We’re only halfway through the academy and we’ve already seen how much Morocco has to offer. So it stands to reason that one of the most popular ways to see the country is to tour it.
Tours give you the opportunity to experience a greater variety of sights and activities over the course of your stay, or to pursue a particular interest – architecture, say, or wildlife – on your way around Morocco. If you’re determined to explore all four imperial cities, to see as much of the Rif as of the Atlas, or to practice watersports along both Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, touring could be for you.
Imperial cities – 7/8 days
It’s also up to you how you travel from city to city. The connecting roads are excellent, and travelling by road – whether in a hired car or on a motor coach – will allow you to better appreciate the impressive landscapes and lesser-known places between each of your destinations. Driving takes longer, however, and using trains or internal flights will prove just as convenient and give you a little more time to spend in each city.
Bear in mind, too, that while Casablanca is not officially an imperial city it is arguably as important to Morocco as Rabat, Meknes, Fez and Marrakech. Its position to the south of Rabat on the Atlantic coast means that you can quite easily include a day in Casablanca at the beginning or end of the Imperial Cities tour.
While exploring the cities, try to track down an official Moroccan Tourist Ministry guide to show you around. The official guides are experts on the history of the cities and their monuments. The best places to find them are in front of major hotels and at tourist information offices. They can be identified by their white djellaba and badges. For a list of events and festivals in each of the imperial cities contact the Moroccan National Tourist Office in advance.
Kasbah trail – 7/8 daysThe Kasbah trail tour runs through the deep south, a country of desert sands, lush oases and ancient towns and villages. Following the Draa, Dades and Ziz rivers, it winds past mountains and gorges, past vivid green lakes and settlements the colour of sand: the Kasbahs and the ksour. The rivers themselves create long strips of fertile land that are flanked by orchards, fields, palm groves and rose gardens.
The journey begins at Ouarzazate, where the roads between Draa, Dades and Ziz converge, and where the Taourirt and Ait Benhaddou Kasbahs give you a taste of what is to come. You may recognise Ait Benhaddou from the film Lawrence of Arabia.
The first leg of the trail follow the Draa valley past Agdz (Agadiz), which lies in the shadow of the strangely-shaped Djebel Kissane mountain, and towards the Zagora oasis. From there you can make an excursion to Tamegroute or M’hamid, a town on the border of the desert where one of the most colourful souks in Morocco takes place.
In the Dades valley the river feeds countless impressive Kasbahs before burrowing into more mountainous country to create the high walls of the stunning Dades gorges. One of the jewels of this area is El Kelaa M’Gouna, the most beautiful rose garden in the valley and the venue for an annual Rose Festival (every May). The road, now little more than a dirt track, leads past Alzag, where over 100 smiths create daggers of legendary detail and quality, and finally to Todra gorge: two sheer, parallel cliffs 300 metres high and only twenty metres apart.
From here the trail proceeds to the Ziz valley. The first stop is Rich, home of the celebrated Sidi Salim medersa (named after a wise man who, it is said, made the return trip to Mecca every Friday). The Ziz creates a long, palm-lined corridor dotted with ksour and kasbahs before creating a beautiful emerald-coloured lake where it meets the Hassan Addhkil dam.
Now winding past the source of the Meski, which is believed to promote fertility – local women are known to bathe in its grotto by candlelight – the road at last reaches the Erfourd gate, which divides a sea of green palm trees on one side from a sea of golden sand on the other. This is the beginning of the Sahara, and the end of the tour.
The big tour – 14 daysYou may have noticed that the Imperial Cities tour naturally ends in Marrakech, while the Kasbah trail tour naturally begins in the same area. If you’re staying for two weeks, consider combining the two – the ultimate way to experience the culture, history and geography of the Moroccan interior.
Smaller toursDon’t want to take the full Kasbah trail tour? Strike out on a series of smaller trips instead. Starting from Marrakech and Ouarzazate, combine hiking and 4×4 to explore the highlights of the Atlas, including the Ziz valley, the Dadès and Todra gorges and the M’Goun range.
Lovers of the sea and the beach might find the Imperial Cities and Kasbah Trail tours a little low on coastal locations. So why not opt for a slow tour of the Atlantic coast, from Tangiers in the north to the watersport hotspot Dakhla, right on the edge of the Sahara? Or try travelling along the Mediterranean coast, which offers plenty of peaceful small creeks between Tangiers and Al-Hoceima.
These are just some examples of possible tours. Contact the Moroccan National Tourist Office for more ideas and itineraries, or for help with developing your own bespoke programme.
Now try answering the following questions. Good luck!
For more information or to request promotional material for your agency, contact the Moroccan National Tourist Office.
205 Regent Street