Authentic Northern Tour

Private Tour – dates to suit you

Whilst the north of Morocco includes the popular towns of Fez and Chefchaouen, much of the trip also visits places that are not on the mainstream tourist circuit, including Asilah and Tetouan. The trip is an eclectic mix of intense imperial cities (Fez and Meknes), tranquil hilltop villages (Chefchaouen), coastal retreats (Asilah and Tangier) and ancient historical sites (Volubilis and Moulay Idriss).

We recommend a minimum of 11 days for the Northern tour, given the distances to be covered and to be able to stay 2 or 3 nights in some locations. If you have less days available, the tour can be amended. If you have 2 or 3 additional days available you could also visit Marrakech, although that is not technically in the North!

The tour assumes you will be arriving and departing from Casablanca however we will adjust the tour in accordance with your entry and departure ports.

River Bou Regreg seafront and Kasbah in the medina of Rabat

Day 1:  Rabat

Assuming you are departing from Casablanca and therefore can visit the city on your last day, we recommend that you go straight from the airport to Rabat on arrival. The trip is about 1h30. Our preferred accommodation in Rabat is stylish and has a delightfully understated restaurant.

Depending on your arrival time we recommend doing a tour of the adjacent twin city of Sale in the afternoon and a visit of Rabat on the morning of your 2nd day.

Founded by the Almohad dynasty, the imperial and capital city of Rabat has a relaxed feel with a compact medina. The highlights are the Kasbah of Oudayas and the Hassan Tower. It’s easy to explore on your own, or with your driver. However, the real jewel is the guided tour of Sale. The guide here is one of the most engaging personalities you can meet. Sale is virtually untouched by tourism. It’s true Authentic Morocco. The history of Sale is extremely colourful, particularly the exploits of its pirates. This, coupled with its un-touristy medina, lively central square and several historic monuments (to which only you and your guide have access), make the afternoon a wonderful experience.

Day 2: Asilah

The trip from Rabat to Asilah is just over 2 hours plus stops. If you have time and are hungry and like sea food straight from the boat then a great place to stop along the way is the fishing village and religious destination of Moulay-Bousselham. Alternatively close to Larache are the ruins of the town of Lixus founded by the Phoenicians around 1100 BC as a trading post and latterly a Roman town. Asilah, as well as being a relaxed destination, is an enchanting town with citrus trees, wind-blown palms and excellent informal fish restaurants. There is a beautiful medina which has been completely restored, Asilah being home to hundreds of white-washed houses making it one of the most picturesque places in Morocco. Unsurprisingly it is a magnet for artists and has a flourishing art and cultural scene.

Our recommended accommodation is in the centre of Asilah, adjacent to the beach with a pool, roof terrace, restaurant and a lovely garden where breakfast is served much of the year.

The picturesque town of Asilah

Vibrant Tangiers – Where Africa meets Europe

Day 3: Tangier

After a relaxed breakfast you will today head to Tangier, which is about one hour from Asilah. Tangier is where Europe meets Africa (Spain is only 9 miles away), famous for its tolerance in the 1950´s and 60´s, being a legendary hang-out for artists (Matisse being the most well-known), writers, rock stars as well as eccentric expats and international spies and arms dealers. Tangier has always been more relaxed and liberal than the rest of Morocco, however the removal of its free port status in 1956 after Moroccan independence caused a sharp decline which Tangier is only now recovering from – today you will find a hip and vibrant destination.

In the afternoon we recommend a guided tour which will bring Tangier to life for you, covering both the Ville Nouvelle (new town) and the medina with its well-maintained kasbah. There is plenty to see in both – buildings of historical significance with their colonial European and Moroccan influences, art galleries, squares (Grand Socco and Petit Socco) as well as the medina and kasbah.

Our recommended accommodation is a lovingly restored riad, dating from the 14th century, tucked away in the winding streets of the old Kasbah, the spectacularly-located historic fortress high above the Moroccan port city of Tangier.

Day 4:  Chefchaouen

We recommend taking an early breakfast, departing reasonably early and stopping for lunch at Tetouan, around 1hr30 from Tangiers and which few tourists visit. They are missing out! Its medina was recognised as a World Heritage site in 1997, thanks to its magnificent walls and ramparts. It has an eclectic and well preserved mix of Andalucian and Islamic architecture. Tetouan still feels authentically Moroccan, a town for Moroccans rather than tourists.  We can organise a half day guided tour if you would like to discover Tetouan´s hidden secrets.

After Tetouan it is another 1hr30 to Chefchaouen – situated in the Rif Mountains, known as Morocco’s Blue City. It’s an exceptionally attractive town, akin to an Andalusian village in Southern Spain but adorned with eye-catching blue-washed buildings. Part of its attraction is that it is an antithesis to the other cities in Morocco; it’s wonderfully laid back. The town is compact and its shops full of interesting local wares.

There are many great accommodation options in Chefchaouen. Our favourite is a beautiful guest house, reached by climbing 138 steps! It is located on top of a hill providing fantastic views over the village which we feel is well worth the climb.

Tetouan – arguably the jewel of Morocco’s Mediterranean Coast

The blue city of Chefchaouen

Day 5:  Chefchaouen

Today is free to explore Chefchaouen where a guide is not required since the town is compact and easy to navigate.

Chefchaouen is laid back, chilled and compact. With its picturesque pastel blue medina, it’s a quaint little mountain town and a wonderful place to linger. Bargain for Bedouin-made jewellery, spices and ceramics amongst the blue washed buildings of Chefchaouen’s medina. Enjoy sweet and savoury chicken or vegetable pastilles, a famous local dish. If you fancy a hike, the Achour falls, a 20 minute drive from Chefchaouen, make for a very pleasant half day trip.

Day 6:  Meknes

Today, we drive from Chefchaouen to Meknes via the impressive Roman ruins at Volubilis and the holy town and little visited former imperial city of Moulay-Idriss.

Volubilis was a 42 hectare Roman city with 20,000 inhabitants, full of palaces, large houses and public baths. It has a large number of well-preserved mosaics and is arguably Morocco´s best preserved archaeological find. We will organise a guide at Volubilis. Moulay-Idriss is a small, picturesque whitewashed town overlooking Volubilis. It is a very pleasant hill top town, its centrepiece being the shrine to Moulay Idriss I.

Overnight in a lovely riad in the medina of Meknes.

The massive ancient Royal Stables and Granaries at Meknes

Fez – one of the world’s last pockets of medieval civilisation

Day 7:  Fez

After breakfast we will organise a guided tour of Meknes. It was the capital city during the Alouite dynasty and has many impressive buildings demonstrating the out-sized imperial architecture which characterised mighty Moulay Ismail’s reign. After this we will depart for Fez which is around one hour away.

Fez is a jewel of a city and you really will feel you have stepped back in time. Fez is the religious and cultural centre of Morocco. Founded by Idriss II in about 800AD, it rose to prominence during the Almohad dynasty. Whilst Fez is packed with historical sites, it’s attraction lies with its intensity. It feels positively medieval, a bewildering maze of narrow streets, markets, smells, frenetic activity and mules. It is simply so different to any US or European city. But much of the attraction lies in the fact that after a full on day sight-seeing, your riad offers complete peace, quiet, tranquillity and appropriate luxury in the midst of the apparent chaos!
On the first night we recommend that you dine in the riad, although you can always venture out on your own provided you have a sense of adventure.

Your accommodation will be in one of our favourite riads in the medina which also offers guests a complimentary cooking class.

Day 8:  Fez

We recommend taking a full day guided tour of Fez. The city is split into 3 main sections, being Fez el-Bali (core of the medina), Fez el-Jdid (containing the mellah and Royal Palace)and Ville Nouvelle (new town). Your private tour focuses on the medina in the morning and the mellah in the afternoon, although you can choose to spend the entire day in the ancient medina.

The tour will therefore include the main sites of Medersa bou IInania, Medersa el-Atlarina, Al Quaraouiyine mosque and the tanneries and city gates. But just as importantly, it also focuses on local craftsmanship, hand-made work being one of the highlights of a trip to any medina in Morocco. In the evening listen to the melodious ‘Call to Prayer’ echo off the ancient minarets and thick medina walls, while sipping Berber mint tea from one of the many café terraces overlooking the old city.

The recently restored Chouaras Tanneries in Fez

Copper workers in Fez

Day 9:  Fez

A free day to enjoy all that Fez has to offer, which is plenty! Happily lose yourself in the medina looking for bargains in the souks, try a traditional Moroccan hamman, sit at one of the cafes and people watch, visit the museums and galleries or take a cooking class with the cook at your riad.

There is so much to see and do in one of the most culturally important and most fragile cities in the world. Fez is an authentic city – over 200,000 people work and live in the medina and to most of them tourists are irrelevant. These are tradesmen and artisans practising old methods. The souks do not just stock tourist trinkets but the handmade products and leathers that are also sold throughout the country and abroad.

Day 10:  Casablanca

We recommend finishing off your tour in Casablanca which, rather unfairly, has a poor reputation and few tourists visit it. It is the commercial hub of Morocco and a visit helps provide an important insight into the country´s culture. Whilst the Hassan II mosque is the shining jewel of the city, a guided tour helps reveal many architectural gems. The city is simply a real, authentic place with an energy of its own, not a place that has been sanitised for tourists. Whilst there is a decayed grandeur about many of the buildings, close inspection reveals carved friezes, intricate tile work and ornate wrought iron balconies. It is also a very tolerant city with the Cathedral du Sacre Coeur being highly prominent in the centre of town. Please note that the 1942 film ‘Casablanca’ was not filmed here and ‘Ricks Café’ is a tribute bar and restaurant operated   by a former American diplomat!

‘Casa’, as the locals call it, is definitely worth a visit and downtown is one of the liveliest places in Morocco. Accommodation is in arguably the best (and only) classy boutique hotel in Casa.

The impressive Hassan II mosque in Casablanca

Heading home out of Casablanca

Day 11:  Transfer to the airport

With a suitcase of souvenirs and a head full of memories.

Such is the diverse nature of this tour, your memory could be one of a million things. But we have no doubt that they will be good memories, of an adventure in a vibrant and diverse country and of peoples that are kind, happy, fun and generous.

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Highlights include:

  • Visit Rabat and participate in our unique and fascinating guided tour of Sale which very few tourists will experience
  • Relax in the pretty seaside town of Asilah and enjoy the fabulous seafood
  • Explore a rejuvenated and vibrant Tangier where Europe meets Africa
  • Visit Tetouan, a striking Hispano-Moorish whitewashed town sitting in the foothills of the Rif and sometimes known as the ‘sister of Fez’, ‘little Jerusalem’ or ‘the daughter of Granada’
  • Bargain for Bedouin-made jewellery, spices and ceramics amongst the blue-washed buildings of Chefchaouen’s medina
  • Imagine different times in the fascinating Roman remains in Volubilis followed by a visit to the authentic and picturesque town of Moulay-Idriss
  • Enjoy a tour of Meknes, the imperial capital of Moulay Ismail an effective but ruthless sultan who ruled Morocco for 55 years (1672-1727)
  • Explore the twisting medieval labyrinths connecting Fez‘s ancient souks, mosques and medina — the most complete medieval city in the Arab World
  • Visit the impressive Hassan II mosque on a tour of Casablanca, the commercial hub of Morocco before leaving Morocco