Deserts and Empires - 9 Days

Overview

Our most popular tour of Morocco., covering all the major cities, sites, and experiences of Morocco. Tour the Imperial Cities, explore ancient coastal cities, ride a camel in the Sahara, and more.

Highlights

  • Imperial Cities of Marrakech, Meknes, Fez, and Rabat
  • Camel caravan in the Sahara
  • Coast cities of El Jadida, and Essaouira
  • Roman ruins of Volubilis
  • and much more

Itinerary

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The adventure starts at Mohammed V International Airport, Casablanca, the international gateway to Morocco. Upon arriving and after clearing passport control and customs, you’ll be met by your driver who will be with you during your entire visit to Morocco.

From the modern airport, it’s a 2-hour drive south to your first stop, El Jadida.  The sleepy walled citadel built during the age of exploration is your introduction to Morocco. Built by the Portuguese on the trade route to India the old city remains relatively untouched.  Stroll the ramparts overlooking the Atlantic, walk the streets, and breath in the history that surrounds you as you make your way to the underground cistern. As you descend the stairs under the walled city, you’ll enter another world hidden for centuries and now made famous in several movies (admission included).

Then it’s a 4-hour drive further south to Essaouira.  On arrival, you check into the Riad Mimouna deep in the heart of the old city just as the denizens promenade along its narrow streets and alleys. Stop into a restaurant, or dine at any of the food vendors whose cooking smoke fills with air with a feast for the senses. When you’ve had your fill, head back to the riad and the rest of the evening is yours to enjoy.

At sunrise, the soft call of Muizen mixes with the roar of the waves. Start your day with breakfast at the riad before checking out and getting your bags loaded into the vehicle.  Then take some time to explore Essaouira.

In the light of the sun, Essaouira takes on a new vibrancy as tourists and locals alike move through the ancient streets.  Walk the walls of the citadel as the smell of thuja wood fills the air then head down to the busy port filled with fishing boats.  If you have a taste for seafood, vendors and their cook fires beckon you to stop and enjoy lunch. When you’ve had your fill, head back to your driver and start the 3-hour transfer to Marrakech.

Arriving in the late afternoon, you’ll check into the Riad Azoulay nestled deep in the heart of the Medina (old city) and then have the rest of the evening to get acquainted with Marrakech. As the sun sets, Marrakech comes alive at the Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. Rows upon rows of vendors fill the square with an otherwordly haze of their cook fires, offering every flavor of Morocco set to the sounds of musicians and the shrill drone of the snake charmers’ flutes. As you walk the rows you’ll encounter wave upon wave of aggressively helpful cooks and servers touting their meals.

After dinner, the square is the center for musicians, acrobats, storytellers, and strongmen delighting the crowd for tips. When you can no longer withstand the energy of the Jemaa, head back to your riad for the night.

Day 03 :
Marrakech

Today Marrakech awaits! Enjoy a calm breakfast at the riad before your guide meets you for a private 4 hour guided tour of Marrakech (with admissions included).

The world comes to Marrakech, filling the narrow streets with a symphony of sounds and voices, punctuated with the ever-present scooters weaving their way at breakneck speed through the crowds.

You’ll walk the Medina led by your guide and not miss a site.  From the Saadian Tombs to the Madrasa and everything in between. You’ll see magnificently restored palaces, and massive ruins of long past empires. As you walk, the delicacies of Marrakech are sold from every corner and your guide will make sure you can sample as you please (Taste of Marrakech upgrade available).

After the tour, the rest of the day is yours to explore Marrakech.  Take a carriage ride to the Menara Gardens with its olive groves and a massive artificial lake.  Or head to the Majorelle Gardens for a rest from the hustle and bustle of the city. Then back to the riad for the evening, a bastion of tranquility after a day exploring Marrakech.

In the morning as Marrakech springs to life, you’ll enjoy breakfast at the riad before checking out and meeting your driver for the adventure south.

Like a formidable wall, the High Atlas Mountains grow closer as you begin your ascent. For 4 hours, you’ll wind your way up and over the High Atlas Mountains with its sharp turns, steep drops, and dramatic vistas as you venture through the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass.

Descending the mountains, you’ll arrive at Kasbah Aït Benhaddou.  A fortified village from the 11th century, this massive site and current UNESCO world heritage site held the key to Marrakech, situated along the ancient trans-Saharan trade routes.  Venture over the bridge and into this centuries-old time capsule. Uneven stone streets twist and turn as you climb towards the summit of the Kasbah, passing small shops and vendors as you go. Your efforts are rewarded as you reach the top with its views of the Atlas and the valley below.

A short drive away from Aït Benhaddou, on the edge of Ouarzazate, is Atlas Studios.  Morocco itself is the stuff of the movies exotic, adventurous, and dramatic. Nowhere is this more obvious than at Atlas Studios where you’ll spend an hour guided through its backlots and soundstages. Step after step the sets change from Rome to Jerusalem, China to Egypt.

After your tour, it’s a short 1-hour drive east to Skoura, where you’ll have dinner and spend the evening.

Breakfast, Dinner

Have breakfast at the Riad before checking out and meeting your driver for a day of outdoor adventure.  Gone are the farms and fields of the plains of Marrakech as the road travels down into the dusty Valley of Roses (center for rosewater production) with its small villages and earth hewn kasbahs before briefly veering off to see the Todra Gorge. Your driver will drop you off at the mouth of the gorge and drive ahead to wait on the other side.

It’s a quick and easy walk along the narrow paved road next to a small babbling stream, a remnant of the mighty forces that carved the gorge. As you stroll, the 500-foot cliffs tower over you on either side. When you emerge from the gorge, your driver will be waiting and you’ll continue your journey. In the next 3 hours, the mountains and hills give way to the flat windswept sands as you reach Erg Chebbi, the edge of the Sahara.

You’ll check into the Auberge Dunes D’or and have a moment to relax before joining a camel caravan into the dunes to watch the sunset.

The camel is a truly gentle giant, swaying softly as you ride into the towering sand dunes lead by a guide. This lifeless brutal environment hides a remarkable beauty. Every minute the sands shift and the colors change as the sun slowly starts to set. Dismount the camels and venture on foot to the top of the dunes and enjoy a front-row seat to one of the most incredible sites in nature. As twilight settles over the desert, you’ll ride your camel back to the Auberge for dinner and evening in the Auberge.

Breakfast, Dinner

After breakfast and checking out of the Auberge, your driver will take you north, to Fez.  As you travel, the desolate rolling dunes of the Sahara slowly drop as you enter the foothills of the mountains. As you travel higher the green of the Middle Atlas Mountains starts to surround you.  Forests of cedars accented by gentle streams are a magical site after the desert. Villages that look like they were plucked from the Swiss Alps appear, and (if you’re lucky) a troop of Barbary Apes await as you pass through Midelt before ascending 7 hours later into Fez.

They say that Marrakech is the beating heart of Morocco, always alive and moving, but Fez is the soul of Morocco. Above the valley, looking down into the Medina, this old city of 200,000 looks dead and lifeless, only springing to life when you enter like spirits arizing from the ether.  Hundreds of thousands of people pulsing through the narrow streets with not a vehicle in sight.

After a long day of traveling, you’ll check into the Riad el Yacout upon your arrival to Fez. The moment you walk in the door, the luxury embraces you like an old friend.  You’ll have dinner and the rest of the evening on your own.

Breakfast, Dinner
Day 07 :
Fez

Before sunrise, the call of over a hundred muezzin in Fez fills the morning stillness as your day starts with breakfast in the courtyard of the Riad El Yacout before being met by your guide.  For the next 5 hours, you’ll be taken on a walking tour of the Fez Medina.

One of the largest labyrinth cities in the world, the Fez Medina is a riddle waiting to be solved. Its narrow streets and alleys twisting and turning through thousands of years of history.

Fez is THE place for shopping for traditional crafts. Around every corner, another market appears. The cacophony of the metalworkers as they hand hammer and carve brass and bronze. The rhythmic ticking of the weavers, the sweet smell of cedar from the woodworkers. And of course, the overpowering aroma of the tannery as they produce the finest Moroccan leather.

Almost as a respite from the overload on the senses, your guide will take you to the historical and cultural sites of Fez. Sites of history, culture, and faith lay waiting for your visit.

After the tour, the rest of the day is yours.  If you’re adventurous, head back into the Medina, or stay at the Riad, swim in the pool, or enjoy an afternoon relaxing.

After an early breakfast, you’ll check out of the Raid at 8 AM and join your driver for a 1.5-hour drive west, arriving at the Roman ruins of Volubilis.

Originally founded in the 3rd century BC, Volubilis became a vital outpost of the Roman Empire.  As the centuries passed and the world changed, Volubilis became the ruins you see today. As you walk the streets and enter the shops and homes, you can still almost hear their voices in the wind. Explore on your own, or upgrade to a guided tour.

After Volubilis, it’s a short drive to the Imperial City of Meknes.  Your self-guided tours include the massive Heri es Souani granary and stables said to be one of the labors of Hercules, the Prison de Kara where Barbary pirate would keep their Christian prisoners, and the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail.

Your driver will then take you west for 2 hours to Rabat, the bustling, modern capital of Morocco, where you’ll see the ruins of the Hassan Tower and the magnificent Royal Tombs. Guarded by smartly dressed honor guards, the tombs are the resting place of the current ruling dynasty.

Nestled high on the bluff overlooking the Sale River is the pirate fortress Kasbah of the Udayas. Once the fortress of the Barbary Coast pirates, it’s now mostly an artist settlement. As you stroll, keep an eye out for the entrance into the gardens in the center of the Kasbah.

From Rabat, it’s a short 1-hour drive to Casablanca, where you’ll check into your hotel for the night.

Enjoy your last breakfast in Morocco and an easy start to the day.  Check out of the hotel and meet your driver for a sightseeing drive in Casablanca.  The colonial Frech colonial and Art Deco district is just the start before moving on to the magnificent Hassan II Mosque for a tour (closed on Fridays).  After the tour, the driver will take you to the Casablanca airport for your flight out.

Breakfast

Includes

Includes

  • All transfers
  • All accommodations
  • Meals as listed
  • Guided tours and admissions as listed

Excludes

  • Flights
  • Tips
  • Porterage
  • Meals not list

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For current COVID requirements while in Morocco click here. Face coverings are currently required.

You can send your enquiry via the form below.

Deserts and Empires
Group Discount Available
From $1,169.00
per Adult

Trip Facts

  • Casablanca (CMN)
  • Casablanca (CMN)
  • Private transportation in chauffeured sedan or van (depending on group size)
  • Private tours for groups of 2 to 6 (contact us for larger groups)
  • Jr. Suites (double occupancy)
  • 8 breakfast, 3 dinner
  • Private guided tours be led by an English speaking professional guide. Admissions included
  • Indulge in local delicacies as you explore the city with your guide. A city wide roving buffet that can easily replace a sit-down lunch.