When I shared my insight into three days in Marrakech, I also mentioned that Morocco has long felt like a nice entry point to the Middle East and North Africa for me. It’s a place that feels well-trodden enough that it’s approachable but for some (like me!) that begs the question: is it too touristy? Will it feel authentic? If our one week in Morocco in November 2021 is a decent reflection of a Moroccan experience, I would share a resounding yes as a response when talking about authenticity. As with any destination that’s discovered the benefits of tourism for economic development, there are places and experiences that fall on the less authentic side of the spectrum, but in general, I found the vibrant colorful spirit of Marrakech beautiful and energizing, I adored being off the grid in the desert – the closest thing to safari life for me – and the High Atlas Mountains brought a serene, majestic and rather magical restorative experience. Below I’m sharing more insight into our one week in Morocco, a perfect introduction to the country with destinations that easily connect and bring supremely diverse offerings. As always, if Morocco is on your list and you’re looking for assistance with crafting an itinerary that speaks to you, let’s chat!
Day 1 – 3 〰️ Marrakech // Souqs, City Life + YSL
If you have just one week in Morocco, Marrakech is the natural entry point as it connects well with the desert and mountains without losing much time in transit. For most international travelers, this may involve a connection in Casablanca, but I feel confident in recommending Marrakech as your ‘city’ experience for a first-timer in Morocco. The Red City, as it’s dubbed, is a beautiful mélange and experience for the senses. Morocco is a North African country with palpable French influence. Expect colorful cuisine that’s spiced with saffron, cumin, and fresh herbs; hot, sweetened Moroccan mint tea that’s ever-present; gorgeous architecture that’s quintessentially Moroccan (and not to be confused with any other place on the planet); plus an exotic quality with souqs offering up handcrafted rugs, lamps, baskets, and local goods set amidst a date palm-dotted desert landscape.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL INTO MARRAKECH + SOUQ SHOPPING // You’ve arrived. Head to your hotel and settle in. Begin to take in life in Marrakech, including the elements that will ignite your senses for the days to come. Fall into the rhythm of life here and begin your experience in the medina by wandering the souqs with their affable and multilingual shop owners doling out everything from rugs to oils and spices.
DAY 2: YSL + MAJORELLE GARDENS // On Day 2, visit the Majorelle Gardens and the YSL museum for colorful inspiration. For art lovers, YSL’s life and connection with Marrakech will inspire you… and after your time in this city, it’ll be easy to see why Yves himself was inspired by the textures of Morocco. The gardens are a photographer’s haven with colorful outposts and picture-perfect doorways around every corner. In this same area, explore upmarket shops and visit the small but well-done Berber museum which highlights the Berber people (actually called the Imazighen) of Morocco.
DAY 3: HAMMAMS AND LUXURY HOTELS // On day three of your one week in Morocco, experience one of Morocco’s most quintessential experiences: the hammam. Schedule a time for a traditional scrub, where you’ll be lathered up, washed, and massaged with argan oil for a refreshing and cleansing experience. After, either take the time to revisit the souqs as we did (they’re constantly calling!) and/or visit some of Marrakech’s finest hotels to explore the incredible level of luxury that the city offers.
Read more on our experience spending three days in Marrakech.
Day 4 – 5 〰️ Agafay Desert // Activity-Rich Desert Life
From Marrakech you can reach the Agafay Desert in about an hour’s time, making it a simple add-on for anyone wanting a desert glamping experience to combine with the more buzzy city fix in the Red City. While the Sahara Desert is a huge draw for visitors to the region, with just one week in Morocco it’s a stretch given the long drive and time that will be lost in transit (7 – 9 hours). That said, the Agafay provides a wonderful off-the-grid opportunity with gorgeous tents set in the middle of an otherwise barren landscape. We spent just one night here, though I’d ideally have done two nights here if I had 8 nights vs. one week in Morocco.
DAY 4: ARRIVE IN THE AGAFAY + ATV // The Agafay is a perfect destination to wrap in some activities (think camel rides, horseback riding, dune buggies, ATVs, etc.). After settling into Scarabeo Camp, our home base for our night in the Agafay, we hit the road with ATVs a guide to take us through the desert. You’ll have the option to rent individual ATVs or go as a duo but we loved being out on our own and zipping around during our hour. If preferred, dune buggies are also an option and another great way to sightsee. Scarabeo includes breakfast and dinner. We were impressed with the quality and beauty of dinner at the camp – with local music! – not to mention the campfire nearby which is a perfect place for an aperitivo.
DAY 5: MORNING HOT AIR BALLOON + DEPART // After our experience hot air ballooning in the Masai Mara in March, we were pretty much converts. I adored the feeling of soaring over the treetops and taking in the scenery below, so when we saw hot air ballooning available with Ciel d’Afrique with departures from Scarabeo Camp over the Agafay, we were sold (about $250pp). It’s a magical way to start the day! We concluded with breakfast at Scarabeo and enjoyed a bit of time at leisure at the camp before departure. If you’re visiting during true summer months, enjoy the property’s pool and soak up the sun!
Day 5 – 7 〰️ High Atlas Mountains
The drive from the Agafay Desert to the High Atlas Mountains takes about an hour and a half in total, and you’ll be trading in the desert scene for the mountains. The beauty of this circuit is that you’re never in the car for more than about 90 minutes yet manage to embrace three very distinct landscapes. Of all of the scenes we took in during our one week in Morocco, there’s no doubt that the Atlas Mountains are the most majestic of the bunch. For hikers, you’ll be spoiled with options here ranging from smaller, local hikes to the grand dame, Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. If you are keen on enjoying the mountains for an escape that’s purely focused on downshifting and R&R, they’ve got that covered, too.
DAY 5: ARRIVE IN THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS // We departed the Agafay around noon as to not be too rushed, allowing us to arrive at Kasbah Tamadot at around 1:30PM. The Atlas Mountains are captivating but Kasbah Tamadot’s allure was truly a huge part of the draw for me. Spectacularly and thoughtfully done, it’s a dream home base with all of the touches you’d expect from Richard Branson’s collection. We started our stay with a cup of tea, a tour, and spent the afternoon simply enjoying the property. We floated between the pool and spa and the stunning common spaces where we could cozy up with a glass of wine, a book, or a game of chess.
DAY 6: THE BERBER EXPERIENCE // For the second day in the Atlas Mountains, we opted for Kasbah Tamadot’s Berber experience. Alternatively, you could do a hike if you’re keener on staying active (as noted below for Day 7). The ‘Berber Experience’ is composed of a few different elements: a short walk/hike to the Eve Branson Foundation outpost with a guide (about 30 – 45 minutes) followed by a visit to the workshops supported by the Kasbah (weaving, embroidery, and a wood workshop). In the afternoon back at the property, we did a breadmaking class followed by a cooking class which was the highlight for us. With all the activities combined, allocate about 5- 6 hours.
DAY 7: R&R AND SPA DAYS — OR HIKES! // It’s your final day in the Atlas Mountains and you’ll be scheming on how to stay longer. We truly enjoyed the R&R and pace of life at Kasbah Tamadot. There’s a hammam on-site, an indoor and outdoor pool, a fitness center and a tennis court if you want to use the property facilities. For the active lot, consider a hike to go into the mountain terrain! KT offers up a range of hikes in the Atlas Mountains that they can arrange with a guide, from the easier Anfa Trek (2 hours) to the more intense Aguersioul Pass (7 hours, 1900m). If Mount Toubkal is on your radar, I’m sharing more on that below.
DAY 8: DEPART MOROCCO // It’s your final morning and your week in Morocco has come to an end. It’s time for a final breakfast and a goodbye to the stunning terrain. The ride to Marrakech Airport (RAK) is between 45 minutes and an hour.
Tips + Takeaways for Crafting an Itinerary for One Week in Morocco
- DON’T SPREAD YOURSELF TOO THIN: This is such a blanket statement that can be applied to any trip, I almost hate myself for including it but guys, it’s a REMINDER. I get it: you have one week in Morocco so you’re scheming about how to incorporate teh Sahara, Essaouira, Casablanca… oh, and didn’t you hear that Fez and Chefchaouen are supposed to be awesome, too? Yeah, they’re all probably awesome in their own right but if you try to do everything in one go, you’ll never have a feel for any of them. I think our pace was great, and my only comment (as noted) was that we probably could have used an additional night in the desert had we had an additional night to spend. With the above itinerary, you could consider cutting one night in Marrakech and adding onto the Agafay if you’re interested in the luxury desert glamping offering and the experiences available there.
- KEEP DISTANCES IN MIND: One of the reasons this itinerary and combination works so well is that you lose very little time in transit. If you can get away for a week, that’s amazing but it’s not a TON of time so spending a full day in a car to get from Point A to Point B may not quite feel like the best way to use that valuable time away unless there’s something that’s a must-see bucket list component for you. If you have 10 days to spare vs. one week in Morocco, you could consider adding a couple of nights in Essaouira for a coastal fix or could swap the Sahara in for the Agafay.
- CLIMBING MOUNT TOUBKAL: If you’re like our traveling companions (read: super active mountain lovers who are very fit), Mount Toubkal is probably on your radar. As the highest peak in North Africa, it’s a natural draw for mountain lovers and hikers, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Everyone we spoke with suggested two days to hike it, with one night spent at a refuge on the climb up. The hike is around 23 miles round trip and covers a huge amount of elevation that can be a culprit even for very fit travelers. The best hiking conditions are in the summer months when you don’t have snow to contend with. The tougher months begin in November, like when we visited, when snow begins to fall and wind flurries make the climb difficult. Bring gear and plan accordingly. In colder months, you’ll need gloves, hiking boots, crampons, and very warm gear for the climb. For the record, our friend undertook the hike and I’m beyond wowed and impressed. He completed the entire roundtrip journey in 8 hr. 40 min. despite two bouts of snow and mega wind. The known record from a local guide (in summer) is slightly under 7 hours R/T.
ADD-ONS: If you have additional time that begs to include another Moroccan city or region, the places that had the most feedback from other travelers we’ve encountered were Essouaira for a coastal fix; Fes, Morocco’s oldest city; Chefchaoun, the famous Blue City; and the Sahara. Casablanca, which is a natural point of entry for many international flights receives very mixed feedback from everyone I’ve spoken with.
All in all, I found our one week in Morocco to be a great sampler of what’s on offer. For our pace and what we were looking to get out of this trip, this itinerary worked beautifully for us and there’s really nothing I would change given our timeframe and collective interests. We’ve been on many trips recently that I’ve enjoyed but I haven’t left feeling so compelled to return to a destination in short order. Morocco was a welcome change for me — I’m looking forward to a follow-up visit soon! If anyone is looking to recreate some of these experiences on their own journey to Morocco, please reach out. tome. at Compass & Vine so we can collaborate. 🇲🇦
What would be on your itinerary for one week in Morocco?