One week in Morocco

If you have a week, you could discover Marrakech, with a side trip to the coast, or into the Atlas Mountains. Alternatively, you could head to Fès and Meknès, the main imperial cities, and see something of the Middle Atlas.

You'll need at least three nights to soak up the sights, sounds and smells of Marrakech. Essaouira, on the coast, is a relatively easy side-trip, the calm of the Atlantic contrasting well with the rush of the Red City.

As an alternative to the coast, you could spend the rest of your week in the High Atlas. Day trips from Marrakech are possible or there are plenty of sleeping options if you want to do some short walks in the hills. Three suggested routes include: up to the Ourika Valley; the Taroudant road via Tin Mal and Tizi-n-Test; or to the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass and Telouet. With an overnight stay you could do a little walking in the Atlas, either from Setti Fatma or Imlil, though for a longer trek you would need to reduce the time you spend in Marrakech.

Fès and Meknès are a good alternative to Marrakesh. They are less visited but offer an increasing array of visitor comforts such as riad accommodation. You could also use Fès as a base to visit the ancient Roman city of Volubilis and the cedar forests of the Middle Atlas.

Some flights arrive in Agadir - not an especially satisfying destination in itself but a good base for a surfing or driving holiday in southwest Morocco. In a week you could cover Taroudant, the prehistoric rock carvings of the Akka area, Sidi Ifni and Mirleft and the Anti-Atlas around Tafraoute. There would be plenty of time for the beach, too.

Flying or sailing into Tangier, there are some attractive options in the north of Morocco. Tangier itself warrants a couple of days, though after that you may want to get away to the calm prettiness of Asilah, or the rather more rugged Larache on the Atlantic coast. Alternatively, Tetouan's labyrinthine médina would make a good stop en route to Chefchaouen, from where there are good walks and plenty of reasons not to go anywhere fast.

Two weeks in Morocco

With two weeks, you could do a circuit of the major cities, and a week either trekking in the mountains or taking in some of the places on the southern side of the Atlas - the Draâ and Dadès valleys, or maybe Taroudant and Tafraoute, close to Agadir.

A complete circuit around the Atlas could take you from Marrakech to Fès by train and then back via the Dadès and Todra gorges, stopping for a camel trek in the sand dunes, either in Merzouga or Zagora. It's just about possible to do this by public transport, but a car makes it much easier. If you're in a hurry and have your own transport you could travel from Fès to Marrakech in four days, although a week would make it a more pleasant experience. Alternatively, it's possible to visit the highlights south of the Atlas as part of an organized trip from Marrakech.

You could also do a circuit that combines Rabat, El Jadida, Essaouira and Marrakech with walking in the High Atlas. Or you could visit Tangier and the northwest along with Rabat, Fès and Meknès, with time to visit some more out-of-the-way places, such as the small spa town of Moulay Yacoub, as well as Larache and Asilah.

Three or four weeks in Morocco

A three- or four-week trip will enable you to get to know parts of Morocco really thoroughly, and maybe take a one- or two-week organized walking tour up in the High or Anti-Atlas. For the hardy, the highlight of a three-week trip might be five or more days walking in the Vallée des Aït Bougmez, south of Azilal. This could be combined with time at one of the coastal resorts (Essaouira or maybe Oualidia), or along the southern valleys and gorges as far as Merzouga. And you would still have time to do some urban sightseeing.

It's hard to imagine ever feeling that there is nothing left worth seeing in Morocco - it's big enough and, in places, inaccessible enough so that intrepid exploration of its hidden corners will almost always be rewarding.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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