Mar 26 - Apr 13, 2018
19 days
$7,870per person, twin share (land content only). $1,570 supplement for sole use of a hotel room.

Tour Leader

Ben Churcher
Mar 26 - Apr 13, 2018

Tour Leader

Ben Churcher$7,870per person, twin share (land content only). $1,570 supplement for sole use of a hotel room.
  • Tour Info
  • Itinerary
  • Tour Leader
  • Hotels
  • Inclusions

Overview

This comprehensive tour brings you the diverse delights of Morocco, from stunning scenery to fabulous Islamic architecture, ancient cities and inviting locals. From cosmopolitan Casablanca, we travel along the Atlantic coast visiting Rabat, Roman Volubilis and bustling Fes, before crossing the Atlas Mountains to the kasbahs and oases of the northern Sahara. Returning to the Atlantic coast, we stay in Marrakesh, famous for its vibrant souks, foodstalls and palaces, and Essaouira, a medieval port still nestled inside its walls.

Explore

  • A remarkable country that has been the crucible for Islamic influence in the region for more than a millennium
  • Exceptional scenery, from the Atlantic coastline to the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert
  • Beautiful, remote villages along the Todra Gorge and Dades River
  • Distinct cultural regions, including the Europeanised north and the Berber interior
  • A diverse inheritance, from Roman ruins, to medieval fortifications, Islamic kasbahs and cities

Highlights

  • The bustling and picturesque markets of Fes and Marrakesh
  • Rabat on the river Bou Regreg, a most wonderfully located capital city
  • The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Roman ruins at Volubilis, overlooking rolling plains
  • The Atlas Mountains, home of the Berbers and stands of Cedars of Lebanon
  • Majestic kasbahs and verdant oases on the fringe of the Sahara Desert
  • Peaceful Essaouira on the shores of the Atlantic
  • The spectacular Todra and Dades gorges
  • Beautiful, secluded towns such as Boumalne Dades, and Ouarzazate, the ‘Gate to the Desert’

Itinerary Overview

Days 1–4: Arrive in Casablanca and explore Morocco’s Atlantic coast, touring Casablanca and Rabat.

Days 5–7: Travel inland, staying at Fes and visiting Meknes and the Roman ruins of Volubilis.

Days 8–12: Cross over the Atlas Mountains and explore the western edge of the Sahara Desert, including the spectacular scenery of the Todra Gorge.

Days 13–15: Travel to Marrakesh, tour the city and enjoy a free day in a city of souks.

Days 16–19: Travel to Essaouira, exploring the city and its complex history, then return to Casablanca for our departure.

A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.

Getting There

Emirates and Etihad have daily flights to and from Casablanca. Contact us for competitive quotes and bookings.

Detailed Itinerary

Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.

Monday 26 March: Arrive Casablanca

Flights from Australia arrive mid-morning and early afternoon. Passengers booking their flights through Academy Travel to commence the tour today will be transferred to the group hotel. Ben Churcher will meet group members this evening in the lobby for drinks and introductions before dinner in the hotel. Overnight Casablanca (D)

Tuesday 27 March: Touring Casablanca

Casablanca is a cosmopolitan, vibrant city often overlooked for more exotic destinations. Our day commences with a tour of the Hassan II Mosque completed in 1993 and spectacularly located on a rocky outcrop reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. We continue to the Quartier Habous built by the French in the 1930s blending the Moroccan architecture of an ancient medina with French colonial buildings. We also pass by Sacre Couer, the French built neo-gothic cathedral which became a cultural centre after independence. Overnight Casablanca (B, D)

Wednesday 28 March: To Rabat

We depart this morning for Rabat, the political and administrative capital chosen by King Hassan V when Morocco gained independence in 1956. We visit Chella, a Merenid necropolis built over the Roman city of Sale Colonia. Excavations on the Roman site reveal the Decumanus Maximus passing through a triumphal arch to the temple of Jupiter and ending at the forum. The Islamic necropolis consists of a stone and zellij tile minaret, medersa and the tomb of the great Merenid leader, Abou al Hassan. In contrast is the mausoleum of Mohammed V housing the tombs of the nation’s recent kings. It is considered a masterpiece of Alawite architecture. Elaborately dressed royal guards watch over the three white onyx tombs where Mohammed V is laid to rest with his two sons. After lunch in a local restaurant, we explore the cliff top Kasbah les Oudaias, 12th-century fortifications with narrow streets and whitewashed houses that are still inhabited today. Rabat’s small yet interesting archaeological museum and its collection of Neolithic carving and small bronzes from Volubilis and Chellah is our final stop before checking into our hotel. Overnight Rabat (B, L)

Thursday 29 March: Meknes

Heading east by coach we travel to Meknes, the capital of Morocco under the Sultan Moulay Ismail between 1672 and 1727. Our touring includes Bab el-Mansour, Meknes main gate across from the square, the medina and the lavishly tiled and decorated Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. We also visit the stable and granary for 12,000 horses designed with under floor water channels to keep the temperature cool. After lunch we visit the Bou Inania Madersa, a school for students of Islam studying the Koran. Younger students lived in small cells on the ground floor while older students and teachers were accommodated in more spacious rooms on the upper floor. The Dar Jamai Museum is housed in the Sultan’s former palace and features excellent displays of traditional ceramics, jewellery, rugs and textiles, including exquisite needlework using gold and silver thread. A highlight is the reception room preserved as it would have appeared in the Sultan’s day. We continue to Fes this afternoon. Overnight Fes (B, L, D)

Friday 30 March: Volubilis and Moulay Idriss

Today we explore Volubilis, dating back to the Phoenicians in the third century BC. Its prominence grew from the first century onwards as a Roman trading post and administrative centre on the south-western border of the empire. Situated on 40 hectares and with 2.6kms of walls surrounding the site, the city featured main roads, public monuments and thermal baths. It prospered and expanded rapidly in the second century when the forum, basilica, capitol and triumphal arch were constructed. A number of stately homes were also built at this time and feature well-preserved mosaics floors that remain in situ. We continue to the holy city of Moulay Idriss, an important pilgrimage site founded by the great-grandson of the prophet Mohammed who introduced Islam to Morocco in the eighth century. We visit his tomb and explore the winding streets of the compact town where we also have lunch in a Moroccan guesthouse. Overnight Fes (B, L)

Saturday 31 March: To Fes

This morning we visit the excellent collection at the Dar Batha Museum, a converted 19th-century Moorish Palace that is a work of art in itself. Most Moroccan artisanal pieces were also functional and we see displays of carved wooden furniture, embroidery and clothing, musical instruments and carpets. The pottery room has a superb display of ceramics from the 14th century featuring the unique blue cobalt glaze that was developed using a special process in Fes during the 10th century. This afternoon after lunch we explore the Mellah or Jewish area which is distinguished by its houses with street facing balconies. Overnight Fes (B)

Sunday 1 April: Fes

Today we explore the maze of streets that make up the medina in Fes El Bali on foot. Passing through the blue tiled Bab Boujeloud gate we enter the Bou Inania Madrasa. The marble and onyx courtyard features a fountain and intricately carved cedar mashrabiyas, (lattice screens) covering the alcoves where the students studied. Unusually the madrasa also has a mosque with a green tiled minaret. We continue past the Fondouks, two to four storey buildings with courtyards lined with small rooms that are used as workshops and warehouses by the traders and craftsmen in the souk to the Chaouwara Tanneries. From the rooftop of the leather shops we see and smell the earthen vats of the tanning pits filled with chemicals and dyes used to soften and colour the hides. Leaving the medina we head to Borj Nord, a 16th-century fortress that formed part of the city’s fortifications and visit a tile factory to see the Zellij tiles being made by hand. Overnight Fes (B, L)

Monday 2 April: Ifrane

After a leisurely start this morning we depart for Sefrou, a picturesque town on the edge of the Middle Atlas. Sefrou was home to Morocco’s largest Jewish community as evidenced by the outward facing balconies encountered on our walk through the medina. We continue higher into the mountains to the alpine village of Ifrane, our stop for this evening. The afternoon is free to enjoy our mountain chalet accommodation. Overnight Ifrane (B, D)

Tuesday 3 April: To Erfoud

Today we make the 400km journey to Erfoud with stops on the way to stretch our legs and enjoy the changing scenery. After time to freshen up, dinner is in the hotel this evening. Overnight Erfoud (B, L, D)

Wednesday 4 April: The Sahara

Today we venture into the Sahara, transferring from our coach to 4WD drive vehicles for a spectacular drive through the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi. Our trip into the desert wouldn’t be complete without a camel ride over the dunes that extend to the Algerian border and beyond. We visit the ruins at Sijilmassa, an important staging post on the trans-Sahara trade route from the 8th to 14th centuries. After a break for lunch, we visit the Moulay Ali Cherif Mausoleum, built in honour of the founder of the Alawite dynasty in Morocco, and spend some time in the dilapidated medina at Rissani. Overnight Erfoud (B, L)

Thursday 5 April: Todra Gorge

We depart for Tinerhir and stop at Todra Gorge. A deep fault carved out of the limestone by the river has created a spectacular ravine of towering rock walls up to 160 metres high. The flat path running alongside the river allows us to stroll through the chasm and admire the different colours created by the light on the rock surfaces. We have lunch at one of the restaurants lining the gorge before continuing to Boulmane Dades. Overnight Boumalne Dades (B, L, D)

Friday 6 April: Ouarzazate

Departing by coach, we travel to Ouarzazate and visit the Taourit Kasbah built in the 19th century by the Glaoui clan who controlled the major caravan southern routes to West Africa. Parts of the former palace remain in ruins but we can visit the reception rooms, harem rooms and kitchens that have been restored with assistance from UNESCO. Overnight Ouarzazate (B, D)

Saturday 7 April: To Marrakesh

Today we travel to Marrakesh, stopping firstly at the fortified city or Ksar of Ait Benhaddou. The city is made up of six Kasbahs and is a great example of the clay architecture found in the region. The well preserved old town has been abandoned by the families that once lived here, and has been used as the setting for several films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator. We then travel into the High Atlas Mountains, traversing the hairpin bends of the Tiz n’Tchika pass and arriving in Marrakesh in the afternoon.  Overnight Marrakesh (B, D)

Sunday 8 April: Exploring Marrakesh

Our tour through the medina commences at the Bab Agnaou or Black Gate which leads us into the Saadian Tombs. Saadian Sultan, Ahmed El Mansour built the tombs in the 16th century using the finest local artisans and imported Italian Carrara marble, elaborate plasterwork and pure gold. The opulent tombs were walled up when the Alawite dynasty came to power and lay undiscovered until 1917. Continuing through the Mellah, or Jewish quarter, we come to the Dar Si Siad. The former palace now houses the Museum of Moroccan Arts, showcasing regional craftsmanship. Winding through the narrow alleyways past craft shops and ornamental doorways, we enter the famous Djemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakesh’s main square. We visit the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa, a 14th-century Islamic school whose large courtyard and ablutions pool, zellij tiles and abundant decorations are reminiscent of the Alhambra Palace in Granada. We visit the enchanting Jardin Marjorelle, designed as a living work of art by French painter, Jacques Marjorelle. The garden of exotic plants and rare species acquired over 40 years fell into disrepair following the artist’s death in 1962 until it was saved from destruction by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1980. Dinner this evening is in a beautifully restored riad with traditional musicians and a belly dancer. Overnight Marrakesh (B, L)

Monday 9 April: Marrakesh – Free day

Today is at leisure to further explore the delights of Marrakesh. Overnight Marrakesh (B)

Tuesday 10 April: To Essaouira

We depart this morning for the Atlantic Coast and the harbour town of Essaouira. We explore the busy port area where fishermen tend to their nets and sell the catch of the day and walk over the ramparts of the Skala Bastion lined with brass cannons with views over the sea and into the medina. Our walking tour continues through the 18th-century walled medina, an excellent example of European military architecture in Northern Africa. Later this afternoon we gather in the hotel’s beachfront bar and restaurant for drinks as we watch the sun set into the Atlantic. Overnight Essaouira (B)

Wednesday 11 April: Essaouira

Today is at leisure to relax, swim in the Atlantic Ocean or further explore the medina for some final purchases. Overnight Essaouira (B)

Thursday 12 April: El Jadida to Casablanca

Departing Essaouira this morning, we travel along the scenic coastal road stopping at the old Portuguese town of El Jadida for lunch. An important trading post, the Portuguese built a fortress here to protect their ships. After lunch we visit the ramparts of the original port, see the Church of the Assumption, the vaulted cistern and the Grand Mosque which also acted as a lighthouse. Returning to Casablanca, we gather this evening for a farewell dinner in a French restaurant. Overnight Casablanca (B, L, D)

Friday 13 April: Depart Casablanca

There is a transfer to the airport this morning for passengers who have booked their flights with Academy Travel. (B)

Ben Churcher

Has a wide range of experience as an educator, and an archaeologist. Since 1994 Ben has led tours to Jordan, Greece, Syria, Egypt, China & Morocco.

Ben graduated from Queensland University in 1983 with Honours in Ancient History and he also holds a Diploma of Education from the University of Sydney. Since 1983 Ben has been involved in the yearly excavations by the University of Sydney at the site of Pella in Jordan and he is, at present, the field director of the project. As well as his ‘hands-on’ excavation experience, Ben has also travelled widely throughout Europe, the Middle east, North and East Africa, Japan, and South-east Asia.

View Bio & Upcoming Tours

Hotels

Hotels have been carefully selected for comfort and location.

  • Casablanca, Sofitel Tour Blanche Hotel (3 nights)
  • Rabat, Sofitel Jardin des Roses (1 night)
  • Fes, Marriott Hotel Jnan Palace (4 nights)
  • Ifrane, Michlifen Hotel (1 night)
  • Erfoud, Xaluca Tombouctou (2 nights)
  • Boulmane Dades, Xaluca Dades (1 night)
  • Ouarzazate, Dar Chamaa (1 night)
  • Marrakesh, Radisson Blu (3 nights)
  • Essaouira, M Gallery (2 Nights)

Tour Inclusions

What is included in the tour price? 
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:

  • Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
  • Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
  • All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
  • Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
  • Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
  • Services of tour leader throughout tour
  • All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
  • Local guides at some sites
  • Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals

Airport Transfers

Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.

What is not included in the tour price?
Open-age tours do not include the following:

  • Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
  • Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
  • Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
  • Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
  • Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
  • Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
  • Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity

Booking conditions

You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.

Deposits

A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 60 days before departure: $500*
  • 60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
  • 44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
  • 14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due

*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.

Unused Portions of the tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Travel Insurance

Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.

Passport and Visa

A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.

Will the tour price change?

If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.

Will the itinerary change?

Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.

Final Payment

Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.

Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.

Fitness rating

Grade 3
i

A Grade 3 tour is appropriate for travellers in good health with good mobility, who can comfortably participate in up to 3 hours of physical activity per day on most days.
More Details

Bookings

Book Online Now More Details
Hold a Place Download Booking Form

Speak to a consultant

For further information or to secure a place on this tour please contact:
Frederick Steyn 02 9235 0023 or 1800 639 699
(outside Sydney)
frederick@academytravel.com.au

Detailed Itinerary

Download now

Next Departure

If these dates don't work for you, register to hear about the next tour.

NEXT DEPARTURE

Please keep me informed about the next departure of this tour.

Hold a Place

Thank you for your interest in this tour. We are happy to hold a tentative place for seven days while you make your final arrangements to come on tour.

 

Stay In Touch

Become an Academy Traveller. You will receive a quarterly newsletter, email updates, lecture series and special offers delivered electronically or via post.

Subscribe

Sign up to our mailing list for tour updates and latest news.

Order