This 13-day guided tour takes you deep into the mountains and deserts of southern Morocco. Start in historic Marrakesh, where you'll barter for goods at traditional souks and walk through the greenery of the Marjorelle Gardens. Then, it's off to the beaches of Essaouira and Agadir for some sun and surf. Hike to the old fortress of Agadir Tasguent, ride camels under desert skies and brush up on your nomadic skills in Erg Chigaga, and tour real-life movie sets in Ouarzazate.


  • Take in the sights, sounds, and smells of Marrakesh's lively Jemaa el-Fna Square
  • Watch nimble goats climb argan trees as they munch on the flavorful fruit
  • Swim and dive in the deep blue pools of the Paradise Valley oasis
  • Sandboard along the shifting dunes of the Erg Chigaga

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Marrakesh Marrakesh
Day 2 Guided Tour of Marrakesh, Majorelle Gardens Marrakesh
Day 3 Transfer to Essaouira & Argan Oil Tour Essaouira
Day 4 Explore Essaouira Essaouira
Day 5 Transfer to Agadir Agadir
Day 6 Transfer to Taroudant Taroudant
Day 7 Free Morning in Taroudant, Paradise Valley & Souss Massa National Park Taroudant
Day 8 Transfer to Erg Chigaga  Erg Chigaga Desert
Day 9 Desert Adventures & Sandboarding the Dunes of Erg Chigaga Erg Chigaga Desert
Day 10 Transfer to Zagora Zagora
Day 11 Transfer to Ouarzazate Ouarzazate
Day 12 Transfer to Marrakech via Aït Benhaddou Marrakesh
Day 13 Depart Marrakesh  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Marrakesh

Sunset over the central square of  Jemaa el-Fna 

Welcome to Morocco! Upon your arrival at Marrakesh International Airport, you'll be met by your driver and guide, who will transfer you to your hotel for check-in. Known as the "Red City" due to the natural pigment of its buildings, Marrakesh is the country's second-largest metropolis, with an energetic, bustling vibe. Get a head start on exploring the city this evening with a visit to Jemaa el-Fna, the city's main square, where you can get a bite to eat and wander around the various vendor stalls for a bit before returning to your hotel to rest up for tomorrow's busy day. 

Day 2: Guided Tour of Marrakesh, Majorelle Gardens

Peaceful pathways of the Majorelle Gardens

Enjoy a guided tour of Marrakesh this morning, starting with a visit to the beautiful courtyard and gardens of the 19th-century Bahia Palace and nearby Koutoubia Mosque, which dates to 1147. Afterward, pass through the medina's historic gates and meander through twisting alleyways amid souks (markets) and hidden fondouks (historic inns which once hosted travelers and merchants). Later, you'll head back to Jemaa el-Fna, with its market stalls, street food vendors, and performers.

During the tour, your expert local guide will take you to a few of the best souks. You'll see the famed spice towers at Souk el Attarine and shop for handmade babouche slippers at Souk Smata. There's no need to worry if you aren't an expert at haggling—your guide will be there to help. He'll also take you to Souk des Teinturiers, where you can watch locals dyeing and hanging cloth and yarn. 

For a reprieve from that seemingly endless Moroccan heat, stop in at Majorelle Gardens this afternoon. This botanical garden includes various species of subtropical flowers, plants, and trees, with peaceful courtyards, fountains, and pathways. Within the gardens, you'll also find the former home of the French artist Jacques Marojelle. The house itself was designed by the French architect Paul Sinoir and also hosts the Berber Museum and the Yves Saint Laurent Museum

Day 3: Transfer to Essaouira & Argan Oil Tour

Essaouira's coastal fortress
Essaouira's walled fortress

Your next destination is Essaouira, a picturesque coastal city known for its surfing, beaches, and historic old town. During the three-hour drive from Marrakesh, you'll traverse rolling plains that take you into an argan tree forest, the only ecosystem where these trees grow and flourish. You're also likely to see something quite unexpected: goats in the trees! Local goats love the fruit of the argan trees and will actually climb the thorny branches to pursue this tasty treat.

Your driver will make a stop at a cooperative where local women make argan oil, known for its health and beauty benefits. See the ins and outs of the production process, and maybe pick up a sample of this important Moroccan export before continuing to the coast.

Day 4: Explore Essaouira

Essaouira coastline

Take a leisurely self-tour of Essaouira today. This small city on the Atlantic coast is known for its historical medina and well-designed layout. Its long history of influences includes Berbers, Phoenicians, Romans, and Portuguese. Trade winds prevail almost year-round here, making it a prime location for surfing. A mecca for hippies in the 1970s, it's still an artists' town with a very art-centric population. The city also attracts a large bohemian crowd each year at its Gnaoua and World Music Festival

Embrace the city's charm as you twist through the medina's wide and bright streets, which cover 75 acres (30 ha) and will take you to souks, street vendors, leafy plazas, and whitewashed houses with ornate wooden doors. Eventually, the streets lead to the city's central square, Mulay El-Hassan, which is lined with restaurants and hotels. You'll also want to visit the 16th-century Portuguese Castelo Real of Mogador and the city's two defensive structures, the Borj El Barmil tower and the Skala de la Kasbah.

Learn about Essaouira's Jewish history at Rabbi Haim Pinto, a well-preserved synagogue and historical site dating back to the early 18th century. Wander through the Mellah (Jewish District and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and admire the door paintings and carved emblems. Then, head to the port area, where you can see the boatbuilders making traditional wooden boats—they supply fishing vessels for the entire Moroccan coast and even as far away as France. It's also worth visiting the fish auction, which takes place in the market hall just outside the port gates (be sure to sample the grilled sardines!).

Day 5: Transfer to Agadir

Agadir at sunset

Transfer from Essaouira to Agadir along the coastal road, a drive of about 3.5 hours that takes you through arid regions and lush valleys. Along the way, you can take a break and stretch your legs in the surf town of Imsouane, where you'll see surfers dotting the ocean and can grab a mint tea from a local vendor. You may also want to make a stop in Taghazout, another surf town with beautiful white houses built into the hills, plenty of restaurants, and miles of shoreline.

Once you arrive in Agadir and get settled at your hotel, you can step out and see a bit more of the city. Agadir is a popular destination for surfers from all over the world, and you can start your tour with a walk on the beach to see the riders taking on the waves. Later, head to Agadir Birds Valley, a small wildlife park that house a wide variety of birdlife and offers a respite from the heat.

For even more wildlife, visit Agadir Crocodile Park, which was originally created to protect Nile crocodiles and is now home to multiple generations of the reptiles. Finish your day with a stop at the Kasbah Agadir Oufella, a former palace that was built during the 16th century by King Mohammad Achaikh of the Saadian dynasty. Tonight, relax at your hotel or experience an authentic Moroccan meal at a local restaurant. 

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Day 6: Transfer to Taroudant

Beautiful Taroudant

Today's drive takes you to Taroudant, the former capital of Souss, otherwise known as "little Marrakesh." Once the 16th-century capital of the Saadian Empire, this peaceful village is surrounded by beautiful countryside, and you'll find restaurants, lively souks, and a well-preserved medina. 

Visit Taroudant's souks for shopping and a snack, then make the short climb to the fortified ramparts, where you can take in the true beauty of the surrounding countryside. Your driver will take you to the nearby village of Tiout, where you'll see stretches of palm groves and the ruins of an ancient kasbah. Have lunch at the restaurant here, and take a guided donkey ride around the kasbah, where the movie "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves" was filmed in the 1950s. Afterward, you'll return to your Taroudant hotel for the evening. 

Day 7: Free Morning in Taroudant, Paradise Valley & Souss Massa National Park

Sprice towers in the markets of Taroudant

Take some time to explore Taroudant, which is known for its historic medina, the town's highlight. Start your day with a walk through the medina, admiring the old walls and gates, such as Bab Selsla, Bab Targont, and Bab Ouled Bounouna. You can head back to the souks for more shopping, or, if you'd like to see what's outside the city, visit Agadir Tasguent, an easy hike that takes you to an old fortress with exceptional views. You can also visit the mansion Palais Claudio Bravo, which was once the home of Claudio Bravo, a Chilean artist.

This afternoon, take a tour of Paradise Valley, a desert oasis with fresh, natural pools surrounded by palm trees and mountains. This scenic setting is perfect for relaxing in the turquoise waters, sunbathing on the rocks, and cliff-jumping into the deep pools. Your private driver will take you along the Honey Road, winding through the desert to this year-round green oasis. You'll arrive at a trailhead and enjoy an easy 20-minute hike to the pools. Spend time relaxing and cooling off in the water while enjoying refreshments. 

If you're after beaches or forests, get the best of both with a visit to Souss Massa National Park, a scenic area along Morocco's Atlantic coast. You'll have the opportunity to enjoy all the highlights of the park, including Youssef Ibn Tachfin Reservoir, Massa Valley, and Sidi Rbat Beach. Birdwatchers will get an eyeful here, as the park is also home to flamingoes, Audouin's gulls, and the rare and endangered northern bald ibis. 

Day 8: Transfer to Erg Chigaga 

Desert life in Erg Chigaga

Discover authentic Morocco today as you traverse the crossroads of the old desert caravans that brought sugar, cotton, and rice to trade among the tribes. Your driver will transport you into Morocco's wildest desert, the Erg Chigaga. Part of Iriqui National Park, this is a remote region with no big cities, making it the perfect place to experience the peace and quiet of the desert. 

You'll take to the off-roads via Jeep, driving through Lake Iriqui, a dried-up salt lake that becomes a swamp during the rainy season. You'll then reach the majestic dunes of Chigaga, where you'll enjoy a luxury "glamping" experience under the starry desert skies. 

Day 9: Desert Adventures & Sandboarding the Dunes of Erg Chigaga

Camel rides in the Erg Chigaga

Experience the life of a nomad as you accompany your Berber guides through the heart of the Wild Regs (desert plateaus). Assist in their daily mission to search for grazing lands and water, and help with food preparation for the evening. You'll also get a chance to feed the camels and other animals, learn how to weave a camel wool carpet, and cook using traditional utensils over wood fires. Just before sunset, jump on a camel and travel into the dunes, where you'll witness the glorious desert landscape illuminated by the reds and golds of the setting sun. 

For a more adrenaline-filled day, take your desert exploration to the next level with a unique adventure that takes you to some of the best sandboarding areas in Erg Chigaga. Rent a board and learn to navigate the shifting sand, making your way down the dunes slowly via the smaller hills if you like or faster as you race along the steeper slopes. 

Day 10: Transfer to Zagora

The city of Zagora

It's time to hit the road again as your guide takes you to the city of Zagora. Along the way, you'll stop to explore the desert village of Mhamid El Ghizlane and its surrounding oasis and visit the small town of Tamegroute, home of the Koranic School of Ezzaouia Ennaciria and where Morocco's traditional green pottery is created. Learn the secrets of this unusual craft and the ancient techniques used to make it. Your drive will put you in Zagora by late afternoon, where, after you check in at your accommodation, you can see some of the city on your own.

Take a stroll by the Draa River, or wander through the city's giant palm grove, which stretches out for miles and boasts more than 30 varieties of dates. If you manage to be in the city on a Sunday or Wednesday, visit their traditional souk, where you'll find a large market dedicated to the many kinds of dates grown in the area, household wares, and assorted food items. Later, grab dinner at a local restaurant before heading back to your hotel. 

Day 11: Transfer to Ouarzazate

Morning views of Ouarzazate

Your journey continues to Ouarzazate, known as the "Gateway to the Sahara." The drive takes approximately 2.5 hours, and you'll pass through the Draa Valley and cross the Tizi N'Tinifift Pass, enjoying the sweeping panoramic views, lush palmeries, and surrounding mountains. For centuries, people from the surrounding valleys did business at Ouarzazate's sprawling Taourirt Kasbah, and a modern garrison town was established here in the 1920s to oversee France's colonial interests. The city name translates to "no noise," an apt reference considering this was once a very isolated outpost. 

Upon your arrival into the city, head directly to the kasbah, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. On a clear day, you might see as far as the red-mud city of Aït Benhaddou and the Todra Gorge. Follow the maze of stairwells to the top floor, where you'll find a prayer room through keyhole archways, traces of stucco, and an original tataoui ceiling. Afterward, wander through the village inside the kasbah walls, and you might also find deals on local crafts in backstreet shops. Ouarzazate also has an important Mellah (Jewish quarter) with an old synagogue and plenty of lively souks to peruse.

More recently, Ouarzazate has gained popularity from its involvement in the film industry. You can tour one of the on-site movie studios, such as Atlas Film Studios, or see the nearby Musée du Cinema. Learn about the films produced in the region by getting an up-close look at props and sets from hits such as "Black Hawk Down," "Prometheus," "American Sniper," and "Game of Thrones." Guided tours run regularly, taking you through stages, sets, and workshops incorporated on-site. Who knows, you may even get discovered by a talent scout!

Day 12: Transfer to Marrakesh via Aït Benhaddou

The Kasbah at Aït Benhaddou
The kasbah at Aït Benhaddou

Transfer back to Marrakesh today, with a drive from Ouarzazate that takes you back through the scenic Tizi n'Tichka Pass and over the High Atlas mountains. As you leave Ouarzazate behind, you'll drive through flat plains to the historic Aït Benhaddou, Morocco's most famous kasbah and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old ksour (fortress) dates back to the 11th century when it held an important position along the trans-Saharan trade route between Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, and the southern desert. Explore the old town's historical alleys, passageways, and markets.

Continue through the changing landscapes as you near the mountains, then begin the winding drive that provides sweeping vistas across the peaks, noting the range's highest summit of Mount Toubkal, which sits at 13,671 feet (4,167 m). As you descend and leave the pass, you'll notice how the rocks soon transition to foothills and again into flat plains.

After this picturesque and tranquil drive, dive back into the hustle of vibrant Marrakesh. Settle into your accommodation, then head to Jemaa el-Fna once again for a meal and some last-minute shopping, or make time to see some of the city sights that you might have missed earlier in the week. 

Day 13: Depart Marrakesh

Farewell, Morocco!

Your Morocco tour ends today as your driver transports you from your accommodations in Marrakesh to the airport. Have a safe and comfortable journey home or to your next destination!

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Map of Mysteries of Southern Morocco:  A Journey From City to Desert - 13 Days
Map of Mysteries of Southern Morocco: A Journey From City to Desert - 13 Days