Mosaic of Morocco 2020
HIGH ADVENTURE TOUR!
April 15-25, 2020 • 11 Days • $5150**
Second Departure available in early November 2020!*
With its enviable geography and vibrant history, Morocco is a beautiful country with an extremely colorful, mosaic-like culture that we’re looking forward to sharing with travelers.
**Traveler Rewards Program: New Travelers receive a $300 discount on the Morocco 2020 tour! Returning travelers receive our Alumni Traveler Discount of 5-10% off the main tour price. Terms, exclusions and conditions apply. Check out our Traveler Rewards page for more details.
*We will offer a second departure in early November 2020 if there is interest!
Reserve your spot on this tour with a $500 Registration Deposit! Check below for more details.
Situated in north Africa, Morocco sits at a unique junction of influences. Bordered on the north by the Mediterranean, with Spain and Portugal just a stone’s throw across the Strait of Gibraltar, its western flank is hemmed in by the Atlantic Ocean. Dreamy dunes of the Sahara Desert push up from the south against the 14,000-foot peaks of the Atlas Mountains, while broad, fertile plains producing bountiful agricultural harvests and rich mineral resources connect the Atlas Mountains with two other significant mountain ranges.
Historically, Moroccans were mainly Berber tribes in the eons before the 7th century Arab Muslim movement entered the region. Arab and Berber cultures and bloodlines combined and their armies, often called Moors, invaded and controlled major sections of the Iberian Peninsula of Europe for nearly 800 years. The Moors continued to develop one of the most advance civilizations on the globe, with significant contributions to medicine, science, mathematics and city planning – all while the capitals of Europe were still dumping raw sewage into public streets!
Here are a few of the many highlights offered by this new Adventure:
- Tangier: Separated from Spain by only 20 miles of the Gibralter Strait, Tangier has a fascinating mix of north African, Spanish, French and Portuguese influences that inspired Henri Matisse.
- Chefchaouen: Perched beneath the rugged peaks of the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen acts not only as the perfect base for one of our favorite walks but is also one of the most visually striking towns in Morocco with its beautiful blue-washed buildings in the old town.
- Fez and Marrakech: These two imperial cities were capitals of Morocco’s four dynasties at various points in the country’s long history. Their respective medinas provide some of the trip’s most colorful and memorable scenes.
- High Atlas Mountains: We crisscross the High Atlas range twice, and wind back and forth along the southern foothills for a good part of that time, connecting with multiple facets of the Berber side of Moroccan culture.
- The Sahara and southern deserts: The dunes of the Sahara display stunningly stark scenes and are some of the planet’s harshest environments, while the region south of the High Atlas Mountains that descends into the Sahara shares multiple aspects that will impress upon us the precious value of water.
- Airport to hotel transfers on first day
- All land travel as outlined by motorcoach
- Accommodations in a blend of hotels and riads (traditional inns)
- 18 meals: all breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 6 dinners as denoted (BLD), including 3 cultural meals with local residents
- 9 walk routes
- Walking fees for those collecting IVV walking credit
- WAI guide service throughout (2 guides)
- Cultural & historical expertise of national guides throughout
- Local guide assistance on several days
- All tipping for local guides, coach drivers, and group meals
- Pricing is based on double occupancy. A limited number of single rooms are available for a supplement of $425. We also provide a roommate matching service.
- Guided Tour of Tangier
- Guided Tour of Volubilis (UNESCO)
- Guided Tour of Meknes (UNESCO)
- Tomb of Sultan Moulay Ismail
- Heri es-Souani, former granary and stable
- Guided Tour of Fes (UNESCO)
- Tomb of Idriss II
- Al-Qarawiyyin University
- Tanneries of Fes
- Camel Trek & Overnight Luxury Desert Camp in the Sahara
- Khettaras medieval irrigation system
- Guided Walk in Tinghir Palmeraie oasis
- Rose distillery visit
- Ait-Ben-Haddou (UNESCO)
- Guided Tour of Marrakech (UNESCO)
- Bahia Palace
- Saadian Tombs
- More fun and educational stops than we can list!
- Caves of Hercules & Asilah (Day 1)
- Fassi dinner and show (Day 5)
Group Size: 24-28 Travelers
2-4 Guides with a 1:9 guide to traveler ratio
18 meals: all breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 6 dinners, with 3 cultural meals
Accommodations in a blend of hotels and riads (traditional inns)
9 walk routes
Visits to 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Basic transportation in motorcoaches
Discounts available. See More Details section for traveler rewards program information.
Tour Pace: 1 2 3 4 5
Walk Challenge: 1 2 3 4 5
Dan Friesen has been guiding tours for over 25 years on all 7 continents. He has hiked the Great Wall of China, hobnobbed with penguins in Antarctica, felt the spray of Iguazu Falls in Brazil, yodeled from the heights of the Swiss Alps, and walked the ruins of majestic Machu Picchu. Dan will be accompanied by a Walking Adventures assistant and our national guide Abdou Idrissi on this tour. He looks forward to exploring the delights of Morocco with you!
Abdou Idrissi As a Berber who was born and raised in a small village in the Valley of Roses, our national guide Abderrahman (Abdou for short) learned at a young age the importance of the land and a respect for nature. While studying law at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech, he supported himself and his family by working as a mountain guide on the weekends. He has a deep understanding and passion for politics and served as the president of his village association for 9 years where he spearheaded projects such as establishing a local cooperative that makes and distributes rose beauty products throughout Morocco and installing solar energy panels used to distribute water to the families in the village. Since his days at the University, Abdou has gained over 15 years experience as a guide and driver, and takes great pride in sharing his land and his culture with guests to his country.
Click on each day for more details.
Day 1-Apr 15: Arrive Tangier, Morocco (D)
Optional Asilah Walk – 4 km, rating unknown
Travelers arrive into the Mediterranean Morocco port city of Tangier today. Separated from Spain by only 20 miles of the Gibraltar Strait, Tangier is a complex mix of north African, Spain, France, and Portugal. In fact, until 1956, Tangier was governed under joint international control. As such, it is a worthy entry point for our odyssey through the Moroccan mosaic.
Optional Excursion ~ Caves of Hercules & Asilah: Those arriving a day early are invited to join us for an optional excursion to the Caves of Hercules & Asilah on the Atlantic side of Morocco. The first part of the day takes us to a cave near Tangier just south of where the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea meet. Historically, circular cuts on the ceiling and walls of the cave bear witness to the use of the cave by Phoenicians to quarry millstones. Mythically, it is considered a resting place of Greek hero Hercules after he finished The Eleventh Labor of Hercules of gathering the Golden Apples of Hesperides. From the Cave of Hercules, we travel further south to the Atlantic town of Asilah, a charming artist community of whitewashed homes decorated with colorful murals. Each year the town is whitewashed and a festival follows during which artists redecorate the walls with new splashes of color. We’ll enjoy this special slice of the Moroccan cultural tapestry with a walk through the medina (old town) and along the waterfront promenade. Estimated price: $50 (minimum of 15 participants). From Asilah, we return to our hotel in Tangier for this evening’s Welcome Dinner.
Day 2-Apr 16: Tangier – Chefchaouen (BD)
Walking Tour of Chefchaouen – 2 km, rating unknown
After a relaxed breakfast, we depart mid-morning on a guided tour of Tangier. We drive first to the kasbah (fort) at the top of the old medina for a panoramic overview of the city and the sea beyond. Walking is the best way to see Tangier, and a swirling stroll through the bustling serpentine lanes introduces us to our first Moroccan medina, scenes that captivated Henri Matisse and other famous artists. After time for lunch, we rejoin the bus for a drive inland to Chefchaouen. After checking into our hillside cottage lodgings, join us for an evening stroll through this unforgettable town. Yesterday we visited a whitewashed city; Chefchaouen is striking for it blue-washed buildings. We start along the Ras el Ma, pass the local laundromat (aka the river) and wind our way through blue alleys and lanes to Place Outa el Hammam, the central square of the city, for this evening’s group dinner.
Day 3-Apr 17: Activities from Chefchaouen (BL)
Rif Mountain Panoramas Walk – 9 km, rated 3B
Today’s after-breakfast activity is a short but challenging bonus hike up to the Spanish Mosque for panoramic morning views of the city. Later, we ascend by coach into the Rif Mountains to the starting point of the main walk of the day. Our first stop along the route is in the humble village of Kalaa where we visit the El Khyati family for lunch. Following lunch, the walk continues with sweeping vistas over the northernmost of Morocco’s three main mountain ranges. Our coach meets us at the end of this linear trail and returns us along a scenic drive to Chefchaouen, where late afternoon and rest of the evening are free to explore on your own.
Day 4-Apr 18: Chefchaouen – Fes (B)
Volubilis Roman Ruins Walk – 2 km, rated 1B
Meknes Imperial City Walk – 5 km, rated 1A
We head south this morning to explore the ruins of the Roman outpost of Volubilis. According to the UNESCO World Heritage listing, Volubilis is “an exceptionally well-preserved example of a large Roman colonial town on the fringes of the Empire”. The city was reclaimed by the local Amazigh tribes around 235 AD and it was near here, in the 8th century, that Idriss I established the first dynasty of the Kingdom of Morocco. After a guided tour of Volubilis, we stop for lunch in the sacred city of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, where Idriss I is entombed. The afternoon walk is in Meknes, one of Morocco’s four imperial cities (we visit three). Our route enters the old medina through the interesting gate of Bab Mansour. Highlights include the tomb of Sultan Moulay Ismail, the eccentric ruler who made Meknes Morocco’s capital from 1672 to 1727, and Heri es-Souani, a former granary and stable which once housed 12,000 horses. Our home for the next two nights is a traditional riad in the bustling and vibrant medina of Fes.
Day 5-Apr 19: Activities in Fes (B)
Fez Idrisid Dynasty Walk – 6 km, rated 1B
Our local guide meets us this morning after breakfast for a brief overview of the day followed by a multi-faceted walk and driving tour of Fes that features: a walk past the Royal Palace and through the old Mellah (Jewish Quartier); a drive to one of the Borj (towers) for a panoramic view of the entire medina; a stop at a mosaic house for a demonstration of traditional pottery methods utilized by Fassi artisans; a walking tour of the mesmerizing medina of Fes to get lost in its ancient streets and neighborhoods; and visits to various artisan sections and important historic monuments (including the tomb of Idriss II and the Al-Qarawiyyin University – the oldest continually operated university in the world). After time for lunch, and a visit to the photogenic tanneries of Fes, the rest of the afternoon is free to explore on your own.
Optional Excursion ~ Fassi Dinner and Show: Enjoy traditional Fassi cuisine this evening while watching a show that includes local music, folklore, belly dancing, and even a little magic. Estimated price: $50
Day 6-Apr 20: Fes - Erg Chebbi (BD)
Our longest driving day takes us south towards the Sahara Desert this morning. Along the way, we see a wide cross section of the mosaic of Morocco. First stop is a rest break in a mountain town whose forested slopes have earned it the nickname “Little Switzerland”. We continue south through the largest cedar forest in Africa, home to Barbary apes (aka Atlas Monkeys). Next is the ascent through the Middle Atlas Mountains for a lunch break (fresh trout from one of the region’s volcanic lakes) on the high plains between the Middle and High Atlas ranges. Finally, we cross the High Atlas Mountains via the Ziz River Gorge descending to the stunning sun-soaked dunes of Erg Chebbi. Camels are the preferred method of transport (4×4 jeeps are also available) for our trek into the heart of the dunes to this evening’s luxury tent camp (facilities en suite). Dinner is served at camp, preceded by the chance to climb a dune to watch the sunset, and followed by local music and desert stargazing.
Day 7-Apr 21: Erg Chebbi – Boumalne Dades (BD)
Toughra Oasis Walk – 7 km, rated 1B
If you pre-arrange it, your camel guide will wake you early this morning so you can watch the sun rise over the Sahara. Breakfast back in camp is followed by a return camel trek over the dunes to rendezvous with a more conventional form of transportation (our bus). Leaving the Sahara, we stop to visit Khettaras, a fascinating and surprisingly effective medieval irrigation system that brought water to the desert from the distant Saghro Mountains. The oasis town of Tinghir is the venue for today’s guided walk through the palmeraie (palm oasis) and Mellah (old Jewish area). The walk ends at a local rug cooperative for a demonstration of this traditional art form. A short distance away, our hotel boasts a terrace overlooking the Dades River Valley where we can unwind and enjoy a pre-dinner glass of wine.
Day 8-Apr 22: Activities from Boumalne Dades (BLD)
Valley of 1000 Kasbahs Walk – 7 km, rated 2C
A scenic morning drive takes us along the Road of 1000 Kasbahs (fortresses) from the Dadès River Valley to the M’Goun River Valley. At Kasbah Tamaloute we stop for tea and restrooms, then set off on today’s trail along the M’Goun River through local Berber gardens filled with spring roses that have become an important cash crop in these mountain valleys. One of the oldest kasbahs in the region offers a break for tea with the family, followed by more meandering through the Berber village to enjoy lunch with a different local family. After lunch, we meet our local transportation (2 public minibuses) and head off-road over M’Goun mountain to Ait Yul in Dadès Gorge. Along the way, we have the opportunity to visit a nomad family and get a sense of their stark and traditional way of life. Once in Ait Yul, we rendezvous with our private bus and return to the hotel.
Day 9-Apr 23: Boumalne Dades – Marrakech (B)
Ait Benhaddou Walk – 5 km, rated 1B
Our coach follows the Dadès River into Kelaat M’Gouna, this morning, the heart of the Valley of Roses. A stop here at a local rose cooperative offers a demonstration of the distillation process of the region’s most valuable crop. From here, we continue to our walk of the day which ends at the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site of Ait-Ben-Haddou. After time for lunch and to explore this maze-like hill town and impressive ksar, we motor over the High Atlas Mountains via the breathtaking Tizi n’Tichka Pass, reaching an altitude of over 7400 feet above sea level before beginning the descent into Marrakech. Upon arrival in Marrakech, we check into our hotel on the edge of the medina. You are free to explore this intriguing and lively old quarter and enjoy dinner on your own, or join us for a no-host dinner together.
Day 10-Apr 24: Activities in Marrakech (BD)
Marrakech Medina Walk – 7 km, rated 1B
Our local city guide meets us at the hotel for this morning’s fascinating walk through Marrakech, our third imperial city. Along the way we stop to explore Bahia Palace (“palace of the beautiful”), 19th century masterpiece of Moroccan architecture; the Saadian Tombs, containing sepulchers of nearly 60 members of this 16th century Berber dynasty; and Koutoubia Mosque, erected in the 12th century during the Almohad Caliphate, another Berber dynasty. Sprinkled in between the history and architectural wonders are a kaleidoscope of colorful Marrakech medina marvels – crafts and clothes and a potpourri of almost any kind of product imaginable. Following the walk, the balance of the afternoon is free to explore. Join us again this evening for a unique, only-in-Morocco Farewell Dinner. We’ve been invited into a local home to join a Moroccan family during this season of Ramadan as they break the daily fast.
Day 11-Apr 25: Depart Marrakech (B)
We say “farewell” to Marrakech this morning. Our wanderings through the mosaic that is Morocco have introduced us to many of its mysteries – a kaleidoscope of customs and cultures at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, Africa and Europe, Berber and Arab, Islam and Christendom.
How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?
To save yourself a spot on this Adventure, contact us to register with a $500 deposit as soon as possible! We’ll take 24-28 travelers on this tour, with 2 Walking Adventures guides accompanying, assisted by a local guide, we offer a guide to traveler ratio of 1:9.
Traveler Rewards Program
New Travelers receive a $300 discount on the Morocco tour! Returning travelers receive our Alumni Traveler Discount of 5-10% off the main tour price. Terms, exclusions and conditions apply. See the Traveler Rewards page for more details or contact us with any questions at 800.779.0353 or [email protected].
General Tour Conditions and Registration Forms
Tour Cancellations: Walking Adventures International reserves the right to cancel any tour departure with fewer than 15 participants, in which case registered participants will receive a 100% refund of payments received.
Two optional excursions are available during this Adventure. If you would like to participate in any of these excursions, we have limited space available. To guarantee your place, please let us know your decision at the time you register.
Day 1 (April 15) ~ Caves of Hercules & Asilah
Those arriving a day early are invited to join us for an optional excursion to the Caves of Hercules & Asilah on the Atlantic side of Morocco. The first part of the day takes us to a cave near Tangier just south of where the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea meet. Historically, circular cuts on the ceiling and walls of the cave bear witness to the use of the cave by Phoenicians to quarry millstones. Mythically, it is considered a resting place of Greek hero Hercules after he finished The Eleventh Labor of Hercules of gathering the Golden Apples of Hesperides. From the Cave of Hercules, we travel further south to the Atlantic town of Asilah, a charming artist community of whitewashed homes decorated with colorful murals. Each year the town is whitewashed and a festival follows during which artists redecorate the walls with new splashes of color. We’ll enjoy this special slice of the Moroccan cultural tapestry with a walk through the medina (old town) and along the waterfront promenade. (Minimum of 15 participants) Estimated price: $50
Day 5 (April 20) ~ Fassi Cultural Dinner and Experience
Enjoy traditional Fassi cuisine this evening while watching a show that includes local music, traditional garb, folklore, belly dancing, and even a little magic. Estimated price: $50
A word about immunizations
We are not aware that any shots are required for a visit to Morocco, but as this is a developing country, you will want to check with your doctor or visit a travel clinic.
Other Planning Considerations
Morocco is a high adventure destination. Traditional Berber culture is a recurring theme of the program and the American traveler will encounter many scenes, smells, and experiences that can rightly be labeled as “exotic” or “earthy” and possibly uncomfortable to some. Those who grew up on a farm may be well prepared for some of the medina market scenes. Trails are not groomed. Sometimes they will feel more like goat paths than proper trails, and that will be accurate in places. Sleeping in the desert is a unique experience. We are investing in a luxury tent camp, but it is still not the Crowne Plaza Hotel. A high toleration for noise is an aspect many traditional cultures share. We are sensitive to this in our planning, but we will not be traveling in a bubble and you will feel the differences which, of course, is one of the primary purposes of travel…to feel the difference. Pack your sense of adventure and you will have a good start to maximizing your Moroccan experience!
How is airfare arranged?
The official start point for this Adventure is Tangier, Morocco (airport code TNG), while the official end point is Marrakech, Morocco (airport code RAK). More details about flight arrangements and travel agent contact information will be provided by email after you register for the Adventure. We recommend that you contact Laura Pfahler, the travel agent we work with, to help book your flight arrangements. In this age of airfare complications and airport uncertainty, using a travel agent is a good investment! Please do not book your airfare prior to receiving these flight details from us!
What about the walks?
We generally walk at a pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour. In most cases, we are not “strolling.” We are walking at a relaxed but steady pace. Your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. Because these are guided group walks, the success of the walks is predicated upon walkers having this minimum level of fitness in order to ensure that we are walking at a somewhat similar pace. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please talk with our office at 1.800.779.0353.
We have adopted a walk difficulty rating system which contains a numeric indicator for trail incline and an alpha indicator for trail terrain. The explanation for this system is presented below:
1. Very small hills or very little stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: up to 200 feet.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 200-1000 feet.
3. Some significant hill or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 1000-2000 feet.
4. Lots of significant hills or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 2000-3500 feet.
5. Many steep hills. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: more than 3500 feet.
A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well-groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky / rooted paths or soft sand).
D. A significant part of the route is on very difficult terrain.
E. The majority of the route is on very difficult terrain.
WAI believes strongly in the importance of travel insurance for financial and medical protection from any number of unforeseen circumstances that can arise before departure or during your Adventure. Many travel insurance providers are available for you to consider. Laura Pfahler of World Travel Inc., a travel agent who provides air travel services to many WAI travelers, can provide travel insurance options for your WAI tour as well as your airfare (email: [email protected] -OR- phone: 503-434-6401). For those of you who purchase airfare through Laura, purchasing your travel insurance from her as well may be the simplest option. As always, do some shopping to ensure you are getting the best value. Using the squaremouth.com website can be a good way to compare pricing.
Other options include:
- Travel Guard
- Travel Insured International
NOTE: We suggest purchasing from a reputable, well-established insurance company (avoid buying insurance from an unknown company found only online). In addition, be aware that some travel insurance policies contain time-sensitive provisions—i.e. some benefits are available only if the policy is purchased within a certain number of days of the purchase of the travel package.
What happens next?
Upon registering for this Adventure, you will receive a welcome letter and initial invoice. An email with critical information on flight arrangements and the Adventure Advice flyer will be sent soon after, with important information about steps to take in the months before your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you review the Flight Arrangements email. Final payment for the program is due 90 days before departure, and you will receive a final billing about 3 weeks prior to that point, along with a factsheet of additional information about the Adventure to help you get prepared! Then, about 3 weeks before departure, you will receive a final packet with all the details of the program, including hotel names and contact information, a list of fellow travelers, and a more detailed daily schedule.
Take a few minutes to peruse the enclosed itinerary. Morocco provides a fascinating mix of history, culture and scenery waiting to be explored! In the end, we think you will agree that walking is still and always the best way to experience our world. Give us a call and talk to one of our Adventure Consultants about how to join us for this unforgettable Walking Adventure program next spring as we journey through Morocco together!