Morocco Feature

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Recommended Tour Operators

Tour operators tend to fall into two major groups: those organized in advance—most often these days via the Internet—and those engaged on the ground. Morocco's infrastructure has improved in recent years, making traveling around the country by train or even by car easier. But there are two areas where it may be more helpful to have a local guide, even if you don't choose to do a fully guided trip to Morocco. Despite some development in rural Morocco's infrastructure, the High Atlas remains relatively undiscovered: hence its unspoiled charm. In order to reap the rewards of such an area, suitable transport (whether organized in advance or upon arrival in the region) and an experienced driver are keys to a successful trip. The same can be said for the desert, where arranging for camels or four-wheel-drive transportation and tented camps can best be done with a well-connected local guide.

For both the High Atlas and Sahara regions, local guides are easily found in Marrakesh or (for the High Atlas) in the small hill stations, most notably Imlil. A homegrown guide will personalize your traveling experience, often suggesting unknown restaurants and small riads or organizing (with your permission) a visit to their own home. The plus side here is the authentic cultural experience; the downside may be a lack of reliability, possibly poor vehicle maintenance, and basic English. All the good hotels in Marrakesh can make these arrangements, even with little prior notice. Prices can vary greatly, but you should expect to pay around $150 a day for a vehicle and driver/guide (and you should tip around $10 per day). If recruiting locally, you will be expected to pay in dirhams (in cash) rather than by credit card. If you are making these arrangements in advance, check how experienced a tour operator or guide is. The reader forums on Fodors.com can be a useful source of feedback and control.

You tend to get what you pay for in Morocco, and almost anything is possible, with operators capable of arranging all manner of tours. High-end travel, for example, might include air-conditioned luxury transport, five-star accommodations, spa treatments, and lavish meals. Another option might be experience-based: with quad biking, ballooning, cookery courses, a trip to a local moussem (festival), or skiing in Oukaïmeden. Very popular these days are ecotours, which typically offer stays in unspoiled Berber hamlets or eco-lodges, visits to local cooperatives, such as the salt pans and potteries, and showers under breathtaking waterfalls.

Luxury Tours

Many large international tour companies offer ultraluxurious tours. On the plus side, you will have the backing of an established and respected operator and will be able to pay by credit card prior to travel. On the minus side, the choice of luxury in rural parts of Morocco is limited, and you may miss out on some of the simple charms of the country.

Abercrombie and Kent. Pioneers for years in the luxury travel market, this hugely respected outfitter offers a number of tailor-made, high-end packages to Morocco. 800/554-7016 www.abercrombiekent.com.

Kensington Tours. The inspiration of intrepid explorer and Royal Geographic Society Fellow Jeff Willner, the company vows to delve deeper into the real Morocco without compromising on comfort or quality. Trips are devised to ensure more personal discovery than the typical package tour. 888/903-2001 www.kensingtontours.com.

Experiential Tours

Blue Men of Morocco. This American-owned company was formed to organize ecotours of Morocco. Founder Elena Hall lives in Spain and puts together itineraries for travelers wishing to engage in low-impact voyages, such as simple Sahara stays and camel excursions. Guides are locally recruited, and many of the profits are funneled back into local communities. (34) 952-463-387 in Spain www.bluemenofmorocco.com.

Overseas Adventure Travel. This small-group tour operator, which offers a fairly comprehensive two-week tour of Morocco, is especially popular with older travelers. 800/493-6824 toll-free in the U.S. www.oattravel.com.

Wild Fontiers. This South Africa-based operator has an impressive 30-years' experience in the supply of high-standard and exciting tours. The owner-run operator has strong links with many African countries, dating back to the days when travel to these areas was fraught with complications and, sometimes, danger. (27) 11/888-4037 in Johannesburg africanadrenalin.com.

Xaluca Tours. This company based in the Middle Atlas offers an impressive list of life-changing experiences in tour-form including desert treks along nomad trails by camel and 4x4. 0535/57-84-50 in Morocco www.xaluca.com.

High Atlas Tours

Discover Ltd UK. A company with one foothold in the United Kingdom and the other in the snowcapped mountains of the High Atlas, this outfit excels in team-bonding retreats, field trips, and independent travel. Ask to visit a revolutionary Berber girl's boarding school, which is making it possible for youngsters from isolated communities to gain an education. (44)1883-744392 in the UK. www.discover.ltd.uk.

Moroccan Mountain Guides. This team of young, passionate Berber and Spanish guides specializes in the High Atlas. The crew is adept at finding hotels with a family atmosphere and offering cultural tours in remoter areas. There's a strong slant to ecotours, including, mountain biking, Toubkal ascents, and bivouacs. English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Berber speakers are available. (212) 0657/71-10-53 in Morocco www.moroccomountainguides.co.uk.

Riad Cascades. Perched above these impressive waterfalls, Riad Cascades boosts one of the High Atlas's most experienced guides. Muloud does not waste much time on small talk, but 40 years of experience means he is better equipped than any other to trek with travelers to isolated villages around the falls, most notably on the trail of the elusive native Barbary apes. Riad Cascades, Ouzoud (212) 0523/42-91-73 in Morocco www.ouzoud.com.

Fodorites Say They Love

Around Morocco, Lahcen Boujouija: "Our guide, Lahcen Boujouija, was absolutely wonderful and made our trip something special. He felt a responsibility to make sure our trip was perfect from start to finish. We went to Morocco as strangers and left the country knowing that we had made a lifelong friend in Lahcen."—rayner. (212) 0661/09–47–95 in Morocco www.aroundmorocco.com.

Mad About Morocco, Mark Willenbrock: "Fantastic guide and more than fairly priced."—jersey1977. (212) 0676/46–85–53 in Morocco www.madaboutmorocco.com.

Rough Tours: "They were very reasonably priced. 4x4 good condition. Very good holiday. Camel trekking in the Sahara and off-roading."—Mandoza. (212) 0617/20–33–78 in Morocco roughtours.com.

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