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Marrakesh, the High Atlas & Essaouira
10 days from CAD3,225pp
Immerse yourself in the souqs of Marrakesh and see craftsmen busy at their trade.
Learn about Marrakesh’s past by visiting its grand palaces, mosques and gardens with a guide.
Stay in a traditional riad, each of which has its own distinctive character.
Soak up the laid-back, bohemian atmosphere of Essaouria’s historic medina and fishing port.
Go hiking in the High Atlas Mountains and visit traditional Berber villages.
- The Atlas Mountains
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Day 1 Marrakesh
Upon arrival into Marrakesh airport, you will be met by a private driver and driven to your riad. The rest of the day is yours to relax or head out to explore Marrakesh's medina; you could wander around the souq, or sample some of the delicious food served in the many local restaurants, from lamb tagine to sweet pastilla.
Day 2 Marrakesh
Today your private guide will take you around the city, giving you an excellent grounding in its history and culture. Included in the tour are visits to the beautiful Saadien Tombs, where the bodies of sultans and their families have rested for centuries; the imposing Koutoubia Mosque; the Bahia Palace and the 15th-century Jewish Quarter. This afternoon you're led through the maze-like souq, visiting the many different quarters where craftsmen can be seen hard at work producing anything from leather baboucha shoes to cactus silk scarves and traditional lanterns.
Day 3 Marrakesh
Today you could stroll around the peaceful Majorelle Gardens, a welcome contrast to the noise of the souqs. In its Berber Museum you can admire items once belonging to Berber tribes, while the Yves Saint Laurent 'Galerie Love' displays vibrant paintings created by the French fashion designer. In the evening, head to Djemaa El Fna, the city's lively main square, where street performers draw in crowds and open-air restaurants serve freshly cooked food.
Day 4 Essaouira
This morning travel to the coastal town of Essaouira. The landscape is fairly flat for most of the way, with the Atlas Mountains rising in the distance on a clear day. As you get closer to the coast, it becomes greener and hillier, with olive groves and argan trees growing in the fields. You could stop at a women's argan oil co-operative, where the women show you the process of retrieving oil from the argan seeds. Arriving at your hotel in Essaouira, spend the rest of the day exploring the town's medina, which is far quieter than Marrakesh's.
Day 5 Essaouira
Spend today getting to know Essaouira. We suggest heading out early to watch fishermen unloading their catch from their blue boats in the port, followed by a stroll along the historic ramparts, enjoying views of the city and sea. You can then explore more of the medina, which is very compact and features many stalls and shops selling bright rugs, decorated plates and an array of spices.
Day 6 Essaouira
Spend another day in Essaouira, perhaps buying a few souvenirs or browsing the market. You could join a Moroccan pastry workshop and learn how to make sweet treats such as almond gazelle horns and orange blossom biscuits. The Place Moulay Hassan public square is a good spot to enjoy a drink or an ice cream while watching the world go by. In the evening, there are many restaurants and bars overlooking the bay where live music can be enjoyed over a tasty meal and a sundowner.
Day 7 The Atlas Mountains
This morning your private driver picks you up for the transfer to the High Atlas Mountains. As you travel into the mountains the landscape completely changes to rolling foothills, deep, green valleys and rugged mountains, some of which may be capped with snow. Once you arrive at your hotel, you can take time to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery and peaceful atmosphere.
Day 8 The Atlas Mountains
On your first full day in the Atlas Mountains, you could visit a local Berber village with a guide, where you can share lunch and mint tea with a Berber family and learn about their way of life. We recommend visiting the Assafou Foundation, which provides free education to children living in these rural communities. Here you can see the school where the children are taught and where local women learn skills such as weaving so that they can sell their handicrafts at local markets or in Marrakesh's souqs.
Day 9 The Atlas Mountains
You have another day at leisure in the mountains. We suggest taking a taxi to a local town to explore the market, where people living in rural villages near and far travel to sell their goods or purchase everything they need for that week. You could also head out with a guide for a hike through the hills and valleys - there are lots of routes to suit most fitness levels, and your guide will know the most suitable for you. Alternatively, make the most of your accommodation's facilities and spend more time relaxing.
Day 10 Return home
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