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Le Grand Tour

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  • Vacation Style Holiday Type
    Culture, Guided Tours, History
  • Activity Level Moderate
  • Group Size Small Group
    1-10
  1. Day 1 A Visit to Rabat

    Arrival at Mohamed V Airport in Casablanca, where you will be welcomed by your expert guide, private driver and vehicle.

    You will receive VIP treatment to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays, as you proceed through customs and immigration.
    When you are ready, you will be escorted north to Rabat (about 1 hour).

    Rabat, the current political capital of Morocco, and neighboring Salé were once notorious as havens to the feared Barbary pirates, who terrorized Atlantic and Mediterranean trade, capturing prisoners to hold them for ransom.

    Upon arrival, check in at your hotel/Riad. Rest and refresh at your hotel.

    When you are ready, your tour of Rabat begins at the ancient necropolis of Chellah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A thriving city for nearly 1,000 years, Chellah’s ruins date from the Roman through the Islamic periods. They are a special favorite of bird-watchers.

    Visit the picturesque, labyrinthine Kasbah des Oudaias overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the lovely gardens outside the Kasbah.
    If time allows, visit the compound of the Royal Palace – assuming that King Mohamed VI is not in residence. The reign of this young king has ushered in an era of newfound optimism and a growing respect for human rights. In 2004, his wife gave birth to a son who will one day rule the Alaouite dynasty.

    End your day, as the sun sets over the Atlantic, at the majestic Hassan Tower and the Mausoleum of Mohamed V.
    Overnight suggestion. Villa Mandarine – a 30-room boutique hotel. Relax among the gardens of the villa, which was once a family home.

  2. Day 2 Volubulis - Meknes -Fez

    Breakfast at your hotel.
    Drive to the extensive Roman ruins at Volubulis (about 2 1⁄2 to 3 hours Rabat) and tour the capital of the ancient Roman province of Mauritania. Volubulis has some outstanding mosaics still located in situ.
    After completing your tour of the ruins, make a brief stop at nearby Moulay Idriss, the holiest Muslim site in Morocco. At its center lies the tomb (zaouia) of the man who brought Islam to Morocco twelve centuries ago.
    Next, visit imperial Meknes. Its spectacular city gates are among the finest in the Arab world. Here, also, is the tomb of the once-feared Moulay Ismail, who modeled his capital of Meknes in the image of Versailles. Other sites of interest are the underground granaries and the vast imperial stables, which once held 12,000 horses.
    Continue (1 hour) to nearby Fes.
    Upon arrival, check into your hotel.
    Rest and refresh at your hotel.
    When you are ready, enjoy an introduction to Fes with your expert guide, private driver and vehicle.
    Step back six centuries into the medieval world of Fes, its cobbled streets filled with ancient mosques, towering green-glazed minarets, and crumbling fondouks (hostels for travelers and their animals). Narrow doorways peer into private worlds, revealing peaceful courtyards filled with carved cedar, brilliantly colored mosaic tiles, and delicately carved stucco ornament. In Fes, veiled women hurry through the winding streets, while donkeys, laden with their wares, take their time, and proud artisans craft objects much as their forefathers did centuries ago.

    Overnight suggestion: Palais Amani – an oasis of tranquility, beauty and comfort, complete with luxurious rooms, stunning gardens and Moroccan hospitality. Relax in the hotel’s large, open courtyard, with citrus trees, ferns, and olive trees – a true oasis in the city’s bustling medina.

  3. Day 3 A tour of Fez

    Breakfast at your hotel.
    Enjoy a full-day tour with your expert guide, private driver and vehicle.

    Highlights of your full-day visit include the Bou Inania Medersa (Koranic university), the Foundouk Nejjarine (which has an excellent museum of arts and crafts), the shrine of Moroccan ruler Moulay Idriss II, countless souks, and the city’s famed tanneries.

    Overnight suggestion: Palais Amani

  4. Day 4 Second day tour of Fez

    Breakfast at your hotel.
    Enjoy a full-day tour with your expert guide and private transport.
    This morning, enjoy a souk walk with our expert food guide. Moroccan cuisine is said to be one of the most important, and interesting, cuisines in the world and Fes is considered the capital of Moroccan cooking. You will be escorted through the medina to learn about and savor the delights of Moroccan gastronomy. It is a great opportunity to see where the traditional dishes of Morocco begin!
    Visit the Attarine, one of the city’s most impressively beautiful medersas. It has been newly reopened after four years of careful restoration.
    Visit the Dar Batha Museum, a Hispanic-Moorish palace with a fine collection of traditional crafts, including a particularly impressive pottery collection from the 16
    th century.
    See the stunning gates of the Royal Palace.
    Overnight: Palais Amani

  5. Day 5 Erfoud

    Breakfast at your hotel.
    Early start suggested. (Total driving time today is approximately 6 hours to Erfoud (plus stops)).
    Drive south through the scenic cedar forests of the Middle Atlas Mountains, following the green Ziz River valley until it ends at the Sahara desert. Soon you will arrive at the Tafilet oasis.

    The Tafilet Oasis was the last stop on the trans-Saharan trading route before reaching Timbuktu. This oasis is also the home of the Alaouite dynasty of His Majesty King Mohamed VI. The Alaouite dynasty, has ruled Morocco for the last four centuries.

    As the last paved road ends, at the edge of the oasis town of Erfoud, you will journey to your accommodations via 4X4.

    You will spend the night in a private desert encampment near the village of Merzouga and the legendary dunes of Erg Chebbi. From here, you can climb the dunes to watch the glorious sunset. A traditional Berber dinner will be prepared for you at the encampment. After dinner, you will be at leisure to enjoy the beauty of the Saharan sky and the magnificence of your surroundings.

    Overnight: Private Desert Encampment.

  6. Day 6 Erg Chebbi

    Very early wake up.
    Continue your adventure as you explore the legendary dunes of Erg Chebbi. Considered by desert aficionados to be perhaps the largest dunes in the Sahara, they are constantly shifting due to the considerable desert winds.
    If you’d like, your camels await for a short trek up the dunes!
    Witness the sun rising from the east over the desert dunes – one of Morocco’s greatest sights. Maghreb, the Arabic name for Morocco, means the West. In fact, ancient Morocco was at the very edge not only of the Islamic world, but of the known world.
    After the sun rises, you will return to your encampment for breakfast.
    After breakfast, begin your 4×4 adventure in the Sahara Desert. Explore the crumbling ruins of once grand kasbahs, now partially buried by sand. For centuries, these fortified outposts were the first signs of civilization for caravans that had endured months of hardship crossing the open Sahara. Especially notable is Sijilmasa, a medieval Moroccan city and trading center at the northern edge of the desert. Although the crumbling ruins of this legendary town reveal little of its glorious past, it is hard to overestimate the role of Sijilmasa in trans- Saharan trade. The famous route across the desert to the secret gold mines (their exact locations are still unknown) was full of danger and intrigue. Even as late as 1805, a caravan of 2,000 men and 1,800 camels perished en route to Sijilmasa, laden with gold from Timbuktu.
    Return to Erfoud by 4×4 and continue your exploration of Morocco’s desert south.

    (Total driving time today is approximately 5 hours (plus stops)).
    This afternoon, depart west along the millennium-old trading route to the scenic Todgha Gorges.
    Enjoy a hike in this dramatic natural scenery.
    Continue west to the oasis of Ouarzazate, called “the gate to the desert.” It is a former outpost of the French Foreign Legion.

    Check in at the Hotel.
    Dinner at your hotel.
    Overnight suggestion: Berbere Palace – the finest in Ouarzazate.

  7. Day 7 Ouarzazate

    Breakfast at your hotel.
    Spend the morning exploring the region around Ouarzazate. Visit the Kasbah Taouirirt and the UNESCO-restored Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou. Film buffs may be surprised to learn that Ouarzazate was the setting for dozens of movies from Gladiator to Lawrence of Arabia.
    Head west through the High Atlas Mountains and the dramatic pass of Tizn Tichka.

    (Total driving time today is approximately 4 hours (plus stops)).
    To many, the most beautiful part of Morocco is the rural landscape of the High Atlas Mountains. Here, earthen Berber villages are terraced into the mountains, their flat, baked-mud roofs nestled against the fertile slopes. Life moves at a slow pace, and the virtues of family and hospitality to strangers are held in high regard.

    Check in at the Kasbah .

    Overnight suggestion: Kasbah Tamadot – Richard Branson’s retreat in the High Atlas. Nestled in the rolling foothills of the High Atlas, the Kasbah was extensively renovated with a unique blend of Moroccan colors and textures. Kasbah Tamadot is a luxurious and intimate retreat less than one hour from Marrakech. The spa and hammam (traditional Turkish steam bath) at Kasbah Tamadot offer a full array of treatments. Enjoy a game of tennis or a swim in the indoor or outdoor pools. Or, if you prefer, spend a quiet afternoon in the Kasbah’s well-stocked library.

  8. Day 8 Kasbah Tamadot

    Breakfast at your hotel.
    Day at leisure to enjoy the facilities and surroundings at Kasbah Tamadot.
    You may wish to hire a guide for a stroll / trek to a local Berber village. Chances are that you may be invited for mint tea!
    Overnight: Kasbah Tamadot

  9. Day 9 Essaouira

    Breakfast at your hotel.
    Today you will set out for Essaouira (about 3 1⁄2 hours from the High Atlas Mountains).

    A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this well-preserved former Portuguese stronghold and trading outpost on the Atlantic has in recent years become something of an artists’ colony. It is famous for being the setting of Orson Welles’ 1952 Othello as well as the inspiration for Jimi Hendrix’s “Castles in the Sand,” which he penned while living in Essaouira.

    Upon arrival in Essaouira, check in to the hotel.

    Visit the enchanting streets and alleys of laid-back Essaouira. Once known as Mogador, Essaouira’s blue and white medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Climb the stairs to enjoy the 360° views of Essaouira in the Moulay El Hassan square. Enjoy the numerous and lively café terraces and restaurants.

    Overnight suggestion: Palais Heure Bleue – Palais Heure Bleue. This fashionable Relais & Chateaux boutique hotel was fashioned from a former customs house. Enjoy the gorgeous rooftop terrace, heated pool, hammam, and spa facilities in this peaceful corner of Essaouira’s medina. This hotel offers some of the finest food in Essaouira.

  10. Day 10 Day2 at Essaouira

    Breakfast at your hotel.
    Enjoy the day at your leisure to explore Essaouira (no services provided).
    Be sure not to miss the street of the thuya workers, the ocean-side ramparts, and the numerous art galleries scattered about town.
    You may wish to enjoy a lunch of freshly caught seafood at one of the stands by the bustling port or one of the many restaurants overlooking the busy Place Moulay Hassan.
    Overnight: Palais Heure Bleue

  11. Day 11 Marrakech

    Breakfast at your hotel.
    Today you will be escorted to Marrakech (approximately a 2 1⁄2 hour drive).
    Upon arrival, check in at your hotel.
    Rest and refresh at your hotel.
    When you are ready, begin your exploration of Marrakech.
    The defining landmark of Marrakech is the 12
    th century tiled minaret of the Koutoubia mosque, the ideal place to begin your journey into this entrancing city. From here, you will begin to explore the ancient pink-walled medina.
    In the early evening, head toward the frenetic Djemaa el Fnaa, the grandest square in all of Africa – and perhaps in the world. It was once the ultimate destination for traders from places as diverse as Venice, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia.

    Today, it provides ever-changing entertainment for Moroccans and foreigners alike, reaching its climax at sunset when the square is alive with storytellers, healers, snake charmers, acrobats, and countless food stalls. Walk through the square to experience its intensity and then perhaps enjoy the view from the terrace of a rooftop café.

    The entire Djemaa el Fnaa has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Space (one of only a handful in the world), due to its unique role in transmitting oral history and tradition from one generation to another.

    Overnight suggestion: Villa des Orangers

  12. Day 12 Day 2 at Marrakech

    Breakfast at your hotel.
    Enjoy a full-day tour with your expert guide, private driver and vehicle.

    No longer the secret of the travel cognoscenti that it was ten years ago, Marrakech is now recognized as one of the world’s great cities. With the design flair of Paris, the ethnic diversity of New York, the commercial heartbeat of Hong Kong, and a history to rival any city in Europe, Marrakech is above all a city of heart and soul – a city of sunlight on rough pink walls, of fragrant, richly-hued spices, and of rose petals floating in slowly trickling fountains.

    Visit the medieval Medersa ben Youssef (Koranic university) – one of the finest Islamic monuments in North Africa. Architecture aficionados will enjoy the delicate dome of the 12th century Koubba.
    Close to the medersa are two of the most interesting cultural showplaces in Marrakech. The Musee de Marrakech is housed in the sumptuous, 19
    th century Mnebhi Palace. Nearby is the Dar Bellarj cultural foundation. Established to showcase Moroccan culture, it is housed in a former hospital for storks.

    Stop for tea or orange juice at the beautifully restored Dar Cherifa, which houses a cultural foundation, bookstore, and art gallery (with rotating exhibitions). It is a wonderful example of the many riads being restored in the medina.
    Explore the colorful souks (marketplaces) of Marrakech. Each trade
    spices, carpets, jewelry, enamel, copper, brass, and cedar is situated in its unique quarter. You might see villagers bringing in their hand-made rugs to sell to the merchants, or you may observe artisans hand-tooling crafts the way it has been done for centuries.

    Overnight: Villa des Orangers.

  13. Day 13 Day 3 at Marrakech

    Breakfast at your hotel.
    Enjoy a full-day tour with your expert guide, private driver and vehicle.
    Begin your day at the tropical Majorelle Gardens, lovingly restored under the patronage of the late Yves St. Laurent. Visit the small, but excellent, Berber Culture Museum, located in the home of painter Jacques Majorelle.
    Visit the opulent Saadien Tombs, the mausoleum of a great dynasty which once ruled North Africa. This treasure was lost until the beginning of the 20
    th century when aerial photographs of the medina revealed its existence.
    Wander through the Dar Si Said Museum of traditional crafts, housed in a 19
    th century palace, and the nearby Maison Tiskiwin, a private collection of indigenous crafts gathered by a Swiss collector and now open to the public.
    Visit the ruins of the vast Badi’a Palace. Here you will find the 800-year-old wooden minbar (pulpit) from the Koutoubia mosque restored by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The New York Times writes that the minbar “originally consisted of more than a million differently carved pieces of bone and colored woods, some pieces the size of sesame seeds.”
    You may wish to leave the medina for a visit to the Menara Gardens. Among extensive olive groves lies a large reflecting pool with views of the High Atlas Mountains in the distance.
    Overnight: Les Jardins de la Medina – superior room.

  14. Day 14 Departure

    Breakfast at your hotel.
    You will be escorted to Marrakech’s Menara Airport for your departing flight.

    You will receive VIP treatment to assist you in avoiding any unnecessary delays.

    Bon Voyage!

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