Morocco Travel Guide

Morocco is an affordable and accessible destination, perfect for anyone who wants an introduction to the Arab-Islamic world just a stone’s throw from the old continent. 

The lively markets, architecture, quaint old towns but also the variety of landscapes-from the beaches to the Sahara Desert via the High Atlas Mountains, with peaks of more than 4,000 meters-make Morocco a truly interesting destination.

I spent six weeks backpacking around the country. Whether you want to do the same or just do some research and then rely on an organized tour, you’ll find lots of useful tips and information in this guide to help you better plan your trip.

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Chefchaouen.

When to visit Morocco

The best times to visit Morocco are spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October). During these months, temperatures are mostly pleasant in all parts of the country, which is ideal for those planning a touring trip. 

In the peak of summer (July and August) most of Morocco, especially the south and the interior of the country, experiences very high daytime temperatures. Visiting cities like Marrakech, Fes or even worse the Sahara Desert, is not a good idea. To give you an idea, during my trip, in mid-April, I had temperatures over 30 degrees in Fez, and a few weeks later, in early May, temperatures in Marrakech were close to 40 degrees.

Summer can potentially be an option for destinations along the coast or in the north of the country, while in winter the weather in the south is not that bad but along the coast and in the north in addition to being relatively cold, it is rainy.

Finally, it is good to remember that in Morocco, being an Islamic country, most of the population practices Ramadan (dates change every year, see the link to see when it falls in the current year). Contrary to popular belief, traveling during the holy month doesn’t pose many challenges for travelers. If you limit yourself to large cities or otherwise tourist destinations, finding open restaurants where you can eat is a given and transportation continues to operate as normal. I spent two weeks traveling in the middle of Ramadan without having any kind of problem. The only exception is perhaps being able to buy food early in the morning since most stores not directly related to tourism tend to open after 10:00 am. In this case I recommend shopping the day before. Another date to keep in mind is Eid al-fitr, a really important holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. During this day many businesses are closed and even getting around could be difficult.

Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech.

Documents and vaccinations to enter Morocco

Most passport holders (with an expiration date of less than 6 months) receive a free 90-day tourist visa from the time they enter the country.

In case you are interested in renewing your visa, although it is possible to make a formal application at the police station, the procedure seems to be quite complicated and must be started no later than 15 days after your arrival in the country. The outcome is not a foregone conclusion. Most people opt for the so-called “visa run” or going out to re-enter the country for the sole purpose of visa renewal. Apparently this is a really common practice and accepted by the border police. In case you are interested, probably the most practical and economical option is the ferry to Spain from Tangier.

Morocco does not require any mandatory vaccinations but Hepatitis A and B are recommended. 

For your information, the use and entry of drones into the country are illegal. In the event of a check by authorities, the drones may be subject to seizure. At both the entrance and exit at the airport I had my backpack passed through X-rays and upon seeing the camera I was suspiciously asked if I also had a drone. Personally, I would not risk it.

Rabat Kasbah.

What to do and see in Morocco

In this guide, prices are often expressed in the local currency. Morocco’s official currency is called the “Moroccan Dirham” or simply “Dirham,” abbreviated as “MAD.”

The exchange rate, at the time of publication of this article, is 1€ = 10.62 MAD. For the current exchange rate, I suggest you look at this page. Anyway, the rate has been relatively stable for years . So much so that in tourist places you happen to see prices expressed in euros (they are often accepted). In these cases the “implied” exchange rate is 1 to 10 which although slightly unfavorable is still something to keep in mind since it makes conversions really practical, in fact you only need to divide any price by 10 to get a fairly accurate idea of the euro equivalent. 

Finally, the destinations described are listed starting from the capital Rabat continuing north and then descending south. This order is probably the best way to optimize travel, but clearly it depends very much on where you are arriving and what your intentions are.

N.b. Several times throughout the guide you will find links to https://www.alltrails.com/. If you want to use offline navigation directly from the Alltrails app you need to upgrade to the pro version. However, you can get around this by downloading the coordinates from the desktop version of the site in “Google Earth KML” format and then uploading them to Organic Maps, which is by far one of my favorite travel apps.

Rabat

As mentioned, Rabat is the capital of Morocco. Compared to the rest of the country, it is a clean and organized city. Also, unlike other more touristy destinations, you are less targeted by the various shopkeepers, walking through the medina is a more relaxing experience.

What to do and see in Rabat

The city may not have the charm of Marrakech and Fes but if you have a day or two to devote to it I think it is an interesting option. 

Kasbah des Oudaias and Andalusian Gardens

The Kasbah is the oldest part of the city and a UNESCO site. The characteristic narrow streets and blue and white buildings make it a pleasant place to explore. During my visit it looked at times like a construction site but there are still pretty glimpses and in any case the renovation work will end sooner or later! At the north side there is a nice viewing platform called “Plateforme du Sémaphore” from where you have a great view of the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the Bou Regreg River. Unfortunately, both the Andalusian Gardens and the Oudaya Museum were closed during my visit. In any case, admission to the gardens is free and according to what I read they are really nice. 

Kasbah des Oudaias.

Hassan Tower and Mausoleum of Mohammed V

Hassan Tower, also a UNESCO site, dates from the 12th century and is the minaret of what is supposed to have been one of the largest mosques of the time. The columns surrounding it are what remains of this unfinished work. The Mausoleum of Mohammed V on the other hand is much more recent. Opened in 1967 it is the resting place of the great-grandfather of the current king. The two attractions are literally side by side, and access is free daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Both buildings are especially striking in the evening when illuminated.

Mausoleum of Mohammed V.

Hassan Tower.

Chellah

Chellah or Shalla is another UNESCO site. Founded by the Carthaginians, conquered by the Romans and later by the Arabs, it is a fortified medieval necropolis. During my visit the site was closed for restoration so I won’t comment on what is inside the walls but if you have time to spare even just walking around the walls is not bad. Admission costs 70 dh, normally open daily from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm.

Royal Palace

Halfway between Chellah and downtown Rabat is one of the many royal palaces scattered around the country. The latter is the official residence of the royal family while the others are used only during short visits. “Visiting” is allowed but it is essential to bring a passport; I managed to convince the guards at the entrance that the photo with the data was sufficient but when it came time to register my entry I was not as lucky. Anyways, according to what I read it is still only allowed to walk outside the palace and there is not much to see. The entrance however is free so you have nothing to lose, the important thing is to bring your passport! There are several entrances but the one for the public is exactly at this point.   

Rabat Cemetery

Let’s be clear, it is only the cemetery however, its location a stone’s throw from the sea and its colors make it striking and photogenic, especially at sunset.

Rabat cemetery.

Salé

Salé is the town that lies north of Rabat, across the river. It can be reached by boat for a couple of dirhams (this is the location) or by taking the streetcar. Here you can explore the Medina, the Burj Adoumie palace, which is technically being restored but if interested apparently you can bribe the guards at the entrance and get access for a few dirhams, and finally the Medrasa whose entrance costs 60dh.

To conclude, other nearby attractions that I have not had a chance to visit but I think are worth keeping in mind are the Bouknadel Exotic Gardens, north of Salé (official website), and the Rabat Zoo south of downtown (official website).

How to reach Rabat?

Rabat has frequent connections to most of the country’s major cities. By train to: Casablanca, Marrakech, Meknes, Fes, and Tangier. Be careful because there are two stations in the city, the one in the center being Rabat Ville. Rabat Agadal, meanwhile, is about 5 km from the center. The CTM bus station is at this point.

Where to sleep in Rabat?

I slept at Riad Dar El Mesk, which is the cheapest option I could find. The location is great and the rooms are clean. Other cheap and potentially better options are Dar Ibrahim and especially Riad Dar el Ghali.

Plateforme du Sémaphore.

Tangier

Tangier is the third largest city in Morocco by population and given its strategic location, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean.

What to do and see in Tangier

Being very close to Spain (the Spanish coast is only 30 km away) Tangier is a city with a strong European influence without, however, missing out on all that Morocco has to offer. 

Medina

The Medina in the old part of town is undoubtedly one of the main attractions. The characteristic narrow streets winding their way through shopkeepers and ancient buildings are the perfect place to get lost for a few hours wandering around aimlessly. Some points of interest are the Grande Mosquée, visible only from the outside, and the nearby Petit souq, or “little market,” which in the past was considered the economic center of the city while now it is a really nice little square full of bars and restaurants. Finally, although there is not much to see, you can drop by the tomb of Ibn Battuta, one of the greatest travelers of the past.

One of the entrances to the Medina.

Kasbah

Formerly the sultan’s palace, today there are two museums inside the main building: The Kasbah Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. I entered the Kasbah Museum, the entrance costs only 20dh, the exhibition is not that bad (information is in French and Arabic) and the building itself is interesting. Anyway, the whole area is nice and at Bab Al Bahr there is a nice viewing terrace.

Kasbah Museum.

Place du 9 Avril 1947 (Grand Socco)

This is the large square south of the Medina opposite the Sidi Bou Abib mosque. Also facing the square is Cinema Rif, an old cinema that also has an “alternative” café popular with Tangier’s youth and artists. On the opposite side is a large market, and on Thursday and Sunday mornings an open-air market takes place along the streets near St. Andrew’s Church. I did not go inside but technically the church can be visited for free. Also around the square are the Mendoubia Gardens, nothing special but still a pleasant place to relax under the shade of some trees. 

Phoenician Tombs and Cafe Hafa

The archaeological site dates back about 3,000 years and groups together about a hundred tombs. Honestly there is not much to see and let’s just say the site is not well maintained but there is no entrance fee to pay and there is a beautiful view of the city with the harbor in the distance. I recommend coming at sunset. A few hundred meters from the tombs, on the other hand, is Cafe Hafa, open since 1921, it is something of an institution in town and the perfect place to relax while enjoying the view of the Mediterranean Sea.

Sunset from the Phoenician Tombs.

American Legation

The American Legation is a museum and cultural center housing numerous historical and artistic artifacts. It was the first American public property outside national borders. Admission costs 20dh.

Fondation Lorin

Musée de la Fondation Lorin is a small museum, or rather an archive, of historical photos and newspapers related to the city’s history. All displayed inside an old synagogue. The janitor is really nice and, even though admission is free, a small offer is highly recommended.

Sour Al Maâgazine 

Sour Al Maâgazine also known as Terrasse des Paresseux is a small square that also serves as a viewpoint. There are old cannons and in general the surrounding area is a pleasant place to walk around. A short distance away is also the Cervantes Grand Theater. Unfortunately, the building is in ruins and cannot be visited but you can take some photos from the outside.

Caves of Hercules and Cape Spartel

The Caves of Hercules (Les Grottes d’Hercule) are part of a giant archaeological area with a history dating back to 2,500 BC. Their name comes from mythology describing them as the home of the mighty Hercules. The system of tunnels stretches over 30 km, but the visitable part is much more compact. Admission is free.

Caves of Hercules.

Once you have visited the caves I recommend walking north to Cape Spartel. Weather permitting, the walk is really pleasant, it is about 5 km, you cross a couple of beaches and then at one point there is a nice well maintained pedestrian path where there are tables and benches overlooking the oceans perfect for a picnic lunch or just contemplating the view. When you arrive at Cape Spartel if you want you can pay for the entrance to the lighthouse and gardens where you will find a bar/restaurant. If I am not mistaken the entrance costs 70 dh, which seemed exaggerated so I decided not to enter.

To get to Hercules Caves or Cape Spartel there are shared cabs that leave here. On Saturdays and Sundays, or in high season, they fill up fast and the trip costs 10dh, if you travel alone expect to pay at least 50-60 dh. To get back to Tangier I hitchhiked and it was really easy. If you want to take a cab, I recommend walking to this point where there are always a few cabs. Another option might be the Hop On Hop Off Bus, a ticket costs 140 dh and stops include both the Hercules Caves and Cape Spartel.

One of the beaches between the Caves of Hercules and Cape Spartel.

Asilah

I have not been there but Asilah, which is about 50 km south of Tangier, is potentially another day trip and if you wish you can even spend the night there. Borj Al Kamra is the city’s main attraction. Built in 1509 when Asilah was under Portuguese control, the tower was the residence of the king’s daughter who had married the city’s governor. It is possible to reach Asilah either by train or by Grand Taxi.

In conclusion, Cap Malabata (15 km east of Tangier) is another relatively popular destination not far from the city. I have not been there but apparently it is especially nice to see the sunrise there.

How to reach Tangier?

Tangier is connected by train to much of the country. Along the coast there are also high-speed trains that connect the city to Casablanca and Rabat in just over two hours. Then there are regular trains to destinations such as Meknes, Fez, and an overnight train to Marrakech. A cab from the train station (Tanger Ville) to the center, or vice versa, costs between 15-25 dh depending on your negotiating skills. By bus there are frequent connections to Tetouan and Chefchaouen (where the rail network does not arrive) but also many other cities in the country. The CTM bus station is at this point. Cabs to and from the center cost 20-25 dh. 

Where to sleep in Tangier?

I slept at Tanja Lucia Hostel and all in all I recommend it. But while I was there I got to know two girls who also stayed at Bayt Alice Hostel and in their opinion it was much better.

Tétouan

Tétouan is a city snubbed by many tourists. I realized this immediately the moment I was literally the only non-local to get off the bus that would continue on to Chefchaouen.

What to do and see in Tétouan

The Medina of Tétouan is a UNESCO site and in my opinion the number one attraction in the city. To the trained eye, three distinct parts can be identified: Andalusian, Jewish and Berber. Getting lost in the narrow streets is especially a pleasure because, although not completely, you are mostly ignored and are free to explore without being constantly nagged. 

Kasbah 

The Kasbah that dominates the city from above is being restored and closed to the public, but I still recommend climbing the maze of stairs north of the Medina that lead up to the ruined structure. This part of the city is colored blue and somewhat reminiscent of Chefchaouen. Once you get to the top you can walk along the walls and there are some really nice views.

Tétouan medina.

Royal Palace and Mohammed V Street

The royal palace is not accessible to the public as is much of the square across the street (Place El Mechouar) but it is still a pleasant area to stroll around especially in the evening when temperatures drop and the Mohammed V pedestrian street that connects Plaza Muley El Mahdi to the palace comes alive.

Place El Mechouar.

Jbel Dersa

The Jbel Dersa is the mountain to the north of the city, from the top you have excellent views of both Tétouan and the Mediterranean Sea in the distance. It is a relatively easy hike, starting from the Medina it is 4-5 km and just over 400m of elevation gain, 1-2 hours maximum to climb, an hour to descend. The route is found at this link. Following this GPS track you walk along a dirt road. On the way down, I discovered that if you want, you can walk down a flight of steps for the first part of the trail that starts here and then rejoins the road. If you don’t feel like walking to the top of Jbel Dersa, there is a viewing platform after the first flight of stairs. 

At the end of the GPS track I couldn’t find a real trail so I walked by sight for a few hundred meters to the top. It is a really pleasant walk with excellent views, especially recommended if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a while. Throughout the morning, I only met a couple of shepherds.

Viewing platform.

How to reach Tétouan?

There are frequent buses to and from: Fes, Chefchaouen, Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, and Tangier. The CTM station is within walking distance of the Medina at this point, clearly it depends on where you are staying but in principle you can easily walk to it.  

Where to sleep in Tétouan?

Darna Hostel is one of the best hostels I stayed in during my trip to Morocco. The breakfast is great and the view from the terrace unbeatable. For private rooms and the four bed dormitory where I slept you have to book on Riad Darna. It is literally the same place but for some strange reason they are two different properties on booking.com.

View from Jbel Dersa summit.

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen, also known as the Blue City, was my favorite destination on my trip to Morocco. This small town surrounded by the Rif mountains is not only extremely photogenic but boasts a much more relaxed atmosphere than other tourist destinations in the country.

What to do and see in Chefchaouen

Especially in the past, many travelers were attracted to Chefchaouen by the fact that the city’s surroundings are home to a good portion of Morocco’s marijuana plantations from which the infamous hashish is then produced, which on the local market costs as little as 5-10dh per gram. Tours to the plantations are offered on the street that include demonstrations on how the final product is obtained but if not interested this is one aspect of the city that you can simply ignore and enjoy everything else.

Medina

The medina of Chefchaouen with its blue-colored buildings is undoubtedly the number one attraction in the city. Walking its streets is a photographer’s dream and more. There are a lot of interesting sights but if you are looking for some of the most beautiful/iconic ones here are a few: inner courtyard with small table (35.170135, -5.260881) 5dh to enter, blue gate (35.169602, -5.264145) and finally the stairways (35.170065, -5.26322).

Inner Courtyard.

Kasbah

The Kasbah located in the beautiful main square (Plaza Uta el Hamman) looks nice from the outside but according to my research there is virtually nothing to see inside except for the garden and a small exhibition, so much so that I personally decided not to go inside. The entrance fee for tourists in recent years has been raised to 60dh so if you are traveling on a budget you would probably be better off spending your money elsewhere.

Stairways.

Spanish Mosque

From the Jemaa Bouzafar mosque, commonly called the Spanish mosque, you have in my opinion the most beautiful views of the city. The wide path starts near the Bab El Onsar, the eastern entrance to the city where you can also see local women doing laundry at the Ras El Ma spring, from here it is then really easy to reach the mosque. I recommend going up to the mosque for the sunset but if you really don’t feel like walking there are a couple of equally nice viewpoints along the way. If you have time/want you can continue further until you reach Cafe Panorama where you can have a drink or something to eat with a great view.

Sunset from Spanish Mosque.

Akchour

About 30 km north of Chefchaouen, Akchour is a nice day trip. Once arrived at the small village you basically have two options that are described as one trail at this link. The shorter trail leads to the so-called God’s Bridge or Pond de Dieu, a really photogenic natural bridge (about 45 minutes). We took the path that passes high up and takes you to walk on the actual bridge but if you wish, there is another path that runs along the bottom of the gorge. This not only saves you some elevation gain but according to the photo boasts better views. However, the trail may be impassable if the creek’s water level is high.

The other option is to walk to the Grand Cascade (about 2 hours) but from what I was told, except for a few winter months, there is hardly any water. We stopped about halfway and in any case the whole trail is really nice, there are many waterfalls and more than a few places where you can swim in the crystal clear water. With some luck you might even see some monkeys. All along the way there are numerous restaurants.

Getting to Akchour is relatively easy. I was lucky enough to meet two Slovenian guys staying at the hostel who gave me a ride in their rental car, but especially in high season and on weekends, grand taxis go back and forth frequently and you shouldn’t have to wait too long. The grand cab station is located at this spot. The cost is 25 dh per person and the trip takes about 45 minutes.

Monkeys along the creek.

Jebel El-Kelaa

Jebel El-Kelaa overlooks Chefchaouen and can be a nice day hike. You can find details of the route at this link. It is about 1,000 meters of elevation gain so it is not a walk but not something too challenging either. Especially in summer, make sure you take enough water with you. Unfortunately, I only completed the trail to the summit in part because when I got to Aïn Tissimlane I met a German couple who had been robbed of all their cash by a local armed with a knife who was hanging around near the summit. Clearly at that point I decided to return to town. I mentioned the matter to the hostel owners who have lived in Chefchaouen for several years. They were extremely surprised at the incident and told me it was the first time they had heard of such an incident, so I don’t know what to think. Apparently I was extremely unlucky however the fact remains so I would avoid going up with any valuables.

In any case, the surroundings of Chefchaouen offer many trails for those interested in hiking. For example, it is possible to reach Akchour by crossing the Talassemtane national park within two days. Unfortunately, I think only the Spanish version exists, but you can check out Senderismo y naturaleza en el parque nacional de talassemtane where you can find a lot of interesting insights.

In conclusion, I don’t usually recommend restaurants but in the case of Chefchaouen I think I have to make an exception, Restaurant Bab Ssour offers great food at honest prices, give it a try.

Jebel El-Kelaa trail.

How to reach Chefchaouen?

Chefchaouen has direct bus connections to most major cities in the north of the country including: Tétouan, Fez, Meknès, Tangier, Rabat, and Casablanca. There is only one bus station at this location

Where to sleep in Chefchaouen?

I slept at Vallparadis Pension Familiar” FIRDAUS” and I strongly recommend it. There are undoubtedly cheaper options but the property is nice, clean and there is a kitchen available to guests. I had a chance to take a look at the Ouarzazate Hotel as well and while not as nice it is a very good budget option.

Fez

Fez or Fes was the medieval capital of Morocco and is considered by many to be the best-preserved ancient city in the Arab world. 

What to do and see in Fez

The ancient walled city can be a real labyrinth all to explore. The medina is among the largest in the country, and exploring its streets making your way through the various stores and markets is in my opinion the number one experience in Fez.

Fez.

Medina

There are certainly noteworthy sites that I recommend visiting or in some cases peeking at such as the Qarawiyyin Mosque which also serves as a university (founded in 859 it is the oldest in the world) and library since 1359, the oldest in continuous service. Unfortunately, access is forbidden to non-Muslims who can still admire its splendor from outside or better yet from the terrace of a store located here (34.065157, -4.973066). They let me go up for free however as always people expect something in return. Personally I left with a simple thank you. Another place banned to non-Muslims is the mausoleum of Moulay Idriss II, the city’s founder. Again, however, it is possible to peek in from the outside. Finally, there are a number of gates to the Medina, some of which are worth seeing, one above all being the one commonly called the Blue Gate, which is particularly beautiful in the evening when it is illuminated. Bab Ftouh is not bad either.

Qarawiyyin Mosque.

Al Attarine Madrasa

Not far from the Qarawiyyin Mosque is the Al Attarine Madrasa. The Koranic School can be visited and admission costs only 20dh. Like the other Madrasa in the country, expect a beautiful inner courtyard decorated with mosaics and carved wood. I was lucky enough to have it to myself for almost 20 minutes and perhaps that is why it is my favorite of all the ones I have visited. Open daily from 8am to 6pm.

Al Attarine Madrasa.

Bou Inania Madrasa

Bou Inania Madrasa is a 14th century Koranic school. Unlike other Koranic schools that can be visited in the country, here there is a small part of the building that serves as a mosque, and although the latter cannot be visited it is clearly visible. Considered by some to be the best example of Islamic architecture a non-Muslim can see in Fez, if you have seen other Madrasas, the familiar mosaics and carved wooden walls with the classic inner courtyard will certainly not be new. Beautiful no less and I absolutely recommend the visit. Admission costs 20 dh, open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. 

Cherratine Madrasa

Cherratine Madrasa, dating from 1670, is the newest of the city’s historic Koranic schools. It is spread over three floors and has over 100 rooms. While less well maintained than the others, admission costs only 20 dh so you don’t have much to lose. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Tanneries

The iconic tanneries are not as pleasant a place as they appear. Bad smells and people hassling visitors spoil the experience. Nevertheless, they are worth a visit or at least a view from one of the many viewing terraces. That being said, there are two tanneries within the medina: Sidi Moussa and Chouara. The former is smaller and less photogenic while the latter is the largest and likely the one of which you have seen some photos.

View from shop number 10.

The various viewing terraces are bars/restaurants or, in most cases, stores that sell leather products, many of which offer free access to the terrace in the hope that you will then buy something but don’t feel obligated to do so. I saw Sidi Moussa from the terrace of a store at this spot (34.063915, -4.975835) while for Chouara, the “prettier” of the two in my opinion, I recommend the terrace of store number 10 at this spot (34.066155, -4.97102 ). There is a nice sign at the entrance that clearly states “free admission” so don’t feel obligated to pay anything. In Chouara I entered the actual tannery. To do so just go down the stairs to the entrance which is quite obvious but you can always ask around and you will be directed immediately. Here as I was going down the stairs I met a “guard” who demanded 100 dh to enter, my Portuguese friend and i refused to pay and we were about to leave except that a worker came along who was willing to let us in for free and gave us a short guided tour – clearly the initial free turned into 50 dh at the end of the “tour”! We gave him 20 dh so for 10dh each we got in. Basically, if you want to get in, you have to pay someone.

Workers in the Chouara tannery.

Dar Batha Museum

A former royal palace converted to a museum in 1916 where historical and artistic works related to the country are on display. During my visit it was closed for renovations but admission costs only 10 dh and from what I had read even without taking into account the exhibition, the palace itself is well worth the entrance fee. 

Glaoui Palace

Palais El Glaoui is the “house museum” of an artist who still lives there and displays his artwork in part of the property. I was planning to go there but after talking to a guy in the hostel who described it as a dilapidated house without much to see, I changed my mind but I am sure it might be an interesting visit for some. The entrance fee is 25 dh.

North Borj.

South Borj and North Borj

Borj South and Borj North are the two fortresses that, as the name suggests, are on opposite sides of the city. Unless you have plenty of time, I do not recommend going up to Borj South; the view is nice but not as nice as the view from the north side of the city. Also, it is impossible to visit the fortress. The North Borj besides offering a better view is also a museum dedicated to weapons. Admission costs 20dh, plus another 10dh if you want the audio guide.

If you are not interested in the museum, potentially even better and free views of the city are from the Tombs of the Merenids. The 14th-century ruins are in poor condition, but the views are great. If you don’t feel like climbing all the way to the top of the hill you can opt to watch the sunset from the walls at this spot (34.06882, -4.977524). Although less popular than the tombs, in my opinion the view is better.

Tombs of the Merenids.

Jnan Sbil or Parc de Boujloud

Created by Sultan Moulay Abdallah in the 18th century, the Jnan Sbil is the city’s oldest park. Just outside the medina, it is a pleasant place to relax away from the hustle and bustle. If you plan to walk to the Jewish quarter, the park is literally on the way. 

Parc de Boujloud.

Jewish Quarter

The Jewish quarter east of the Medina is a less touristy area of the city that I recommend visiting if you have extra time or simply want to partially escape the fleets of tourists invading the Medina. The royal palace is also located here, of which unfortunately only the main entrance gate (Bab L’Makhzen) can be admired. During my visit, access to the square (Place des Alaouites) that is in front of the palace was also forbidden. 

Beyond strolling through the various streets, you can visit the Aben Danan Synagogue whose admission costs 20dh, while the nearby Jewish cemetery, despite what they would have you believe, is free. Ignore those who try to charge you and do not hesitate to threaten to call the police.

Royal Palace.

How to reach Fez?

Fez has train connections to Meknes, Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakech, and Tangier. The train station (Gare de Fes) is located here. Opposite is the Supratours bus station, which offers direct connections to Merzouga and many other cities in the country, while the CTM bus station is rather far from the center and is located at this point.

If you arrive at the airport and do not want to take a cab to the center, bus number 16 costs only 4 dh and connects the train station from the airport about every hour from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm. To be precise, the bus stops at this point in front of the train station.

Where to sleep?

I slept at Hostel Amir, a great location and value for money however certainly not one of those unforgettable hostels. Riad Verus, seems a nicer place.

Fez.

Meknès

Meknès, along with Fès, Marrakech and Rabat, is part of Morocco’s so-called imperial cities, those cities that throughout history have served as the country’s capital. Often snubbed in favor of Fes is a bit like Tétouan with Chefchaouen, if you have time on your hands I really think it is a destination to consider. Given its proximity to Fes, you can literally visit it on a day trip. 

What to see and do in Meknes

Unfortunately, during my visit virtually all of the city’s major attractions were being restored.

Medina

The Medina of Meknes is more compact and definitely less touristy than Fes. Walking its streets is definitely a different experience. The heart of the medina is Lahdim Square, which comes alive in the evening when the sun goes down. Opposite the square is one of the city’s symbols, one of the 27 entrance gates, the Bab Mansour. This was also under restoration during my visit as was the Bab el Khemis considered by many to be the second most beautiful.

Meknes Medina.

Royal Stables (Heri es-Souani)

During my visit, the royal stables and the nearby barn were also being restored. In any case, according to the reviews, for what there is to see and the condition they are in, the 70 dh entrance fee seems to be too high. Maybe when the work is completed, this place that once housed more than 10,000 horses will return to its former glory. Also part of the same complex is the Bassin Souani, the reservoir that served as a water supply for the city.

Habs Qara Prisons

The prisons were also closed for restoration and again according to the reviews seem to be receiving the same criticism as the stables. 70 dh for a short visit to a place in ruins. Again, maybe after the renovation work things will change. 

Medersa Bou Inania

Guess what? Closed for restoration! In any case, the Medersa Bou Inania is an old Koranic school with a distinctive inner courtyard full of mosaics and carved wood overlooked by the students’ rooms. Before the restoration work, admission cost 60 dh.

Palais Mansour

Clearly, closed for restoration. Anyway, the Palais Mansour was Moulay Ismail’s summer residence. I walked around it and the size is really impressive but being closed to the public and relatively far from the center you would probably be better off spending your time elsewhere.

Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail

The latter, not surprisingly, was also closed for restoration. In any case, access for non-Muslims is prohibited but you can still peek through the entrance.

View from Dar Merzouga rooftop.

How to reach Meknes?

Meknes has frequent train connections to Fes but also many other cities-Marrakech, Tangier, Rabat, and Casablanca. The city has two stations, a smaller one near the center that I recommend to anyone who wants to visit the main points of interest (Gare de Meknès-Amir Abdelkader) and another larger one slightly outside the center (Gare Meknès-Ville). The CTM bus station, on the other hand, is located here and offers direct buses to all major cities in the country, including destinations where the train does not arrive such as Chefchaouen and Tétouan.

Where to sleep in Meknes?

Dar Merzouga is a good budget option. I recommend it although the seemingly kind and hospitable owner tried to charge me for breakfast which by agreement was included. I refused to pay and as I left rather annoyed he apologized saying there had been a misunderstanding. I think everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt but a few days later in Rabat I met some guys who had the same kind of situation when it was time to check out so I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about the character’s honesty.

One of the city’s gates at sunset.

Moulay Idriss Zerhoun and Volubilis

Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, or simply Moulay Idriss, is considered the holiest city in Morocco. This is where Moulay Idriss arrived in 789, bringing Islam with him.  

What to do and see in Moulay Idriss Zerhoun

I decided to spend the night in Moulay Idriss only because I wanted to photograph the sunset but honestly I did not find the city particularly interesting. The mausoleum of Moulay Idriss I, close to the city’s main square, cannot be visited by non-Muslims. 

The only real point of interest is La Grande Terrasse, a terrace from which you have excellent views of the city below. The locals are more than happy to guide you through the streets of the medina in exchange for a small amount of money but albeit with some difficulty I still arrived at my destination. I recommend starting the ascent at this point and whenever there is a possible turn take the uphill direction until the GPS tells you that you are more or less at the viewpoint. Only then take the right. Anyway, a simple, “Grande Terrasse?” addressed to a local should point you in the right direction.

View from the Grande Terrasse.

Volubilis

The Roman ruins of Volubilis located about 4km from the center of Moulay Idriss enjoy UNESCO World Heritage status and are one of Morocco’s most important archaeological sites. The ancient city is in “good condition” with more than a few interesting mosaics that have been preserved over time. Admission costs 70 dh but unlike many other historical sites here you will find a lot of information along the path that makes its way through the ruins and an interesting museum documenting the entire history of the city. I don’t think it is necessary but if you want to at the entrance there are guides ready to offer their services. Closing time changes by month and is generally about an hour before sunset. Even in mid-April it was quite hot so if possible I would avoid the middle hours of the day.

Volubilis.

How to reach Moulay Idriss Zerhoun and Volubilis?

I took the local bus number 15 at this point from Meknes. The ticket costs 7dh. If you just want to go to Volubilis I recommend getting off here where the bus then goes to the center of Moulay Idriss. From here to the entrance to the ruins is just over 2km and if you really don’t want to walk, you shouldn’t have to wait too long before a taxi passes by. I walked both outward and back but by asking around, the fixed price of taxis seems to be 30dh. As an alternative to the 15 bus you can take a Grand Taxi . At this point, the cost is 10dh per passenger.

Where to sleep in Moulay Idriss Zerhoun?

Diyar Timnay is the cheapest option in town and where I thought I would sleep but there was no one at the front desk and after waiting a while I went to Kasabah Senhaji. The lady was willing to go down to 180 dh including breakfast for a private room with a bathroom. Outstanding food and hospitality, recommended.

Volubilis.

Casablanca

Casablanca is the country’s economic capital and Morocco’s largest city by population but also one of the least attractive destinations from a tourist perspective.

What to do and see in Casablanca

With a compact and unglamorous Medina and a scruffy-looking city center, the temptation to skip Casablanca altogether in favor of other cities might be strong. But if time allows, I strongly recommend spending at least half a day there.

Hassan II Mosque

Opened in 1993, the Hassan II Mosque is Morocco’s largest mosque and the world’s third largest. It is very impressive both outside and inside. I strongly recommend the visit. To gain access to the interior, it is mandatory to join a guided tour; to do so, just show up at the ticket office here where the museum is also located. The tour costs 130 dh, the museum entrance costs 30 dh, 140 dh for the combo ticket. The museum is one of the worst I have ever seen. It is only 10dh more but in hindsight I would save it.  

Tours every day at 9:00-10:00-11:00-12:00-15:00-16:00 except Friday when there are tours exclusively at 9:00-10:00-15:00-16:00. In any case, to be on the safe side I recommend having a look at the official website. The tour takes about 45 minutes.

Hassan II mosque.

Medina

The ancient medina at the side of the port is nothing compared to the splendor of Fes and Marrakech but if you find yourself in the city it is still worth a visit and a stroll through the classic crowded markets and narrow streets. The port is literally a stone’s throw away. I had read in more than a few places that it was possible to access it but I was turned away at the entrance. Rules might have changed. On the other hand, as I walked around the area I discovered a nice pedestrian path that leads up to the Hassan II Mosque.

Casablanca Medina.

Mahkama du Pacha and Royal Palace

Open Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm, Mahkama du Pacha is a historic building used as a government office. The interior is extremely well-kept; take a look at the photos. Admission is technically free but the guards at the entrance say you must be accompanied by a guide. I was in Casablanca over the weekend and the palace was closed so I am not speaking from firsthand experience but from what I have read the guards are willing to let you in for a fee depending on your negotiating skills. Clearly there are “guides” roaming around as well. However, I visited the area thinking you could see something from the outside and all in all, if you have some time to spare, it is not bad. There are other historic buildings and here is also the royal palace, of which as usual you can only see the entrance gate and finally the Habous market. If you decide to walk from the center, or otherwise look for some other noteworthy places to visit, the post office building has a nice mosaic on the entrance wall and the Mohammed V Square across the street is lively and pleasant, especially in the evening.

Mohammed V square.

Finally, I have not been there but about ten kilometers south of the center there is a very special little island called Sidi Abderrahman. Its history is linked to legends and folk beliefs. You can visit the small village but the shrine is accessible for Muslims only. If interested, a short distance away is the Morocco Mall, one of the largest shopping malls in the World.

Hassan II mosque.

How to get to Casablanca?

Casablanca has frequent train connections to Marrakech, Casablanca, Meknes, Fes, and Tangier. The route along the coast to Tangier is covered by the high-speed rail. Casablanca has three train stations: the closest to the center is Casa Port, Casa Voyageurs is slightly outside the center (you can take streetcar line 1) and is the main station of the city, here you can take the high speed rail and reach Tangier in a little over two hours while Casa Oasis is located south of the city, it is the smallest of the three and you probably have no reason to consider it. As for buses, there are connections to all the major cities in the country. CTM has several stations, the most convenient for travelers  is likely to be the one close to the center CTM Far.

Where to sleep in Casablanca?

I slept at Windsor Hotel City Center paying 18€ per night thanks to a promotion on booking. The location is great and the rooms are not bad however at full price I think you can find better. Unfortunately there are not many hostels in the city, LHOSTEL à Casablanca has good reviews but is quite far from the center (if you want there are frequent streetcar connections) while Auberge de Jeunes Casablanca seems to have seen better times.

Hassan II mosque.

Marrakech

After Casablanca and Rabat, Marrakech is Morocco’s third largest city and by far the most visited city in the country. It can be considered for all intents and purposes the capital of Moroccan tourism. 

What to do and see in Marrakech

Also known as the Red City, Marrakech can be divided into two parts: the classic Medina that represents the oldest part of the city characterized by the usual narrow streets and the more modern district called Gueliz or Ville Nouvelle. The city has a great deal to offer and especially if you get around by public transportation, also the almost forced crossroads for many other destinations within the country such as the High Atlas and the desert so much so that over the course of my trip I have been to Marrakech on three different occasions.

Marrakech.

Medina

The sprawling Medina filled with stores and markets is undoubtedly the number one attraction in the city. This is also where most of the accommodations are located and all the major noteworthy sites the city has to offer starting with the iconic Djemaa El-Fna Square, the beating heart of Marrakech. Restaurants, musicians, stalls, monkeys and even snakes can be found here. Especially at night, the square can be really chaotic. Watching the sunset from one of the many terraces overlooking the square and contemplating it from above is something I strongly recommend. The options are many but one of the best views is undoubtedly from the terrace of Cafe Glacier. A measly mint tea costs 25 dh, but I assure you it is absolutely worth it. I recommend going there to see the sunset and try to arrive early if you want any hope of finding a table. 

A stone’s throw from Djemaa El-Fna is the Koutoubia Mosque; it is impossible to visit the interior but I still recommend walking around it and entering the nearby Lalla Hasna park.

Koutoubia Mosque.

Madrasa Ben Youssef 

The Ben Youssef Madrasa was recently restored and therefore in excellent condition compared to other Madrasa scattered around the country. As usual when it comes to Koranic schools, expect a beautiful inner courtyard decorated with mosaics and carved wood overlooked by small rooms for students. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission costs 20 dh. To the side is the Ali Ben Youssef Mosque, almost completely rebuilt in the early 19th century; the original building, built in about 1070, was the first mosque in Marrakech. In any case, entry is not allowed to non-Muslims.

Madrasa Ben Youssef.

El Badi Palace

Construction of the El Badi palace, commissioned by Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, began in 1578 and unfortunately after his death in 1603 it was basically abandoned and stripped of all the expensive material, especially the marble. What can be observed today is for all intents and purposes a ruined palace but I think it is still an enjoyable visit. There are various exhibits in the various rooms of the palace including photos and historical objects such as the Minbar of the Koutoubia mosque, a carved wooden pulpit dating back to the 12th century. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission costs 70 dh.

El Badi palace.

El Bahia Palace

Compared to El Badi, the El Bahia palace is more modern and in excellent condition. The various rooms are a succession of colorful mosaics and carved wood. Undoubtedly the more photogenic of the two. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission costs 70 dh. If possible, I recommend avoiding the middle hours of the day when the palace is literally overrun with crowds.

El Bahia palace.

Saadian Tombs

The Saadian Tombs are a mausoleum where about sixty members of the Saadian dynasty rest. The building consists of three rooms including the iconic twelve-column room, the most luxurious of the three. All the monuments are made of Carrara marble and well preserved compared to the El Badi Palace. The tombs are open daily from 9am to 3 p.m. and admission costs 70 dh. While this is not an astronomical amount, I personally don’t think it is worth it, especially if it means standing in line for hours for a brief glimpse of the famous twelve-column room, as apparently happens in peak season. If you decide to visit them anyway, my advice is to get there early in the morning as soon as they open and while you’re there also check out the Bab Agnaou, one of the old entrance gates to the walled city. It was under restoration during my visit but the work will end sooner or later!

Twelve-column room.

Jewish Quarter

Also near the tombs is the Jewish quarter of Marrakech. Here it is possible to visit the Salat Al-Azama Synagogue, whose admission costs 10dh. In some rooms there are small exhibits on the history of Judaism in Morocco. I did not find it particularly interesting but the cost is negligible. You can also visit the nearby Jewish cemetery, which is the largest in Morocco. Here, too, admission costs 10 dh. 

Majorelle Gardens

The Majorelle Gardens (Jardin Majorelle) are considered one of the city’s symbols. Designed by artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and 1930s, the gardens house a collection of plants from around the world. Despite its fame, I personally decided not to go there even though I am sure it is a pleasant place. 120 dh for admission seemed too much not to mention that especially in high season you have to wait in line to get inside what is a small garden so I dare not imagine the crowds. Read some reviews and decide for yourself. If you decide to go I recommend buying tickets online at the official website so you can at least save the line at the ticket office. Open daily 8:00 am to 6:30 pm. If interested, you can also visit the Saint Laurent Museum and the Berbère Museum by buying the combined ticket for 220 dh also through the official website.

Le Jardin Secret

In my view, the secret garden is another tourist trap. But as with the Majorelle gardens I invite you to make up your own mind. In any case, it is a small botanical garden inside the Medina where you can escape from the chaos of the streets. Open daily 9:30 am to 7:30 pm. Admission costs 80 dh and if you want to climb to the top of the tower you have to pay another 40 dh.

El Badi palace.

La Maison de la Photographie

The Maison de la Photographie is a museum displaying original photographs about Morocco between 1870 and 1950. One of the rooms also shows Daniele Chicault’s documentary film, “The Berbers of the High Atlas,” the first color film shot in 1957. The panoramic terrace offers an exceptional view of the medina and the Atlas Mountains. I found the visit very enjoyable. Open daily 9:30 am to 7 pm. Admission costs 50 dh.

Dar Si Saïd Museum

Clearly there are many other museums in Marrakech that might catch your attention but I would like to point out the Dar Si Saïd Museum. Located inside a beautiful palace with interior gardens, here are exhibits of artifacts that tell the story of Morocco through the various eras including: musical instruments, weapons, clothes, ceramics and carpets. Admission costs only 30 dh. Open daily 10am to 6pm except Tuesdays. 

Tanneries

Having been to the tanneries in Fez before, I did not visit the ones in Marrakech, which are considered a bad copy. But if you have no intentions of going to Fez on your trip, they are potentially an interesting place to visit. The tanneries are located here but according to reviews, the people hanging around are the worst that Marrakech has to offer. If you decide to go, I recommend being extremely careful and ignoring anyone who wants to “help” you. Technically, admission is free. Good luck.

Cascade d’Ouzoud 

I have not been to the falls but it is a really popular excursion starting in Marrakech. Looking at the photos they look really impressive but especially in summer, from what you read, be prepared for crowds. If you decide to go, according to my research, it is worth considering joining an organized tour that basically only includes transportation aboard a private minivan. The alternative is to take a grand taxi to Azilal for about 50 dh and then another to Ouzoud for about 25 dh. Basically minimum 150 dh round trip with possible long waits when you could join a tour with private transportation for less than 300 dh. 

Cascade d’Ouzoud.

Agafay Desert

In conclusion, again I am not speaking from personal experience as I preferred to have my desert experience in Merzouga which I discuss later in the guide. But if you do not have much time, the Agafay Desert is a great alternative. Day trips can be arranged from Marrakech while Merzouga is about 9 hours away by car.

How to get to Marrakech?

Marrakech is the southern terminus of the Moroccan rail network. Basically, via train it is only possible to travel north in the direction of Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Fez, and Tangier. The station is here. The Supratours bus station, as usual, is literally next to it and in case you are interested, it is the only company that offers a direct bus to Merzouga. The CTM bus station is not far away and can be easily reached on foot. By bus it is possible to travel to all major cities in the country. 

For transfers to and from Marrakech-Menara airport, I recommend taking bus number 19. It runs every half hour from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm. The ticket costs 30 dh and included in the price, if used within two weeks, is the return. It is impossible to buy a one-way ticket. You can find all the stops at this link. I got on at the Djemaa El-Fna stop and it was not crowded at all. Only two others were on board. If you are willing to walk a bit you could take lines 11, 12, 18, 20 and 33. The stop is just outside the airport at this point and the fare is only 4 dh. For a taxi, be prepared to negotiate and although the official price is 70 dh, expect to pay at least double that.

Where to sleep in Marrakech?

Mosaic Hostel is where I spent most of the time I was in town. Nothing exceptional but definately a good hostel at a good price.

Djemaa El-Fna.

High Atlas

The High Atlas is the mountain range visible from Marrakech and boasts the highest peaks not only in Morocco but in all of North Africa, some even exceeding 4,000 m in altitude.

Imlil

Clearly, the possibilities for exploring the region are almost endless, but for 99 percent of visitors, the High Atlas is synonymous with Imlil i.e., the village from where numerous treks start, including one leading to the summit of Mount Toubkal, which at 4167 meters is the highest mountain in the country.

What to do and see in Imlil

Being only an hour from Marrakesh, many visit Imlil on a day trip but If you have time on your hands and especially are interested in doing some longer or shorter treks, I strongly recommend devoting a few days to it.

Imlil.

Mount Toubkal

Let us start with what for many is the only reason that brings them to Imlil, namely the Jbel Toubkal or simply Toubkal which as anticipated is the highest mountain in the country. Unfortunately, I had to abandon the idea of climbing to the summit because of a minor injury that I was afraid of aggravating but having made the decision the very morning I was supposed to start the ascent, I assure you that I have all the information you need. 

First of all, it is good to know that for the past few years it has been necessary to be accompanied by a guide not only to climb to the top of Mount Toubkal but technically also whenever entering the national park. That said, the only real police checkpoint is along the path leading to the summit of Toubkal at this point (31.122441, -7.921269), if you trespass inside the national park elsewhere you should have no problems.

The “standard” trail completed by most hikers is the one described in detail on this page. While not many do this, there are those who decide to climb and descend in a single day (a long day but a well-trained person should have no problem), then there are those who decide to take it very easy and complete the trail in three days. Most people opt for the two-day itinerary. Please note, it is still over two thousand meters of elevation gain and coming in at over 4000 m, it should not be taken lightly. It is also good to remember that the summit is often covered with snow and ice even as late as May and the first snow falls can come as early as September so crampons may be necessary and ideally have a minimum of familiarity in these types of conditions.

Having made this long introduction, I don’t think there is any need to explain how the one-day itinerary works, while as for the two-day itinerary: on the first day you climb up to one of the two refuges (Refuge du Toubkal and Refuge Toubkal Les Mouflons), here you spend the night before completing the ascent the following morning. The refuges are about 3 km from the summit. The distance is short but this last section is very steep, climbing about 1,000 meters in altitude and it can take up to 3-4 hours. Once you reach the summit you can decide to return to the hut for lunch or go directly down to Imlil. If you opt for the three-day route, on the second day, after reaching the summit, you return to the hut where you spend another night and descend to Imlil the following day.

Tizi n’Mzik pass.

If you wanted you could book the whole thing from Marrakech, about 150€ for the two-day itinerary with a full package (guide, lodge and transport). But if you organize the whole thing from Imlil you can spend much less, especially if you join some groups. The guide officially costs 50€ per day, unofficially 40€, if you are good at bargaining you can go down to 30€. Small parenthesis, since it has become mandatory to have a guide, all the villagers seem to be one, if for any reason you want a certified guide you can contact the official association via the website or show up at the office located in Imlil in person (location). If you want you can also pay to have a mule carry your backpack to the hut.

In any case the price is that regardless of the number of participants so the more people you find the less you spend. I, for example, was to join a group of five Polish guys I met in the guesthouse who had agreed on 40€ per day so the guide would cost me just over 13€ in total (40×2/6). You can book the refuge yourself via the website/email. I had been recommended to the Refuge du Toubkal which costs 32€ for a full board. Basically, even taking into account transportation to and from Marrakech I would have spent about 60€ for the two-day trek.

Nicola, I am alone and I would have to pay for a guide just for me. What should I do? 

You could ask around and see if there are any guides who already have a group or just ask the other guests at the facility where you are as I did or use my plan B which is to go to the check point mentioned above which is located at this point (31.122441, -7.921269) and join the first group willing to take you. I have asked around to several people (including guides) and it seems to work perfectly. If you get there before 9:00 a.m. you get all the groups of the day and you shouldn’t have to wait too long before a guide is willing to take you through the checkpoint with his group for 100-200 dh.

I have heard stories of travelers who by mutual agreement with the guide passed the checkpoint together and then went on their own. In conclusion, if you decide to opt for the do-it-yourself approach, during the weekends in the high season the huts tend to sell out so I recommend booking early (you can always cancel your reservation at no cost) or schedule the ascent during the week.

Imlil waterfall.

Imlil and waterfalls

This is a really nice loop circuit, accessible to just about everyone with nice views of the village, mountains, two waterfalls and a small village with quaint mud and thatch houses. You can find the GPS coordinates at this link. The straight lines are a rough representation of a recently built dirt road that is not on the map but I assure you it is really easy to follow. It is 5-6 km in total, 2-4 hours depending on pace and number of breaks. It includes a visit to the popular Imlil Waterfall.

Imlil waterfall.

Tizi Oussem

Another nice day hike starting from Imlil is the one leading to the village of Tizi Oussem. You can find the GPS coordinates of the route I followed at this link. It starts by climbing up to the Tizi n’Mzik pass (2489 m) and then descending to the village of Tizi Oussem and continuing along the Azzaden valley before descending again arriving at the village of Anfalkou. Arriving in Tizi Oussem you have to walk a few kilometers along the road but there is no traffic and the views are excellent. This is quite a challenging route, it is almost 20 km with over 1000 m of elevation gain. It took me about 8 hours with short breaks. Once you get to the road at Anfalkou, just stop any vehicle going up towards Imlil. You should not have to wait for long. I boarded one of the green buses that go back and forth, they asked me 10dh and I paid without fuss but considering that the Imlil – Asni route costs 8dh I think the correct price is 5 dh if not less.

If that sounds like too much, you could simply climb up to the Tizi n’Mzik pass and then return to Imlil without descending to Tizi Oussem, doing so is about 8 km in total, with 700 meters of elevation gain and you would get excellent views of both valleys. You could also spend the night in Tizi Oussem, there are at least a couple of guesthouses plus a few other options going down the valley (Azzaden Trekking Lodge, Gete anfa idâissa etc etc) and complete the route in two days. Finally, instead of going down the valley, you could go up to the Igholiden Waterfall by following this route. I have not been there; however, according to the photos it seems to be really big. There is probably a lot more water in the spring than in the fall.  

Rhirhaia valley.

Tacheddirt

At 2314 meters, Tacheddirt is the highest village in Morocco from which there are fantastic views of the Rhirhaia valley and potentially another good hike starting from Imlil. To reach Tacheddirt, the shortest route follows the road connecting the two villages (if you wish, you can reach Tacheddirt by car). It is about 11 km and 800 m elevation gain, find gps coordinates on this page, 3-4 hours depending on the pace. You start by climbing up towards the Tizi n’ Tamatert pass 2320m and then descend gently down the valley before crossing it to climb back up the other side towards Tacheddirt.

The second option is to take the wide loop via the Tizi n’ Aguersioual pass from which you descend to the village of Ikkis before climbing back up the valley to Tacheddirt. Doing so lengthens the route by about 3 km. Find gps coordinates on this page, 4-5 hours depending on the pace. The section of trail from Imlil to Tizi Aguersioual pass is easy to follow however some sections are not in very good condition and slightly exposed. Not a big deal, however I would avoid doing it with children. I went up one side and down the other completing the circuit over two days.

Tacheddirt.

Once you get to Tacheddirt, instead of going back to Imlil you could continue further. In fact, I met two French guys who were going to go to Oukaimeden by doing the Tizi n’Ou Addi pass and one of them would continue on to Sitti Fadma where there are some relatively famous waterfalls. Another option is to climb up to the Tizi n’ Tacheddirt pass (3230m). Doing so would get you some good views of the Rhirhaia Valley but also the Ourika Valley. To proceed in this direction, you would have to go through the national park, which technically requires a guide but there are no checkpoints and in any case if you only go up to the pass no one should tell you anything. If, on the other hand, you do the Tizi n’Ou Addi pass, contrary to what some locals might tell you, no guide is required. In Tacheddirt there are several Guesthouses, I slept in Dar Bejmate – Chez Hassan. The rooms are very basic but Hassan’s hospitality, despite the language barrier, is something exceptional. The food is excellent.   

In conclusion, these are some of the main circuits that can be completed independently or nearly independently but the options are almost endless. For example, a really popular multi-day trek is the one that makes the complete loop of the Toubkal massif as described on this page while at this link you will find all the treks offered by the official association of Imlil guides mentioned earlier. However, if you don’t feel like joining a tour or otherwise paying for the guide to go deeper into the national park, I really think the best options are the ones described so far.

Ikkis.

How to reach Imlil?

The most practical way to reach Imlil is via grand taxi from Marrakech. The station is here. The price is 50 dh per person. Alternatively you could take a grand taxi to Asni for 20 dh and then board one of the old green minibusses used by locals to go back and forth along the valley at a cost of 8dh. Of course, all this also applies in the opposite direction back to Marrakech.

Where to sleep in Imlil?

During my long stay in Imlil I slept in three different Guesthouses. Dar Adouss offers really cheap private rooms about 15 minutes from the center but if there is availability, the nearby Dar Atlas offers in my opinion a better service while if you are looking for something cheap in the middle of the “center” then Imlil Refuge is not bad.

Rhirhaia Valley, Dar Bejmate – Chez Hassan.

Essaouira

Essaouira is an example of an 18th-century fortified port city that is a few hours’ bus ride from Marrakech and is therefore often visited on a day trip. But if you have time, I recommend spending at least one night there.

What to do and see in Essaouira

As with other destinations along the Atlantic coast, most days the beach is more suitable for surfing and kitesurfing rather than swimming. Around the city there are many popular spots for water sports such as Sidi Kaouki, Moulay Bouzertoune and Cap Sim. Most surf/kitesurf schools offer transportation services to the most suitable destination depending on the weather forecast for the day.

Essaouira.

Medina

If you are not at all interested in surfing and kitesurfing, don’t worry. The historic center of the city is not only a UNESCO site but given the oceanfront setting it is in my opinion one of the most fascinating medinas in the country. Not surprisingly, it has been used as a set in some movies including Game of Thrones. Some points of interest are: Skala De La Ville (accessible from this point) where you can walk on the city walls and one of its ramparts, there are still the original cannons and more generally it feels like going back in time. Admission is free but you can only enter between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm. Another part of the fortification system that is accessible to the public is the Skala Du Port, which is the bastion at the entrance to the port. Here you have to pay admission, which until a few years ago cost 10 dh but has recently been raised to 50 dh for foreigners. I decided not to go up but according to the reviews there is not much to see apart from a nice view of the city.

Essaouira Medina.

For a unique experience, consider taking an evening walk around the port when fishermen sell their daily catch. While the smell may be strong, the opportunity to photograph or observe the buying and selling of fresh fish is truly special. If you want, you can buy fresh fish and then have it cooked by some restaurant downtown for pennies. The port is located just outside the walls, just across the Bab El Marsa. Alternatively, follow the seagulls!

Skala Du Port.

Dar Sultan

This palace is known under many names including Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah, Dar Soltane, Dar Es-Sultan,Dar Assoltane and Maison Blanche as well. This location, unfortunately it is completely in ruins and there is not much to see except for the remains of a few mosaics. While I was there walking around I saw several groups both on quads and on horseback. If interested I guess it is a fun way to explore the ruins.   

Skala De La Ville.

How to reach Essaouira?

Essaouira can only be reached by bus. Supratours station is closest to the center at this location while CTM has its own station slightly further south at this location. Direct connections to Marrakech, Agadir, and Casablanca are fairly frequent while for other destinations within the country you may have to change buses. The local bus station that may come in handy in case you want to reach some destination along the coast between Essaouira and Agadir is located here instead.    

Where to sleep in Essaouira?

If you don’t mind being about 15 minutes from the historic center, I strongly recommend Essaouira Beach Hostel. It was the best hostel on my trip to Morocco. The breakfast buffet is really generous, the common areas nice and spacious, and they have quite a few private rooms. You can also take lessons or rent surfing and kitesurfing equipment directly at the hostel, which is 50 m from the beach.

Port.

Tamraght, Taghazout and Imsouane

Along the coast between Essaouira and Agadir are several oceanfront towns that attract mainly surfers but not only. The most popular among travelers are: Tamraght, Taghazout and Imsouane.

What to do and see in Tamraght, Taghazout and Imsouane

First of alla, if you don’t care about surfing you are probably better off spending your time elsewhere. I stayed a couple of days in Tamraght because I was in no hurry and counted on visiting the Paradise Valley but the sea, or rather the ocean, is certainly not something incredible as is the beach that Tamraght and Taghazout share. I have not been to Imsouane but I imagine it is the same. If you are looking for a beach destination I think the Mediterranean coast is a much better option.

In case you are interested in surfing, the best waves are between November and March but as a beginner you can surf all year round. If you are looking for a school, I got to know the owner of wave-dance who also runs the hostel (V&D Tamraght Surfers Hostel) where I stayed. Roberta is originally from Canton Ticino but has lived in Morocco for about 10 years. She seemed to me to be a very nice and helpful person. I also got to know a girl who was a guest at the school who was taking lessons and she seemed extremely pleased so while I cannot speak from personal experience, I would at least recommend checking her out.

Tamraght and Taghazout beach.

Paradise Valley

According to information gathered once I arrived at the site, Paradise Valley is no longer much of a Paradise. Apparently, over the years it has turned into a very dirty and often overcrowded place but there are those who claim it is still worth visiting. What really discouraged me from doing so was the fact that it had not rained for several months and again according to what I was told, the natural pools had practically dried up.

In any case the location is this, maybe take a look at recent reviews before you go, the winter period is when there is the most water. To get there from Tamraght, Taghazout or Agadir by public transport, you can board any bus heading to Aourir, you shouldn’t have to wait too long because in addition to the local buses connecting Essaouira to Agadir there are also the 31,32 and 33 lines of the Agadir suburban transport (5dh). Once you get off in Aourir, you can get a grand taxi here which should cost 20-30 dh per person, 45 minutes or so. From what I have read, there are direct grand taxis from Agadir station as well for about 50 dh. Once you get to the parking lot, to get down to the main area where the natural pools are located is about a 15-minute walk.

Tamraght.

How to reach Tamraght, Taghazout and Imsouane?

From Essaouira I recommend taking a local bus to Agadir; the station is located here. During the day they leave about every hour. Point out where you are headed or in case ask to get off when you arrive at the village of your choice. In the case of Imsouane you are dropped off at the junction where there are usually taxis ready to cover the 8 km or so to the sea, in Taghazout the junction is only 1km away so you can walk while Tamraght is literally crossed by the road. The cost of the bus is 70 dh. This is one of the rare occasions when I recommend the local bus because you can basically ask to get off wherever you want as opposed to Supratour and CTM which pull straight between Essaouira and Agadir. If you are coming from Agadir I recommend doing the same, which is to take the local bus to Essaouira. The bus station is located here.

Where to sleep in Tamraght, Taghazout, and Imsouane?

I slept at V&D Tamraght Surfers Hostel. The hostel is brand new and has a great terrace. In Taghazout I was recommended Onda Surf while in Imsouane I would check out Imsouane Soul Lodge.

Sunset over Tamraght.

Agadir

Popular with those looking for a vacation at one of the many resorts the city offers (take a look at the stretch of coastline on the satellite map on google maps to see what I’m talking about), for the average traveler there is not much to do.

What to see and do in Agadir

Agadir is perhaps the least fascinating destination of my entire trip to Morocco. It is a modern city where nothing or almost nothing historical remains because of the earthquake that hit it in 1960 but if for whatever reason you find yourself in Agadir there are at least a couple of things you can do. 

Souk El Had

The Souk El Had is a giant indoor market with over 6,000 stores. Despite its size it is relatively easy to navigate. Even if you are not planning to shop there you can easily spend at least an hour strolling around. Not far from the market is the Grande Mosquée d’Agadir, as usual you cannot enter but the entrance facade is not bad.

Souk El Had.

Kasbah

Of the old Kasbah that overlooked Agadir from above, the 1960 earthquake that destroyed the city, killing a third of the population, spared only the outer walls. The view is excellent though. I willingly walked but it takes at least an hour starting from the center and the last stretch is uphill so if you don’t feel like it you could take a taxi up and then walk down. The cost should be 30-50 dh.

Agadir Medina

A few kilometers from the center is a representation of what Agadir was like before the devastating earthquake. I suppose it could be interesting if you count on spending two weeks at some resort but personally I skipped it. The location is this, admission costs 40 dh and a round-trip taxi that waits during the visit should cost about 100 dh.  

Souk El Had.

Tiout and Taroudant

Around Agadir I was recommended Tiout and Taroudant. The former is famous for its oasis and old Kasbah while the latter is an ancient walled city that was the capital of the Sultanate of Saadi for a short time before moving to Marrakech. Reaching Tiout by public transport is not practical but direct bus connections between Agadir and Taroudant do exist. Alternatively, there are organized tours that visit both cities on a day trip for about Dh350.

Finally, Agadir Birds Valley is a free zoo in the center of town. During my visit it was closed and in any case, according to the reviews, seems to be in a state of disrepair while Crocoparc (official website) seems to be a nice conservation project dedicated to crocodiles that were present in the country in the wild until the 1970s. The park is out of town but there is a shuttle service which you can read about on this page

How to reach Agadir?

Agadir, I believe, is one of the few cities that groups all the bus companies into a single station that is located here. There are very frequent connections to Essaouira and Marrakech but also many other cities in the country. 

Where to sleep in Agadir?

Agadir does not offer many options when it comes to budget accommodations. I slept at Hotel Kamal City Center for about 20€, a private room with en-suite bathroom, pool and breakfast so all in all not bad.

Agadir Kasbah view.

Short preamble: Aït-Benhaddou, Dadès Gorge, Todra Gorge, and Merzouga (the destinations I am about to talk about) are often combined in a really popular three-day, two-night tour departing from Marrakech. During my stay at Mosaic Hostel, practically every morning there was a group of travelers in the hostel participating in this tour. I, of course, took the DIY approach and recommend it not only to save some money but mainly because it gives you a chance to do some trekking in the Dadès Gorge and Todra Gorge. If you couldn’t care less about trekking, just want to see what there is to see and board a private van without untangling public transportation or maybe you are short on time, the tour costs about 100€, includes transportation, accommodation, breakfast and dinner.

Aït-Benhaddou

Aït-Benhaddou was for years a major fortified village along the route between Marrakech and the Sahara Desert. Today it is best known for its excellent state of preservation and its beauty. Over the years it has appeared on numerous movie sets, including The Gladiator and Game of Thrones, just to name a couple. 

What to do and see in Aït-Benhaddou

In my opinion, the charm of Aït-Benhaddou is all in seeing the village from a distance, perched on the hill is really something unique. Once inside the walls it feels like being in any other Medina except that virtually no one lives here anymore and the inhabitants have been replaced by souvenir sellers. Once inside, climb to the top of the hill, the view is not bad at all but other than that there is not much else to do. A few hours at most is all you need.

To access the village, unless you want to pay the 20dh toll/entrance fee at the “Museum of the Kasbah” take the pedestrian bridge on the left or walk through the fields on the right. Spending the night in Aït-Benhaddou is far from necessary, however seeing the village lit up at dawn is really something special. 

A nice vantage point just outside of town is at this location where there is a rock formation that resembles a frog. That said, in my opinion the best views are from the terraces of hotels and restaurants in town.

Aït-Benhaddou, Chez Bilal Ait Ben Haddou.

How to reach Aït-Benhaddou?

Unless you take a local bus that allows you to get off wherever you want, even if you come from Marrakech, you will still have to go all the way to Ouarzazate. From there you have at least a couple of options. I took a local minibus for 30dh that left exactly at this location, between delayed departures and constant stops it took me an hour to cover 30 km. In hindsight I think it is much better to board the first local bus heading to Marrakech (Ouarzazate station location) and ask to get off at the intersection leading to Aït-Benhaddou (10 dh) or take a grand taxi whose station is located behind the bus station here, I don’t think there are direct buses (Ouarzazate – Aït-Benhaddou) but there are certainly some that go to the intersection mentioned above, the cost is 15 dh. At the intersection there are other grand taxis waiting,10dh to go to Aït-Benhaddou. To return to Ouarzazate do as described in reverse. With some luck you might find a direct grand taxi (Aït Benhaddou – Ouarzazate) without having to get off at the intersection. I for one was trying to hitch a ride when a taxi driver stopped and told me he had to go to Ouarzazate with a friend and after a brief negotiation we agreed on 20dh.

If you want to visit Aït-Benhaddou on a day trip from Ouarzazate and you don’t mind spending a little more, a round-trip taxi that waits a couple of hours for the visit should cost about 150-200 dh.

Where to sleep in Aït-Benhaddou?

I slept at Chez Bilal Ait Ben Haddou, one of the cheapest options I could find turned out to be a good choice. I paid about 17€ including breakfast. The view from my room was spectacular as was the view from the terrace that serves as a restaurant whose menu, considering the location, is fairly priced. Recommended.

Vantage point just outside of town.

Ouarzazate

Ouarzazate is the main town along the road to Merzouga but it is still fairly compact and not very chaotic by Moroccan standards.

What to do and see in Ouarzazate

I have been to Ouarzazate twice but never for more than a few hours so my knowledge of the city is limited to say the least. I was planning to spend a night there but after talking to a couple of travelers I changed my mind and preferred to spend my time elsewhere as the only place I was really interested in visiting was the Kasbah which was closed to the public for restoration at that time. The entrance fee is 20 dh.

If interested, the city is home to two film studios: Cinema Studio Atlas and CLA Studios. Both offer guided tours, admission should cost 50 and 100 dh respectively. CLA Studios is considered the better of the two. You could also visit Oasis de Fint, it is located about 15 km south of Ouarzazate and as the name suggests it is a natural oasis rich in flora and fauna in the middle of what is for all intents and purposes a desert landscape. Finally, if you have a car you could pay a short visit to the Noor solar park that is located just outside the city and of which even passing by bus you can clearly see the big tower in the distance. It is impossible to visit the plant but you can still admire this impressive piece of engineering from a distance.

Ouarzazate Kasbah.

How to reach Ouarzazate?

There are daily bus connections from Marrakech, Tinghir, Boumalne Dades (the crossroads for the Dades Gorges), and Merzouga. The only direct bus to and from Merzouga is operated by Supratours whose bus stop is located here beside the Gare Routière which is the local bus station. The Grand Taxi station is exactly behind the Gare Routière here and I believe is the best option for travel to and from Boumalne Dadès (60 dh) or Tinghir (80dh). The CTM station, on the other hand, is a couple of kilometers toward the center here.

Where to sleep in Ouarzazate?

I have not slept in Ouarzazate, however the only cheap option in the center seems to be Hotel Atlas Ouarzazate. There is a hostel with good reviews (Auberge De la Jeunesse) and an interesting facility surrounded by greenery (Bivouac Lot Of Stars) but both are slightly out of town in the direction of Oasis de Fint. In my opinion to be considered only if you have a car.

Dades Gorge.

Dades Gorge

Dades gorge is probably my favorite place of my entire trip to Morocco. The contrast between the vibrant green fields at the bottom of the valley and the red rock walls is truly spectacular.

What to see and do in the Dades Gorge

Most visitors simply drive up the road along the valley stopping at a few viewpoints, one among them the “Serpent du Dades” or Dades Serpent, a series of sharp bends whose photo is often used to advertise the valley. The viewpoint in question is located at this spot. Another nice vantage point is in front of “Les Pattes de Singes” or monkey’s paws, a very distinctive and iconic rock formation. The location is this.

Trekking in the gorges

If you’re up for a bit of hard work and feel like an explorer, there are at least two treks you can do around Tamellalt, which is in my opinion the ideal village to use as a base especially if you don’t have a car. There is no shortage of people who will offer to be your guide to explore the gorges, if it makes you feel more comfortable I certainly won’t be the one to tell you what to do but I assure you that you can make do on your own as I did.

Canyon Des Doigts Du Singe.

Canyon Des Doigts Du Singe

This is a relatively popular circuit that I absolutely recommend doing and you can find described in detail on this page. I reccomend avoiding unnecessary lengthening the route by following only the circuit, not the detour at the end of the canyon.

If you are coming from Tamellalt, to reach the entrance to the canyon you can walk down the valley among the fields without going up the road. Finding the points where you cross the streams is not always easy but it is certainly more pleasant and shorter than walking on asphalt. Once you enter the gorge, I recommend just following the stream bed to this point (31.451859, -5.956731). Here you have to climb the wall on the left and follow the path that passes high; continuing on the bottom of the gorge becomes complicated/impossible. In places you have to crouch or climb rocks to make your way through the gorge, I found it extremely fun and the scenery along the way is incredible. It took me about 4 hours to complete the circuit starting from Tamellalt. Due to the trail’s characteristics, I would advise against hiking it if there has been recent rainfall or if there is a possibility of significant downpours.

Canyon Des Doigts Du Singe.

Canyon de Sidi Boubkere

This is the other gorge easily accessible from Tamellalt. Find the route described on this page. The trail passes high and is not always obvious, at some point it becomes dangerous to continue so keep going as long as you feel like it. The views of the gorge are fantastic. Alternatively, you could follow the trail to the base of the gorge but after a while you will come to a point where the water is too deep to continue. If you wanted to, you could go swimming.

Finally, even just walking among the fields near Tamellalt without necessarily going up the gorges is a pleasant experience and accessible to anyone.

Canyon de Sidi Boubkere

Where to sleep at Dades Gorge?

If you do not have a car, I recommend sleeping in and around Tamellalt. I personally stayed at Maison D’hote Amazir, one of the cheapest options there, the rooms are a bit outdated however clean, the elderly owner is really nice and the food is great. The view from the terrace is great. A slightly more expensive option that had been recommended to me by more than a few people is Monkey Fingers by Fatima Mellal.

How to reach the Dades Gorge?

The first step is to reach Boumalne Dades where the junction of the road up the valley of the Dades Gorges is located. Boumalne Dades is an official stop for CTM so you could take the bus but if you are coming from Ouarzazate or Tinghir, I think it is much more practical to take a grand taxi. As mentioned several times, the Grand Taxi station in Ouarzazate is located exactly behind the Gare Routière here, it costs 60 dh while from Tinghir Grand Taxis cost 25 dh, the grand taxi station in Tinghir is located here. When you arrive at the Boumalne Dades Grand Taxi station here you could either take another Grand Taxi to Tamelatlt which should cost about 20 dh or walk a few hundred meters to the roundabout and hitchhike, I did that and after like three minutes someone gave me a ride. To go back to Boumalne Dades I was counting on doing the same but I was even luckier because the hotel owner had to go down the valley that very day and so he gave me a ride in his car. If you don’t want to hitchhike, there are also local mini buses that go back and forth frequently. Finding a ride is really easy.

Tamellalt, Maison D’hote Amazir.

Tinghir and Todra Gorges

Tinghir or Tinerhir is not a particularly interesting town but is the crossroads for the popular Todra Gorges and therefore often included as a stop before continuing on to Merzouga.

What to do and see in Tinghir

As just mentioned, Tinghir is mostly used as a base for exploring the Todra Gorge. But if you have some time left over or decide to stay longer, you could visit the Ikalalne Mosque located on the other side of the river. It is an old, disused mosque that you can visit. The gatekeeper at the entrance is more than willing to offer a “guided tour.”

Tinghir, Hike and Chill Hostel.

Todra Gorge

Many only visit the iconic bottleneck where the majestic vertical walls of red rock are no more than a hundred meters apart. If you have the time, I strongly recommend doing the hike described on this page.

I completed the trek together with an English guy and a Canadian man in his 60s whom I met in the hostel so we took it very slowly. It took us almost 5 hours but given the many breaks I think it can easily be completed in 3-4 hours. This is a really nice loop that offers some great views of the surrounding area.  

The Canadian man had a rental car but if you are not as lucky, here you can take a grand taxi to the gorge for 10dh. If you also arrive by car, there is ample parking at the spot where I marked the beginning of the trail.

Todra Gorge.

Climbing

The Todra Gorge is also a particularly popular place to go climbing. There are hundreds of routes for all levels. Aventure Verticale is the company of choice; they were the first to create a climbing-related business in the area and from what I have been told they maintain many of the routes that they themselves opened. Lessons and guided ascents are offered, they also rent equipment. There are also actual via ferrata routes. The day before the trek the Canadian man told me that he had done a via ferrata together with a guide contacted through the hostel paying 150 dh. He said it was great.

Finally, in the evening when we returned to the hostel, the owner Jamal took us to a Hammam (a kind of Turkish bath) where for 100 dh we were given exfoliating treatment and massage. Unfortunately, I don’t have the exact location but it was a very local experience although the Hamman. If you happen to sleep at Hike and Chill Hostel and haven’t tried a Hammam yet, I recommend it.

Two climbers.

How to reach Tinghir?

Tinghir has daily bus connections from Marrakech, Ouarzazate, Boumalne Dades, and Merzouga. CTM buses stop here. Supratour (the only one with a daily bus to Merzouga) should stop here. The local bus station is located here near the grand taxi station. 

Where to sleep in Tinghir?

I recommend Hike and Chill Hostel. The hostel is clean, the breakfast good and the view from the terrace is great. The owner Jamal is a really hospitable guy and a great cook.

Trekking in Todra Gorge.

Merzouga

Merzouga is considered the city of choice for anyone who wants to venture into the Sahara Desert. 

What to do and see in Merzouga

Many travelers, including myself, only make a brief stop in Merzouga, just enough time to embark on the desert tour. While I initially planned to spend at least one night in the town, I ultimately opted for convenience and accepted a safe ride back to Casablanca with my Canadian friend. Nonetheless, if you choose to stay in Merzouga, there are a few things you could do.

For example you could walk to Lake Dayet Srij which is only a couple of kilometers from Merzouga, it is a seasonal lake so if you visit the region too late in the season it may be completely dry but otherwise, among the many bird species you can see flamingos or climb to the top of the Grand Dune for sunrise or sunset. Finally, for motor enthusiasts, you can rent quads and motocross bikes to race up and down the dunes. 

Sunset in the desert.

Desert tours

There are options for all tastes, prices and durations but let’s say the “standard tour” involves a camel ride in the late afternoon from Merzouga with a stop to watch the sunset from the dunes before heading to the camp. In the evening after dinner traditional music is played around the campfire under the starry sky. In the morning you have breakfast and then ride a camel back to Merzouga. You can take a small backpack with you on the camel while the bulk of your luggage ends up on a jeep waiting for you at the camp. I arranged this with Mustafa Camp Merzouga and all in all I recommend it. The tents were clean as were the bathrooms with plenty of showers and the food was not bad at all. I paid 30€ all inclusive except for water. You can contact them via website or whatsapp +212 666-766093. Let’s be clear, you can definitely spend less, have a more luxurious or more remote experience (most camps are not very far from Merzouga) but for us it was more than fine. The contact had been given to me by other travelers a few weeks earlier so I arranged with Mustafa via whatsapp, once we arrived in town in the afternoon we already had everything organized and left for the tour.

Milky Way.

How to reach Merzouga?

As written earlier, I was lucky enough to meet a Canadian man in Tinghir who more or less had the same schedule and gave me a ride in his rental car so I reached Merzouga from the comfort of his car. In any case, the only bus that directly connects Merzouga to Marrakech and all other destinations in between (Tinghir, Ouarzazate, and Boumalne Dades) leaves once a day at 8:00 a.m. and is from the Supratours company. The alternative is to take a Grand Taxi from Tinghir to Errachidia/Rissani/Erfoud and then another direct to Merzouga. With some luck you may only have to change taxis once. It is also good to know that depending on your itinerary, there is an interesting direct night bus coming from Fes or alternatively you could take the CTM bus to Rissani and then a grand taxi to Merzouga. If you wanted, you could break up the trip by spending the night in Rissani, which apparently is not that bad. You can find some information on this page.

Where to sleep in Merzouga?

I personally did not spend the night in Merzouga but two guys had strongly recommended Le Gout Du Sahara (formerly Hostel Hassan) to me and looking at the reviews I am not at all surprised by their enthusiasm.

Traditional music around the bonfire.

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Other destinations to consider

So far I have talked about the destinations touched on during my trip but clearly there is much more to see so below I list some interesting destinations.

Plage Legzira

Legzira Beach with its iconic natural arches is considered one of the most picturesque beaches in the country. You can find extremely precise directions on how to get there from Agadir in this article.  

The Valley of Roses

The Valley of Roses is located along the road leading to the Dades Gorges from Ouarzazate and can be a nice way to break up the trip further or simply visit an area slightly off the main tourist track. If interested, find an interesting article on this page.  

Alnif, Tazzarine and Draa Valley

Especially if you are getting around by car, after doing the classic Aït-Benhaddou – Dades Gorges – Todra Gorges – Merzouga route you might decide to head back toward Marrakech by taking the wide tour south visiting Alnif, Tazzarine and the Draa Valley. In Alnif there is an important fossil deposit. In Tazzarine, on the other hand, there are tombs of Muslim saints and the Ait Ouazik site where there are rock paintings dating back some 7,000 years. Finally, along the Del Draa Valley there are numerous khasabs that can be visited and other activities that you can read about on this page.

El jadida

El jadida is a small coastal town just over an hour from Casablanca. Here you can visit the cistern built by the Portuguese and the Plage Haouzia beach where you can see a wreck called the Moroccan Titanic. Overall, this should be a pleasant town to spend a day or two in.

Al Hoceima and Nador 

Al Hoceima and Nador are two popular destinations along the Mediterranean coast. Nearby are some of Morocco’s finest beaches. If you are looking for a beach destination these are probably the best options Morocco has to offer.

Suggested itineraries in Morocco

To visit all the places described would take almost two months. Considering that many people do not have that much time, I list below some itineraries that can be used as a starting point to build an itinerary based on one’s interests and in light of what has been described so far. If you only have one weekend available, choosing one city between Marrakech and Fes is probably the best option.

Itineraries of 3-4 days in Morocco

For a 3-4 day trip to Morocco I would opt to visit a maximum of two cities. Clearly it depends a lot on the airport you arrive at but some ideas might be as follows. If you fly into Fes you could include a night in Chefchaouen or nearby Meknes, my preference is definitely for the blue city. For flights to Marrakech, you could spend a night in Essaouira; if you have four days and three nights, you could do a short stay in the city and join the 2-night, three-day tour mentioned above (Aït-Benhaddou, Dadès Gorge, Todra Gorge and Merzouga). If you fly to Tangier I recommend including a night in Chefchaouen. Finally, if you fly to Casablanca or Agadir, I would spend one night there at most and then the rest of the time in Marrakech.

5-day itinerary in Morocco

For a 5-day Morocco trip, what I said for a 3-4 day itinerary remains valid, no more than two cities. If you fly into Marrakech, including the 2-night, 3-day tour (Aït-Benhaddou, Dadès Gorge, Todra Gorge and Merzouga) I think it is a very good idea. 

One-week itinerary in Morocco

With a week to spare, many options open. In the north of the country, if you fly to Fes, you could visit the city and then continue north to Chefchaouen, Tangier, and perhaps Tetouan. Alternatively you could go clockwise via Meknes and Rabat before reaching Tangier but personally I would always include Chefchaouen.

In the south of the country, if you fly to Marrakech I would definitely do the classic route to the desert (Aït-Benhaddou, Dadès Gorge, Todra Gorge and Merzouga) and then probably choose another destination between Essaouira, Casablanca and Imlil depending on your interests. 

Two-week itinerary in Morocco

With two weeks to spare you could simply combine the two one-week itineraries just described.

Three-week itinerary in Morocco

For a three-week trip to Morocco you can complete the circuit in the north of the country and the one in the south relatively slowly and include a few other destinations in between, such as Rabat and Casablanca. Broadly speaking I would do what is described in the map below.

One-month itinerary in Morocco

With a month or more to spare, if you move quickly you can visit most of the destinations described in this guide. The itinerary I recommend is the one you see described in the map below.

How to get around Morocco

First, I highly recommend downloading organic maps. I have been using the valuable offline maps for many years and I think they are particularly useful in Morocco where unlike google maps, even within the various medinas, the maps are detailed and allow you to navigate what can sometimes seem like a real maze.

Also, as you may have noticed, throughout the guide I have often limited myself to mentioning the location of the train station and the CTM bus station. This is because I generally advise against using the “local buses”. Another punctual and reliable bus company is Supratours, the latter is state-owned and basically helps to fill the gap in the rail network so generally the Supratours bus station is always next to the train station and it is also possible to buy combo tickets (train + bus) which is very convenient if you have to reach a destination whose route is only partly covered by the rail network.

Taxi to the Caves of Hercules.

Trains in Morocco

Trains, where present, are generally the best option for moving between destinations. I have always bought my ticket directly at the station and have never had any problems finding a seat but if you wish you can buy online or otherwise check the departure times on the ONCF website. The main cities of tourist interest connected to the rail network are: Marrakech, Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Fez, and Tangier. As mentioned earlier, there is also high-speed rail between Casablanca and Tangier.

Buses in Morocco

As anticipated, the two bus companies I recommend using are Supratours (if you have a problem with the website you can just use the ONCF one) and CTM. The buses are comfortable and especially punctual. You can safely look up departure times online and at least in the case of CTM, buying your ticket online is easy and convenient. Supratours and CTM generally have their own private terminals which are not to be confused with the Gare Routière from where the “local buses” depart. The latter mostly cover the same routes and are slightly cheaper but can be a real nightmare: departures without precise schedules, buses in poor condition, and constant stops to drop off and pick up people at any point along the way. Let me be clear, I have traveled in worse situations and it is certainly not the end of the world but when possible, I strongly recommend traveling by train and if you have to take the bus, rely on CTM and Supratours. The only real advantage of local buses is that they stop everywhere so if necessary you can get on and off even in the middle of nowhere, which in some cases can be convenient. 

If for any reason you have to take a local bus, 9 times out of 10 the moment you enter the station, you will be approached by someone ready to sell you the ticket you need. It can be helpful to untangle the chaos but know that the same ticket will likely cost less if bought directly at the ticket office inside the station. It’s also good to know that if you’re traveling with a large backpack/suitcase that you can’t take on board, you might have to pay 5 dh per each piece that ends up in the bus trunk.

Casablanca train station.

Taxi in Morocco

There are two types of taxis in Morocco: grand taxis (large taxis) and petits taxis (small taxis). Grand taxis mentioned several times in this guide are comparable to colectivos in Latin America i.e., taxis, usually seven-seat minivans, that cover certain routes for a fixed price and leave only when they are full (or someone pays the missing fare). While slightly more expensive than buses, they are much more practical in many situations. Most cities have a proper “grand taxis station” where there is a small ticket office with someone to take note of who has to go where, and arrange departures. In the larger stations there are actual platforms numbered according to destination, and you are given a token to hand to the driver before departure to show that you have already paid for the ride.  

Petits taxis, on the other hand, are traditional taxis that cover short distances within cities. By law they have meters but especially in tourist places they refuse to use them. In that case it is essential to agree on the price before boarding and assume that you are being ripped off. Going down more than 50 percent from the initial price is not that uncommon. Ideally you would do well to ask how much a particular route costs at your hostel/hotel. In some cities, such as Essaouira, taxis within city limits have a fixed price wherever you go. In the case of Essaouira it is 7dh during the day and 10 dh at night.

Hitchhiking in Morocco

Hitchhiking in Morocco is not only possible but also relatively easy. I have done it on three occasions and never waited more than 5 minutes. Likewise, I have met other travelers who have used it successfully. If you want to use the local style, instead of sticking out your thumb, use your index finger to point in the direction you are headed. This is the same signal used by locals to stop buses and grand taxis. Basically, whenever you need a ride, put out your index finger!

Our guide in the desert.

Rent a car in Morocco

Renting a car to get around Morocco is definitely a viable option. The roads are mostly in good condition and the traffic, except for the big cities, is not bad at all. I have met more than a few travelers who have chosen this option and have even scrounge up some generous rides. Clearly, especially if you are traveling alone, it can get expensive but the freedom the car provides is certainly not to be underestimated. If you want to take a look at a car rental aggregator, you can check out discovercars.

Another vehicle that seems to be extremely popular especially in the desert area is the motorcycle. I have lost count of the number of motorcycle groups I have encountered between Marrakech and Merzouga. Gorges, hairpin bends and low precipitation seem to be a sought-after combination for two-wheeled enthusiasts.

Domestic flights in Morocco

During my trip I did not take any domestic flights but they can be a viable option for those who are short on time and want to cover long distances such as the Fez- Marrakech route. Flights if booked in advance can be quite cheap. Royal Air Maroc and Air Arabia Maroc operate domestic flights.

Todra Gorge.

Backpacking Morocco: costs

How much does a trip to Morocco cost? Over the course of my six-week trip (43 days to be precise) I spent exactly 1046.12€ or just over 24€ per day. Clearly for a short trip where maybe you move more frequently the costs increase and likewise not everyone is willing to travel as cheaply as I do, but I assure you that I never missed on anything and in general Morocco is undoubtedly an inexpensive destination.

Cost of accommodation in Morocco

Except for Casablanca and Agadir, I would say that on average I spent around 10€ per night for accommodation. The major tourist destinations have a wide selection of hostels, competition is high and prices are low but you still end up paying about 8-10€ for a dormitory bed in a good hostel while outside the major cities I had several private rooms in guesthouses and small hotels paying around 10-15€ per night. If you travel as a couple you can get private rooms almost anywhere for 20-30€ per night or 10-15€ per person.

Cost of transportation in Morocco

Ground transportation is quite cheap. As a general rule you pay 2-3€ per hour of travel by bus/train while grand taxis are slightly more expensive and let’s say around 4-5€ per hour of travel.

Tra i vicoli di Tetouan.

Cost of food in Morocco

Moroccan food is not only delicious but also quite cheap. Clearly it depends on what kind of restaurant you are looking for but if you are not too pretentious, a tagine or couscous which are never missing on the menu cost 30-70 dh depending on where you are and whether the main course is part of a menu or not. For example, the fixed price of dinner in many guesthouses is 70 dh but an appetizer (often harira also known as Moroccan soup or a salad) and dessert is included as well. The same goes for the daily menu offered by some restaurants.

Couscous I don’t think needs any introduction while tajine is the name of the traditional cone-shaped earthenware pot. In general, any dish cooked using that pot is called tajine. Vegetables are then almost always added to the main ingredient like chicken and served with bread. 

In conclusion, although Morocco is an Islamic country it is still possible to buy alcohol in the big cities. Prices are slightly inflated but if you go to the supermarket it is not that bad. Carrefour, which is present almost everywhere in the territory, generally has a department dedicated to alcoholic beverages and I recommend it even if you have to do normal shopping. The prices of fruits and vegetables in some cases are comparable to those at the market, you can find a little bit of everything there, and you can pay by card. Carrefour was undoubtedly my supermarket of choice especially during the first part of the trip in the middle of Ramadan when I often went to buy lunch at noon.

Chicken Tajine.

Other costs (withdrawals and sim cards)

Let’s start with withdrawal fees, which using the best cards for traveling can be reduced to zero. In fact, Al Barid Bank allows withdrawals without fees. It is the bank of the Moroccan Post Office (Poste Maroc) so there are branches just about everywhere in the country. I have always withdrawn here. To my knowledge all other banks have a fee of 20-30 dh per withdrawal. 

As for sim cards, there are three providers in the territory: Orange, Inwi and Maroc Telecom. If you just visit a few cities, one is worth the other but in more remote areas, Maroc Telecom has better coverage. There were more than a few occasions when I had a signal while other travelers on Orange did not get any. I got my sim card from an official store by registering it to my name (bring your passport) at a cost of 10 dh. The gigs basically cost 10 dh each, 50 dh for the 5 gb package, 100 dh for 10 gb and so on. There are those who sell sims on the street but from what I was told sometimes they stop working for no reason. 

Chefchaouen.

Backpacking Morocco: safety

Is Morocco a safe country? Clearly it depends a lot on what you mean by safe, but in general Morocco does not have security-related problems like other parts of the world. Crime rates are only slightly higher than many western countries. I have met numerous solo female travelers and entire families with children. Despite my bad indirect experience in Chefchaouen, I never felt in danger during my trip; most Moroccans are kind and hospitable people. Obviously common sense should be used as anywhere else in the world but I doubt you will have any problems. The only issue worth highlighting is the one related to scams and in some cases aggressiveness towards tourists that places Morocco first in this special personal ranking. Walking the streets of a tourist destination without being constantly approached by someone who wants to sell you this or that thing, supposed guides who want to offer you their services, kids who offer to walk with you somewhere just to practice the language and then end up asking you for money for accompanying you and a thousand other situations that can lead to exasperation are unfortunately all too common. I think this is unfortunate because it often leads the traveler to ignore any local who approaches him or her even when the latter has good intentions. Let me be clear, I do not want to discourage anyone from visiting the country but this is the reality of the situation or at least what has been my experience and I think it is best to arrive prepared.

In conclusion, if you plan to climb to the top of Toubkal, thus trekking at more than 3500 meters, the only two insurances to cover such an activity (to my knowledge) are World Nomads which allows you to insure trekking up to 6000 meters (by adding it as an extra activity as shown on this page) and TrueTraveller which by adding the “Extreme Pack” package offers coverage for trekking above 4600m. As mentioned earlier, most other insurance stops at 3500 meters, some even less.

Are you planning a trip to Morocco? Check out these posts:

The best cards for traveling

What to bring on your trip

Do you have any questions? Updated information? Feel free to leave a comment or message me on Instagram!

If you found this article helpful, please consider purchasing your travel insurance through one of the links on this site, doing so supports my work at no additional cost to you. For EU & UK Residents, i recommend True Traveller. For everyone else i recommend HeyMondo (5% discount). Thanks!

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