Morocco’s Mountains, Medinas, and Desert Oases - Atlas Obscura
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Morocco

Morocco’s Mountains, Medinas, and Desert Oases

On this 11-day journey, travel from coastal Casablanca to the edge of the Sahara. Take in Morocco’s expansive landscapes, wildly colorful cities, and layers of ancient history, while staying in centuries-old riads and palm-ringed desert oases along the way. 

We’ll spend ample time exploring two of Morocco’s most vibrant cities, Fez and Marrakesh. As we learn about the distinctive histories of each, we’ll walk the narrow streets of their ancient medinas, and duck into intimate shops and food stalls in the markets’ hidden corners. We’ll also venture far beyond the cities and deep into Morocco’s past, visiting the Roman ruins of Volubilis, walking among the pilgrims in the 1,200-year-old town of Moulay Idriss, and wandering Meknes, an imperial stronghold founded by Morocco’s "warrior king," Sultan Mulay Ismail, in the 17th century. 

We’ll also venture deep into the Atlas Mountains. In the Middle Atlas, we’ll walk amid cedar groves, keep an eye out for Barbary macaques, and enjoy a traditional tagine lunch in the shadow of Ouzoud Falls. We’ll also venture across the High Atlas on our way from Marrakesh to Skoura, an old Tuareg trading outpost at the edge of the Sahara. The landscape will undergo a dramatic change as we travel high into the mountains, then down to our Berber castle–style accommodations in the oasis village of Ksar El Kabbaba. 

The trip is limited to a small group of 16 explorers. 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ancient markets: Wander the maze-like streets of some of the oldest medinas in the world. 
  • Expansive landscapes: From the dramatic coastline to the edge of the Sahara and into the High Atlas Mountains, see Morocco’s vast and varied landscapes. 
  • Riads and oases: Stay in intimate, beautifully decorated riads in Marrakesh and Fez, and kick back at a Berber castle–style guesthouse surrounded by gardens and palm groves in Ksar El Kabbaba. 

TRIP COST

A $500 deposit is required to secure your spot. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. We have limited capacity and expect the trip to fill quickly. The trip will cost $3,190—the $500 deposit plus the $2,690 final payment—and will cover all fixed costs including all accommodations, meals, and activities listed in the itinerary below. 

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE TRIP?

If you have any questions that aren't answered in the itinerary, or would like to chat with someone about whether you think this adventure is the right fit for you, please don't hesitate to contact us! Email us at atlasobscura@worldexpeditions.com or give us a call at 1-855-596-6237 anytime between 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. ET.

Itinerary
Courtesy World Expeditions
Day 1
Arrival in Casablanca
  • Arrive in Casablanca, where you'll be met at the airport and transferred to the group's hotel. 
  • Late this afternoon, we'll gather for a brief welcome orientation and pre-dinner cocktails, followed by a festive first meal to kick off the trip. 
Courtesy of World Expeditions
Day 2
From Casablanca to Fez
  • We'll begin the day with a visit to Hassan II Mosque. A stunning architectural marvel built on the edge of the Atlantic, the mosque features the world’s most massive minaret.
  • From Casablanca, we'll drive approximately three hours to Fez. Founded in the eighth century, this is the oldest city in Morocco. The original medina, Fes el Bali, is made up of thousands of narrow alleyways. It's believed to be the largest car-free urban area in the world. 
  • To get some perspective, we'll head to the Merenid Tombs, the ruins of an ancient necropolis overlooking the city. 
  • After enjoying some time to relax in our rooms at Riad Salam, we'll head back out to dinner together. 
Day 3
Wandering the Medina
  • After breakfast at our riad, we'll begin to explore one of the most magical medinas on earth, wandering through a maze of narrow alleyways with our local guide.
  • In addition to strolling the souks and seeing traditional tanneries (many of them in operation since the 11th century), we'll stop at University of Al-Karaouine. This is the oldest university in the world. It also has the world’s oldest working library, and is home to Africa's largest mosque, with enough room for some 22,000 worshippers. 
  • Our time in the medina will also give us an opportunity to purchase unique Moroccan handicrafts and sample some local cuisine.
  • After lunch at a restaurant in the medina, you can continue exploring on your own, or return to the riad for an afternoon at leisure. 
  • In the evening, we’ll visit a local art gallery, where we'll meet an artist who can provide some context on the pieces we'll see, and talk with us about the creative life of the city. 
Courtesy World Expeditions
Day 4
Ancient Cities & Roman Ruins
  • About an hour from Fez, we'll make our way to the old imperial city of Meknes. Accompanied by a local expert, we'll visit the mausoleum of Sultan Moulay Ismail. This tranquil, elaborately detailed structure is the final resting place of Morocco's "warrior king," who ruled from 1672 to 1727. We'll then continue to the striking Dar El Makhzen palace, and the royal stables that once housed 12,000 horses.
  • From Meknes we will travel approximately 40 minutes to Moulay Idriss, a town of narrow, winding walkways that was founded in 789. For centuries, pilgrims have gone there to pay their respects at the tomb of the city's founder, Moulay Idriss el Akhbar, a descendant of the prophet Mohammed. 
  • We'll then make the short drive to Volubilis, an ancient Roman town that has been occupied since the third century B.C. Accompanied by an expert in the site's history, we'll wander the abandoned ruins, still dotted with colorful mosaics, and get glimpses into neighborhood life as it existed centuries ago. 
  • Later this afternoon, we'll visit a nearby vineyard to do some wine-tasting. 
  • Dinner is back in Meknes, where we will spend the night. 
Day 5
The Middle Atlas Mountains
  • This day’s drive from Meknes to the Middle Atlas mountain range is a long oneapproximately four hoursbut it's spectacular. The northern slopes of these mountains are beautifully mottled with forests, fields, and lakes.
  • To stretch our legs, we'll stop along the way in Azrou, for a short walk among the cedars. With luck, we might see some of the Barbary macaques that live in the forest.
  • Passing Berber villages along the way, we'll continue through the mountains to Beni Mellal, where we will spend the night. 
Day 6
Ouzoud & Onward to Marrakesh
  • Continuing south through the Middle Atlas, we'll make our way to Ouzoud Falls. At 360 feet, the falls are the highest in the country. 
  • After a short walk to take in views of the falls, we'll enjoy a traditional tagine lunch, using ingredients we'll find at the local market, before continuing on to Marrakech. 
  • The remainder of the evening is free for relaxing at our tranquil 18th-century riad. 
Day 7
Palaces, Gardens & Souks in Marrakesh
  • Today we will get to explore the thrumming, ancient, wildly colorful city of Marrakesh, beginning at the Majorelle Garden. Designed by the French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1930s, the 12-acre botanical garden took nearly 40 years to complete. 
  • We'll also visit the 16th-century Saadian Tombs, Bahia Palace (one of the masterpieces of Moroccan architecture), and the souks of the old medina before reaching the city's stunning central square: Jemma el Fna. Frequented by snake charmers, magicians, vendors, artisans, locals, and travelers alike, it's the stage for a public spectacle that has been playing out daily for centuries. 
  • The remainder of the afternoon and evening will be free for relaxing at the riad or exploring on your own. 
Courtesy World Expeditions
Day 8
Crossing the High Atlas Mountains
  • From Marrakesh, we will drive southeast into the High Atlas mountains. As we travel across Tizi n'Tichka—a pass at 7,415 feet, the highest point on our routetoward the edge of the Sahara, we'll see the environment transform. 
  • Along the way, we'll stop at Aït Benhaddou. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this majestic and mostly abandoned ancient city is a striking example of southern Moroccan architecture. The city summit offers a 360-degree panorama of the surrounding landscape.
  • Our destination and home for the next two nights will be Skoura, an oasis and ancient trading outpost at the edge of the Sahara. There, Tuareg traders who controlled trans-Saharan routes would sell their wares, which would then be taken across the mountains to Marrakesh, Fez, and beyond.
  • The evening will be free to relax in our Berber castle–style accommodations at Ksar El Kabbaba, surrounded by lush gardens and towering palms. 
Andrew Eland
Day 9
The Valley of Roses
  • We'll start the day with a short drive to Kalaat M'Gouna. About an hour from Skoura, this small city and the surrounding agricultural area are famous for roses. In spring, flowers of all hues fill the city and blanket the surrounding fields. With luck, we should be there just as the roses are blooming. 
  • Back in Skoura, we'll have a traditional couscous lunch at a small restaurant run by a women's cooperative, then continue to Kasbah Amridil. Built in the 17th century, this is the country's most iconic citadel, or kasbah, and it looks rather like a giant sandcastle nestled among the palms. 
  • The remainder of the afternoon and evening will be free to explore on your own, or relax back at the hotel. 
Benh Lieu Song
Day 10
Atlas Studios & Back to Marrakesh
  • On our way back to Marrakesh, we'll follow an old caravan route via Ouarzazate. On the outskirts of town are the Atlas Studios, where scenes from Lawrence of Arabia, Kingdom of Heaven, Babel, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, The Mummy, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones have been filmed. 
  • Leaving the arid desert behind, we'll re-cross the High Atlas and arrive in Marrakesh
    in the afternoon. 
  • After settling back in at the riad and freshening up, we'll head out to a favorite local restaurant for a festive farewell dinner. 
Day 11
Morocco Farewell
  • After a final breakfast at the hotel, you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight home. 
  • Until the next adventure! 
The Fine Print

YOUR ATLAS OBSCURA EXPEDITION TO MOROCCO INCLUDES

  • All lodging in double-accommodation rooms in well-equipped hotels and comfortable, small guesthouses throughout the trip. (Single supplement for a private room is available for $690. Otherwise we'll work to place singles together.)
  • Ten breakfasts, seven lunches, and six dinners. 
  • Transfers to and from the airport.
  • All entrance fees and activities, as per the itinerary. 
  • Private transfers and excursions with your local guides.
  • A full briefing packet for each explorer, including country information, final itinerary, logistical and contact information, recommended reading list, and packing list.
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans, excited to explore all that this unique region has to offer!

NOTE ON ITINERARY

Itineraries and pricing are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific activities and events in mind, and schedules and availabilities may change in coming months due to inclement weather, forces of nature, and other circumstances beyond our control.

NOTE ON FACILITIES & PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

Adventure is always accompanied by an element of the unexpected. The most important thing to bring with you is a flexible, positive, and open-minded attitude. We also recommend a medium level of physical fitness, since we'll be embarking on fairly active days together. You should be comfortable walking between three and five miles per day without difficulty, and spending extended periods of time on your feet. If you're uncertain about whether this trip is a good fit, please contact us and we'll be happy to discuss with you further. 

PAYMENT

A $500 deposit is required to secure your spot. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. We have limited capacity and expect the trip to fill quickly. The trip will cost $3,190—the $500 deposit plus the $2,690 final payment. The final payment will be due July 18, 2019. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. For travelers wishing to have single accommodation during the trip, an additional $690 will be included in the final payment.

TRAVELERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR

  • International airfare to/from Morocco. 
  • Travel insurance (recommended). 
  • Baggage charges.
  • Tips and gratuities.
  • Camera and video fees at sites and monuments.
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings.
  • If applicable, application for an Morocco visa (not required for U.S., Canadian, and British passport-holders). 

QUESTIONS?

Please email us at atlasobscura@worldexpeditions.com or give us a call at (855) 596-6237 anytime between 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. ET.