From north to south, from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, from high mountains to deep valleys, from the lushest forests to the driest desert, from vibrant cities to peaceful villages. And all this in just 10 days. It may seem far-fetched, but it’s not: it’s simply Morocco. And so this circuit is short enough to fit into a short vacation, and wide enough to discover in depth the great attractions of the country.
This trip starts in Tangier, which will give you the chance to feel the fleeting embrace of the sea in the Strait of Gibraltar. And unlike other shorter tours, this 10-day tour goes all the way to Essaouira, on the Atlantic Ocean. In between, the most spectacular natural landscapes inland. For example, in the High Atlas, Middle Atlas and Rif mountains, each with its own particularities. Or the oases that form almost magically in the south of the country, with rocky canyons of capricious shapes. And of course, the imposing Sahara desert, which has its best expression in the dunes of Erg Chebbi. Extraordinary contrasts that we will discover in first person.
The man and his works are also protagonists in this circuit from Tangier. And we will see it in the historical medinas of the cities, but also in the humble people who inhabit the small villages. This trip covers three of the four Imperial Cities (Fez, Meknes and Marrakech), all of them World Heritage Sites, as well as other smaller towns with the same distinction (Tetouan, Ait Ben Haddou and the aforementioned Essaouira). And popular culture becomes an attraction in itself in villages like Chaouen and Rissani, or even in the deepest desert, like the village of Khamlia. Art, crafts, folklore and ancestral customs that you will have at your fingertips during the tour.
Here is the complete program of this 10 days and 9 nights tour, starting in Tangier, ending in Marrakech and traveling by road throughout the trip, except for the adventure of crossing dunes and sand tracks in the desert.
On the first day of this tour, we will pick you up in Tangier, at the place of your choice: it can be the port for those arriving by ferry, the airport for those arriving by plane or a downtown hotel for those who are already in Tangier. After the meeting and completion of the entry formalities (if any), we will leave without delay for the first city to visit: Tetouan.
In Tetouan we will discover a historic medina of gleaming white, which can be accessed by the wall next to the Royal Palace or the Caliph. This point is also the hinge of the historic center with the twentieth century expansion, which has a striking resemblance to Andalusia, as it arose when this city was the capital of the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco.
After this free visit of Tetouan, we will continue our route to the heart of the Rif Mountains, whose landscapes are also reminiscent of those of southern Spain. But in this case, the town we will visit is unparalleled: Chaouen, known as the ‘blue village’ because of the predominant color of its medina. A walk through it, from the square of Uta el-Hammam through intricate alleys, will be a most fascinating experience. Among its main attractions, the 14th century kasbah (now an ethnographic museum) and the viewpoints scattered throughout the center, which offer spectacular panoramic views of the medina.
In the evening, after an intense day of travel and sightseeing, you will rest in a riad in Chaouen, located in the historic center.
On this second day of the tour, we will leave Chaouen and the Rif Mountains to continue our journey south. Although perhaps we should say, “our journey through time”, since the places we will visit are authentic jewels of Moroccan history.
This is the case with Volubilis, probably the most important archaeological site in the country. It was originally a Roman city, the nerve center of the province of Mauritania Tingitana. And the surprising vestiges that have remained of it make us understand this: a temple in honor of Jupiter, a triumphal arch in honor of the emperor Caracalla, some mosaics of great artistic quality and, in short, a typical urbanism of this civilization in the first centuries of our era.
Entering Meknes is also a journey through history, although in this case more recent: many of the buildings we admire here are from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the period in which Sultan Moulay Ismail ruled the kingdom from here. Its mausoleum is probably the richest and most spectacular monument, without overlooking other iconic buildings such as the Bab Mansour Gate or the Royal Palace.
But if we talk about history and art, there is no other city in Morocco like Fez. Here we will finish this day’s route, although after arrival there will only be time for a free walk and rest in the riad in the center, with an eye on the next day, when we will explore in depth this destination of high cultural interest.
To properly explore Fez, you need two things: a full day in the city and a guided tour with an official guide, able to take you to the most interesting corners of the medina. And that is what you will have on this third day of the circuit.
The guided tour can include a wide variety of monuments and places of interest, all of them in the historic center. In Fez el Bali (old medina) as well as in Fez el Jedid (new medina) there are emblematic places such as mosques (Karaouine, of the Andalusians), squares (Nejjarine, of the Alaouites), artisans’ quarters (tanneries, mellah) or Koranic schools (medersas of Bou Inania and Attarine), among other attractions.
The afternoon at leisure can be used to rest or to complete the exploration of the city through its museums. And don’t forget that Fez is the ‘handicraft capital’ of Morocco, so shopping in the souks can be another rewarding experience. After the evening plan, it will be time to rest at the riad.
After a few days of intense cultural tourism, this circuit turns the page and reaches the chapter of nature, which will be shown before our eyes with all its exuberance. To do so, we will leave Fez and enter the wettest area of the country: the Middle Atlas.
Here is located Ifrane, a striking mountain town with roofs reminiscent of the Alps. But above all, the Ifrane National Park is preserved here, where a large community of Barbary macaques lives. The reserve is full of cedars, one of the country’s national trees, in whose branches these primates move freely. A walk through the forest will be enough to spot these protected animals.
From the green of this forest we will gradually move on to the brown, golden and reddish tones, typical of the region on the other side of the Middle Atlas. It is the Ziz Valley and the greenery is now reduced to small oasis of date palms that emerge on the banks of this humble river.
Arriving in Erfoud we will realize that the Sahara desert is upon us. Curiously, this area was a veritable orchard millions of years ago, and the proof of this is the enormous variety of fossils found here and that today are sold everywhere in the stores of the city.
But the real welcome to the desert will come in Merzouga, soon after. Here begins the dune field of Erg Chebbi, more than 25 km long, and for a walk through them we will use camels, as authentic Tuareg of the desert. The trek will end at the luxury tented camp in the middle of the dunes, where we will be welcomed with a Berber tea, a traditional dinner and a bonfire to warm up the atmosphere. And if you raise your head before retiring for the night, you will be able to observe a firmament of the most amazing stars.
The Sahara desert offers a wide variety of attractions, and on this fifth day of the circuit we will see a wide range of them. For example, the dawn with which our day will begin: if we get up early, we will observe a dawn that has no comparison, for its stillness and play of light.
After that, we will have breakfast at the camp and drive back across the sand dunes to Merzouga to travel by 4×4 to other points of interest. One of them is Khamlia, popularly known as the ‘black people’. People of sub-Saharan origin, whose ancestors arrived here centuries ago as slaves, live here. Today, they honor their ancestors with Gnawa music, a cultural expression that is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They will give a concert and dance this folkloric dance for the enjoyment of our eyes and ears.
After that, we will leave the asphalt to move on dirt tracks that years ago the motorcycles and cars of the Paris-Dakar rally used to travel. On the route, we will pass through some of the most surprising places, such as old kohl mines, exploited in the times of the French Protectorate.
But nothing is as authentic and genuine as the settlements of semi-nomadic families, who still preserve living habits of the past. With our mediation, you will get to know them first hand, understanding how their daily life is based on traditional activities, such as the care of livestock. Their hospitality and courage to get by in such a hostile environment will inspire us.
In the last part of the day, we will head back to Merzouga, stopping at a strategic elevation to admire a panoramic view of the approximately 14,000 hectares that cover the dunes of Erg Chebbi. Once at the hotel, you will have dinner and rest in a hotel of Berber taste and relaxing atmosphere.
On this sixth day of the circuit, we resume the route on asphalt, leaving behind the purest desert to travel through the interesting region that lies between the Sahara and the Atlas: the Dades Valley.
Before reaching it, we will stop in the interesting Rissani, a small town where its inhabitants still come by donkey to shop at the market in the medina. This mixture of everyday scenes from another time and historic adobe buildings will make our stop worthwhile.
Further on, between kasbahs in ruins, oasis of palm trees and humble farmlands, we will arrive at the Todra Gorges: this narrow gorge, originated by the erosion of the small river Todra, is today a pleasant place to walk for travelers like us… and a paradise for climbers, who climb its vertical walls of more than 100 meters high.
Back on the Dades Valley road, the route adds kilometers to reach Ouarzazate, the main city for the region and for the Moroccan film industry, thanks to its Atlas Studios. A hotel-riad in the city will host us for dinner and a comfortable night’s rest.
Without leaving Ouarzazate, we will make the first interesting visit of the day: the kasbah of Taourirt. This fortress was also a palace for the powerful El Glaoui family more than a century ago, and its state of preservation makes it an outstanding example of Berber architecture. The reddish tone of the adobe on the exterior contrasts with the colorful interior, with profuse ornamentation in wood, ceramic and plaster, as is typical of Islamic architecture.
Shortly after resuming the road trip, we will stop to admire another iconic site of the Berber civilization: the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou. Walled and huddled on a hill, this village was an important stop for the caravan routes to Marrakech, and today offers a most interesting visit. Some travelers will even recognize it as a location for Game of Thrones and other blockbusters.
Then it is time to return to the vehicle and climb the High Atlas Mountains, until reaching an altitude of 2,260 meters: there is the Tizi n’Tichka pass, which will offer us a spectacular view of the mountain range and will lead us to its north face.
At the end of the descent, we will arrive in Marrakech, the ‘red city’ and the country’s main tourist attraction. There, you will have the afternoon free for a first stroll in the old town, shopping or simply rest in the riad that will welcome you in the evening.
Marrakech has so many attractions that it takes at least a full day to explore them. And if it is with an official guide, so much the better. Therefore, on this eighth day of the circuit, we will put ourselves in the hands of a professional in the field to enjoy a guided tour during the morning.
The possible itineraries are very varied, but the bustling Jemaa el-Fna square (declared, by itself, Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity), the elegant minaret of the Koutoubia mosque or the refinement that hide the Saadian Tombs, the Bahia Palace and the medersa of Ben Youssef, among other places of interest, will surely come to our way.
Other attractions such as the Majorelle Gardens or the Marrakech Museum can be left for the afternoon, which you will have free. Leisure activities or shopping (handicrafts in the souks or luxury in Gueliz) are other proposals to fill this part of the day, before returning to rest at the riad.
This 10-day tour from Tangier leaves for the end one of the highlights: the excursion to Essaouira, which fascinates all its visitors with its old town and its beaches, in equal parts.
We will leave for it in the morning and, before arriving, we will have the opportunity to cross large argan fields. Both the tree and its product, the oil, are true symbols of Morocco, so we will have the opportunity to stop at a local cooperative to learn who is in charge of its production and how.
Once in Essaouira, you will have free time to stroll around the medina and the Skala, a maritime fortress of Portuguese origin (16th century) which also served as a film set for Game of Thrones. And those who prefer to go to the beaches can take a swim (weather permitting) or enjoy some sports or leisure activities.
In the afternoon, at the agreed time, we will pick you up to return by road to Marrakech, spending this last night in the riad in the center.
The tenth day is the last day of this tour, and its schedule will depend on the time of your flight back home. Whether or not there is time for a last free time in Marrakech, we will pick you up at the riad for the transfer to the airport. And at the passenger terminal, when all that remains is boarding, we will say goodbye until next time, with gratitude for the trust in our agency.
To ensure that everything goes according to plan on this 10-day tour, the package includes the following premium services:
These services are not included in the travel package: