With a passion for travel and particularly Morocco, I own and manage Sun Trails.

Friday, 29 May 2015 00:00

Family holidays in Morocco

jardins de douars poolYou may think that Morocco is not the best place for your family on holidays. Think again. In the last few years, a new breed of hotels caters specifically for families with children and teenagers. And we don't mean trampolin and water slides all- inclusive- resorts. We mean treasure hunt, camel rides into the dunes, surf lessons on the Atlantic, spending time with animals on an organic farm or trekking with mules into the Atlas Mountains.

To begin with, flights to Morocco are short – a 3 hour flight from London or an 8 hour flight from New York. Children will find a host of activities to enjoy on a holiday to Morocco. They can explore the ancient medinas which look like something from a Harry Potter movie or the Arabian Nights. With all those alleys, souks and mysterious apothecary stalls they’ll be fascinated and have a lot of stories for friends back home. There are sandy beaches on the Atlantic Coast too with great water sports and even a camel ride or two in the dunes. The majestic Atlas Mountains are a cooler alternative with easy day walks and delightful Berber villages which are very hospitable. In July and August, when everywhere else charges peak prices, the rates for a holiday in Morocco are at their lowest. And best of all, a new breed of hotels is now offering specific activities for children on holidays in Morocco

adounia camp beachWhilst the summer may not be the best time to visit the Sahara, Morocco offers other sites that would be perfect for a family at that time of year. The cooler Atlas Mountains are ideal, or there are the medieval cities of Fez and Marrakech. The Atlantic coast is also perfect during July and August and there are less crowds than in the cities, if you know some secret beaches. Well, we do. One of the best ways of experiencing the country is splitting the holiday between contrasting areas to get the best of both worlds. You can combine a camel trek in the sand dunes on the Atlantic with a few days wandering the souks of Marrakech or Fez.

douar samra terraceWhy not spend some time walking in the Atlas Mountains and enjoying the hospitality of the Berber villages before relaxing on the coast at Essaouira. Kids will adore learning to catch fish and cook it for a rustic lunch or take surf lessons. There are all those velvety night skies with thousands of stars to gaze at too. For some creative ways of spending the family holidays in Morocco, take a look at these hand- picked destinations which include hotels with sheltered lush gardens, air conditioning, pools, and offer specific have activities for children. The hotels and guest houses have been picked for their family friendly focus and ambiance. You’ll find that when you look at the accommodation so you won’t be in a situation where your 'suite' consists of a double bed and an armchair or a small shower in the bathroom. These Morocco family friendly guest houses are not an all-inclusive destination, but rather focused on giving their guests an opportunity to relax and switch off from the pressures of everyday life. Some have teen friendly things to do to get them away from their iPhones and enjoying the Moroccan outdoors. Some guest houses accept children for free and others offer discounts depending on the child's age.

12 fellah kidsFellah Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel just 20 minutes from the centre of Marrakech and a world away from the busy medina. It is very minimalist in design and is typical of a rural building in this region. The hotel has 10 villas with 69 rooms and many are furnished with locally produced crafts. But there is a lot more to the Fellah Hotel than just accommodation. It is home to Dar al-Ma'mûn- a non-profits arts centre and the only one of its kind in North Africa to receive UNESCO-Aschberg status. Dar al-Ma'mûn is supported by visitors to Fellah Hotel and not only helps with bringing international art and culture to Morocco but is renowned for its innovative approach to literacy and local education issues. There are a number of outreach projects in the local area coordinated by Dar al-Ma'mûn including a preschool programme for 250 children where dropout rates can be high, and a literacy class for women.

hotel fellah main pool
Another reason to stay at the Fellah Hotel is that it is home to Morocco’s only Wat Po Massage Centre. Therapists have been trained at Wat Po Temple in Bangkok – the centre of arts and learning. They provide a wide range of holistic therapies and signature treatments which are perfect for chilling out on holiday and escaping the stresses of everyday life. Whilst you relax in the spa there are lots of child friendly activities around the hotel to keep the kids occupied. And talking about the kids there’s a Fellah Kids Club which will keep them entertained. With a wide range of activities for children scheduled every day from 9 to 5 you can chill out whist they get down to a little Moroccan pottery, cookery, painting and even a treasure hunt. They can also enjoy theatre and games which are aimed at children between the ages of 4 and 11. It is the only hotel we’re aware of that has this level of planned entertainment for kids. Fellah Hotel is ideal for teenagers and children with double rooms available on a bed and breakfast basis from 170 Euros.

la pause marrakech landscape
For another unique and amazing experience try a 4x4 drive to the Desert of Marrakech. The sci- fi landscape will fascinate children and adults alike and it is the perfect place to have an impromptu geology lesson. Another bonus is the magnificent night sky in this area with skies full of glittering stars. In the distance the lofty peaks of the High Atlas Mountains rise above the landscape at 4000m and the busy medina in Marrakech is a short distance away. One of the best places to stay here is La Pause, a luxury eco-lodge on the outskirts of Marrakech. Remarkably, this hotel uses no electricity and yet manages to supply hot water, crisp Egyptian cotton sheets, log fires, refined Moroccan cuisine and more. Just a short distance away is the 9 hole golf course in a dried- out river bed. You’ll have your own personal donkey to carry golf clubs and be guided round the course by the caddie handler.

la pause marrakech suiteThere are other interesting excursions here including mountain biking and horse riding across the desert and along secluded oases. You’ll find cookery lessons too and the chance to have lunch in the home of a local villager. For children it will be the enticing landscape that enchants them on a holiday like this and will really set their imagination alight. Rooms are lit with magical lanterns and candles creating an intimate warmth at night. This hotel is best suited to teenage children and a double bungalow is priced at 250 euros on a half board basis.

jnane tihihit gardens
Lalla Takerkoust Lake is a 45 minute drive from Marrakech and has a welcoming place to stay close by with views of the Atlas Mountains. Jnane Tihihit is a cluster of adobe bungalows owned by a Belgian couple who serve the most organic cuisine. Everything comes from their farm and garden and kids will enjoy meeting the collection of animals including pigs, mules, horses, donkeys, cows, chickens, and pigeons. There are lots of child friendly activities here to which will keep kids entertained. From learning to cook a tagine to riding a horse and making pots there is something for everyone. When it gets a little too hot there’s always the swimming pool to cool off in. There are also opportunities to go mountain biking and enjoy a picnic with views of the Atlas Mountains by the lake. Babysitting services are available at this hotel. Jnane Tihihit is recommended for children, and teenagers. Double rooms start at 76 Euros per night.

douar samra roof terrace
For a Berber chalet look no further than Douar Samra. It may be just an hour away from Marrakech but the Imlil Valley is a completely different environment and located right in the heart of the Berber homeland. Douar Samla has been exquisitely restored by Jacqueline who aimed to recreate a Swiss chalet ambiance in the Atlas Mountains. There are lush gardens with cherry and nut trees and the chalet has log fires and quite a few breath- taking- view terraces. You’ll find a chilled out atmosphere in the village which kids will enjoy exploring. For small children the three dogs, Jules the donkey and the ducks will be a fascination and the colourful interior with splashes of pink and purple will brighten everyone’s day. For somewhere to relax the sunny terrace with its views of the mountains is the ideal place to curl up with a book or just gaze out at that endless panorama.

Kran room Douar Samra ToubkalAnd as for the tree house and hammocks in the garden- well what child won’t enjoy those ? Kids will be running around and enjoying simple things in no time. There are also some captivating Atlas Mountains day treks from Douar Samra which are ideal for all the family. One of the best is a five hour waterfall trek which passes the village of Armed before a fifteen minute walk to the cascade itself where a picnic lunch is waiting. Another highlight of Douar Samla is that it is one of the few places in the area offering a traditional wood- burning Moroccan hammam – an idea way to relax after a day of walking. Douar Samra is ideal for teenagers and children, although children should be supervised on the roof terrace. Double rooms start at 94 euros on a half board basis.

adounia camp camels
One of the most fascinating places to visit in Morocco is the UNESCO world heritage site of Essaouira on the Atlantic Coast. This chilled out town is less chaotic than Marrakech ( and much cooler in the summer) and is a delightful place for families. The light has attracted artists for years to this fishing port and today the town has a vibrant music and arts scene. Children will delight at the old town ramparts where they can walk to see the historic cannons and bastions. There are lots of places to enjoy a drink or an ice cream in town and the medina is a lot calmer than those of the imperial cities. The beach is popular with families and just the place for a few ball games or water sports. The area has a milder climate than other parts of Morocco and there are several lovely places to stay within a short drive of Essaouira.

jardin des douars piscine
Le Jardin Des Douars is located in the hills above Essaouira and is ideal for families. It is surrounded by argan trees and has magnificent botanical gardens, two pools and a hammam. There are also two restaurants and the hotel has a rustic Moroccan style and is decorated tastefully. It is popular with couples as well as families and is designed for a relaxing time in a tranquil setting. Essaouira is a ten minute drive away so guests can enjoy the peace of the countryside or head into down for a dose of culture in the centre of town. This is a destination where you really can divide your time between a rural setting and a historic town with good shopping and restaurants. One of the particularities of Le Jardin Des Douars is that the air conditioned accommodation has a variety of room options to suit most people. There are private houses which come complete with a cook.

6234The domed Royal Suite comes with two bedrooms, a terrace, and a lounge. Simple Relax Rooms have a small terrace and queen sized bed. Whatever your requirements, there will most likely be a room to suit. The décor is typically North African with Berber rugs, carved doors, and wooden masks. This hotel has a family pool and another adult’s only swimming pool with wrought iron loungers. There is an adult’s only restaurant at La Table des Douars whilst families will enjoy the views at Le Ksar Restaurant. Both serve delicious North African cuisine. There are lots of activities available from Le Jardin Des Douars. From cocktails on the terrace to petanque and a library the hotel caters for adults with lots of things for kids. There’s also a hammam and spa for those chill out moments. Trekking is available from the hotel to secret beaches and rushing waterfalls. There is surfing nearby too and shopping opportunities in the souk. Jardins des Douars is suited to teenagers and children. Rates start at 109 euros a night on a bed and breakfast basis.

adounia camp by nightIf you have a sense of adventure and want a holiday in a remote area, then why not take a look at a Moroccan luxury beach camp. These are located on the Atlantic coast by secluded beaches. Camp Adounia is such an example Guests can enjoy night skies with thousands of stars, deserted beaches, and Morocco’s unspoiled coastline. Camp Adounia is an eco-friendly camp to minimise impact on the environment and is miles away from the crowded beaches at Essaouira. Guests will have golden sands to themselves and some excellent surfing to enjoy. This is a wild and remote coast and ideal for those who want to escape the holiday crowds common in other resorts.

adounia camp tentA cooling breeze will take the edge of the summer sun here. The tents are on the beach and the sound of the waves will lull you into a deep sleep at night. Camp Adounia is a simple set up but has a touch of luxury. There is a resident chef who can conjure up delicious meals and a team of guides who can help guests get to know the area. The camp is all inclusive and its highlight is being at one with nature and living very simply. There are some great activities for kids including beach walking and private surfing lessons. The camel trekking along the sand dunes will delight most children and adults and is really popular. There are opportunities to catch fish for lunch and simply relax in a beautiful setting. Local food and resources are used, minimising impact on the environment. There are comfortable beds with Egyptian cotton sheets at the campsite and ensuite bathrooms. Washing is done in the traditional hammam style. You’ll also find a kettle in your tent with water for washing and brushing teeth. Camp Adounia is recommended for teenagers. Rates start at 210 euros per adult on an all-inclusive basis.

We can help you get the best rates at any of the accommodations above or craft a private customized family tour of Morocco to include Fes or Marrakech, the Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic coast. For enquiries please click here

Wednesday, 18 March 2015 00:00

Medieval Morocco - exhibition of the year

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On a beautiful morning in March we are entering the newly opened Museum Mohamed 6 in Rabat. The previous months built quite an expectation since the exhibition on medieval Morocco had been hosted by none other than Louvre Museum ( yes, the one in Paris) and proved to be quite a success in France, having received 170 000 visitors. It was now presented in Rabat at the Museum Mohamed 6 and it is the most comprehensive exhibition ever presented on medieval Morocco with more than 220 items brought over from Moroccan, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian museums. 

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The loud group of children that had been brought to visit that morning, on a school visit it seemed, proved to be quite useful in the end, having kept the security guards busy while I managed to snatch a few photos of the items exposed, otherwise forbidden. 

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And now for the technical sort of data: this exhibition provides a rereading of the era spanning the XIth century in XVth century, which represents the golden age of western Arabic civilization, headed successively by the Almoravid, Almohad and Merinides dynasties. These last ones were able to realize a political unity over a wide area bringing together the areas from 'Sub-Saharan Africa, Andalusia and the provinces of North African countries.

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The exhibition includes nearly 220 artistic works, which reflect what Morocco had accomplished during this period in the fields of medieval architecture, ceramics, textiles, calligraphy and book manufacturing. It shows the innovative achievements in science and technology, achievements that had a profound effect on the European Renaissance. This exhibition brings together highly symbolic artistic and religious masterpieces, such as the candelabrum of Qarawiyyin mosque and minbars of various mosques as well as architectural artefacts and samples. It also showcases daily life objects such as dishes and ceramic jars, chests for conservation of textiles, candelabrum lamps and instruments used for water extraction techniques. It also presents various Korans and manuscripts related to religious and artistic topics, in addition to many coins and flag models.

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These masterpieces are brought together from Moroccan, Portuguese, Spanish and French museums. This exhibition is an opportunity to discover the monuments and to throw a light on the authenticity of Morocco, the consistence of its unity and its civilizational outflow. It highlights the cultural sources that has inspired Moroccan civilization as well as the influences of varioius spaces within itself and the role that Morocco has played in the circulation of ideas between the far Arabic east and the Andalusian culture.

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The author and his insightful companion, the owner of an influential travel blog in Morocco, both agreed that it was probably the most comprehensive exhibtion they ever witnessed in Morocco and most definitely one to attend to if you are visiting Morocco and Rabat. The exhibition is currently included with all of our Morocco private tours and is open to public every day except on Tuesdays. 

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Wednesday, 11 March 2015 00:00

Agafay Desert Lodge & Camp


Luxury camps and things to do in the stony desert of Agafay.

Only 40 minutes drive of Marrakech lies the desert of Agafay. It isn’t sand dunes like the Sahara. Yet layer after layer of rock dunes instill a similar feeling of remoteness. Of nothingness. Only troubled by the occasional douar, local hamlets with their mud houses which seem to slowly return to the adobe they’ve been molded from. There is no living soul in sight, if not for the solitary camel grazing by. It is one of the few places in Morocco where near- total desolation manifests with such exquisite beauty. Some in- the- know travelers move through this desert as part of a 4x4 day trip from Marrakech into the High Atlas mountains. But they don't suspect one can also spend the night in Agafay desert, without having to rough it up. Also, for those newly wed, it is hard to find any place more romantic to include on a honeymoon in Morocco. 

scarabeo camp suite tent

One of these places offers both exquisite adobe-and-tadelakt bungalows and spacious air-tight tents. The French owner, with a passion for Africa and the desert, was driving aimlessely around Agafay some many years ago, when he stumbled upon an oasis and a ruined house. It immediately occured to him that this would be the perfect spot for an eco- lodge that would reflect his love of desert and remoteness. The oasis would provide the water, the desert - the views. Nowadays, this remote eco- lodge offers adobe bungalows, comfortable tents, a restaurant area, shady gardens, a refreshing pool and a miniature golf course, among other things. But it’s the views and complete remoteness that make it worth spending the night or two here.

la pause marrakech suite

You may think that the beautiful lanterns lit at night are there just for the effect. You're wrong. The whole place works without one watt of electricity. Which makes for the starriest sky at night, the one you'd normally sight in the Sahara. And if you think that this means roughing it up, think again. Soft cotton sheets, luxurious bath products, running hot water, wood burning stoves and even a wifi hot point offer all the necessities you may need. Protecting the environment, but not suffering for it. 

la pause marrakech landscape

A few miles away, tucked behind mounds of moon rocks, you will find a 12- tent camp. Spacious white canvas tents accommodate comfortable beds. In one suite tent, an antique globe sits atop a stack of vintage leather suitcases; in the reception pavilion a zebra skin graces the floor next to a folding campaign table piled high with well-thumbed expedition and photography books. Iron candle-lamps are suspended on posts; hammered-silver urns trickle fresh water into basins in the bathroom tents. The interiors seem to come out straight of ‘Out of Africa’ and you may be forgiven for thinking that you are somewhere in Kenya and not less than an hour drive of bustling Marrakech.

la pause marrakech pool

If having a romantic dinner and night in the middle of nowhere, take in the immensity of landscapes and disconnecting from a busy lifestyle is not enough for you, worry not. From guided treks along the oasis to yoga sessions with nothing in sight at 360°, there is plenty to occupy your time here. Horse riding , quad biking, camel riding, reiki massages, mountain biking are but some of the ways to explore the Agafay desert and can all be arranged locally. 

scarabeo camp general view

Better still, why not make staying one night in Agafay desert part of a 2- day private 4x4 tour and discover the diverse area just south of Marrakech ? The desert, the High Atlas, the Kik Plateau, the local waterfalls, Lalla Takerkoust lake – so many contrasts just in two day. Perhaps start with the Ourika Valley, hike up into the High Atlas, have lunch with a Berber family. Freshen up by the local waterfalls, see how the argan is turned into oil into a local cooperative. Discover the 12th century mosque of Tinmel, have a tea by the Lalla Takerkoust lake, lunch at Richard Branson's High Atlas retreat or trek in the Atlas mountains. And, after all the lushness of the High Atlas, have a little bit of desert. Arrive in the Agafay desert by the afternoon and, after settling in, have the most romantic dinner by candle light under the starriest sky, out in the open. Spend a night inside an adobe bungalow or white canvas tent and explore the surroundings next day by foot, camel, horse of mountain bike. 

camel agafay desert

Private tents at Scarabeo Camp available from 201 €/ 161 £/ 274 $ per night per tent with half board;
Private bungalow at La Pause available from 300 €/ 250 £/ 335 $ per night per bungalow with half board;
2 day private 4x4 tour to include a night in the desert available from 300 €/ 250 £/ 335 $ per person.

To book or enquire about any of the above, please send us an enquiry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or fill in the form on our contact page

Friday, 06 February 2015 00:00

The Other Morocco

Route across the south headerFrom Marrakech to desert to the coast in 9 days. Our most off- the- beaten- track 4x4 Morocco tour, away from the tourist crowds: pristine gorges with see- through natural pools where fish swim, Bronze- Age rock engravings, wildlife including gazelles, falcons and hares, 3000- year old tombs, century- old towering Berber granaries, majestic saffron dunes, a 12th century mosque. And then some. Yet, the ultimate luxury is the feeling that you may be the first person to ever walk there.

Sunrise in the gorges


DAY 1: The first day of our Morocco tour will be dedicated to crossing the High Atlas and reaching the lush valleys where we will have our first contact with palm groves and kasbahs. Leaving Marrakech behind, the road soon starts taking on the mountains. Breath- taking panoramas and hair pin curves succeed while the route follows one minute out in the open, the next under dense pine trees. Shortly after reaching 2200 meters altitude, we leave the main route to reach the village of Telouet and the Kasbah of the Glaoui. From the ensemble of three ruined kasbahs only one has maintained its reception rooms where intricate zellij patterns and precious wood greet the eye. Pacha Glaoui had employed the most skilled artisans to build and decorate his main residence and, in its golden age, armies, stables and Christian slaves were confined within its walls while a flourishing Jewish community was managing the nearby salt mines, which although no longer in use, are also worth a visit. After a succulent fig tagine, our road follows Ounila valley with its mosaic of gardens and tiny douars, each displaying its own ruined Kasbah. Occasionally the valley turns into a canyon, where the nomads have dug centuries ago galleries of grottos to stock grains and sometimes cattle. Late afternoon is the time to visit UNESCO site of Ait Benhaddou, the postcard- like adobe citadel. Hopefully, the crowds have already deserted the place. A fat, red sun, only underlines the beige tones of the mud and straws mixture and through the covered passages and stone walls, the past filters itself into the present. In spite of the local ‘guides’, the best is to just lose yourself in its derbs and explore the honey – comb structures. Stroll back to a local refurbished Kasbah or a lodge nested in the nearby palm grove for dinner and accommodation.

sunset in africa

DAY 2: Today our 4x4 Morocco tour will follow the mythical Draa Valley, a route so often used for centuries by the caravans bringing gold, slaves, ivory or feathers from Mali or Ghana. But first, locally sourced breakfast – better had on the roof terrace from you can admire the palm grove below. A tour of the palm grove with a local guide will teach you how the ingenious khettaras are dug, the name of the different plants and herbs, show you the pottery district or how the olives are pressed into oil. If the right season, your driver can stop on the shores of Mansour Eddhabi lake to admire the migratory birds leaving Morocco on their journey to Europe or milder climates. A visit to the world famous film studios in Ouarzazate is possible, especially if you travel with children.

a house on a bare mountain

Soon after, a dramatic change in the landscape takes place. Leaving the plain behind, the road climbs, twists and turns its way up into the bare dark brown mountains. Right after the pass you catch a first glimpse of the valley and the oases, a green river of palms snaking up into the haze bordered by the Kasbahs, adobe guardians rising as if from the earth where the green gives way to the desert. There is no road sign but somehow you become aware you have entered a different land, le grand sud. Biblical adobe villages border the palm grove. It is worth visiting at least one of them – perhaps the one where most of the population is black, descendants of former slaves. Then, have a picnic lunch by the river under the palms. Or perhaps awe at the rock engravings at the end of a dusty off road track. But the real treat here is the road itself following the river and the palm grove, one ksour after the other and that unique light of the south. We will stop for accommodation and dinner in a beautiful guest house nested in the palm grove nearby.

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DAY 3: After breakfast, our Moroccan itinerary we can visit the nearby village of Amezrou which carries on the Jewish tradition of silver crafting and although the last Jews left in the 1950's the craft and the synagogue are still there. We will stop for a break in Tamegroute where a gold- lettered Qoran from 1036 and Arab treaties on astronomy and sciences are neatly displayed behind glass windows inside the century-old library. The same village carries a pottery tradition known throughout Morocco and it is of interest to witness the shaping and baking of the emerald pots and dishes inside traditional earth ovens. Before long, our tour reaches M’hammid, where the tarmac ends - the last village before the Sahara.

camels well

The next two hours of our tour make full use of the four wheel drive as rocky desert gives way to gravel and then sand dunes, past the occasional water well and oasis. The anticipation built doesn’t quite prepare you for the spectacle ahead of you: sleepy yet shifting leviathans of sand as far as the sight can stretch, dotted by the occasional desert camp. These are the dunes of Erg Chigaga and no comprehensive trip around Morocco could possibly not include them. Here, we can arrange for you to be met and taken by camel ride to the camp for the last bit of the way. While the staff of the camp is unloading your luggage and preparing your dinner, you climb onto the highest dune you can find. And lose yourself. One of the first things the desert does is make you aware of your own insignificance. You also realize you are suddenly not somewhere different. You are different. And while the sun sets, there is nowhere else you would rather be. After dinner, use the camp’s telescope to make out some constellations. Like someone once said: ‘Why be happy with 5 stars when you can have billions’ ?’ As you stroll back to your tents, the silence in the dunes is immeasurable. Azalai Desert Lodge’s canvas tents offer a nice alternative to the Bedouin- style spartan yet honest and clean wool tents. They accommodate double beds with real mattresses , private bathrooms with showers, a crackling firepit and excellent food, a package that will draw cheers from even the most commited tentophobe.

Erg Chigaga dunes and tent

DAY 4: Should you have missed the sunrise… well, try not to. If yesterday was about getting away from civilization, today is about getting back to it. After toddling across sand dunes, our trip reaches fossil- filled Lake Iriki, nowadays completely dry, where the Draa river used to form its estuary. Further on we take on the hamada, the much dreaded stony desert, to finally reach Foum Zguid around noon. Farewell Sahara, hello tarmac. Next, lunch and a dip in a pool are best had at a local lodge where you can skip the ubiquitous tagine. Though the dunes are behind, the immensity is still present. The tarmac swirls past barren plateau and sun- burnt ridges while you barely cross another soul. Continue south and reach the nearby waterfalls reputed for their salty water. And somewhere in the distance, the ululating call of the muezzin mingles with the bray of a donkey. A couple of hours later, reach your accommodation for the night, a five- century old rustic house erected on the top of a village overlooking the palm grove. The many hidden corners, passages and patios will delight adults and children alike.Accommodation ranges from small-yet-delightful  where ceiling is only 1.5 meters high to large suites with stunning wide views and stone slabs for stairs. All rooms here are air conditioned and come with en suite hot showers and toilets. Food is rustic, locally- sourced and really tasty.

Breakfast and view

DAY 5: One can hardly imagine a breakfast with a better view in the south of Morocco. Spend the morning learning how a water clock works in the nearby palm grove, preparing traditional bread in the village stove, visit the old still- working salt mines or trek by the cliffs. Picnic in the nearby palm grove to then reach a very old Berber village where you will be able to admire the old Jewish mellah, the local granary that has just been restored. Inside the palm grove an unfinished minaret from Saadian or Almohad era stands as a silent guard. The owners of the nearby lodge, former rally pilots, are the most welcoming hosts and have plenty of stories to tell over the excellent dinner. The lodge accommodates both Berber style- tents with comfortable mattresses and puffs as well as air conditioned hot showered double rooms and suites, and a small yet very spot- on pool. Furthermore, here you can get a real expresso at the bar and home- made gateau au chocolat is served for dessert. The ladies should also consider an in- house henna tattoo session.

rock engravings morocco

DAY 6: Today, our Morocco tailor made tour is dedicated to discovering the local area and its attractions. The remoteness of the spaces is why most people would come and stay here. But don’t let yourself be fooled by the appearances. In the surroundings, at the right place and time of day you can glimpse foxes, eagles, wild boar, hares, mountain gazelles, bustards or partridges. After breakfast, leave the guest house and take the route to the old village at the foot of the local djebel. Visit the old streets of the village, the museum created by Abdesalam, and the women’s cooperative who make colorful rugs and other home objects ( who also adorn the rooms of the guest house). Then treck to Ait Ouabelli and head south after crossing two beautiful dry wadi ( rivers). Discovery of pre-Berber tombs (burial sites of over 3000 years) and a stunning rock engravings site. Picnic within a beautiful wild oasis under the shade of the palm trees. Back on the tarmac for about 15 km to then go off road again by a field of Selaginella lepidophylla ( Jericho roses) and Calotropis procera ( Sodom apple) and then over a dried small lake to observe the fata morgana mirage.

ancient mosque south of morocco

After a desert area very "Sahel" with its typical acacias, we reach the sand dunes posed against the cliffs of black sun burnt ridges. Time to climb some dunes on foot (or 4x4 ...) Going back towards north, and over an ancient dry lake we will cross nomad herders with their camels and goats. And at the day’s end, you get to return to surroundings that, given the middle- of- nowhere coordinates, are impressively indulgent.

Storage rooms

DAY 7: Today we will leave the deserted plains behind and, depending on your wish, will reach the Atlantic coast or a most picturesque village high in the Anti Atlas. In the winter months, we recommend the latter. Then and there a subtle but undeniable transition happens: where desert vistas and acacia trees give way to abrupt cliffs, barren mountains and almond trees. Even clothes change: from touches of pink, turquoise or yellow, the garments are now sober, black being the predominant color. Only one hour drive away, you’ll wander through the 70 odd rooms of the local granary overlooking the village from 600 meters high and see where locals used to stock grains, raise bees and collect rain water. It was also used as a back drop in times of attack from a different tribe or the nomads from the Sahara on one of their ruthless razzias up north. After a Berber omlette and coffee in a local gite, trek up the river bed to find yourself in the middle of primordial gorges, their wax- like lava walls appearing to have caught time suspended. Natural pools of deep- green transparent water appear here and there, where fish swim. With a bit of luck, you and a couple of falcons will be the only ones disturbing the silence of this immemorial spectacle. The climb is sometimes steep but you’d do it again in a heartbeat. At the end of it, the 300 meter high gorge opens up into a lush valley and you can make your way back through the deserted plateaus above. Back inside the vehicle, a most stunning off road crossing of the Anti- Atlas follows, via one of the former piste des legionnaires. Just outside Tafraoute, stop for dinner and overnight in a 6- room guest house run by the most hospitable French hosts.

The river at a turn

If choosing the other variant, after the visit to the granary and the gorges you will follow west, reaching the Atlantic coast at Sidi Ifni. As the road unfolds in turns and twists from Goulmine, reputed otherwise for its weekly camel souk, the hard light of the south softens into pearlescence, as moisture from the Atlantic layers the landscape in a prismatic haze and the argan trees and white washed houses come about. Follow the sea side route and stop at the natural beach arches before reaching Mirleft. Here the most amazing view over the Atlantic awaits you on the terrace of your accommodation for the night.

Taroudant and the High Atlas in the distance
DAY 8: If you have decided for Tafraoute and if any energy left from the previous day, take a mountain bike through the local gorges and awe at the games of light and shade the palm grove and the bare mountains offer. The deep ochre rectangular houses are a landmark of the region. For thos interested, a few tracks are available for trekking or rock climbing. As you thread your way through the gorges and deep red villages, there will be a flash of quicksilver to your left: an oasis of deep- green water, ringed by a white granite bed of rocks, glinting in the sun. Swimming suit, anybody? The local painted rocks and Napoleon’s hat are also worth a detour. Or the Lion’s head… After lunch, take the route over the Anti Atlas and stop on the way to admire the 360 rooms of a local agadir, set on 5 stories where rock slabs are used as stair cases. Arrive in Taroudant in the evening. If you chose Mirleft, this town, far from the crowds and the concrete, lays claim to a windswept, untouched spot on the western coast with empty, golden beaches, clear blue skies and waves to surf on. On your way along the Atlantic coast, stop on the way at Sous Massa national park, one of the most diverse bird reserves in Morocco.

Pawns at Dar Al Hossoun

DAY 9: Today, our Morocco tour should be about relaxation. After all, it would be easy to spend a lazy day sitting on one of the deck chairs that await by the side of the pool. To not mention the vast tropical gardens where banana, papaya and cactus blend in with the other 800 plants brought from different deserts around the globe. Or have a Moroccan hammam and body scrub. But tempting as it is to remain permanently tucked away by the pool, it would be a shame not to get out into town. Not that it is some bustling metropolis. And that’s exactly the charm of it: Taroudant is a laid back walled town with its own quiet pace where most people go about on bicycles, a version of what Marrakech was like 20 years ago. Hop on a caleche ride around the city walls or visit a local bee grower shop and have a honey tasting session or try the local argan products. In the afternoon, cross the High Atlas at 2100 meters and a couple of hours later stop to visit the 12th century old mosque of Tinmel, the birthplace of the Almohad dynasty, once rulers of an empire stretching from Spain to Senegal and Libya. The influence of the Great Mosque of Córdoba (period of al-Hākam, who reigned between 961–966) can be seen in the use of multi-foil arches and in the mihrab’s masterly treatment. As you pass by Asni and its apple tree orchards, on your right you may just make out in the distance the Mount Toubkal, at 4160 meters, the highest peak in Northern Africa. Arrive in Marrakech in the evening. Drop off at your Riad/ hotel.

View over the Atlantic

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