Arrival at our hotel in the evening.
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.
We experience a genuine Saharan experience today as we transfer to the quiet area of M'hamid for a walk through wonderful sand dunes. For a truly desert experience, we embark on our camel trek further into the desert, where we spend the night at a simple Bedouin camp with the best opportunity for star-gazing. The silence and the millions of stars is an wonderful opportunity to appreciate the immensity of the Sahara Desert.
We then continue our journey up the Draa Valley. passing again 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 at the amazing fortress/palace of Telouet and into the breathtaking Atlas Mountains. Once these mountains 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 the peaks of the High Atlas as a fitting backdrop. After lunch, we leave the gite walking back to our bus and making the scenic drive over the High Atlas Mountains to Marrakech, with some stunning scenery along the way. 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 it was the place where the Sultans used to display the heads of their enemies. 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.
We set off on a guided tour in the morning (on foot) to see the spectacular sites of Marrakech. Our city guide will take 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 where you can continue through the labyrinthine souks and keep bartering for souvenirs, or visit the largest mosque in Marrakech, Koutoubia, and 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 calèche 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).
Fly to London.