SOLD OUT Highlights include the "souks" (historical covered market) of Marrakesh, exotic Fez and the Atlas mountains

MOROCCO: (14 Days) March 17-30 2019 (SOLD OUT)


LAND TOUR: Cost $4,395 Canadian (per person)
Begins March 17 in Marrakesh and finishes on March 30 in Casablanca.

AIRFARE: Our flights specialist estimates the cost of the airfare to be approximately $1,700 Canadian departing Vancouver to Marrakesh & returning from Casablanca.
PLEASE NOTE THIS IS AN ESTIMATE FROM VANCOUVER AND IS ONLY VALID AT THE TIME OF POSTING



In many ways, visiting Morocco is like stepping back into the Middle Ages to a mysterious past where any corner, any street, is a hidden treasure where adventure begins. We visit all 4 of Morocco’s Imperial Cities – Marrakesh, Fes, Meknes and Rabat – the places from where the Moroccan Empire has been ruled for over 1,000 years.

Visitors to these imperial cities are astounded by medieval walls and plazas filled with endless winding streets. Wandering the sprawling maze of souks where craftsmen sell their goods. You'll feel as if you've been transported back in time.

Special Note: This tour is not suitable if you need walking assistance in the form of walking sticks or canes. You must be in reasonably good shape to enjoy this tour, there is a lot of walking and exploring through the back streets of old historic towns where our bus cannot travel. We will spend a spend a lot of our time exploring by walking over cobbled streets and uneven surfaces. To really maximize our time in this remarkable country, our only "2-night stays" are in Marrakesh and Fes, at the other locations we sill stay one night only. Morocco is a vast country, please note that some days we will travel in our bus up to 6 hours, sometimes on fairly rough roads. But is will be an adventure!!

Limited to 16 travellers + Norman & Julie Bruce SOLD OUT
(updated Oct 3 2018)


DETAILED ITINERARY:

Sun March 17th Arrive Marrakesh Arrive this evening in Marrakesh. We can organize your transfer to our hotel (extra cost.)
First of 2 nights in Marrakesh. Kech Boutique Hotel & Spa or similar. No meals.


Mon March 18th Marrakesh City Tour
Marrakech, the second oldest of the 4 Imperial Cities of Morocco, is known as “the Pearl of the South” and “the red city of Morocco.” The city was founded by the Almoravid Dynasty at the end of the 11th Century. Our morning begins among the narrow, winding alleys and dozens of tiny shops of the 9th-Century medina (old quarter) where we discover the medieval way of life of its inhabitants and their daily occupations. We observe blacksmiths, leather makers and weavers at work and see old fountains and historic caravanserai (called “Foundouks” in Morocco) once provided as hotels for the caravan traders coming from the mountains and the desert. We can only view the magnificent 11th Century Koutoubia Mosque and its imposing minaret from the outside but it is still an impressive sight because this is among the largest and most beautiful mosques in the western Muslim world and is the landmark of Marrakesh from where daily calls to prayer echo across the city. As with most religious buildings in Morocco, the inside is only accessible to Muslims. We continue to the ruins and gardens of Sultan Ahmed El Mansour’s 16th Century Grand Badi Palace, which was once considered the 8th wonder of the world, and the Ben Youssef Koranic school. We stroll through the courtyards and corridors of the opulent Bahia Palace. Built in the late 19th century, the name literally means "brilliance" and was intended to be the greatest palace of its time, designed to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan styles. The intricately-decorated 15th Century Saadian royal tombs date back to the time of Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, a man of enormous wealth who spared no expense in preparing his family’s final resting place. The tombs were only rediscovered in 1917, in the mausoleum are buried about 60 members of the Saadian Dynasty that originated from the valley of the Draa River on the far side of the Atlas Mountains. We visit the Majorelle Garden where manicured gardens meet vibrant art and architecture designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle. This is a place where the iconic designer Yves Saint Laurent liked to rest and also often found inspiration for his fashion collections, away from the paparazzi. The royal blue he used in his brand will impress you in the garden. We discover exotic plants and walk past refreshing pools filled with water lilies and lotus flowers. We continue to the 12th-Century Menara Gardens and admire the pyramid-shaped pavilion against the Atlas Mountains. We finish our day at the world-famous Jemaa el Fna square where working craftsmen, acrobats, musicians and fortune-tellers ply their trades as they have for centuries. There’s nowhere on Earth like the UNESCO World Heritage Site Djemaa el Fna, the square at the very heart of old Marrakesh.
Second of 2 nights in Marrakesh. Kech Boutique Hotel & Spa or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.


Tues March 19th Marrakesh – Essaouira + city tour
Driving to the Atlantic coast this morning, we will see many Argan trees, important to the region both economically and ecologically. We should also see local goats climbing the trees to get the fruit they can’t find on the ground. At the Women's Co-operative of Argan Oil we learn about the wide-ranging applications of the oil – from cooking to cosmetics to medicines. We continue our journey to Essaouira, the idyllic fishermen’s town which was once the Portuguese stronghold of Mogador. This afternoon we will see the ancient city walls that still stand after hundreds of years, the Skala Fortress, the port, the beach and beautiful Moulay el Hassan Square. Walking through the alleys of the old medina (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), we can admire hundreds of handicrafts, including Thuya wood being carved by artisans. Because of its small size and its characteristic blue doors and white-washed walls, Essaouira is known as Morocco’s "Jewel of the Atlantic.” It is also called the "city of the wind" and attracts surfers from all over the world.
Overnight in Essaouira. MGallery Le Medina Thalassa Sea Hotel & Spa or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.


Wed March 20th Essaouira – Taroudant + city tour. Part of our journey south this morning is along the Atlantic coast and offers beautiful scenery with fishermen’s villages dotted along the shore. We skirt round the coastal city of Agadir, a holiday resort with one of the longest beaches in the country, as we continue inland to Taroudant which is nicknamed “the little Marrakesh” and is one of the oldest cities in Morocco. Situated in the Sous Valley between the High-Atlas and Anti-Atlas mountains, Taroudant was conquered by the Almohads, the Marinids, the Saadians, the Portuguese and the French because of its historic trade in indigo, sugar and cotton. The rampart walls that surround the town are more than 6 kilometres long with 9 gates. The oldest gate, the Bab El Kasbah, offers a beautiful view over the Pasha’s Kasbah (fortress) and Taroudant’s many gardens. This afternoon we walk through the alleys of the medina (the old town within the old City Walls.) Unlike other Moroccan cities, Taroudant has both a Berber souk (market) and an Arab one. The Berbers are the native people of Morocco who were conquered by the Arabs in the 7th Century. At the Arab Souk and Antiques Market we find superb jewellery and silver objects of great intricacy. At the Berber Souk on An-Nasr Square we find all kinds of local artisan’s products.
Overnight in Taroudant. Riad Palais Oumensour or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.


Thurs March 21st Taroudant –Taliouine – Ait Benhaddou – Ouarzazate
On this morning’s drive we enjoy diverse landscapes as we pass large fields of Argan and orange trees, the High-Atlas Mountains and the beautiful, fertile valley around the town of Taliouine in the the Anti-Atlas Mountains. This pretty little Berber town is Morocco’s saffron capital and is located 1,586 metres above sea level. We also see Taznakht, an authentic village where members of the Amazigh community moved from the High-Atlas Mountains where they lived as nomads to settle here as farmers. We continue our journey through the Anti-Atlas Mountains to reach the UNESCO world heritage site of Ait Benhdaou, the most spectacular fortress in the south of Morocco. Built by the last Berber chieftain, El Glaoui Ethami, in the late 19th Century, the kasbah is still home to members of the Glaoui family – as well as having been a backdrop in many movies such as Gladiator. Further on we visit the city of Ouarzazate, known as the “Hollywood of Africa”, where many famous movies have been shot such as Lawrence of Arabia, Alexander the Great, The Mummy, Jewel of the Nile and Kingdom of Heaven.
Overnight in Ouarzazate. Hotel Temple Des Arts or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.


Fri March 22nd Ouarzazate – Skoura – Dades Valley
Our first stop this morning is at the lake and palm groves of Skoura where we walk in Birds Valley and visit the beautiful, well-preserved kasbah of Ameridil. We continue along the “Road of a Thousands Kasbahs” to the village of Kalaa M'gouna (1,450 metres), located at the junction of the M’Goun and Dades valleys. This whole area is known as the “Valley of Roses” and is famous for its rose products. We contine via the villages of Ait Saîd, Tourbist and Tamalout to reach Bou-Thahrar. As we enter the Dades Gorge our bus negotiates the famous switchbacks, rising higher and higher as we drive high above the canyon enjoying views of the greenery surrounding the river and the arid mountain ridges around it. Here we see the amazing rock formation called the “Monkey Toes” and the kasbah of Glaoui Ait yul.
Overnight in the town of Boumalne Dades. Hotel Xaluca Dades or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.


Sat March 23rd Dades Valley – Todra Gorges – Merzouga
This morning we visit the town of Tinghir with its palm grove which stretches for 15 Km. Here we see the traditional adobe architecture of the former Jewish Quarter. At the Todra Gorge, the narrowest and the highest canyon in the region, we should see rock climbers from all over the world tackling the 200-metre-high red cliffs. As we continue our journey, following the ancient Bedouin trading routes parallel to the Middle-Atlas Mountains, we pass the fortified village of Tinjedad, the beautiful oasis of Goulmima and the palm groves of Jorf. Erfoud sits at the very edge of the mighty Sahara Desert and was built by the French as a central administrative town to control this “frontier” area. It is known for its black marble which is sculpted to bring out the fossils within it. From Erfoud we drive another hour through the open black desert to the village of Merzouga with the imposing red dunes visible on the horizon. Here we board our 4x4 vehicles to our luxury desert camp among the huge Sahara sand dunes. We contemplate the spectacular sunset and, after dinner under the stars, gather round the fire and enjoy the desert night.
Overnight in the desert beyond Merzouga. Bivouacs La Belle Etoile or similar with private bathrooms, flush-toilets and showers. Breakfast & Dinner.


Sun March 24th: Merzouga – Gnaoua Village – Rissani Market – Ziz Valley – Midelt |
Early risers can enjoy the tranquility of the desert and the magical moment of sunrise on the highest sand dunes that surround our camp. After breakfast at our desert camp we take our 4x4s back to Merzouga to rejoin our bus. En-route you can’t fail to appreciate the unique beauty of the spectacular Erg Chebbi dunes - changing with the light as the day progresses. We see the fossil fields and visit the souk of Rissani. This is where the Alaouit Dynasty, the current ruling family of Morocco, originated. Rissani is a conservative town, where men wear hoods and women veils. Beyond Erfoud, our journey continues along the magnificent Ziz Valley dotted with palm trees, passing through the famous Pass of the Tizi Ntelghemt at an elevation of 1,709 metres. Our destination today, Midelt, is known as the “Apple Town.”
Overnight in Midelt. Hotel Taddart or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.


Mon March 25th Midelt – Azrou – Ifran – Fes
This morning we wind our way into the Middle-Atlas Mountains, stopping in the middle of a cedar forest in Azrou National Park to see the Barbary Apes who exist only here and on the Rock of Gibraltar. The town of Azrou is an important handicraft centre. We continue to beautiful Ifrane, “the French Village”, also known as “the Switzerland of Morocco”. This is a charming ski resort with distinctive European architecture not seen anywhere else in Morocco – and a famous stone lion! You might need a light jacket here, since Ifrane is higher and chillier than most towns in Morocco.
Later this afternoon we continue our drive to Fes – the oldest of Morocco’s 4 imperial cities, having been founded in the year 790 by Moulay Idriss II. Fes was also the capital of modern Morocco until 1925. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the world's oldest continuously functioning educational institution. Morocco’s second-largest city is the most religious, intellectual and artistic city in the country and the cradle of its 1,000-year-old monarchy. For a long time, Fes was the capital of the Cherifian Empire and has preserved both its role as a historic place of learning and as an intact Islamic city. Many experts consider Fes to have the best-preserved old city in the whole Arab world! Fes has been called the “Mecca of the West” and the “Athens of Africa.”
First of 2 nights in Fes. Barcelo Fes Medina Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.


Tues March 26th Fes city tour
Fes is divided into three zones: the walled old city (Fes el-Bali), the “new” city (Fes el Idid) and the French District (Ville Nouvelle). Most of our day will be spent visiting the medina (in the old city) and its alleys - including the famous tanneries where leather is still processed the same way as it was hundreds of years ago, the old foundouks (traditional inns for traders) and the Jewish quarter (El Mellah) with the Ibn Danan Synagogue, which dates to the 17th Century. We enter through the ornate blue Bab Boujloud gate that takes us to the two main streets: Talâa Kebira "the great rise" which is the largest and Talâa Sghira "the small rise". Both lead to the heart of the medina. We see the Attarine and Bouanania medrasas (Islamic religious universities), the Nejjarine Fountain and the Moulay Idriss Mausoleum. We see from the outside the Karaouine Mosque, which was founded in 857 and is considered by many as the holiest mosque in Morocco – governing the timing of all Islamic festivals across the country. We also see the Royal Palace (the largest in Morocco.) We visit the Nejjarine Museum of Wood Arts and Crafts and discover traditional tools, carpets, furniture and musical instruments in a beautifully-restored caravanserai where merchants would spend the night with their camels and goods while on a journey. This afternoon after a lunch hosted by Royal Heights we continue to explore the medina and Its narrow alleys with hundreds of merchants and craftsmen selling a range of products such as dates, fish, spices, copper urns, musical instruments and elaborately painted and sculpted woodwork. We also visit the hill-top tombs of the Merinids – the dynasty that ruled North Africa between the 13th and 15th centuries when Fes replaced Marrakesh as the capital of the Moroccan kingdom. From here we enjoy a wonderful panoramic view over the sea of white houses of the old city and the Sebou Valley. Later we take a short drive in the new city. This evening is free for you to explore the markets and restaurants of Fes. You can choose your own restaurant for dinner (at your own expense.)
Second of 2 nights on Fes. Barcelo Fes Medina Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Lunch.


Wed March 27th Fes – Meknes – Volubilis – Chefchaouen This morning we drive through the verdant Middle-Atlas Mountains to Morocco’s third imperial city and one-time home of the Moroccan sultanate, Meknes – known as the “Moroccan Versailles.” Meknes was founded in the 17th Century by Sultan Moulay Ismail and is famous for its 40-kilometre-long city walls. We see remnants of no less than 3 sets of fortifications. The entrance to the Old City is through the monumental Bab El Mansour, the most beautiful gate in Morocco. We will visit the king's tomb, the Moulay Ismail Mausoleum, sitting at the heart of the original imperial city. This is one of the few holy sites in Morocco which can be visited by non-Muslims. It is flanked by the Royal Stables, the intricately-carved royal granary and the House of Water (Dar El Ma), built in the 17th and 18th Centuries to house, feed and water the sultan’s twelve thousand horses! We also visit the Agdal Basin, once used to water the royal gardens and amuse the king’s favorite concubines.
From Meknes we drive about 40 minutes and travel back over 2,000 years to the Roman site of Volubilis. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest of its kind in North Africa and gives us a picture of life during the Roman Empire. It lies in a strategic position and is famous for its mosaics dating to 25 BC. Volubilis flourished as a Roman trading city in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries. Excavations began in 1887 and continue to this day.
From Volubilis we drive north through the lovely landscapes of the fertile coastal plains of the Rif Mountains to the charming blue- and white-washed city of Chefchaouen.
Overnight in Chefchaouen. Riad Dar Echchaouen or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.


Thurs March 28th Chefchaouen (city tour) + drive to Rabat.
The little mountain village of Chefchaouen is regarded as one of the most beautiful and tranquil places in Morocco. This is a unique town in Morooco, with its white-washed walls and blue doors and windows. Unlike most parts of Morocco, Chefchaouen was occupied by Spain and so the town retains a unique medieval Moorish character. When the town was founded in the 15th Century, it was mainly inhabited by Jews and Muslims of Spanish descent. It was isolated from the rest of the world until the 20th Century. This morning we wander the narrow alleys of the friendly medina with our guide and visit the walled fortress of the Kasbah with its beautiful gardens and learn about the rich culture of the Rif Mountains villages. From the rooftop of the Kasbah we see a spectacular panorama of the blue and white houses, tiled roofs and tiny balconies. The town offers many native handicrafts that are not available elsewhere in Morocco, such as wool garments and woven blankets. The goat cheese native to the area is also popular.
This afternoon we drive to Rabat through the farm lands, enjoying the lush green landscapes. Rabat, the present-day capital and administrative centre of the Kingdom of Morocco, is located at the mouth of the River Bouregreg where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean and is home to the Royal Palace of his majesty King Mohamed VI. The fourth imperial city boasts an important archaeological heritage dating back to the 12th Century when it was built by orthodox Muslim Arabs from Spain.
Overnight in Rabat. Riad Kalaa or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.


Fri March 29th Rabat (city tour) + drive to Casablanca.
We start our guided city tour this morning at the Hassan Tower, a red sandstone minaret dating from the 12th Century, from where we enjoy a fantastic view over the old town of Rabat and Sale, the neighbouring city on the other side of the river with its colorful fishing boats. The tower was intended to be the largest in the world but construction stopped after the death of Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour, leaving the mosque incomplete. On the opposite side of this important historical complex is the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, which contains the tombs of the last and much-loved Moroccan king and his two sons. This building is considered a masterpiece of modern Alaouite dynasty architecture, with its white silhouette topped by a typical green-tiled roof. We also see the ramparts of the Mechouar, the heavily-guarded Royal Palace surrounded by gardens.
From the capital we drive about an hour down the coast to Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco and its economic centre. While Marrakesh is called the “red city”, Casablanca is known as the “white city” , its name given due to the white houses facing the ocean in what is today the Anfa neighborhood by the Spanish and Portuguese sailors who stopped there before the city was even built. Today Casablanca is a modern ocean-front city and port of nearly 3.5 million people with wide boulevards. Our afternoon tour starts with a guided interior and exterior tour of the majestic Hassan II Mosque, commonly thought to be the world's third-largest mosque after those in Mecca and Medina. This flamboyant building can accommodate 25,000 worshippers and was built at enormous expense to commemorate the former king's 60th birthday. Dramatically set on an outcrop jutting into the ocean with a 210-metre-tall minaret that serves as the city's major landmark, it is a showcase of the very best Moroccan craftsmanship: hand-carved stone and wood, intricate marble flooring and inlay, gilded cedar ceilings and exquisite zellij (colourful ceramic tiling) abound. The mosque complex was designed by French architect Michel Pinseau, took six years to build and was completed in 1993. It has a centrally-heated floor, a retractable roof and you can see the Atlantic waves breaking over the rocks underneath the glass floor in the basement! The size and elaborate decoration of the prayer hall is simply spectacular. A team of over 6,000 master craftspeople was assembled to work on the mosque, delicately carving intricate patterns and designs in cedar from the Middle-Atlas Mountains and pink granite from Agadir. The gates are made from brass and titanium and the washing fountains in the basement, which are shaped like huge lotus flowers, are carved from local marble. On our driving tour we see United Nations Place and Mohammed V Square before continuing to the Habbous quarter with its small squares and narrow, arcaded streets to admire the Royal Palace from the outside. Next we see the Mehkama (Tribunal) and the striking Notre Dame de Lourdes Cathedral, with its spectacular stained-glass windows. We drive along the Boulevard de la Corniche, built by the French in the 1920’s, and admire the elegant buildings of the Anfa and Maarif neighborhoods, grand avenues, beaches and architecture that blends modern and Moorish styles. Built on a hill overlooking the city, the Anfa residential area showcases 70 years of “chic” architecture with its wide avenues and beautiful flower gardens. We will also see the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, with its mix of Gothic and art deco styles, set in the middle of the Park of the Arab League and the 20-metre-high Clock Tower, built in the early 20th Century. This evening you might like to visit Rick's Cafe, a piano-bar that replicates the set from the movie “Casablanca.”
Overnight in Casablanca. Hotel Club Val D'anfa or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.


Sat March 30th Fly home from Casablanca, arriving the same day. Breakfast if not leaving too early. We can organise your transfer to the airport (extra cost.)


TOUR INCLUDES:
- Accommodation mainly in 4-Star hotels. In some of the more remote places where we overnight in the South, we stay in “riads.” These are small, family-run hotels without elevators or air-conditioning. We stay here because of their local character and because they are usually of a HIGHER standard than the regular hotels in those areas. In the Sahara Desert we stay at a Deluxe camp with flushing toilets and running water. All our hotels have en-suite bathrooms and heating.
- Land transport by our own coach.
- Sightseeing and entrance fees as mentioned in the itinerary.
- Tipping for Driver & Guides
- Breakfast & dinner daily EXCEPT on March 26th in Fes, when we include lunch instead of dinner.
- Guiding by Royal Heights tour leaders Julie and Norman Bruce with assistance of our expert Moroccan guides


NOT INCLUDED:
- Visa fees. Canadian passport holders do NOT currently require a visa for Morocco. Your passport must be valid for 6 months beyond the date you leave Morocco (i.e. until at least September 30 2019.)
- Lunches - EXCEPT on March 26th in Fes, when we include lunch instead of dinner.
- We do NOT include porterage. Porters MAY be available to help you with your suitcase and you should be prepared to tip them if you use their services. Please only bring one piece of luggage per person and make sure your luggage has wheels so you can move your own luggage when necessary.
-Trip Cancellation / Interruption and Medical Insurance. We offer insurance coverage with Manulife Insurance. Please contact us for a quote.- Single Supplement charge, if requested ($925 Canadian)
-Personal Expenses such as souvenirs, laundry, drinks not included at meals
.-arrival & departure transfers. We can arrange individual or group transfers when you have confirmed the arrival & departure times of your flights. Please contact us for a quote.


FLIGHTS:
Our flight specialist suggests flights from Vancouver with KLM via Amsterdam into Marrakesh and returning from Casablanca via Paris. You do NOT have to come to Vancouver to join this tour. You are welcome to book your own flights or we can put you in touch with our flights specialist. Please let us know.

SINGLE TRAVELERS:
Our published price is based on 2 people sharing a room. If you wish to be guaranteed a single room, there is a Single Supplement charge of $925. Those people traveling alone but wishing to share will be informed 3 months prior to departure if a roommate is not currently available. At that point you will be invoiced for the Single Supplement. If a roommate subsequently joins the tour, your single supplement will be refunded with the final documentation.

PAYMENT :
Land portion of the tour must be booked directly with Royal Heights Tours. You can secure your place on the tour with a $400 per person non-refundable deposit. We take payment by cheque, Visa or Mastercard for the $400 /person deposit. Your invoice for your Land tour will be e-mailed to you in mid-December 2018. Payment will be due by January 17th 2019. Price quoted is for FINAL PAYMENT by cheque. Should you wish to pay the outstanding amount for the LAND tour by credit card there will be an administration fee of 3% on the outstanding amount.

SPECIAL NOTES:
-Our office staff are not medically qualified to advise you on which immunizations you require. Please consult your local travel health clinic.
-This tour not suitable for those people who need walking/mobility assistance in the form of walking sticks or canes, as we walk on a lot of uneven surfaces.

BC Travel Registration # 3379

Terms, conditions and restrictions apply; pricing, availability, and other details subject to change and/ or apply to US or Canadian residents. Please confirm details and booking information with your travel advisor.