“An eight day small group tour to Morocco’s cultural and natural extremes: Marrakech, the High Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic coast at Essaouria.”
Marrakech | Tamatert Pass | Hike in High Atlas Mountains | Stay in Berber mountain gite | Imlil | Essaouria
Description of Morocco holiday, Marrakech to Essaouira
This week long Morocco holiday takes in so many wonderful aspects of Morocco, including the highs and lows. Topographically, that is. You spend a night in a mountain gite in the High Atlas range, with a view to North Africa’s highest peak, Mount Toubkal and a full day of walking in the elevated valleys of Ait Mizan and Ait Souka. Culminating in the ascent to Tamatert col, you certainly get to experience the highs of Morocco, natural and cultural, the gite being a traditional Berber house built with earth, wood and stone.
From the heights of the Atlas, you travel right back down to sea level where you spend two nights in the stunning Atlantic 15th century fortified town of Essaouria, with its traditional fishing culture, wonderful food, souks and cooling sea breeze. And then topping and tailing this wonderful journey is Marrakech, which is brimming with history, heritage and of course haggling. Here we stay in a three star hotel with swimming pool, taking time to enjoy the sites such as its centrepiece Koutoubia Mosque, Jemaa El-Fna Medina where all the action takes place, and stall after stall of traditional Moroccan fare.
Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Morocco holiday, Marrakech to Essaouira
Accommodation and Meals: We spend five nights in riads and two nights in a mountain gite. Our local operators generally prefer to select accommodation which is locally owned in order to support smaller businesses and their employees. This ensures that most income generated is reinvested into the area and the community. By spending the part of the trip camping, we also reduce our carbon footprint and effect on the environment. Where meals are supplied, seasonal, fresh food is used wherever possible. Most vegetables come from the region of Sous; meat is locally supplied by butchers and fruits can be found at markets or farms in the countryside. The main Moroccan dishes most people are familiar with are couscous, meat and vegetable tagines, fish chermoula and bocadillos, which are available from street stalls almost everywhere.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Local Craft and Culture: By passing through small villages and large cities, we encounter several opportunities to engage with local culture by meeting residents and seeing them go about their day to day lives. On the second day in the mountains, for example, we organise a walk through Imlil and share a homemade lunch. This not only enriches clients’ experience with authentic cuisine and insight into domestic customs, but it directly supports this remote community. Another cultural highlight is Marrakech, where we see the medina, the Bahia Palace, the C16th Saadian Tombs and the Koutoubia Mosque. Clients are encouraged to haggle for souvenirs, take a ride in a traditional Caliche, or to visit the world renowned Marjorelle gardens. In the evening, the Djemma el Fna central square comes alive with musicians, snake charmers, travelling acrobats and food stalls. This is the perfect opportunity to interact with local people, purchase locally produced handicrafts and to support small street vendors by trying authentic food.
Community: Passing through Berber villages up in the High Atlas Mountains, hiring local guides, staying in local gites and using markets has a positive impact on the local economy. The stay in Imlil is not just an amazing opportunity to explore authentic culture- it is also a chance to donate old items of clothing or school materials to local villagers. Many of our clients leave things behind as, due to their remote and mountainous location, there is little access to many of the things we take for granted. On our journey there are also several optional opportunities to visit female Argan Oil Co-operatives, which provide women from rural communities with an avenue of income, fair wages and good working conditions, along with educational classes in some cases. These are wonderful initiatives to stop at and purchase souvenirs if clients are interested.
Campaigning for Change: In conjunction with Baraka Community Partnerships, we have sponsored the development of a small village called Tijhza for many years with a variety of projects. These include supplying a pipeline system and water tower to the village and a toilet block for the school. Thanks to our volunteer groups, Tijhza now also has electricity and an annual medical clinic, which has had a hugely positive effect on the welfare of the village. More recently, we have achieved our aim of building a Hammam to alleviate some of the hygiene issues in the area and to provide a sustainable source income for many inhabitants. Unfortunately, devastating storms struck in November 2014, leaving much of the village severely damaged. We were able to raise emergency funding to provide supplies and to re-build many of the homes affected.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.
Reviews of Morocco holiday, Marrakech to Essaouira
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.
I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 04 Dec 2016 by Hannah Forbes
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Cycling in places in Morocco that I would never have been able to find on my own, seeing beautiful vistas and villages which I could have never imagined.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
You don't need to have much mountain biking experience but you do need to be quite fit.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
I felt that the trip went through lots of incredibly poor areas and I am not sure if we benefited all of them, but at least we bought local food and stayed in local hotels.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Excellent, it was well organised, the leaders were friendly, took safety very seriously and were very knowledgeable about the local area. The other people were great and we got to see places which I could have never organised on my own.