Morocco’s exotic culture and stunning landscapes have attracted travellers for centuries. Beyond the kasbahs, however, lies a fascinating history of successive European, African and Arabic empires, each of which has left traces of their love of this corner of Africa. This comprehensive 20-day tour travels from colonial Casablanca and the Mediterranean coast to the Islamic architecture and Berber towns of the interior. Experience Morocco’s rich history and cosmopolitan culture, from the ruins of Roman Volubilis, to the medinas of Rabat and Fes, the gardens and souks of Marrakesh and the oases of the Draa Valley.
The European gateway of Tangier, a unique melting pot straddling the Atlantic and Mediterranean
Fes’ narrow alleys and colourful souks, its walled medina suspended in time
The impressive ruins of Volubilis
Sensory overload in Marrakesh’s bustling Jemaa el-Fnaa, crowded with colourful water-sellers and performers
Stunning scenery, from the sublime Atlas mountains to picturesque valleys dotted with kasbahs and lush palmeries
Essaouira and the Atlantic: freshly caught seafood by the pretty harbour, local crafts in the medina
Days 1–3: Arrive Casablanca, travel to Rabat. Roman Chellah, Mohammed V’s Mausoleum and the kasbah.
Days 4–6: Ancient Lixus; tour Tangier; traverse the Rif Mountains to colourful Chefchaouen.
Days 7–10: Fes’ Batha Museum, el Bali medina and Roman Volubilis. Admire Middle Atlas forests before arrival in alpine Ifrane.
Days 11–13: Marrakesh’s tombs, palaces and madrassas. Visit the Jardin Majorelle.
Days 14–16: Ait Benhaddou and Ouarzazate. The lush Draa Valley and fortified Taroudant.
The tour begins at Casablanca’s Mohammed V International Airport and ends at our hotel in Casablanca. Emirates and Etihad Airways offer the best connections into and out of Casablanca for this tour. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Tuesday 31 March: Arrive Casablanca
The tour commences at the hotel in Casablanca at 6pm. Meet your tour leader and fellow travellers in the lobby of the hotel for drinks followed by dinner. Overnight Casablanca (D)
Wednesday 1 April: Drive to Rabat
This morning we enjoy a brief tour of Casablanca before we depart by coach for Rabat. On arrival we take an orientation walk in the medina before welcome drinks and dinner in the hotel. Overnight Rabat (D)
Thursday 2 April: Rabat
This morning we visit the archaeological site of Chellah, once the Roman trading post of Sala Colonia, which was later used as a royal burial ground by the 13th and 14th century rulers of the Almohad and Merenid dynasties. Alongside the Roman ruins are the remains of a mosque and zaouia (religious seminary) with bright zellij tilework on the minaret and several tombs, including that of the great Merenid sultan, Abou el Hassan. We continue to the Archaeological Museum, which houses a magnificent collection of Roman bronzes, found mainly at Volubilis. After lunch we visit the imposing tower of the ruined 12th century Hassan mosque, in its time the second largest in the Islamic world, which dominates the city. Alongside is the grand modern mausoleum of Mohammad V, who died in 1961, which was designed by a Vietnamese architect. We stop at the Kasbah des Oudaïas which features 12th century fortifications, an Andalusian garden, narrow streets, charming whitewashed houses and a view across the Bou Regreg estuary to the old walled town of Salé on the other side. Overnight Rabat (B, L)
Friday 3 April: Lixus & Tangier
This morning we leave Rabat to drive along the coast to Tangier. We stop to visit the picturesque although rather overgrown ruins of ancient Lixus, founded by the Phoenicians and in Roman times a wealthy port famous for the production of salt and garum, a pungent fish sauce which featured in many a Roman recipe. The garum factories are in the lower town and on the way to the acropolis are the public baths and the amphitheatre where wild beast shows and gladiatorial contests were once staged. After lunch at a restaurant by the sea we continue to Tangier. There is time for a short orientation walk before checking into our hotel. Overnight Tangier (B, L)
Saturday 4 April: Tangier
We spend today exploring Tangier beginning with the American Legation Museum, the United States’ first overseas consulate, an historic building with an interesting art collection and a section dedicated to American composer and writer Paul Bowles who spent most his life in the city. We wander through the winding streets of the medina passing by the Hotel Continental, which opened in 1872, with the future Edward VII among the first guests and the house which belonged to Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton. The kasbah, at the top of the hill, houses a splendid museum in the Dar el Makhzen, the former residence of the sultan. In the Ville Nouvelle we see the churchyard of St. Andrews Anglican Church, where several well-known expatriate Tangerinos are buried and the Café de Paris, famous rendezvous during the International Zone era. There is time to relax before enjoying dinner. Overnight Tangier (B, D)
Sunday 5 April: Chefchaouen
Today we travel through the Rif to Chefchaouen, a delightful small walled town set against the backdrop of the mountains and defined by its blue-washed buildings with red-tiled roofs, adorned with pots of flowers. There is time to wander round the compact medina and visit the kasbah, which has a small garden and museum, before we have lunch and check into our centrally-located riad. The afternoon is free for relaxation and further exploration. Overnight Chefchaouen (B, L)
Monday 6 April: Fes
A morning drive through lovely countryside takes us from Chefchaouen to Fes, where we stop first for a panoramic view of the old city. After lunch we visit the Musée Batha, a converted 19th century palace with pleasant gardens and an excellent collection of arts and crafts including wood carving, metalwork, costumes and pottery. Before driving to our hotel, we walk through the Mellah, the old Jewish quarter, where the old houses are distinguished by their wooden shutters and wood and wrought iron balconies. Dinner this evening is in our hotel. Overnight Fes (B, L, D)
Tuesday 7 April: Fes
Entering through the Bab Boujeloud, one of the gates in the old city walls, we begin our exploration of Fes el Bali medina with a visit to the Medersa Bou Inania, a masterpiece of Merenid architecture, with intricate stucco and cedarwood carving and complex zellij tile decoration. We walk through the souks and alleyways of the medina passing shops and stalls selling foodstuffs, perfumes, hardware, clothing, shoes and slippers, silks, embroidery and spices, taking time to visit old fondouks or caravanserais, some of which are still used as warehouses and workshops by local artisans. We look around the area of the great Kairouine mosque and from a terrace to view the fascinating tanneries where the age-old methods of treating and dyeing the hides continue. Lunch is independent and the afternoon is free for further exploration. Overnight Fes (B)
Wednesday 8 April: Volubilis and Local Winery
This morning we drive from Fes to the archaeological site of Volubilis, once capital of the Roman Province of Mauretania, picturesquely located on a high ridge overlooking the fertile valley below. We take a leisurely walk through the ruins, past an industrial area where several olive oil presses have been found to the city centre with the forum, capitol and basilica and an imposing triumphal arch. The streets beyond are lined with grand private houses, many of which still have their beautiful mosaic floors in situ. Near the entrance is a museum with numerous finds from the site and excellent explanations. After our visit we drive to a local winery, where we sample the wines and enjoy a delicious lunch. There is time to visit the cellars and vineyards before returning to Fes. Overnight Fes (B, L)
Thursday 9 April: Ifrane and The Middle Atlas
This morning we depart for the Middle Atlas, stopping first at Sefrou, a small and relaxed historic market town. We walk through the medina and adjacent Mellah, the former Jewish quarter, before driving a few kilometres to the fascinating Berber village of Bhalil with its network of troglodyte dwellings. After a stroll around the village we continue to the Domaine de la Pommeraie where we visit the farm and enjoy a light lunch. After lunch we drive south through Ifrane towards Azrou and take the Route des Cèdres, which cuts through forests of Atlas cedar and holm oak and where we hope to catch a glimpse of the Barbary macaques, also known as Barbary apes, which are native to the Middle Atlas. We drive back to Ifrane, a mountain resort which was popular with the French during the Protectorate. Overnight Ifrane (B, L, D)
Friday 10 April: Marrakesh
We depart for the long drive to Marrakesh, stopping at the women’s cooperative of Oued Ifrane to see examples of local carpet weaving. We have lunch en route and check into our hotel on arrival in Marrakesh. Overnight Marrakesh (B, L, D).
Saturday 11 April: Marrakesh
We spend all day exploring Marrakesh, beginning with the Saadian tombs built in the 16th century by Sultan Ahmed el Mansour, who spared no expense on his mausoleum, importing Italian Carrara marble and gilding the decorative plasterwork with pure gold. We visit the ruins of the Badi Palace, commissioned by the same sultan, which has sunken gardens in the central court. A pavilion houses the original wooden minbar from the Koutoubia Mosque, a masterpiece of 12th century Moorish art which was built in Cordoba. Walking through the streets of the Mellah, the old Jewish quarter, we come to the 19th century Bahia palace, built by Si Moussa, a black slave who became grand vizier. The palace has beautiful painted wooden ceilings and courtyard gardens. A stroll through narrow streets and alleys brings us to Jemaa el Fna, the lively main square, overlooked by the Koutoubia minaret, one of the symbols of the city. After an independent lunch we wander through the colourful souks north of the square and visit the Ben Youssef Medersa, a 14th century Koranic school embellished with exquisite carved stucco and cedarwood and zellij tiles. We end our day at Le Jardin Secret, a restored 19th century palace and garden. Overnight Marrakesh (B)
Sunday 12 April: Marrakesh
This morning we travel a short distance outside Marrakesh to visit the Anima Garden, established by Viennese multi-media artist André Heller, a botanical garden with modern sculpture exhibits set against the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains. We return to Marrakesh and the lovely Jardin Majorelle, designed by French artists Jacques and Louis Majorelle in the 1940s and bought and saved by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1980. There is a small Yves Saint Laurent museum dedicated to his artwork and a Berber museum in Jacques Majorelle’s former cubist painting studio. The afternoon is free for relaxation or further exploration. Overnight Marrakesh (B, D)
Monday 13 April: Ouarzazate
Today we enjoy spectacular scenery as we cross the High Atlas Mountains over the winding Tiz n’Tichka pass. We stop for lunch at Ait Benhaddou, where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. The ksar or fortified old town, now largely abandoned but protected as a heritage site, is a striking example of southern Moroccan mudbrick architecture. We continue to Ouarzazate where we visit the splendid Taourirt Kasbah, former residence of the pasha of Marrakesh, Thami el Glaoui, before checking into our hotel. Overnight Ouarzazate (B, L, D)
Tuesday 14 April: Drâa Valley
We spend a full day driving south along the Drâa valley, part of the ancient caravan route for the trade in gold, salt and slaves across the Sahara. It is a long fertile strip dotted with date palm oases and fortified towns and villages which runs below a high ridge of the Anti-Atlas Mountains. We have lunch and walk through the palmerie at Nkob before returning to Ouarzazate. Overnight Ouarzazate (B, L)
Wednesday 15 April: Taroudant
This morning we have a beautiful drive to Taroudant, stopping for a late lunch at the Riad Hida in Ouled Berhil. On arrival in Taroudant we check into our hotel and take a late afternoon stroll around the elegant little town with its circuit of warm reddish-brown walls. We visit the Arab Souk which sells fruit and vegetables and traditional handicrafts. Overnight Taroudant (B, L)
Thursday 16 April: Essaouira
Today we drive to the Atlantic coast and the harbour town of Essaouira with lunch en route. After checking into our hotel there is time to relax before we gather in the beachfront bar for drinks and watch the sun set into the Atlantic. Overnight Essaouira (B, L, D)
Friday 17 April: Essaouira
Our visit to Essaouira, an 18th century town surrounded by impressive ramparts built by a French military architect, begins at the harbour, where every morning the fishing boats bring in the catch to be sold at the nearby market. We walk along the ramparts by the Skala bastion for views across the ocean and stroll through the medina with its whitewashed houses, woodworkers’ and jewellers’ souks and former Jewish Mellah. The afternoon is at leisure to relax, swim in the Atlantic Ocean or further explore the medina. Overnight Essaouira (B)
Saturday 18 April: El Jadida and Casablanca
Leaving Essaouira this morning we travel along the scenic coastal road stopping for lunch at El Jadida, where the old Portuguese medina, founded in 1513 and held until 1769, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. After lunch we walk along the ramparts and through the streets to see the Church of the Assumption and the minaret of the Grand Mosque which once acted as a lighthouse. We continue to Casablanca where we gather together in the evening for a farewell dinner. Overnight Casablanca (B, L, D)
Sunday 19 April: Depart Casablanca
There is a transfer to the airport this morning for passengers who have booked their flights with Academy Travel (B)
An archaeologist, historian, author and linguist, formerly a tutor and lecturer in Ancient Near Eastern history.
Sue Rollin is an archaeologist, historian and linguist with 30 years’ experience in leading tours to Central Asia, India, the Middle East and countries around the Mediterranean. Her personal interests include art and architecture, comparative religion, gastronomy and walking.
Sue has a BA and MA from the University of London, a Diploma in Conference Interpreting from the University of Westminster and held a 2-year research scholarship at Heidelberg University. She has worked as a tutor and lecturer in Ancient Near Eastern history at both Cambridge and London Universities and continues to lecture on a variety of topics for the Art Fund, Arts Society and the Victoria and Albert Museum’s adult learning programme. In Australia Sue has done 3 lecture tours for ADFAS, with a fourth one in the pipeline for 2019. She speaks French, German, Spanish and Italian (and a little Russian, Arabic and Turkish) and works regularly for international organisations such as the European Union, Council of Europe and United Nations.
Sue’s historical knowledge covers a long time frame, from the ancient world to modern times. She is particularly interested in cultural interaction as she and her group explore the rich legacy of ancient Greece and Rome, visit the splendid monuments of the Arab and Berber dynasties of North Africa, Andalusia and the Middle East, admire the glittering mosaics of Norman Sicily, delight in the superb architecture and decorative arts of the Ottoman empire and Central Asia and experience the colourful diversity of Mughal and Hindu India.
Since Sue led her first tour of Classical Turkey in 1987, she has designed and led over 60 cultural tours in 10 countries and 3 continents and travelled in many more.
We asked Sue, what motivates you as a tour leader?
“I enjoy meeting adventurous and open-minded travellers and renewing old acquaintances, sharing my knowledge as we visit interesting sites, travel through beautiful landscapes and chat and exchange ideas over a drink or a delicious meal. It is a privilege to be able to introduce others to some of my favourite places,” says Sue, “and to share some unforgettable experiences.”
“My fellow travellers often comment on my energy and enthusiasm and I hope that when they return home they take back with them positive memories of the places we have visited and the people we have met. Prepare to be surprised, feel inspired, learn something new, relax, have fun and make new friends – these are just a few of the benefits of our travels.”
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
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
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
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.
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.
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.
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.