If you want your trip to Morocco to start in Fez, end in Marrakech and be as complete as possible, this is the proposal that will convince you: in 11 days of route, travel to the most beautiful village in the north (Chaouen), cross the Atlas Mountains by two different points, cross different pre-Saharan valleys full of palm trees and kasbahs, reach the purest dunes of the whole country (Erg Chebbi), stop calmly in the two cities of greatest historical interest (Fez and Marrakech) and even caress the Atlantic Ocean in Essaouira. Do you dare to find out?
To enjoy Morocco you will have to awaken your five senses. This is the only way to admire its beauty and charm. And this circuit will make you discover its wonderful contrasts. For example, between the blue of Chaouen, the red of Marrakech, the gold of Erg Chebbi or the green of the glazed tiles of Fez. You will also appreciate the distinct smell of the Atlantic Ocean, the palm groves of the desert or the pigments used by the tanners of Chouwara, also in Fez. Not to mention the thousands of nuances of flavor between a good tajine, a freshly made harira soup or a sweet Chebakia in the middle of Ramadan.
For many, Morocco’s most pleasant surprise is its nature. Where cities do not reach, the terrain becomes wild and authentic. And thanks to the diversity of climatic areas, life emerges spontaneously and freely, harboring a rich biodiversity of fauna and flora. In this circuit we will visit interesting examples, such as the Ifrane National Park, the Mediterranean mountains of the Rif, the sand dunes of the purest desert or the argan fields, the national tree of the country.
The program of this 11-day, 10-night tour is designed in detail to make the most of each day. With no internal flights but convenient road travel, the road map is most attractive:
Fez Saiss Airport is one of the main gateways to Morocco and, in this case, will be the start of the circuit. We will be waiting for you at the terminal and, after completing the entry formalities, we will transfer you in a private vehicle to the riad in the medina. After check-in, the rest of the day will be free, leaving it up to you whether to take a first contact with the city or rest to face the tour with energy from the next day.
200 km separate Fez from Chaouen, a distance worth traveling for the beauty and uniqueness of this picturesque destination. Therefore, after breakfast at the riad, we will head north until we reach the Rif, with its Mediterranean climate and landscape. Nestled between two mountains, Chaouen’s blue and bank hamlet stands out as a masterpiece of popular architecture: its inhabitants whitewash and paint the walls of their buildings with these pleasant tones, which has become their hallmark.
The medina not only amazes by these colors, but also by the intricate streets that give rise to corners of the most evocative, which help the pots full of flowers and the goods for sale in craft stores. The route will surely pass through the main square, Uta el-Hammam, with a spectacular cedar tree in the center and an imposing kasbah at one end. And to take home the best snapshot of the so-called ‘blue village’, you can explore the various viewpoints.
The visit of Chaouen will be free and, at the agreed time, we will pick you up to return to Fez and rest in the riad of the first day.
The visit to Fez on this third day is guided, since its medina has so much history, legends and monuments that only this way you will be able to admire it in all its magnitude. Capital of the kingdom at various periods, it retains its status as a spiritual and religious capital, as well as the capital of craftsmanship and culture in general. Its title of World Heritage Site, awarded by Unesco in 1981, leaves no room for doubt: this is a city to be discovered in depth.
Our official guide will take you to the most interesting places of Fez el-Bali (old medina, from the 9th century) and Fez el-Jedid (new medina from the 13th century), surrounded by a wall and full of interesting monuments. Some of those that can be part of the route are the Royal Palace, the medersa of Bou Inania, the Karaouine Mosque (exterior only), or Nejjarine Square. The tanneries (Chouwara) are not exactly noted for their monumentality, but they are a good reflection of the craft activity that still moves the historic center of Fez.
After the visit to Fez, we will start the route by road to the south. We will move through the environment of the Middle Atlas, but without leaving the north face of this mountain range. It is here that some of the wettest, greenest and most fertile spots in the country are found, a sign that rainfall is more abundant here than in the rest of Morocco.
In Ifrane, these precipitations are in the form of snow during the winter (1,700 meters of altitude), which explains the alpine-like constructions that will attract our attention as we pass through it. And in the National Park of the same name, that translates into a huge expanse of land (50,000 hectares) where the Atlas cedar and the Barbary macaque have found their perfect habitat, as we will also see.
Later, in another high altitude village (Midelt, at 1,500 meters), we will stop for dinner and rest for the night, in the facilities of a nice riad with maximum comfort.
On this fourth day of the circuit, after crossing the Tizi n’Talghemt pass, we begin a long descent that will end in the heart of the desert: from the 1,500 meters of altitude of Midelt we will reach 800 meters above sea level in Erfoud, a fact that reminds us that we will move through a continuous plateau where the nights can be cold or even freezing.
To get there, the route is not lost: we must travel the entire Ziz Valley, which will leave us in the aforementioned city of Erfoud. Its hallmark is the fossils and even dinosaur bones, found in numerous paleontological sites and excavations in the area. A simple glance around us will help us to understand that it has become a real tourist attraction.
After Erfoud, our next stop is Merzouga. Or perhaps we should speak of ‘transfer’, because in this desert village we will change means of transport: we will park our vehicle to take the camels (one per person) that, guided by a Tuareg leader, will lead us to the camp of jaimas, in the heart of the dunes of Erg Chebbi.
These dunes are the largest and purest of all Morocco, with more than 25 km long and a landscape of sand hills that changes every day, every hour. And the luxury tented camp is another attraction in itself: these Berber tents are equipped with all the comfort to enjoy a dream evening, starting with the welcome tea, followed by the typical dinner and concluding with a sky full of shining stars.
In the dunes of Erg Chebbi, clocks lose their meaning and the rhythm of the day is set by the sun and the moon. For this reason, it will be worthwhile to get up at the same time as the sun rises over the horizon in the East: the spectacle of colors it offers before, during and after dawn is simply indescribable.
After this magical moment, we will have breakfast and get ready to return to Merzouga by camel or jeep. In this town we will make a new transfer, in this case to get on the 4×4 that will take us through unpaved tracks, which the Paris-Dakar rally used as a competition route.
Before the asphalt disappears is Khamlia, popularly known as the ‘village of the blacks’: that is the skin color of many of its inhabitants, whose ancestors were brought here as slaves. Today they are the best ambassadors of Gnawa music, which has sub-Saharan roots, as we will understand during the concert they will offer us.
No less meritorious are the nomadic or semi-nomadic families who still live in the desert according to the customs of yesteryear: caring for their livestock with care and in the most modest temporary settlements. We will meet them in person, since our driver-guide is a person of their confidence. And this encounter will be a most rewarding experience, for their hospitality and for the lessons that can be learned from their way of understanding the world.
Between Khamlia and the nomadic village there is also much to see on both sides of the dirt tracks. For example, kohl mines, now abandoned but that tell us about the importance given to the extraction of this mineral in the times of the French Protectorate. Or an elevated viewpoint that will give us the best panoramic view of the dunes of Erg Chebbi.
After such a rich program, dinner and rest will be refreshing in our hotel in Merzouga, tastefully decorated according to the Berber art and traditions of the desert.
It is time to say goodbye to the desert of Merzouga on this sixth day, to head for the beautiful valleys that extend from here to the High Atlas. On this road, shortly after starting the morning itinerary, we will arrive at Rissani, a surprising town that preserves a historic medina and customs of another time: its traditional market, its donkey parking, its stalls selling Berber pizza…
From Rissani, we will advance kilometers and kilometers to the Dades Valley, with this river as the axis and source of life: its riverbed, although modest, provides the necessary moisture for the emergence of palm groves and farmland. And watching over this riverbed, numerous kasbahs, some of them in ruins on top of the rocky hills. In such an environment we will reach Tinghir, one of the most charming villages in the valley.
From here, a detour will lead us to the Todra Gorges, a natural enclave that will leave us speechless. Its rock walls are striking for their verticality and height, about 200 meters in some places. Its contemplation is spectacular from below, next to the small stream that has formed this narrow gorge.
After strolling through this unique environment, we will return to the road to reach the final destination of the day: Boumalne Dades, in the section known as the Valley of the Roses. Here we will have dinner and rest in a nice and comfortable riad, as usual.
The sixth day of the tour will take us to discover the highlights of the Berber architecture of southern Morocco. In the first part of the day we will leave the Dades Valley among the rose bushes that the inhabitants of these villages take care of as a valuable treasure, for their interest for the cosmetic industry and, increasingly, for their tourist attraction.
Ouarzazate will be the first big stop of the day: its worldwide fame is due to the film studios where scenes of movies set in the desert are shot, as was the case of
Lawrence of Arabia
. However, from a tourist and cultural point of view, the kasbah of Taourirt, the main monument of the city, is even more interesting. It was the palatial and defensive residence of Thami El Glaoui, Pasha of Marrakech and Lord of the Atlas, a key figure in Morocco in the early twentieth century. For its structure, materials and decoration, it can be considered one of the greatest architectural jewels of the Berber civilization.
The same applies to Ait Ben Haddou, about 30 km from Ouarzazate. In this case, it does not show opulence or refinement, since it is a village fortified by its own inhabitants. But its huddled silhouette surrounded by walls is a spectacle for the eyes, which also served as a setting for films and series such as Game of Thrones. But its title of World Heritage Site by Unesco shows us that this place is not a mere decoration, but a historical and fundamental enclave for the caravan routes that connected Marrakech with the south of the Sahara.
In addition, families continue to live in Ait Ben Haddou and projects have been carried out to adapt it to tourism with high quality standards. And so we will check, because here is the riad where we will dine and spend the night of this seventh day.
The High Atlas Mountains are just a stone’s throw away from Ait Ben Haddou, and we will leave for them after breakfast at the riad. Our ascent will crown the Tizi n’Tichka pass, one of the most famous for its altitude (2,260 meters above sea level) and for having been used since time immemorial to reach Marrakech from the desert.
In addition, it is a panoramic point of great interest: in winter, the snow invades everything, and the rest of the year it is the border between the aridity of the south face and the fertile north face of the High Atlas. On our descent we will see that the vegetation is now much more lush and abundant, with villages that seem to hang from the mountains and watercourses that bring freshness and humidity to the environment.
Arrival in Marrakech will not take long and, after check-in at the riad in the center, you will have free time to explore the city, enjoy the local leisure, go shopping or just relax.
For its history, its monuments and its vibrant popular life, it is advisable to dedicate a full day to visit Marrakech, the most admired city in the country. And not by chance: it has been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco and preserves a medina full of charm.
With our official guide, we will dedicate the morning to a guided tour, with explanations about the places of interest, which are many in the so-called ‘red city’. The Koutoubia Mosque, with its imposing minaret, stands as the great monument of the center, although its interior visit is reserved for Muslims. The Ben Youssef Medersa is one of the most refined buildings in the city, as is the Bahia Palace, fascinating residence of the grand vizier Abu Bou Ahmed. And the Saadian Tombs are the best exponent of the wealth and power that this dynasty, which chose Marrakech as its capital in the sixteenth century, treasured.
But that’s just an example of how much there is to see in Marrakech, so the final itinerary will be at the discretion of our expert guide. The rest can be visited in the afternoon, as well as museums and gardens of maximum interest, such as the Museum of Marrakech, the Yves Saint-Laurent Museum or the Majorelle Gardens. And after these hours of free program, the charming riad in the medina will be waiting for you again.
One of the aspects that make the difference between this 11-day tour and others of shorter duration is that, in this case, you will not leave Morocco without feeling the fresh embrace of the sea. On this tenth day, we will travel from Marrakech to Essaouira to discover this beautiful city, nicknamed the ‘pearl of the Atlantic’.
The route will be easy, mainly by highway, crossing immense argan fields, one of Morocco’s most emblematic trees. But the most interesting thing is that we will have the opportunity to stop at a local cooperative to discover how the humble local people continue to prepare the precious argan oil using traditional methods.
In the morning, we will arrive in Essaouira, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Its origins are closely related to the Portuguese, who created here an important commercial stronghold for their exploration and navigation routes through Africa. To them we owe the main monument of the city, the maritime fortress Skala, from the 16th century but rebuilt some time later. The medina and its surroundings preserve other charming corners, such as the fishermen’s port or the Jewish quarter. So it is no coincidence that the old town is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And of course, the city’s beaches will be a major attraction for those seeking relaxation, a refreshing swim or a sporting activity. There are many proposals to enjoy Essaouira, and you can choose the one you like the most, because the plan of the day is free, until the time to return to your riad in the medina.
The eleventh day of the tour is the last day and will take you to Marrakech Menara Airport, directly from Essaouira. So, in order to arrive in time and without any surprises, we will agree on the most appropriate time to leave from the riad in this city. And at the airport terminal we will say goodbye with gratitude until, hopefully, next time.
From arrival in Fez to departure at Marrakech Airport, this travel package includes premium services to make the most of the experience. Here you can consult them:
These other services are not included, so the client must decide on his own, although we will be able to provide advice and counsel in certain cases: