Are you looking for a linear route starting in Marrakech and 11 days later reaching Tangier, discovering the most spectacular destinations in Morocco? In that case, we have a proposal to suit you: this circuit that will make you travel by road to enjoy not only the goal of each day, but also each intermediate stop: fantastic viewpoints, amazing villages, natural corners of high value … Every detail counts to make this tour one of the most amazing tourist experiences you can imagine.
Majestic. That is the word that defines many of the places you will visit on this 11-day tour from Marrakech. It can be applied, of course, to the great works promoted by the sultans, especially in the Imperial Cities (Marrakech, Fez, Meknes, Rabat), such as royal palaces or mausoleums. But some natural landscapes are also majestic because of their beauty, purity and immensity. We are talking about the High Atlas Mountains, the coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, the Ifrane National Park, the pre-Saharan palm groves and, of course, the desert.
But beauty is also in the little things, in the subtlest details and in the noble chores of everyday life. And that is what we will discover during this 11-day tour. For example, in the souks of the medinas, where you can still come into direct contact with the craftsmen who produce their handmade articles. We will also see it in musicians who have been able to preserve their ancestral folklore. And in nomadic families that still overcome the rigors of the desert thanks to an extraordinary mastery to exploit natural resources, including camels, which they have also put at the service of tourism … as we will see firsthand.
In 11 days and 10 nights, you can hardly visit more places and do more activities of tourist interest. Here we show the daily development of this circuit starting at Marrakech Menara Airport and ending at Tangier Ibn Battuta Airport.
The circuit is long and very complete. Therefore, the first day will be aimed at ‘disembarking’ and acclimatizing to the country, its rhythm of life and its environment. It will be easy because our staff will be waiting for you at the airport terminal for your private transfer to the riad in Marrakech. After that and after the corresponding check-in, you will enjoy some free time until the time to rest in the rooms of the picturesque lodging where you will spend the night.
To discover Marrakech in depth, there is nothing better than to put yourself in the hands of a local official guide, who will take you to the most beautiful areas of the medina, but also to the most genuine and authentic corners. Some arose in the Almoravid period, when this city became the capital of their empire. Others are more recent, but retain the same charm and exotic style that makes them so interesting.
This tour will take us through the Jemaa el-Fna Square, which is the nerve center and popular center of the city, thanks to its market full of stalls and restaurants. The Koutoubia Mosque will be on our way and, although it can only be visited inside by Muslims, we will be delighted with its minaret. The Saadian tombs are the most outstanding monument of this dynasty that also ruled the kingdom from here in the 16th and 17th centuries. And the Bahia Palace will show us why it is considered one of the finest examples of local architecture. And like these examples, many others full of beauty.
Although this is a very complete guided tour, it will be impossible to see everything in one morning. It is not for nothing that Marrakech has been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco for the historical and monumental wealth it treasures. Therefore, the afternoon can serve as a complement for those who have not had enough of the morning walk. The museums, the gardens or the souks of the center are proposals to consider for the afternoon, which will be free. And in the evening, you will rest again in the riad in the medina.
Before starting our roadtrip to the desert lands, this circuit has in program an unavoidable excursion: the one that will take us to Essaouira, called the ‘pearl of the Atlantic’ for its beauty and its location at the foot of the ocean. We will travel there by road and on the way we will have the chance to see immense argan fields, as well as stop to visit a local cooperative that extracts its precious oil as in the past.
Once in Essaouira, the visit will be free, but we will give you indications on what to visit… which is a lot. The most visited and photographed monument is the Skala, a maritime fortress of Portuguese origin and style (16th century), although rebuilt a couple of centuries later. The medina, declared a World Heritage Site, is located in the shelter of the citadel. The fishing port at the foot of the ramparts, the large Moulay Hassan square, the Jewish mellah or the beaches south of the city will be other places that will fascinate you during your walk.
In the afternoon, we will return to Marrakech by the same highway of the outward journey, to rest at the end of the day in the riad of the two previous nights.
On this fourth day of the tour, we leave Marrakech for good to start our journey through other regions of Morocco. And we start with the monuments, landscapes, surprises and emotions that lie on the other side of the Atlas Mountains. To this end. We will head to the Tizi n’Tichka pass, at an altitude of more than 2,200 meters, where we will arrive through fertile valleys that are home to farms and picturesque villages.
But from Tizi n’Tichka onwards, the landscape changes markedly. The terrain becomes much more arid, a sign that the desert is getting closer. Finishing the descent, comes our first visit of the day: Ait Ben Haddou. It is a spectacular ksar or fortified village, probably built in the seventeenth century, although it is known that this site was already fortified in the eleventh century. We speak, therefore, of the time of the Almoravid empire, which ruled from Marrakech but whose dominions reached Timbuktu. Precisely between both cities there was an important commercial route, which had one of its most important stops here.
After admiring from inside and outside the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, we will arrive in Ouarzazate, a city famous for its Atlas film studios, which have earned it the nickname ‘the Hollywood of Morocco’. But the main monument here is the kasbah of Taourirt, which we will visit to ‘travel’ to the time when Thami El Glaoui, the great Pasha of Marrakech, resided in this castle-palace.
After this visit, we will go to the hotel-riad where we will not only rest for the night, but also have dinner to replenish the energy spent in this day of great mileage.
On this fifth day of the circuit we enter the pre-Saharan valleys, in particular, the Valley of the Roses and the Dades Valley. In the first, there is an abundance of rose bushes, whose flower is here a raw material of great importance for its cosmetic and handicraft uses. In the second, we will perceive that particular mix of rocky hills, oasis of palm trees and farmland along the river. There are numerous kasbahs and also small adobe villages with a Berber atmosphere, such as Tinghir.
In one of the detours of the route we will reach the amazing Todra Gorges: this rocky canyon is a natural corridor between vertical and high walls (more than 100 meters), emerged by the erosion since time immemorial of this seasonal river. Walking along the bottom of this canyon is quite an experience. But even more is to climb its walls, as climbers from all over the world do.
The route continues and passes by the palm groves of Tinjdad and Touroug, and later reaches Erfoud. This city is known for its marbles and fossils, which will fascinate archeology and paleontology enthusiasts. And soon after we will arrive at Merzouga, a small town that has positioned itself as the starting point of the routes that go to the dunes of Erg Chebbi, located next door.
That is what we will do at that moment, and we will do it in the most traditional way: on the back of camels, which will take us, guided by a Touareg, to the luxury tent camp located in the heart of this sea of fine golden sand. We will be greeted with a welcome tea, have dinner in a familiar and relaxing atmosphere, and go to sleep under the overwhelming brightness of the stars.
The spectacle of the desert can be appreciated in infinite nuances. Among them, day and night lights, and the transitions between them. The previous day’s sunset will have been very special, especially if you are lucky enough to experience it during the camel ride. But the dawn of the next day, that is, the sixth, has nothing to envy. Therefore, it is worth getting up early to contemplate this spectacle of colors.
After that, we will have breakfast and return to Merzouga to get ready for the unique day ahead. The first stop will be Khamlia, home to an endearing community of Moroccans with origins in Sudan and other sub-Saharan countries: centuries ago, they were slaves brought here by the caravan routes, but today they are extraordinary musicians who will delight us with a Gnawa concert, a folklore protected by Unesco as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Shortly after, the road loses its asphalt and becomes dirt. But that won’t be a problem, quite the contrary: our route becomes a Paris-Dakar rally adventure, just like decades ago. In this landscape of stony hamada we will find kohl mines exploited at the time of the French Protectorate for its importance then for the cosmetic industry. They are now abandoned, like other villages that we will perceive during the tour.
The afternoon will be dedicated to a most enriching experience: living for a few hours with nomadic families who still live like their parents, grandparents… and many generations ago. Although they are assimilating certain habits of sedentary peoples, their way of life is still diametrically opposed to that of the West. Therefore, they will have a lot to teach us during this pleasant time together.
After that, we will return to Merzouga, but we will take the opportunity to contemplate the dunes from an elevated and strategic point, which will allow us to understand the enormous size of this sea of sand (about 22 long x about 5 km wide), one of the largest in Morocco. In Merzouga, we will have dinner and rest in a charming desert hotel.
On the seventh day of the tour we say goodbye to the desert and the vast region south of the Atlas Mountains. And we will do it with a long distance ride through the Ziz Valley, which we will go up to its source in the Middle Atlas.
But before that, there is still one last visit of interest, very close to Merzouga: we are talking about Rissani, a small town that preserves a beautiful medina, with historical monuments, such as the mausoleum of Mulay Ali Chérif, founder of the Alaouite dynasty, currently on the throne of Morocco. But the interesting thing about Rissani is in its popular culture, in its everyday scenes. For example, its animal souk, its donkey parking lot or its traditional products market.
Many of these images will be in our minds during the subsequent route, but will give way to others of equal beauty when we reach the north face of the Middle Atlas. Here we will be surprised by the gable roofs of the city of Ifrane, called ‘the Switzerland of Morocco’. But above all, we will be struck by the greenery of the Ifrane National Park, populated by thousands and thousands of cedars, one of the national trees of the country. It is no coincidence that this space has become the best refuge for Barbary macaques, a protected species that has its largest community here… as we will soon discover, as they will come out to meet us.
After the most green Morocco, we will arrive in Fez, one of the four Imperial Cities of the country (along with Marrakech, Meknes and Rabat) and one of the most interesting from the cultural, religious and artistic point of view. On this day, however, we will limit ourselves to rest in the riad in the medina to regain strength for the next day.
Fez is a city that fascinates everyone who visits it. Especially if you appreciate art, whether architecture or the so-called ‘minor arts’, that is, the craftsmanship that in this city reaches heights of extraordinary mastery. For this reason, for its religious importance and for many other reasons, it has been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
As in Marrakech, we will dedicate a full day to this city: half of it as a guided tour with an official guide and the other half free. During the guided tour, we will visit the most emblematic corners of the medina, which is the largest in the country and is divided into old medina (Fez el Jedid) and new medina (Fez el Bali), although both are from medieval times. Its mosques (outside visit), its square and fountain Nejjarine, its medersas (Bou Inania) or its souks and neighborhoods of artisans (tanners) are so lively that the visitor believes to be in another era of history.
During the afternoon at leisure, you will be able to visit some of the places left over from the morning (Royal Palace, mellah, etc.), buy some of the prestigious handicraft objects (ceramics, wood, jewelry, tapestry, etc.), visit a museum or simply walk around aimlessly to breathe the atmosphere of the medina. Either way, the night’s rest at the riad will be very comforting.
On the ninth day of the circuit, we say goodbye to the spectacular imperial city of Fez to visit the other two remaining ones: Meknes and Rabat. The road route between all of them is simple, along the highway, and the distance to be covered is less than on other days: just over 200 km.
Meknes is the closest to Fez and owes its title of ‘imperial’ to Sultan Moulay Ismail, who designated it the capital in the 17th century. For this reason, it erected important constructions, such as its walls, in which the Bab el Mansour gate stands out. Of great refinement is his mausoleum, where the visitor can understand the political and private power that he amassed during his life and that he wanted to leave for posterity.
After strolling through the most emblematic corners of the medina of Meknes, which is a World Heritage Site, we will head to Rabat, another city that also holds these titles: Imperial City and World Heritage Site. But with an added bonus: it is also the current capital of Morocco, so it has some of the most representative buildings and monuments of the country. For example, the Royal Palace and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, the king of independence. The Hassan Tower and the Kasbah of the Udayas, with its wonderful views of the Atlantic coast, the Bou Regreg river and the neighboring Salé, will make a nice walk before going to the riad for the night’s rest.
This 11-day Morocco tour is coming to an end, but we leave for this moment one of the most special visits: Chaouen. From the capital, Rabat, we will travel north by road until we reach the Rif Mountains, where we will find this city called ‘the blue village’ because of the predominant color of the walls of its houses.
Chaouen extends on the slopes of two mountains, so that its medina is full of ups and downs, nooks and crannies, arches and stairs. But that adds to its charm. In addition, it has different viewpoints to capture all the panoramic beauty of this blue and white village against the green background of the environment. Its Uta el-Hammam square is full of locals and its 14th century kasbah stands here, rivaling the spectacular cedar tree, a monument of nature.
In Chaouen, the visit will be free, so you can organize your time as you wish until it is time to rest for the night in the riad, located in the medina.
With your mind full of blue memories, you will leave Chaouen and Morocco, since on this last day we will make the direct transfer from this city to Tangier Ibn Battuta Airport, at the agreed time after breakfast. At the departure terminal of the airport our services end, so we will say goodbye with gratitude and the hope that this 11-day tour will already occupy a place in your hearts.
The program of this 11-day circuit is long, and so is the list of services included in the travel package to make the experience a success in every way.
These services are not included in the package and their choice is at the traveler’s discretion: