Imperial Cities and Chefchaouen
10 Days 4×4 Tour and Camp
Package Prices Start From:
€1590 per person
With 1 night at deluxe desert camp.
Price based on two people travelling by private vehicle.
Difficulty Rating: 3
Key: on a scale of 1-5
1 = Short distance
5 = Long distance
A circular tour with the Imperial Cities of Morocco, starting from Tangier and finishing in Marrakech. Travel through the North of Morocco and the desert, before looping up to the High Atlas mountains and Marrakech. Experience the vibrancy of three beguiling Imperial Cities and the famous blue citadel of Chefchaouen; camp overnight in the Sahara desert; lodge en-route to Marrakech and the mountains in one of Morocco’s lush garden oases; and end the journey in the UNESCO-listed Marrakech medina. This private tour takes in five of Morocco’s nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with the option to visit a sixth (Essaouira/Mogador) as a full day trip from Marrakech.
The itinerary includes:
- 4×4 vehicle with English speaking driver for 10 days;
- guest-house accommodation on 8 nights;
- camel trekking at the Erg Chebbi dunes (and shared sand-boarding);
- 1 night desert camping, in fully-furnished en-suite tent with private bathroom;
- all breakfasts;
- evening meals on days 5 and 6 (and including drinking water/soft drinks at the desert camp);
- special dietary and other requests catered for.
Please contact us for a tailor-made price quotation.
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Tangier to Chefchaouen
Arrival to Tangier airport (*or collection from your hotel, if you plan to arrive in Tangier a day ahead). Transfer south-east to the blue citadel of Chefchaouen, nestled in the foothills of the Rif Mountains. Arrive during the afternoon, check in at your guest-house and spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Explore the captivating medina by foot. There will also be time tomorrow morning for the town, before setting off for Fes.
Notes: Chefchaouen’s population was boosted during the Middle Ages by a large number of refugees from Spain. The Spanish held the town during the Protectorate years (approx. 30 years until 1956). Historically the town was white-washed (akin to the buildings in Andalucia’s Alpujarras) before the blue dye was added to the wash.
Chefchaouen to Fes
Enjoy your morning at leisure in the blue citadel of Chefchaouen.
Depart for Fes early afternoon. Check-in at your Riad on arrival.
Day Visit – Meknes and Volubilis
Volubilis (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is home to the largest and most well-preserved Roman ruins in Morocco. With its triumphal arches and basilicas, the skyline is peppered with examples of Roman architecture.
However, the greatest treasures of Volubilis are the superb mosaic floors, which have been excellently preserved and left in situ. Three outstanding examples include Orpheus charming animals with his lyre, nine dolphins signifying good luck and a portrait of Amphitrite in a chariot.
From Volubilis to Meknes (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site). In Meknes, the impressive monuments recall the splendour of a city first built in the 17th century by the powerful sultan Moulay Ismail to rival the court of his contemporary, Louis XIV of France.
During your visit to Meknes you will see the monumental Bab Mansour gateway, considered to be one of the finest of the great gates of Morocco, the Granaries and the Royal Stables, which were built to accommodate some 12,000 horses. You may also see Moulay Ismail’s Mausoleum, one of the few shrines in Morocco that can be visited by non-Muslims.
Return to Fes and rest of day at leisure.
Day at leisure in the medina of Fes.
The ancient Fes medina is purported to be the largest, urban car-free zone in the world and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fes has significant religious importance in Morocco as it was the seat of the founding Muslim dynasty. It is also the seat of the al-Karaouine University, which has its origins in the 9th Century; one of the oldest universities in the world, it was once one of the leading intellectual centres of the Mediterranean and Arab world.
The medina also offers an insight into traditional Moroccan craft-working and Moorish architecture (influenced by emigration from the Iberian peninsula). There are the leather tanneries which may be photographed, and numerous other craft-working districts in the medina. You may be able to visit the Medersas Bou Inania and el Attarin (14th Century) but the other religious buildings are not open to non-Muslims.
Final night in Fes.
Fes to Sahara Desert
Early departure for the day’s journey to the desert frontier.
Gaining altitude, via part of Morocco’s cedar forest region, cross the Middle Atlas mountains and descend via the Ziz Gorge and river. Drive through the Tafilalt region (which the Ziz irrigates) of verdant date palms bordering the Sahara. This region, of historical importance, once marked the crossroads of the West African caravan routes, and is the origin of the establishment of the Alaouite dynasty (17th Century), the dynasty that still holds power in Morocco today.
You will meet your camel caravan at the end of the road and make the 1 hour trek* to reach your desert camp for the night. Enjoy sunset at the dunes and dine before enjoying the campfire and star-gazing.
*Alternatively, request your driver to take you to camp with the jeep.
Leaving the Sahara desert behind, travel westwards to visit the foothills of the Atlas mountains and the famous natural Gorges, the Todra and Dades Gorges.
Follow the direction of the Dades River west to reach the palm oasis of Skoura, with the Atlas mountains still visible to the north.
Overnight at Skoura in one of its tranquil lodges.
To Marrakech across the Atlas
Visit some of the south of Morocco’s most intriguing kasbah monuments, en-route to Marrakech, before crossing the High Atlas mountains. The Kasbah Amridil at Skoura, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait Ben Haddou, and the Telouet Kasbah.
Enjoy the patchwork of Berber villages in the river valleys in this region and the contrast of colours as the scenery changes; from arid pre-Saharan to alpine to farmland and olive groves.
Cross the mountains at the Tichka Pass and gradually descend to the plain of Marrakech, expecting to arrive late afternoon.
Overnight at a riad in the medina.
Day at leisure for Marrakech and its sights.
Optional activities would be a Moroccan cookery course at a cookery school and/or a traditional Moroccan ‘hammam’ (bathing/cleansing ritual in a heated room).
Visit the Maison de la Photographie, the Musee des Confluences (next to the Dar el Bacha), the Bahia Palace (19th Century) and le Jardin Secret. The afternoon can be spent in the ‘souks’ (the marketplace for Moroccan crafts such as leather, carpets, pottery and spices) or at the botanical Jardins Majorelle in the new town. The gardens at La Mamounia are also noteworthy.
If you want to get out of town, go to the Anima Garden on the Ourika Road.
Optional Day Excursion
The driver and vehicle are available today.
Possible excursions away from Marrakech would be to Essaouira on the Atlantic Coast (6 hours round-journey), or to the foothills of the High Atlas mountains (via an animal rescue shelter, up to 5 hours round-journey).
The cost of meals/drinks/entry visits are not included in the tour package.
Departure Day – airport transfer
Transfer to Marrakech airport for departing flight.
*Transfer to Casablanca airport can also be arranged (at additional cost).
When to tour?
Try to avoid the height of summer and depth of winter
Temperatures not only in the Sahara but also in Marrakech, Ouarzazate & Anti-Atlas are in the 40s °C in summer. In winter (typically January) snow in the mountains can close the high passes at times, or lead to unexpected delays and route changes. The weather conditions in the desert are prone to change quickly and never predictable. However windy conditions in the desert are common, this is not the same as a sandstorm.
Going the extra mile
Don’t underestimate geographical distances and travel times. Although Morocco is smaller than Spain, traveling in the South can lead to long driving hours due to the nature of the terrain here (mountains, desert, valleys). Be prepared to travel on average 5-6 hours per day. It’s far better to miss out a couple of places to maximise time elsewhere and to enjoy the journey. You can always come back!
The imperial cities of Morocco are the four historical capital cities of Morocco: Fes, Marrakech, Meknes and Rabat. The term was used from the 15th century to denote a self-ruling city that enjoyed a certain amount of autonomy. An Imperial city held the status of Imperial immediacy, and as such, was subordinate only to the emperor, as opposed to a territorial city or town.