Immerse yourself in Moroccan history and culture, and adventure in nature, the mountains, and the famed Sahara Desert on this 13-day trip. Begin and end your journey in Casablanca, where you can explore the world-renowned Hassan II Mosque. Venture into the spiritual capital of Fez and explore its different quarters. A journey into the Erg Chebbi Dunes is a trip highlight, as is Marrakesh and its bustling square. The trip concludes with coastal views and tours of Essaouira and its heritage.

Highlights

  • Visit the Hassan II Mosque and one of the world's tallest minaret in Casablanca
  • Walk through ruins of the Roman Empire in Volubilis
  • Discover souks, tanneries and artisan workshops in medieval Fez
  • Enjoy Berber music by a campfire under a starry Sahara Desert sky
  • Explore markets and souks around Jemaa el-Fna in Marrakesh

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Casablanca Casablanca
Day 2 Tour Meknes and Volubilis and Travel to Fez Fes
Day 3 Guided Tour of Fez Fes
Day 4 Visit Azrou and Ifrane and Travel to Erfoud  Erfoud
Day 5 Travel to the Erg Chebbi Dunes Merzouga
Day 6 Travel to Todra Gorge Todra Gorge
Day 7 Tour Ouarzazate and Travel to Ait Benhaddou Aït Benhaddou
Day 8 Travel to Marrakesh Marrakech
Day 9 Private, Guided Tour of Marrakesh Marrakech
Day 10 Free Day in Marrakesh Marrakech
Day 11 Travel to Essaouira Essaouira
Day 12 Travel to Casablanca Casablanca
Day 13 Depart From Casablanca  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Casablanca

Hassan II Mosque

Welcome to Morocco! As soon as your flight lands at the airport in Casablanca, pick up your luggage, and walk outside the terminal to meet your local driver holding a sign with your name on it. The driver will then take you into town, where you can check-in where you are staying.  

The first settlement of Casablanca was the Berber village Anfa. By the end of the 18th century, Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah founded a Muslim town at this site where Europeans were welcome to host their commercial enterprises for wool and grain. Get to know the history, culture, and economy of Casablanca by visiting few different famous sights, like the United Nations Square, Mohamed V Square, the Central Market, and the Habous Quarter, to enjoy the view of the Royal Palace, before heading to the famous Hassan II Mosque.

The rest of the evening is yours to enjoy.

Day 2: Tour Meknes and Volubilis and travel to Fez

Volubilis
Explore the Roman ruins in Volubilis

In the morning, meet your driver at 8:30 am. Then, you will make the trip to Meknes, which is the imperial city of Moulay Ismail. The Medina is smaller, less busy, and shopkeepers are not quite as pushy. While most travelers simply pass straight through, those with a bit more time may find several places of interest in this historical imperial city. While the city is quite large, the two main areas of interest are the Ville Impériale (Imperial City) and the Medina.

Just after this visit, you’ll move on to Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which contains Morocco’s best-preserved Roman ruins and makes for a nice detour from the hustle and bustle of Meknes. You can wander the massive complex, exploring large merchant homes with visible heating systems underneath, temples, and many colorful mosaics in quite good condition.

By the afternoon, you will reach Fez, which was founded shortly after the Arabs migrated across North Africa. Fez is often referred to as the spiritual capital of Morocco. It was once one of the most important places of scholarship in the world. It can be neatly divided into three different parts: Fez el-Bali (the heart of the Medina), Fez el-Jdid (where the Jewish quarter and the Royal Palace are located), and the Ville Nouvelle (the administrative area).

Take some time to explore Fez and enjoy the medina at nightfall. You will have the evening to yourself to stroll the area and enjoy dinner.

Note that local guide services in Volubilis and Meknes are not included. If you decide you would like a guided tour of either city, you can make this request directly with your driver, who will help you secure the appropriate guide.  

Day 3: Guided tour of Fez

Fez Tanneries
Fez tanneries

In Fez, the medina is called Fez el-Bali and behind its high walls is a magical, medieval city teeming with life in every one of its 9,000 narrow streets. Fez is the cultural and spiritual capital of Morocco, and you'll certainly experience its vibrancy.

Your local guide will meet you at 9 am for a 6-hour tour of the old medina of Fez. Discover the many artisans, such as metal workers, dyers, woodworkers, and silk weavers. You'll visit the tanneries, where leather is processed in the way it has been done for centuries. Discover grand mosques and madrasas (koranic schools). Learn about the ancient traditions of Berber medicine men.

Once the tour concludes, you will have the rest of the day to enjoy at your leisure.

Tour Duration: 6 hours

Day 4: Visit Azrou and Ifrane and travel to Erfoud 

Ifrane
Ifrane is known as "The Switzerland of Morocco"

This morning, be ready for an early start since there is a long drive ahead. Meet your driver and head toward Merzouga with some amazing stops, including:

  • Azrou: This is a town of wild monkeys and trails of cedar trees; however, you can also take some time to enjoy the quieter side, which will help you relax along your high-energy trip.
  • Ifrane: Known as “The Switzerland of Morocco,” thanks to architecture that emulates the alpine style, you can visit stone statues, waterfalls, and more cedar forests.
  • Erfoud: Filled with fossils that date back hundreds of millions of years, this town is the gateway of the nomad life in Morocco; it is the door that you open to discover the Sahara and how different the local life is. Visit the souq located at the southern end to collect some local dates as a sweet treat.

In Erfoud, you will have time for yourself. Enjoy the local flavors and then wind down for the evening. Tomorrow, you will trek into the desert!

Day 5: Travel to the Erg Chebbi Dunes

Ride a camel through the Sahara Desert

This morning, you’ll wake up and enjoy a quiet breakfast before you meet your driver to head toward your amazing experience in the middle of the sand dunes.

You will head to Merzouga, which is the gateway into the Sahara Desert. You will ride a camel ride to your campsite (which will have both a private toilet and a shower), taking in the beautiful scenery of the sand dunes surrounding you along the way. Once you are settled at camp, take some time to explore the dunes. Make sure to catch the sunset. As night falls, you will get to stargaze, since there is little light pollution out in the desert. Enjoy a nice dinner under the stars, and digest the desert in all its beauty.

Day 6: Travel to Todra Gorge

Todra Gorge
Todra Gorge

If you are an early riser, you'll be rewarded with a sunrise over the sand dunes. Then, ride your camel back the Kasbah to meet your driver. You will exit by Rissani, which is another market town with an impressive gate at the entrance and a small central square.

Just ahead of you is the Oases and Palmeries, where you’ll continue through the desert to the town of Tinerhir. Along the way, expect a great view of the nearby towns that cling to the side of the green river oasis, filled with green palm trees. The surrounding desert landscape reveals impressive buttes, mesas, and plateaus. 

Tinerhir is a busy town centered on mining. Under the canopy, you can find crumbling kasbahs, the 19th century abandoned Medersa Ikelane. At the north end of town, you can discover the ruins of Ksar Asfalou, the former home to students of both Jewish and Muslim descent, who once studied together.

In Tinerhir, you will be dropped off at your lodging, and then meet your local guide for a 3-hour scenic hike through the palm groves of Todra and its gorges.

Following your tour, you will have time to yourself to stroll the town or relax and get some rest.

Hike Duration: 3 hours

Day 7: Tour Ouarzazate and travel to Ait Benhaddou

Ait Benhaddou

In the morning, the adventure continues toward Morocco's own special home of film, Ouarzazate. This town lies in a valley at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. Most of its visitors are tourists who are making their way to the Sahara Desert or in the opposite direction. They stop here to stock up on necessities. Make time to explore some of the attractions in Ouarzazate, including past filming sites from several movies. You can also take a quad bike adventure to explore the entire town in just a few hours.

Then, you’ll continue driving toward the nearby village of Ait Benhaddou, which holds the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kasar of Ait Benhaddou. Take advantage of walking to the top of the Kasbah for a breathtaking sunset!

Then, the remainder of the evening will be yours to do as you wish. Make sure to discuss your morning meeting time with your private driver before you part ways for the night.

Day 8: Travel to Marrakesh

Djemaa-el-Fna
Djemaa-el-Fna at night

Good Morning! Your driver will meet you at the agreed-upon time to get the day started. Your drive takes you back toward the Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, and then via the scenic High Atlas Mountains, where you’ll drive through the highest pass, Tizi N'Tichka. Stop here to view the Berber villages and take some breathtaking photos.

In the afternoon, you will arrive in Marrakesh, with its bustling souks, flavorful food, and famous hospitality. Known as the “Red City,” Marrakesh is the exotic imperial city of the south. It is the fourth-largest city in Morocco and lies near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains.

Upon arrival, check-in at your lodging, and relax. Then, you can explore Djemaa-el-Fna. The central square busied with acrobats, storytellers, water sellers, dancers, and musicians. In the evening, the square transforms into a huge open-air restaurant with smoke rising from the many food stalls. Enjoy dinner and a show–of the locals–and embark on an evening stroll to take in the culture.

Day 9: Private, guided tour of Marrakesh

Bahia Palace
Bahia Palace

In the morning, meet your local guide at 9 am. Then, embark on a 6-hour tour of the town. Discover some of the most important historical sites, along with the old medina and souks of Marrakesh. You'll visit the:

  • Bahia Palace: This 19th-century palace also boasts beautiful gardens.
  • Saadian Tombs: This stunning site is built of Italian Carrara marble and honeycomb plasterwork, and accented with pure gold.
  • Koutoubia Mosque (from outside): This is the largest mosque in the town, and was built in the 12th century.
  • Djemaa El Fna: Explore this square during daylight to watch the locals charm visitors and residents, alike.

This tour combines two main districts: the city where transport is necessary and the old medina which will be toured on foot since most of the medina is closed to traffic.

Following your tour, the rest of the day is yours to explore, enjoy local flavors, and relax.

Tour Duration: 6 hours

Day 10: Free day in Marrakesh

Go shopping at the souks 

Today is a free day to enjoy at your leisure. There is plenty to do around Marrakesh, depending on your mood and preference. You can:

  • Visit the Majorelle Garden: The gorgeous landscapes were a work of living art that took 40 years to create. French painter Jacques Majorelle curated the grounds, which host more than 300 plant species.
  • Relax in a hammam: Take a trip to a local bathhouse, where you can visit the sauna, get a massage, and take a dip in a cold pool. Make sure you bring your own towel!
  • Make a stop at the tanneries: This is a must-see attraction, where you can watch how bags and dresses are made. Watch the workers dye the material, and get an inside look at the process.
  • Go shopping at the souks: If you would like to purchase souvenirs, you can take a trip to the medina that hosts many souks where you can find all kinds of crafts and local foods.

At the end of the day, feel free to return to the Djemaa El Fna for some final evening action and a nice meal.

Day 11: Travel to Essaouira

Essaouira Ramparts
Essaouira Ramparts

Today, you will depart from Marrakesh with your driver at 10 am and head to Essaouira, formerly known as Mogador. It is an 18th-century town situated on the Atlantic Coast. It is enclosed by medieval-looking battlements and faces a cluster of rocky offshore islands.

When you arrive, check-in at your accommodation and relax. The medina of Essaouira is UNESCO World Heritage-listed. A walk inside the medina reveals beautifully whitewashed and blue-shuttered houses and colonnades. The small fishing harbor remains functional today.

If you would like to do some shopping, you will find that Essaouira is much calmer than the souks and medina in Marrakesh. You can go to Galerie la Kasbah to shop for furnishings, paintings, and tiles.

At the end of the day, take a walk along the breezy coast, and stop for dinner with a view. Then, stroll over to a local café for some live entertainment, courtesy of local musicians, magicians, and fire-dancers.

Day 12: Travel to Casablanca

El Jadida
Portuguese cistern in El Jadida

In the morning, you will have some more time to explore the medina in Essaouira. If there are any goods you would like to purchase, now is the time.

In the afternoon, you will head back to Casablanca. On the way, you can discuss any stops you would like to make with your driver. You can pass through El Jadida, which is home to a stunning Portuguese cistern, as well as the Church of Assumption. You can also stop in Azemour, which is art-influenced and nestled between a crumbling medina and the ocean.

Once you are back in Casablanca, feel free to do some more sightseeing if you feel there is anything you missed when you first arrived. Then, plan to enjoy a lovely farewell dinner at the local restaurant of your choice.

Day 13: Depart from Casablanca

Goodbye, Morocco
Goodbye, Morocco!

Today, you will say goodbye to Morocco. Your driver will pick you and take you to the airport 3 hours prior to your departure flight time. Along with your luggage, you will bring home lasting memories and adventures of Moroccan history and culture.

Map

Map of Morocco's Imperial Cities & the Sahara Desert - 13 Days
Map of Morocco's Imperial Cities & the Sahara Desert - 13 Days