A perfect balance of culture, adventure, and relaxation, this 6-day itinerary features highlights of the imperial city of Marrakech, hiking in the foothills of the High Atlas mountains, and relaxing in the coastal town of Essaouira. You'll roam exotic souks in ancient medinas, share a meal with a local Berber family, and explore centuries-old seafront fortifications.

Highlights

  • Watch dancers, henna artists, and acrobats in lively Jemaa el-Fna Square
  • Hike the High Atlas foothills amid the stunning beauty in the Amizmiz Valley
  • Break bread with a Berber family and experience local traditions and hospitality
  • Climb ramparts overlooking the Atlantic and eat fresh seafood in Essaouira

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Days 1-2 Discover culture and tradition in the "red city" of Marrakech Marrakech
Day 3 Hike the foothills around Amizmiz, overnight in a Berber home Amizmiz
Day 4 Amizmiz back to Marrakech Marrakech
Day 5 Marrakech to Essaouira Essaouira
Day 6 Return to Marrakech; Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Days 1: Marrakech: Exploring the Red City

Africa's busiest square, Jemaa el-Fna comes alive in the evening
Africa's busiest square comes alive in the evening

Welcome to Marrakech! Nicknamed the "Red City" for its 1000-year old red sandstone city walls and buildings, Marrakech is a major economic center. Marrakech has Berber rather than Arab roots and was once an important trading capital for tribes of the Atlas mountains. Orient yourself around Marrakech's bustling Jemaa el-Fna Square: the souks (markets) are to the north, the Koutoubia Mosque and Gardens to the west and the kasbah (fort or fortification) area with the Saadian Tombs, Bahia Palace, and El Badi Place are to the south. In Ville Nouvelle, you will find the Majorelle Gardens

For a unique way to tour the medina (old quarter), board a calèche (French for horse-drawn carriage) and begin to adjust to your surroundings. Notice the fondouks—medieval inns that provided merchants and travelers with shelter and supplies. Today some have been converted into residences or large shopping areas and workshops that you can explore. Find your way to the Koutoubia Mosque and Gardens and take a respite from the heat in its gardens amid fountains and palms. Though the mosque cannot be entered by non-muslims, it's worth checking out its 12th-century foundations and minaret. 

As the evening progresses, Jemaa el-Fna comes alive with musicians and storytellers, acrobats and dancers, and even snake charmers. Wander the many rows of food stalls serving anything from full meals to fruit drinks, dried dates, and small snacks. Grab a bite, or for a more relaxed experience, look for one of the many cafés that sit above the square to enjoy a meal while you watch the show below.

Day 2: Marrakech

Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco
The Ben Youssef Madrasa showcases typical Moroccan and Islamic craftsmanship

Meet your guide for a half-day tour and discover the exquisite detail of the Ben Youssef Madrasa school of Islam for a taste of 16th-century architecture. Admire the traditional Moroccan artisanship: carved cedar, sculpted plaster, arabesques, Islamic calligraphy, and colorful zellij (mosaic tilework). Wander the old dorms where up to 800 students once lived and visit the prayer hall.

Spend time exploring Dar Di Said Museum (also known as the Museum of Moroccan Arts) to see exhibits of clothing, antiques, jewelry, and beautifully carved Hispano-Moorish decorations. Afterwards, indulge your senses as you explore the complicated labyrinth of souks, tucked behind ordinary restaurants and shops. Check out Souk el AttarinSouk Chouari, and Souk Smata for a selection of spices, woodwork, and babouche (traditional Moroccan slippers). Visit Souk des Teinturiers (the dyers’ souk) to see firsthand how leather hides and cloth are dyed.

Day 3: Hike the foothills around Amizmiz and stay the night in a Berber home

Small villages hug the Atlas foothills
Small villages hug the Atlas foothills

Today you will venture south of Marrakech to the small town of Amizmiz in the foothills of the High Atlas mountains (about one hour away). Spend time exploring the modest market in the old town before joining your mountain guide to trek the narrow roads and mule paths in the surrounding hills. Hike between small Berber villages and observe the local farmers and shepherds as they tend to their animals and the landscape. You may even see children on their way to or from school, which are typically shared between a few nearby villages.

Stop and enjoy lunch with a local family and gain insight into their daily lives as you learn how to make homemade bread. Continue your hike into the afternoon before returning to another local Berber home where you will be welcomed for dinner and provided with a room to retire for the evening. 

Day 4: Return to the Red City

Saadian Tombs, Marrakech, Morocco
Intricate zellij inside the Saadian Tombs

Have breakfast with your hosts before saying goodbye and heading out on the trail. Continue to explore the local scenery and other nearby towns before returning to Marrakech.

Upon arriving in Marrakech, explore the kasbah area south of Jemaa el-Fna and check out the Saadian Tombs and discover the 500-year old craftsmanship that went into its construction. Visit the sunken gardens of the 17th-century El Badi Palace as you work your way through the Mellah and to the 19th-century Bahia Palace

Day 5: Essaouira: Seaside ramparts, kitesurfing, and fresh seafood

Seafront ramparts, Essaouira, Morocco
Essaouira's 18th-century seafront ramparts

After breakfast, make your way west to the Atlantic coast and to the charming beach town of Essaouira. The route along the way takes you over extensive rolling plains and through endemic argan forests. If you're lucky, you may see goats in the trees grazing on the argan fruit, a sight seen when grass pasture is limited or unavailable. Along the way, there is an option to stop at an Argan Oil Cooperative to see how the precious and expensive oil is extracted from the nut.

Arrive in the port city of laid-back Essaouira, a nice contrast to frenetic Marrakech, and spend the rest of the day as you choose. Walk the Skala de la Kasbah (the 18th-century seafront ramparts) along the coast. Designed by European engineers, old brass canons line the walls and offer viewing access over the Atlantic. Explore the UNESCO-protected medina before making your way to the windswept beach. Jimi Hendrix fans may want to take a short taxi ride to Diabat at the end of Essaouira's beach where he reportedly spent some time. Walk back to Essaouira and enjoy a meal of freshly caught seafood.

Day 6: Return to Marrakech

Kitesurfing in Essaouira, Morocco
Adrenaline enthusiasts can windsurf at Essaouira

Known as the "Windy City" for its strong Alizée trade winds that hit its crescent beach, Essaouira is a popular surfing destination. Take the morning to watch the windsurfers, surfers, and kiteboarders or for the more adventurous, take a lesson, before saying goodbye and returning to Marrakech. 

Depending on your flight details you may wish to visit the only surviving Almoravid monument, the 12th-century Almoravid Koubba, before spending some time in the Marrakech Museum, housed in the 19th-century Dar Mnebbi Palace, and enjoy modern and traditional Berber and Moroccan art.

Map

Map of Exploring Around Marrakech, Hiking & the Coast - 6 Days
Map of Exploring Around Marrakech, Hiking & the Coast - 6 Days