11-Day Grand Morocco Tour from North to South
- Explore the Caves of Hercules
- Visit the Roman Ruins of Volubilis
- Visit Aït Benhaddou
This complete 11-day itinerary takes you from Tangier—the gateway between Europe and Africa—to buzzing Marrakech, through some of Morocco's most stunning landscapes. You'll visit three imperial cities along with the Roman ruins of Volubilis, the desert towns of Erfoud, Merzouga, and Rissani, and the mud-brick ksar of Aït Benhaddou. Ride a camel over the Erg Chebbi dunes, explore hidden oases along ancient caravan routes, and wander medinas and souks along the way.
Day 1: Welcome to Tangier!expand_more
Welcome to Tangier, the gateway between Europe and Africa. Lying on the Maghreb coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, Tangier offers a unique blend of cultures and influences that have for centuries shaped the city, attracting artists, spies, and eccentric foreigners. While the port city was once dismissed as being a not-so-hot place to visit, Tangier today has undergone a makeover and gleams with pride. You'll likely want to get out and explore your surroundings after checking into your hotel. Depending on your arrival time, head to the medina (old quarter) to explore the labyrinth of commercial and residential alleyways, noting the 15th-century Portuguese fortress. Find a café in the hip Zoco Chico square for something to eat and do a little people watching and cap off the day with a late afternoon paseo to enjoy the sunset as you stroll along the seafront promenade of the bustling corniche.
Day 2: Explore Tangier and Caves of Hercules, Onward to Chefchaouenexpand_more
Begin the day early to see more of Tangier, and opt to hire a guide to take you through the kasbah (old fortification). You'll enter through the beautiful Bab Haha gate at the northeast end of Place du Mechouar and into the medina's Dar Baroud neighbourhood. The Kasbah is small and compact enough to allow for self-guided exploration, though a guide will offer further insight into some of the fortification's highlights. Meanwhile, just 20 minutes outside of the city, along the most northwestern point of mainland Africa, are the unique and beautiful Caves of Hercules—so named for its mythical connection to Hercules himself. Close to the mid-19th-century Cape Spartel lighthouse, you can enter the cave complex through the opening that faces the sea and resembles the shape of Africa, thought to have been created by the Phoenicians. If you’d like, you can pay for a guide to give you some additional information about the site.
When you're ready, travel straight on to the blue-hued city of Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains. Enjoy the scenic route, stopping along the way to hike (2-3 hours) to the Cascades d'Akchour (Waterfalls of Akchour) if time allows. Chefchaoen offers an endless winding, narrow streets and picturesque buildings. Find Plaza Outa el Hammam for a restaurant or café and enjoy a meal as you people-watch. Though non-muslims are not permitted to enter, the Grand Mosque is still worth a visit. From there, explore the nearby kasbah and tour the garden, museum, and some of the old prison cells. Follow a path outside of the city walls to Hotel Atlas and climb to the rooftop to enjoy a panoramic view of Blue City. For the slightly more athletic, follow the street east to pass over the Ras el Ma Spring and ascend the path (20-30 minutes) until you reach the abandoned white Spanish Mosque. Enjoy one last view over Chefchaouen as the sun sets behind the mountains.
Day 3: Chefchaouen to Fes, Visit the Roman Ruins of Volubilis & Meknesexpand_more
Rise early, and you may be treated to an hour of quiet as you wander the streets in the morning. Many travellers leave in the morning, and others don't arrive until the afternoon. Use this time to snap your free photos. If you're looking to do some last-minute shopping, many shops don't open until 10 am. Leaving Chefchaouen behind, you'll drive toward Fes and can take a short detour to explore the Roman ruins of Volubilis and the imperial city of Meknes. Volubilis (a UNESCO world heritage site) contains Morocco’s best-preserved Roman ruins and makes for a nice detour from the hustle and bustle of nearby Meknes. Wander the massive complex, exploring large merchant homes with still-intact heating systems, temples, and many colourful mosaics in situ. Once the Roman Empire's farthest reach in Africa, Volubilis was ruled over for about 200 years before its people left in 285 CE when the empire grew too large to control, and their focus had to be directed elsewhere.
Continue to the smaller, less busy version of Fes, Meknes, for an optional detour and introduction to your first historic imperial city. The two main points of interest are the Ville Impériale (Imperial City) and the medina. In Ville Impériale, you can visit the Bab al-Mansour gate, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, and the Royal Stables. Meanwhile, just outside the imperial city, you may want to explore the medina—a smaller and easier-to-navigate version compared to Fes and Marrakech. Other than the scattered souks, you may like to visit the 14th-century Bou Inania Madrasa and the Dar Jamaï Museum, a beautiful 19th-century palace-turned-museum.
Continue east to your second imperial city, Fes. With its impressively large (and somewhat confusing) old medina, Fes is a city worth getting lost in. Before venturing into the medina, drive up the hill to take the time to visit the Merenid Tombs located just north of the city and enjoy the all-encompassing view of historic Fes and the surrounding area. Descend the hill and find your way to your riad (a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden), where you can enjoy a delicious meal and relax for the evening.
Day 4: Fes: Exploring the Imperial City & Medieval Medinaexpand_more
Today you'll learn about Fes, the oldest of Morocco's imperial cities and perhaps the most interesting and exciting to explore. Its medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the most complete of its kind in the Arab world. Because the city never experienced much colonial development, much of Fes feels like stepping back through time hundreds of years. How you tour Fes and its highlights is up to you, so consider some of these options or ask your local specialist for ideas that speak to your interests. If you're inspired by history and culture and have time to spare, you could spend a couple of days wandering the medina, visiting madrasas (Arabic for any type of educational institution), and exploring beyond the medina walls. If you have a shorter trip, a full day exploring the medina and a few highlights outside may be enough. Either way, it's recommended to use an expert guide for a half-day tour to learn more about this stellar city and help you navigate the medina.
Fes el Bali ("Old Fes") is a great place to start your adventure. Founded in the 8th century, Moulay Idriss I welcomed refugees from Cordoba in southern Spain and Kairouan in Tunisia (both capitals of western Islam at the time). Their skill in architecture and craftsmanship played a large role in the organic development of Fes over the next hundred years, creating the maze-like narrow streets. The charming medina will likely draw most of your time and focus. The roads are much narrower, windier, and steeper than those of other imperial cities, making it almost impossible not to get lost at least a few times (part of the fun is just keep walking until the flow of people increases and you find yourself on one of the main streets). Shop the iconic souks (markets) for a variety of spices, vegetables, leather goods, ceramics, pewter, shoes, scarves, medicines, and more. Many are concentrated together, and you're bound to see artisans at work in their small shops.
Be sure also to check out the famed Chouara Tannery, which still implements traditional techniques from centuries ago. Find a local leather shop for a rooftop view (giving the tanner a small donation may help you gain access) to watch the masters at work. The process starts with soaking the animal hide in a mixture of pigeon droppings and limestone to strip away any remaining fur as well as soften the leather. Next, the leather is dyed in colour in large stone vats for about a week before being set out to dry on nearby rooftops or hillsides. To guard against the pungent scent, grab some mint leaves to have on hand during your visit.
Day 5: Fesexpand_more
Find your way to one of the oldest still-operating universities in the world, Al-Qarawiyyin University (859 CE) next to the Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque. Though the mosque is only open to Muslims, there are a few places where you can glimpse inside to its decorated interior. From there, make your way to the 14th-century Al Attarine Madrasa or the Bou Inania Madrasa, beautiful examples of Moroccan architecture and artisanship showcasing intricate zellij tilework contrasted with dark cedarwood. Head upstairs to see old student dorm rooms with great views. From here, enter through the famous Bab Boujeloud, the large gate that welcomes you into Fes el Bali from the west. The outside is blue (the traditional color for Fes), and inside is green (the color for Islam). Heading through the gate to the main thoroughfare of Talâa Kebira, which is packed with shops. Treat yourself to some retail therapy or pop in the Musée Batha.
Southwest of and uphill from the old city, is Fes el Jedid (“New Fes”), built in the 13th century when the Merenid Dynasty came to power. Visit the Batha Museum. Housed in a 19th-century palace, the museum is home to a collection of traditional Moroccan arts and crafts, including carved wood, zellij, and local pottery (its highlight). Spend time in the Andalusian-style gardens before walking to the Mellah (old Jewish quarter and cemetery). Take advantage of its location for a stunning panoramic photo of the city. Continue south to Ville Nouvelle and discover the dramatic change in architecture.
Day 6: Over the Middle Atlas from Fes to Erfoud, Merzouga & the Saharaexpand_more
Get an early start today, as you'll be covering a lot of ground. From Fes, you'll travel south toward Merzouga to arrive at the Sahara dunes for a sunset camel ride. Along the way, you will drive through the town of Azrou and climb an elevation of 7,146 feet (2,178 m) over the Col du Zad pass and through the cedar forests of the Middle Atlas mountains. Here you can enjoy sightings of the local Barbary macaque monkeys before stopping for lunch in Midelt (the 'apple city'), relishing the nearby Moulouya River and its surrounding fruit orchards. Continue over the Tizi n'Talremt pass and into the Ziz Valley, known for its hidden oases and palm tree clusters. Along the road, you will see many fortified houses known as ksars—built by merchants to protect precious wares, including gold, salt, and spices.
Just before reaching Erfoud, you'll see the early signs of the ever-shifting Saharan sand dunes. You'll also see an ancient method of water mining, an ingenious way to transfer water to farmland before modern pump as well as nomadic shepherds and their settlements. If time allows, you might be able to enjoy a cup of tea with a local nomadic Berber family. Continue to Erfoud, a bustling market town known for its date festival and famous for its fossil mining and artisan factories (you may have already seen some fossils in the markets). En route, you can see hillside mines where large rocks are taken from the earth. While in town, stop at a local artisan collective where you can learn about the types of fossils found in the area and see how the fossil-rich rock is transformed into beautiful objects, large and small.
Soon, you will see the sand waves of Erg Chebbi, an extensive sea of sand dunes covering an area of 13.5 square miles (35 square km). Never stationary, the massive dunes shift and travel depending on the changing wind as well as appear to change color depending on the time of day and are especially enriching just before sunset. Near Merzouga, you can take a short break and switch gears to ride a camel through the dunes to your already-prepared-for-you camp, arriving just before sunset. Climb a nearby dune to watch the sunset before returning to camp for a delicious dinner, relaxing by the campfire. Enjoy an evening of Berber music followed by night in a bedouin-style tent under an expansive night sky chock-full of runaway twinkling stars. If four walls and modern comfort are more your style, you can spend the night at a comfortable hotel/auberge in Merzouga.
Day 7: Desert Adventures Around Merzouga, Rissani Market & Todra Gorgeexpand_more
Wake up early to catch a spectacular desert sunrise, then spend the morning exploring more of the Sahara. You can rent a sandboard and test your skills on the dunes, take the Erg Chebbi tour (around the dunes), join a quad ATV tour, or relax by a pool. From there, visit nearby Khemliya, a typical Saharan village (its people are initially from Mali), and enjoy traditional drumming music and dancing before taking a short walk around the settlement.
As you leave the Merzouga region and dunes behind, please stop in the market town of Rissani, entering through its impressive gate. Known for its livestock auction, it's worth your time finding the 'donkey parking lot' to delight your senses and take a walk around its traditional market. Continue to Tinerhir. This desert town offers fantastic views of neighbouring towns hugging the length of the extensive river oasis (30 miles or 48 km of palm trees). The surrounding desert landscape reveals impressive buttes, mesas, and plateaus. Next, you'll reach today's final destination, the Todra Gorge. Almost 1000 feet (305 m) high and carved by the Todra River through red limestone, you can enjoy a leisurely walk in and around the gorge and relax in the calm waters of the shallow river below. The rest of the evening is yours to explore or unwind.
Day 8: Todra Gorge to Aït Benhaddou, Stopping at Dades Valley & Ouarzazateexpand_more
Today's journey takes you west along the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs, many in disrepair as the kasbahs were constructed of pisé mud (rammed earth). As you head towards Aït Benhaddou, you will pass many small towns where you can see traditional farming methods in use. Be on the lookout for nomads tending to their animals as you make your way through Boumalne Dades, a major town and bridging point over the Dades River, and on to Kela'a M'gouna, the "Valley of the Roses." Here you can admire the cultivated rose bushes and visit a rose collective to see the process of converting rose petals into rose water and rose oil used in the cosmetic industry.
Next, you’ll enter the growing town of Ouarzazate, which is a common stopping point along the desert routes, as it offers a bit more accessible than some of the nearby smaller towns, such as Ait Benhaddou. The town was made popular by the growing movie industry, and you have an option to tour one of two movie studios if you’d like–Atlas Corporation Studios or CLA Studios–including an up-close look at some props and sets. Continue west to the desert hub and popular filming location of Ouarzazate, stopping first with a quick visit to the el Mansour reservoir—an important source of water for the local farming community. Made popular by the growing movie industry, you'll have the option to tour one of Ouarzazate's two movie studios and envision how the nearby regions have been featured in many movies. Some popular film credits include Black Hawk Down and Prometheus.
Next, you'll reach medieval Aït Benhaddou, Morocco's most famous kasbah and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old ksour dated from the 11th century when it held an important position along the trans-Saharan trade route between Marrakech, Ouarzazate, and the southern desert. Settle into your accommodation in the old town (if you can) before setting out to wander the empty alleys and passageways in the late afternoon after the day crowds have left. Climb up to the old Granary—an excellent vantage point to see the kasbah and surrounding area, including the historic camel caravan routes. There are a couple of old kasbahs you can pay a nominal fee to enter and climb up for pretty additional views. Game of Thrones fans may want to trek down to the river to see the gates featured in the popular HBO series, where you might recognize scenes from popular movies like Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, and Jesus of Nazareth.
Day 9: Aït Benhaddou to Marrakech, Tizi n'Tichka Pass over the High Atlasexpand_more
Leave Aït Benhaddou behind to begin a winding ascent over the High Atlas mountains through the Tizi n'Tichka pass. Near the top, you can enjoy sweeping vistas over the mountain range, noting its highest peak Mount Toubkal which clocks in at 13,671 feet (4,167 m), as well as the road ahead, which snakes down the mountainside. Stop in Taddert, the first town after the pass, and visit the Argan Oil Cooperative to learn how the local women extract the precious oil from the argan nut to make oil used in the health, food, and cosmetic industries. As you descend the High Atlas, you will notice a dramatic change in the climate and landscape as the rocks change to foothills and transition again into flat plains. Soon you will be a part of the hustle and bustle of vibrant Marrakech.
Day 10: Marrakech: Explore the Red Cityexpand_more
Marrakech, Morocco's second-largest metropolis, is also known as the "Red City" (due to the natural red ochre pigment on its walls). Prepare for the shock of vibrant sights, sounds, and smells as you explore this bustling imperial city. To best understand the layout, orient yourself around Jemaa el-Fna. From here, you'll find the souks to the north, the Koutoubia Mosque and Gardens to the west, and the kasbah area with the Saadian Tombs, Bahia Palace, and El Badi Palace to the south. Until Jemaa el-Fna comes to life later in the day, you can request a guide for a half-day tour to show you the history, culture, and hidden gems of the Medina, or you can hire one of the Caliche Horse Carriages found at the southwest corner of the square.
Day 11: Depart Marrakechexpand_more
Complete any last-minute gift and souvenir shopping. Or, depending on your departure details, you may wish to check out Majorelle Gardens. Not far from the commotion of the medina, a visit to these lush and expansive gardens offers the perfect place to escape the afternoon heat and noise. Leave the quiet behind and bring with you your memories as you make your way home.
- 10 Night Accommodation
Know before you go
- Not stroller accessible
- Not suitable for pets
- No public transportation nearby
- Infants must not sit on laps
- Wheelchair accessible
- Not recommended for pregnant travellers
- We will pick all the travellers in the zone
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