Morocco – Gardens of Marrakech, Taroudant & The Atlas Mountains

22 – 30 March 2022

Morocco – Gardens of Marrakech & The Atlas Mountains

Morocco is a country of contrasts: The buzz of the medina and exotic souks in Marrakech, hidden gardens that are oases of calm, 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: 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. We discover a good selection of private gardens nearby and visit the beautiful villa and estate of the late Chilean artist Claudio Bravo.

Hotel Le Beldi is traditional and welcoming. Situated in the countryside near Marrakech, it is surrounded by extensive gardens with views to the mountains. The gardens we visit offer a balance between intimate courtyards with vibrant plants, colourful tiles and water splashing in fountains and channels (seguia), and country gardens known as jnane (gardens of paradise) with an emphasis on orchards and decorative plantings of herbs. We also discover a number that have emerged recently such as Le Jardin Secret partly designed by Tom Stuart Smith. 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 – TUESDAY 22 MARCH LD

Morning 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, lunch is served in the garden. Late afternoon we visit 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. It now offers a warm welcome to guests visiting this special area of Morocco. Dinner together at the riad (each evening).

DAY TWO – WEDNESDAY 23 MARCH BLD

After breakfast we visit a hidden private garden on the outskirts of Taroudant to discover a spectacularly beautiful garden; enclosed within high walls, it has been designed by an art collector. Continue to the vibrant medina of Taroudant to see a private house with a courtyard garden on different levels created by a French interior designer. Light lunch in the hotel gardens before discovering neighbouring private gardens designed and planted for drought conditions by Ossart and Maurières.

DAY THREE – THURSDAY 24 MARCH BLD

The late Chilean artist Claudio Bravo built a superb palace in the countryside near Taroudant. We visit both the well-furnished interiors and the delightful courtyard gardens before having lunch in the menara or pavilion facing the lake. We return in the afternoon to the ancient centre of Taroudant, to discover the historical medina and ramparts in a horse-drawn carriage before returning to the riad.

DAY FOUR – FRIDAY 25 MARCH BLD

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 the valley adjacent to the river, rich in olive trees and other crops. On returning to the riad, it is possible to join a cookery course (optional) to learn the secrets of making tagine and couscous, the classic dishes of Morocco.

DAY FIVE – SATURDAY 26 MARCH BD

We depart north across the Atlas Mountains through the argan and thuja tree-growing region to Marrakech. We arrive at Hotel Le Beldi with its fields of roses. An air of tranquillity, with bird song and water trickling along seguia, creates the perfect atmosphere for our stay 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 also 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 (each evening).

DAY SIX – SUNDAY 27 MARCH BLD

We leave for an early morning visit to the renowned 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. We follow bustling, narrow streets to 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.

DAY SEVEN – MONDAY 28 MARCH BLD

Our morning visit is to Le Jardin Secret in the medina, recently designed in part 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 enjoy lunch on a rooftop terrace in the medina. In the afternoon we head to the foothills of the Atlas Mountains to visit an exceptional private garden created by Ossart and Maurières in an old olive grove.

DAY EIGHT – TUESDAY 29 MARCH 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 – 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 on the final evening.

DAY NINE – WEDNESDAY 30 MARCH B

We depart from our hotel after breakfast to check-in for the morning return flight from Marrakech Menara airport to London Gatwick.




Map of Morocco

Tour Costs

£3,340 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 Le Beldi Country Club, Marrakech
www.beldicountryclub.com

Notes:

The climate in March is generally warm. However, it is advisable to be prepared for some cooler days. 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 though intermittent in Taroudant.

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.