- Wander old medinas and souks in Marrakech and Fes
- Explore sand dunes, oases, hidden valleys and old kasbahs in the desert
- Hike through the foothills of the High Atlas mountains
- Enjoy a meal and overnight with a local Berber family
- Climb ramparts and enjoy fresh seafood in coastal Essaouira
|Day 1||Arrival into Casablanca||Casablanca|
|Day 2||To Rabat & Chefchaouen||Chefchaouen|
|Day 3||Chefchaouen, Roman Ruins of Volubilis, Fes||Fes|
|Day 4||Fes: Exploring the Imperial City & Medieval Medina||Fes|
|Day 5||Erfoud, Merzouga & Sahara||Merzouga|
|Day 6||Merzouga, Rissani Market, Todra Gorge||Todra Gorge|
|Day 7||Todra Gorge, Dades Valley, Ouarzazate, Ait Benhaddou||Aït Benhaddou|
|Day 8||Ait Benhaddou, Tizi-n-Tichka Pass, Marrakech||Marrakech|
|Day 9||Marrakech: Exploring the Red City||Marrakech|
|Day 10||The High Atlas around Amizmiz, Overnight in Berber Home||Amizmiz|
|Day 11||Amizmiz back to Marrakech||Marrakech|
|Day 12||Marrakech to Essaouira||Essaouira|
|Day 13||Essaouira to Casablanca via the coast||Casablanca|
|Day 14||Departure from Casablanca|
Day 1: Arrival into Casablanca
Welcome to Morocco! Casablanca is a modern, commercial capital of Morocco, with relatively few sights for tourists compared to the imperial cities of Fes and Marrakech. A day is all you need for a quick tour of the highlights 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, it’s 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 25,000 inside While the exterior and surrounding area are impressive, what makes this mosque even more unique is that it is of the few mosques in the country that non-Muslims can enter.
Other sights include the Hobous, Casablanca’s “New Medina”. Built in the 1930's by the French. Here you can get a bit of a taste of some art deco architecture. It is a pleasant place to seek out crafts, including an olive, vegetable and spice market. Or take a leisurely stroll along the Boulevard de la Corniche and the Beach Promenade area—often called Morocco’s “Miami."
Enjoy a mellow evening and dinner at your hotel.
Day 2: Rabat & Chefchaouen
Start your day by heading to Rabat, Morocco's capital city. Explore the medieval fortification of the Chellah Necropolis in the heart of the city and wander its Roman and Islamic ruins. Enter the enormous Bab Oudaia gate into the Kasbah des Oudaias, a 12th-century fortification built during the Almohad reign. Next, visit the 20th-century Andalusian Gardens to relax in the quiet space and the Hassan Tower, a minaret of the incomplete mosque and Mausoleum of Mohamed V.
In the afternoon, enjoy the scenic drive to Chefchaouen as the flat plains and rolling hills transform into the mountainous landscape of the Rif range. Mostly untouched since the 15th century, Chefchaouen offers a relaxed atmosphere with some of the friendliest people in the country. Discover Plaza Outa el-Hammam, the main square, before enjoying a bite to eat at one of the nearby restaurants or cafés.
You can also trek up the hill to the city walls and follow the path to Hotel Atlas. Access the rooftop and admire the expansive view over the Blue City. Towards the end of the day, walk east of the city to ascend a path to the white Spanish Mosque. Its location offers a great spot to watch the sunset behind the mountains.
Day 3: Chefchaouen, Roman Ruins of Volubilis, Fes
Rise early, and you may be treated with an hour of quiet to wander the blue-painted streets. Move along to the Roman Ruins at Volubilis, a UNESCO world heritage site that contains Morocco’s best preserved Roman ruins and makes for a nice detour from the hustle and bustle of Meknes. Today you can wander the massive complex, exploring large merchant homes with visible heating systems underneath, temples, and many colorful mosaics in situ.
If you'd like, make an optional stop in Meknes. This prosperous city is a nice preparation for your time in Fes: the medina is smaller, less busy, and shopkeepers are not quite as pushy. While the city is quite large, the two main areas of interest are the Ville Impériale (Imperial City) and the medina.
End your day in Fes. Before venturing into its UNESCO-protected medina, climb the small hill to the Merenid Tombs to enjoy an encompassing view of the city as well as to orient yourself. It's best to visit the tombs during dusk as the city lights start to come on and the muezzin's calls to worship sound through the valley. Return to the medina and to your accommodation, a traditional riad.
Day 4: Fes
The oldest of the imperial cities in Morocco (Meknes, Rabat, and Marrakech are the others), Fes is home to the most complete medina (old quarter) in the Arab world. Much of the city has remained untouched over the centuries, resulting in a more authentic medieval experience. Divided into three main areas of interest, you will explore two medina quarters, the older Fes el Bali and the newer Fes el Jdid, and the French-influenced Ville Nouvelle. Meet your guide and begin your tour in Fes el Bali at the Bab Boujeloud gate, working your way in along the main thoroughfare, Talâa Kebira.
Navigate the narrow, windy streets to find the Chouara Tannery. Climb to the rooftop of a nearby leather shop for an encompassing view of the men at work—a practice that is little changed in hundreds of years. Find the 9th-century Al-Qarawiyyin University, one of the oldest universities in the world. Head to the Al Attarine Madrasa to see examples of Moroccan artisanship throughout. Make your way to Fes el Jdid to check out the Mellah (Jewish quarter and cemetery) and take advantage of its location for an overview of the city.
Day 5: Erfoud, Merzouga & the Sahara
Customize your trip with help from a local travel specialist.
Get an early start today—you'll be covering a lot of ground as you head over the Middle Atlas, through a cedar forest, and into the desert region. There are several towns to stop along the way before arriving at the dunes of the Sahara near Merzouga.
After the town of Azrou, climb up and over the Col du Zad pass and through the cedar forests of the Middle Atlas mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for families of Barbary macaque monkeys in the trees and by the side of the road. Enjoy a short lunch stop in Midelt, known as the "Apple City;" the nearby River Moulouya allows for orchards to grow in the desert. Continue over the Tizi-n-Talremt pass and into the Ziz Valley. Along the road, you'll see fortified houses known as ksars built by merchants to protect precious wares like gold, salt, and spices.
Erfoud is a bustling market town, known for its date festival and its fossil mining and artisan factories (you may have already seen some fossils in the markets). While in town, stop at a local artisan collective where you can to learn about the types of fossils found in the area and to see the full process of how the fossil-rich rock is transformed into beautiful objects, large and small.
Soon you will see Erg Chebbi in the distance, an extensive sand dune sea. The dunes, some more than 200 m tall, change color depending on time of day, becoming most vibrant at sunset. Stop near Merzouga for a camel ride through the dunes, arriving at camp just before sunset. Climb up the nearest sand dune to watch the colorful display, then head back to camp for dinner, enjoying traditional Berber music.
Day 6: Desert Adventures Around Merzouga, Rissani Market, Todra Gorge
Spend the morning exploring more of the Sahara: rent a sand board and test your skills on the dunes, take the Erg Shibi tour, join a quad ATV tour, or simply relax for a bit by a pool. If you're an early riser, you'll be rewarded with a sunrise to remember. Or take a tour of nearby Khamleya, a traditional Saharan village where you can enjoy drumming and dancing before checking out the farmed plots in the sand.
As you leave the Merzouga region, stop in Rissani, another market town with a most impressive gate at the entrance into town. It is a good place to take a walk around a traditional market, especially on market days when many animals are bought and sold. Be sure to stop by the "donkey parking lot" while you're here.
Make a stop in Tinerhir to admire the river oasis that extends on either side of the town. The surrounding desert landscape reveals impressive buttes, mesas, and plateaus. Nearby, you will have the opportunity to explore the Todra Gorge, a 984 feet (300 m) deep ravine, cut by the Todra River.
Day 7: Dades Valley, Ouarzazate, Aït Benhaddou
Rise early to witness a Saharan sunrise, before exploring more of the desert: rent a sandboard, join the Erg Shibi tour (around the sand dunes) or a quad ATV tour. Head south to Khemliya to explore this traditional Saharan village. You will have a second chance to stop in Rissani to visit Maison Tuareg, a storehouse selling traditional carpets, jewelry, and leather goods. From there, pass through umbrella-shaped trees of the acacia forests before reaching Alnif for lunch. Continue on through the Draa Valley, dense with date palmeries and the opportunity to pick up a box of dates for the drive.
Continue west to medieval Aït Benhaddou. A protected UNESCO site, Aït Benhaddou is the most famous kasbah in Morocco and once upon a time, held an important position along the trans-Saharan trade route between Marrakech, Ouarzazate, and the southern desert. Spend the night in the old town and wander the empty alleys after the day-crowds have left. Pay a nominal fee to enter a few of the kasbahs and climb up to the rooftop for pretty views of the surrounding ksours (individual kasbahs) and Ouarzazate Valley.
Day 8: Aït Benhaddou, Tizi-n-Tichka Pass over the High Atlas, Marrakech
This morning you'll head up and over the High Atlas, looking out for the highest peak, Mount Toubkal. Near the top, you can enjoy great panoramic views over the mountain range, as well as the road ahead snaking down the mountainside.
The first town after the pass is Taddert, where you can stop at an Argan Oil Cooperative to learn how olives are processed for a variety of uses. Descending the north facing slopes of the High Atlas, you will notice a dramatic change in climate and landscape, with river valleys carved into the hillsides. After all the tranquillity of the mountains and the desert, soon you will be in the midst of vibrant Marrakech.
In the early evening, Jemaa el Fna Square comes alive, with musicians, performers, snake charmers, games, footstalls and more. If you want to enjoy from a distance, there are many cafes surrounding the square where you can sit and enjoy the show with your meal.
Day 9: Marrakech
Nicknamed the "Red City" for its 1000-year old red sandstone city walls and buildings, Marrakech is a major economic center. Unlike Fes, Marrakech has Berber rather than Arab roots and was once an important trading capital for tribes of the Atlas Mountains.
Orient yourself around Marrakech's bustling Jemaa el-Fna Square: the souks (markets) are to the north, the Koutoubia Mosque and Gardens to the west and the kasbah (fort or fortification) area with the Saadian Tombs, Bahia Palace, and El Badi Palace are to the south. In the Ville Nouvelle, you will find the Majorelle Gardens.
For a unique way to tour the medina (old quarter), board a calèche (French for horse-drawn carriage) and begin to adjust to your surroundings. Notice the fondouks—medieval inns that provided merchants and travelers with shelter and supplies. Today some have been converted into residences or large shopping areas and workshops that you can explore. Find your way to the Koutoubia Mosque and take a respite from the heat in its gardens amid fountains and palms. Though the mosque cannot be entered by non-muslims, it's worth checking out its 12th-century foundations and minaret.
As the evening progresses, Jemaa el-Fna comes alive with musicians and storytellers, acrobats and dancers, and even snake charmers. Wander the many rows of food stalls serving anything from full meals to fruit drinks, dried dates, and small snacks. Grab a bite, or for a more relaxed experience, look for one of the many cafés that sit above the square to enjoy a meal while you watch the show below.
Day 10: High Atlas around Amizmiz, Overnight in Berber Home
One hour south of Marrakech lies the small town of Amizmiz and the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. Explore a small market in the old town before joining a mountain guide to hike the trails and mule paths in the surrounding hills.
In this area, you're unlikely to see any other tourists as you trek between Berber villages that hug the mountainside. Local farmers, shepherds, mules, and goats share the landscape. With your mountain guide, you can hike as far, long, or difficult as you like. The ambitious will be rewarded, as there are great views the further up you climb.
Enjoy lunch with a local family and learn how they bake their bread in small, traditional ovens. Continue the hike for as long as you like in the afternoon before arriving at your homestay for the night. Relax and enjoy the nature, dinner, and an evening with a welcoming family.
Day 11: Amizmiz back to Marrakech
Enjoy breakfast and say goodbye to the family before setting out on the trail. Depending on your preferences, you can go out for another day of hiking, or head back to Marrakech in the morning for more time in the city. Either way, you'll be spending tonight in Marrakech.
Day 12: Essaouira
After breakfast, make your way west to the Atlantic coast and to the laid-back beach town of Essaouira. The route along the way takes you over extensive, rolling plains and through endemic argan forests. If you're lucky, you may see goats in the trees grazing on the argan fruit, a sight seen when grass pasture is limited or unavailable.
Arrive in the port city of charming Essaouira, a nice contrast to frenetic Marrakech, 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 canons line the walls and offer viewing access over the Atlantic. Explore the UNESCO-protected medina before making your way to the windswept beach. Jimi Hendrix fans may want to take a short taxi ride to Diabat at the end of Essaouira's beach where he reportedly spent some time. Walk back to Essaouira and enjoy a meal of freshly caught seafood.
Day 13: Essaouira to Casablanca
Head to Casablanca via the coastal route, stopping in seaside towns along the way. Overnight in Casablanca.
Day 14: Departure from Casablanca
Depending on your flight time, you may want to explore a bit more of Casablanca before heading to the airport—you can follow in the footsteps of Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart at Rick's Cafe, which recreates the famous scene in the legendary film.