- Visit the Hassan II Mosque and the world's tallest minaret in Casablanca
- Explore Roman ruins in the ancient city of Volubilis
- Get lost in the 1000-year old medieval streets of Fes
- Watch Marrakech's Jemaa el Fna Square come to life in the evening
|Day 1||Morning in Casablanca, Afternoon in Rabat||Rabat|
|Day 2||Rabat to Fes via Volubilis & Meknes||Fes|
|Day 3||Fes: Exploring the Imperial City & Medieval Medina||Fes|
|Day 4||Fes to Marrakech||Marrakech|
|Day 5||Marrakech: Medina & City Tour, Jemma el Fna Square||Marrakech|
|Day 6||Marrakech and Departure|
Day 1: Morning in Casablanca, Afternoon in RabatCasablanca is the modern commercial capital of Morocco, with relatively few sights for tourists compared to the imperial cities of Fes and Marrakech. A single morning may actually be all you need for a quick tour of the highlights here before venturing further afield.
If you only visit one place in Casablanca, make it the Hassan II Mosque, sitting in a picturesque location on the sea. Inaugurated in 1993, its 656-foot (200 m) minaret is the tallest structure in Morocco — and the tallest minaret in the world. It is estimated that the courtyard can hold 80,000 worshipers, with room for another 25,000 inside While the exterior and surrounding area are impressive — the lavish interior is festooned with wood, marble, carved stone, and gilded ceilings — what makes this mosque even more unique is that it is of the few in the country open to non-Muslim visitors. One-hour guided tours run in the mornings between 9 am and 2 pm, and include a tour of the Hammam in the basement.
A few other sights worth exploring include:
- The Hobous, Casablanca’s “New Medina,” built in the 1930s by the French. Here you can get a taste of art deco architecture as you seek out crafts, and an olive, vegetable and spice market.
- Boulevard de la Corniche, the Beach Promenade area (often called Morocco’s “Miami”). Take a leisurely stroll here and see other nearby sites of interest.
- Rick's Café is worth a visit if your main draw to Casablanca is to follow in the footsteps of Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart; this eatery recreates Bogie's famous café in the legendary film. Sip a cocktail while Sam plays it again!
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. This project was abandoned in the 12th-century, and all that remains today are 200 columns and the red sandstone tower, which stands at 145 feet (44 m).
Total driving time: 1.5-2 hours (including time from Airport to Casablanca center)
Day 2: Rabat to Fes via Volubilis & Meknes
Today you'll travel to Fes, stopping first at two fantastic cities marbled with rich culture, traditions, and history. Because your schedule today is flexible, you'll choose how long you'd like to stay in each location and whether you'd like to explore these towns with the help of a local guide or if you'd prefer to set your own pace and preferences.
Your first stop today is Volubilis, a UNESCO world heritage site home to Morocco’s best-preserved Roman ruins. This town was once one of the most remote parts of the Roman Empire, yet after 200 years of rule, the Romans left to focus on other parts of the empire. They grew and exported much wheat for the rest of the empire, and sent many wild animals (lions, bears, elephants) to the capital for feasts, celebrations, and sacrifices.
From Volubilis, you’ll drive to Meknes, a beautiful city with a smaller, less busy Medina than what you'll find in Fes (the shopkeepers are less pushy here, too). Pay a visit to Heri es Souani (where grain is stored) and Agdal, the water-basin. In the Ville Impériale (Imperial City) area, you can explore gardens, palaces, the impressive gate of Bab al-Mansour, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, and the Royal Stables. The indoor market at Place El Hedim is also worthwhile.
Later in the afternoon, you'll arrive in Fes, which was founded shortly after the Arabs expanded across North Africa. Often referred to as the "spiritual capital of Morocco," Fes was once one of the most important academic epicenters in the world. The city can be neatly divided into three different parts: Fes el-Bali (the heart of the Medina); Fes el-Jdid (home to the Jewish quarter and Royal Palace); and the Ville Nouvelle (the administrative area).
After you check into your accommodations for the night, stroll the city, taking in its vibrant sights, sounds, and smells, then head to a restaurant for a delicious, traditional dinner. Your specialists are happy to provide recommendations for their favorite spots.
Day 3: Fes: Exploring the Imperial City & Medieval Medina
Today you'll learn about Fes, the oldest of the Imperial Cities in Morocco and perhaps the most interesting and exciting to explore. Its Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the most complete of its kind in the Arab world. Because the city never experienced much colonial development, much of Fez feels like stepping back through time hundreds of years ago. How you tour Fes and its highlights is up to you, so consider some of these options or ask your local specialists for ideas that speak to your interests.
If you're inspired by history and culture and have time to spare, you could spend a couple of days wandering the medina, visiting Medersas, and exploring beyond the medina walls. If you have a shorter trip, a full day exploring the medina and a few highlights outside may be enough. Either way, we recommend using an expert guide for a half-day tour to learn more about this stellar city and help you navigate the medina.
Fez el Bali ("Old Fez") is a great place to start your adventure. This city, founded in the 8th century CE by Moulay Idriss I, welcomed refugees from Cordoba in southern Spain and Kairouan in Tunisia (both capitals of western Islam at the time). Their skill in architecture and craftsmanship played a large role as the city grew over the next hundred years as the city grew organically (thus the maze-like narrow streets).
The charming medina area will likely draw most of your time and focus. The roads are much narrower, windier, and steeper than those of Marrakech, making it almost impossible not to get lost at least a few times (part of the fun, just keeping walking until the flow of people increases and you find yourself on one of the main streets). Shop the iconic souks (markets) of every variety, spices, vegetables, leather goods, ceramics, metal, shoes, scarves, medicines, and more. Many are concentrated together and you're bound to see artisans at work in small shops.
Be sure to also check out the famed Tanneries Chouara, which still implements traditional techniques from centuries ago. Find a local leather shop for a view from above (giving the tanner a small donation may help you gain access) to watch the masters at work. The process starts with a soak in a mixture of pigeon droppings and limestone which helps remove any remaining fur and soften the leather. Next, the leather is dyed in the large colored vats for about a week before being set out to dry on nearby rooftops or hillsides. To guard against the pungent scent, grab some mint leaves to have onhand during your visit.
The medina is also home to the 9th-century Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque, which can hold up to 20,000 worshipers inside. Although it's only open to Muslims, there are a few places where you can glimpse inside to admire the beautifully decorated interior. Next door sits one of the oldest universities in the world — Islamic University, regarded as Morocco's scientific capital. You can also visit the old Madrasas, intricately decorated housing for university students: check out the Medersa Bou Inania (currently under renovation), and the Al Attarine Madrasa (built in 1325). Their stunning main courtyards showcase detailed tile work, dark cedar woodwork, and intricately carved stucco patterns. Head upstairs to see old student dorm rooms with great views.
From here, stop through the famous Bab Boujeloud, the large gate that welcomes you into Fez el Bali from the west. The outside is blue (the traditional color for Fes), and inside is green (the color for Islam). Heading through the gate to see the main thoroughfare of Talâa Kebira, which is packed with shops. Treat yourself to some retail therapy or pop by the Musée Batha, home to many Moroccan arts — including carved wood and traditional pottery — and a beautiful central garden.
Southwest of and uphill from the old city, is Fes el Jedid (“New Fes”), built in the 13th century when the Merenid Dynasty came to power. From the street, you can admire the Royal Palace and the Mellah, the old Jewish quarter and its cemetery, where you can take in a stunning panorama of the city. Just beyond the medina, you can tour a local ceramics and tilework collective. You'll get a quick overview of the full process, from mixing the clay to painting the designs on the fired piece. You'll also see tile masters at work, fitting together the intricate puzzles forming impressive mosaics.
No matter how you choose to explore Fes, consider enjoying the sunset from the Merenid Tombs in the north or Borj Sud in the south; both viewpoints offer fantastic views of this dynamic city with timeless roots.
Day 4: Fes to Marrakech
After breakfast in Fes this morning, you'll hit the road toward Marrakech; along the way, you can decide if you'd like to spend time stopping back through Meknes, Rabat, and Casablanca.
When you arrive in Marrakech this afternoon, check into your riad and relax for a bit before venturing out for a relaxing stroll in the gardens near the stunning Koutoubia Mosque. Be sure to also check out the beautifully renovated 16th-century Medersa Ben Youssef (Koranic school), which 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.
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.
As it begins to get dark, Jemaa el Fna Square will become more lively with musicians, performers, and food stalls. Wander the grounds of the square, whose roots as a trading bazaar go back centuries. Or if you prefer, watch the show from above as you dine at a café situated above the square. For a more relaxed experience, look for one of the many cafés that sit above the square to enjoy a meal or tea while you watch the show below. You can also tour the nearby area in style on a Caliche Horse Carriage.
Total driving time: 5.5 - 6 hours
Day 5: Marrakech: Medina & City Tour, Jemma el Fna Square
After breakfast, you'll meet your local expert guide for a tour of Marrakech's stunning old Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site. As you wander the vivacious souk, you'll 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 matrix of tiny alleys. Your guide will also regale you with history and stories of the Medina, the Souk, and the Mellah sections within the city’s rose-pink walls. Be sure to also ask your guide for recommendations of where to eat lunch today!
In the afternoon you'll continue your private tour of the city, stopping through places like Bahia Palace (which features intricate woodwork and painted ceilings), the 17th century El Badii Palace, Majorelle Gardens (lush, expansive gardens filled with sub-tropical plants)m, and Tombeaux Saadiens. These secret tombs from the 16th century were hidden for many years, only to "discovered" by the French Authorities in the 1930s. Enter through a very narrow passage to discover a small garden, graves and three main pavilions. As you peer inside, you will notice the detailed craftsmanship and beauty.
As dawn settles on the city, head to Jemaa el Fna Square, the main square populated with musicians, performers, snake charmers, games, food stalls and more. Stroll through the buzz of the square and taste your way through its street food stalls or take everything in from a distance: there are many cafés surrounding the square where you can sit and watch the show over a delicious meal. However you choose to dine tonight, know that you're bound to tuck into something extraordinary; Marrakech is known as the epicurean capital of Morroco and is home to the top chefs who work for the Royal family. Food is a source of pride so eat up and enjoy!
Day 6: Marrakech and Departure
Depending on your flight time, you may have time in the morning to explore more before you depart.
If you're interested in returning to the souks, consider exploring Souk el Attarin (spices), Souk Haddadine (blacksmiths), and Souk Smata (slippers). One souk not to miss is the Souk des Teinturiers, the dyers’ souk. Here you can see people dying cloth and yarn, which will then hang above the streets in the afternoon to dry. You'll also find many shops with rugs and leather goods nearby.
Here are some other ideas if looking for attractions off-the-beaten-path:
- The Almoravid Kouba, the only intact Almoravid building
- Marrakech Museum — housed in the 19th century Dar Mnebbi Palace — features a collection of sculptures and various other Moroccan artwork
- Museum of Moroccan Arts and Crafts, which features stunning woodwork, including traditional wedding palanquins used to carry brides
When the time comes, you'll be transferred to the Marrakech Menara airport for your flight home.