Arrive at our hotel.
We head south along the Draa Valley, a huge palmery containing over four million palm trees, edged by many ksours (fortified villages). We skirt the shattered orange and brown-coloured rocks of the Jebel Sahro to arrive at the oasis town of Zagora. Situated right on the edge of the Sahara, this town was formerly a starting point from which traders set off on their arduous journey across the desert to Timbuktu.
Today we transfer to the quiet area of M'Hamid for a wonderful walk through sand dunes, a true Saharan experience. We then embark on our camel trek, further into the desert, where we spend the night at a simple Bedouin camp for some spectacular star-gazing. Surrounded by silence and millions of stars lets us appreciate the immensity of the Sahara Desert.
We enjoy a short camel trek in the morning before continuing our journey up the Draa Valley, passing the beautiful palmery and Ouarzazate, to the well-preserved Kasbah Ait Benhaddou. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most spectacular sights of the Atlas Mountains and was made famous as the location of several Hollywood films, including 'Lawrence of Arabia' and 'Gladiator'. Although few families continue to live in the various fortresses within the walls, Ait Benhaddou retains an exotic atmosphere that transports us into another world, especially at sunset when the walls of the Kasbah glow red.
Travelling east along a mountain valley, we arrive into the breathtaking High Atlas Mountains. These mountains once were controlled by feudal clans and the most powerful of these were the Glaoui, with Telouet as their residence. The Glaoui power stretched across Morocco and into Europe - they even toppled a French Premier in the early 20th Century. Now Telouet stands abandoned and crumbling, and we are only able to visit the exterior of this labyrinthine, fairytale structure. A short drive takes us to Animeter, where we leave our bus for a picturesque walk (1-hour) on a gentle uphill gradient to our well-equipped gite, where we spend the night. Overnight bags are transported to the gite for us.
There is time to relax this morning on the gite terrace, with wonderful views across the fertile Tijhza Valley. Alternatively, we offer an optional 3-4 hour trek through the villages of this remote area, passing fields cultivated by the Berber women, with peaks of the High Atlas as a fitting backdrop. After lunch, we leave the gite making the scenic drive over the High Atlas Mountains to Marrakech, with some stunning scenery along the way and a short stop at the fortress of Telouet. The main pass is called the Tizi'n'Tichka, and at 2260m it's the highest road pass in Morocco. In the evening we visit Djemma el Fna, the open-air central square around which Marrakech revolves. The name literally means 'place of death', as the Sultans once displayed the heads of their enemies here. Now, with the food stalls, snake charmers, water-sellers and acrobats, it is a place of night time entertainment for both local people and tourists.
Today we set off on foot on a guided tour to see the spectacular sites of Marrakech. Our city guide will lead us to the Bahia Palace, the Saadian tombs, which, incredibly, date to the 16th century, and the Dar Si Said Museum. We end in the famous central square continuing through the labyrinthine souks, bartering for souvenirs, or visit the largest mosque in Marrakech, Koutoubia. Then venture through the old streets of the medina to the Koranic School and the Museum of Marrakech. Alternatively, you may prefer to head off on your own today and take a cal?che ride (horse-drawn carriage) to the peaceful Majorelle gardens, owned by Yves St Laurent and decorated throughout in Indigo Blue; or simply enjoy a hammam (traditional Moroccan steam bath).
Trip ends after breakfast.