The Ultimate 7 Day Itinerary: Marrakech, Agafay desert and Atlas Mountains
Morocco is officially known as the Kingdom of Morocco, located in the northwestern corner of Africa. It is a large and beautiful country rich in history that you could spend weeks exploring. This guide will take you through the best of what to experience in Marrakech and its surroundings including the Agafay desert and Atlas mountains. Just one day in Morocco is enough to make you fall in love with the architecture, delicious food (tajines!), riads and mint tea!
When is the best time to visit Morocco?
Spring (March-May) and autumn (September-October) are the best times to visit Morocco – the weather is pleasantly warm without the extremes in temperature. Having said that, we visited in the end of February and the weather was still very enjoyable – only getting chilly at night after sunset - bring a light coat with you!
How to get around in Morocco
In Marrakech, the medina (the old city) is very walkable and is enclosed by its ancient pink walls that span 19km. The medina is full of charming riads (courtyard houses), souks (marketplace) and you can walk from one end to the other in approximately half an hour. At times you do have to jump out of the way of mopeds that are going a little bit too fast on narrow walkways.
Tuktuks are a great form of transportation for shorter distances. These can be arranged through your riad/hotel staff. Expect to pay about 40 MAD (£3.30) for a 15 minute trip.
Taxis are also best arranged through your riad/hotel staff. Sometimes, taxis do try to rip tourists off – especially at the airport. We recommend arranging transport through your riad/hotel to avoid this hassle! Expect to pay about 70-100 MAD (£5.70 - £8.20). It takes 15 minutes to get from the airpot to the Medina.
Hire a car
Car hire is reasonably priced, and is a good idea if you plan on making trips from Marrakech. For example, we were quoted a return taxi price of £60 (Marrakech -> Agafay desert), but rented a small car for £70 for 5 days instead.
As Morocco is a large country, flying is an option to get to different parts – Casablanca, Fes etc.
Where to stay in Marrakech
The Medina is the heart of the city, and you will be within walking distance of many of the top attractions in Marrakech – including the Djemma El Fna (central square with many stalls), Bahia palace and the Koutoubia mosque. There is a wide range of accommodation options – from traditional riads, to apartments and villas. It is important to note that your taxi may not be able to drop you off at the doorstep of your accommodation. Riad BE is a great option here.
This is in the south of the Medina, closer to the Saadien tombs and the El Badii palace. It is also convenient to walk to the other attractions to the north of the medina and generally takes less 20 minutes. There are many riads to choose from and a number of restaurants. Riad Kasbah is a good and affordable accommodation option.
Gueliz is considered the heart of the new town, which contrasts greatly from the ancient medina. It is populated with some of the best upmarket restaurants and cafes in Marrakech including Al Fassia Aguedal, Le Catanzaro and Azar. Notable attractions nearby include Jardin Majorelle and Yves Saint Laurent museum.
Hivernage is also populated with upmarket bars and restaurant, and is home to several high-end resorts. Four seasons is the perfect place to treat yourself! It is a 10 minute taxi ride away from the Medina.
The Agafay desert (40 minutes away from Marrakech)
For a change in scenery and to get away from it all, stay overnight in the Agafay desert, situated 30km (40 minutes away) from Marrakech. It is a rocky desert, where you can choose to stay in a camp (luxury camps are available) with activities such as camel riding, hiring an ATV and stargazing. Scarabeo camp is easy to get to - the roads are mostly paved apart from the last few miles), and the food here is delicious!
Getting a SIM card in Morocco
You can get a SIM card at the airport – in the area where you pick your bags up, there are 2 stalls (look out for the washrooms, they are close to it).
With Orange, you can get 10GB of data for £8.50. They may try to tell you that the minimum data you can get is 20GB but stand firm!
Day 1: Arrive and stay in your first riad
Arrive at the airport and get your SIM card after picking your bags up.
If you haven’t changed any dirhams yet, there are a few ATMs near the entrance of the airport with a withdrawal fee of 33 MAD/£2.70.
You can make prior arrangements with your hotel/riad to pick you up from the airport to save you the hassle of haggling with the taxi drivers right outside. A taxi to the medina costs about 70-100 MAD (£5.70 - £8.20). They may try to force you to share a taxi with other tourists (so they make twice the amount of money for a single trip) – it is ok to share a taxi but make sure the 100 MAD is split equally amongst you.
Stay in Riad Kasbah (south of the medina) for your first night, and unwind! Relax by the pool and have your dinner in the courtyard. If you fancy having dinner out in the medina on your first night, pick a rooftop restaurant with great views! We can recommend mrooftop – the mocktails are delicious (try the M), their tajines are great, and don’t leave without trying their chocolate lava cake.
Day 2: Saadiens tomb, Mosque Moulay El Yazid
After a leisurely breakfast, spend the next morning exploring Kasbah – visit Saadiens tomb and mosque Moulay El Yazid.
Mosque Moulay El Yazid dates back to the 12th century and has been restored several times - explore its beautiful open-air courtyard and patios, ornate midaret and pulpit.
Saadiens tombs is one of the most magnificent royal necropolises in Morocco, built during the 16th century. Members of the Saadian royal families are buried here. Take in the architectural decor of the tombs (mosaic tiles, marble and wood masterpieces).
After exploring the south of the medina, move upwards and stay in the main medina (we chose Riad BE), who have 2 beautiful pools to choose from (the oasis vs the essence), each with a different theme. Their rooftop is stunning, and make the perfect setting for photos especially at sunset. They offer dinner here (1 course £10; 2 course £17; 3 course £22), and serve great tajines.
Day 3: Rooftop breakfast, Hire a car and drive to the Agafay desert
Enjoy your breakfast on the rooftop of your riad – most breakfasts served in riads in Marrakech are simple but delicious and often includes orange juice, a bread basket with jams, yoghurt and fruit.
When you’re ready to leave, either hire a car from the airport (which is just 15 minutes away), or you can arrange for your car to be delivered to you – meet & greet.
Once you’ve picked up your car, drive 40 minutes south of Marrakech towards the Agafay desert. We found driving in Marrakech to be safe and it does get less hectic the further out you get. There are quite a few camps in Agafay desert you can choose to stay at.
We recommend the Scarabeo desert camp, a luxury camp in the middle of the desert – imagine a dozen beautiful tents decorated with berber rugs, Moroccan lanterns, and vintage teapots creating the perfect backdrop for your time in the desert. We loved the evening campfires and the millions of stars that lit up the sky.
Day 4: Desert camp
Experience your first full day in your desert camp – having all your meals out in the desert is an amazing experience.
There are numerous leisure activities including quad biking with a guide, buggy, camel and horse riding, mountain biking and going on a Nordic walk. Of course, there is nothing wrong with just relaxing under a beautifully set up tent and reading a book!
At night, you can also go stargazing with an astronomer!
One night in the desert is sufficient if you don’t want to spend 2 nights out.
Day 5: Atlas Mountains
Drive towards the Atlas mountains in the direction of Ait Ben Haddou. The roads get more windy the further you go, but the views get better. There are a few villages on the way where you can stop by to get water and food. It takes 4 hours to get from Marrakech to Ait Ben Haddou, and we wouldn't recommend a day trip out. Stay the night in neighbouring Ouarzazate to make the most of it.
Near Rock Uncle’s souvenir shop – you will find stunning views of the mountains and winding roads.
Ait Ben Haddou is a ksar (group of earthen buildings built together within walls) located in Ouarzazate that was along an important route linking ancient Sudan and Marrakech. Now, the locals selling their wares here tend to be on the pushy side so just be aware of that!
There is a 20 MAD entrance fee to get in. Park by the mosque and head towards La Terazza restaurant to get to the bottom of Ait Ben Haddou.
Day 6: Ouarzazate
Ouarzazate is known as the door of the desert that is now known for its studios where many famous movies have filmed – including Game of Thrones, Kingdom of Heaven and The Mummy.
The main studios are ATLAS or CLA studios.
Ouarzazate is also a popular starting point to get to the Sahara desert through the Draa river valley. If you have time, visit Fint Oasis.
Don’t miss out also on Tilfoultoute Kasbah, another beautiful hilltop Kasbah that was built in the 17th century.
In the early afternoon – start your 4 hr drive back towards Marrakech.
This time, stay outside of the medina to experience life in Morocco outside the ancient city.
Day 7: Back to Marrakech - Jardin Majorelle, YSL museum, Ancient city
Visit Jardin Majorelle in the morning, full of burbling streams with water lilies, set amongst exotic plants and trees. Ticket prices are 70 MAD for the garden and 30 MAD for the museum.
If you love Yves Saint Laurent, why not pop into the YSL museum just next door to the Jardin Majorelle?
Check out the koutoubia mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakech, situated in the western edge of the medina.
After, wander through the medina, go shopping at Jemaa El-Fna (great if you want poufs, sandals, bags or belts).
Have tea at the many cafes in the spice market (Marche Epices). Find a rooftop restaurant/café to escape the bustling streets down below.
Just before sunset, visit the El Badi Palace, situated in the medina.