Deserts and Empires

9 Days

Overview

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

Highlights

  • Imperial Cities of Marrakech, Meknes, Fez, and Rabat
  • Coast cities of El Jadida, and Essaouira
  • Casablanca and the Hassan II Mosque
  • Roman ruins of Volubilis
  • Camel caravan in the Sahara
  • Tordra Gorge hike
  • Ghost tour of the Fez medina at night
  • Taste of Morocco: the street foods of Marrakech and Fez

Itinerary

Casablanca - El Jadida - Essaouira - Grand Tour Morocco -1The 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 breathe in the history surrounding 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. Step 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 loading your bags into the vehicle. Then take some time to explore Essaouira.

Essaouira takes on a new vibrancy in the sun’s light as tourists and locals move through the ancient streets. Walk the Essaouira - Marrakech - Grand Tour Moroco -2citadel’s walls as the smell of thuja wood and argan oil wafts through the air, then head down to the busy port crowded with fishing boats. Vendors and their cookfires beckon you to stop and enjoy lunch if you have a taste for seafood. When you’ve had your fill, head back to your driver and start the 3-hour transfer to Marrakech.

Morocco essential cities tour

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 cookfires, 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.

Morocco essential cities tourAfter 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 relaxed breakfast at the riad before your guide meets you for a private 4-hour guided walking 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.

In Marrakech, food is everywhere! Instead of stopping for a sit-down lunch, enjoy a Taste of Marrakech (included). During the city tour, your guide will ensure you can stop and sample the local delicacies of Marrakech, making the city a roving buffet.

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.

Marrakech springs to life in the morning as vendors open their shops and people go about their daily lives. 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, and you begin your ascent over the highest pass in Africa. For 4 hours, you’ll wind your way up and over the High Atlas Mountains with their 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, challenging your climb towards the summit of the Kasbah, passing small shops and vendors as you go. Your efforts are rewarded when 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 made for 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, you’ll embark on a 2-hour drive east to Todra Gorge. 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 veering off to the Todra Gorge, where you’ll have dinner and spend the evening.

Have breakfast at the Auberge before checking out and meeting your driver for a day of outdoor adventure. 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. It’s an easy stroll, along the valley floor as 500-foot cliffs tower over you on either side. When you emerge from the canyon, your walk continues downstream through the palm groves where your driver will be waiting.

It’s just a few minutes down the road to Tinghir for your next adventure, a hiking trek up to the rim of the valley. By foot (or optional donkey for an additional fee), the hour-and-a-half trek offers a spectacular view of the valley below.

After an active morning, you’ll meet your driver and head southeast for an hour, stopping next at the 15th-century Ksar el Khorbat. An occupied and living Kasbah with a museum of Kasbah life, it’s a rare look into a vanishing way of life. Spend time in the museum, and if you’re hungry (hiking does build an appetite), we’d recommend the restaurant in the Kasbah, which has an excellent camel meat tagine, a southern Morocco specialty.

After visiting the Kasbah, it’s a 2-hour drive to the Sahara. You’ll check into the Auberge du Sud 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 led 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 to venture on foot to the top of the dunes, and enjoy a front-row seat at one of nature’s most incredible sites. Then, as twilight settles over the desert, you’ll ride your camel back to the Auberge for dinner and to spend the evening.

Breakfast, Dinner

After breakfast and checking out of the Auberge, your driver will take you north, 7 hours to Fez. The desolate rolling dunes of the Sahara slowly drop away as you enter the foothills of the mountains. Traveling 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 2 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 rising from the ether. Hundreds of thousands of people pulsing through the narrow streets with no vehicles in sight.

After a long day of traveling, you’ll check into the Riad el Yacout upon arriving in 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. Your day starts with breakfast in the courtyard of the Riad El Yacout before being met by your guide. Then, 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 echoes off the narrow streets as they hand hammer and carve brass and bronze. The rhythmic ticking of the weavers working their looms adds to the sound, and the sweet smell of cedar from the woodworkers fills the air. And, of course, the overpowering aroma of the tannery as they produce the finest Moroccan leather.

The Medina of Fez is an epicurean delight. Instead of stopping for a sit-down lunch, enjoy a Taste of Fez (included). During the city tour, your guide will ensure you can stop and sample the local street food of Fez, making the city a roving buffet.

Almost as a respite from the overload of the senses, your guide will take you to Fez’s historical and cultural sites. These bastions of history and faith are islands of reflection in the turbulent sea of daily life in the Fez medina.

After the tour, take some time to relax at the Riad, have dinner, and get ready for your Ghost Tour of Fez. In 2.5 hours, you’ll see this ancient city like never before.

After the Ghost Tour, you’ll return to the Riad for the night.

After breakfast, you’ll 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. When you walk the streets and enter the ruins of shops and homes, you can still almost hear their voices in the wind. Explore on your own, or upgrade to a guided tour.

When you have fully explored 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, the Prison de Kara, where Barbary Pirates would keep their Christian prisoners, and the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail.

Your driver will then take you southwest 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 ornate tombs are the resting place of the currently ruling dynasty.

A short drive away, 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 primarily an artist settlement. As you stroll, keep an eye out for the garden entrance in the center of the Kasbah.

From Rabat, it’s a 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 are 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 in a chauffeured vehicle
  • All accommodations (Riads, Hotels, and Auberges)
  • Meals as listed
  • Services as listed
  • Guided tours and admissions as listed
  • Exclusive ghost tour

Excludes

  • Flights
  • Tips
  • Meals not listed
  • Services not listed

Riad Mimouna, Essaouria

One of our top favorite accommodations in Essaouria. Once a granary right on the water, it’s been converted into one of the best riads with an unmatched view from the terrace.


Riad Azoulay, Marrakech

One of our favorite places in Marrakech is Moroccan charm mixed with an Italian flare. Located deep in the Medina of Marrakech, this is the perfect place to relax and escape the hustle of Marrakech’s streets.


Eco-auberge Le Festival, Todra Gorge

To describe this place as a hidden gem would be an understatement. Literally carved out of the cliffside, this natural stone castle with the towers and even cave rooms (yes, rooms carved into the rock) is off the grid and nearly self-sustaining without sacrificing quality or comfort.


Auberge du Sud, Erg Chebbi

A kasbah-like hotel right on the dunes of the Sahara, the Auberge leaps out of the brutal sands of the Sahara like a mirage. An oasis of civilization at the foot of rolling dunes.


Riad El Yacout, Fez

Truly one of the best finds in all of Morocco, the Riad el Yacout is a sprawling boutique hotel comprising several centuries-old buildings.  Take a refreshing dip in the pool, head to the terrace, or just explore and relax.

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Club Val d’Anfa, Casablanca

Located in the entertainment district of Anfa, the resort hotel Club Val d’Anfa is as modern as the city of Casablanca, offering all the amenities and comforts you’d want.

2 Travelers, 1 Room $1,762
3 Travelers, 2 Rooms $1,857
4 Travelers, 2 Rooms $1,467
5 Travelers, 3 Rooms $1,583
6 Travelers, 3 Rooms $1,369

All prices are per traveler, ground only, and INCLUDE taxes. Contact us for groups larger than six travelers.

Group Discount Available
From $1,421.00
/ Traveler

Trip Facts

  • On Demand
  • 9 days, 8 nights
  • Fully customizable
  • Casablanca (CMN)
  • Casablanca (CMN)
  • Private transportation in chauffeured sedan or van (depending on group size)
  • No need for WiFi hopping or buying a new SIM card, your transportation has unlimited on-board WiFi
  • Private tours for groups of 2 to 6 (contact us for larger groups)
  • Jr. Suites (double occupancy)
  • 8 breakfast, 3 dinner
  • Indulge in local delicacies as you explore Fez and Marrakech with your guide. A city-wide roving buffet that can easily replace a sit-down lunch.
  • Private guided tours be led by an English speaking professional guide. Admissions included
  • Night tour of the Fez medina with the abandoned Glaoui Palace complex, execution square, and the slave market.
  • Sunset camel ride into the Sahara