Marrakech Welcome to Marrakech, Morocco. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. 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. There's not much time to explore Marrakech after the meeting, but if you arrive early there's plenty to see and do. Perhaps explore the medina and the endless amounts of souqs selling pottery, woodwork, copper, leather, carpets, spices and much more. If you have time, you could also search out the spectacular mosques, tombs and ruins that are dotted around the city. Notes: 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).
Aroumd Today, take a short drive up the towering High Atlas Mountains to the village of Imlil (approximately two hours). On arrival here, store your main luggage and load daypacks onto pack mules before taking the one hour walk up to the peaceful village of Aroumd. If you feel like the walk is too strenuous then there's the option of riding the mule. You'll spend the night in a family run mountain home (gite), which is perched on a rocky outcrop with great views of Mount Toubkal. The accommodation is on a multi-share basis and the bathroom facilities are also shared. Use the rest of the day exploring the village and the surrounding farmlands. If the group are up for it, there will be an optional hike of around eight kilometres to the pilgrimage shrine of Sidi Chamharouch (approximately four hours return trip). Regardless of fitness levels, the gentle pace of Aroumd makes it a special place to explore beyond the reach of the modern world.
Ait Benhaddou This morning journey along mountain roads and over Morocco's highest pass, Tizi n'Tichka (2,260 m), to Ait Benhaddou on the edges of the Sahara (approximately six hours). This was an important stop for caravans passing through as they carried salt across the Sahara, returning with gold, ivory and slaves. Today its grand kasbah has been listed as a World Heritage site, with its fortified village being a fine example of clay architecture. Why not join a simple cooking demonstration of Morocco's most famous cuisine: couscous and tagine. The locals will explain the secrets and subtleties of these traditional meals, as the ladies of the kitchen prepare a feast.
Zagora This morning you'll journey south towards the Sahara, stopping in the regularly used film location of Ouarzazate along the way (approximately five hours in total). While here, make a short visit to Horizon Association for People with Disabilities. This is an organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation, health and empowerment of people with disabilities. They also operate an artisan workshop, which trains local people in trades such as pottery, weaving, metal work and jewellery making. Continue to travel through the Draa Valley to Zagora, and take a stroll through the palm groves, explore the ksars and wander around the surrounding countryside.
Sahara Camp Continue along the rugged and desolate Jbel Tadrart ranges and through seas of sand to the township of Tamegroute. Visit an intriguing library filled with ancient scripts of science, literature, the Koran and stories of the prophet Mohammed. Join a local guide to uncover the underground Kasbah and its unique ceramic pottery industry. Leave Tamegroute behind and carry on driving to the end of the road at the frontier town of M'Hamid (approximately one hour). From here take a short camel ride through the dunes, where you’ll jump into 4WD vehicles. The rough track runs parallel to the Algerian border, across stony Hamada desert whose only populace is small scatterings of nomadic people and their camels. The group will reach the massive Erg Chigaga dunes in the late afternoon. Your camp for the night is fairly basic with bedding, mattresses and toilet facilities provided. During the winter months of November to March it can get very cold at night, so it’s a good idea to bring base layers and a warm sleeping bag. Notes: 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 you’ll stay at a fixed camp in Ouled Idriss. This camp is better suited for high summer temperatures.
Taroudannt Today rejoin the minivan and venture towards Taroudannt, which should take around six hours in total. This drive goes through desert scenery and along a route that's a reserve for the indigenous argan trees. If you're lucky, the group might come across the famous image of goats climbing these trees in search of nuts. Please note that this is a long travel day and you won't arrive at tonight's accommodation until late afternoon/early evening. The riad (house) tonight is 45 kilometres outside of Taroudannt and offers the chance to relax by the pool or take a steamed bath.
Essaouira In the morning, explore the vibrant souqs of Taroudannt’s medina. Afterwards, leave the valleys of the High Atlas Mountains behind and head west to the coastal town of Essaouira (approximately five hours). This laidback artists' town is a former Portuguese trading colony and was once home to sizeable British and Jewish populations. Surrounded by an expanse of sandy beaches and dunes, this is an idyllic place to explore. As you’ll arrive in the early evening, there won’t be much time to look around today. In the evening perhaps have some dinner with the group, as the local seafood is as fresh as it gets.
Essaouira Today, join a local guide for a walking tour through the old medina, Jewish mellah, port and skala (sea wall). Afterwards, use your free time to get under the skin of the town. Everything in the small centre is within walking distance and the beach is clean, so there are plenty of things to see and do. Perhaps wander the harbour and head to the fish markets, browse shops and art galleries or relax on the beach. Essaouira is also a world-famous windsurfing destination, so you might like to give it a try or the increasingly popular sport of kite surfing. If you’d prefer to relax, don't miss the opportunity to go to a hammam or local-style bath.
Marrakech Use the morning to see the last of Essaouira, as you’ll catch a bus back to Marrakech in the afternoon (approximately three hours). After checking in to your hotel, head out into the centre of Marrakech with the group for one final night together.
Marrakech Your 'South Morocco Discovery' adventure ends after breakfast. Check out time is usually around 12.00 pm, but you’re free to leave any time before. Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring Marrakech (subject to availability).