A perfect balance of culture, adventure, and relaxation, this quick 5-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 Ocean and taste fresh seafood in laid-back Essaouira

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival & Exploring Marrakech Marrakech
Day 2 Amizmiz and the High Atlas mountains; Overnight in a Berber home Amizmiz
Day 3 Return from the Atlas to Marrakech Marrakech
Day 4 Seaside ramparts, kitesurfing, and fresh seafood in Essaouira Essaouira
Day 5 Return to Marrakech; Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival & Exploring Marrakech

Jemaa el-Fna square, Marrakech, Morocco
Jemaa el-Fna square comes alive in the early evening

Welcome to Marrakech (nicknamed the "Red City" for its red sandstone walls and buildings). Once an important trading capital for Atlas mountain tribes, Marrakech remains an exciting former imperial city. Located north of the Atlas Mountain foothills, Marrakech is home to Africa's busiest square, Jemaa el-Fna. Begin exploring Marrakech's ancient medina (old quarter), starting with the Koutoubia Mosque and Gardens. Though the mosque cannot be entered by non-muslims, it's worth checking out its 12th-century foundations and 253 feet (77 m) minaret. Visit the fountains and pools in the adjoining garden.

Indulge your senses as you explore the complicated labyrinth of souks (markets), tucked behind ordinary restaurants and shops. Check out Souk el Attarin, Souk 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 Koranic school, and note the ornate detail of its interior: carved cedar ceilings, sculpted plaster, and zellij tiling.

Return to Jemaa el-Fna as the sun begins to set and enjoy the show as the square comes alive with musicians, dancers, and snake charmers. Explore the many stalls and vendors to find something to eat. Or, for a more relaxed experience, look for one of the many cafés that sit above the square to enjoy a meal and people watch before retiring to your riad for the evening.

Day 2: Amizmiz and the High Atlas mountains

Hike through the Amizmiz Valley
Hike through the Amizmiz Valley

A short distance south of Marrakech lies the small town of Amizmiz at the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. Explore the humble market in the old town before meeting your mountain guide to begin your hike along quiet narrow roads and mule paths. As the area is remote, you are unlikely to come across other tourists. As such, you will be treated to trekking in between traditional Berber villages that hug the hillsides, with local farmers and shepherds going about their daily routines. Discover the terraced plots of farmland, which local farmers have built to turn the mountainside into suitable land for farming, 

Visit with a local family and see how they live and enjoy a traditional lunch with them, before carrying on with your hike. Meet another local Berber family and relax as guests in their home, enjoying a warm meal and their company.

Day 3: Return from the Atlas to Marrakech

Small villages hug  the Atlas Mountains
Small villages hug  the Atlas Mountains

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 (fort or fortification) 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 (Jewish quarter) and to the 19th-century Bahia Palace. If there's time, you may wish to check out the 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 of carved cedar wood.

Day 4: Seaside ramparts, kitesurfing, and fresh seafood in Essaouira

Essaouira's Skala de la Kasbah along the Atlantic coast
Essaouira's Skala de la Kasbah along the Atlantic coast

After breakfast, make your way west to the Atlantic coast and to the laid-back 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. 

Arrive in the port city of charming 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 5: Return to Marrakech 

Almoravid Koubba - famous landmark in Marrakesh Morocco Africa
Almoravid Koubba

Say farewell to the Windy City and return to Marrakech. There is an option to stop at an Argan Cooperative along the way to see how the precious argan oil is extracted from the nut.

Once back in Marrakech, if time allows, discover 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, the museum is home to a large exhibit of both modern and traditional art and includes artifacts of Berber and Moroccan Jewish and Islamic cultures. 

Map

Map of Exploring Marrakech, Atlas Hiking & the Coast - 5 Days
Map of Exploring Marrakech, Atlas Hiking & the Coast - 5 Days