A perfect balance of culture, adventure, and relaxation, this 6-day itinerary features highlights of the imperial city of Marrakech, including 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, learn about traditional cuisine, and share a meal with a local Berber family. Explore centuries-old seafront fortifications and visit an argan tree cooperative where you can learn all about the oil extraction while watching the goats graze up in the branches.

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
  • Visit an argan tree cooperative and learn about the oil extraction process

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Marrakech - Explore the Red City Marrakech
Day 2 High Atlas Hike & Overnight in a Berber Home Amizmiz
Day 3 Hike from Amizmiz to Imi N'Tala - Traditional Cooking Workshop Imi N'Tala
Day 4 Morning Hike - Drive to the Coastal City of Essaouira Essaouira
Day 5 Drive Back to Bustling Marrakech Marrakech
Day 6 Marrakech and Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Marrakech - Explore the Red City

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

Marrakech,  Morocco's second-largest metropolis, is also known as the "Red City" (due to the natural red ochre pigment in its walls). After settling into your accommodation, prepare for the shock of vibrant sights, sounds, and smells as you explore this bustling city. To best understand the layout, orient yourself around Jemaa el Fna Square. From here, you'll find the souks are to the north, the Koutoubia Mosque & Gardens to the west, and the Kasbah area with the Saadian Tombs, Bahia Palace, and El Badi Palace are to the south.

For many, the main draw to Marrakech is Jemaa el Fna Square, which begins to fill in the late afternoon with musicians, storytellers, acrobats, dancers, henna artists, and snake charmers. As it gets dark, rows of food stalls will appear, serving anything from full meals to fruit drinks, dried dates, and small snacks. For a more relaxed experience, look for one of the many cafes that sit above the square to enjoy a meal or tea while you watch the show below.

Until the square comes to life later in the day, you can choose from a variety of sights to explore Marrakech:

  • The Koutoubia Mosque & Gardens: West of  Jemaa el Fna, you’ll see the striking minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque. Although non-Muslims are not permitted inside, you can admire the minaret, the oldest tower built under the Almohad Dynasty. On the north side of the mosque, you'll see the foundations of the original mosque, which had to be rebuilt to properly align with Mecca. Walk around the back of the mosque to the beautiful Koutoubia Gardens, filled with fountains, pools, palm trees, and flowers. It’s the perfect place for a late afternoon stroll when the late-day sun glows on the minaret.

  • The Medina, Souks, and Fondouks: There are enough small alleys and markets in the Medina to occupy you for a couple days. Take in the various sights, sounds, and smells as you wander. A few souks (marketplaces) worth exploring include Souk el Attarin for spices, Souk Haddadine for blacksmith goods, and Souk Smata for slippers, rugs, and leather goods. Keep your eyes peeled for Souk des Teinturiers, the dyers’ souk, where you can watch people dying cloth and yarn and hanging them above the streets in the afternoon to dry.

  • Fondouks: Along many of the alleys, you’ll notice large open spaces and courtyards. These Fondouks were once inns used by visiting traders and merchants who slept on the upper floors while their animals stayed on the ground floor. Today, some have been converted into residential places while others are large shopping areas and workshops that you can explore.

  • Medersa Ben Youssef (Koranic School): Built in the 16th century, the beautifully renovated medersa once housed students of the nearby mosque of Ben Youssef. Inside you can appreciate the carved cedar, stucco plaster, and zellij tiling of the central courtyard, wander the old dorms where up to 800 students once lived, and visit the prayer hall.

  • Saadian Tombs: Hidden for many years and only "discovered" by the inquisitive French Authorities in the 1930s, the oldest tomb here dates back to 1557. Enter through a very narrow passage to discover a small garden, graves, and three main pavilions.

  • Bahia Palace: Built in the 19th century, this was the largest and most luxurious palace in its day. Today you can explore the courtyard and gardens, and take in the intricate woodwork and painted ceilings.

  • Majorelle Gardens (30-minute walk or quick taxi ride): Not far from the hustle and bustle of the medina, you can wander these lush, expansive gardens filled with sub-tropical plants, bamboo, lilies, and palms. It’s a great place to relax and beat the afternoon heat.

Other sites in the area include:

  • The Almoravid Koubba, the only intact Almoravid building
  • Marrakech Museum, housed in the 19th century Dar Mnebbi Palace, offers a collection of sculptures and various other Moroccan artwork
  • Museum of Moroccan Arts and Crafts showcases woodwork including traditional wedding palanquins 

Day 2: High Atlas Hike & Overnight in a Berber Home

Green foothills of the High Atlas
Green foothills of the High Atlas

This morning you'll head one hour south of the clamor of Marrakech to the small town of Amizmiz and the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. Here you can explore the small market in the old town before heading off-the-beaten-path for a stunning hike.

You'll be guided by a local mountain expert who will take you through the small roads and mule paths in the surrounding hills. You can choose your route based on how far, long, or difficult you wish it to be, but be aware that the further up you go, the better the vistas.

Regardless of what route you take, you're unlikely to see any other tourists as you hike between the Berber villages and traverse the gorgeous mountainside. Along the way, take note of local farmers, shepherds, mules, goats, and dogs sharing the landscape with you. Notice how the community here has adapted to the terrain: you'll see terraced farming plots and small irrigation canals dug along the mountainside, all built by farmers to make this area suitable for agriculture. 

You'll enjoy lunch with a local family who will show you how they bake their delicious bread in tiny, traditional ovens.  Afterwards, continue hiking for as long as you like before you make your way to a local Berber home where you can relax and take in the stunning scenery. Then join your hosts for dinner and a fun evening of community. Once you've gotten your fill of mint tea and conversation, retire to your guest room here for the night.  

Day 3: Hike from Amizmiz to Imi N'Tala - Traditional Cooking Workshop

A traditional Moroccan Tagine
A traditional Moroccan Tagine

Enjoy breakfast with your hosts before heading back on the trail. You'll pass through charming villages as you hike the mule tracks of the Amnougal Valley. As you gain a sense of understanding about this region, soak up the splendor of rural mountain life punctuated by the cycle of seasons. Along the route, you'll see beautiful pastoral landscapes, herds of sheep and goats in pastures, terraced agricultural fields, examples of traditional irrigation, and lovely fruit trees.

You'll stop to picnic amid the idyllic setting, then continue to the village of Imi N'Tala. Here, your host Fatima will welcome you with a smile, a fresh cup of mint tea at her house, and a tour of her village to teach you about daily life in Imi N'Tala.  

In the late afternoon, you'll return to Fatima's home for a hands-on cooking workshop. You'll learn how to make traditional bread and Tagine. After dinner, you'll be greeted by a local family who will host you for the night in their guesthouse. 

Total walking time: 5-6 hours

Day 4: Morning Hike - Drive to the Coastal City of Essaouira

Climbing higher in the Atlas Mountains
Climbing higher in the Atlas Mountains

Enjoy breakfast at your village guesthouse, then say goodbye to your host family before setting back out on the trail. You'll explore more villages while hiking and enjoying in the beautiful scenery of the region.

After your morning hike, you'll set off the seaside town of Essaouira, which takes you over extensive, rolling plains and through unique forests filled with Argan trees. The oil inside the Argan nut is prized for a variety of uses, particularly in the culinary and cosmetic world. You may have the opportunity to stop at an Argan cooperative to learn more about the product, its applications, and even see the oil extraction process in action. If you visit the trees, you may not be alone, though! High in the tree branches, you may see local goats grazing on the argan fruit. It's quite a sight!

Once you arrive in Essaouira, relax and enjoy some free time. You can walk the impressive seawalls, discover delights in the Old Medina area, or enjoy the very active fishing harbor. If you're feeling hungry, linger at the harbor for lunch in one of its great seafood restaurants. You'll have the rest of the day to relax and explore this charming town; your specialists are happy to give some recommendations for wonderful spots here for dinner.

Total driving time: 2.5-3 hours

Day 5: Drive Back to Bustling Marrakech

Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech
Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech

Take your time to enjoy a delicious breakfast in Essaouira, wandering the quaint town center and relaxing on the coast. The bustling medina here is more laid back and easier to navigate than the one back in Marrakech, so consider doing some shopping before you leave.

Later in the morning, you'll head back to Marrakech. Keep your eyes out for goats in the nearby Argan trees as you journey back through the rolling plains!

When you arrive in Marrakech, you'll have the rest of the day and the evening to spend however you like. If you're inspired to explore local museums, head to the Dar Menebhi Palace, which houses the wonderful Marrakech Museum. Here, you'll see contemporary art alongside traditional crafts and a weapon collection. Marrakech also boasts a thriving art scene, with a smattering of galleries featuring works by local artists. 

Once you're ready for dinner, tuck into a delicious meal before taking in the buzz of the city's nightlife.

Total driving time: 3 hours

Day 6: Marrakech and Departure

Le Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech
Le Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech

It's time to say goodbye to Morocco! Enjoy one last delicious breakfast and take in the bustle of this vibrant city. Depending on your travel schedule, you may have time for some last-minute sightseeing or shopping before you head to the Marrakech Menara Airport for your flight home.