Absolute Morocco / 11 Days
On this tour you will visit Casablanca, Rabat, Fes, Volubilis, Meknes, and Merzouga, then head to Ouarzazate, Marrakesh, Djbel Toukbal, and Essaouira.
DAY 1: CASABLANCA
Driving Time: 3 Hours
- Arrive in Casablanca. Transfer to your hotel in Casablanca.
- Spend the night at a 5 Star Hotel in Casablanca.
DAY 2: CASABLANCA - MEKNES - VOLUBILIS - FES
- Breakfast at your Hotel in Casablanca. Visit the Hassan II Mosque.
- Visit the Mosque of Hassan II. Casablanca is home to the Hassan II Mosque, designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau. It is situated on a promontory looking out to the Atlantic, which can be seen through a gigantic glass floor with room for 25,000 worshippers. Its minaret is the world’s tallest at 210 meters. It is an enormous architectural masterpiece and the second largest religious building in the world. On Fridays, the Mosque of Hassan II is open to non-Muslims. The Mosque of Hassan II’s promontory offers lovely views overlooking Casa in the residential Anfa quarter.
- After visiting the Hassan II Mosque take the road to Meknes and Volubilis.
DAY 2: CASABLANCA - MEKNES - VOLUBILIS - FES CONTINUED
- Arrive in Meknes. Lunch in the Nouvelle Ville of Meknes at a charming restaurant that offers Moroccan cuisine and a variety of local wines from the Meknes region.
- After lunch, begin your visit at the 18th Century Palace built by Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah.
- Next, pass through Bab Mansour, the triumphal arch, and enter Place El-Hedime, the Square of Ruins, which links the medina and the kasbah. The square is lined with modern residential buildings and a covered food souk.
- Visit the Musée Dar Jamaï. The Jar Jamai museum shows modern Moroccan arts, woodwork, ceramics, carpets, costumes, jewelry, and metalwork. The sophisticated building was once a palace incorporating a mosque, menzah, courtyard, kitchen, and hammam.
- Visit the Roman Ruins of Volubilis. The breathtaking archaeological site of Volubilis, also referred to as Oualili, was once a thriving town occupied by the Romans. Volubilis has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site and gained international acclaim when Martin Scorsese made it a feature location for the film The Last Temptation of Christ. Discover the fascinating Roman ruins adorned with beautiful mosaics and colorful tiles depicting Roman mythology. The ruins are spread out across several acres and what remains visible is several fragments of wall, parts of massive columns, the capitol, the basilica, and a triumphal arch. The ruins reveal how the Roman Empire transformed the original Carthaginian settlement into a typical Roman city complete with mansions, a town center, a triumphal arch, and temples devoted to Roman gods.
- Enjoy tea at the small café that sits just below the Volubilis ruins before taking the road to Fes.
- Dinner in Fes at your riad or hotel.
- Spend the night at a traditional Moroccan riad or hotel in Fes.
DAY 3: FES GUIDED HISTORICAL TOUR
- Breakfast at your riad.
- Visit the the Merenid Tombs of Fes.
- Next, stop at the Musée des Armes located in an old fortress. On diplay are 8,000 pieces of artillery from Makina, the arsenal built by Moulay Hassan I.
- Enter the Fes el-Bali through the symmetrical horse shoe arches at Bab Boujeloud, the Blue Gate.
- Upon entering Rue Talaa Kebira, the main street in the medina, you will see lines of shops covered by canopies. Make your way to the University of al-Karaouine, the oldest continually operating university in the world. Then, visit Dar el-Magana, a 14th century water clock and Zaouia el Tijaniya, the shrine and tomb of Ahmed el Tijani.
- Stop to visit the Ech Cherabliyine Mosque, Mosque of the Slipper-Makers, then browse the souks selling henna, slippers, caftans, silks, jewelry, and spices.
- Tour the Najjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts housed in a beautifully restored foundouk, an ancient style of hotel for merchants.
- Stop for lunch within the medina at one of the fine Moroccan palace-style restaurants that serves an extravaganza of mezzes for lunch.
- After lunch, visit the Musée Dar el-Batha to view the impressive collections of pottery, leather-work, woodwork, books, and manuscripts from the nineteenth century.
- Next, enter Bab el Ftouh, the Gateway of the Aperture, to explore the Andalusian quarter, a residential part of the medina laced with monuments. Stroll through the Fès el Jedid, a kasbah which functioned as Morocco’s administrative center until 1912. Explore the royal palace and many interesting neighborhoods, including the Moulay Abdalllah Quarter, the Jewish Mellah, and the Ville Nouvelle.
- Visit Medrasa Bou Inania, an Islamic school founded by Abu Inan Faris that is beautifully decorated from floor to ceiling.
- Visit University of al-Karaouine. Founded in 859, this university is one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the Muslim world, and is considered the oldest continuously operating institution of higher learning in the world.
DAY 3: FES GUIDED HISTORICAL TOUR CONTINUED
- Visit the Weavers Cooperative located in a residential neighborhood. The workshop specializes in weaving the finest jellaba fabric made of silk and wool threads imported from Italy. The shop also makes a quality jellaba fabric from a locally spun, textured wool thread called hubba. Hubba is sometimes referred to as couscous because its nubby texture resembles Morocco’s national semolina dish of the same name.
- Visit the Chourara, or the Tanner’s Quarters, one of the most lively and picturesque souks in Fes. Located near the Wadi Fès and far from residential areas due to the tannery smell. See the wide array of local leather work, a proud tradition of Fes.
- Carpet Demonstration: Antique and Modern Carpets is one of the places in Fès el Bali where you can see a Berber carpet demonstration. You will be offered mint tea and follow your guide up a coil of stairs to a small area to watch carpets being made by young girls who come from the mountains to show tourists how Berber carpets are made.
- Visit the Dyers Souk, a dyers market, located along Rue de Teinturies, is the best place to see the dying vats which have been used for centuries to dye cloth and sheep, goat, cow, and camel leather. You will see many tanned hides colored with natural pigments of all shades and hues.
- Dinner Recommendations: Your riad, Le Maison Bleue, Le Maison Blanche, or Palais Dar Tazi.
- Spend the night at a 4 or 5 star riad in Fes.
DAY 4: FES - FREE DAY OR OPTIONS - COOKING CLASS - FASIS POTTERY WORKSHOP - SIDI HARAZEM SPA - JNANE SBIL GARDENS
- Breakfast at your Riad. Enjoy a free day for solo exploration or choose from the options below.
- Visit Jnane Sbil Gardens originally created by the Sultan Moulay Abdallah. Jnane Sbil encompasses 7.5 hectares, is located in the heart of city, and is one of the oldest gardens in Fes. Because of its historical importance, great care was taken to restore the garden to its original design. After four years of detailed restoration and renovation of the heirloom plants, the hydraulic systems, and the famous waterwheel, the project was completed and re-opened in June 2010.
- Visit the Pottery and Zellij Tile Cooperative, a renowned Pottery Cooperative where you can view how Fasis pottery and zellij tile are made by hand. Tour the cooperative to see how the various artisans work using the ancient Fasis techniques that are unique to this Imperial city and region. View the galleries and shops of the artisans. Participate if you wish by throwing a pot or make your own zellij tile.
- Spa Options:
- Take the road to visit Sidi Harazem, a spa and green area just outside of Fes which contains hot water springs that are rich in magnesium. The benefits of these curative waters may be enjoyed at the health spa. There is also an ancient sacred pool surrounded by eucalyptus, palm, and pink laurel trees.
- The other option is to visit Moulay Yacoub, an old French-style Spa with thermal stations, a cold dipping pool, hot rock saunas, and steam rooms. Complement your visit with an old world French-Moroccan massage with rose, orange, or jasmine oil.
- Cooking Class Option:
- Mid-morning to mid-afternoon Moroccan Cooking Class. These workshops are conducted by a dada, a traditional Moroccan cook, or a chef from a Moroccan restaurant, and are held at the hotel. Small groups of maximum 10 participants work alongside a translator, using modern equipment found in everyday kitchens. At a typical half-day workshop, one learns to prepare an appetizer and a main dish, or a main dish and dessert.
- Dinner Recommendations: Your riad, Le Palais D’Medina, or Le Maison Bleue.
- Spend the night at 4 or 5 star riad in Fes.
DAY 5: FES - ERFOUD - RISSANI - MERZOUGA
- Breakfast at your riad in Fes. Take the road to Merzouga.
- Visit Rissani, a desert town from the ancient Alawi Dynasty and the birthplace of King Mohammed VI, the current King of Morocco. Visit the old Mausoleum of Moulay Ali Cherif, the first King of the Alawi Dynasty. Next visit Maison Touareg, a Tuareg house demonstrating Tuareg culture, and then the old Ksar of Rissani. Continue on the road to Merzouga.
- Take the road to Erfoud. Visit the Royal Palace gate. Enjoy the panoramic view from the top of the Borj-Est that rises 935 m (3067 ft) above the city. Tour the fossil sites in Carriere des Fossiles and the Maadid Ksar.
- Erfoud is a city located in south-east Morocco. Although many ancient fortified villages have existed in the region for several centuries, Erfoud was built up by the French troops after the victory at Tafilalet that ended years of battle in 1932. Erfoud is an active city full of commerce, restaurants, street cafés, hotels, banks, handicrafts, and souvenir shops. While it is a modern Moroccan desert town, it still preserves the authenticity of a true Arab city with an impressively wild market and gorgeous surrounding landscapes filled with oases, dunes, and rocky mountains. Erfoud is a cinematic inspiration for movie directors. Many movies have been filmed in Erfoud, including Prince of Persia, March or Die, and The Mummy.
- Arrive in Merzouga before sunset. Venture out on a 2 hour dromedary camel trek to watch the sunset in the Erg Chebbi Dunes. Your Tuareg guide will share the secrets of the Sahara Desert. As you glide across the silent desert landscape there will be countless opportunities to photograph the endless rolling dunes. Enjoy dinner and music at a luxury bivouac in the Sahara Desert.
- Spend the night in a luxury bivouac tent near the Oasis in the Erg Chebbi Dunes of Merzouga or at a luxury desert guest house.
DAY 6: MERZOUGA - ALNIF - N’KOB - TODRA GORGE - OUARZAZATE
- Rise, have breakfast, and take a sunrise trek back to Merzouga. Take the road to explore Merzouga’s desert scenery by piste. View flora and fauna that is unique to the Sahara.
- Then take the road to the village of Ait Ouzzine, located in N’kob nestled within the Middle Atlas Mountains.
- Ait Ouzzine is a Berber village inhabited by over 300 families who live in beautifully painted crenelated kasbahs and tend to their henna fields, water wells, livestock, and gardens. This peaceful village is tucked away along an impressive desert route connecting the Draa Valley, Tansikht, and Rissani.
- Meet a local Berber family and partake in a cooking lesson on traditional bread and tajines.
- Explore and tour the village. Walk in the green fields and see how traditional Berbers live with their gardens of herbs, livestock, and henna plants.
- Lunch will be served to you in Ait Ouzzine by a traditional Berber family. The menu will include a traditional meal of fresh baked bread with spices, a chicken and vegetable tajine (tagine), and fresh local fruits for desert.
- After lunch, have your hands and feet painted with henna, or have your hair adorned with saffron by a local village artist. Relax. Experience the tradition of Berber perfume made from musk and amber along with the villages own spices.
- End the afternoon in Ait Ouzzine with mint tea and almonds. Take the road through the Draa Valley back to Ouarzazate.
- Dine and spend the night at 4 star riad or hotel in Ouarzazate.
DAY 7: OUARZAZATE - BOU THARAR VALLEY OF NOMADS - BOUMALNE DADES VALLEY & GORGE -
- Breakfast at your riad. Take the road to Bou Tharar, the Valley of Nomads, and the Dades Valley.
- Visit the breathtaking Valley of Nomads located in Bou Tharar, a beautiful valley where nomads live in caves that are surrounded by Mount Mgoun. Mount Mgoun is the second highest mountain in Morocco and boasts extraordinary views of the rust colored, earthy scenery. Have tea with a nomadic family. See how they make their own carpets and co-exist in Bou Tharar with other nomadic families.
- Visit the Dades Valley. The Dades Valley covers 125 km between the Todra Gorge and Ouarzazate. The Dades Valley boasts limestone cliffs with uniquely shaped erosions and superb scenery along the valley’s piste. Driving along you will pass flower-filled fields, fertile agricultural fields, riverbanks, and several fortified ksours. At the bottom of Gorge of Boulmane Dades there are ruined hilltop kasbahs and valley floor gardens.
- Lunch will be served at a nearby guesthouse that offers local Moroccan fare and a panoramic view. Relax and sip mint tea while gazing at the impressive valley view. Continue your discovery of the Dades Valley and Gorge after lunch. Return to Ouarzazate
- Dinner Recommendations: Your hotel, Chez D’Mtri, or Le Kasbah Des Sables.
DAY 8: OUARZAZATE - MARRAKESH
- Breakfast at your riad and then take the road to visit the Ouarzazate region and its famous Kasbahs.
- Located just four hours from Marrakesh, Ouarzazate is the main Berber city in the south known for spectacular sunsets and dramatic mountain and desert scenery. Surrounded by breathtaking valleys, Ouarzazate was once crossing point for African traders seeking to reach northern cities in Morocco and Europe.
- Visit Ait Benhaddou. 32 km from Ouarzazate, Ait Benhaddou is situated in Souss-Massa-Draâ on a hill along the Ouarzazate River. Lawrence of Arabia, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jesus of Nazareth were filmed here. In recent years, controlled restoration has been carried out under the auspices of UNESCO. Ait Benhaddou once served as the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakesh. Most of the town’s inhabitants live in a more modern village on the other side of the river, however ten families still live within the old ksar.
- After visiting Ait Benhaddou, continue the road to Marrakesh and you will pass the olive groves of the Oued Zat as you ascend to the Tizi n’Tichka Pass. Built by the French in the 1920’s, the Tizi n’Tichka Pass will take you through stunning mountainous terrain. Along the route you will see panoramic views of the High Atlas Mountains as well as fertile valleys, blue and red colored villages, and striking geology.
- En route visit Kasbah Telout, one of Morocco’s hidden jewels and a famous kasbah that is the ancestral home of the Pacha Glaoui Family. Kasbah Telout is hidden on a tiny road in a small village that is 20 minutes outside of Tichka. The original zellij tile, masterful design, and collection of authentic preserved silks are grand remnants of the Glaoui family. Although Kasbah Telout appears to be in ruins on the exterior, its interior is one of true splendor.
- En route stop for lunch and visit the Argan Cooperative where argan oil, argan butter, and argan cosmetics are made by hand from argan nuts. Berber women crack the nuts and the grind them one by one. Enjoy a complimentary tasting. This cooperative is run entirely by women. Arrive in Marrakesh.
- Dinner Recommendations: Your riad, Le Marrakeshi, Le Fonduk, Dar Moha, La Trattoria, or Le Comptoir Darna.
- Spend the night at a 4 or 5 star riad or hotel in Marrakesh.
DAY 9: MARRAKESH GUIDED HISTORICAL TOUR
- Breakfast at your riad.
- Your introduction to Marrakesh will begin in the Nouvelle Ville, we will navigate our way to French, Gueliz and head to the Majorelle Gardens, a magical and lush garden estate designed by Jacque Majorelle and maintained by Yves Saint Laurent. The Majorelle Garden is filled with colorful walkways, ponds, cacti, and plants as well as a beautiful shop with hand-made goods. On our return to your hotel, we will pass by the La Mamounia Hotel and Garden.
- Visit the El Bahia Palace. The El Bahia Palace in Marrakesh is a beautiful building and an excellent example of Eastern Architecture from the 19th century that represents the trends and standards of the wealthy at that time. The palace is surrounded by an eight hectare garden.
- Visit the Saadian Tombs. The Saadian tombs in Marrakesh date from the time of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur. The tombs were only recently discovered in 1917 and were restored by the Beaux-Arts service. The mausoleum comprises the tombs of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty that originated in the the Draa Valley.
- Next visit the old Medina. Explore this charming area on foot. In Djemaa el Fna, you will visit the famous 12th century Koutoubia Mosque.
- Your guide will lead you through the labyrinthine streets and alleys of the Djemaa. Enjoy aromatic smells and venture into the souks specializing in Berber carpets, silver jewelry, handmade shoes, and leather tanneries. Enjoy a three course lunch consisting of fresh salad, tajine, and fruit at one of Marrakesh’s most delectable restaurants.
- Next, visit the Museum of Marrakesh, a Contemporary Moroccan Art Museum, or Tiskiwin, a private museum dedicated to popular arts & crafts located within a beautiful Spanish-Moroccan house.
- Evening free to explore Marrakesh on your own. Your private driver will be available to escort you to a variety of restaurants we recommend.
- Dinner Recommendations: Your riad, Le Marrakeshi, Le Fonduk, Dar Moha, La Trattoria, or Le Comptoir Darna.
- Spend the night at a 5 star riad in the Marrakesh medina.
DAY 10: MARRAKESH OPTION I
GARDENS OF MARRAKESH OR FREE TO EXPLORE MARRAKESH ON YOUR OWN
- Rise, have breakfast at your Riad, then in the late morning visit Marrakesh’s Menara Gardens. Have a leisurely walk through the gardens. The Menara Gardens are located to the west of Marrakesh at the gates of the Atlas Mountains. They were built in the 12th Century by the Almohad ruler Abd-al-Mu’min. The name Menara derives from the pavillions with its small, green pyramid roof which was built in the 16th century.
- Next, head to La Mamounia Hotel & Gardens for Tea & Lunch. Situated on the edge of the old city of Marrakesh, La Mamounia is named for its 200-year-old gardens given as an 18th century wedding gift to Prince Moulay Mamoun by his father. Today the gardens cover nearly 20 acres and display an incredible variety of flowers and trees. The hotel was designed in 1922 by the architects Prost and Marchisio. They combined traditional Moroccan designs with the popular Art Deco look of the 1920’s. Winston Churchill called it, “the most lovely spot in the whole world.” He spent many winters at La Mamounia painting the Atlas Mountains and surrounding countryside. After lunch at La Mamounia, spend the day shopping and exploring Marrakesh on your own or with your guide.
- Spend the night at a 5 star riad or hotel in Marrakesh.
DAY 10: MARRAKESH - OPTION II
TDJBEL TOUBKAL AND IMLI EXCURSION
- Breakfast at your Riad. Depart Marrakesh by 4×4 and head south toward Imlil. Imlil is a small, peaceful village in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco that has become the center of mountaineering in the area. At 1740 m above sea level, Imlil sits just below Djebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa.
- En route, your driver will take you on a small tour of the village which is fertile in spring and summer with waterfalls surrounded by greenery. Explore the small shops selling Berber silver jewelry and local Moroccan goods.
- Travel a winding road and then take a short hike downhill to Kasbah Toubkal. Enjoy lunch and tea on the terrace with breathtaking views of Toubkal and the surrounding kasbahs. Return to Marrakesh.
- Dine and spend the night at a 4 or 5 star hotel in Marrakesh.
DAY 10: MARRAKESH - OPTION III - OURIKA VALLEY VISIT
- Marrakesh. Travel by 4×4 to visit the Souk Tnine de L’ourika, the gateway to the pleasant Ourika Valley.
- The roadsides are filled with gardens, palm tree plantations, and fruit orchards. Pass tiny hamlets, summer homes, cafes, and restaurants. Lunch in a traditional auberge, or take a picnic in a meadow facing the snow capped mountain overlooking the Ourika River.
- Moving through the valley we will visit Setti Fatma’s Waterfalls, a favorite weekend resort of many Moroccans appreciated for its beautiful streams and waterfalls. We will visit the famous tomb of Setti Fatima.
- Enjoy views of high green terraces, Atlas peaks, villages in the rocky foothills from the seven waterfalls that surround the village. Trek along the pretty trails and, ff you seek adventure, climb the walls to see rock carvings.
- Lunch near the Setti Fatma Cascades in a traditional Moroccan restaurant.
- Return to Marrakesh.
- Dinner Recommendations: Le Comptoir, Le Marrakeshi, Dar Marjana, Le Tobsil, Dar Moha, or Le Trattoria.
- Spend the night at a 4 or 5 star riad in Marrakesh.
DAY 11: MARRAKESH - CASABLANCA DEPARTURE
- Breakfast at your riad. Drive to Casablanca. Depart from Casablanca Airport.