- Enjoy modern Rabat, the capital of Morocco
- Wander the quiet, blue-washed streets of Chefchaouen
- Discover souks, tanneries and artisan workshops in medieval Fes
- Explore Jemaa el-Fna Square - the busiest square in Africa
- Relax in coastal Essaouira enjoying seafood and a sunset over the ramparts
|Day 1||Arrive to Rabat||Rabat|
|Day 2||The Blue City of Chefchaouen||Chefchaouen|
|Day 3||Roman ruins at Volubilis and imperial cities of Meknes and Fes||Fes|
|Days 4-5||Fes: Exploring the Imperial City and medieval Medina||Fes|
|Day 7||Marrakech: Exploring the Red City||Marrakech|
|Day 8||Marrakech to Essaouira||Essaouira|
|Day 9||Return to Rabat; Depart|
Day 1: Arrival and exploring Rabat
Arrive in the imperial city and present-day capital of Rabat, a bustling city with several sights and a rich history.
Explore the medieval fortification of the Chellah Necropolis in the heart of Rabat and wander the Roman and Islamic ruins. Step back in time to Rabat's original city center and enter through the grand door of the Kasbah des Oudaias. Mostly a residential area today, quietly wander the peaceful white and blue-hued streets. 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 soon after construction began.
Day 2: The Blue City of Chefchaouen
Head north to the striking blue city of Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains. Just before you reach the Blue City, stop to hike (2-3 hours) through lush vegetation and small pools to enjoy the Cascades d'Akchour (Waterfalls of Akchour)—a hidden gem. Arrive 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) which 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 leading to the never used, white Spanish Mosque (20 to 30 minutes) to enjoy one last view over Chefchaouen as the sun sets behind the mountains.
Day 3: Roman ruins at Volubilis and imperial cities of Meknes and Fes
Meet your driver and head south toward Fes. Along the way, stop and stretch your legs to visit the Roman ruins of Volubilis. A UNESCO protected site, founded in the 3rd century BCE, it remains incredibly well-preserved. Next, stop and explore Meknes. 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. Be sure to check out the grand Bab al-Mansour gate, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, and the massive underground Royal Stables.
Carry on eastward to Fes. With your driver, take the time to make your way up a hill to the ruins of the Merenid Tombs for an all-encompassing view of the medieval city. The best time to visit the tombs is around dusk. The muezzin's calls to worship can be heard through the valley as the city lights begin to glow on, adding to the atmosphere. Return to your traditional riad for a warm meal and settle in for the evening.
Day 4: Fes: Exploring the Imperial City and medieval Medina
Fes is the oldest of the four Imperial Cities in Morocco and perhaps the most interesting and exciting to explore. It has the most complete medina in the Arab world and is relatively untouched since it was founded over 1000 years ago. Often considered the country's cultural capital, it is made up of three parts, two medina quarters, Fes el Bali and Fes el Jdid, and the more modern, French colonial influenced, Ville Nouvelle. Meet your guide and spend a half day learning about the history and culture as you navigate the narrow streets of the medinas.
Start in Fes el Bali at the Bab Boujeloud gate and enter the main thoroughfare of Talâa Kebira. Notice the Spanish and Tunisian influenced architecture as you make your way past shops and souks (markets). One of the most unique sights in the old Medina is the tanneries and Chouara Tannery is no exception. Next, climb to the rooftop of a nearby leather shop for a better view of the 11th-century stone pots filled with dye and men at work still using centuries-old techniques. From there find your way to the 14th-century Al Attarine Madrasa and admire the intricate zellij tilework.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Fes: Museums, Ceramics and Tile Collective, and gardens
Today, visit the Batha Museum. Housed in a 19th-century palace, the Museum is home to a collection of traditional Moroccan arts and crafts, including carved wood, zellij, and local pottery (its highlight). Spend time in the Andalusian-style gardens before walking to the mellah (old Jewish quarter and cemetery). Take advantage of its location for a stunning panoramic photo of the city. Continue south to Ville Nouvelle and discover the dramatic change in architecture.
Tour a Ceramics and Tile Collective to learn how local artisans make wares, from shaping the clay to painting the designs. As well as watch the tile masters at work: fitting together small pieces of tile to form intricate mosaics. Return toward Fes el Bali, stopping along the way in Jnan Sbil (Bou Jeloud Gardens)—a halfway point between the mellah and Bab Boujeloud. Spend some time relaxing in the gardens' grandeur and cool off in the central fountains or beside the lake.
Day 6: Fes to Marrakech, evening at Jemaa el-Fna
Today you will make the journey west to the coast and then south to Marrakech. In order to break up the drive, you will have the option to stop in Meknes, Rabat, or Casablanca, or take the route through the Middle Atlas range.
You may want to spend the rest of the afternoon at a slower pace. Take an evening stroll and walk the short distance from Marrakech's main square, Jemaa el-Fna to admire the floodlit Koutoubia Mosque. As Jemaa el-Fna is best experienced in the evening, return to the Square to roam its stalls and vendors, taking in the spectacle: musicians, performers, snake charmers, and games. Grab a bite at one of the many food stalls or if you want to enjoy the goings-on from a distance, choose one of the cafés surrounding Jemaa el-Fna and enjoy a cup of mint tea and a meal before retiring to your accommodation.
Day 7: Marrakech: Exploring the Red City
Nicknamed the "Red City" for its 1000-year old red sandstone city walls and buildings, Marrakech is a major economic center. Begin your day revisiting the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque and take a respite from the heat in its gardens amid fountains and palms. Indulge your senses and explore the spice market, Souk el-Attarin, or Souk Smata for your choice of slippers, rugs, and leather goods. Next, visit the Islamic school, Ben Youssef Madrasa, for a taste of 16th-century architecture and marvel at the exquisite details: arabesques, Islamic calligraphy, and colorful geometric tilework.
As you walk Marrakech's alleys, notice the fondouks or caravanserai—medieval inns along ancient trade routes that provided travelers and traders with shelter and supplies. Depending on timing and your energy level, you may wish to visit a few sites south of Jemaa el-Fna. Some options to consider are the 500-year old Saadian Tombs, the extensive courtyard and sunken gardens of the 17th-century El Badi Palace, or the intricate woodwork and painted ceilings of the 19th-century Bahia Palace. Return to Jemma el-Fna for a bite to eat before retiring to your accommodation for the evening.
Day 8: Marrakech to Essaouira
After breakfast, make your way west to the Atlantic coast and to the charming 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. Along the way, there is an option to stop at an Argan Oil Cooperative to see how the precious and expensive oil is extracted from the nut.
Arrive in the port city of laid-back 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 9: Return along the coast to Rabat
Known as the "Windy City" for its strong Alizée trade winds that hit its crescent beach, Essaouira is a popular kiteboarding destination. Take the morning to watch the windsurfers and kiteboarders or for the more adventurous, take a lesson, before saying goodbye and returning to Rabat for your flight home.
Along the way, stop in Casablanca to explore more of the Old Medina, bargaining with local vendors in the bazaar and pick up any last-minute souvenirs and gifts. You may also wish to stroll along the Boulevard de la Corniche to Rick's Café, a bar, restaurant, and café influenced by the movie classic, Casablanca, and grab a bite to eat.
End back in Rabat for your final night or catch an evening flight home.