Encompassing the best of Morocco, this trip will take us past the foothills of Mt Toubkal, golden Kasbahs, impressive gorges and the long sandy beach of Essaouira. This spectacular route follows smooth tarmac roads and climbs over high mountain passes that reward you with spectacular vistas of the High Atlas Mountains. A real highlight is riding through Paradise Valley, close to Imouzzer, where a palm-filled valley leads to a high pass with views down to the ocean below. After all the riding we will receive a warm welcome from a range of great hotels including a traditional riad.
We recommend walking or taking a taxi into the old city. Here there is plenty to explore like the old walled medina and its winding alleyways which are filled with souks selling everything from street food to pottery and jewellery.
We transfer out of Marrakech this morning to Tadmamt and begin our cycling journey into the foothills of Mt Toubkal. After a nice warm up on a wonderful undulating road, we enjoy a long descent into the Asni Valley with beautiful views. We then follow the river and cross over a number of bridges before arriving in Tigmmi n'Tmazrite and our hotel for the evening.
The day begins with a challenging climb to the dramatic Tizi n'Test Pass (2100m). We are rewarded with dramatic views to the south over the Sousse Valley towards the Anti Atlas Mountains. After lunch we have a truly dramatic and, in places, quite steep descent as the road winds down to the valley. Once in the valley our ride takes us past orange, lemon and grapefruit groves as we approach Oulad Berhil. Here we receive a warm welcome, wonderful food and a relaxing evening at our beautiful Riad. This converted palace is a wonderful addition to the end of our day with roaming peacocks and the chance to pick our own fruit straight off the trees.
We have a morning transfer into the Anti Atlas Mountains and the real southern Morocco, much of it semi-desert and a complete contrast to the fertile Sousse Valley. We travel through argan country trying to spot the incredible tree climbing goats which are famously found here. From Irherm, we are surrounded by almond trees and our road has some wonderful ups and downs as we pass through many farms and little mud-walled Berber villages. The last section of the ride is another wonderful descent of about 12km through the most dramatic scenery to Tafraoute.Time permiting we will visit the somewhat peculiar site of giant painted blue rocks, otherwise we'll visit these tomorrow.
We transfer to Tizi MLil and begin another varied ride, undulating through spectacular hills, past traditional villages and hill-top kasbahs, with some superb balcony sections with excellent views. There are a few climbs, but the ride ends with an exhilarating descent to Ait Baha Lake and then we transfer to the coastal resort of Agadir.
Today we enjoy a truly spectacular ride through the Paradise Valley, a narrow gorge lined with palm trees. Towards the head of the valley we have another challenging climb with excellent views, eventually reaching a high plateau and the little town of Imouzzer, the end point of one of the most dramatic rides on our route. Originally the home of the Ida Outanane Berber tribe, Imouzzer retains a strong cultural identity.
We start cycling from the front door and begin with another excellent winding descent on a good road to a valley dotted with palm trees and traditional villages. There are a couple of moderate climbs over rocky hills and descents back into the fertile valleys before we reach the main coast road and the end of the ride. After a picnic lunch we transfer (1.5 hours) to our destination for the evening, Essaouira. This charming old Portuguese fishing port dates back to the 15th Century, but the present town was constructed around 1760 by Sidi Mohammed ben Abdullah, who needed a base from which to suppress a revolt from Agadir. Today, Essaouira is extremely relaxed and its whitewashed houses with painted shutters, artisan's workshops, boatyards and fishermen provide a marked contrast to Marrakech. There's plenty of interest in the narrow traffic-free streets of the old town and we stay overnight in a traditional Riad hotel.
After a free morning to explore lovely Essaouira, we transfer to the vibrant city of Marrakech. Simply enjoy a freshly squeezed orange juice in one of the many rooftop cafs overlooking the Djemma El Fna Square, or perhaps take a calche (a bright green horse drawn carriage) ride to the peaceful Majorelle Gardens. These small but tranquil gardens are decorated throughout in indigo blue and house the small Museum of Islamic Art in the grounds. A final treat would be to go for a hammam, a traditional Moroccan steam bath. A visit to Djemma el Fna Square this evening is the ultimate reward for our week's cycling - with snake charmers, story tellers, smoky food stalls and souks, there is no other way to experience the exciting atmosphere of Marrakech.
The trip ends after breakfast. Those on the group flights will be taken to the airport in time for their flight home.Explore Marrakech if you have time before your flight. The best places to get a view over the square are the LaGrand Balcon du Cafe Glacier or Cafe de France. You have to buy a drink, but at MAD 20 it's worth it for a great view.MajorelleGardens,or Le Jardin Secret make a great escape from the bustlingcity,and offer a chance todiscover its gardens and buildings, which are outstanding examples of Islamic art and architecture.A top tip for great food would be theMoroccan roast lamb, found at Chez Lamine just off theDjemaa el Fna square. Made famous by Jamie Oliver's visit, it remains the best place to try this speciality. Go between 12noon and3pmor you'll miss it.If you're craving a cold beer or a glass of wine, make your way to La Salama, againjust off theDjemaa el Fna square. You can enjoy the beautifulinterior and lively atmosphere.Taxis can be found easily around theDjemaa el Fna square, to take you back to your hotel in the new city.