Itinerary #1: A Taste of Morocco: Fes, Sahara Desert & Marrakech
This compact itinerary is perfect for those short on time as it features a taste of Morocco’s best highlights. From buzzy, ancient Fes, through the Sahara and desert towns, to the souks, mosques, and gardens of Marrakech, the “Red City.”
|1||Fes: Exploring the Imperial City and medieval medina||Fes|
|2||Over the mountains and into the desert||Sahara Desert|
|3||Desert towns, lush oases, and film worthy landscapes||Dades Valley|
|4||Aït Benhaddou kasbah, Over the High Atlas to Marrakech||Marrakech|
|5||Marrakech: Exploring the Red City; Departure|
You'll begin in the city of Fes. There's plenty to explore here, but on a short visit, you'll spend most (if not all) of your time in Fes el Bali (also known as "old Fes"), home to the medieval medina that's been honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the maze-like city with a local guide through souks, around mosques, and onto leather shop balconies to witness the famous tanneries of Fes. But allow yourself some time to wander around on your own, losing yourself in the organized chaos is half the fun.
The following day, you'll leave the city and travel over the Middle Atlas mountains and into the desert region. Around Col du Zad pass (7,146 feet), make sure you're paying attention to the cedar trees along the road—you'll likely spot a Barbary macaque. After a stop for lunch in the city of Midelt, known for its apple orchards, continue into the palm tree-fringed Ziz Valley, with hidden oases around every corner.
In Erfoud, you'll stop to see artisans crafting bowls and other household objects from fossils-filled rocks mined from the nearby hills. Before sunset, you'll climb aboard a camel for an unforgettable (and a bit bumpy) ride through the Erg Chebbi dunes. Spend the night in a desert camp while you enjoy dinner and traditional Berber music around a campfire, looking up at the starry sky. Sleep in a Bedouin tent for the complete experience, though more conventional accommodations in the area are also possible.
For those seeking more adventure in the desert, spend the next morning sandboarding down the dunes or join an ATV tour before continuing to Rissani, where farmers from nearby villages make the trip for the weekly market. Don't miss the livestock auction and "donkey parking lot."
Take a break from the desert heat with a river walk beneath the towering red cliffs of the Todra Gorge, also a popular rock climbing destination (read more about climbing in the Todra Gorge here). In nearby Dades Valley, there are rose collectives to visit where you can learn about the yearly harvest and festival and how the roses are turned into rose water and oil.
As you travel through the Land of a Thousand Kasbahs, look out for old fortified homes. The most famous is the UNESCO town of Aït Benhaddou, which dates from the 11th century and has been featured in many films and shows including Gladiator and Game of Thrones. Walk through the small streets up to the granary at the top for a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
Continue up and over the High Atlas mountains which separate the desert region from the plains surrounding Marrakech. Along the winding road, you'll spot Mount Toubkal (13,671 feet), the highest peak in North Africa. You can also learn about argan oil production at an artisan collective near Taddert.
Finish your trip in the "Red City" of Marrakech, which is more Berber in tradition than Fes (which has Arab roots). Visit the old medina and its souks (especially the dyers' souk), tour the Saadian Tombs, and the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque and gardens.
Reflect on the past 5 days while strolling through the Majorelle Gardens which provide a break to the energy of the city.
Itinerary #2: Casablanca, Fes, and the Blue City of Chefchaouen
Starting and ending in Casablanca, this northern itinerary includes touring Roman ruins in Volubilis, exploring the "Blue City" of Chefchaouen, and getting lost in the winding passageways of the medieval medina of Fes.
|1||Morning in Casablanca, Afternoon in Rabat||Rabat|
|2||Rabat to the "Blue City" of Chefchaouen||Chefchaouen|
|3||Roman Ruins of Volubilis, Meknes, Fes||Fes|
|4||Exploring the Imperial City & Medieval Medina||Fes|
|5||Fes to Casablanca & Departure|
Kick off your northern adventure in a city made famous by Hollywood: Casablanca. Here, the must-see attraction is the seaside Hassan II Mosque. The 656-foot minaret is the tallest in Morocco, and unlike many other mosques in the country, it's open to non-Muslims. Join a guided tour of the interior, including the basement hammam.
By the afternoon you'll be off to Fes. Spend a full day wandering the winding streets and alleys of the 11th-century medina. Explore a variety of souks, such as woodworkers, jewelry, spices, weavers and more. Visit the world-famous Tanneries Chouara, where tanners still use traditional techniques of softening the leather in a mixture of pigeon waste and limestone. Peer into the Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and University, one of the oldest in the world, and wander through an old student Madrasa to admire the intricate tile, wood, and stucco work on the walls and ceilings. both located in the old medina, are recommended.
If possible, combine a guided tour with a self-guided stroll through the maze of streets in the ancient walled city. Don't focus too much on sticking to your map: you'll get lost anyway, and that's part of the experience.
The journey continues with a one-hour drive from Fes to Meknes and Volubilis. The former, known as the imperial city of Moulay Ismail, has a laid-back medina that's wonderful to explore on your own. Volubilis, just 20 minutes away, was ones the furthest reaches of the Roman empire and an important source of grain and animals used in large festivals and sacrifices. Wander around this sophisticated complex of temples, shops, and houses—many showing signs of surprisingly advanced technology, like underfloor heating—and take note of the colorful mosaics all around you still in remarkably good condition.
Next up is a city you've seen on Instagram: Chefchaouen, the "Blue City" of Morocco. The reason for the blue walls isn't known for sure. Some say it's tied to the significance of the color blue in Jewish tradition (blue represents the sky and the heavens), as the city was originally home to a significant Jewish population. Others say the blue hues are for practical purposes, as they keep buildings cooler. Either way, you'll feel inspired to take hundreds of photos as you wander through these dreamy streets.
Explore the Kasbah and take a short walk up to the Spanish Mosque to enjoy the sunset over the city. If you're up for a hike, there are several options outside of town to nearby waterfalls. Learn more about Chefchaouen here.
Finish the loop where you started, in Casablanca, by way of Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Compared to other cities on the itinerary, Rabat is modern. But there are several historic sights here, too, including the 12th-century Oudaias Kasbah and the Mausoleum of Mohamed V.
For more ideas on how to spend an afternoon in Casablanca, where this itinerary starts and ends, consult this Ultimate Guide to Casablanca.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Itinerary #3: Hike the Atlas Mountains & Relax by the Sea
Tailor-made for outdoor adventurers, this trip offers an introduction to Morocco's mountainous landscapes. You'll hike through small villages in the Atlas Mountains, spend the night with a local Berber family, and finish with a trip to seaside Essaouira.
|1||Exploring the Red City of Marrakech||Marrakech|
|2||Hiking the High Atlas around Amizmiz, Overnight in Berber Home||Amizmiz (Atlas Foothills)|
|3||Atlas Foothills, return to Marrakech||Marrakech|
|4||To the Coastal Town of Essaouira||Essaouira|
|5||Back to Marrakech & Departure|
Marrakech's history lies at a crossroads. It was a marketplace at the intersection of several trade routes where many Berber villages from the Atlas Mountains and desert could exchange goods. Wander through the city's lively souks and enjoy the spectacle of Jemaa el-Fnaa Square at the start of the trip. The next day, you'll be heading out of town to experience rural Berber culture.
Just an hour outside of Marrakech, you'll find yourself in the foothills of the High Atlas mountains. The experience begins with a guided hike past Berber villages. You'll share the path with mules, dogs, and locals, which is part of the fun. Join a local family for lunch in their home—you might even lend a hand in the preparation of the meal, if you choose. After an afternoon of hiking, enjoy more Berber hospitality as you stay overnight in a local home, guesthouse, or Auberge. For more hiking options nearby, you can read more about great day hikes around Marrakech.
The following day, you can hike to your heart's content—your local guide knows the way—or visit the local market in the town of Amizmiz. Then head back to Marrakech for an evening of exploring, strolling, and indulging in Moroccan specialties. You'll want to be at Jemaa el Fna Square around sunset, while the Koutoubia Mosque & Gardens are best visited in the morning. Leave yourself extra time to go shop in the city's busy souks.
End your trip with a relaxing overnight in the seaside town of Essaouira, once a Phoenician stronghold. Take a walk through the more-relaxed old medina, sip mint tea while watching fishing boats bobbing in the harbor, and climb up on the imposing seawalls and ramparts. This is a great place to try traditional Moroccan preparations of freshly caught seafood which you can get straight off the boats. The souks are quite a bit more relaxed here, and prices can be better than in Marrakech, even if there aren't quite as many options. For windsurfing enthusiasts, the nearby beach is home to some of the best spots in the country.
Keep your eyes out for goats in the nearby Argan trees as you travel back to Marrakech for your flight home.
Itinerary #4: Marrakech & Grand Tour of the Desert
For a visit to the Moroccan desert and a deep dive into Berber culture and traditions, this itinerary is sure to deliver. Start and end in Marrakech, and take a grand tour of the desert including the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs and the giant dunes of Erg Chebbi.
|1||Exploring the Red City of Marrakech||Marrakech|
|2||Marrakech to Ouarzazate & Boulmane Dades||Dades Valley|
|3||Boumalne Dades, Todra Gorge, Rissani, and the Sahara||Sahara Desert|
|4||Merzouga to Ait Benhaddou (via Alnif)||Ait Benhaddou|
|5||Tizi-n-Tichka Pass over the High Atlas, Marrakech|
After a full day exploring Marrakech, you'll venture up and over the High Atlas mountain pass of Tizi n'Tichka and into the desert landscape. Along the drive, you may spot the towering peak of Mount Toubkal. Stop in the town of Taddert where you can visit the argan oil cooperative to see the processes and try a few samples.
Once in the desert, your first stop is the town of Ouarzazate—a favorite among filmmakers, as many high-profile films and television series have used to the surrounding area as a set. You can tour a local movie studio if you like.
Later in the day, you'll catch a glimpse of local farming life in the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs. In nearby Dades Valley, you'll see the beautiful roses that are frequently used for rose water and oil. If you happen to visit in May, you can participate in the region's popular rose festival.
The desert adventure continues with visits to the Todra Gorge (where you can escape the desert heat with a quick walk through the river below the towering rock cliffs), Erfoud (famous for its dates and beautiful fossil stonework, stop at a local cooperative to see the full process), and Erg Chebbi, the massive sand dunes of the Sahara desert where you can join a sunset camel ride. For a more immersive experience, spend the night in a Bedouin tent among the dunes and enjoy traditional Berber music around the campfire, beneath the starry sky.
Wake up early and climb the nearest sand dune for an unforgettable sunrise before continuing to the market town of Rissani where farmers from local villages make the weekly trip. Don't miss the livestock auction and the "donkey parking lot", and stop by Maison Touareg, a storehouse of authentic handicrafts, carpets, jewelry, and leather. Travel through the verdant Draa Valley stopping to pick up a box of fresh dates from the local date palmery.
In the early afternoon, reach the UNESCO kasbah of Aït Benhaddou. Wander the small streets and climb up to the old Granary for a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Keep an eye out for the ancient camel caravan trade routes that once connected the Sahara and Marrakech. As you continue to explore Aït Benhaddou, you may recognize buildings featured in Game of Thrones, Gladiator, and Lawrence of Arabia. Stay the night in an old Kasbah converted into an auberge and enjoy wandering the small streets after the day-crowds have long since left, enjoying your dinner on a terrace overlooking the river and valley below.
Once back over the Atlas mountains, You'll top off your trip with a final night in Marrakech. Enjoy a peaceful stroll at the Koutoubia Mosque Gardens or Majorelle Gardens before a final tour of the always-entertaining Jemaa el Fna Square. For more, read our Ultimate Guide to Marrakech.
More Unique 5-Day Morocco Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your Morocco trip? Check out these other 5-day Morocco itineraries, ranging from active, to cultural, to luxury, or family-friendly trips.
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