Original land in adventure travel, the more things change the more they stay the same
Perfect week: Action Plans for trips of your life
Instead of spending this past New Year's Eve jammed elbow to elbow with a crowd of revelers sloshed, Condo Jim and his wife, Diane Silver, two lawyers in Phoenix, opted for something more spacious, the Sahara.
"We were sitting under a beautiful starry sky, listening to music Berber miles and miles from civilization," says Condo. "It was one of those life experiences you just never forget."
During their journey through Morocco in a Mountain Travel Sobek trip, Condo discovered twin lures of this rugged landscape, "the physical challenge of the hinterland and the incredible diversity of the culture."
Only eight miles (thirteen kilometers) from continental Europe, the Kingdom of Morocco is a world away. An outpost for intrepid wanderers long before it caught on with globetrotters 1960, this slice of North Africa is one of the world's adventure destinations original and remains a paragon of exoticism.
Life here is attuned to the rhythms of ancient Islamic culture, which can be confusing for Westerners around the world. But tourism is the fastest growing industry in Morocco, and the government keeps a watchful eye: It is unlawful for any person to offer guide services unless it is authorized by the State, and Ministry of Tourism police repress hard on pushy salespeople (if you will never boast free in a place where haggling is the national pastime).
Morocco, which is roughly the size of California, a rail system through all the cities of renown, and about $ 30 a night tour on the Marrakech Express Tangier is a serious matter. Communal taxis roam the countryside and the major car rental agencies have operations in major cities. Conduct, however, may be something of a challenge to both mule-carts are everywhere, lights are rare, and mopeds use the family car. However, the roads are surprisingly good, and one trip, you can explore the time warped cities, roam the high mountain trails, windsurfing coast, and walk through the most famous desert in the world .
A big draw on its own, Marrakech is also the dashboard of choice for getaways outback. In his trademark pink walls, casinos and nightclubs coexist with snake charmers and belly dancers. Beyond the walls, climbing routes in the Atlas Mountains, where robust, more than 12,000 feet (3,658 meters-plus) peaks attract climbers, hikers, climbers and in the warmer months and skiing in February to April. Southeast an hour is the gateway Saharan Ouarzazate. And three hours to the west, you can brush up on the coast in the hub Windsurfing in Essaouira.
But the action is not limited to forest edge. Stroll in the souks of Marrakech, or sneak into the winding alleys of the medina (old city) of Fez. With boilermakers, candles, and mules overloaded, it's like a maze V class most of the Middle Ages "hits-a view largely unchanged for centuries.
What Paul Bowles told 1970s, Tangier in Morocco remains true today: ". Has changed less than the rest of the world" Funky, affordable, always unpredictable, the country is a millennium in the space of a single week.
Choose two or three options, and you have a trip.
The soul of Morocco is the medina, or old city, Fez el-Bali and is the ancestor of all. With more than 186 miles (299 km) of track entangled, it is the largest in the Arab world and presents itself as the cultural, intellectual, spiritual, and, no doubt, crafts capital. Slip inside its crenellated walls and giants wander through a maze of souks chaotic, where at every turn blind is a mound of bags of spices or a guy in a hooded djellaba come to you with a goat around his neck. This is as close as it gets to shopping in the year 1376. Forced sale is standard, but for grooving riffs flamingoes itinerant blacksmiths hammer or watch are far haggle without distractions.
Base Camp: The three-star Hotel Batha ($ 50 www.hotelclub.com) has English-speaking staff and a great location close to the inner sanctum of Fez el-Bali.
Some points on his rival atlas of the greatest adventure cred sandbox world that spans 3.5 million square miles burned. And you can not call it a trip until you have explored portion of Morocco's Sahara on the back of a camel lurches them. Aptly named "ships of the desert"-in the tracks of ancient trade caravans You have plenty of time to contemplate the infinite horizon while enjoying the 360 degree or gawking at the crowd of stars swirling over night. You can easily book the camel rides from two days to one of the many travel agencies sanctioned by the government to Marrakech. Organize longer expeditions with providers such as Mountain Travel Sobek, which hosts a two-week trip which includes a camel caravan of four days with a 4x4 support vehicle trailing ($ 3,490; www.mtsobek.com / mts / cb).
Base Camp: The German-owned Hotel Kasbah Sahara Gate ($ 25 www.hotel-sahara.com) mode allows you to desert. Overlooking the dunes of choice about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of Zagora, with air conditioning and terrace with views over the Sahara is an ideal platform for camels and four-wheel wander and explore the local kasbahs.
Hiking in the High Atlas
All mountain trail here is sure to go through Berber country. These Moroccan natives were driven into the hills by the Arab invasions centuries ago and have since perfected the art of living vertically in the villages that cling to cliffsides. Hoofers ambitious, you can take the highest peak in North Africa, 13,670 feet (4,167 meters) Jebel Toubkal, for two days without lift. Bring plenty of water and get acclimated: Rugged and remote, this is not the place for altitude sickness. The nearest trail must be in Imlil, south of Marrakech, on the road to Agadir.
Base Camp: Managed by Berber Adventure outfitter Adrar, Spartan Etoile du Toubkal ($ 24; www.morocco Travel-adventure.com), Imlil, has nine rooms, showers, and axes to do. Start your ascent from here and you're bound to pick up another member of the expedition loans or both.
Windsurfing the Casbah
Whip constant northeast trade winds became Essaouira, about 150 miles (241 kilometers) west of Marrakech-windsurfing in the hub of North Africa.
A magnet longtime off-the-grid travelers and local artists, the city became a word-of-mouth favorite for its deserted beaches of the Atlantic, relaxed, world heritage site worthy of architecture. You can rent a windsurf or kitesurf ($ 150 for three days), or take a kiteboarding clinic six hours ($ 206) at Club Mistral and Skyriders Center (www.club-mistral.com). Then dry and roam the ruins of a 18th century palace half buried along the south side of the city inspiration to Jimi Hendrix "Castles Made of Sand."
Base Camp: Founded by a resident of windsurfing Ahmed el Mahboul, comfortable Les Matins Bleus ($ 28 www.les-Matins-bleus.com) is a six-room, two-room hotel in the historic center of Medina Essaouira, in the heart of the action and a block from the beach.
See Morocco in the right direction.
WHEN TO GO: Morocco can be an oven in summer, particularly in the southern desert, and snow caps the mountains during the winter. The best times to visit are spring and fall. Avoid total desert from June to September.
GETTING AROUND: The safe bet for long trips is the train that hit all the major decisions, Casablanca, Tangier, Fez and Marrakech on the way. From there, rental cars or buses can get you in the mountains, deserts, or the coast.
WHAT TO BRING: In this colony French former, a French phrase book will accelerate your movements. To keep dirt and grit Saharan Atlas remote wipes and eye drops are worth more than their weight in dirhams.
3. Go Guided
Choose a trip that suits you best, and let the pros do the rest.
THE SPREE MULTISPORT: Drop sands broil for moving fast and Morocco has great whitewater action in the High Atlas. Local outfitter Adrar Aventure will paddle the river N'Fis animated on a leg of a nine-day getaway ($ 3,500; www.morocco Travel-adventure.com) which includes climbing the rocks of the Atlas, hiking in remote Berber villages, and the camel-trekking in the country instead of surfing the Prime Minister, Anchor Point, on the coast north of Agadir.
The FAMILY AFFAIR: On this trip six days Backroads (3998 $ www.backroads.com), you and the brood (aged nine and above is recommended) kick things off with snake charmers and holidays tagine in Marrakech , switch to pedal power in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains (photo above), and share the Berber hospitality, break bread with the locals on glasses of mint tea piping hot. The trip includes biking and camel riding on the beach in Essaouira.
PLATE SAMPLER: 15 days of holiday travel Wilderness ($ 3.995; www.wildernesstravel.com), you can walk the slabs of rock twisted gorges of Dades between oases and kasbahs mint, climb the mountain of sand Erg Chebbi (one of the highest dunes in Morocco), hiking in the Atlas, and the caravan in the desert. The hike is also part of a trip to Essaouira, medina, more chaos in Fes and Marrakech.