Day 1: Arrival in Marrakech
Arrive in Marrakech at any time. There are no planned activities on this day, but there is lots to explore. Marrakech is the fourth largest city in Morocco and is a feast for the senses. The “Red City” is a magical place, brimming with markets, gardens, palaces, and mosques.
–Airport transfer from Marrakech Menara Airport
Overnight in Marrakech
Day 2: Imlil/ Armed
Today, we’ll take a drive up the towering High Atlas Mountains, home to North Africa’s highest peak, Mount Toubkal. It’s also home to many indigenous tribes living in mud huts scattered along the mountainsides, and even nomadic and semi-nomadic families throughout the valleys.
We’ll arrive in the village of Imlil (1,740m/5,708ft) where we’ll store our main luggage and load daypacks before walking through the traditional mountain village and past the nearby waterfall for our one-hour trek up to the peaceful village of Armed (1843m/6056ft). Armed is the largest village of the Mizane Valley, an extraordinary looking place, built on a huge moraine spur above the valley, which offers stunning views across the High Atlas Mountains. Spend the rest of the day exploring the village and the surrounding farmlands. For those looking for a bit more activity and weather permitting, there will be a chance to hike to the pilgrimage shrine of Sidi Chamharouch (2300m/7545 ft). Sidi Chamharouch attracts pilgrims from all corners of Morocco and is known for its power to cure infertility in women and rheumatism, but the spiritual disease is the specialty of this saint. Rumors and legends say he was the King of the Djinns and that a sacrificed animal can cure mental diseases. The shrine is guarded by the tribe of the Ait Mizan and it is forbidden to non-Muslims.
We’ll spend the night in a family-run mountain home (gite) in Armed for a unique opportunity to experience traditional Berber culture.
Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours driving
Hike to Armed Village: 1 hour, easy
Hike to Sidi Chamharouch Shrine: 5 miles/ 1300 ft elevation gain/ Out & Back/ Est 4 hours
–Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner
Overnight in Armed Village
Note: There will only be the option of shared rooms here
Day 3: Ait Benhaddou
Our journey today takes us along mountain roads and over Morocco’s highest pass, Tizi n’Tichka (2,260m/7,415ft) to Ait Benhaddou. Perched on a hilltop and unchanged since the 11th century, Ait Benhaddou is one of Morocco’s most iconic sites. Located on the edge of the Sahara, it was once an important stop for caravans passing through as they carried salt across the Sahara, returning with gold, ivory, and slaves. Today, its grand kasbah has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its fortified village being a fine example of clay architecture. You may recognize the place from the many movies and TV shows that have been filmed here over the years, including Lawrence of Arabia, Jewel of the Nile, Jesus of Nazareth, Gladiator, and Game of Thrones.
Upon arrival in Ait Benhaddou, you’ll have a guided tour of what is considered to be one of the most extraordinary kasbahs in Morocco. The giant fortification, which is made up of six kasbahs and nearly fifty ksars (a group of earthen building surrounded by high walls), is a great example of pise clay architecture. We’ll also visit a women’s cooperative for weaving Berber carpets and then hit the new town of Ait Benhaddou for dinner.
Horse lovers will also have the option of exploring the landscape around Ait Benhaddou on a guided horseback riding tour. Rest assured, the horses here are well taken care of and the guides are very knowledgeable.
Optional: Horseback Riding (2 hours, approx 700dh)
Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours driving
–Guided tour of Ait Benhaddou Kasbah
–Visit a women’s cooperative for weaving Berber carpets
Overnight in Ait Benhaddou
Day 4: Dades Valley
Our drive continues as we travel through the Roses Valley, an area as lush and fragrant as it sounds. Our hotel tonight is in the Dades Valley, which has been described as a smaller version of the Grand Canyon. The vividness of the colors will stop you every few steps for a picture. The soil is a deep earthy red that actually becomes a deeper red the further into the valley you go. The mountain walls, carved by the Dades River, range anywhere from 200 to 500 meters (650ft to 1600ft) tall as they twist and dance in an endless pirouette.
This is a great place for hiking. After settling into our hotel for a bit, we’ll put on our hiking boots and discover the unusual rocky outcrops known as “monkey fingers.” This geological curiosity is particularly enchanting at sunset.
Estimated Travel Time: 2.5 hours driving
Hiking Dades Gorge and Monkey Fingers Canyon Loop: 6.2 miles/ 1,026 ft elevation gain/ Loop/ Est 3 hours
Overnight in Dades Valley
Day 5: Todra Gorge/ Merzouga
Located about an hour from the Dades Valley is the Todra Gorge, recognized around the world as one of the most spectacular canyons. Wedged between massive cliff walls that have been carved by the Todra River, the gorge is filled with a green oasis of palm trees. This serene spot is great for hiking, relaxing on the edge of the river or sampling some local Berber delicacies.
If you are more adventurous and the words Via Ferrata catch your attention, this is also an option here. The Todra Gorge cuts through a mountain, getting as thin as thirty feet at some points, while you can look up the sides of sheer rock faces that reach almost 1,000 feet high. Several of these cliffs are limestone, and there are many climbing routes.
This afternoon, our journey towards the Sahara continues as we make our way to Merzouga, known as the gateway to Erg Chebbi, a huge expanse of sand dunes north of the small Moroccan town. This evening, we’ll ride a camel into the dunes to watch the sunset. We’ll learn how to mount and dismount the camel as well as other safety-related tips. Our guide will also teach us how to tie a turban to keep the desert sun off our face and add a little flare to your photos.
After returning to our kasbah at the desert’s edge, we’ll enjoy a cup of mint tea around the outdoor fire pit as we stargaze for as far as the eyes can see.
Optional: Via Ferrata (minimum 4 people, 1.5 hours, Approx 30dh)
Estimated Travel Time: 1 hour driving (Dades Valley to Todra Gorge), 4 hours driving (Todra Gorge to Merzouga)
–Meals: Breakfast & Dinner
–Sahara Camel Trek (1 hour)
Overnight in Merzouga
Day 6: Sahara Desert/ Ouarzazate
We will rise early to watch the sunrise over the dunes before breakfast. Our journey today will take us through the Draa Valley and the seas of sand to the township of Ouarzazate. Known as the “door of the desert” Ouarzazate is home to Atlas Studios, one of the largest movie studios in the world, in terms of land area.
Here, we’ll spend some time exploring the town and visit the Taurirt Kasbah, a citadel set against the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains. As far as fortifications are concerned, this is one of the most impressive of its kind. With almost 300 rooms and a true maze of passageways, steps, and key lock doors, it’s easy to feel lost within the immense structure that only connects to the outside world through a narrow entrance doorway. Afterwards, we’ll visit an herbalist to learn about spices, herbs and oils available in Morocco.
Estimated Travel Time: 6 hours driving
–Visit Taurirt Kasbah in Ouarzazate City
–Visit an Herbalist
Overnight in Ouarzazate
Day 7: Marrakech
Today, we’ll continue our journey back to the red city of Marrakech. This afternoon, we’ll visit the Majorille Garden, a two-and-a-half-acre botanical garden and artist’s landscape garden. It was created by French Orientalist artist, Jacques Majorelle over almost forty years.
We’ll also visit the medina to really get a taste of everyday life in Marrakech. The medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city dating back to the Berber Empire. We’ll explore the Saadian tombs, which were discovered in 1917 and date back to the time of the Saadian dynasty sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603). We’ll next take a walk through the Jewish quarter, visit Bahia Palace, and then finish our tour at Jemaa El Fna, the main square in Marrakech.
This evening, we’ll celebrate the end of our adventure with a final dinner at Chez Ali, a restaurant and fantasia show with belly dancers, acrobats, riders, fireworks, and folk music. It’s an enchanting show that will be the perfect end to our memorable adventure!
Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours driving
–Meals: Breakfast & Dinner
–Visit the Majorelle Garden
–Guided tour of Marrakech Medina
Overnight in Marrakech
Day 8: Marrakech
Today is departure day and there are no planned activities. Depending on the time of your flight, you’ll have some free time to knock off any shopping you haven’t finished or possibly an optional activity.
At the appropriate time, you will be transferred to the airport for your departure from Marrakech. Please let us know at the time of booking if you’d like to extend your stay here.