Sweet mint tea and sticky dates, the scent of exotic spices; deep indigo robes, crumbling red walls and the haunting sound of the muezzin; mystical Morocco assaults the senses
Join an entrancing journey through astonishing landscapes and experience the sights, sounds and smells of this unique land. Travel by comfortable 4×4 to places as yet little-known to tourists; experience the heat of the desert, the warmth of the welcome!
Stimulate your senses and develop your artistic skills in an atmospheric, authentic location. Morocco has been inspiring artists and writers for centuries, and it continues to do so. A timeless land of wide horizons where Africa meets Europe, it is now the destination of choice for those tired of Tuscany, bored of Provence.
Sir Winston Churchill was captivated by Marrakesh and visited many times to paint the light, and relax from the stresses he encountered in Britain. He stated: "Morocco to me was a revelation… reading the newspapers gives not the slightest impression of the charm and value of this splendid territory."
Once perceived as difficult to access, budget airlines are now serving Marrakesh Fez and other cities and although it can seem like a different world, it's only a 3 hour flight from the UK. Now within reach of everyone, there's something for artists of every level and interest, as well as those looking for a different type of holiday. There has never been a better time to visit Morocco!
In this land of contrasts you will discover towering, snow-capped mountains (including the highest in North Africa); sandy desert pistes; deep river gorges bursting with almond blossom in the spring; lush palm groves hanging heavy with dates in the autumn, and quiet oases resonant with the sound of frogs. In the countryside you will see old men riding donkeys laden with firewood, shy nomad women dressed in traditional clothing and big-eyed children herding floppy-eared goats. The picturesque old Kasbahs, dark, mysterious souks and the bustling street scenes of the world-heritage cities are some of the images that will stay with you long after your holiday has ended. This combination of brilliant, hot colours, bright clear light and the complete sensual overload is sure to revive the most jaded palette and you can't fail to return with a sketchpad full of colour, shoes full of sand, and a head full of wonderful memories!
Discover Morocco: Sketchbook Journey
Next Trip(s): March 17th 2024 (full), October 5th 2025
Duration: 12 nights Marrakech - Marrakech
Principle medium: Watercolours
This programme is designed for those who want as varied a taste of Morocco as possible; it incorporates mountains, kasbahs, gorges and desert. We will stay in several different locations and you will see some of the best sights that the country has to offer.
The nature of this trips means there is inevitably a little more driving involved. Distances can be large and occasionally, the terrain challenging. However the incredible variety we pack into this holiday makes it a very worthwhile introduction to the country and we make time for our sketchbooks every day.
Snow-capped High Atlas panoramas; Serenely crumbling Kasbah Telouet; Rock formations of the Dades Valley; Unforgettable journey across desert plains to remote retreat of M'Harech; Palm-lined Draa Valley and the stunningly situated Ait Benhaddou.
Day of arrival:
We will meet late afternoon at the hotel in the 'medina', a beautiful riad (restored traditional house).
- Day 1: Drive over the Atlas Mountains via the Tizi-n-Tichka pass to the Glaoui palace at Telouet.
- Day 2: On through the desert gateway of Ouarzazate to Skoura with its kasbah and palmery
- Day 3: To the Dades Valley with its weird rock formations and spectacular gorge
- Day 4: Full day exploring the Dades area, 'Valley of 1000 Kasbahs'
- Day 5: Spectacular routes through little-visited, stony desert to M'Harech oasis
- Day 6: A whole day to immerse yourself in this wonderful, remote region through which the Paris-Dakar rally used to pass
- Day 7: Through dramatic sand and rockscapes to Zagora on the edge of the Sahara
- Day 8: Enjoy the beautiful, palm-lined Draa Valley with its imposing mountain backdrop
- Day 9: Explore and sketch the historic ruins of Kasbah des Caids, Tamnougalt
- Day 10: Afternoon sketching the wonderfully-preserved and picturesque hilltop kasbah at Ait Benhaddou
- Day 11: Fast sketching the High Atlas from the pass before descending to Marrakech, with a possibility to meet at the famous Djemma el Fnaa in the evening
Please ask for a detailed day by day itinerary for any of these trips.
The prices for all Morocco itineraries include:
All transport on the journey; accommodation and breakfast for all nights of the trip; dinner on all nights outside of Marrakech and Fez; some lunches as stated in the itineraries; services of driver/guide and host/tutor; Art Pack containing all the materials you will need on the holiday and overnight camel trip (on 'Painted Desert' itinerary)
The prices do NOT include:
Flights; airport transfers in Marrakech; dinners in Marrakech and Fez; some lunches along the route where we stop in local cafes; entrance fees to kasbahs (these are not high); any tips you may wish to leave (for optional/unofficial guides, friendly hotel staff and our wonderful driver/s) and carpets, which are strictly optional, despite what the salesman tries to tell you!
Painted Desert: Sketchbook Journey
Next Trip(s): October 20th 2024
Duration: 8 nights Fez-Fez + optional extensions
Principle medium: Inks
This programme runs during the cooler months when the weather should be ideal for painting outdoors. If you are lucky, in the spring you will see the desert in bloom, an unforgettable sight when the seemingly desolate land becomes a carpet of wild flowers.
We stay in quiet, peaceful, comfortable desert auberges built in the traditional style using adobe (for warmth in the winter and cool in the summer), and set forth each day to a different nearby location for our sketching. This is the one to choose if you want the minimum time spent driving, the maximum time relaxing, and an unmissable camel trip is included in the price!
Beautiful riad accommodation in UNESCO-listed Fez medina; Dunes of Erg Chebbi; Wonderful desert oasis; Rissani, the oldest Islamic town in Morocco; Overnight trip by camel: sleep under uncountable stars
Please ask for a detailed daily itinerary. This is just a taste of what you will discover!
- Day of arrival: If possible you will be met at the airport, or take a taxi to your beautiful riad accommodation in the medina (old walled part) of Fez.
- Day 1: Drive to the Ziz valley palmery via Azrou and one of the 3 High Atlas passes
- Day 2: Via Erfoud to our attractive guesthouse on the edge of the desert.
- Day 3: Drive to a stunning, cool oasis in the middle of the desert.
- Day 4: Sketching the view from a stunning high plateau and visit the ancient city of Rissani; overnight camel trip, camping in the dunes
- Day 5: Playing in the desert at a peaceful sandy haven.
- Day 6: Full day in the sand within sight of Erg Chebbi. Perhaps a splash in the pool?
- Day 7: Drive back to Fez via photogenic old kasbah at Maadid. Arrive in the early evening, and transfer once more to your hotel. Extensions are available for this trip at extra cost: 2 nights in Fez before the trip or 3 nights in Chefchaouen afterwards.
Far Horizons: Artists' Retreat / Lines in the Sand: Intensive course
Next trip/s: October 5th 2024
Duration: 10 nights from Marrakech
Price: All abilities artists' untutored/semi-tutored retreat: £1200
'Lines in the Sand' intensive beginners' course: £1600
Discount for those sharing a room: £100 (pp)
Experience bustling Marrakech before taking an epic journey through varied landscapes to a hidden oasis amongst vast, stony plains and rocky plateaux brimming with fossils.
Miles from 'civilisation' and reached only by sandy tracks, our simple but comfortable, rustic auberge nestles amidst date palms and oleander, between rocky crags which offer far-reaching desert vistas and spectacular sunsets.
The days are blissfully peaceful, the nights lit by stars. The silence is palpable.
This is the ideal place for escapists to unwind and get into their creative flow; artists of all abilities, writers and photographers will find the perfect environment to stimulate ideas, to develop new or existing projects with complete focus, and enjoy warm Moroccan hospitality.
Complete or relative beginners are offered an intensive course, a carefully structured progression towards confidently sketching and painting the incredible landscape and developing their own style. All materials and full daily tutoring will be provided.
Along the way we have an afternoon to explore the fascinating World Heritage site of Ait Benhaddou, providing a colourful taste of Morocco before our Saharan immersion.
Isolation & tranquillity in a remote desert oasis; Warm, peaceful days & silent, starry nights; Time to immerse yourself completely in your creative project or embrace a new skill; Inspiring surroundings with minimal distractions; Experience vibrant Morocco and traverse the majestic High Atlas mountains.
Day 1: Arrival in Marrakech; spend the night in a traditional 'riad' in the medina
Day 2: Traverse the twisting Tizi n Titchka with spectacular views; afternoon exploring the impressive hilltop kasbah at Ait Benhaddou; overnight nearby
Day 3: Drive into the less inhabited Saharan desert region, stopping for a simple picnic to enjoy the tangible silence and timeless landscape; afternoon arrival at our retreat
Days 4 - 8: In our oasis desert haven, working on individual projects or on the intensive course (relaxation is also allowed!)
Day 9: Afternoon departure back to the tarmac; overnight in N'Kob
Day 10: Final long drive back over the mountain pass to Marrakech, stopping for lunch along the way. Overnight in Marrakech riad.
The price for this holiday includes:
Transfer from Marrakech airport to your hotel on day of arrival (where possible)
All transport Marrakech-Marrakech
All accommodation and most meals (see below)
Nightly meetings with optional critique/input and advice whilst on retreat; the company and stimulation of like-minded people
If on 'Lines in the sand' course: All art materials and full tuition/guidance daily
The price does not include:
Dinners in Marrakech
Lunches on days 2 and 11
Art materials for those not on the intensive course (you may bring whatever you like)
Soft drinks or bottled water except where provided at mealtimes; any extra drinks or snacks purchased en-route (Morocco is inexpensive).
Alchohol (which may be pruchased en route but not at destination)
Transfer back to airport at the end of the holiday (this can be arranged)
Extra nights in Marrakech before or after the holiday, or further travel (this can be arranged)
Tips for our driver and hotel staff.
The landscape in Morocco is probably unlike anything you have ever painted before. It might even be unlike anything you have ever seen before! Especially in late summer, when it is burnt a deep red-brown from the scorching sun, it can appear shockingly stark, vast and harsh. It can take a day or two to 'get your eye in' and feel ready to interpret it. The itineraries take this into account and after a few days the light, the grandeur and the romance will have worked their special magic on you and you will be sketching away furiously!
The 'Lines in the Sand' 3 day course is intensive and fully-structured; expect to spend all day drawing. The atmosphere of the desert is tremendously relaxing, however and we take plenty of breaks. Working hours will be approximately 10am to 5pm.
On the Sketchbook Journeys we cover quite a bit of ground, both literally and in terms of things to see and draw, so we try not to waste a single moment! That does not mean, however, that sketching every day is compulsory. Those wishing to simply relax and soak up the atmosphere, or do a little wandering around with a camera, are always welcome to do so.
On days when we are not changing location, you will also have the opportunity to stay around the hotel, sketching or otherwise, perhaps working up earlier sketches into more finished pieces, if you wish. On days when we are moving from one place to another, we arrive at our new destination by mid afternoon, leaving time free for sketching and exploring. The holidays are structured to give at least two fantastic views each day, with the first and last day involving more driving.,
We usually take breakfast together at around 8.30am then set off for the day, armed with our sketchbooks. You will be driven to, or shown, ideal sketching spots and given advice on alternatives. Beginners and those lacking in confidence can be given as much guidance as they need; experienced artists may go off and do their own thing.
Most days, everyone will be given a special 'task' to experiment with, which is designed to stimulate and challenge you as an artist. It might be trying a new technique, or looking at the landscape in a new way. You may spend as much or as little time on this as you like, but it may give you inspiration if you are a little overwhelmed by a truly different type of subject, and it can be your starting point for the day.
On travelling days the schedule will vary but with your sketchbook always close to hand and your eyes filled with amazing sights you will never feel deprived. For those who just can't put down their pencil, there will often be opportunities to sketch the beautiful objects and textiles found in and around the hotels.
Most days will end with an informal 'appraisal' where we will gather to look over our artwork. This should be an exciting and pleasurable activity where we can gain inspiration from each other, relive the beautiful sights we've seen and ask or give advice about any difficulties we may have experienced. Like everything else on the holiday, it is not compulsory but most people will want to join in.
We'll eat together at our hotel and then your evenings are yours to do as you choose, but please don't expect much in terms of organised entertainment. Our locations are chosen for their peace, tranquillity and beauty rather than their vibrant social life. In the desert, however, the inhabitants have music in their blood, and many a night they will begin an impromptu drumming session. The rhythm is infectious. Dancing is optional !
These trips will appeal most to active people of any age who have an open mind, are willing to sacrifice a little luxury for extra authenticity, and who are interested in different cultures as well as unusual landscapes.
The hotels we use are chosen primarily for their location, and for their reliability in terms of cleanliness and friendliness. Most people love staying in them but they are not 5-star. You can expect hot water (most of the time), decent, (often excellent) traditional Moroccan food, clean sheets and a warm welcome. Almost always, you will have your own bathroom, but just occasionally it might need to be shared (for instance on the overnight camel trip).
Some of the places, especially in the desert, are quite simple and 'rustic', which in our opinion is part of their charm. Sometimes there may be a problem with the water, or the electricity. Very occasionally, it can not be sorted out. Often the food might take a little longer to arrive than expected and the Wi-Fi, where it exists, will almost certainly be slower than you'd like. Sit back, close your eyes and wiggle your toes in the sand. This is Africa!
On most days there will be a little walking involved to get to the ideal location. Please do not book a trip to Morocco if you have trouble walking. While there will usually be an alternative for those who don't feel like moving much on any given day, healthy and reasonably fit people will get more out of these trips. There are steep, uneven stairs in some of our most-loved hotels, which could cause issues for anyone unsteady on their feet. If you are concerned about your fitness or mobility for theses trips, please contact me.
In many cases, a rock or patch of rough sand will be your seat for the day. Please feel free to bring a cushion or stool with you if you don't like sitting on the ground, as these are not provided.
I endeavour to find locations with shade. This is usually, but not always, possible. In March/April and October the heat is bearable (or indeed, enjoyable) for most people, but if you really dislike the sun, then perhaps Morocco is not the ideal destination for you.
Transport & travel
We travel in a comfy 4×4 with experienced, safe and friendly local drivers who speak our language.
Some driving days are longer than others. Morocco is a huge country and we travel a good distance to see the best in a relatively short time. However, we stop regularly and the landscapes we pass through are breathtaking. No day is comprised solely of travelling and there is always plenty of sketching time built into the itineraries, but please bear in mind that the airports are not situated in the most paintable locations, so longer driving times on the first and last days are unavoidable.
With one or two exceptions, the trips are designed to be 'holidays' rather than 'courses', and as such do not follow a structured learning syllabus. However, special 'tasks' will be given most days which are designed to stimulate and inspire. These are optional, but useful and fun, and can be tailored to the individual. We meet regularly for group appraisals and progress is closely monitored. Beginners and novices are given all the help and encouragement they need while the more experienced are at liberty to pursue their own directions.
I want everyone who comes on a Vistas Sketching Holiday to have a wonderful time which exceeds their expectations, which is why I aim to be as open and honest as possible about the reality of travel here, and about these trips in particular. On a Vistas 'Sketchbook Journey', the exploration of the country is as important as the activity of sketching itself, which sets them apart from other painting holidays. They might not be right for everyone. But if you are adventurous in spirit, like dramatic, wild and surprising landscapes as well as ancient and fascinating cultures, and if you appreciate a challenge, then you will not be disappointed.
You may reserve a place on any trip with payment of a 10% deposit All the trips will run subject to the minimum number of participants being reached 8 weeks prior to departure. In the event of insufficient or excess bookings, you will be offered an alternative holiday or a later departure. If this is not suitable your deposit will be refunded. Anyone wishing to join a scheduled trip departing within 8 weeks may do so, subject to availability.
- Firstly, please use the contact form to send an e-mail to me, and let me know which trip you are interested in. I will send you more information to make sure it's the right trip for you. If you are unsure which will suit you best, we can go through the options.
- When you are ready to make your booking I will send you a booking form and payment details so that you can pay your deposit.
- I will send you essential information about how to join the group if you are not being met at the airport; advice on choosing flights (if applicable) and what you need to bring with you on your holiday, as well as a Useful Information fact-sheet for the country you will be visiting, if you have not already requested this.
- The balance of your payment is due in British pounds, 2 weeks before the commencement of your Sketching Holiday. You may make a bank transfer (recommended), via PayPal or if you prefer to pay by cheque (in pounds sterling), this must be presented and cleared in my account well before the commencement of the holiday.
Non-UK residents may choose to pay in cash on arrival at the destination but please speak to me about this first.
By making your booking you are agreeing to our 'Terms and Conditions' which can be found by clicking here.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 00 44 (0)798 281 2842 (active only when I am in the UK or via WhatsApp).
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