Have a Christmas with a difference this year in marvelous Morocco. Take in the souks of Marrakech, the Draa Valley, and Ouarzazate before learning how to surf in coastal Essaouira.
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Day 1: Marrakech
23 December 2019. Welcome to Morocco! Arrival transfer from Marrakech airport to our hotel. This evening (at 19:00) our welcome meeting takes place, where you’ll meet your tour leader and fellow travelers.
Day 2: Dades Gorge
Marrakech – Dades Gorge. Leaving Marrakech, we drive through the Dades Gorge, an awesome valley which extends from the High Atlas to the Jebel Sarhro range in the south. Berbers built many kasbahs in the vicinity of gorges for defense purposes. These kasbahs combined with the stunning natural setting makes this a beautiful region through which to travel.
Day 3: Xmas Day in Todra Gorge
Dades Gorge – Todra Gorge. Merry Christmas! This morning you can choose to go for a walk in Dades Gorge or just relax. We travel on to Todra Gorge after lunch and visit a traditional Berber home where the semi-nomadic family has set up a co-operative for the trade of carpets, kilims, and handicrafts for all the rural communities across the Atlas. The remainder of the day is spent exploring the magnificent gorge. This dusty red canyon is just 10m wide at its narrowest point, with its cliff walls towering 300m above and a small glacier stream flowing through it. If you’re feeling adventurous, there is the option to rock climb (subject to weather conditions, bookable locally). Tonight we sit down to a wonderful Christmas meal.
Day 4: Discover the Sahara
Todra Gorge – Erg Chebbi. Crossing Jebel Sarhro, we enjoy lunch and a swim before traveling down to Erg Chebbi sand dunes, the start point of the mighty Sahara Desert. The Erg Chebbi dunes located near the remote frontier town of Merzouga are renowned for their incredible height and size. In parts, the vast sand pile reaches skyward to heights
of 150 meters! The desert winds ensure this astonishing landscape is forever changing and no two days offer the same panorama. Mounting our camels, we trek across the vast rolling dunes of the Sahara and take in the breath-taking scenery. Arriving at our simple Berber camp, we enjoy dinner and a night under the Saharan stars. Wrap up warm and remember your winter weight sleeping bag. If you would prefer the comfort of a hotel with en-suite facilities this evening, opt for our Sahara Hotel Upgrade.
Day 5: Route of 1000 Kasbahs
Erg Chebbi – Ouarzazate. After a stunning sunrise and a camel ride back to the frontier post (camel HQ), there is time to freshen up before driving to the verdant Draa valley.
Besides the natural, historical and architectural wonders that the Draa Valley offers, there are also small villages along the valley where time seems to have stood still. Along the Route of a 1000 Kasbahs, we continue on to Ouarzazate, (pronounced as wazza-zat).
Sitting at an altitude of 1160 meters in the middle of a barren plateau, Ouarzazate lies at the crossroads of all routes going north, south, east, and west. Its geographical position has made it a key trading post in both ancient and modern times. Capital of a large province, the town’s northern limits run along the southern aspect of the High Atlas and its southern boundary disappears back into the vast Sahara Desert. Today, the area is still essentially populated by Berber people, who were constructors of the numerous fortified kasbahs and dwellings for which the region is famous. After hotel check-in, consider a late afternoon swim.
Day 6: Ait Benhaddou
Ouarzazate – Ait Benhaddou – Marrakech. This morning there is the option to visit the film studio that produced Lawrence of Arabia or go quad biking (both payable locally). Then we head to Ait Benhaddou, a medieval fortified city, situated along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. It is situated on a hill along the Ouarzazate River and boasts some beautiful examples of kasbahs, some of which remain inhabited.
Granted UNESCO World Heritage listing, the site is incredibly well preserved. Late this afternoon we return to Marrakech.
Day 7: Djemaa el Fna
This morning enjoy a guided tour of Marrakech. Set within the rose-colored walls of the medina lies a reality that is not that far removed from an exotic film set – a tangle of winding streets that open onto verdant gardens and narrow alleyways that lead to bustling souks. The focal point is the central square, the Djemaa el Fna, an extraordinary
gathering and market place. Full of color, spicy aromas, and traders it is best seen in the evening when overflowing with food stalls, snake charmers, fortune tellers, musicians, and henna artists. Towering over all this is the Koutoubia mosque, the tallest building in the city, and a reminder of the importance of Islam to the lives of the city’s residents. This afternoon is free for you to spend at leisure, perhaps picking up some souvenirs from the souks! Make sure you test out your bartering skills.
Day 8: Beachside Essaouira
Marrakech – Essaouira. This morning we travel to Essaouira. With a laid back vibe, Essaouira is Morocco’s hippest coastal town. The windswept fishing port, broad beaches and ancient walled medina with ramparts built into the cliff have long been a favorite refuge for artists, sculptors, food lovers, surfers, and backpackers. The medina surrounded by a fortress with 5 main gates you can navigate by, has retained its traditional styles and is laden with quirky shops, coffee houses, antiques, art studios, calligraphers, t-shirt designers, and souvenir curios. There’s a relaxed feel to the place and shopping here is a real delight. Locals and visitors alike enjoy strolling along the ramparts as the sunsets.
The port is a hive of activity with fishing boats hauling in their daily catch. Opt for a swim in the Atlantic, though the water is a little cold this time of year, a game of football on the beach with the locals or an afternoon at the hammam. There’s also the opportunity to test your skills at surfing, windsurfing or kite surfing. The beach is also great for a stroll and since it runs for about 6 miles (10km) there’s plenty of it. By nightfall sit back and relax at any one of the many alfresco cafes, pubs or bars serving cold beer and the freshest seafood. Free time to explore, try a hammam and practice your bargaining skills in the souks.
Day 9: New Year’s Eve by the beach
Enjoy a free day relaxing on the beach, shopping in the quaint souks or choose from a number of exciting optional activities or excursions available about town. This evening – New Year’s Eve we’ll all head out together for dinner and a few drinks.
Day 10: Happy New Year
Essaouira – Marrakech. Happy New Year! This morning is spent at leisure, sleep in or head to the beach for your first swim of the year. This afternoon we return to Marrakech.
Day 11: Marrakech
02 January 2020. Spend the morning relaxing or picking up a few last-minute souvenirs. Our tour concludes upon hotel check out at 12 noon.
9 nights 3 – 4-star accommodation and 1-night camping – Berber desert camp in the
Sahara Desert (Hotel Upgrade available)
Guided sightseeing of Merzouga, Dades Gorge, Todra Gorge, Ait Benhaddou and
Escorted by a licensed English speaking Moroccan tour guide
Specialist local guides at some sites
10 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 5 dinners including a traditional Berber meal at our Sahara
Other not included
International flights and visa
Gratuity for your tour guide & driver. Budget approx USD$2 – 3 per person per day.
Tipping your tour guide and driver is an entirely personal gesture.
Note: On some road journeys, the tour leader may not be in your particular vehicle
Arrival transfer from Marrakech airport on day 1
All transportation and transfers in private air-conditioned tourism vehicles
Camel trek into the Sahara Desert
Essaouira – beachside bliss and free time
All road taxes and tolls
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