Grand Tour: Casablanca, Meknes, Chefchaouen, Fes, Sahara Desert, Marrakech – 8 Days
Spend a week on this itinerary to visit Morocco and its treasures, and make sure to appreciate the country’s iconic landscapes and landmarks. You will start in the modern commercial capital of Casablanca, where you can pay tribute to the classic movie of the same name, and then travel to Meknes, visiting Roman ruins along the way. Next is Chefchaouen’s “Blue City” worth showing on Instagram, an amazing celebration of colors and culture. Lost in the medina of Fes, travel through the Atlas Mountains to the Sahara Desert, where you can explore by camel or ATV. You will get acquainted with the nomads of the area, dine by the fire while watching local performances, spend the night in a traditional Bedouin tent, and then end the hustle and beauty of Marrakech.
Visit Casablanca and build beautiful friendships in a replica of the iconic Rick Café
Stroll the charming blue streets of Chefchaouen
Stroll the souks and watch the artisans and artisans working in Fez
Experience the traditional Bedouin life on the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert
Explore Marrakech’s gorgeous mosques, squares, courtyards and hidden mausoleums
|Day 1 Casablanca and Meknes||Meknes|
|Day 2 Roman Ruins at Volubilis, the “Blue City” of Chefchaouen||Chefchaouen|
|Day 3 Chefchaouen to Fes||Fes|
|Day 4 Fes: Exploring the Imperial City & Medieval Medina||Fes|
Day 5 Over the Middle Atlas to the Desert: Erfoud, Merzouga & the Sahara
|Day 6 Erg Chebbi, Dades Valley, and Ouarzazate||Ouarzazate|
|Day 7 Aït Benhaddou to Marrakech||Marrakech|
|Day 8 Marrakech and Departure||Marrakech|
Day 1 Casablanca and Meknes
Casablanca is the modern commercial capital of Morocco. Compared with the imperial cities of Fez and Marrakech, there are relatively few tourist attractions. Before heading further afield, you may only need a morning to quickly browse the highlights here.
If you only visit one place in Casablanca, let it be the Hassan II Mosque, which is located by the picturesque sea. Its 656-foot (200-meter) minaret was completed in 1993 and is the tallest building in Morocco and the tallest minaret in the world. It is estimated that the courtyard can accommodate 80,000 believers, and the interior can accommodate another 25,000. Although the exterior and surrounding area are impressive-the luxurious interior is decorated with wood, marble, stone carvings and gilded ceilings-what makes this mosque even more unique is the few places in the country that are open to non-Muslim visitors. A one-hour guided tour is provided between 9 am and 2 pm, including a visit to the Turkish bath in the basement.
After the visit, you will embark on the road to Meknes.
If you want to stay more in Casablanca, here are some other attractions:
- The “Old Medina” is only about 200 years old (new compared to Fez and Marrakech). If you are visiting these cities, you may want to skip this city.
- Hobous is the “new medina” of Casablanca, built by the French in the 1930s. Here, you can experience Art Deco architecture while looking for handicrafts and olive, vegetable and spice markets.
- Boulevard de la Corniche, the beach promenade area (often called the “Miami” of Morocco). Take a leisurely stroll here and see other nearby attractions.If your main attraction to Casablanca is to follow in the footsteps of Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, then
- Rick’s Café is worth a visit; this restaurant recreates the famous Bogie cafe from the legendary movie. Sip a cocktail while Sam plays again!
The prosperous city of Meknes is a good preparation for your stay in Fez: the medina here is smaller, less busy, and the shopkeepers are less aggressive. Although most travelers just pass directly, those with more time may find several interesting places in this historic imperial city.
In the Ville Impériale (Imperial City) area, you can explore the gardens, palaces, the impressive Bab al-Mansour gate, Moulay Ismail Mausoleum and the Royal Stables. Compared to the medinas of Fes and Marrakech, the medina is smaller and easier to navigate. In addition to the scattered souks, you can also visit the 14th-century Medersa Bou Inania (with great views from the roof) and Dar Jamaï, a beautiful palace built in 1882.
Day 2 Roman Ruins at Volubilis, the “Blue City” of Chefchaouen
After breakfast, you will drive about 30 minutes to the ancient Roman settlement of Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the best-preserved Roman ruins in Morocco. This small town used to be one of the most remote areas of the Roman Empire, but after 200 years of rule, the Romans left and focused on other areas of the empire. They planted and exported large amounts of wheat for the rest of the empire, and sent many wild animals (lions, bears, elephants) to the capital for banquets, celebrations and sacrifices.
A visit to Volubilis allows you to escape the hustle and bustle of Meknes. Wander through the huge complex of buildings and explore the large commercial houses (with visible heating systems below), temples and many colorful mosaics in situ. Afterwards, enjoy a scenic 3-hour drive to Chefchaouen to watch the flat plains transform into the mountainous landscape of the Rif Mountains. There will be many small villages on the way.
Chefchaouen (called “chaoeun” by the locals) translates to “two angles” and is named after the two peaks on the hillside town. Travelers call this place the “Blue City”, a vibrant town with an endless winding labyrinth of picturesque houses and streets. You will find that it is very different from the Medina of Fes and Marrakech, the atmosphere here is more relaxed and some of the friendliest people you will find in this country.
You will spend most, if not all, of your time in the compact Medina area, which is close to the northern slopes. Lose yourself in the alleys and paths, but respect it, because the gorgeous houses here are occupied by local residents.
Stroll to Plaza Outa el-Hammam, the main square named after the number of Turkish baths that once surrounded it. People watch from the restaurants and cafes in the square, or walk into the charming shops, which offer better prices and friendlier services than Fes or Marrakech.
Be sure to check out the Grand Mosque and the Old Fort. The mosque was built by Moulay Mohamed in 1560. Although the interior is restricted to Muslims, non-Muslims can still admire the exterior and site. Save 30-60 minutes to visit Kasbah (old fortifications), where you can stroll through gardens, museums and some old prison cells. Be sure to climb on the roof and enjoy the beautiful view of the town.
To get a better view, you can walk to the city wall, pass through the city gate, and then follow the path to the Atlas Hotel, where you will enjoy the vast panorama of the Blue City. For more trekking, please choose the curve leading to the mountainside (if you find these routes difficult, please ask the hotel for help).
At the end of the day, drive east along the street, past the Ras el Ma spring, where the Oued el Kebir river flows under the town. Enjoy afternoon mint tea and then follow the trails and mountains for half ahour until you reach the white Spanish mosque. When the sun goes down, you can enjoy the last view of the town from here.
You can also take a larger hike to explore the area; several local routes are only a short drive away. Plan to spend at least half a day hiking along the river to Cascades d’Akchou waterfall, or to the rock arch called “God’s Bridge”. This trail diverged early, so throughout the day, you can try to visit two sites.
Day 3 Chefchaouen to Fes
Get up early, and when you wander on the street in the morning, you may get an hour of quiet. This is a good time to take unobstructed photos, but keep in mind that if you want to shop at the last minute, many stores won’t open until around 10am.
You will then be on the road and drive south for approximately 3.5 hours to Fez, with its impressively large and maze-like old medina stretching down the mountain. Before entering the bustling matrix, stop at the Merenid tomb site above the town, where you can enjoy a charming panoramic view of the old city. On the hillside below, you can even see the leather drying in the sun. After lunch, you can enjoy yourself in the winding streets of the Medina, which you will find is bigger and more complicated than the streets of Chefchaouen.
Enjoy your evening in the beautiful Riad. If you want, you can also dine here.
Total driving time: 3.5-4 hours
Day 4 Fes: Exploring the Imperial City & Medieval Medina
Today, you will learn about Fes, the oldest imperial city in Morocco, and perhaps the most interesting and exciting to explore. Its medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the most complete of its kind in the Arab world. Because the city has never experienced too much colonial development, most of Fez feels like it has gone back hundreds of years. How you visit Fes and its highlights is up to you, so please consider some of these options or ask your local experts for ideas that suit your interests.
If you are inspired by history and culture and have free time, you can spend a few days walking around the medina, visiting religious schools, and exploring beyond the walls of the medina. If your itinerary is short, exploring the Medina all day and visiting some sights outside may be enough. Either way, we recommend that you use an expert guide for a half-day tour to learn more about this stellar city and help you explore the medina.
Fes el Bali (“Old Fes”) is a great place to start your adventure. The city was founded by Moulay Idris I in the 8th century AD to welcome refugees from Córdoba in southern Spain and Kairouan in Tunisia (then two capitals of Western Islam). Their skills in architecture and crafts played an important role in the city’s organic development (hence the maze of narrow streets) over the next hundred years.
The charming medina area may attract most of your time and attention. The roads are narrower, windier and steeper than those in Marrakech, and it is almost impossible not to get lost at least a few times (part of the fun, just keep walking until the flow of people increases and you find yourself in one of the main streets). Buy a variety of iconic outdoor markets (markets), including spices, vegetables, leather products, ceramics, metals, shoes, scarves, medicines, etc. Many are gathered together, and you will surely see artisans working in small shops.
Be sure to check out the famous Tanneries Chouara, which still uses traditional techniques from centuries ago. Find a local leather shop and watch the scenery from above (a small donation to the tanner may help you get a chance) and watch the work of the masters. This process first soaks in a mixture of pigeon feces and limestone, which helps to remove any remaining fur and soften the leather. Next, the leather is dyed in a large colored tank for about a week, and then dried on a nearby roof or hillside. To prevent the pungent smell, please take some mint leaves with you during your visit.
Medina is also home to the 9th century Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque, which can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers. Although it is only open to Muslims, you can glimpse the interior in some places and admire the beautifully decorated interior. Next door is the Islamic University, one of the oldest universities in the world, regarded as the science capital of Morocco. You can also visit the old religious school, the well-decorated housing designed for university students: check out Medersa Bou Inania (currently under renovation) and Al Attarine Madrasa (built in 1325). Their stunning main courtyard displays detailed ceramic tiles, dark cedar woodwork, and finely crafted stucco patterns. Upstairs you can see the beautiful old student dormitory.
From here, pass the famous Bab Boujeloud, which is the gate that welcomes you to enter Fes el Bali from the west. The outside is blue (the traditional color of Fes) and the inside is green (the color of Islam). Go through the gate and you will see the main road of Talâa Kebira, full of shops. Enjoy some retail therapy or pop music at Musée Batha, which has a lot of Moroccan art—including wood carvings and traditional pottery—and a beautiful central garden.
To the southwest and uphill of the old city is Fes el Jedid (“New Fes”), built in the 13th century, when the Melennid dynasty was in power. From the street, you can admire the Royal Palace and Mellah, the ancient Jewish quarter and its cemetery, where you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Just outside the medina, you can visit the local collective of ceramic and tile works. You will quickly understand the entire process, from mixing clay to drawing a design on the fired part. You will also see tile masters at work, piecing together complex puzzles to form impressive mosaics.
No matter how you choose to explore Fes, consider watching the sunset from Merenid Tombs in the north or Borj Sud in the south; both viewpoints offer wonderful views of this vibrant city with eternal roots.
Day 5 Over the Middle Atlas to the Desert: Erfoud, Merzouga & the Sahara
Start early today, because you will be involved in many areas. You will travel through the Middle Atlas Mountains, through cedar forests, through towns, and finally reach near Merzouga, the iconic sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, where you can ride a camel, then enjoy a delicious traditional dinner and in Bedu Because of people tents.
This morning’s scenic tour will take you through the cedar forests of Azrou, the Zad Pass and the Central Atlas Mountains, where you can see Barbary macaques on the trees and on the roadside. You will have lunch and a short stop in Middelt, the “Apple City”; be sure to pay attention to the nearby Muluya River, which allows these orchards to grow in the desert.
After lunch, you will continue through the Tizi-n-Talremt mountain pass and enter the Ziz Valley, famous for its hidden oasis and palm trees. Along the road, you will see many sturdy houses called “ksars” built by merchants to produce valuables such as gold, salt and spices. Just before Erfoud, you will catch a glimpse of the changing Sahara dunes. As sand dunes are blowing in the wind, they will encroach on farms, roads and buildings. You will also see an ancient method of water “mining”-an ingenious method of transferring water to farmland-and nomadic shepherds and their settlements. If time permits, you can even visit the local Berber nomadic family for tea.
The next stop is Erfoud, a bustling market town famous for dating festivals, fossil mining and artisan factories. A collective stop by local artisans, where you can learn about the fossils in the area and learn how fossil-rich rocks turn into beautiful objects. Soon you will see the sand waves of Erg Chebbi, covered by a vast expanse of dunes; their color changes with the time of day, especially at dusk.
If the desert is calling, take a break near Merzouga and ride a camel through the dunes; you will reach the camp before sunset. Climb to the nearest sand dune, watch a colorful show on the sand sea when the sun sets in the west, then return to the camp for dinner, and then listen to traditional Berber music by the campfire. Before going to bed, look at the vast night sky and spend the night in a traditional Bedouin tent.
If the four walls and modern comfort are more in line with your style, you can also choose to spend the night in a comfortable hotel/inn in Merzouga.
Total driving time: about 7-7.5 hours
Day 6 Erg Chebbi, Dades Valley, and Ouarzazate
Set your alarm before dawn, then climb out of your tent and explore a great sunrise on the hight sand dunes. After breakfast, spend the morning exploring more of the Sahara Desert: you can rent a sandboard to test your skills on the dunes, take a tour of Erg Chebbi (around the dunes), take a four-wheeled ATV tour, or just Relax in the pool.
In the morning, visit Khamleya, a traditional Saharan village with people from Mali. Enjoy local music, drumming and dancing, then take a relaxing stroll around the village and its cultivated land on the beach. When you leave the Merzouga area, stop at Rissani, another market town with an impressive gate at the entrance of the town. Walk around the traditional stalls, watch livestock sales, and stop at the “Donkey Parking Lot”.
Continue through the desert to the town of Tinghir and admire the beauty of the nearby towns, which cling to the side of the green river oasis, where are planted with emerald palm trees. The surrounding desert landscape shows impressive hills, terraces and plateaus. You will also stop at the Todra gorge, which is 984 feet (300 meters) high and has stunning red limestone. Here, you can easily walk through the gorge or relax in the cool water of the shallow river.
Then your journey will drive along the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs, a fortress complex that was once the place where chiefs and landlords lived. You will see various farms, many of which still use traditional methods, and you may encounter nomads of shepherds, goats and camels. You will then pass through the Dades Valley, where cultivated land borders rose bushes, which are used to make rose water and rose oil. If you come here in May, you may see the annual Rose Festival to celebrate the year of production. Stop at the rose collective, where you can watch the distillation process; on the side of the road, you might even see boys selling various crafts made of roses.
You can also stop in Ouarzazate, a popular location for local productions and Hollywood movies. You can visit one of the two film studios here, where you can observe the props and sets up close, and then go to the cinema to learn more about the background of local film history. If the nearby scenery looks familiar, it may be because this area has appeared in many Hollywood works of the last century, including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and Game of Thrones.
Total driving time: 5-5.5 hours
Day 7 Aït Benhaddou to Marrakech
Start your day at Aït Benhaddou, the most famous castle in Morocco and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, believed to date back to the 11th century. As you look up and cross the High Atlas Mountains, pay attention to Mount Toubkal, the highest peak, which is 13,671 feet (4,167 m) above sea level. Near the top of the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass, you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the mountains and the road winding down the mountain.
The first town after the pass is Taddert, where you can stop at the oil cooperative and learn how to process olives for various purposes. Taste some products and then return to the road. When you come down from the mountain, you will notice that the climate and landscape have changed dramatically, and the valleys are carved into the slopes. After experiencing all the tranquility of the mountains and deserts, you will soon be surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the vibrant Marrakech.
Check into your hotel and relax before returning in the evening, when the main square Jemaa el Fna is full of musicians, performers, snake charmers, games, food stalls and more. Wander around the stalls, vendors, and performers, or admire it all from a distance; sit in the cafes around the square and enjoy the food while watching the performance.
Day 8 Marrakech and Departure
Depending on your flight time, you may have time to explore more before heading to Marrakech Menara Airport in the morning. If you do, here is some background about the city and its highlights.
The bustling city of Marrakech, Morocco’s second largest city, will undoubtedly shock your senses with its vibrant sights, sounds and smells. The “Red City” is named for the stunning natural red ocher paint on its walls. If you have time, consider using an expert guide for a half-day historical and cultural tour, as well as the country’s hidden gems.
To understand the layout, take the Jemaa el Fna square as the center: to the north is the open-air market, to the west is the Koutoubia mosque and gardens, and to the south is the old castle area with the Saadi Tombs, Bahia Palace and Badi Palace. In the new city, you will find Majorelle Gardens.
If your flight is delayed, you can stay for a while in Jemaa el Fna Square, which starts to be crowded with musicians, storytellers, acrobats, dancers, henna artists and snake charmers in the late afternoon. It’s getting dark, and rows of food stalls begin to appear, serving everything from dinners to juice drinks, dried dates and small snacks. For a more relaxing experience, look for one of the many cafes located above the square and enjoy a meal or tea while watching the show below. You can also take the Caliche Horse Carriage to explore the surrounding areas in a stylish way.
If your flight is earlier in the day, head west of Jemaa el Fna, where you will see the striking minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque across from Mohammed V Avenue in the distance. Although the entrance is restricted to Muslims, non-Muslims can enjoy the gorgeous appearance: on the north side of the mosque, you will see the foundation of the original structure, which must be rebuilt to align correctly with Mecca. Walk around the back of the mosque to the beautiful Koutoubia Garden, where there are fountains, pools, palm trees and flowers. When the sunset glows on the minaret, this is an ideal place for an afternoon stroll.
You can also concentrate on wandering around the souks, alleys and markets of the Medina. Many areas are covered, which can be a good summer resort. Some open-air markets you might want to explore: Souk el Attarin (spices), Souk Haddadine (blacksmith) and Souk Smata (slippers). An open-air market not to be missed is the Souk des Teinturiers, the open-air market of dyers. Here you can see the dead fabrics and yarns of people, which will hang on the street to dry in the afternoon. You can also find many shops selling carpets and leather goods nearby.
Along the many alleys, you will notice large open spaces and courtyards. These Fondouks were once hotels used by visiting merchants and merchants. They slept upstairs, while their animals lived on the ground floor. Today, some have been converted into residential areas, while others are large shopping areas and workshops that you can explore.
If you want to escape the crowds, check out the beautifully renovated 16th-century Medersa Ben Youssef (Quran school), which was once the residence of the students of the nearby Ben Youssef Mosque. Inside, you can admire the cedar carvings, stucco and zellij tiles in the central courtyard, stroll through the old dormitory where 800 students once lived, and visit the prayer hall.
Other sites in the area include:
- Almoravid Kouba, the only Almoravid building intact
- The Marrakech Museum-located in the Dar Mnebbi Palace in the 19th century-houses a collection of sculptures and various other Moroccan art
- The Moroccan Arts and Crafts Museum, featuring stunning woodwork, including traditional wedding sedan chairs used to transport the bride
Outside the medina, you will find the charming Kasbah area, here are a few sights worth seeing:
These secret tombs from the 16th century were hidden for many years and were not “discovered” by the French authorities until the 1930s. Enter through a very narrow passage and find a small garden, tomb and three main pavilions. When you peek inside, you will notice the meticulous craftsmanship and beauty.
El Badi Palace
Although this palace, built in the early 17th century, was abandoned after the death of El Badi (“Unparalleled”), you can still visit its extensive courtyard and sunken garden.
This palace built in the 19th century was the largest and most luxurious palace at the time. Today, you can explore courtyards, gardens, and admire the intricate woodwork and painted ceilings.
If you have time to walk for 30 minutes or take a quick taxi ride, consider visiting these lush, expansive gardens full of subtropical plants, bamboo, lilies and palm trees. This is the ideal place to escape the afternoon heat and noise for a more relaxing experience.
- include Private tour
- Daily breakfast Hotel accommodation and all transportation in Casablanca
- Airport Full transportation with air-conditioning,
- gas and driver English speaking guide and driver Overnight in Casablanca,Meknes, Fes, Chefchaouen & Marrakech
- Tour Guide in Fes & Marrakech
- including breakfast
- Daily including breakfast, free time to explore scenic spots, take photos, etc.
- Customized and flexible stops
- Travel insurance
- Entrance tickets to monuments
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