Explore Morocco's Imperial Cities, mountains, and desert with this balanced 10-day trip starting in Casablanca and ending in Marrakesh. Wander medieval medinas in Fes and Marrakesh, explore the modern cities of Casablanca and Rabat, and adventure along old caravan routes in the desert. Spend a day hiking in the foothills of the High Atlas mountains before ending the trip in Marrakesh.


  • Roam maze-like streets in medieval Fes and Marrakesh
  • Enjoy the sunset overlooking the "Blue City" of Chefchaouen
  • Ride camels to a Bedouin camp among the dunes of Erg Chebbi
  • Discover desert towns and lush oases in the Atlas foothills
  • Hike in the Atlas foothills and sit down to a meal with a local family

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Casablanca, Transfer to Rabat Rabat
Day 2 Transfer to Chefchaouen, Explore the Blue City Chefchaouen
Day 3 Transfer to Fes via Volubilis & Meknes  Fes
Day 4 Explore the Medieval Medina of Fes Fes
Day 5 Transfer to Merzouga & Erg Chebbi, Overnight at a Desert Camp Erg Chebbi
Day 6 Transfer to Ouarzazate via Desert Towns & Oases Ouarzazate
Day 7 Transfer to Marrakesh via Aït Benhaddou & Tizi n'Tichka Pass  Marrakesh
Day 8 Marrakesh: Exploring the Red City Marrakesh
Day 9 Take a Day Hike in the Atlas Foothills & Hillside Villages Marrakesh
Day 10 Depart Marrakesh  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Casablanca, Transfer to Rabat

Walk around the impressive Hassan II Mosque
Walk around the impressive Hassan II Mosque

Welcome to Morocco! Upon arrival in Casablanca—the commercial capital of Morocco—you'll head straight to the Hassan II Mosque. Sitting in a picturesque location on the ocean, its 690-foot (210 m) minaret is the tallest minaret in the world. While the exterior and surrounding areas are impressive, what makes this mosque even more unique is it is one of the few mosques in the country where non-Muslims are permitted to enter. Join a morning tour of the interior and marvel at the fine partisanship, like hand-carved stone and wood, intricate marble floor detailing, and gilded ceilings.

Afterward, your driver will take you an hour north to the Imperial City and present-day capital of Rabat. Explore the medieval fortification of the Chellah Necropolis and wander the Roman and Islamic ruins. Enter through the grand door of the Kasbah des Oudaias into Rabat's old city center. From there, visit the 20th-century Andalusian Gardens and enjoy the serene space away from the crowds. Discover the Hassan Tower, a minaret of the incomplete mosque and Mausoleum of Mohamed V, a 12th-century project that was abandoned. All that remains are the minaret and some 200 columns—support structures for the mosque.

Day 2: Transfer to Chefchaouen, Explore the Blue City

Spend the day wandering the picturesque streets of Chefchaouen
Spend the day wandering the picturesque streets of Chefchaouen

Today, you'll transfer four hours north to the striking blue city of Chefchaouen and the Rif mountains. Before Chefchaouen, you can stop for a hike through lush vegetation and small pools to enjoy the Cascades d'Akchour (Waterfalls of Akchour). In the afternoon, unwind in charming Chefchaouen. Mostly untouched since the 15th century, this famously colorful city offers a relaxed atmosphere with some of the friendliest people in the country and is known for its blue-hued buildings in its historic medina (old quarter). Explore its narrow streets and alleyways, which cling to the northern hillside of the mountains.

Discover Plaza Outa el-Hammam, the main square named for the number of hammams (public baths) that used to encircle it. Find a restaurant or café for a bite to eat before browsing the many shops offering traditional wares. Visit the Grand Mosque and Kasbah (old fortress or fortification) and tour the Kasbah's garden, museum, and even some of its old prison cells. As the evening approaches, ascend the path leading to the abandoned white Spanish Mosque (20 to 30 minutes) to enjoy one last view over Chefchaouen as the sun sets behind the mountains.

Day 3: Transfer to Fes via Volubilis & Meknes

Volubilis, Morocco
Explore the sprawling Roman ruins of Volubilis 

Rise early to snap some photos of Chefchaouen's empty streets before joining your driver for the 3.5-hour drive south to Fes. Stop along the way at the UNESCO-listed Volubilis ruins—remnants of the Roman Empire's farthest reach in Africa. Wander the complex, exploring merchant homes with still-intact heating systems, temples, and many mosaics in situ. Continue on to the smaller, less busy version of Fes, Meknes, for an introduction to your second historic imperial city. The two main points of interest are the Ville Impériale (imperial city) and the Medina. Be sure to visit the Bab al-Mansour gate, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, and the Royal Stables.

Continue east to your third imperial city, Fes. With its impressively large (and somewhat confusing) old medina, Fes is a city worth getting lost in. Before venturing into the medina, drive up the hill to take the time to visit the Merenid Tombs located just north of the city and enjoy the all-encompassing view of historic Fes and the surrounding area. Descend the hill and find your way to your riad (a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden), where you can enjoy a delicious meal and relax for the evening.

Day 4: Explore the Medieval Medina of Fes

A view over the medina in Fes
Wander through the winding medina of Fes
Plan your trip to Morocco
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Fes is the oldest of the four imperial cities in Morocco and perhaps the most interesting and exciting to explore. It has the most complete medina in the Arab world and has remained relatively untouched since its founding over 1,000 years ago. Often considered the country's cultural capital, it's made up of three parts: two medina quarters, Fes el Bali and Fes el Jdid, and the more modern, French colonial-influenced Ville Nouvelle. Meet your guide and spend a half-day learning about the history and culture as you navigate the narrow streets of the medinas.

Start in Fes el Bali at the Bab Boujloud gate and enter the main thoroughfare of Talâa Kebira. Notice the Spanish and Tunisian-influenced architecture as you make your way past shops and souks (markets). Visit the Chouara Tannery and marvel at the many dye-filled stone pots and the men at work still using centuries-old techniques. Next, admire the intricate zellij tilework of the 14th-century Al Attarine Madrasa before heading over to the Mellah (old Jewish quarter and cemetery) in Fes el Jdid. If there's time, visit Ville Nouvelle to discover the dramatic change in architecture.

Day 5: Transfer to Merzouga & Erg Chebbi, Overnight at a Desert Camp

Camel caravan through Erg Chebbi, Morocco
Switch gears and ride a camel to your Bedouin-style camp

Start your day bright and early for today's full-day, seven-hour road trip south toward Merzouga. Along the way, you'll climb up and over the Col du Zad pass (7,146 ft/ 2,178 m) through the cedar forests of the Middle Atlas mountains. Enjoy sightings of the local Barbary macaque monkeys before stopping for lunch in Midelt, relishing the nearby Moulouya River. Continue over the Tizi n'Talremt pass and into the Ziz Valley, known for its hidden oases and palm tree clusters. Along the road, you'll see many fortified houses known as ksars—built to protect precious wares, including gold, salt, and spices.

Continue on to Erfoud, known for its date festival and fossil mining. Here, you can visit a local collective to learn more about the process and meet some local artisans. Soon, you'll spy the shapes of the Erg Chebbi, an extensive sea of sand dunes covering an area of 13.5 square miles (35 sq km). Never stationary, the massive dunes shift and travel depending on the changing wind. Upon reaching Merzouga, climb atop your camel to ride through the dunes to your already-prepared-for-you camp. Trek up a nearby sand dune to watch the sunset before returning to camp for a delicious dinner, relaxing by the campfire. 

Day 6: Transfer to Ouarzazate via Desert Towns & Oases

Ait Benhaddou Kasbah, a UNESCO world-heritage site
Aït Benhaddou Kasbah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Catch the sunrise in your desert camp before renting a sandboard to test your skills on the sand dunes. Then, it's time to get back on the road for the drive to Ourzazate. The journey takes about 6.5 hours, but you'll take your time, stopping first at Khemliya to experience a traditional Saharan village. Continue west to the market town of Rissani to see its livestock auction "donkey parking lot." After the desert town of Tinghir, you'll reach the 984-foot (300 m) deep Todra Gorge. You'll have time to explore the gorge and relax in the cool water of the shallow Todra River.

Next, you'll travel through the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs. Though many are now in disrepair, local families still live in some of these historic fortresses. You may even come across nomads herding their animals. Head west to Kelâat M'Gouna, known for its Festival des Roses, where you can see extensively cultivated farmland bordered with fragrant rose bushes. Continue west to end the day in Ouarzazate, a gateway to the Sahara Desert made popular by the film industry. Join a studio tour and discover how the nearby desert landscapes have been featured in many films.

Day 7: Transfer to Marrakesh via Aït Benhaddou & the Tizi n'Tichka Pass 

Jemaa el-Fna at night, Marrakech, Morocco
Marrakesh's central square of Jemaa el-Fna comes alive at night

Start this morning with a visit to nearby Aït Benhaddou. This UNESCO World Heritage site is believed to date from the 11th century, during a time when it held an important position along the trans-Saharan trade route between Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, and the southern desert. Follow the narrow streets up to the Granary for a view of the surrounding landscapes. From there, you'll get back on the road for the 3.5-hour drive to Marrakesh, ascending the High Atlas mountains and crossing the Tizi n'Tichka pass (7,415 ft / 2,260 m).

As you near Marrakesh, you'll notice a dramatic change in the climate and landscape. Soon, you will be a part of the noise and clamor of your final imperial city. After a long day on the road, settle into your hotel and spend the rest of the afternoon as you like. In the early evening, the main square, Jemaa el-Fna, comes alive with musicians, performers, snake charmers, games, and food stalls, a catch-all of entertainment. If you want to enjoy the spectacle from a distance, choose one of the many cafés surrounding the square and settle in with a cup of mint tea and a meal.

Day 8: Marrakesh: Exploring the Red City

Ben Youssef Madrasa, Marrakech, Morocco
Visit the Ben Youssef Madrasa as you explore Marrakesh

Nicknamed the "Red City" for its red sandstone walls and buildings, Marrakesh was once an important trading capital for Atlas mountain tribes, and today it remains an exciting former imperial city. Begin today's explorations in Marrakesh's ancient medina, starting with the Koutoubia Mosque and Gardens. Though non-Muslims cannot enter the mosque, it's worth checking out for its 12th-century foundations and 253-foot (77 m) minaret. Visit the fountains and pools in the adjoining garden.

Indulge your senses as you explore the city's 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 or the dyers' souk to see how cloth and yarn are dyed using traditional methods. Next, admire the fine example of Moroccan Islamic architecture of the Ben Youssef Madrasa, a 16th-century Quranic school, and note the ornate detail of its interior: carved cedar ceilings, sculpted plaster, and zellij tiling.

Day 9: Take a Day Hike in the Atlas Foothills & Hillside Villages

The green foothills of the High Atlas, near Amizmiz
The green foothills of the High Atlas, near Amizmiz

Today, you'll venture south of Marrakesh to the small town of Amizmiz in the foothills of the High Atlas mountains (about an 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 hiking into the afternoon as you please. Here, you'll have the option of returning to Marrakesh or settling in the foothills to share dinner with another local Berber family and stay the night in their home.

Day 10: Depart Marrakesh

Bahia Palace, Marrakech, Morocco
The courtyard of Marrakesh's Bahia Palace

If you stayed overnight in Amizmiz, 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 Marrakesh.

Depending on your flight details, you'll have time to explore more of Marrakesh today, focusing on the Kasbah area south of Jemaa el-Fna and checking out the 500-year-old craftsmanship of the Saadian Tombs. Visit the sunken gardens of the 17th-century El Badi Palace as you work your way through the historic Mellah (Jewish district) and on to the 19th-century Bahia Palace. When the time comes, you'll say your goodbyes and transfer to the airport for your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Casablanca to Marrakesh: Imperial Cities, Hiking & the Desert - 10 Days
Map of Casablanca to Marrakesh: Imperial Cities, Hiking & the Desert - 10 Days