Susan Worner Tours

Morocco – Gardens of Marrakech & The Atlas Mountains

20 – 28 March 2021

Morocco – Gardens of Marrakech & The Atlas Mountains

Morocco is a country of contrasts: The buzz of the medina and exotic souks in Marrakech; tranquil gardens hidden behind high walls, where water is an important feature yet the focus may be on planting for arid conditions; long views to the mountains; 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: Dar al Hossoun is a riad guest house with an amazing garden designed by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières, well-known French garden architects and designers. It offers a warm welcome to guests visiting this special area of Morocco. We discover a good selection of private gardens nearby and visit the beautiful villa and estate of the late Chilean artist Claudio Bravo.

Situated in the countryside near Marrakech, Hotel Les Deux Tours in La Palmeraie is elegant and welcoming. It is surrounded by extensive gardens with views to the mountains. The properties we visit in the area offer a balance between intimate courtyards with vibrant plants, colourful tiles and splashing water, and country gardens known as jnane (gardens of paradise) with orchards and decorative plantings of herbs. We also discover a number of recently created gardens. Finally, fascinating journeys in the Atlas Mountains 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 – SATURDAY 20 MARCHD

Afternoon 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 four nights. On our arrival in the evening, a delicious meal awaits us.

DAY TWO – SUNDAY 21 MARCHBLD

After breakfast we have a guided visit of the superb garden around our riad hotel.
It was originally created by Ossart and Maurières to use as a nursery for treasures (seeds and cuttings) brought back from their plant-hunting expeditions throughout the world. Light lunch in the hotel gardens before discovering the vibrant medina of Taroudant with visits to some private courtyard gardens. We enjoy dinner together at the hotel.

DAY THREE – MONDAY 22 MARCHBLD

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 and late afternoon we walk to neighbouring private gardens designed and planted for drought conditions by Ossart and Maurières. Dinner together at the riad.

DAY FOUR – TUESDAY 23 MARCHBLD

Morning visit to a private garden on the outskirts of Taroudant: Enclosed behind walls, this fascinating and beautiful garden has been designed by an art collector. We leave for the southern foothills of the Atlas Mountains for lunch near the traditional village of Had Imoulas. Argan trees grow on the mountainsides and we may see goats feeding high up among the branches. Travelling onwards through spectacular scenery we discover a river valley rich in olive trees and arable crops. On returning to the riad, there is the option of joining a cookery course to learn the secrets of making tagine, the classic dish of Morocco.

DAY FIVE – WEDNESDAY 24 MARCHBD

We depart north across the Atlas Mountains through the argan and thuja tree-growing region to Marrakech. We arrive at Hotel Les Deux Tours through the palms of the original oasis. With its tranquil atmosphere, bird song and water trickling along seguia, the hotel offers the perfect atmosphere for our stay over the next four nights. Afternoon visit to a peaceful garden around a private museum created by Abderrazzak Benchâabane. Among the notable features are an extensive collection of succulents and the scent of orange blossom from the trees lining a water rill. The owner is a perfume ‘nose’ and creates his own brand of scent. A workshop next to the museum offers local children a chance to enjoy art activities. Return to the hotel for dinner.

DAY SIX – THURSDAY 25 MARCHBLD

We leave for an early morning visit to the famed Jardin Majorelle, created in the 1930s and later restored by Yves St Laurent and Pierre Bergé. We then meet our guide, Hafid, for an introduction to the extensive medina with its farmers’ markets and local craftsmen’s workshops. We follow bustling, narrow streets to an enchanting riad with courtyard gardens featuring bougainvillea, jasmine, 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 – FRIDAY 26 MARCHBLD

Our morning visit is to Le Jardin Secret in the medina, 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 a marvellous rural estate 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. Afternoon visit to The Menara, an extensive twelfth century olive grove belonging to the King of Morocco with a large mirror pool. Return to the hotel for dinner.

DAY EIGHT – SATURDAY 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 – mules) up the valley, with blue iris and cherry orchards in blossom, to his outlying village for mint tea at the family home. We continue along the valley to the Kasbah du Toubkal notable for its dramatic views of the mountains from the roof top terraced garden. Following lunch at the Kasbah we walk down through woods of walnut trees to Imlil village. Return to the hotel for dinner together.

DAY NINE – SUNDAY 28 MARCHB

Departure after breakfast to check-in at Marrakech Menara airport for the late morning return flight to London Gatwick.




Map of Morocco

Tour Costs

£3,450 per person sharing
Single occupation of double room supplement £850

Included:

All flights and transport in a modern comfortable minibus. Accommodation with en-suite bathroom, delicious meals as indicated, all garden visits, and guide and hotel tips.

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.
Tip to the driver.


Hotels

Dar Al Hossoun, Taroudant
www.dar-al-hossoun.com

Hotel Les Deux Tours, Palmeraie, Marrakech
www.les-deux-tours.com

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).

Wi-Fi is available in each hotel.

Activity Level:

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