Imperial Cities, the Great Sahara, and Marrakesh


Morocco’s sensuous beauty is legendary, from imperial cities with labyrinthine souks to the awesome grandeur of the Sahara. Our Private Journey discovers this graceful land in Fez—a walled city suspended in a medieval dream—and in the storied casbahs of Marrakesh, in the red-rock canyons of the High Atlas, and in a stunning desert oasis where dunes stretch to the horizon. You have a private guide with you from Day 1 through the afternoon of Day 8, and your accommodations are in hotels as well as riads, traditional mansions that have been converted into boutique hotels of character, with charming Moorish and Andalusian architecture, tiled central courtyards open to the sky, and peaceful rooftop gardens. Each riad is unique and has its own special personality and decor. At journey’s end, you can extend your travels to the enchanting walled town of Essaouira on the edge of the sea.—

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1
Casablanca / Rabat

The glory of medieval dynasties shines through in Morocco’s ancient imperial cities. In seaside Rabat, Morocco’s capital, stroll through the winding streets of the picturesque Oudaia Kasbah and visit the spectacular walled royal necropolis of Chellah.

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Days 2-3
Moulay Idriss and the Treasures of Fez

Travel inland through wheat fields, vineyards, and olive groves to Moulay Idriss, a hilltown and revered pilgrimage site. Stroll in the evocative ruins of Volubilis, Rome’s ancient provincial capital, then continue to Fez, nestled in a high valley and resplendent with minarets and domes. Fez’s renowned walled medina is one of the most perfectly preserved medieval cities in the world, full of visual delights. Enter through one of its four arched gates and discover a mile-long network of souks, open-air cafes, courtyards, hammams (traditional steam baths), and gardens. On a privately guided walking tour, explore winding alleys of Arabic-Moorish architecture, savor the scent of spices, orange blossoms, and sizzling lamb kabobs, and watch scenes unchanged for centuries, from donkeys laden with goods to children carrying boards of bread dough to communal ovens.

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Days 4-5
Sahara Dunes

Cross the cedar forests of the Atlas Mountains descending into the Ziz Valley to Erfoud, and come face-to-face with the epic expanse of the Moroccan Sahara. At the frontier town of Merzouga, below the celebrated dunes of Erg Chebbi, meet your Berber guides and set out for a camel ride, the ultimate way to explore this spectacular environment of wind-sculpted dunes.

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Days 6-9
Canyons and Casbahs / Marrakesh, the Red City

Head through the “Valley of a Thousand Casbahs,” an ancient caravan route dotted with lush palm tree groves, and into the narrow red-rock canyon of the Todra Gorge. Visit the dramatic Dades Gorge, a deep fault in the High Atlas, and the famed mud-brick turreted fortress of Ait Ben Haddou, a 16th century ksar (fortified village) now protected as a World Heritage Site. A palm-fringed city more Berber than Arabic, fabled Marrakesh has been a metropolis for the tribes of the Atlas since the 11th century. Venture forth on foot and by horse-drawn carriage to experience Marrakesh’s delights, from bustling souks to Djemma el Fna, the lively central square filled with acrobats, snake charmers, fortune tellers, and a parade of other entertainers. Depart on Day 9.

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Roam the labyrinthine medina of medieval Fez and the bustling bazaars of Marrakesh
Explore the spectacular Dades Gorge and meet the Berbers of the Atlas Mountains
Enjoy authentic riads, perfectly-located boutique hotels, and a private guide throughout your trip
Tailor your activities to your interests: music, markets, hiking, desert camping


Length: 9 days
Cost From: $3995  
Arrive: Casablanca, Morocco
Depart: Marrakesh, Morocco
Lodging: 8 nights in hotels (or optional upgrades to traditional riad-style hotels)
Meals: All meals included except 5 dinners
Activity: Walking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Easy to moderate cultural exploration, city and village walks, optional camel ride