- Ride a camel and an ATV through the Erg Chebbi sand dunes
- Learn how Argan oil is made and sample products in Taddert
- Visit the movie sets of Hollywood productions in Ouarzazate
- Explore the coastal town and Jewish heritage of Essaouria
|Day 1||Arrive in Tangier - Chefchaouen||Chefchaouen|
|Days 2-3||Tour Fes||Fes|
|Days 4-5||Tour Merzouga||Merzouga|
|Day 6||Tour Ouarzazate||Ouarzazate|
|Days 7-8||Tour Marrakech||Marrakech|
|Day 9||Tour Essaouira||Essaouira|
|Days 10-12||Tour Casablanca and Departure||Casablanca|
Day 1: Arrive in Tangier and travel to Chefchaouen
You’ll arrive at the airport in Tangier, and drive toward Chefchaouen, or as the locals call it, "Chaouen." On your way, you will pass through Tetouan, which is a town located at the foot of the Rif Mountains, and just a few miles from the sea. The ancient medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, looks like it has not changed in several centuries. Depending on your arrival, you can plan to have lunch in Tangier or Tetouan.
Chefchaouen is a quite a site; walls, doors, windows, stairways, alleyways, and archways are all painted in a combination of soft, pastel sky-blue and deeper, more powerful hues. After checking in to your riad, you are free to explore the town at your own pace or simply relax. Outa el Hammam is the main square, and a great place to people watch. Walk up the alleys, away from the more tourist-orientated areas, and you will find the locals going about their day.
Dinner will be on your own with your driver's recommendations.
Days 2-3: Tour Fes
Today, you’ll depart from Chefchaouen and head south toward Fes. On the way, you’ll stop in Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains Morocco’s best-preserved Roman ruins, and makes for a nice break from driving. You can wander the massive complex with a guide, exploring large merchant homes with visible heating systems underneath, temples, and many colorful mosaics still in good condition.
Next, move on to Moulay Idriss, which, from a distance, looks like a sitting camel. The oldest town in Morocco, it was founded by Moulay Idriss I in 789, who fled Mecca because of religious and tribal conflicts. It was here that the Idrisid dynasty was founded. Note that the town has the only round minaret in Morocco. Lunch is on your own here, with recommendations from your driver.
Your last stop before Fes is the prosperous city of Meknes. It has a smaller medina than Fes, which allows you time to explore at a more leisurely pace. Your driver will lead you through the Ville Impériale area, where you can explore gardens, palaces, the impressive gate of Bab al-Mansour, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, and the Royal Stables.
Day two ends in Fes, one of Morocco's four imperial cities, where you can relax and enjoy the night at your leisure. Dinner is on your own, so be sure to ask your driver for some recommendations.
On your second day in Fes, your tour guide will meet you at the riad to start your long day of walking to explore the Medina. This UNESCO-protected medina is full of arms-width alleyways and donkey-width roads. Your Fes born-and-bred guide will share hidden stories and show you secluded corners of the medina, and you will see daily life unfold, along with the impactful Fes madrasas and palaces. Your guide will help you learn about Fes as only a true local can.
During the tour, you will not only visit the historical schools and palaces but also engage with artisans to learn about their work and stories in becoming masters. A special focus will be on tanneries and mosaic workshops, and the traditional methods still used today in Fes. These are the top artisans of the country, who have been utilizing ancient methods to create beautiful work in Fes, a hub of Moroccan crafts and arts. Lunch is on your own with your guide’s recommendations.
Later in the afternoon, return to your riad, where you’ll have time on your own. A trip to the local hammam (traditional public bath) is highly recommended after this long day. If you are interested, ask your guide any questions about it. Dinner will be on your own via your guide’s recommendation.
Days 4-5: Tour Merzouga
Get an early start today. You'll be covering a lot of ground as you head over the Middle Atlas Mountains, through a cedar forest, and into the desert region. There are several towns to stop in along the way, before arriving at the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert near Merzouga.
On your way into the Middle Atlas Mountains, you’ll pass through the town of Azrou, climb up and over the Col du Zad pass, and through cedar forests. Here, you can see families of Barbary macaque monkeys lounging in the trees by the side of the road. You will enjoy lunch via a short stop in Midelt, the "Apple City.” Make sure to notice the nearby River Moulouya, which allows for the orchard fruits to grow in the desert. Continuing on, you’ll traverse the Tizi-n-Talremt pass and into the Ziz Valley, known for its hidden oases and clusters of palm trees.
Along the road, you will see many fortified houses known as “ksars.” Merchants originally built them to protect precious products and items, such as gold, salt, and spices. Just before Erfoud, you’ll begin to see early signs of the Saharan dunes. They are never still and travel depending upon the wind’s speed and direction. You can also see an ancient method of water “mining” here, an indigenous way to transfer water to farmland before modern pumps. Along the way, you'll notice nomadic shepherds and some tents in this area. Sometimes, it is possible for a visitor to enjoy tea and meet one of the local, nomadic Berber families.
Erfoud is a bustling market town, known for its date festival and famous for its fossil mining and artisan factories. En route, you can see hillside mines where large rocks are taken from the earth. While in town, stop at a local artisan collective, where you can to learn about the types of fossils found in the area and see the full process of how the fossil-rich rock is transformed into beautiful objects, large and small. Soon, you will see the sand waves of the Erg Chebbi in the distance. This is an extensive sea of sand dunes covering 13.5 square miles, with some dunes rising to more than 650 feet. Their colors change depending on the time of day and are a site to bookmark at sunset.
From here, you will take a private 4x4 to the desert city of Merzouga. You will stay the night in an old kasbah, where you will also enjoy your dinner and a relaxing dip in the pool.
On day five, begin with an adventure. Take ATVs into the desert to do some sandboarding and other desert sports. Later, you take a camel ride through the dunes, arriving at an oasis camp just before sunset. Climb up the nearest sand dune to watch the colorful display as the sun sets to the west, reflecting on the sand. Afterward, head back to camp for dinner and an evening by the campfire enjoying traditional Berber music from the locals. Before you head to bed in your Bedouin tent, take a look at the unhindered night sky, full of stars.
Day 6: Tour Ouarzazate
If you are an early riser, you'll be rewarded with a sunrise over the sand dunes. Before setting out across the desert plains, stop in Rissani. 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.
Today's journey travels through a remote, empty land that borders the Sahara. The views are vast and extensive, with desert plains, high mountains, and plateaus all around. Along the drive, you will see Acacia forests with the umbrella-shaped trees that are specially adapted to the harsh environments. If you’d like, you can request to stop in the town of Alnif and see the local fossil workshops.
You will continue through the Dadès Gorge, which presents a dramatic landscape of ancient rust-red and mauve mountains stripped back to zigzagging layers of strata and knobby rock formations. A rush of springtime water puddles in the valley where irrigation channels siphon off to fields of wheat and orchards of fig, almond, and olive trees. A series of crumbling kasbahs and ksour line the valley in the Berber villages of Aït Youl, Aït Arbi, Aït Oudinar, Aït Ouffi, and Aït Toukhsine. You can stop here for lunch on your own with recommendations from your driver.
You will end your day in Ouarzazate, a town made popular by its involvement in the growing movie industry in Morocco. There is more to Ouarzazate than movies, though; take a guided tour at Aït Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ksar is a perfect example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture and is comprised of many dwellings connected together. You can also request to stop at Aït Benhaddou tomorrow if you prefer.
Tonight, retire to your accommodations in Ouarzazate and enjoy dinner on your own.
As you head up and over the High Atlas Mountains toward Marrakech today, look out for the highest peak, Mount Toubkal, which towers at 13,671 feet. Near the top of the Tizi-n-Tichka pass, you can enjoy great panoramic views over the mountain range, as well as via the road ahead that snakes down the mountainside.
The first town after the pass is Taddert, where you will stop at an Argan Oil Cooperative to learn how the crops are processed for a variety of uses–and sample a few. 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.
Next, you’ll visit Aït Benhaddou. This is a prime example of a walled town protected by kasbahs, the homes of the wealthy and powerful, and has been the backdrop in many Hollywood blockbusters and major historical television programs, including Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia. If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, you may also recognize Aït Benhaddou. Lunch will be at a local village on your own, with recommendations from your driver.
Enjoy the tranquility of the mountains and the desert, before joining the hustle and bustle of vibrant Marrakech. Once in Marrakech, feel free to spend the rest of the afternoon at a slower pace. In the early evening, the main center, Jemaa el Fna Square, comes alive with musicians, performers, snake charmers, games, food stalls, and more. If you want to enjoy it from a distance, there are many cafés surrounding the square, where you can sit and watch the show over a meal.
On your second day in Marrakech, enjoy a cultural treat. In the morning, you’ll have time to have breakfast, take a morning walk, and relax. You’ll then make your way to your five-hour cooking class. In this class, you will purchase all your ingredients in a nearby souk, just like the locals. Next, you’ll learn how to prepare a four-course, traditional Moroccan meal.
After the cooking class, your tour guide will meet you and start your tour of the stunning old medina of Marrakech, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In its vivacious souk, you will be dazzled by the displays of djellabas, soft, brightly colored babouches, intricately pierced lanterns, mounds of exotic spices, and life unfolding along the alleyways. Your local guide will share the history and stories of the Medina, the Souk, and the Mellah–sections all kept within the city’s rose-pink walls.
Day 9: Tour Essaouira
Today, you will travel to Essaouira, made popular by its surfing beaches. On your 3-hour drive, you will make a slight diversion to visit an association of local women that make Argan oil. Lunch will be on your own, with your driver’s recommendation.
Once you arrive in Essaouira, check in to your accommodations. You’ll then be on your own to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Medina. You should also block out some time to visit the old Jewish quarters. These are some of the most well-preserved Jewish quarters in all of Morocco and are a testament to the coexistence and community present between Jews and Muslims in the country.
Finish your day walking on the ramparts, among the breeze of the Atlantic Ocean. Dinner will be on your own, based on your driver’s recommendations. However, if you like fresh seafood, this is the spot where you should indulge.
Days 10-12: Tour Casablanca and departure
Today, you will head to Casablanca via the coastal route with stops in two, old Portuguese fortified cities along the way.
The first city you will encounter is another UNESCO World Heritage Site–El Jadida. There, you will tour the hauntingly beautiful Portuguese cistern. You will spend your time walking the ramparts and can pay a visit to the Church of the Assumption.
Next is Azemour, which has inspired many Moroccan artists over the decades, some of whom have chosen to live here. Life here is still traditional, despite its close proximity to the cosmopolitan art market of Casablanca. A crumbling 16th-century medina squeezed between the Oud Er-Rbia (Mother of Spring River) and the ocean provides plenty of artistic inspiration.
Once in Casablanca, you will check into your hotel. Then, you’ll have the night to explore on your own, including dinner.
After breakfast on your second day in Casablanca, you will be picked up by your tour guide to start your tour. The tour will include a 2-hour guided visit to the Mosque Hassan II, which is home to one of the tallest minarets in the world. The site is representative of the best of Moroccan architecture. It is also the only mosque that is open to the public (to non-Muslims) for interior tours.
Later, you will be taken to visit the Habous, which is one of the most picturesque places in Casablanca, and was built during the French protectorate. You can then go to the Jewish Museum, which is one of the only two Jewish museums in the Muslim world, and the only Jewish museum in the Arab world. This recently renovated museum of history and ethnography features artifacts–including Torah scrolls, Chanukkah menorahs, photographs, carpets, and caftans–that trace Morocco’s Jewish history and heritage.
Dinner is on your own, although Rick’s Café, which was made famous by the movie Casablanca, is a popular stop.
Your third day in Casablanca is the conclusion of your trip. Transportation to the airport will be provided surrounding your return home.