This 12-day tour of Morocco is filled with adventure, history, and culture. Begin in Fes, and learn about crafts and artisans. Then, trek into the Sahara Desert by camel, and experience the sand dunes and camping under the stars. Next is a trip to Ouarzazate to visit movie sets in "Moroccan Hollywood," followed by Marrakech, where the Jemaa el Fna is bursting with culture. End the trip with some coastal exploration in the town of Essaouira before departing from Casablanca.

Highlights

  • Visit tanneries and mosaic workshops to learn about crafting in Fes
  • Watch the beautiful sunrises and sunsets along the dunes of the Sahara
  • Visit movie sets in Ouarzazate, known as the Moroccan Hollywood
  • Tour an argan forest in Essaouira, and learn how argan oil is made

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Fes Fes
Day 2 Guided Tour of Fes - Medina, Tanneries, & Hammam Fes
Day 3 Travel to Azrou and Tour Ifrane National Park Azrou
Day 4 Visit Azrou, Midelt, Ziz Valley, & Camp in Sahara Desert  Merzouga
Day 5 Stop in Dadès Gorge, Aït Benhaddou, & Arrive in Ouarzazate Ouarzazate
Day 6 Tour Ouarzazate, the Moroccan Hollywood Ouarzazate
Day 7 Take Tizi-n-Tichka Pass to Marrakech & Visit Jemaa el Fna Marrakech
Day 8 Guided Tour of Marrakech and Hot Air Balloon Ride Marrakech
Day 9 Argan Oil Tour & Travel to Essaouira Essaouira
Day 10 Guided Tour of Essaouira - Jewish Quarter & Old Medina Essaouira
Day 11 Visit Safi, El Jadida, & Azemour, Travel to Casablanca Casablanca
Day 12 Departure From Casablanca  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Fes

Welcome to Fez!
Welcome to Fes!

Welcome to Morocco! Today, you will arrive in the Imperial city of Fes. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the oldest cultural and spiritual imperial city of Morocco and was founded by Moulay Idriss II. You will be picked up from the airport and taken to your accommodations for check-in. Once settled, and depending on your arrival time, you will have the rest of the day at your leisure to recover from your flight and take in your surroundings. Dinner will be on your own.

Day 2: Guided Tour of Fes - Medina, tanneries, and hammam

A view over the Tanneries Chouara, Fes
A view of the tanneries in Fes

Your tour guide will meet you after breakfast to start your day of exploration in the Fes medina. This UNESCO-protected medina is full of arms-width alleyways and donkey-width roads. Your Fes born-and-bred guide will share hidden stories and show you secluded corners of the medina, and you will observe daily life and the magnificence of Fes's madrasas and palaces. Your guide will help you learn the fabulousness that is Fes as only a true local can. Be sure to ask your guide for lunch suggestions. 

Fes is a hub of the Moroccan crafts and arts, and you’ll meet artisans to learn about the history and importance of their trades. You’ll visit tanneries and mosaic workshops to observe traditional crafting methods still in use today. 

In the afternoon, return to your riad and relax for a bit. Afterward, take a guided visit to the local hammam (traditional public bath). This is one of the most relaxing things you can do after a long day of walking. After your soak, you can have the evening to yourself for more downtime.

Day 3: Travel to Azrou and Tour Ifrane National Park

Barbary macaque monkey in Ifrane National Park

Today, you will depart Fes and head higher into the Middle Atlas Mountains. Here, you will see vast cedar tree forests, and once in Ifrane, you’ll visit the Ifrane National Park. This park is known for the Barbary Macaque and endangered species who inhabit it. Enjoy lunch on your own among the scenery.

Once done exploring, you will continue to Azrou. This is a beautiful Berber town, located in the within the Ifrane National Park and known for its rug and jewelry making. Stroll the town in the evening, and enjoy dinner at your leisure.

Day 4: Visit Azrou, Midelt, Ziz Valley, and camp in the Sahara Desert 

Ride a camel in the Sahara Desert

Get an early start today, because you'll be covering a lot of ground to reach the Sahara Desert!

You will start by crossing the Middle Atlas Mountains through the town of Azrou and its majestic cedar forests. Here, you can take a brief detour to the scenic Cèdre Gouraud Forest, where troops of Barbary Macaque monkeys lounge in ancient cedar trees near the road.

You’ll stop for lunch in Midelt, which sits on a cold, high desert plateau. Despite the harsh landscape, Midelt is known as Morocco's "Apple City" for its productive orchards. This is only possible because the Moulouya River (the third-longest river in Morocco) provides year-round water as it runs to the Mediterranean Sea.

Continuing on, you’ll cross a landscape of steep mountain ranges, wide valleys, and narrow canyon passes. You will follow the Ziz Valley, an important branch of the ancient Saharan Trade Route. You will start to see many fortified houses (known as ksars) that were built by merchants to protect the gold, salt, and spices that passed this way.

After crossing through the incredible Ziz Gorge, you will begin to see early signs of Saharan sand dunes. These wind-blown dunes are in constant motion, often leading them to encroach upon farms, roads, and buildings. You can also see an ancient method of water "mining” here, an ingenious way to transfer water from the mountains to farmland, which was employed before modern pumps were invented. Along the way, you'll notice nomadic shepherds and some tents in this area. 

Erfoud is a bustling market town known for date fruits and fossils. En route, you will see hillside mines where large fossil rocks are taken from the earth. You can stop at a local artisan collective to learn about the types of fossils found in the area and to see the full process of how the fossil-rich rock is transformed into beautiful products, large and small. You will see the massive dunes of Erg Chebbi in the distance. This extensive sea of sand covers nearly 22 miles, with some dunes rising to over 650 feet high.

Near Merzouga, you can take a short break as you prepare for the trip to your desert camp. If you ride a camel, you will arrive at camp just before sunset. You can climb up to watch the colorful sunset reflecting on the sand dunes.

Head back to camp for dinner and a night of traditional Berber music by the fire. There is almost no light pollution in this region, so be sure to look at the starry night sky before you head to bed. 

Day 5: Stop in Dadès Gorge, Aït Benhaddou, and arrive in Ouarzazate

Ouarzazate
Sky above the wilderness en route to Ouarzazate

If you are an early riser, you'll be rewarded with a sunrise over the sand dunes. Eat breakfast at your camp, and then travel back across the desert to Merzouga. Meet your driver and begin your long drive to Ouarzazate. You should consider stopping in Rissani before setting out across the desert plains. This is a good place to take a walk around a traditional market, especially on market days when many animals are bought and sold. Be sure to stop by the "donkey parking lot" while you're there. 

Today's journey is truly spectacular. You will travel through a remote, empty land that borders the Sahara. The views are vast and extensive, with desert plains, high mountains, and plateaus all around. This journey gives a real feeling of wilderness; it is awesome in its grandeur. Along the drive, you will see forests of umbrella-shaped Acacias that are specially adapted to this harsh environment. On your way, you can stop in the town of Alnif and see the local fossil workshops. 

You will continue to the Dadès Gorge, which cuts through a dramatic landscape of rusty red and mauve-striped mountains. The valley below is an irrigated oasis filled with fig, almond, and olive orchards and dotted with crumbling kasbahs and Berber villages. Ask your driver for lunch options in the nearby town of Boumalne Dadès.

You will end the day in Ouarzazate, a town made popular by its involvement in the important Moroccan film industry. There is more to Ouarzazate than movies though, and you can take a guided tour at Aït Benhaddou, the most famous Kasbah in Morocco and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. People believe that the old ksar dates from the 11th century when it held an important position along the trans-Saharan trade route between Marrakech, Ouarzazate, and the southern desert. If you arrive in Ouarzazate late in the day, you can proceed directly to your accommodations in Ouarzazate and visit Aït Benhaddou in the morning. 

Day 6: Tour Ouarzazate, the Moroccan Hollywood

Ait Benhaddou

Today, you will explore the desert town of Ouarzazate. This growing town is a common stopping point along the desert routes, as it offers a bit more access than some of the nearby smaller towns, such as Ait Benhaddou. The town was made popular by the growing movie industry, and you will take a tour of a movie studio, including an up-close look at some props and sets. The nearby regions have been featured in many movies, portraying landscapes all over the desert, Africa, and the Middle East. Some popular film credits include Lawrence of Arabia, The Last Temptation of Christ, Alexander, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Prometheus, American Sniper, and Game of Thrones.

In the afternoon, you will have a chance to explore the fortified city of Ait Benhaddou if you would like. Then, you can have some downtime for yourself, and dinner will be on your own.

Day 7: Take Tizi-n-Tichka Pass to Marrakech and visit Jemaa el Fna

Ait Ben Haddou
Aït Benhaddou

Today, you will cross the High Atlas Mountains that separate Ouarzazate from Marrakech. If you weren't able to visit Aït Benhaddou yesterday (or if you want to revisit the town to see it in the morning light) you can explore the ksar after you leave Ouarzazate.

You will wind your way up the dry desert slopes of the High Atlas Mountains through the Tizi-n-Tichka pass. Near the top of the Tizi-n-Tichka, you’ll enjoy incredible panoramic views of the mountain range and the plains of Marrakech below. Be on the lookout for Mount Toubkal–North Africa's highest mountain–to your west. As you descend the north-facing slopes of the High Atlas Mountains, you’ll notice a dramatic change in climate and landscape, and you will cross deep river valleys and abundant almond and walnut orchards. Soon, you will leave the tranquility of the desert and the mountains behind as you enter the hustle and bustle of vibrant Marrakech. 

Once in Marrakech, you can spend the rest of the afternoon at a slower pace. In the early evening, the medina's main square, the Jemaa el Fna, comes alive with musicians, performers, snake charmers, games, food stalls, and more. There are many cafés surrounding the square where you can sit and enjoy the entertainment over a meal. 

Day 8: Guided Tour of Marrakech and Hot Air Balloon Ride

Sunset over Jemaa el Fna Square
Sunset over Jemaa el Fna Square

Today, you will wake up before the sun and head out to the fields for your hot air balloon ride. Breakfast will be served at this event. In this amazing experience, you’ll get to see the high plains of Marrakech, including the Berber villages and the Sahara far off in the distance. After the excursion, you will return to Marrakech for lunch on your own.

In the afternoon, you’ll take a guided tour to explore the stunning old medina of Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In its vivacious souk, you will be dazzled by the displays of djellabas, soft brightly colored babouches, intricately pierced lanterns, conical mounds of exotic spices, and the hubbub of life in the spider’s web of alleys. Our knowledgeable guide will regal you with history and stories of the Medina, the Souk, and the Mellah sections all kept within the city’s rose-pink walls.

Dinner is on your own tonight. Most of the top chefs who work for the Royal Family are from Marrakech, and it has some of the best food in the country–especially the street food that you surely shouldn’t miss. Talk with your tour guide for some recommendations.

Day 9: Argan oil tour and travel to Essaouira

Essaouira
Essaouira

Today, you will travel to Essaouira, a town made popular by its excellent surfing beaches. The 3-hour route takes you over extensive, rolling plains. When approaching the western seaboard of Morocco, you’ll enter a unique forest. This is the only ecosystem where argan trees grow, and their fruits are very useful. You will make a slight diversion to visit an association of local women that make argan oil, famed for its excellent health and beauty properties. You may see goats grazing on the fruits of the argan trees, high in the tree branches. It is quite a sight!

Upon arrival into Essaouira, you can enjoy walking the impressive seawalls, discovering delights in the Old Medina area, or enjoy some time down by the very active fishing harbor. Lunch and dinner will be on your own with recommendations from your driver. Make sure to ask about great seafood options! Tonight, you will stay in a hotel or a riad.

Day 10: Guided tour of Essaouira - Jewish Quarter and Old Medina

Enjoy the coastal views of Essaouira

After breakfast, if you didn't get to the night before, you can enjoy walking the impressive seawalls, discovering delights in the Old Medina area. Enjoy some time down by the very active fishing harbor, or exploring the nearby beaches known for their surfing. Lunch will be on your own with recommendations from your driver–have some fresh seafood if you haven’t indulged already!

Jewish heritage is very present in Essaouira, where one of the best-preserved Jewish quarters in Morocco is located. It is a perfect example of a community of coexistence and a very interesting place to explore. You will have a guided tour of this area in the afternoon.

In the evening, feel free to do some exploration, and dinner is at your leisure

Day 11: Visit Safi, El Jadida, and Azemour, and travel to Casablanca

Safi
Safi

Today, you will leave early and head to Casablanca via the coastal route with brief stops in some other seaside cities along the way. The first city you will encounter is Safi, know for its excellent surfing beaches and views of the Atlantic Ocean.

The second city is El Jadida. Here, you can tour the hauntingly beautiful Portuguese cistern. You can also spend your time walking the ramparts and can visit the Church of the Assumption. You can enjoy a lunch break in El Jadida before hitting the road again.

Next is Azemour, which has inspired many Moroccan artists over the decades, some of whom have chosen to live here. Life there is still traditional, despite its close proximity to the cosmopolitan art market of Casablanca. A crumbling 16th-century medina squeezed between the Oud Er-Rbia (Mother of Spring River) and the ocean provide plenty of artistic inspiration.

Once in Casablanca, you will check into your hotel. The evening and dinner will be at your leisure.

Day 12: Departure from Casablanca

Farewell, Morocco!

After breakfast, you’ll travel 45 minutes to Casablanca Mohamed V International Airport in preparation for your departure flight. Take home with you all the colorful and historic memories of beautiful Morocco!

Map

Map of Fes to Casablanca: Sahara Desert & Atlantic Coast - 12 Days
Map of Fes to Casablanca: Sahara Desert & Atlantic Coast - 12 Days