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9 days Fez, desert end in Marrakech

Tour from Fez to the desert, ending in Marrakech and visit of both Imperial Cities.

In Fez and Marrakech there is a lot to see. And also between one city and the other: the Atlas Mountains, the purest desert, the pre-Saharan valleys… The ideal way to discover it is by road, in a roadtrip for the memory. It is true that the distances are long, so if you want to enjoy it all at your leisure, limiting the mileage of each stage, this 9-day option is ideal: it follows a similar scheme to other shorter circuits, but adds a few more days to the program so that the routes are somewhat shorter and the stops are longer. Do you like the idea? So, take a look and let yourself be carried away to the most fascinating corners of Morocco.

Art, history and fertile landscapes, north of the Atlas Mountains

The Atlas mountain range, with its southwest-northeast orientation, is a natural barrier that determines the configuration of the landscape and the cities on either side. As we will discover in this 9-day trip, north of the Atlas are the most populous and historic cities, among which Fez and Marrakech stand out for their monumentality and dynamism. And as for the natural landscape, the north side of these mountains is the most humid and greenest, especially around the highest altitude towns, such as Ifrane and Midelt. This has led to the creation of valuable natural parks, as well as large areas of farmland.

Berber traditions and desert, south of the Atlas mountains

Crossing the Atlas Mountains, we discover another Morocco: the most arid and inhospitable, with vegetation relegated to riverside oases, generally in the form of palm groves. But crossing these miraculous orchards is also a magnificent experience, which will make us understand how nature opens its way wherever it finds a crack. In addition, the harshest desert will meet us in Merzouga, where its inhabitants and their ancestral traditions resist like heroes in small villages. Meeting them in person will be a most enriching experience.

Itinerary of this 9-day tour from Fez

9 days and 8 nights, with our vehicle in a lower gear to enjoy each destination at leisure. That is the idea behind this travel program, starting at Fez Airport and ending at Marrakech Airport, as detailed below:

  • Day 1: Fez Airport – Fez
  • Day 2: Fez – Ifrane – Monkey Forest – Midelt
  • Day 3: Midelt – Ziz Valley – Erfoud – Erg Chebbi Dunes
  • Day 4: Erg Chebbi Dunes – Visit to nomads – Khamlia – Merzouga Desert
  • Day 5: Merzouga Desert – Rissani – Todra Gorges – Boumalne Dades
  • Day 6: Boumalne Dades – Ouarzazate – Ait Ben Haddou
  • Day 7: Ait Ben Haddou – High Atlas – Marrakech
  • Day 8: Marrakech
  • Day 9: Marrakech – Marrakech Airport

Day 1: Fez Airport - Fez

In this 9-day tour of Morocco, you will feel at home from the very beginning, since our staff will be at your disposal as soon as you arrive at Fez Airport. After completing the necessary arrival formalities, we will make the transfer to the riad in the medina in our private premium vehicle.

After check-in, you will have some free time before returning to the riad to rest in the rooms. The duration of this free time will depend on the arrival time of the flight. If that takes all afternoon, you can take the opportunity to get acquainted with the city and do your first shopping, as Fez is the ‘capital’ of Moroccan handicrafts.

  • Meeting at Fez Airport
  • Transfer to the riad by private premium vehicle
  • Check-in and free time
  • Night in riad in Fez

Day 2: Fez - Ifrane - Monkey Forest - Midelt

After a first contact the day before, it is on the morning of the second day when the sightseeing tours of the circuit begin. And they do it in style: with a guided tour of the medina of Fez, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco thanks to its history, beauty and good state of preservation.

Our official guide, accredited by the Ministry of Tourism, will take you to the most interesting corners of the old part, which is divided into Fez el-Bali and Fez el-Jedid. In both neighborhoods of medieval origin are concentrated the main monuments, such as the Karaouine Mosque (only visitable by Muslims), the medersa Bou Inania, the Najjarine Square or the neighborhood of tanners (Chouwara), among other remarkable options that our guide could add to your tour.

After the guided tour of Fez, we hit the road to start the route. During the rest of the day we will be delighted with the greenest and lushest landscapes of the whole country, such as those of the north face of the Middle Atlas. Above 1,500 meters of altitude we find towns and natural enclaves of great value. This is the case of Ifrane, with its characteristic gable roofs.

Or the Ifrane National Park, also called Monkey Forest because Barbary macaques are its most emblematic and numerous species. This reserve, of about 50,000 hectares, is also famous for the millions of Atlas cedars that cover its territory, making it an extraordinary natural lung for the interior of the country.

After visiting this National Park, we continue a few more kilometers until we reach Midelt, another town with a mountainous environment and prosperous agriculture. And there will be the riad for dinner and rest on this second day.

  • Breakfast in riad in Fez
  • Guided tour of Fez, with official guide
  • Beginning of the route by road:
    • Ifrane
    • Ifrane National Park (Monkey Forest)
  • Dinner and overnight in Midelt

Day 3: Midelt - Ziz Valley - Erfoud - Erg Chebbi Dunes

On this third day we will wake up on the north face of the Middle Atlas, but shortly after resuming the route we will pass to the south face through the port of Tizi n’Talghemt, with a clear contrast of landscape: from the humidity and greenery we change to the aridity and reddish tones of the earth, abundantly used to build in adobe.

The Ziz Valley will lead us south towards the desert and the main stop will be Erfoud, a city world famous for its fossils: in some of them you can see traces of animal species from the dinosaur era, which has become its hallmark.

Shortly after Erfoud we arrive at Merzouga, the gateway to the desert of the same name. And more specifically, to the largest and most spectacular sand dunes in the country: Erg Chebbi. With more than 25 km from end to end, they are an essential attraction for those looking for a mental disconnection during the trip.

To move through them, we will ride on the back of camels, led by a Tuareg guide, emulating the ancient caravan routes that for so long traveled through this region. The crossing will end in a luxury tents camp, where we will be welcomed with a Berber tea.

These canvas tents, used by Berber nomads since time immemorial, have now been adapted to their new function as exclusive accommodation, with all the comforts to enjoy a unique night. And to this will contribute the dinner included and the starry sky that will shine over our heads.

  • Breakfast in riad in Midelt
  • Continuation of the route by road:
    • Middle Atlas Pass through Tizi n’Talghemt
    • Ziz Valley
    • Erfoud
  • Arrival in Merzouga:
    • Start of the dromedary excursion in the dunes of Erg Chebbi
  • Dinner and night in luxury tent camp in the dunes of Erg Chebbi

Day 4: Erg Chebbi Dunes - Visit to nomads - Khamlia - Merzouga Desert

Spending the night in the desert is an experience to be enjoyed with the soul and the senses. The silence caused by the distance from civilization is overwhelming. And the variety of colors provided by night and day is also spectacular. We can see this if we witness the sunrise from the dunes: watching the sky light up in the east and the sand turn from violet to golden tones is an immersive experience that no 3D show can match.

Shortly after breakfast, we will return to Merzouga (by camel or 4×4) because a very unique program awaits us on this day. The protagonists will be the people of the desert and their traditions, with us as privileged spectators.

In Khamlia, called ‘the black people’, we will meet this community of people whose ancestors were slaves brought from sub-Saharan Africa. They are now the best ambassadors of Gnawa music, declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco. Their percussion and string instruments, their colorful costumes and their spontaneous yet rhythmic movements will delight us during a live performance.

The other inhabitants that we will admire on this journey are the nomadic families that still live in the heart of the desert. They have taken on some of the habits of a sedentary society, but they continue to live at the pace set by their livestock and have not abandoned the chores necessary to survive in such a hostile environment. With our mediation, we will spend a pleasant time together to learn first-hand about their lifestyle.

To go from one activity to another, we will have to travel by all-terrain vehicle on dirt tracks, since the road disappears at a certain point. They are tracks of the old route of the Paris-Dakar and also allow us to know other secrets of the desert, such as the abandoned kohl mines or the uninhabited villages of the French Protectorate.

To all this will be added a final picture, which will remain forever imprinted in our memory: the panoramic views of the dunes of Erg Chebbi, from an elevated and strategic point. After that, all that remains is to go to dinner and rest at our hotel in Merzouga, with an interior design of the most care, with Berber atmosphere of the desert.

  • Sunrise on the dunes of Erg Chebbi
  • Breakfast at the Erg Chebbi tents camp
  • Return to Merzouga and start of the off-road route:
    • Khamlia: gnawa performance
    • Paris-Dakar dirt tracks tour
    • Living with nomadic families in the desert
  • Return to Merzouga
  • Dinner and night in hotel in the Merzouga desert

Day 5: Merzouga Desert - Rissani - Todra Gorges - Boumalne Dades

With the colors of the dunes still in our minds, the Gnawa music still in our ears and the hospitality of the nomadic families in our hearts, we leave the desert to travel through the valleys that separate us from the High Atlas.

On the way to them, we will make a stop shortly after resuming the march to visit Rissani. This town stands out for its well-preserved medina and, above all, for the surprising scenes of daily life that still take place today, such as its beast fair, its donkey parking or its market of typical products, such as spices in bulk, Berber pizzas or local handicrafts.

The road will lead us to the Dades Valley, between palm groves, bare hills, Berber kasbahs and villages built in adobe. Tinghir is a city that perfectly exemplifies this environment, as we shall see. In fact, its name means ‘the city of the mountain’ in Tamazight (Berber) language.

Nearby is another of the great attractions of the day: the Todra Gorges. This natural site is a narrow corridor of rocky walls, carved by the Todra River for thousands of years, which we can now enjoy walking along its bottom, on the banks of this seasonal river.

After admiring the beauty of these gorges, we will resume the route through the Dades Valley until we reach the small village of Boumalne Dades, where the riad that will host us for the night and offer us dinner is located.

  • Breakfast at hotel in Merzouga desert
  • Resumption of the road route:
    • Rissani
    • Dades Valley: Tinghir
    • Todra Gorges
  • Dinner and night in riad in Boumalne Dades

Day 6: Boumalne Dades - Ouarzazate - Ait Ben Haddou

Boumalne Dades is located in a very special section of the Dades Valley: the so-called Valley of the Roses, so named because the production of the damascena rose is of fundamental importance here. Introduced during the time of the French Protectorate, it is now a hallmark of its populations, which are dyed in beautiful colors in spring.

After leaving behind the Valley of Roses, we will arrive in Ouarzazate, nicknamed ‘the Hollywood of Morocco’ because of its film studios: Atlas Studios, which hosted the filming of blockbusters such as
Lawrence of Arabia
. But what will motivate our stop is something else: the kasbah of Taourirt, former residence-fortress of the powerful El Glaoui family. It imposes its adobe construction with crenellated towers, as well as its interiors of refined Islamic taste, with decoration in wood, plaster and ceramics.

Similar in style but even larger and more majestic is the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, about 30 km from Ouarzazate: although its origin is humble and popular, being a fortified village at the foot of an important caravan route, its impregnable appearance gives it a mythical air. That is why it was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, as a visit inside is a journey back in time. And it is no coincidence that scenes from series such as Game of Thrones have been filmed here.

This ksar is rising from the ashes thanks to the boost of tourism and now has charming riads in which to stay at night. One of them will be ours, where we will also enjoy the dinner included in the package.

  • Breakfast in riad in Boumalne Dades
  • Resumption of the road route:
    • Valley of Roses
    • Ouarzazate: kasbah of Taourirt
    • Ait Ben Haddou
  • Dinner and night in a riad in Ait Ben Haddou

Day 7: Ait Ben Haddou - High Atlas - Marrakech

From Ait Ben Haddou, the High Atlas Mountains are visible on the horizon. And to them we will travel on this seventh day. Our ascent by road will reach 2,260 meters, which is the altitude of the Tizi n’Tichka pass. So you can imagine that the panoramic views of this mountain range, the highest in Morocco, will leave you speechless.

In some months of the year, both the summits and the pass are covered with snow. And it is mainly thanks to the snowmelt that the valleys of the north face of the High Atlas are more fertile and greener than those of the south face. On our descent we will see this, while we will see villages nestled in the mountains and streams that flow down strongly in spring.

In this way we will arrive in Marrakech which, like Fez, deserves a leisurely guided tour. It will be the next day, but you can take advantage of these free hours in the city to get lost in the narrow streets of the medina, stroll through the modernist district of Gueliz or do some shopping. The location of the riad, in the historical center, will facilitate these displacements on your own.

  • Breakfast in riad in Ait Ben Haddou
  • Resumption of the road route:
    • Tizi n’Tichka port
    • Descent through the valleys of the High Atlas
  • Arrival in Marrakech
  • Free time in Marrakech
  • Night in riad in Marrakech

Day 8: Marrakech

Red city, Imperial City, tourist capital of Morocco, World Heritage… Many are the adjectives of Marrakech, and many are the faces it offers to travelers who visit it. Our official guide will organize a tour of the most beautiful and historic parts of the medina, so that you will understand why this city is so enchanting.

The medersa of Ben Youssef is a good example of the Koranic schools of the city. The Bahia Palace, a shining example of an Islamic high society residence. The Saadid Tombs, the best tribute to this dynasty that ruled from Marrakech (like the Almoravids and Almohads). But the Koutoubia Mosque is its most outstanding monument, even though it is not visitable inside. And the Jemaa el-Fna Square is the soul of the center, with its populous market and its always lively locals, which convinced Unesco to declare it, alone, Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

There are many attractions in Marrakech, and not all of them fit in a morning visit. Therefore, you can consider the afternoon as a good time to complete the program, with visits to museums, walks through gardens or shopping for handicrafts, among other options. And in the evening, you will repeat your rest in the charming riad in the medina.

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

Day 9: Marrakech - Marrakech Airport

The ninth day is the last day of this tour from Fez, and the schedules of our services will depend on the flight back home. We will arrange a meeting time at the riad for the transfer to Marrakech Airport, where we will say goodbye in the hope of a future reunion.

  • Breakfast in riad in Marrakech
  • Transfer to Marrakech Airport
  • End of our services

Services included in this 9-day tour from Fez

Premium transportation, exclusive accommodation, guided tours, quality gastronomy… This is the list of services included in the travel package for you to enjoy every moment of the trip:

  • Transfer from Fez Airport to the riad, the first day
  • Transfer to Marrakech Airport, last day
  • Premium chauffeur-driven vehicle for all circuit trips
  • One night in a riad in Fez, on a breakfast-only basis
  • One night in riad in Midelt, half-board (dinner and breakfast)
  • 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 riad in Boumalne Dades, half-board (dinner and breakfast)
  • One night in riad in Ait Ben Haddou, half-board (dinner and breakfast)
  • Two nights in riad in Marrakech, on breakfast only basis
  • Dromedary excursion (one per person) in the dunes of Erg Chebbi. It is possible to exchange it for a 4×4 vehicle
  • Guided tour in Fez, with official guide
  • Guided tour in Marrakech, with official guide

Services not included

These other services are not included in the price and the client must decide on them:

  • International flight to Fez
  • International return flight from Marrakech
  • Dinners in Fez and Marrakech. Advice will be provided on how to choose a restaurant suited to your tastes and preferences.
  • Midday lunches
  • Beverages
  • Entrance fees to museums and monuments
  • Tips

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