Staff Review

Fez, Marrakech & the Atlas Mountains

by The Kirker Team

Morocco has always been on my list of destinations to visit as soon as possible and it really did not disappoint. One of the pleasant surprises about Morocco is the relatively short flight time (London to Fez is 2hr 45m), considering the amazing difference in landscape and culture that one experiences. An added benefit is no need to adjust your watch!'Landing in Fez I was happy to walk into the brand new airport terminal, very sleek and modern - in fact almost all of the train stations and airports in Morocco have been recently renovated. A short journey by Kirker private car transfer and we arrived at our hotel in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the city centre. Driving past the new town 'Ville Nouvelle' into the Medina I was transported back in time. The old Medina, the area which is enclosed within the ancient city walls, has not changed much since it was built. You could spend hours wandering through the winding streets, where you find that no one bats an eyelid as they make their way past you in and out of the myriad doorways - to shops, mosques, workshops or houses - so simple from outside but each an individual surprise inside.'In Morocco many of the most beautiful sights can be found hidden through small doorways, such as the University of al-Qarawiyyin, which is one of the oldest universities in existence, but could easily be missed as you try to find the low-key entrance. The interior of this still functioning University is covered in beautifully ornate hand carved cedar wood and mosaics and reflects the status Fez acquired as one of the most important intellectual centres in the medieval period.'A stroll through the markets with an expert Kirker guide was a real highlight of my stay in Fez. Initially the colourful souq may be quite overwhelming to the senses, but with a Kirker guide to steady you, you will discover the hidden gems inside the Medina. For those who never leave anywhere without a souvenir, you will find a veritable treasure trove inside the Medina, and it is definitely worth a visit to the tannery - although do take them up on the offer of a handful of mints as you walk in, you'll find out why! Each of our favourite riad hotels in the city centre is charming, both are small oases with a swimming pool to relax after a morning exploring.'Heading out of Fez, I would suggest a visit to the archaeological site of Volubilis. The extensive Roman ruins dating back as early as the 3rd Century BC, are an easy day trip from the city and show another side to the diverse history of this country. The mosaics here are some of the best preserved I have seen across Europe and Northern Africa and a local guide here can help you discover the hidden intricacies of the site. A day trip to Volubilis can also be combined with a visit to another of the Moroccan imperial cities - Meknes. Do ask your friendly Kirker reservations consultant about adding this day trip to any stay in Fez.'Fascinating Fez makes a wonderful stand-alone city break, but can also be visited in combination with Marrakech. Whilst the journey by road and rail is simple it does take a full day, however you can also now travel between these two cities by internal flight in just an hour.'With its distinctive deep terracotta walls, you can certainly understand why Marrakech is often known as the 'red city'. The most cosmopolitan city of Morocco it is certainly a must-see for any discerning traveller. Similarly to Fez, Marrakech has a fascinating old Medina where one could easily be happily lost for a day. A Kirker guide, included for all holidays to Marrakech, will guide you through the hustle and bustle to the real gems. 'As to be expected for a larger city, one finds also a wider range of hotels here than in Fez, from charming riads inside the Medina to slick resort properties located outside the city in the gardens of the Palmeraie. For first-time visitors to the city I would recommend a stay in one our hotels or riads in the city centre: Riad Kniza is a Kirker favourite, owned by the same family for generations. The warm, welcoming service here is so wonderful and the kitchen serves some of my favourite Moroccan cuisine. With only a small number of bedrooms in each riad though these do tend to be booked in advance. A charming alternative for those looking for something with slightly more space is the Jardins de la Medina. Set slightly further from the centre of the Medina you benefit from a large garden and a good-sized swimming pool (heated throughout winter). For those who have visited Morocco before, or would prefer a longer stay, I would suggest to stay for a few nights in the city centre and then to spend a further few nights out in the Palmeraie area - so called for the several hundred thousand palm trees. Situated at the edge of the city's northern section, hotels here have much more space and offer a relaxed atmosphere whilst still allowing one to visit the bustling city within twenty minutes.'For those looking to see Marrakech and combine this with some Moroccan countryside for a more active holiday, you must go into the Atlas Mountains for a day trip or a few nights in one of our charming properties. A trip up into the foothills of the High Atlas, to visit the Hotel Capaldi, or up into the mountains themselves, provides a refreshing alternative to the city. As you climb upwards in your 4x4 vehicle the air becomes more crisp and cool. In the mountains you can spend your time relaxing by your hotel pool all day just enjoying the gentle breeze, or experience some adventure, trekking or walking through the countryside.'To be able to experience all of these places in just one visit to Morocco was wonderful, although I would recommend to fit everything here you should take at least ten days, more if you can The variety of cultures, languages and landscapes that one comes into contact with here makes for a memorable holiday and adding excursions to any trip will help you make the most of your stay. One visit will probably just whet your appetite for the next though, and I will certainly be heading back to Morocco as soon as I can to have another tagine.

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Our expert reservations team regularly travel to a wide range of destinations to explore new cities, visit hotels and to research museums, galleries and restaurants so that we can offer the most up-to-date advice and recommendations.


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