I'M ONE OF FOUR 20-SOMETHINGS, TWO WOMEN, TWO GUYS, TRAVELLING TO MOROCCO IN JULY. WOULD IT BE BEST TO JOIN A SMALL GROUP TOUR AND IF SO, WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND? IF NOT, WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST ROUTE TO TRAVEL AROUND THE COUNTRY?
A. LEABEATER, WINSTON HILLS
A tour is a good way to go but in your case you don't have to sign up for a group tour, with four you can organise your own private tour. Mad About Morocco http://www.madaboutmorocco.com is owned and operated by Mark Willenbrock, who has lived in Fes for more than a decade. Willenbrock's specialty is putting together customised trips, using air-conditioned four-wheel drive vehicles to experience the highlights. Drivers are all Europeans who speak French and some Arabic along with English. Local guides are used in some towns. Another option is Morocco Tours http://www.moroccotours.org/, a customised tour operator. Their tours stay in high-class hotels and riads and they're quite a bit more expensive.
There's a standard itinerary for touring Morocco and while it's a well trodden path it's never dull. Starting from Fes or Casablanca, tours head south across the Atlas Mountains to Errachidia, gateway to the Sahara. Essential experience here is an early morning trip out into the dunes, or even a night in a tent, and it's quite fantastic. From here you would travel along the southern side of the Atlas visiting the palmeries and villages on the way, the so-called "Kasbah Route". You could also do some walking in the mountains but in July it's going to be sizzling, far too hot for anything but an early morning stroll. Travellers will usually spend a couple of nights in one of the resorts at Ouarzazate. There are plenty to choose from and a swimming pool is a great place to recover after the heat of the desert, then recross the mountains on truly terrifying roads to Marrakesh. You could do it the other way, ending in Fes, but Marrakesh is your dessert, just fabulous beyond words, and well worth a couple of days. Make sure you've got heaps of water and try and fit your activities into the early part of the day.