Susan Worner Tours

Morocco – Gardens of Marrakech & The Atlas Mountains

06 – 13 April 2018

Morocco – Gardens of Marrakech, Taroudant and the Atlas Mountains

Morocco is a country filled with atmosphere and contrasts: from the buzz of the medina and exotic souks in Marrakech to hidden gardens and long views of the mountains. Moroccans are a warm, hospitable people happy to share their history over a glass of mint tea.

e visit gardens that exemplify a balance of intimate courtyards with colourful tiles, the sound of splashing water and abundant, vibrant plants; and country gardens known as jnane (gardens of paradise) with their emphasis on orchards and decorative plots of herbs. Recently, there has been a trend to experiment with new designs, and we include a number of such gardens in our programme.

Our first hotel, Les Deux Tours in La Palmeraie, is elegant and welcoming. Situated in the countryside near Marrakech, it is surrounded by extensive gardens with views toward the mountains.

We move on to Taroudant, south of the Atlas Mountains, to a traditional guesthouse or riad with an amazing garden designed by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières, well-known French landscape architects and designers.

Our group is small, comprising some fifteen participants. We use a minibus as most travel is very local except on the transfer morning through the Atlas.

 

Itinerary

DAY ONE – FRIDAY 06 APRIL D

Departure from Gatwick direct to Marrakech. Transfer to Les Deux Tours approached through the palms of the original oasis. An air of tranquillity, bird song and water trickling along seguia (irrigation channels) together create the perfect atmosphere for a welcome aperitif and a short talk on the programme for our tour, before dinner together.

DAY TWO – SATURDAY 07 APRIL BLD

We leave for Marrakech with our guide, Hafid, for a fascinating introduction to the extensive medina with its farmers’ markets and craftsmen’s workshops. We explore a myriad of bustling little streets until we reach an enchanting riad garden with rambling bougainvillea, jasmine, glazed pots, decorative tiles and water fountains. Here, we lunch in the shade of the palms. In the afternoon, and still within the medina, we discover the sumptuous gardens of Hotel La Mamounia, traditional in style and immaculately kept. The produce of the kitchen garden supplies the hotel restaurant. Moroccan-style afternoon tea is served in the garden.
Dinner together in the hotel restaurant.

DAY THREE – SUNDAY 08 APRIL BLD

A day in the Atlas Mountains: The snow-capped Mount Toubkal (4167 metres) towers above the Berber village of Imlil. Our guide, Hassan, takes us on foot (or Berber 4×4) up the valley where blue iris and cherry orchards are in bloom, to his home village for mint tea at the family home. We continue along the valley to the Kasbah du Toubkal with stunning views from the roof-top terraced garden where we have lunch. We walk down to Imlil village through walnut woods. Our journey then takes us on through remote mountain scenery to a lake. We visit a local garden before enjoying dinner there together. Return to the hotel in Marrakech.

DAY FOUR – MONDAY 09 APRIL BLD

Our morning visit is to Le Jardin Secret in the medina, recently designed by Tom Stuart Smith. Here, a well-planted garden leads on to a traditional Islamic design of four square beds with water rills: it is filled with peace and beauty. We leave the medina to discover sumptuous gardens with fields of roses, orchards of pomegranate, fig and orange trees, and a potager with aromatic herbs at Beldi Country Club. We lunch under the olive trees around the pool and take the road towards the mountains where André Heller, from Austria, has created a country garden at the foot of the Atlas Mountains with exuberant plantings and striking colours, full of quirky touches that evoke a smile as we stroll through this recently made, but already mature, garden.

DAY FIVE – TUESDAY 10 APRIL BD

Early morning visit to the striking Jardin Majorelle, created in the 1930s and later restored by Yves St Laurent and Pierre Bergé. We depart south across the Atlas Mountains and through the argan and thuja tree-growing region, before arriving at Dar al Hossoun on the outskirts of the medieval town of Taroudant, our base for three nights. In the afternoon we view the rich plant collections, in the company of the owner. The roof, with its splendid views across to the Atlas Mountains, is the venue for an aperitif before a dinner featuring a menu of local specialities. Dar al Hossoun was created by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières as a nursery for treasures, such as seeds and cuttings, brought back from their plant-hunting expeditions throughout the world. It is now a garden lodge welcoming guests to this special area of Morocco.

DAY SIX – WEDNESDAY 11 APRIL BLD

We begin with a morning visit to a stunning private garden, a hidden gem in the medina of Taroudant. We continue to the outskirts of the town to discover a spectacularly beautiful walled garden recently designed by an art collector. After a brief visit to the bustling, colourful souks we return to the riad for lunch; then, time to relax. Late in the afternoon we walk to neighbouring private gardens designed for an arid environment by Ossart and Maurières. Dinner together at the riad.

DAY SEVEN – THURSDAY 12 APRIL BLD

We enjoy a guided visit to nearby privately owned gardens with succulents and grasses, water rills and courtyards also designed by Ossart and Maurières. We leave for the southern foothills of the Atlas Mountains for lunch. Near Taroudant the late Chilean artist Claudio Bravo built a palace in the countryside. We visit both the well-furnished interiors and the delightful courtyard gardens before taking tea in the menara-style pavilion facing the lake. We return to the riad for dinner.

DAY EIGHT – FRIDAY 13 APRIL B

A morning departure across the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech followed by a visit to a peaceful garden around a private museum, created by garden designer Abderrazzak Benchâabane. It is the season of orange blossom, and the trees lining a water rill are in full bloom. The owner is a perfume ‘nose’ and creates his own brand of scent. An extensive collection of succulent plants is in a side garden. A workshop has been established next to the museum where art sessions are organised for local children. We relax with glasses of mint tea – so typically Moroccan – before leaving for the airport and our return flight to London Gatwick.




Map of Morocco

Tour Costs

£2,550 per person sharing
Single supplement £625

Included:

Air flights and transport in comfortable minibus, accommodation with ensuite bathrooms, delicious meals as indicated. Garden visits, local guides. Tips to porters, waiters in restaurants. Bottled water on minibus.

Not included:

Alcoholic and soft drinks (except first evening’s aperitif), items of a personal nature, tips to chambermaids and to the driver.
Full cover of fully comprehensive travel insurance.

Notes:

The climate in early April is sunny and warm, sometimes windy.

Meals included are shown as B (breakfast), L (lunch) and D (dinner). Often guests meet for drinks before dinner (optional).

Wifi is available in the hotel and riad.

Clothes: Light clothes are recommended although in the mountains an extra layer could be needed during the day. We recommend layers, a waterproof jacket and some good walking shoes for the day in the Atlas Mountains. So as not to cause offence in a Muslim country, modest dress is recommended with long trousers (or skirt) and a shirt or tee shirt with long sleeves. Sun hats, sun cream and insect repellent are recommended.

Currency: The Moroccan currency is dirhams and you may take 1000 dirhams into the country. However, dirhams may be difficult to purchase and Susan will take you to the cash point in the airport on arrival. Euros are used extensively and we recommend you take a suitable amount. Tipping is the norm in Morocco for any service or help required. We include tips to porters and waiters.

Activity Level:

Extensive walking in Marrakech, steep walking in the mountains – mules available (with a muleteer), level walking in most gardens.