A fantastic chance to explore one of the world's most remote and fascinating countries. Only open to tourists since 1974, Bhutan's philosophy of Gross National Happiness and entrenched Buddhism makes it a place like no other.
A blog by Erina Kilmore
Morocco was always one of those exotic destinations that I had dreamed about but never thought I’d get the chance to visit. I feel so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to experience the many colours of Morocco on the Encounters Travel Moroccan Mosaics tour.
I have travelled through many parts of the world solo so to be greeted by the warm, friendly face of our guide at the arrivals gate in Marrakech was a welcomed change. He immediately took my bags and made me feel at home in this new country. From that moment on there was nothing I would want for as every detail was carefully considered and taken care of. As we drove from the airport I could see the amazing Atlas Mountains in the distance and large, busy roads dotted with palms and beautifully sculptured trees. At the hotel I was showed to my lovely room and then requested to meet in the lounge to meet my fellow travellers. At this meeting we were given an overview of the tours, some choices we could make about day trips and the opportunity to make connections from the get go. The group was varied and interesting with people from all over the world and different walks of life. I can honestly say we all got along and it made the trip so much more fantastic! That night at dinner, we shared travel stories, expectations of Morocco and excitement for what was to come…
Day 1 was a tour of Marrakech and that is where I first got to see all the magical colours that make this country so exotic and beautiful. The mosques and palaces were decorated with intricate mosaics, marble and timber work. Walking through the bazaar to the main square was fabulous and I could see that the rest of the group and myself were already planning our shopping sprees with the abundance of leather, pottery and silver wares for sale. Sunset in the square was just brilliant as the group shared some mint tea and took in all the musical sounds, food smells and bustling life of the city.
The next few days the group and I embarked on an adventure through the Atlas Mountains that I had seen tower over Marrakech that weekend with stops that gave us some incredible views. We stayed in lovely hotels that you really wouldn’t have thought could exist in these towns. We ate beautiful traditional Moroccan meals every day and usually laughed at the silence at the dinner table as we all enjoyed every bite. The conversations were then great! We shared more stories, talked about our discoveries of the day and showed photos. We visited many Kasbah’s, took some great group photos and continued to eat fabulous local food every day.
By day 4 we were all very excited to disembark the luxurious coach where we all had 2-3 seats each and jump into some new model 4WD’s for some fun. Driving through the Sahara Desert was hilarious as the drivers thought themselves to be rally drivers more than tour guides, nonetheless we felt safe and laughed very hard the entire time. We arrived just before sunset at our dessert camp for the night – the HIGHLIGHT of our trip! Our bags were taken to our very luxurious ‘tents’ and we jumped straight onto some waiting camels and into the dunes. The camel ride was awesome. We laughed, took cool photos of our silhouettes in the dunes and chatted with our local guide as they directed us towards the best viewing point for the sun to set over Africa. Once we walked a short distance to the top, the colours on the sand were remarkable and was matched by the changing hues of red and orange that the sun created in the sky. It was a truly breathtaking moment that our group shared as that sun set. Unforgettable. That night we shared drinks under the stars and sat up late into the night as a group and listed to local musicians play some mesmerising tunes.
The next morning we woke early for the sun to rise over the Algerian border. It was soooo cold but so worth it. The rest of the day was relaxed as we drove to probably the nicest hotel of our stay in Zagora. We enjoyed another fabulous meal and shared a beautiful birthday cake for one of our fellow travellers birthday, she was very surprised. The following day was a bit of a slog driving back to Marrakech but because we had already made some fantastic relationships in the group, we laughed, we sang songs and played card games to make the day go quite fast. That night I think we all collapsed…
The last day was at leisure and sadly I had to fly home but my tour friends enjoyed crossing off all the shopping items they had wanted earlier, visited a beautiful garden and ate more of Morocco’s finest foods. The colours of Morocco will always stay in my mind and heart and I look forward to visiting again to experience the coastal towns and the romance of Casablanca. That was my first group tour, and I’d do it again. It was so easy, so fun and I’ve made some friendships for the rest of my life. Thank you Encounters Travel!