- Wander old medinas and souks in Marrakech and Fes
- Enjoy the sunset overlooking the "blue city" of Chefchaouen
- Explore sand dunes, oases, hidden valleys, and old kasbahs in the desert
- Visit local artisan workshops and collectives for leather, ceramics, and fossils
|Arrive in Casablanca, Transfer to Imperial City Rabat
|Transfer to Chefchaouen, Explore the Blue City
|Transfer to Fes via Volubilis & Imperial City Meknes
|Explore the Imperial City & Medieval Medina
|Cross the Middle Atlas to the Sahara via Erfoud & Merzouga
|Transfer to Ouarzazate & Explore Desert Towns & Lush Oases
|Aït Benhaddou to Marrakech via Tizi n'Tichka Pass
|Explore Marrakech, the Red City
|Return to Casablanca, Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Casablanca, Transfer to Imperial City Rabat
Welcome to Morocco! If you only visit one place in Casablanca—the commercial capital of Morocco—make it the Hassan II Mosque. Sitting in a picturesque location on the ocean, its 690 feet (210 m) minaret is the tallest structure in Morocco and the tallest minaret in the world. While the exterior and surrounding area are impressive, this mosque is even more unique because it is one of the few mosques in the country where non-Muslims are permitted to enter. Join a morning tour of the mosque and marvel at the fine artisanship: hand-carved stone and wood, intricate marble floor detailing, and gilded ceilings.
Venture north to Rabat's imperial city and present-day capital (the other imperial cities are Meknes, Fes, and Marrakech). Explore the medieval fortification of the Chellah Necropolis and wander the Roman and Islamic ruins. Enter through the grand door of the Kasbah des Oudaias into Rabat's old city center. From there, visit the 20th-century Andalusian Gardens and enjoy the serene space away from the crowds. Discover the Hassan Tower, a minaret of the incomplete mosque and Mausoleum of Mohamed V. A 12th-century project that was abandoned, where all that remains today is the tower and about 200 columns.
Day 2: Transfer to Chefchaouen, Explore the Blue City
Head north to the striking blue city of Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains. Before Chefchaouen, you can stop to hike (2-3 hours) through lush vegetation and small pools to enjoy the Cascades d'Akchour (Waterfalls of Akchour)—a hidden gem. In the afternoon, unwind in charming Chefchaouen. Mostly untouched since the 15th century, Chefchaouen offers a relaxed atmosphere with some of the friendliest people in the country and is known for its blue-washed buildings in its historic medina (old quarter). Explore its narrow streets and alleyways, which cling to the northern hillside of the mountains.
Discover Plaza Outa el-Hammam, the main square named for the number of hammams (public baths) used to encircle it. Find a restaurant or café for a bite to eat before browsing the many shops offering traditional wares. Visit the Grand Mosque and kasbah (old fortress or fortification) and tour the kasbah's garden, museum, and even some of its old prison cells. As the evening approaches, ascend the path to the white Spanish Mosque (20 to 30 minutes) to enjoy one last view over Chefchaouen as the sun sets behind the mountains.
Day 3: Transfer to Fes via Volubilis & Imperial City Meknes
Rise early to wander the quiet streets for your best chance to snap unobstructed photos before joining your driver and continuing toward Fes. Along the way, stop and stretch your legs to explore the UNESCO-protected Roman ruins of Volubilis. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Volubilis is a sprawling complex worth wandering. Founded in the third century BCE, it was abandoned in the 11th century and remains incredibly well-preserved. Marvel at the merchant homes (and their visible heating systems underneath), the temples, and the nearly-intact colorful mosaics in situ, including the Labors of Hercules.
Stop in Meknes on your way to Fes. A smaller version of Fes, Meknes offers a calmer medina, and shopkeepers are not as pushy to make a sale. While Meknes is quite large, the two main areas of interest are the Ville Impériale (Imperial City) and the manageable medina.
Continue to Fes and navigate its impressively large and complicated medina that stretches down the hill. Before venturing in, take a moment and visit the ruins of the Merenid Tombs and enjoy a panoramic view of the old city. Stay overnight in a beautiful riad (with an interior courtyard garden) in the medina.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Explore the Imperial City & Medieval Medina
Fes is the oldest of the imperial cities in Morocco and perhaps the most interesting to explore. Its medina is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and as one of the world's largest urban car-free areas, it has remained relatively untouched since it was founded over 1,000 years ago. Often considered the country's cultural capital, it comprises two old medina quarters, Fes el Bali and Fes el Jdid, and the modern Ville Nouvelle, constructed during the French colonial era (1912-1956). Meet your guide and spend a half day learning about the history and culture as you navigate the maze-like streets of the medinas.
Start in Fes el Bali (789 CE) at the well-known Bab Boujeloud gate, and enter the main thoroughfare of Talâa Kebira. Discover how Spanish and Tunisian refugees influenced the medina's architecture as you pass shops and souks (markets), scanning local goods for gifts and souvenirs, and watching the artisans at work. Visit the Chouara Tannery and find a nearby leather shop for an encompassing view of the many stone wells filled with dye and men at work (a technique and process that is little changed over the centuries).
Next, make your way to the 14th-century Al Attarine Madrasa, a beautiful example of Moroccan architecture and artisanship showcasing intricate zellij tilework. From there, find your way to one of the oldest still-operating universities in the world, Al-Qarawiyyin University (859 CE), next to the Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque. Though the mosque is only open to Muslims, there are a few places where you can glimpse inside its decorated interior. Cooking enthusiasts may wish to join a cooking class and learn how to prepare a typical Moroccan meal before retiring for the evening.
Day 5: Cross the Middle Atlas to the Sahara via Erfoud & Merzouga
Start your day early and travel south toward Merzouga to arrive at the Sahara dunes for a sunset camel ride. Along the way, you will climb up an elevation of 7,146 feet (2,178 m) over the Col du Zad pass and through the cedar forests of the Middle Atlas mountains. Enjoy sightings of the local Barbary macaque monkeys before stopping for lunch in Midelt (the "apple city"), relishing the nearby Moulouya River. Continue over the Tizi n'Talremt pass and into the Ziz Valley, known for its hidden oases and palm tree clusters. Along the road, you will see many fortified houses known as ksars—built to protect precious wares, including gold, salt, and spices.
Continue to Erfoud, known for its date festival and fossil mining. You can visit a local collective to learn more about the process and meet some local artisans. End your day at Erg Chebbi, a vast sea of dunes covering an area of 13.5 square miles (35 square km). Never stationary, the massive dunes shift and travel depending on the changing wind! Upon reaching Merzouga, switch gears and ride your camel through the dunes to your already-prepared-for-you camp. Climb a nearby dune to watch the sunset before returning to camp for a delicious dinner, relaxing by the campfire.
Day 6: Transfer to Ouarzazate & Explore Desert Towns & Lush Oases
Catch the sunrise before heading to nearby Khemliya to experience a traditional Saharan village—its people are originally from Mali. Continue west to pass through a dramatic gate into Rissani. A market town, Rissani holds a livestock auction and is home to a "donkey parking lot," a site worth (hearing and) experiencing! Make your way to the desert town of Tinghir before reaching the 984 feet (300 m) deep Todra Gorge. You will have time to explore the gorge and relax in the cool water of the shallow Todra River.
Travel through the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs. Though many kasbahs are now in disrepair, local families still live in some of them. You may even come across nomads herding their animals. Head west to Kelâat M'Gouna. Known for its Festival des Roses, you can see extensively cultivated farmland bordered by fragrant rose bushes. Continue west to Ouarzazate, a gateway to the Sahara Desert made popular by the film industry. Join a studio tour and discover how the nearby desert landscapes have been featured in many films.
Day 7: Aït Benhaddou to Marrakech via Tizi n'Tichka Pass
Travel to nearby Aït Benhaddou. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Aït Benhaddou is believed to date from the 11th century, when it held an important position along the trans-Saharan trade route between Marrakech, Ouarzazate, and the southern desert. Follow the narrow streets up to the Granary to view the surrounding landscapes. From there, ascend the High Atlas mountain range and look out for the highest peak, Mount Toubkal (13,671 ft/ 4,167 m). Stop near the top of the Tizi n'Tichka pass (7,415 ft/ 2,260 m) to enjoy the views over the mountain range.
As you descend the High Atlas, you will notice a dramatic change in the climate and landscape. Soon you will be a part of the noise and clamor of Marrakech. After a long day on the road, settle into your hotel and spend the rest of the afternoon as you like. In the early evening, the main square—and busiest square in all of Africa—Jemaa el-Fna, comes alive with musicians, performers, snake charmers, games, and food stalls, a catch-all of entertainment. If you want to enjoy the spectacle from a distance, choose one of the many cafés surrounding the square and enjoy a cup of mint tea and a meal.
Day 8: Explore Marrakech, the Red City
Nicknamed the "Red City" for its red sandstone walls and buildings, Marrakech was once a significant trading capital for Atlas mountain tribes and remains an exciting imperial city. Begin exploring Marrakech's ancient medina, starting with the Koutoubia Mosque and Gardens. Though non-muslims cannot enter the mosque, 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 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.
Day 9: Return to Casablanca, Depart
If time allows, complete any last-minute shopping or check out Majorelle Gardens. Not far from the commotion of the medina, a visit to these lush and expansive gardens offers the perfect place to escape the heat and noise before you transfer back to Casablanca for your return flight (three-hour transport).