See the best of southern Morocco on this tour that lets you really get to know the local culture by staying in traditional accommodations and sharing meals with villagers. See major historic sites such as Aït Benhaddou, experience the sweeping majesty of the Sahara Desert and delight in the sea breezes in picturesque Essaouira. Your Moroccan trip includes accommodations, some meals and guided activities, and plenty of time to discover this remarkable country on your own terms.
Please see the Itinerary below for details on each day of the tour.
Day 1: Marrakech
Begin your grand tour of southern Morocco at 6pm by meeting your small group and expert guide at a welcome reception in a central Marrakech hotel. Afterward, follow your guide to Marrakech’s inimitable central square, Djemaa El-Fna, home to fortune-tellers, acrobats, snake charmers, jugglers, storytellers and other unforgettable entertainment. Sip some mint tea and enjoy dinner at a food stall (own expense) for some of the best people-watching opportunities of your life.
You may want to arrive in Marrakech early to experience more of its amazing sights on your own, including the Koutoubia Mosque with its gorgeous ancient minaret; El Badi Palace, the remains of a lavish 360-room royal home; and the intricately decorated Saadian Tombs. Spend your first night in Morocco at a comfortable hotel in Marrakech.
Overnight: Hotel Le Caspien or similar in MarrakechDay 2: Marrakech – Aroumd (B, L, D)
Leave the hustle-bustle of Marrakech behind and take a 2-hour drive into the Atlas Mountains by 4x4 vehicle. In the village of Imlil, store your luggage and load supplies onto pack mules for a 1-hour trek up to the tranquil village of Aroumd, 6,037 feet (1,840 meters) above sea level. You may choose to either walk or ride a mule (own expense) up to the village. There, settle in to a gîte
, a family-run mountain retreat with captivating views of Mt Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. Your cozy gîte with shared bedrooms and bathrooms gives you a taste of traditional life in Morocco.
If you’re up for it, join your guide on a 5-mile (8-km) trek to the pilgrimage shrine of Sidi Chamharouch, where a medieval saint is buried. After this 4-hour expedition, enjoy a traditional Moroccan dinner at your gîte.
Overnight: Gïte Omar Id Mansour or similar in AroumdDay 3: Aroumd – Aït Benhaddou (B)
Sit back and relax on your 4x4 ride over mountain roads and through the Tizi-n-Tichka pass in the Atlas Mountains at an elevation of 7,415 feet (2,260 meters). After a 6-hour journey, arrive at Aït Benhaddou. This UNESCO World Heritage site was once a stop for caravans heading across the Sahara desert with stores of salt to trade for gold and silver. You might recognize the distinctive clay architecture of the famous Aït Benhaddou Kasbah that has been featured in films including Lawrence of Arabia
, Jewel of the Nile
For dinner, you can join a fun cooking class (own expense) at your guesthouse where you’ll learn how to make well-known Moroccan dishes such as couscous -- steamed semolina -- and a tagine, a stew of meat or vegetables cooked in a clay pot. Overnight: Hotel Rose du Sable or similar in Aït Benhaddou
Day 4: Aït Benhaddou – Ouarzazate – Zagora (B)
Today, you venture south by private minibus and visit Ouarzazate, the Hollywood of Morocco. Visit Atlas Film Studios (own expense), the world's largest film studio and a filming location for movies including Lawrence of Arabia
, The Mummy
. You can also visit the Taourirt Kasbah (own expense), once one of the largest and most intricate kasbahs in Morocco with numerous maze-like passageways and staircases.
You will also make a short stop at Project Horizon, an organization that assists people with disabilities by providing vital medical equipment including wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs and trains locals in creative trades such as weaving and pottery-making.
After leaving Ouarzazate, continue through the verdant Draa Valley to Zagora, the last town before the Draa River, Morocco's longest river. Zagora is famous for its ‘Toumbouctou 52 jours’ sign, which supposedly tells visitors how long it would take to reach Timbuktu, Mali, by camel. Spend some time admiring Zagora's beautiful ceramics and pottery and wander through the peaceful palm groves of nearby Amazrou.Overnight: Hotel La Fibule du Draa or similar in ZagoraDay 5: Zagora – Sahara Camp (B, D)
Get ready to venture into the vast and mysterious Sahara Desert itself today. First, travel by minibus past towering Jebel Tadrart Mountain and travel through a stark sandy landscape interspersed with lush date palms.
Visit Tamegroute, an intriguing town with an impressive library of ancient manuscripts, including the Quran and stories of the prophet Mohammed. Join a local guide to check out the town's underground kasbah and its unique ceramic pottery.
Continue on to M’hamid, a small town on the edge of the vast Sahara Desert. Climb aboard a camel for a very memorable ride among sand dunes and a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity!
Next, board a 4x4 vehicle to explore the stark, rocky desert landscape along the Algerian border, passing nomads and their camels on the way. Arrive at the Erg Chigaga dunes in the late afternoon, where you’ll witness the classic desert landscape of sweeping sand dunes. Marvel at the constantly changing contours of these magnificent dunes as they're shaped by the capricious desert winds. Amid this incredible scenery, you will make camp in a nomadic-style woolen tent with basic bedding and toilet facilities. As part of this authentic experience, savor a wonderful authentic meal cooked by local nomads before turning in for the night. Overnight: Campsite in the Sahara DesertDay 6: Sahara Camp – Taroudannt (B)
Settle in for a long day traveling by minibus through more fantastic desert scenery. Pass argan trees, from which Morocco's famous argan oil is derived, and keep your eyes peeled for the amazing sight of goats climbing these trees to find nuts. Capture plenty of photos on your drive and arrive at your riad, a traditional Moroccan house with a courtyard, where you can rejuvenate with a dip in the pool or a steam bath. Overnight: Riad Hida or similar near TaroudanntDay 7 – Taroudannt – Essaouira (B)
Travel toward the coast, stopping at Taroudannt, a lively Berber town in the Souss plains full of souks, or markets, where you can practice your bargaining skills shopping for silver, ceramics and mosaics.
Leave Taroudannt and take an approximately 4.5-hour drive to the romantic town of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast. Delight in this quaint artist’s colony with blue-shuttered houses and wood workshops that has captured the fancy of celebrities such as Orson Welles and Jimi Hendrix. Take a walking tour through the old medina and Jewish community and the busy port that’s home to hundreds of active fishing boats.
Relax on the clean beaches of this charming town before settling into your riad for the night. Overnight: Riad Chakir or similar in EssaouiraDay 8 – Essaouira (B)
Take advantage of a free day in this laid-back town to unwind after your days in the rugged desert. Wander the local fish markets and perhaps enjoy a plate of the day’s catch. Walk the streets, inhaling the soothing scent of the oil used to polish Thuya, a lovely wood that’s used in many local crafts. Shop local boutiques and art galleries for souvenirs to remember your time in this resort town.
If you’d prefer more activity, try windsurfing or kite surfing on the water or riding an ATV in the sand dunes near town. Afterward, pamper yourself with a visit to a hammam, a public bath where you can enjoy cleansing treatments and a massage with Argan oil (own expense). Overnight: Riad Chakir or similar in EssaouiraDay 9 – Essaouira – Marrakech (B)
Enjoy the 3.5-hour journey back to Marrakech by comfortable minibus. Reminisce with your small group about your once-in-a-lifetime exploration of Morocco over an optional farewell dinner (own expense). Take photos and exchange contact information before heading to your comfortable hotel in Marrakech. Overnight: Hotel Le Caspien or similar in MarrakechDay 10 – Marrakech (B)
Your marvelous southern Moroccan adventure ends after breakfast. Leave your hotel at your leisure and possibly see more of Marrakech on your own, including Marjorelle Gardens, the Museum of Marrakech and Bahia Palace.