Morocco’s mystique can be found
in medinas that brim with color, soaring mountains that give way to endless desert, and stunning Moorish architecture. Discover the enchanting cities of Marrakech and Fez, venture into rose-colored kasbahs, and visit little-known mountain villages. Delve into the alleyways of spice-scented souks, and listen to the strains of Berber music in the Sahara.
Alongside a National Geographic expert, explore five UNESCO World Heritage sites including the Roman ruins of Volubilis and the ancient adobe village of Aït Ben Haddou.
Set out from our tented camp at sunset to ride a camel across the magnificent sculpted dunes of the Sahara.
Veer off the beaten path in the High Atlas Mountains and travel by 4x4 to the seldom-visited Kasbah Telouet.
Itinerary - 12 Days
Day 1 — Casablanca, Morocco
Arrive in Casablanca and meet your fellow travelers for a welcome lunch at a lovely restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. This afternoon, stroll through the city’s Habous district and the mechouar, the ceremonial meeting place outside the Royal Palace. Tonight, gather for a festive welcome dinner. Sofitel Casablanca Tour Blanche (L,D)
Day 2 — Casablanca/Marrakech
Drive through the elegant Anfa neighborhood on the way to Marrakech, Morocco’s legendary “pearl of the South.” Enjoy a poolside lunch at the hotel before exploring the city of Marrakech. See the splendid Koutoubia Mosque and the Saadian Tombs, and visit Bahia Palace. Explore the labyrinthine streets of the medina, lined with market stalls and craftspeople; and soak up the colorful chaos of Djemma el Fna Square, where snake charmers and magicians captivate the passersby. Tonight, gather for a rooftop reception and dinner accompanied by traditional Gnaoua music in the heart of the old medina. Sofitel Marrakesh Lounge and Spa (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Marrakech
Continue exploring the sites of Marrakech today. Meander through the stunning Majorelle Garden, once owned by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, and see an exclusive collection of Berber objects originating from diverse regions of Morocco at the Berber Museum. Explore historic Moroccan architecture at the 14th-century Ben Youssef Madrasa. After lunch, venture back to the lively medina with our local guide or explore on your own. Sofitel Marrakesh Lounge and Spa (B,L)
Days 4 & 5 — High Atlas Mountains
On this special departure, immerse yourself in the rich culture of the High Atlas Mountains. Settle into the beautiful Kasbah du Toubkal, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World set on a hilltop beneath the highest peak in the range. Experience Berber hospitality on walks in the village and visits to family homes and markets. On a half-day excursion in the mountains, set out on a variety of hikes and walks, and return to relax in typical Moroccan style: with a mint tea on the terrace or a steam bath in the traditional hammam. Dine on delicious cuisine and warm bread baked in clay ovens on site, and soak up the timeless atmosphere of rural Morocco.
Kasbah du Toubkal (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Aït Benhaddou/Ouarzazate
Cross the Tichka Pass, stopping to board 4x4s for the trip to the Kasbah of Telouet. Once home to the powerful Glaoui clan, the kasbah’s crumbling exterior belies its rich tile and woodwork. After lunch in the village, drive through the Ounila Valley to the ancient fortified village of Aït Ben Haddou, and delve into its warren of twisting lanes. Continue to Ouarzazate, a former colonial trading post now known for its movie studios where films such as Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia were shot. Le Berbère Palace (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Ouarzazate/Boumalne Dades
Learn about traditional adobe architecture in Taourirt Kasbah this morning. Then set out on the fabled Road of 1,000 Kasbahs. Arrive in Boumalne Dades, a small town nestled amid the crags and plateaus of the semidesert landscape. After lunch, head out on a walk in the dramatic Dades Gorge, admiring the spectacular scenery and enjoying an up close look at rural life. Xaluca Dades (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Erfoud/Rissani/Merzouga
Follow the Road of 1,000 Kasbahs to Erfoud, passing spectacular rock formations, oases, and rose plantations. In Erfoud, climb into 4x4s for the drive into the desert. Visit the souk in Rissani, a historic camel caravan stop. Later, ride into the dunes on a camel to watch the sun set on the Sahara. Settle into our comfortable Berber tented camp to dine under the star-studded sky and enjoy an evening of Berber folk music. Bivouac Tented Berber Camp (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Merzouga/Fez
If you wish, wake early for a walk in the nearby dunes as the rising sun paints the dunes orange and gold. Return to the camp for a hearty breakfast, then head north into the high-mountain plains on your way to Fez. Arrive in Fez early this evening, and check in to our hotel. Hotel Sahrai (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Fez
Spend the day exploring this magnificent imperial city. Visit the Royal Palace and Fes Jdid, home to the historic Jewish quarter. Delve into the lively medina, where merchants preside over colorful mounds of spices and tanners soak skins in vats of dye. Discover the 14th-century Bou Inania Madrasa, characterized by its intricately carved stucco walls, arches, and cornices. See the
Nejjarine Fountain, covered in exquisite mosaics, and the Kairaouine Mosque. Hotel Sahrai (B,L)
Day 11 — Fez/Volubilis and Meknes
Today you may choose to explore Fez at your own pace or take an excursion to the Roman ruins of Volubilis, a World Heritage site, and Meknès, Morocco’s 17th-century capital. Toast our Moroccan adventure at a farewell dinner tonight. Hotel Sahrai (B,D)
Day 12 — Fez
This morning, transfer to the Fez airport for your return flight or transfer to Casablanca for flights departing in the afternoon. (B)
Chloé Capel is a field archaeologist who specializes in the medieval history of northern and western Africa. She earned her Ph.D. in medieval archaeology from the Sorbonne University in Paris, and has been a lecturer in Islamic Arts at Paris's Ecole du Louvre for ten years. Chloé has taken part in archaeological expeditions across the Sahara in Egypt, Mauritania, Ethiopia, and Niger. She currently works in Morocco, where she participates in several ongoing archaeological projects, including excavations in the caravan city of Sijilmassa. She also co-directs the archaeological excavations of Aghmat, which was a powerful and thriving medieval city located close to present-day Marrakech.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room in 2017, add $1,495 for the 10-day program or $2,095 for the 12-day program. For a single room in 2018, add $2,150. Airfare to Casablanca and return from Fez is not included in the expedition cost.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
Our hotels are first-class, well-located properties that reflect the character of each region. In Marrakech, Ouarzazate, and Fez, each hotel has a lovely pool and stunning tropical gardens. Our camp in Merzouga
features comfortable Berber-style tents with en suite
bathrooms and generator-powered electricity.