Travel to Morocco on Mint Tea Tours’ 12-day Definitive Morocco Tour – one of our most popular itineraries of Morocco, with many of Morocco’s best destinations. Our Definitive Morocco tour includes the economic and political capitals of Casablanca and Rabat, the vast religious, spiritual and intellectual richness of Fes, Roman ruins in Volubilis, former imperial capital Meknes and then journeys south to experience the golden Sahara Desert, Boumalne Dades, Morocco’s Hollywood in Ouarzazate and the Red City of Marrakech. Finish your tour by heading west to the Atlantic coast to visit the white-washed walls of Essaouira, former Portuguese colony El Jadida and return to Casablanca.
Start your tour in Casablanca, the largest city and economic capital of Morocco.
A must- do: a visit to the impressive Hassan II mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world. Originally commissioned to honor the former king’s father as well as create “the” landmark in Casablanca, it is a showcase of Moroccan craftsmanship and can accommodate more than 100,000 worshippers.
Fit in with the locals as you stroll along the Corniche with its beaches, outdoor cafes and seafood restaurants, and visit Morocco Mall, the largest shopping center on the continent!
Compare the original medina of Casablanca with the new medina, the Quartier Habous, designed by the French to address the expansion of the urban population.
Fans of architecture will appreciate Casablanca’s blend of French colonial- meets-traditional Moorish design.
Get an early start to Rabat, the political and administrative capital of Morocco. It’s also Morocco’s most recent add to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites register. Rabat can be considered a relatively new city, as it was only developed in the early 12th century. Explore the casbah by foot and enjoy the view of Rabat’s rival city and former pirate haven, Salé, from the top of the medina.
Rabat is also home to the King’s palace and its spacious grounds.
Visit the Hassan Tour, the unfinished minaret of the Hassan Mosque. The mosque was designed to be the largest at its time. Construction was halted by the death of Sultan Yacoub el-Mansour and was later destroyed by an earthquake.
Nearby is the Mausoleum of Mohamed V, beloved Sultan, King and the father of Moroccan independence.
Wander around Chellah, site of Roman ruins which were later extended into a necropolis by Merenid rulers. Chellah is also one of many stork colonies in Morocco, where storks are deemed the national bird.
Late afternoon arrival in Fes.
Fes is undoubtedly one of Morocco’s jewels. Considered its religious, spiritual, intellectual and cultural center, it is the oldest and longest-running imperial city. It is divided into three parts: Fes el Bali, Fes el Jedid and la Ville Nouvelle.
Start today’s guided tour in Fes el Jedid, the “new city” built in 1276. Dar el Makhzen, the royal palace in Fes, is still home to the king when in town, and its brass doors are a popular backdrop for Fassi newlyweds. Bordering the palace are vestiges of Fes’ important Jewish heritage. While no longer as populous, the Mellah was the heart of the Jewish quarters as early as the 13th century. Its architecture is notably different than that of the surrounding Muslim neighborhoods. The 17th century Danan Synagogue provides a great view of the Mellah as well as the white-washed tombs of the Jewish cemetery.
Next, venture by car to the southern fortress of Fes, which offers an unparalleled panorama of its vast medina as well as the olive-tree dotted hills surrounding Fes. Stop by a local pottery and mosaic co-operative to see first-hand the craft of Fes’ famous cobalt blue pottery.
Last but certainly not least: Fes el Bali, or “old town”, founded in the late 8th century. The medina is among one of many UNESCO World Heritage sites in Morocco and is virtually unchanged since the Middle Ages. Wander through the maze of narrow, winding passages. From the various souks organized by craft or specialty, along the many medersas, and the unforgettable view and scent of the centuries-old tannery, the medina of Fes is truly a sight to behold.
First stop: guided visit of Volubilis. Just one of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Morocco, Volubilis is a fantastic example of Roman colonization, dating from the 3rd century BC.
Continue on to Meknes, another UNESCO World Heritage Site and imperial capital under Moulay Ismail, the second Alaouite ruler. Meknes flourished under his rule, as witnessed by the Heri es-Souani, or granaries, designed to store feed for 12,000 horses for up to 20 years, if necessary. Another impressive proof of the sultan’s drive: the Bassin de l’Aguedal, a water tank built to supply water not only to the palace but to the entire city as well. Habs Qara is a more sobering example of Moulay Ismail’s rule. It was used as an underground prison for Christian sailors captured by pirates and used as forced labor for many of Moulay Ismail’s grandiose projects. The sultan’s mausoleum is a calm sanctuary with beautiful curved archways and zellige tile work. Currently, Meknes is home to the Haras de Meknes, one of the national horse studs and stables.
Carry on to Moulay Idriss, a picturesque hilltop town considered one of the holiest places in Morocco and named after this descendant of the Prophet Mohamed.
This morning’s drive takes you through the Middle Atlas Mountains, gateway to the South of Morocco. Traverse the fertile landscape and arrive at Immouzer du Kandar, the first Berber city and weekend getaway and summering spot for many Moroccans wishing to leave the heat of Fes and Meknes. This area is well-known for its inhabitants’ cave dwellings. Pass through Ifrane, a decidedly European town known as Morocco’s Switzerland and home to the Al-Akhawayn University. En route is Azrou, aptly named in Berber for the volcanic rocks on which it is built. Azrou also hosts the area’s largest weekly souk, or market. Feed the Barbary macaques on your way through the area’s cedar forest.
Midelt is the mid-way point for today’s drive. Known for mining and agriculture, Midelt soon gives way to the Ziz Valley, where brown bluffs marry fertile green date palm tree groves.
Arrival in Erfoud. Refresh yourself after today’s long drive with a dip in the hotel’s pool or hot shower.
Erfoud is the starting point for Sahara treks. Spend the morning exploring the old town of Erfoud Maadid, learn about the local fossils, or visit Rissani, a lively town with a Berber bazaar and frequent market days.
Be sure to taste medfouna, a delicious local Berber specialty of stuffed or “buried” treasure of meat, onions, almonds and spices. Not a meat-eater? Don’t worry; the vegetation option is just as tasty.
In the late afternoon, meet a local 4×4 driver who will take you into the Sahara Desert. The rocky flat landscape quickly gives way to rolling sand dunes. Choose a simple sunset camel trek, or if you are more adventurous, consider a night under the stars. The swaying gait of your camel among the quiet peacefulness of the desert is typically the most favorite experience in Morocco.
Wake up early for sunrise photo opportunities and to make your way back to the hotel base camp for a quick dip in the pool or shower before starting today’s travel.
Todra Gorge is today’s first stop. Dramatic steep cliffs border the road, and this is a natural starting point for the area’s hiking trips and rock-climbing expeditions. Close-by is Tinghir, a charming and bustling town.
Carry on to Boumalne Dades. The route is spotted with ksour and palm trees, Berber villages and interesting rock formations, which are known locally as Monkey Fingers. Appreciate the final winding road into Boumalne Dades when you arrive at the top and gaze upon the serpentine route.
En route to Marrakech, breathe in the scent of Kelaa M’Gouna, as you pass through the Rose Valley. Though the name means “fortress”, this village is best known for its rose agriculture and distillation.
Arrive in Ouarzazate, founded by the French and used as an outpost for the French Foreign Legion. Visit the Taourirt Kasbah, former property of the ruling Glaoui tribe before Morocco took independence from the French. Ouarzazate is Morocco’s Hollywood. Many international movies have featured its surroundings as sets and backdrops, such as Kudun, Kingdom of Heaven and most recently, Games of Thrones. These movie sets are open to the public. Not to be missed: Ait Ben Haddou, a traditional ksar, or castle, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a fantastic example of a fortified village and has also been the location for such films as Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia.
Cross the High Atlas Mountains as you make your way toward Marrakech. Your early evening arrival makes for a great sunset against the red-colored walls of the medina.
Marrakech, former imperial capital of Morocco, is at the crossroads of the High Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert, as witnessed by palm trees against the backdrop of snow-capped peaks.
Today’s guided tour will take you through the medina, one of several UNESCO World Heritage sites in Morocco. The medina is surrounded by approximately 12 miles of fortified walls and gates, and its skyline is dominated by the minaret of 12th century Koutoubia Mosque.
Nearby is Jemaa el Fna. By day, this huge square is filled with snake charmers, henna artists, dancing monkeys, and even a dentist or two! But it’s at night when the square truly comes alive with more exotic acts such as belly dancers and storytellers, and hundreds of food vendor stalls offering quick eats such as dried fruits and nuts, fruit juices, snails and sandwiches. Take in all of the action from one of many coffee shops and tea houses bordering the square; their rooftop terraces offer great views as you unwind with your beverage of choice.
Cures for whatever ails, along with traditional spices with proven medical benefits, can be found in a traditional Berber pharmacy. Indulge in some retail therapy in the medina’s seemingly endless souks.
Other places of interest: the Saadian tombs and mausoleum were originally built in the 16th century but later sealed and only discovered by the French in the early 20th century. El Bahia Palace gives you a taste of the life of a 19th century vizier and his harem. Ben Youssef Medersa, founded in the 14th century, was the largest Islamic college in North Africa at its time and showcases intricate woodwork and tile work.
In the afternoon, relax in the calm of one of many gardens. Majorelle Garden was designed by French artist, Jacques Majorelle and showcases an intense cobalt blue hue named after him. Menara Garden, originally built in the 12th century features a large basin and green-tiled pavilion. Agdal Garden was considered a royal orchard filled with fruit and ornamental trees.
Enjoy Marrakech’s finer cuisine in one of many restaurants off the square. Tangia is one of the local specialties of meat slow-cooked in a sealed clay pot.
Get an early start for Essaouira, home of Gnawa music and a former hotspot for hippies. On the way, support one of the women’s argan oil co-operatives. Argan trees grow only in southwestern Morocco, and their nutty oil stars in both cosmetic and culinary uses.
After the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, unwind in Essaouira. Originally named Mogador, it was established as a trading port and military strongpoint by the Portuguese. Its medina, another UNESCO World Heritage site, is a relaxing center of white-washed walls and small shops, many of them featuring objects carved in local thuya wood.
Venture toward the port, where you’ll find food stalls with a wide variety of the freshest seafood imaginable, prepared simply but deliciously on outdoor grills.
Essaouira’s coastline tends to be windy and so a great place for wind- and kite-surfing. Choose to relax on the beach, or for the more adventurous, consider a camel or horse ride, or even rent a quad, to explore the coastline.
Walk along the sqalas, or fortified sections of the port, for a picturesque view of the medina and ramparts.
Drive along the beautiful coastline en route to El Jadida. Formerly known as Mazagan, this fortified city was once a Portuguese colony, and its architecture and history earned a spot on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. Visit the surreal 16th century underground cistern, rediscovered in the early 20th century, when a local shopkeeper wanted to enlarge his store.
Arrive in Casablanca in the early evening.
Many travelers enjoy an evening at Rick’s Cafe, a cafe, bar and restaurant built to recreate the ambiance of the movie, Casablanca.
Transfer to airport.
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We first want to thank Mint Tea Tours and Abdullah – choukrane – for making our Morocco trip something very very memorable. Above all, Abdullah was always smiling and showed great depth of care for us that we always felt comfortable and a feeling of joy. Some days required long drives or tolerance to heat while waiting for us or finding parking space, however Abdullah was always polite and maintained safe drive.
11 days is not a short period of time but because of Abdullah’s great personality we did enjoy traveling with him.
Added to that, amount and depth of information he provided us also made our Morocco trip very interesting. Dates and other fruits, police culture, and all other stories were new to us and helped us get more insights on Morocco. And of course it was such a great experience of learning Arabic in the car! We’ll try to keep remembering so that if one day we could come back to Morocco with Mint Tea Tours, we will request Abdullah as a private driver again and surprise him. It was good fortune that we could meet Abdullah and share the time together. Meeting his family was also a big pleasure.
With best wishes to Abdullah and his family, We will miss Morocco!
Hiroki & Aiko, Japan