volcanic centre of the area. We enter the “world creation valley”, a volcanic stone creation, where scattered everywhere are stones resembling animals and trolls. Here we will have a picnic lunch and later in the afternoon return to the Amassine village house.
Day 12: Tizi n Tichka Pass, Marrakech
This morning after breakfast we leave the village of Amassine and take the road to Marrakech. The High Atlas draws closer and after lunch we cross the mountains at 2260 meters via Tizi n Tichka (the highest pass in Morocco). We descend into the valleys where picturesque Berber villages are painted pink with oleander. In the afternoon we arrive at Marrakech and our beautiful riad in the old medina.
Day 13: The souk of Marrakech, Jemaa el Fna, Madersa Ben Youssef
Firstly we walk through the souk (market place or bazaar) of the city. The word ‘souk’ is derived from the country people’s words for ‘magic box’. At the end of the souk is the old Coranic school “Ben Youssef” built in the fascinating Andalusian style. We walk slowly back through the souk, visiting all the handicraft areas: leather, bronze, wood, textiles and silversmith. Lunch will be on a shady terrace above the Jemaa el Fna. After lunch we are free to relax in the hotel or take another visit to the souk. Towards sunset we walk in the Jemaa el Fna now occupied by musicians, artists and snake charmers. After watching the sunset over the square we visit an old palace (Dar el-Hamra) to have dinner with rhythmic Gnaoui music playing in the background.
Day 14: Majorrel Garden, Mellah (Jewish quarter), free time
This morning we take a horse and carriage ride to the very colorful garden of the famous Art Deco painter Jaques Majorelle. Later we arrive in the Mellah where we will see the old Jewish quarter with its unique style of architecture and many shops selling spices. Here we will also have lunch overlooking the palace walls where storks make their nests. In the afternoon there will be free time to further explore the souk or relax in the riad. This evening we will have dinner on the terrace of the riad.
Day 15: Marrakech, Essaouira
We now leave the city of Marrakech driving west towards the Atlantic coast where we arrive at the colorful and historic seaside port of Essaouira. The Berber name means ‘the wall’, a reference to the fortress walls that originally enclosed the city. The old medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the narrow stone streets are home to many artisans displaying and selling their numerous handicrafts. As this is within the area where the highly prized Argan tree grows there are also many women’s co-ops producing the oil and related products from these trees, native to Morocco. During the afternoon we will have ample time to explore the old city on foot before returning to our wonderful Riad in the medina.
Day 16: Essaouira, Oualidia
After a leisurely breakfast we depart Essaouira and drive north up the coast to the picturesque resort seaside village of Oualidia. Located on the southern edge of a large tidal seawater lagoon Qualidia is popular with beach lovers and nature enthusiasts who come here to observe the many species of birdlife that live in and migrate to this peaceful setting. The lagoon has very calm waters compared with the Atlantic Ocean which lies beyond the bar. Flamingos, marbled duck and many other species can be seen for much of the year in the placid waters. Our delightful hotel is right on the waterfront and will provide a very relaxing environment to enjoy our last afternoon and evening in Morocco.
Day 17: End tour
This morning our tour ends and we drive to the airport at Casablanca for our flight back home.