See the best of Morocco on this compact voyage that takes you off-the-beaten-path from south to north. Feel the energy emulating from Marrakesh as you discover its souks. Head inland to the Atlas mountains for peace and serenity. Descend from the mountains to the coast of Essaouira to discover its laid-back vibe. Follow the coast up to Tangier, the gateway between Europe and Africa. Be amazed by the stunning blue city of Chefchaouen before finishing your trip in Rabat, the country’s capital.
Details & Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Marrakesh, Evening Food Tour
Welcome to Morocco! This beautiful country has diverse landscapes, including sweeping beaches, vast deserts, dramatic mountains, and imperial cities. You’ll arrive in Marrakesh, a former imperial city and the second-largest metropolis in the country. Meet your driver at the airport for the 20-minute drive into town and the riad (local estate) where you’ll be staying. After check-in, you can rest for your busy week or go on a city tour. Marrakesh is buzzing with activity, as you’ll quickly see on a visit to Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square in the city’s medina (old town) quarter.
Day 2: Guided Tour of Marrakesh, Transfer to Imlil
Embark on a five-hour guided tour to discover Marrakesh’s captivating sights, sounds, and odors. Start with a visit to the beautiful courtyard and gardens of the 19th-century Bahia Palace, then continue to the Koutoubia Mosque, which dates to 1147. Pass through the medina’s historic gates and meander through twisting alleyways amid souks and hidden fondouks (historic inns which hosted travelers). Later, head back to Jemaa el-Fna Square. The city’s landmark plaza is filled with market stalls, street food vendors, and performers. Follow your guide to the best souks.
Next, you’ll discover the Majorelle Gardens, a botanical garden and museum complex that offers a refreshing reprieve from the heat of Marrakesh. Dating back to the 1920s, French artist Jacques Majorelle planted the garden and painted the surrounding buildings a brilliant shade of blue. Later, fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent restored the gardens to their current splendid state. Your Marrakesh visit ends this afternoon as your driver will take you on the 1.5-hour journey east to Imlil in the High Atlas mountains.
Drive through a picturesque valley known for its lush meadows and green gardens, and stop in the city of Asni for beautiful mountain views. Next, skirt between the hills of the Atlas mountains and the Moulay Brahim Gorge, taking in the stunning scenery around you. Finally, you’ll reach Imlil in the heart of Toubkal National Park. Upon arrival, check in at your hotel and enjoy a glass of mint tea with your guide.
Day 3: Guided Hike in Toubkal National Park, Berber Carpet Weaving
Discover the incredible scenery of the Atlas mountains and Mount Toubkal, which stands at 13,671 feet (4,167 m). With the help of a private hiking guide, you’ll walk for about three or four hours within the Imlil Valley, meeting locals and learning about the area’s history. Enjoy the scenery as you pass through forests, streams, and panoramic vistas. This easy hike will take you through a couple of traditional Berber villages, where you can sit with the locals and hear their stories.
Day 4: Transfer to Essaouira via an Argan Oil Women’s Cooperative
Leave the mountains this morning and head west, following the 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 laid-back port city of Essaouira, a stunning contrast to frenzied Marrakesh and the vast Atlas mountains. You’ll have the rest of the day to do 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 5: Optional Activities in Essaouira
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, and wood crafts. See the city’s central square, Mulay el-Hassan, lined with restaurants, shops, and hotels. You’ll also have the option of taking a cooking class at a riad. Learn how to prepare a tajine with a local chef, then sit down with your host to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
If you’d like more action, there are other 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 gentle trot amid ocean breezes and the smell of the sea.
Day 6: Transfer to Casablanca, Tour the Hassan II Mosque
Day 7: Transfer to Tangier, Gateway to Europe
Travel about five hours up the coast to the historic and vibrant city of Tangier, gateway between Europe and Africa. Tangier offers a unique blend of cultures, stretching along the Maghreb (encompassing the northern part of Africa) coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. Several influences have shaped the city for centuries, attracting artists, spies, and eccentric foreigners. While not always a tourist hub, Tangier has undergone a makeover. Its new marina area and the refreshed old quarter now attract visitors worldwide.
In the evening, venture out as there’s plenty to see and do in the city. Do like the locals and start with a stroll along the palm-lined seafront promenade, Corniche de Tangier, to watch the sunset.
Day 8: Self-Guided Tour of Tangier, Optional Day Trip to Asilah
Start your self-guided tour in the medina and explore its labyrinth of commercial and residential alleyways. Wander around Petit Socco Square, known for its buzzy markets, craft shops, and cafés. This is a great place to grab a bite to eat or people-watch. For an incredible view over the city, visit the cannons at Faro Square and savor scenes of the medina, harbor, and Bay of Tangier. The 15th-century Portuguese Tangier Kasbah (a fortified castle) is small and compact enough to explore. Pass through Bab Haha (a historic gate with sea views) and enter Place du Mechouar.
Stroll along the Rue de la Liberté shopping street to the Place de France. This busy plaza is the center of modern Tangier and features the famous Grand Café de Paris and the Hotel El Minzah. Once, you could find artists and writers such as Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac, Muhammad Asad, and Truman Capote here. If you’d like to explore outside the city, visit Cap Spartel and the Cave of Hercules. Interestingly enough, when seen against the Atlantic horizon, the cave’s outline is thought to resemble the shape of the African continent.
You’ll have the option to go 28 miles (45 km) south of Tangier to Asilah, one of the most beautiful cities in Morocco. Upon arrival, enjoy exploring the beauty of the city’s walls, relaxing at endless beaches with crystal clear waters, and experiencing the hospitality of its kind inhabitants. Stroll through the narrow streets of the walled medina and relish the nooks and crannies that reveal the city’s historic Portuguese occupation. Peruse Moroccan craft shops and take home a unique souvenir of your visit. In the afternoon, you’ll head back to Tangier.
Day 9: Transfer to Chefchaouen, the “Blue City”
The 2.5-hour drive south to Chefchaouen will take you through many small towns, and you’ll see the flat plains and green hills transform into the rugged landscape of the Rif mountains. After settling into your hotel, meet your guide to discover the incredible history and architectural intrigue of Morocco’s famed “Blue City.” Perched beneath the raw peaks of the Rif, Chefchaouen is an artsy, blue-washed mountain village that feels like its own world.
Day 10: Transfer to Rabat, Morocco’s Capital
Today you’ll leave Chefchaoeun and head southwest to Rabat, Morocco’s capital and one its four imperial cities. The drive takes approximately four hours, with both coastal and mountain views. After you arrive and get settled, you’ll have time to explore the city. Start at the Royal Palace of Rabat and the medieval fortification of the Chellah Necropolis, where you can wander the Roman and Islamic ruins. Stroll through the medina to find the Hassan Tower and Mausoleum of Mohamed V. This 12th-century project features the minaret of an incomplete mosque and some 200 columns.
Spend some time exploring the historic medina and roam through the charming streets. Stop at the souks to peruse local crafts and goods, such as rugs, spices, slippers, jewelry, leather, and more. Visit the 20th-century Andalusian Gardens and enjoy the serenity. Finish at the grand door of the Kasbah des Oudaïas, the gate out of Rabat’s old city center. The Kasbah des Oudaïas is home to the city’s oldest mosque and Musée des Oudaïas handicrafts museum. Spend some time admiring the white and blue architecture of the neighborhood and learning about traditional regional crafts.
Day 11: Transfer to Casablanca & Depart
Say farewell to Morocco as a driver will be waiting to take you from Rabat to Casablanca Mohamed V Airport, which takes about two hours. From there, catch your departing flight. Have a safe and comfortable trip home or to your next destination!