Susan Worner Tours

Morocco – Gardens of Marrakech, Taroudant and the Atlas Mountains

21 – 28 March 2019

Morocco – Gardens of Marrakech, Taroudant and the Atlas Mountains

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

Our first hotel is near Taroudant, south of the Atlas Mountains, a riad guest house with an amazing garden designed by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières, well-known French garden architects and designers. We discover a good selection of private gardens nearby and visit the beautiful villa and garden of the late Chilean artist Claudio Bravo.

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 to the mountains. We have selected a balance of intimate courtyard gardens with vibrant plants, colourful tiles and splashing water, and country gardens known as jnane (gardens of paradise) with an emphasis on orchards and decorative herb gardens. We also visit a number of newly created gardens that have emerged recently, and we add a fascinating day in the Atlas Mountains to complete the programme.

Our group is small with about fifteen participants. We use a minibus, as most travel is very local except on the transfer morning through the Atlas. The flights are with Easyjet and include pre-booked upfront seating.

 

Itinerary

DAY ONE –THURSDAY 21 MARCHLD

Departure from Gatwick direct to Agadir. We transfer eastwards 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, guided by the owner. An aperitif is served on the roof with views to the Atlas mountains before dinner with local specialities.
The riad and garden were created by French duo Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières to use as a nursery for treasures (seeds and cuttings) brought back from their plant hunting expeditions throughout the world. It is now a riad, offering a warm welcome to guests visiting this special area of Morocco.

DAY TWO – FRIDAY 22 MARCHBLD

Morning visit to a stunning and hidden private garden in the medina of Taroudant. We continue to the outskirts of Taroudant to discover a spectacularly beautiful garden enclosed within high walls, recently designed by an art collector. A brief visit to the bustling, colourful souk before returning to the riad for lunch and time to relax. Late afternoon we walk to neighbouring private gardens designed and planted for drought conditions by Ossart and Maurières. Dinner together at the riad.

DAY THREE – SATURDAY 23 MARCHBLD

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

DAY FOUR – SUNDAY 24 MARCHBD

We depart north across the Atlas Mountains and through the argan and thuja tree-growing region to Marrakech. We arrive at Hotel Les Deux Tours through the palms of the original oasis. An air of tranquillity, bird song, and water trickling along seguia create the perfect atmosphere for our base here for four nights. Afternoon visit to a peaceful garden around a private museum created by Abderrazzak Benchâabane, where a notable feature is an extensive collection of succulents. It is the season to enjoy orange blossom from the trees lining a water rill. The owner is a perfume ‘nose’ and creates his own brand of scent. A workshop has been established next to the museum for local children to visit regularly to give them a chance to draw and paint. We enjoy dinner in the hotel restaurant.

DAY FIVE – MONDAY 25 MARCHBLD

Our morning visit is to Le Jardin Secret in the medina, recently designed by Tom Stuart Smith. The first courtyard is well planted with specimens from across the world and leads to a traditional Islamic garden with four square beds, water rills and an air of peace and beauty. We leave the medina to discover extensive gardens with fields of roses, orchards of pomegranates, figs and orange trees, and a potager with aromatic herbs at Le Beldi Country Club. We lunch under the olive trees around the pool. In the afternoon we explore a country garden at the foot of the Atlas mountains created by Austrian Andre Heller, with striking colours and exuberant plantings – a personal dream now realised that evokes a smile as we stroll through this recently established but mature garden. Dinner in the hotel restaurant.

DAY SIX – TUESDAY 26 MARCHBLD

We leave for an early morning visit to the striking Jardin Majorelle, created in the 1930s and later restored by Yves St Laurent and Pierre Bergé. We then meet our guide, Hafid, for a fascinating introduction to the extensive medina with its farmers’ markets and local craftsmen. Hafid takes us down bustling, narrow streets at lunchtime until we reach an enchanting riad, with courtyard gardens featuring rambling bougainvillea, jasmine, glazed pots, decorative tiles and water fountains. We lunch in the shade of the palms. In the afternoon we discover the sumptuous gardens of Hotel La Mamounia, traditionally laid out and immaculately kept, within the medina walls. The hotel’s admirable kitchen garden produces food for the restaurant. Moroccan style afternoon tea is served in the garden. Dinner together in the hotel restaurant.

DAY SEVEN – WEDNESDAY 27 MARCHBLD

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, with blue iris and cherry orchards in blossom, to his outlying Berber village for mint tea at the family home. We continue along the valley to the Kasbah du Toubkal. The stunning and dramatic scenery can be viewed from the roof top terraced garden, where we enjoy lunch. Walk down to Imlil village through walnut woods. Return to the hotel. Dinner together in the hotel restaurant.

DAY EIGHT – THURSDAY 28 MARCHB

Late morning visit to a new private garden in the medina before enjoying lunch on a top terrace (not included). Stroll through the Menara, a twelfth century olive grove belonging to the King with a large mirror pool. Late afternoon check-in for the evening return flight to London Gatwick.




Map of Morocco

Tour Costs

£2,750 per person sharing
Single supplement £775

Included:

All flights and transport in modern comfortable minibus. Accommodation with ensuite bathroom, delicious meals as indicated, all garden visits and guides.

Not included:

Alcoholic and soft drinks (except the first evening’s aperitif), items of a personal nature, comprehensive travel insurance with full cover to be taken out on payment of the deposit.

Notes:

The climate in March will be warm. Extra layers may be needed in the mountains. Lightweight clothing is recommended, with a waterproof jacket in case of a shower and good shoes/trainers for the mountain walk. Smart casual for the evening.

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.

Activity Level:

Good walking ability for Marrakech gardens and the medina. The mountains walk requires a reasonable level of fitness, although mules are provided for those who prefer to ride.