8 Day Marrakech & Sahara Desert Itinerary

Day 1

CHECK IN, JAMAA EL FNA

You'll probably want to spend the first day getting to and checked into your lodging, getting money changed, grabbing sim cards if needed and head to the grocery store to pick up snacks and water bottles.

After all of the necessary things are finished, head into the heart of the city, the medina, for a preliminary wander and to experience the main square called Jamaa El Fna. 

Jamaa El Fna is loud, bustling and overall a good introduction to the city of Marrakech. Because it is so crazy it's not somewhere you'll need to spend a lot of time. 

Plan on grabbing dinner at a casual restaurant (Taj'in Darna is a good option) on the edge of the square where you can enjoy the sights while also enjoying a good meal. After filling up, taste some gelato with uniquely moroccan flavors for dessert at nearby Oriental Legend.

Cost estimates for the day:
Taxi van for 5 from airport: $20
Morocco Sim card (if needed): $9 for 2GB
Dinner near Jamaa El Fna: $5-7
Gelato: $1-2


Day 2

MADRASSA, BAHIA PALACE, SPICE MARKET

Start the  day with a breakfast sold from stands along the alleyways and fresh squeezed fruit juice in the square.. Then head through the souks to the Ben Youssef Madrassa.

Enjoy the incredible architectural details and history of what was North Africa's largest Islamic college. Exploring the upstairs student rooms is particularly interesting as well as the intricate zellig tiling of the courtyard.

After taking in the sights at the Madrassa, meander toward La Famille for a leisurely lunch in a hidden courtyard. The menu changes daily based on what is fresh at the market. There is limited seating so be sure to make a reservation before you arrive.

In the afternoon, continue on to the sprawling Bahia palace and gardens. It may look unassuming from the outside but inside is filled with fountains, tiled courtyards and formal gardens. Explore the rooms and imagine what life was like for Moroccan royalty.

Top off  your daily exploring  with a visit to the spice markets just across the street from the Bahia palace. 
Enjoy dinner at Naranj, a relaxed Lebanese restaurant with moroccan influences.

Cost estimates for the day:
Street Breakfast + Juice: $2
Ben Youssef Madrassa: $2
Lunch at La Famille: $10-15
Bahia Palace: $1
Dinner: $15


DAY 3:

MARJORELLE GARDENS

Start with at traditional Moroccan breakfast at Zeitoun as you watch Jamaa El Fna wake up. then catch a horse drawn carriage (or taxi) to the Marjorelle Gardens.

The gardens are filled with vibrant colors, exotic plants, a small museum and the studio of it's most recent owner fashion designer Yves St Laurent. Take a moment to sit and enjoy the serene, picturesque landscape. Step across the way for a tasty lunch at Kaowa and some boutique style shopping for handmade goods.

In the evening climb to the terrace of Cafe Kif Kif, order some nutella pastillas and watch the sun set over the Kotoubia Mosque. and enjoy the lamp sellers lining the streets.

Cost estimates for the day:
Breakfast Near Jamaa El Fna: $3
Carriage for 6: $20
Marjorelle Gardens: $7
Lunch: $10
Dinner: $7

Day 4

COOKING CLASS, SAADIAN TOMBS, OLD KASBAH GATE

At 10:oo, start your day in the Clock Kitchen with tea or coffee with your chef-trainer. Next, you’ll visit the local souk, dodging the donkeys and bargaining with vendors, your chef will help you shop for the fresh ingredients with which you’ll season and flavor your meal. 

When you sit to enjoy the three-course feast that you have prepared by 3 pm, you will have gained an understanding of the seasoning that brings out the diversity of Moroccan flavours.

For a shorter day in the kitchen you could also opt for a 2 hour Moroccan bread seminar or Moroccan patisserie class.

After your cooking lesson make a quick stop to see the ancient Kasbah gate and the Saadian tombs (that have only recently been discovered). 

If you're feeling up to it stop back by Cafe Clock in the evening for hot tea and dessert (you probably still won't be too hungry after that 3 course meal you made) or a camel burger while enjoying the evening's cultural entertainment.

Cost estimates for the day:
All Day Cooking Class + 3 Course Meal: $66
Short Cooking Class: $20
Saadian Tombs: $1
Dessert: $3

DAYS 5 - 7

MARRAKECH TO MERZOUGA SAHARA DESERT TOUR

Day 5: Marrakech - Boumalne Dades (6hr Drive) 

Your tour will start around 7:30 in the morning from your riad with a drive to Kasbah Ait Ben Hadou through the tiki Ntichka pass and the High Atlas Mountains. Numerous stops will be made along the way. Visit the UNESCO world heritage Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou which was also used as a set for various Hollywood blockbusters.  You'll continue to Ouarzazate and visit Kasbah Taourirte before lunch (at leisure). In the afternoon you'll head to Boumaine Dades via the Valley of the Roses before reaching your boutique guesthouse located in Dades Valley. Dinner and overnight stay.

Day 6: Boumalne Dades - Merzouga (4hr Drive)

After breakfast you'll drive through the 1001 Kasbahs road to Tinghir where you can enjoy a walk along the Todgha River, visit Berber villages and Ksours and end up in the impressive landscapes with huge cliffs and Todgha gorges. Eat lunch at leisure before continuing to Merzouga. When we arrive at Erg Chebbi you'll meet up with your camel caravan where the road ends and ride over the color changing sand dunes while enjoying a dramatic sunset over the Sahara. Finally, you'll drive back to the desert camp where a Moroccan dinner will be served under the stars next to the campfire while being entertained by the local nomads and their drums. Enjoy the exquisite display of shotting starts and crystal clear constellations before heading to bed in your desert camp.

Day 7: Merzouga - Marrakech (9hr Drive)

After breakfast, drive back to Marrakech through Dades Valley, Ouarzazate (stop for lunch) and Tizi Ntichka pass. Your 3 day desert trip from Marrakech to Merzouga will end at your hotel or riad.

Cost estimates for days 6-8:
Desert tour, lodging, camel rides (sunset + sunrise), breakfasts & dinners, transportation, guide: $135 (private) $89 (shared)
Lunches: $20

Marrakech Desert Trips

DAY 8:

RUG BUYING & HAMMAM

Start your day with a light breakfast and head to the rug souk to exercise your haggling skills. 

Once you find a shop you like, sit down for tea and a learning experience as the rug seller explains the types of rugs, where they come from and the regional differences. If you decide to buy, plan on negotiating back and forth 3 times. 

With new rugs in hand stop at the cold pressed juice bar before heading to the Hamman to relax.

A hamman is a traditional Ottoman style bathing experience that you can't miss. You will be cleaner than you have ever thought possible. Perfect for washing off the dust of the Sahara. Many are followed by a massage (so you can relax away any remaining tension from haggling for rugs).

Finish any last minute shopping before heading deep into the souks to NoMad, a higher end modern moroccan restaurant for dinner. Be sure you make reservations once you arrive in Marrakech - it's not an eating experience you'd want to miss out on.

Cost estimates for the day:
Breakfast: $2-3
Cold Pressed Juice: $3
Hammam + 1 Hour Massage: $25
Dinner at NoMad: $20