From Casablanca to Essaouira and all the imperial cities, Roman ruins, and Sahara excursions in between, this two-week adventure offers an excellent introduction to Morocco. You'll explore—and get lost!—in historic medinas, ride camels to a desert camp, hike in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, and visit with locals to learn their customs. In Marrakech, learn to cook like a Mar'rakshis, cool off in the impressive Todra Gorge, and try kiteboarding in hippie Essaouria.

Highlights

  • Climb up to Chefchaouen's Spanish Mosque for a sunset over the blue city
  • Explore dunes, oases, hidden valleys, and old kasbahs in the Sahara
  • Hike in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and dine with a Berber family
  • Learn to cook like a local with a group cooking lesson in famed La Maison Arabe 
  • Take a private kitesurfing lesson in laidback Essaouira

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Casablanca, Guided Tour of Hassan II Mosque Casablanca
Day 2 Chefchaouen via Rabat, Explore the "Blue City" Chefchaouen
Day 3 Fes via Volubilis & Meknes Fes
Day 4 Half-Day Guided Tour of Fes Fes
Day 5 Merzouga, Erg Chebbi & Camel Ride Merzouga
Day 6 Desert Safari Adventures around Merzouga Merzouga
Day 7 Boumalne Dades via Tinghir & Todra Gorge Boumalne Dades
Day 8 Hike and Lunch with a Local Family in Dades Valley Boumalne Dades
Day 9 Dades Valley, Ouarzazate, Aït Benhaddou & Marrakech Marrakech
Day 10 Private Guided Tour of Marrakech Marrakech
Day 11 Free Day in Marrakech Marrakech
Day 12 Essaouira, Goats on Trees & Argan Women Cooperative Essaouira
Day 13 Free Day in Essaouira Essaouira
Day 14 Return to Marrakech, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Casablanca, Guided Tour of Hassan II Mosque

Hassan II Mosque
Hassan II Mosque juts out into the Atlantic Ocean
Welcome to Morocco. Depending on your flight, if you arrive early and have time to spare, forgo Casablanca's medina (old town)—much younger than Fes and Marrakech's—and instead opt to visit the Hobous, the city's "New Medina." Established in the 1930s by the French, it offers charming streets and art deco architecture. Pop into some artisan shops to browse local crafts, including olives, textiles, and spices. As an idealized version of a traditional medina, you'll appreciate the clean streets, attractive Mauresque buildings and arcades, neat rows of shop stalls, and even a small park.

Later, follow the Boulevard de la Corniche, a scenic promenade along the Atlantic where you can pop into a café or restaurant. Visit El Hank Lighthouse and enjoy views of the Hassan II Mosque from afar before carrying on to the mosque for a guided tour. Casablanca's premier attraction, the mosque, is the largest in Morocco, with an impressive 689-foot (210-m) tall minaret. Its large complex includes a museum, hammam, Koranic school, library, and a prayer room supported by 78 granite and marble pillars. After your tour, Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart fans might like to pop into Rick's Café for a bite.

Day 2: Chefchaouen via Rabat, Explore the "Blue City"

Morocco, Chefchaouen - Sunset view of Chefchaouen from the Spanish Mosque
Sunset view of Chefchaouen from the Spanish Mosque
Today you'll transfer up the coast and inland to Chefchaouen, stopping in your first imperial city and present-day capital, Rabat. Start with a visit to the medieval fortification of Chellah Necropolis, enter through the Kasbah des Oudaias, and wander through the Roman and Islamic ruins for a taste of Rabat's original city center. Enjoy walking in the peaceful white and blue-washed streets of this residential area. Next, visit the 20th-century Andalusian Gardens for a respite from the crowds. Discover the Hassan Tower, a minaret of the incomplete mosque, and the Mausoleum of Mohamed V

Take in the scenery en route to Chefchaouin as you enter the Rif Mountains. After settling into your hotel, explore Morocco's famed "blue city." Wind through the city's medina and its maze of picturesque streets while appreciating the relaxed atmosphere. From Plaza Uta el-Hammam, peruse nearby souks (markets), grab a bite to eat, and visit the Grand Mosque and Kasbah. Next, explore the Quartier Al Andalous with its houses painted white, green, or blue. End the day at Ras el Ma Spring and if you have the time, continue up the path for another 30 minutes to enjoy the sunset from the Spanish Mosque.

Day 3: Fes via Volubilis & Meknes

Morocco, Meknes - Bab Mansour at the El Hedim Square in Meknes
Bab Al Mansour of Place el-Hedim in Meknes

Leaving Chefchaouen, your driver will take you to UNESCO-protected Volubilis about 3.5 hours south. Wander the complex of the country's best-preserved Roman ruins, including many colorful mosaics. Next, you're off to Meknes, another imperial city. Stroll through the compact medina, less busy than other cities, offering a more laid-back atmosphere. Other than the scattered souks, you can visit the Marinid-era architecture at the 14th-century Madrasa Bou Inania and the impressive 19th-century palace of Dar Jamaï. In the Ville Impériale area, explore gardens, palaces, the gate of Bab al-Mansour, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, and the Royal Stables.

Your final stop is Fes. Before settling into your traditional riad accommodation, drive up to the Marinid Tombs, where you can enjoy a lovely panorama of the old city. On the hillside below, you may see leather drying in the sun. Then make your way into the bustling medina and enjoy navigating Fes' charming streets. Relax at your riad for dinner.

Day 4: Half-Day Guided Tour of Fes

Morocco, Fes
Wander the colorful souks of Fes
Discover Fes' vibrant and fortified medina with the help of a local. Your guide will meet you in the morning and lead you through the twisting maze of cobbled streets. Pass through Bab Boujloud (Blue Gate), a Moorish gate acting as the old town's main entrance, and wander the bustling souks. You'll find unique, hand-crafted goods in alleys, streets, and open-air squares. See the famous Chouara Tannery, with its extensive assortment of colorful leather dyes and traditional techniques from centuries ago. Next, head to the 9th-century Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and University, the world's oldest continuously operating university.
 
You'll also stop at either Bou Inania Madrasa or Al Attarine Madrasa, two 14th-century schools. Then wander to some of the other sites of Fes, such as the Mellah (Jewish District and cemetery) and the Royal Palace, Dar el Makhzen. Or check out a museum, like the Borj Nord, with its collection of weapons and armor from several eras and incredible roof-top views. When hungry, your guide will lead you to one of the best eateries to taste dishes such as couscous, shakshuka, makouda (spiced battered potato cakes), and slow-roasted mechoui lamb. Now that you got your bearing and filled your belly, you can continue exploring the medina independently. 

Day 5: Merzouga, Erg Chebbi & Camel Ride

Morocco, Erg Chebbi - Ride on a camel over dune to your Bedouin-style camp
Ride on a camel over dunes to your Bedouin-style camp

Start early today as you make the 8-hour journey to your Bedouin-style tent in Merzouga, stopping at cultural highlights to see the desert communities of the Sahara. You'll start by driving through the town of Azrou and climbing an elevation of 7,146 feet (2,178 m) over the Col du Zad Pass. Enjoy the scenery as you twist through the cedar forests of the Atlas Mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for the local Barbary macaque monkeys! Your first stop will be for lunch in Midelt, known as the "Apple City," thanks to the nearby Moulouya River and its surrounding fruit orchards.

Continue over the Tizi n'Talrhemt Pass and into the Ziz Valley, famous for its hidden oases and palm tree clusters. Along the road, you'll see many fortified houses known as ksars. Merchants built these homes to protect precious products and items such as gold, salt, and spices. Chat with nomadic shepherds, stroll through settlements, and, if time allows, enjoy a cup of tea with a local Berber family. Continue to Erfoud, a bustling market town known for its annual Date Festival, fossil mining, and artisan factories. While en route, enjoy views of the hillside mines before visiting a local artisan collective to learn about the area's fossils.

As you make your way to Merzouga, you'll soon see the sand waves of Erg Chebbi in the distance. Upon arrival near Merzouga, enjoy a short break as you prepare for a camel ride through the dunes, reaching your luxury camp just before sunset. After settling into your tent, climb up the nearest dune to watch the setting sun. Head back to camp for dinner and a night by the campfire, enjoying traditional Berber music from the locals. Before climbing into bed, savor the stars strewn across the unhindered night sky. If modern comfort is more your style, you can always choose a comfortable hotel or auberge in Merzouga.

Day 6: Desert Safari around Merzouga

Erg Chebbi and morning sun
Reach new elevations on an ATV and admire the endless desert

Enjoy a drive through the dunes of Erg Chebbi by Jeep, meet with nearby nomads, enjoy a cup of tea with a local family, and visit the Gnawa house in Khemliya, an authentic Sahara village, to discover the spiritual healing music. In the afternoon, you can rent a sandboard and test your skills on the dunes. Alternatively, join a quad ATV tour. With the help of a local guide, you'll zip through the sandy peaks and visit stunning viewpoints and interesting spots. Small 4x4 vehicles are an excellent way to discover Merzouga's unique environment.

Afterward, return to camp and climb up the nearest dune to take in another desert sunset before heading back to camp for dinner and a night by the campfire.

Day 7: Boumalne Dades via Tinghir & Todra Gorge

Morocco, Dades Valley - Ochre hues color the Dades Valley
Ochre hues color the Dades Valley
Enjoy the desert plains, high mountains, and endless plateaus as you make your way to Boumalne Dades this morning. Stopping at several spots along the way, you'll first visit Rissani, entering through its impressive gate. Known for its livestock auction, spend some time observing the donkey "parking lot" and walking around the town's popular market. Maison Tuareg is a storehouse filled with traditional arts and crafts, including carpets, jewelry, leather goods, etc. Continue to Tinghir for views of neighboring villages along an extensive river oasis that features 30 miles (48 km) of palm trees. 

Your next stop is the Todra Gorge at 984 feet (300 m) high, featuring stunning red-stained limestone. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the gorge or relax in the cool shallow water. As you pass through the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs, you'll notice many kasbahs (defense fortresses) in disrepair—they were constructed with "rammed earth," a building technique using raw materials. Enjoy the small towns along the way where you can catch glimpses of traditional farming methods in use. You'll then enter the Dades Valley, where cultivated farmland plots border rose bushes used to make rose water and oil. 

Your final stop is your accommodation in Boumalne Dades. The town sits on a lush stretch along the Dades River, making for contrasting scenery!

Day 8: Hike and Lunch with a Local Family in Dades Valley

Dades Valley, Morocco
Hike in Dades Valley in the Atlas Mountains

Today, you'll immerse yourself in the region's unique culture. You'll enjoy a leisurely walking tour while interacting with local Berber families, who have a wealth of knowledge about the regional culture and traditions. The foothills of the mountains offer a green oasis of vegetation, perfect for quaint towns to thrive. Your guide will lead you through the area, stopping in a few villages to meet locals. Admire the unique architecture, listen to stories about regional history, partake in fun activities, observe traditional farming techniques, enjoy live entertainment, and more.

At lunchtime, you'll join a local family in their home. While enjoying Berber and Moroccan cuisine, learn more about the history of this culture. End your meal with an authentic tea ceremony, then drive back to your accommodation in Boumalne Dades.

Day 9: Dades Valley, Ouarzazate, Aït Benhaddou & Marrakech

winding desert road in Morocco
The road down from Tizi-n-Tichka Pass

This morning you'll head out to Kelâat M'Gouna. Here the intensely cultivated plots of farmland are bordered by rose bushes, which are used in the cosmetic industry to make rose water and rose oil. In May, a Rose Festival celebrates the year's production. From here, you'll stop in. The town was made famous by the growing movie industry, and you have an option to tour one of the two movie studios if you like. Next, you'll explore Aït Benhaddou, the most famous kasbah in Morocco and a UNESCO world heritage site. It has been featured in many movies, portraying landscapes all over the desert, Africa, and the middle east.

As you head up and over the High Atlas, look out for the highest peak, Mount Toubkal, which stands at 13,671 feet (4,167 m). Near the top of the Tizi n'Tichka Pass, you can enjoy incredible panoramic views over the mountain range and the road that snakes down the mountainside. The first town after the pass is Taddert, where you can stop at an oil cooperative to learn how olives are processed for various uses. Taste a few products, then head back on the road. After all the tranquillity of the mountains and the desert, soon, you'll be in the midst of the hustle, bustle, and clamor of vibrant Marrakech.

Day 10: Private Guided Tour of Marrakech

Marrakech main plaza
Explore buzzing Jemaa el-Fna 

Marrakesh is Morocco's second-largest metropolis, known as the "Red City," thanks to the natural red pigment of its walls. Start with the Bahia Palace, where you'll explore its beautiful courtyard and gardens and the building's interior with intricate woodwork and ornamented ceilings. Next, your guide will take you to the Koutoubia Mosque and Gardens, the city's largest mosque. Although non-Muslims can't enter, you can still admire the grounds and exterior, including its distinctive minaret. Pass through one of the medina's historical gates and meander its twisting alleyways to the souks and hidden fondouks.

From Jemaa el-Fna, the city's landmark plaza, you'll stroll to a few of the best souks, with your guide leading the way. You'll find the famed spice towers at Souk el Attarin and traditional Moroccan slippers at Souk Smata. But don't miss Souk des Teinturiers, where you can watch locals dyeing and hanging cloth and yarn. If there's interest, you can discover the beauty of the Majorelle Gardens, a botanical garden offering a reprieve from the unrelenting heat. You'll find its famous bright blue and yellow house within the gardens. Now housing the Berber Museum and Yves Saint Laurent Museum, this building was once the home of the French Orientalist artist Jacques Marojelle.

Follow your nose to the smells that waft from food stalls back in Jemaa el-Fna in the evening. Watch locals prepare authentic delicacies and taste the flavors of Marrakech as the sun goes down and the street performers come out to entertain. If you prefer a quieter eating experience, choose from one of the many cafés sitting above the square and watch the action below.

Day 11: Free day in Marrakech

Morocco, Marrakech - Yves Saint Laurent House in Marjorelle Gardens.jpg
Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech's Marjorelle Gardens

You'll have today to explore Marrakech at your leisure, though you may consider one or two of the following activities. Enroll yourself in a private group cooking class (3 hours). Bonus, you can eat your efforts for lunch. Explore traditional Moroccan cuisine at La Maison Arabe, a culinary venue in Marrakech with a long history dating back to 1946 and renowned for its cooking workshops. You'll learn step-by-step the secrets of authentic Moroccan cuisine from dadas (traditional Moroccan cooks), using modern, everyday kitchen equipment. You'll enjoy a lunch of original recipes passed down from generation to generation when finished.

Alternatively, join a private food tour of the medina. This tour guides you on a culinary journey to some of Marrakech's beloved local hot spots. You'll taste 10 traditional delicacies, ranging from Morocco's unique sweets to an authentic and savory tagine. Along the way, learn about the country's essential ingredients, cooking techniques, and culinary culture. Lastly, there's the option to enjoy a spa experience at a hammam. Based on historical Roman bath practices, you'll soak in baths, visit steam rooms of varying temperatures, receive a massage using argan and essential oils, and sip on mint tea. 

Day 12: Essaouira, Goats on Trees & Argan Women Cooperative

Morocco, Essaouira - Essaouira's 18th-century Skala de la Kasbah
Essaouira's 18th-century Skala de la Kasbah

This morning you'll head to Morocco's west coast, following a route over vast rolling plains and passing through an argan tree forest endemic to this part of the world. You may even see goats dining on the argan fruit up in the branches. You'll have the choice of stopping in at a female-run cooperative for a guided tour of the circuit of production of argan oil.

Arrive in the port city of laid-back Essaouira, a nice contrast to frenetic Marrakesh, and spend the rest of the day as you choose. Walk the Skala de la Kasbah (the 18th-century seafront ramparts) along the coast. Designed by European engineers, old brass cannons line the walls and offer viewing access over the Atlantic. Explore the UNESCO-listed medina before making your way to the windswept beach. Walk back to Essaouira and enjoy a meal of fresh-caught seafood.

Day 13: Self-guided exploration of Essaouira

Morocco, Essaouira - Take a private kitesurfing lesson and do as the locals do
Take a private kitesurfing lesson and do as the locals do

Explore Essaouira today. A small city on the Atlantic coast known for its historical medina and well-designed layout, you'll twist through the medina's wide and bright streets, enjoying the souks, street vendors, leafy plazas, and whitewashed houses with ornate wooden doors. Essaouira was built on a rocky peninsula jutting out into the ocean with several islets scattered along its coast. Its layout is unusual because it was planned before development. The French architect Cornut, who, between 1760 and 1764, built the Scala de la Ville and the Scala du Port, endowed the town with fortifications and outer and inner walls.

As you stroll, stop into various traditional shops for the perfect souvenirs. In particular, stop at the Spice Souk, the place to go for herbal medicine, Berber lipstick, exotic spices, and ghassoul (clay used in face masks). Chat with local artisans as you peruse ceramics, spices, art, leather goods, shoes, jewelry, rugs, wood crafts, etc. Visit the city's central square, Mulay El-Hassan Square, lined with restaurants and hotels, the 16th-century Portuguese Castelo Real of Mogador, and two defensive structures, the Borj El Barmil tower and the Skala de la Kasbah. Next, explore the city's Jewish history, stopping at Rabbi Haim Pinto

And it wouldn't be a visit to Essaouira without a stroll on the long and sandy Essaouira Beach, catching glimpses of surfers in the wind. If you're up for it, you might like to take a kiteboarding lesson or ride horseback along the beach.

Day 14: Return to Marrakech, Depart

Essaouira
Essaouira's Skala de la Kasbah

On your last morning in Essaouira, take time to buy any last-minute souvenirs before your private transfer to Marrakesh Menara Airport (RAK). The ride is about three hours, and you'll once again pass through the Argan tree forest, endemic to Morocco, and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve home to those tree-climbing goats!

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Map

Map of Morocco's Cities, Coast, Mountains & the Desert - 14 Days
Map of Morocco's Cities, Coast, Mountains & the Desert - 14 Days