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Tour from Tangier to Marrakech, with desert in depth, the Atlantic coast and the Imperial Cities

12 days in Morocco are enough to configure a very complete circuit, including practically all the destinations of interest in the country, whether in the north, on the Atlantic coast, in the Sahara desert or in the big cities of the interior. And also, dedicating time to the local customs and people, which enrich this proposal so that you return home with the most genuine experiences. Take a look and take note of a trip that will change your life.

Imperial cities and eternal villages

This 12-day tour from Tangier covers the four Imperial Cities of Morocco: Fez and Marrakech (as in other shorter tours) and also Meknes and Rabat, which are sometimes left out of the program due to lack of time but are certainly worth a visit. They receive this nickname because they are or have been capitals of the kingdom, and preserve iconic constructions for the country. In addition, the tour reaches many other cities that are not ‘imperial’ but are impressive for their beauty: sometimes recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO (Essaouira, Ait Ben Haddou, Tetouan, Volubilis), and other times, without this distinction but with the unanimous applause of its visitors (Asilah, Chaouen, Rissani, Ifrane).

Natural landscapes of all colors

Green, blue, red, gold, pink, purple… and even white in the colder months. That is a sample of the palette of colors that you will find in the different natural landscapes of Morocco, which change according to the time of day and the season of the year. And we will discover them in the most varied environments: hillside forests, mountain passes, desert dunes, sea coast, inland fields, oases in arid valleys … If you like nature and the images it offers, choose this circuit, open your eyes and enjoy with your heart.

Itinerary of this 12-day circuit from Tangier

Here is the complete program of this 12 days and 11 nights tour from Tangier to Marrakech, traveling to many other destinations by road (and by sand, in the desert):

  • Day 1: Tangier – Asilah
  • Day 2: Asilah – Tetouan – Chaouen
  • Day 3: Chaouen – Rabat
  • Day 4: Rabat – Volubilis – Meknes – Fez
  • Day 5: Fez
  • Day 6: Fez – Ifrane – Monkey Forest – Erfoud – Erg Chebbi Dunes
  • Day 7: Erg Chebbi Dunes – Visit to nomads – Khamlia – Merzouga Desert
  • Day 8: Merzouga Desert – Rissani – Todra Gorges – Dades Valley – Ouarzazate
  • Day 9: Ouarzazate – Ait Ben Haddou – Marrakech
  • Day 10: Marrakech
  • Day 11: Marrakech – Essaouira
  • Day 12: Essaouira – Marrakech Airport

Day 1: Tangier - Asilah

In Tangier (airport, port or city center) you will meet our staff to start this intense tour, which includes beautiful destinations right from the beginning. Leaving behind this city bathed by the Strait of Gibraltar, we will travel about 50 km to reach Asilah, one of the most beautiful coastal towns of the Atlantic in the north of the country.

In Asilah you will have free time to enjoy the picturesque and bohemian atmosphere that reigns in its streets: within the medina, flanked by a wall of Portuguese origin, many artists live or work in their creative studio. Some walls are decorated with painting murals, a sign that an important art festival is held here in the summer.

In this atmosphere that invites to rest and reverie, you will find the pleasant riad where you will rest this first night of the circuit.

  • Pick up in Tangier (airport, port or hotel)
  • Road trip to Asilah
  • Free time in Asilah
  • Night in riad in Asilah

Day 2: Asilah - Tetouan - Chaouen

On this second day of the circuit, the road will take us to other interesting places in the north of Morocco. The first of these, Tetouan, just 10 km from the Mediterranean, and its influence will be felt in the atmosphere. However, the most attractive of this city is its historic medina, whitewashed in white, and its twentieth-century expansion, inspired by the modernist and neo-Andalusian neighborhoods of Andalusia, as Tetouan was at that time the capital of the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco.

After this free visit of Tetouan, we will head south through the Rif Mountains. Between two of them lies Chaouen, one of the most pleasant surprises of the whole circuit. The blue color of the houses of the medina give a fairytale air to the medina, both from the surrounding viewpoints and in the nooks and crannies that form its steep alleys. Its square of Uta el-Hammam and its medieval citadel will also attract many eyes, and will be close to the charming riad where you will rest this second night.

  • Breakfast in riad in Asilah
  • Continuation of the route by road:
    • Tetuan
    • Chaouen
  • Night in riad in Chaouen

Day 3: Chaouen - Rabat

From the Rif Mountains to the Atlantic coast, again. But this time to visit the first of the country’s Imperial Cities: Rabat. During the morning we will arrive in this city which, in conjunction with Salé on the other side of the Bu Regreg River, forms one of the largest and most vibrant metropolises in the country.

But it is here in Rabat where some of the most important symbols of Morocco’s political power can be found, as it is its capital: the Royal Palace (Dar-al-Mahkzen) is one of them, as well as the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. As great historical monuments include the Hassan Tower (from the Almohad period, in the twelfth century) and the Kasbah of the Udayas (from the same period, but rebuilt centuries later).

You will be able to get to know all this during this day, which is free for you to organize the program according to your preferences. The souks of the medina, the museums of contemporary art or the surrounding beaches are other proposals to complete the day. And at night, rest in a riad in the center.

  • Breakfast in riad in Chaouen
  • Road trip to Rabat
  • Free time in Rabat
  • Night in riad in Rabat

Day 4: Rabat - Volubilis - Meknes - Fez

The fourth day of this circuit has a very significant cultural and historical component. After leaving Rabat, the current capital, we will travel to other nearby destinations that were also in the past: Volubilis, Meknes and Fez.

Volubilis is today an archaeological site where the remains of that Roman city that continued to be inhabited and used as a capital after the Arab conquest, until the ninth century, are preserved. And the vestiges that can be visited here are of great value: columns of temples, triumphal arches, mosaics of houses, remains of baths and basilicas, the urban framework of the city… and a long etcetera.

About 20 km from Volubilis, Meknes is a city that also has much to offer, as it was the capital of the kingdom during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A Royal Palace, monumental gates of the wall (highlighting Bab Mansour) and the mausoleum of Sultan Moulay Ismail are among the highlights of the medina, which still maintains a lively daily rhythm.

And in the last part of the day we will arrive in Fez. You will spend the night in a riad in the center and, until then, you will have free time for a first contact with the city.

  • Breakfast in riad in Rabat
  • Continuation of the route by road:
    • Archaeological complex of Volubilis
    • Meknes
  • Arrival in Fez. Free time
  • Night in riad in Meknes

Day 5: Fez

The whole of the fifth day will be dedicated to discover Fez, probably the most interesting city in Morocco from a cultural, historical and religious point of view. Part of the day will be guided and the other part will be free.

During the guided tour, led by a certified official guide, we will walk through corners of great beauty and neighborhoods that, although they do not dazzle for their beauty, they do for their genuine atmosphere. The Karaouine Mosque gives us an idea of the importance of this city in the past, as it houses a university center that is considered by many to be the oldest in the world (10th century). Its medersas (Bou Inania and Attarine) also dazzle with their beauty and prestige, as well as other historical constructions that our ‘Cicero’ will show us.

In the afternoon, free time to spend at your leisure. The craft stalls in the medina are one of the options: carpenters, goldsmiths, potters and other artists of everyday life sell their goods directly to the customer, with great quality. The city’s museums also have much to offer, such as exhibitions of period weapons (Borj Nord) and works of art made of wood (Nejjarine Museum).

And at the end of the day, you will have another night of rest in the riad in the center.

  • Breakfast in riad in Fez
  • Guided tour of Fez, with official guide
  • Free afternoon
  • Night in riad in Fez

Day 6:Fez - Ifrane - Monkey forest - Erfoud - Erg Chebbi Dunes

The halfway point of this 12-day circuit is also the day that will take us farthest away from civilization: we will go to the heart of the Sahara Desert. But before reaching that point, at the end of the day, there will be many other things to discover, as the long road route includes several stops along the way.

The first will be, briefly, in Ifrane. And what we will see here is a most unexpected sight: houses with gable roofs, parks covered with grass and an atmosphere that may well remind us of the Alps. But everything has its explanation: its location in the Middle Atlas, at an altitude of 1,700 meters, favors a regime of abundant rainfall, which in winter is usually in the form of snow.

In its surroundings we will make another stop, in this case in the Ifrane National Park. The Moroccans themselves know it as Monkey Forest, in reference to the ‘king’ of this natural reserve: the Barbary macaque, which will surely be seen as we pass by. No less impressive are the park’s centennial cedars and the watercourses that flow wildly through the park.

Kilometers ahead, on the other side of the Middle Atlas, the Ziz Valley will lead us to the desert, in the middle of a landscape that is becoming more and more arid. Erfoud, where we will see numerous stores selling fossils, will be the last stop before reaching Merzouga.

This small desert village is the starting point for excursions to the dunes of Erg Chebbi. We will do the camel ride to feel like Tuaregs, but also because it is the best way to cross this environment with fine sand elevations. And at the heart of them will be our tented camp, where we will have a welcome tea, dinner and admire the shining stars above our heads, before retiring to sleep in one of the luxurious Berber tents.

  • Breakfast in riad in Fez
  • Resumption of the road route:
    • Ifrane
    • Ifrane National Park (Monkey Forest)
    • Half Atlas
    • Ziz Valley
    • Erfoud
  • Merzouga: camel ride to the tents camp in Erg Chebbi
  • Dinner and night in luxury tent camp in the dunes of Erg Chebbi

Day 7: Erg Chebbi Dunes - Visit to nomads - Khamlia - Merzouga Desert

One of the attractions of sleeping in the dunes of Erg Chebbi is, precisely, waking up in them. Especially if it is done very early in the morning to see the sunrise over this sea of golden sand. After contemplating the magic of the dawn lights, we will have breakfast at the camp and start our way back to Merzouga.

What awaits us from then on is a 4×4 route through other interesting corners of the desert, in this case on desolate roads, unpaved tracks and hammada terrain. One of the stops will be Khamlia, the ‘black village’ because that is the skin color of most of its inhabitants. They are descendants of former slaves brought along the caravan routes, and today they are the standard-bearers of Gnawa music, declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. We will get to know their rhythms and melodies in a performance to remember.

The other major stop of the day will be the semi-nomadic settlements of the indigenous Berber population, who maintain a way of life virtually disconnected from the rest of the world. They will show their hospitality and teach us about their daily chores, all with our intermediation.

On the way back to Merzouga, a last stop at an elevation from which to contemplate the more than 25 km of dunes. And to conclude the day, dinner and a pleasant night’s rest in a hotel with typical desert architecture and interior design.

  • Sunrise on the dunes of Erg Chebbi
  • Breakfast at the Erg Chebbi tents camp
  • Return to Merzouga and start of the 4×4 route through the desert:
    • Khamlia: gnawa concert
    • Living with nomadic families
  • Return to Merzouga
  • Dinner and night in hotel in Merzouga

Day 8: Merzouga Desert - Rissani - Todra Gorges - Dades Valley - Ouarzazate

It is time to leave the Sahara desert behind and continue our route towards the Atlas Mountains and Marrakech. On the way, shortly after starting the march, we will stop in Rissani, an interesting town that not only preserves a picturesque medina, but also an atmosphere of another era, as can be seen in their donkeys tied at the gates of the traditional market.

The road will lead us to the Dades Valley: we will advance with this river as an escort and we will see that around it are formed large clusters of palm trees and farmland. In one of the detours we will reach the Todra Gorges, a rocky canyon of whimsical shapes and walls of enormous height. A walk through its narrow gorge will leave us speechless, no doubt.

The route of the day does not stop here but continues through the rest of the Dades Valley, crossing the area known as the Valley of the Roses, because of the numerous flowers that mark the area after spring. And now in Ouarzazate, we will put the brakes on for today to rest in a hotel-riad, where we will also have dinner.

  • Breakfast at hotel in Merzouga
  • Return to Merzouga and continuation of the route:
    • Rissani
    • Dades Valley
    • Todra Gorges
  • Dinner and night in Ouarzazate

Day 9: Ouarzazate - Ait Ben Haddou - Marrakech

Ouarzazate is internationally known for its Atlas Studios, where scenes of important films have been shot, such as
Lawrence of Arabia
. However, we include it in this circuit for an imposing monument: its kasbah of Taourirt, castle on the outside and palace inside, a shining example of Berber architecture of the desert.

After your visit we will resume the road trip, but the next stop will be nearby, just 30 km: the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou. This fortified village is also closely related to the small and big screen, as scenes from Game of Thrones, among other blockbusters, have been filmed here. We will visit its humble hamlet, protected by walls with high crenellated towers and, of course, a kasbah on top.

Back on the road, we will start our ascent to the Tizi n’Tichka pass, a natural pass through the High Atlas at an altitude of more than 2,200 meters. After that, the only thing left to do is to descend through pleasant mountain valleys to reach Marrakech. And in the ‘red city’ you will have some free time to start getting to know this fascinating city on your own, before resting in the riad in the center in the evening.

  • Breakfast in hotel-riad in Ouarzazate
  • Kasbah of Taourirt
  • Continuation of the route by road:
    • Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou
    • High Altas (Tizi n’Tichka pass)
  • Arrival in Marrakech. Free time
  • Night in riad in Marrakech

Day 10: Marrakech

Marrakech is the most visited city in Morocco, and not by chance: its mix of history, art, luxury and popular atmosphere give it a very special atmosphere, which we will discover in depth on this tenth day of the tour.

In the morning we will tour the medina and its most emblematic corners with an official guide, such as the Jemaa el-Fna square and the exterior of the Koutoubia Mosque, a masterpiece of the Almohad dynasty that ruled the kingdom from here in the 12th and 13th centuries. In addition, our guide can take us to other beautiful places such as the Bahia Palace, the Saadid Tombs (another dynasty that reigned with Marrakech as its capital) or the medersa of Ben Youssef.

A very complete tour that, however, will not be enough to discover all that Marrakech has to offer. So the afternoon can be a good time to complete the day on your own, through its museums or less central neighborhoods, such as Gueliz, where the main luxury stores are also concentrated.

Undoubtedly, a day’s walk will be worthwhile and you will enjoy a good night’s rest at night in the riad.

  • Breakfast in riad in Marrakech
  • Guided tour, with official guide
  • Free afternoon
  • Night in riad in Marrakech

Day 11: Marrakech - Essaouira

This 12-day tour from Tangier has a very refreshing ending: the trip to Essaouira, known as the ‘pearl of the Atlantic’. We will travel there by road in the morning, crossing a landscape dominated by argan fields: from this emblematic tree a precious oil is extracted for cosmetics, as we will have the chance to see in a local cooperative dedicated to it.

Once in Essaouira, you will have free time to get to know this city made famous by the Portuguese (as can be seen in its maritime fortress Skala), which sheltered an important Jewish community (as can be seen in its mellah) and which dazzled celebrities such as Jimi Hendrix with its naïve atmosphere.

A walk through the medina is therefore always a pleasant proposal, as well as a swim in its beaches or a water activity on the coast. At night, the riad will be located in the center, so it will be convenient to walk to all these places.

  • Breakfast in riad in Marrakech
  • Road trip to Essaouira:
    • Visit to an argan oil cooperative
  • Free day in Essaouira
  • Night in riad in Essaouira

Day 12: Essaouira - Marrakech Airport

After sleeping the last night in this charming destination on the Moroccan Atlantic, it is time to head back to Marrakech Airport. At the agreed time, our driver will pick you up to make this trip with enough time to arrive unhurriedly at the airport terminal. And there our services will end with a fond farewell.

  • Breakfast in a riad in Essaouira
  • Check-out
  • Pick up and road trip to Marrakech Airport
  • End of our services

Services included in this 12-day tour from Tangier

This 12-day tour will run smoothly thanks to these premium quality services, included in the travel package:

  • Pick up in Tangier at the beginning of the tour (port, airport or other point of the city)
  • Transfer to Marrakech Airport at the end of the tour
  • Private vehicle with chauffeur for all the trips along the route.
  • One night in a riad in Asilah, on a breakfast-only basis
  • One night in a riad in Rabat, on a breakfast-only basis
  • One night in riad in Chaouen, on breakfast only basis
  • Two nights in a riad in Fez, on a breakfast-only basis
  • One night in a luxury tent camp in the dunes of Erg Chebbi, half board (dinner and breakfast).
  • One night in a hotel in the desert of Merzouga, half board (dinner and breakfast).
  • One night in hotel-riad in Ouarzazate, half-board (dinner and breakfast)
  • Two nights in riad in Marrakech, on breakfast only basis
  • One night in a riad in Essaouira, breakfast only.
  • Dromedary ride (one per person) in the dunes of Erg Chebbi
  • Guided tour in Fez, with official guide
  • Guided tour in Marrakech, with official guide

Services not included

These services are not included and must be booked and paid for separately:

  • International flight (or ferry ticket) for the arrival in Tangier
  • International flight back home (from Marrakech)
  • Dinners in Asilah, Chaouen, Rabat, Fez, Marrakech and Essaouira. Advice will be offered on restaurants in each city
  • Midday lunches
  • Beverages
  • Tips
  • Entrance fees to monuments and museums

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