Experience the best of Morocco on this well-rounded, 13-day journey that loops from the coast to the desert and back again. Be enchanted by Chefchaouen's blue-washed walls before visiting the preserved Roman ruins of Volubilis. Get lost in the intricate alleyways and souks of Fes, then travel through the Middle Atlas mountains before traversing the Sahara by camel. Soak up the rhythms of vibrant Marrakesh and finish your trip on the coast in laid-back Essaouira.


  • Get lost in the never-ending medinas of Chefchaouen, Meknes, and Fes
  • Go four-wheeling in the dunes and have tea in the Sahara with local nomads
  • Activate all of your senses amid the excitement of Marrakesh
  • Enjoy the relaxed coastal town of Essaouira and take in the sea breeze

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Casablanca, Transfer to El Jadida El Jadida
Day 2 Transfer to Tétouan via Rabat Tetouan
Day 3 Transfer to Fes via Chefchaouen, Volubilis & Meknes Fes
Day 4 Half-Day Tour of Fes Medina Fes
Day 5 Transfer to Mergouza & Luxury Desert Camp Merzouga
Day 6 4WD Tour of the Dunes & Tea with Nomads Merzouga
Day 7 Transfer to Aït Benhaddou via Alnif & Ouarzazate Aït Benhaddou
Day 8 Half-Day Tour of Aït Benhaddou  Aït Benhaddou
Day 9 Transfer to Marrakesh Marrakesh
Day 10 Sights & Colors of Marrakesh: Private City & Secret Gardens Tour Marrakesh
Day 11 Transfer to Essaouira, Argan Oil Tour & Women's Cooperative Visit Essaouira
Day 12 Free Day in Essaouira, Optional Activities Essaouira
Day 13 Transfer to Marrakesh, Depart   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Casablanca, Transfer to El Jadida

El Jadida
Portuguese Cistern in El Jadida

Welcome to Morocco! Upon arrival at the airport in Casablanca, a driver will take you south down Morocco's coast to El Jadida. Once you've checked into your hotel, the rest of the day is yours to explore. A great place to start is at the UNESCO-listed Fortress of Mazagan, one of the country's best-preserved coastal fortresses. Built by the Portuguese in the early 16th century, it was an outpost along the trading route down the west coast of Africa. Its high walls, resembling cliffs, offer fantastic views across the sea. 

Day 2: Transfer to Tétouan via Rabat

See the closest point where Europe meets North Africa in Tétouan

A driver will be waiting to take you on the five-hour journey north to Tétouan in the morning. The first stop is Morocco's capital, Rabat. You'll find a modern city where wide boulevards run between expansive government properties, a blend of modern imperial palaces built in the early 1900s, and ancient citadels and Islamic structures from 800 years earlier. Once you've reached Tétouan, check into your hotel and take the rest of the day to explore.

This is one of the smallest remaining old cities in the country but is significant because of its proximity to Europe. Historically, Tétouan was the link between North Africa and Spain, which you can almost see across the ocean. An ancient wall surrounds the medina (old town), so you can only enter through its grand main gates. On Mondays, the weekly market is held in the lower streets, and the stalls spill out past the gate and into the surrounding area.

Day 3: Transfer to Fes via Chefchaouen, Volubilis & Meknes

Private Transfer from Tetouan to Fes Via Chefchaouen, Volubilis & Meknes
Wander the charming blue-washed walls of Chefchaouen

Prepare to be enchanted on your journey heading south from Tétouan to Fes. You'll stop in the blue city of Chefchaouen, which has been mostly untouched since the 15th century and is known for the blue-washed buildings in its historic medina. Explore its narrow streets and alleyways, which cling to the northern hillside of the Rif Mountains. Next, visit Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing Morocco's best-preserved Roman ruins. Wander through this massive complex, exploring large merchant homes with visible heating systems, temples, and colorful mosaics. 

Continue to Meknes, where you'll enjoy strolling through its compact medina, which offers a more laid-back atmosphere. In the Ville Impériale (Imperial City) area, discover gardens, palaces, the impressive gate of Bab al-Mansour, and the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, a sultan of Morocco. Your final stop is Fes. Before settling into your riad (a traditional guesthouse), you'll go to the Marinid Tombs, monumental ruins on a hill above the city, and enjoy a lovely panorama of the medina. Down below, you may see leather drying in the sun. Tonight, you'll relax and have dinner at your riad.

Day 4: Half-Day Tour of Fes Medina

Inside the Souks of Fes
See where leather gets dyed at a local tannery

Discover the vibrant and fortified medina of Fes, the cultural capital of Morocco, with your local guide today. Walk the twisting maze of cobbled streets as you pass markets, shops, mosques, and more. Wander through the bustling souks (markets), and find unique, hand-crafted goods in alleys, streets, and open-air squares. Enjoy the bright colors of rugs, jewelry, and leather goods, or indulge in the towers of spices, dried fruits, and culinary delicacies. Learn about medieval Marinid architecture (related to the arts of Islamic Spain), and visit historical monuments as you absorb Fes' old-fashioned charm.

You can't miss the famous Chouara Tannery, with its extensive assortment of colorful leather dyes and traditional techniques from centuries ago. (Get a rooftop view from a local tannery by offering a small tip.) Then wander to some other sites in Fes, such as the Mellah (Jewish District and cemetery) and the Royal Palace of Fes (Dar al-Makhzen), the King of Morocco's residence built on the foundation of a citadel from the 13th-century Marinid Dynasty. Or check out a museum, like the Borj Nord, with its collection of weapons and armor from several eras and incredible rooftop views. 

Plan your trip to Morocco
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Transfer to Mergouza & Luxury Desert Camp

Travel by camel in the Sahara

Adventure awaits today as you transfer across the Sahara to your Bedouin-style tent accommodation in Merzouga. Your driver will take you through the town of Azrou before climbing an elevation of 7,146 feet (2,178 m) over the Col du Zad Pass, a high mountain pass. Enjoy the scenery as you pass through the cedar forests of the Atlas mountains, and keep your eyes peeled for macaque monkeys. Have lunch in Midelt, known as the "Apple City" because of its surrounding fruit orchards. As you approach Erfoud, you'll get glimpses of the ever-shifting Saharan dunes. 

Soon you'll see the sand waves of Erg Chebbi in the distance. Erg Chebbi is an extensive set of dunes covering almost 14 square miles (35 sq km), with some peaks rising over 650 feet (200 m). Near Merzouga, enjoy a short break as you prepare for a camel ride through the dunes to reach your luxury camp. After settling into your tent, climb up the nearest dune to watch the sunset over the sands. Enjoy dinner and a night by the campfire with a soundtrack of traditional Berber music provided by the locals. Before climbing into bed, savor the stars strewn across the clear night sky.

Day 6: 4WD Tour of the Dunes & Tea with Nomads

4WD tour of the dunes and tea with the nomads
Live like a Berber as you camp under the stars in the Sahara

Enjoy a Jeep ride through Erg Chebbi's dunes to discover this magical land's hidden secrets. Meet with local nomads and enjoy a cup of tea with a family. Visit the Gnaoua house in Khamleya village to hear spiritual healing music traditionally practiced throughout Morocco and originating from the sub-Saharan region. Popular maâlems (master musicians) make the music quite mainstream, and the beats are repetitive yet lively, headed by a maâlem with a group of musicians and dancers.

In the afternoon, there's time to rent a sand board and test your dune surfing skills or join a quad ATV tour. Later, climb the nearest dune to watch the colorful display on the sand as the sun sets to the west. Enjoy another fun-filled night by the campfire with dinner and traditional Berber music from the locals, and stargaze under the desert sky.

Day 7: Transfer to Aït Benhaddou via Alnif & Ouarzazate

The Kasbah at Aït Benhaddou
The kasbah of Taourirt Ouarzazate

Savor the views across an extraordinary landscape of desert plains, high mountains, and endless plateaus as you make your way west to Aït Benhaddou. Your first stop is Rissani, where you'll spend some time wandering its popular market and visiting Maison Tuareg, a storehouse filled with traditional arts and crafts, including carpets, jewelry, leather goods, and more. Continue through acacia forests, featuring umbrella-shaped trees adapted to the desert's harsh environment. Stop in the town of Alnif for lunch and view one of the local fossil workshops.

Next, take a break in the picturesque town of Ouarzazate, which gained popularity thanks to the film industry. Tour a movie studio or visit the Musée du Cinema. Learn about the films produced in Ouarzazate by getting an up-close look at props and sets. The surrounding region has been featured in many movies, including "Black Hawk Down," "Prometheus," "American Sniper," and "Game of Thrones." Finally, reach the medieval Aït Benhaddou Kasbah. After settling in at your hotel, explore the old town's empty alleys and passageways. 

Day 8: Half-Day Tour of Aït Benhaddou

The kasbah at Aït Benhaddou
The kasbah at Aït Benhaddou

Today's half-day tour introduces you to more of Aït Benhaddou, Morocco's most famous kasbah and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old ksar (a fortified village) 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. It is now often used as a filming location for movies, including "The Mummy," "Gladiator," and "Kingdom of Heaven." Spend the rest of the day at your leisure. For incredible views, climb up to the old granary to look out over the kasbah and historic camel caravan routes. 

Day 9: Transfer to Marrakesh

Aït Benhaddou - Drive to Marrakech
Take Tizi n'Tichka Pass for unforgettable views

Get ready for a change of scenery as you head up and over the High Atlas. Marvel at Mount Toubkal, which stands at 13,671 feet (4,167 m). At the top of the Tizi n'Tichka Pass, enjoy incredible panoramic views over the mountain range as the road snakes down. Visit Taddert, and stop at an oil cooperative to learn how olives are processed for various uses. After a tasting, descend the mountains heading northwest into the plains, with river valleys carved into the hillside. After the tranquillity of the mountains and desert, brace yourself for Marrakesh's exhilarating nightlife.

Check into your hotel and relax before heading back out in the early evening, when Jemaa el-Fna, the city's landmark main square, comes alive with musicians, performers, snake charmers, games, food stalls, and more. Wander around stalls, vendors, and performers, or enjoy it all from a distance. Get seated in a café surrounding the square while enjoying the show and having a delicious meal. 

Day 10: Sights & Colors of Marrakesh: Private City & Secret Gardens Tour

It's time to kick loose in Marrakesh

Marrakesh is Morocco's second-largest metropolis, known as the "Red City," thanks to the natural red pigment of its walls. Start today's tour at the Bahia Palace, where you'll explore its beautiful courtyard, 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 gates and meander through its twisting alleyways to the souks and hidden hotels.

From Jemaa el-Fna, 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. Don't miss Souk des Teinturiers, where you can watch locals dyeing and hanging cloth and yarn. You'll also have the option of visiting Le Jardin Secret. Located in the heart of the medina, this magical sanctuary is a complex of palaces set within a magnificent garden. An outstanding example of Islamic art and architecture, the garden offers drinks and snacks and is a beautiful place to unwind after sightseeing.

If you'd prefer to relax today, there is an optional visit to a hammam (a traditional Moroccan spa). Enjoy the steam rooms, pamper yourself with an invigorating body scrub, unwind with an argan oil massage, and sip mint tea amid the tranquil setting. Later in the evening, discover the flavors of Marrakesh with an optional private food tour through the medina. Filled with picturesque alleyways and vibrant squares, bustling Marrakesh is the perfect city to get lost in as you follow your nose and taste buds from one snack to the next.

Day 11: Transfer to Essaouira, Argan Oil Tour & Women's Cooperative Visit

Fortressed Essaouira
Fortressed Essaouira

You'll leave Marrakesh this morning, following the west coast 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 high up in the branches. You'll have the choice of stopping en route at a female-run cooperative for a guided tour of the ethical production circuit of argan oil.

Arrive in the port city of laid-back Essaouira, a nice contrast to frenzied 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 beautiful views 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 12: Free Day in Essaouira, Optional Activities

Traditional painted boats along Essouira's seafront

Today is free to explore, so why not stroll a bit? Stop into various traditional shops for the perfect souvenirs. Visit 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. See the city's central square, Mulay el-Hassan Square, lined with restaurants, shops, and hotels.

If you'd like more action, there are some optional activities. You could learn how to kite surf, one of the city's most popular sports. The coast is ideal for surfing, thanks to the winds that never cease along its bay. If you'd prefer to stay dry, try sand surfing on the impressive dunes just a short drive from Essaouira. Or opt for a horseback ride along the beach, where you can go for a peaceful trot amid ocean breezes and the smell of the sea.

Day 13: Transfer to Marrakesh, Depart

Essaouira's 18th-Century Skala de la Kasbah
Farewell Morocco!

Your driver will be waiting to take you to the airport in Marrakesh, which takes about three hours. Depending on your flight time, you can opt to spend a relaxing morning in Essaouira. Have a safe and comfortable trip home or to your next destination! Ma'a salama (goodbye)!

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Map of Ultimate Morocco: Imperial Cities, Mountains, Deserts & Coast - 13 Days
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