From the lively and vivid colors, to the smell of incense and spices as you walk through the ancient Medinas, to the infused flavors of the most amazing cooking you will ever have. Morocco is easily described as the most flavorful and vibrant place in the world. It is a special country enriched with culture, history, and beautiful landscapes.
Have you always dreamed of traveling to such an exotic and beautiful country? To walk through the colorful streets of Chechauoen, drink fresh mint tea on a rooftop in Marrakech, or camel ride as the sun comes up in the Sahara Desert? Well what’s stopping you?? Whether its the intimidating aspect of traveling to a foreign country, enough time off to travel, or not knowing what to expect or where to even start – we made this travel guide just for you!
For years I have always dreamed of traveling to Morocco! But for some reason it felt too exotic or unrealistic to actually get there (as do many countries at first). But last year we finally made the decision to go with some friends during our Mediterranean surf trip in Southern Europe. I have to say out of the 18 countries we have traveled to, Morocco is definitely on the top 5 list. It was the most incredible trip of my life. We only had 10 days to explore this flavorful country, though we could have EASILY spent another month there.
When To Go
Best weather is March – May. We went in April and found this time to be perfect. Not too hot, not too many people, and shops were still open.
Languages : Arabic, Berber, French, Spanish, and English
For the most part you are able to get around by speaking English in the main cities and common areas, using google translate whenever we needed to translate a particular message across in Berber or Arabic. But spending a lot of our time in the less touristy areas, we noticed that French would have been a very useful language to be fluent in haha. Most small towns almost always speak French, Arabic, and Berber. Thankfully a few times when English was absolutely not working, our friends who are fluent in Spanish got us by.
Currency : Moroccan Dirham
One US dollar got us around 11 dirhams. Morocco is a very inexpensive country. Depending on which area you are in and your traveling style, you can easily spend about 15 dollars a day on meals. Most meals were 5 – 15 dollars for an amazing meal! Also if you plan on shopping (which you should) then cash is what the majority of businesses except. The best way is to withdraw from the ATM once you get there (from a debit card of course.)
You can get around by trains, buses, private drivers, and renting a car. We personally always prefer train and renting our own car. We actually rented a car for the duration of our time spent in Morocco so that is what I will mostly talk about haha. We really do prefer this method of transportation because you are completely flexible and in control of your schedule! Stop however much you like to take in sites. Take a left turn verses a right. And if you like a spot, just hop back in the car and go back. We love the flexibility of driving. You can find a reasonable rental car on rentalcars.com
Driving is a lot easier in Morocco compared to most countries. You drive on the right side of the road and unless you are in a main city, you will mostly be driving without seeing another soul in site. The speed limits are monitored pretty well but don’t worry, if you get a speeding ticket then you usually just pay the officer right away upon pulling you over and its about 20-30 dollars each time. Don’t ask why we know that so well haha.
The vast majority of this culture is very friendly and warm. The amount of times we all felt touched by their kindness is too much to even keep track of. Sometimes I pretty much cried haha. Honestly the sweetest people ever.
Personally I felt very safe as a female traveler. But I was traveling with three other men and we stuck around some pretty safe places. At certain times of night when walking back to our Riad, some of the men could be slightly more aggressive or susceptive to “street harassment”. This mostly involved small comments, cat calling, or offering help/direction in demand for money. The best thing to do is just ignore it. Say “no thank you” and just walk away. They are very intuitive as to who they can work with and who wont budge haha. Just view them as the best salesmen out there. Which brings me to my next point.. almost nothing is free. Yes, they are friendly.. but a buddy’s got to make a living some how haha. So if someone offers you directions, help in translating, “gifts you something”, pushes you to get on a camel some how, and takes your photo for you – expect to pay. So if you don’t want to pay.. then be stubborn. I’m not saying that everyone is like this, there were plenty of locals that genuinely helped us. But for the most part, they are great hustlers.
There are plenty of Airbnb’s, private Riad’s, and camps to stay at. Here are a few of our favorites :
A full picture review of our accommodations coming soon!
This incredible camp at KamKam Dunes was the highlight of our trip. With views of the endless Sahara desert, camel riding at sunset or sunrise, luxurious and comfortable private tents, the friendliest kitty (that slept with us) and her kittens, the best staff that had us cracking up and dancing all night under the stars, to the BEST meal we had in Morocco.. We give KamKam dunes a 10/10.
If you want to read a book out on the balcony under the Moroccan sun, have a relaxing bath in a huge concrete bathhouse, enjoy breakfast in the cutest sun room, and sleep in rooms that will have your interior design juices flowing then this Riad in Essaouira is for you. Waking up to these views were amazing!
We found this Riad on Airbnb and had an incredible experience. Our place was too big for our own good haha we could have easily slept another 6 people. Also sweet Riskaine came each morning to make us breakfast and dinner upon request. Our Riad was central to everywhere we wanted and needed to be. We’d definitely stay here again!
This mud hotel was by far the most amazing experience we’ve had on Airbnb that brought us to tears. If we could leave Mohamed a thousand incredible reviews we would! We arrived in the middle of the night (about 1am). Mohamed waited for our arrival and stayed up all the while helping us when we were lost and welcoming us to his family hotel. The parking is above the village in a parking lot which is about a 15 minute walk. He didn’t want us to walk this during the night with all of our bags so he had us drive down to his hotel across the river bed (we had a big off road van). As we approached the hotel, we could hardly see anything. It was pitch black and incredibly dark since there was no electricity in the area. All we could see were the most amazingly breathtaking stars. (I cried)
Mohamed helped us inside the hotel with our bags. He lit candles to guide the way as the hotel has no electricity and wifi. Completely off the grid. Then he took our keys from us and drove our van up to the parking lot and ran back in the middle of the night. (stooooop) We took a hot shower and had the most amazing night in this cozy mud hotel, and even star gazed out on the balcony in front of our room.
The next morning Mohamed and his sister made us a delicious Moroccan breakfast out on the lower patio. After breakfast we toured the village and were amazed by this entire area. As we were leaving I turned around and could not believe my eyes. I told Caleb to turn around and the snapped this photo. Because we arrived at night, we had no idea that the entire time we had been staying in a post card. I mean LOOK at this place! So beautiful!
This family was so incredibly sweet! I would definitely come back to this place in a heartbeat. The entire experience left our group in tears. Mohamed should definitely be charging more to stay in this beautiful place, especially being that breakfast is included!
Morocco can be very warm during the day and chilly at night. So I suggest packing layers. Also the desert can get suuuuper chilly at night.
You might see photos on Instagram of pretty girls traveling through out Morocco with cute little (slightly covered) outfits on out in public.. don’t do that haha. This is a Muslim country so please dress modestly. Remember that you are visiting their country so it is important to respect their culture. And in turn, you will be viewed and treated with respect.
For the most part if you are in the surf towns or main cities it is more relaxed. But you should still cover your cleavage, shoulders, and knees. In smaller villages it is more conservative. I was literally stared down at a post office once for showing my ankles.. (laundry was running really low otherwise I would have worn pants) so in these areas I would say head to toe coverage is best. You want to cover up but not sweat to death – so think maxi skirts or long flowy dresses with a button up or shawl. I found that button ups, shawls, and light cotton scarves were my best friend! I’d say for the most part I pretty much wore long maxi dresses (because it was so hot) but when we left our Riad I would throw on a button up and scarf. In fact I always carried a scarf/shawl to cover my shoulders, face, or head depending on where we were heading to. And once we made our way up to the mountains, I was able to wear pants with a button up and scarf.
“What to wear in Morocco” blog post coming soon!
*layer button ups and scarves with just about any outfit!
Data and Wifi
You can choose to grab a Maroc telecom SIM card for 40 -100 dirhams (4-10 USD) which will get you up to 10GB of 4G while you are exploring the country. We have T-mobile which gives us unlimited data and texting for free in foreign countries. But you will also find WIFI in most cafes, restaurants, and hotels. If you choose to go the WIFI route then I would only suggest that if you have WIFI at your Airbnb or accommodation. That way you can look up any needed information while you are resting at the Riad. And Google Maps also allows you to pre-download a map or route so that you can access Google Maps without data.
Be sure to wash your hands before you eat and only use your right hand while eating. Sometimes they will provide a utensil but most of the time we found using bread or our right hand to scoop food was common. Also avoid pouring your own drink / tea. When they bring you the tea pot they like to steep the mint, add sugar, and pour multiple times to aerate the tea so just wait for them to serve it to you.
The food is very delicious in Morocco! Obviously if some places look a little sketchy, use your discretion. Food poisoning is really bad.. trust me you don’t want it. So avoid drinking tap water.
Tipping is not very much expected but we always rounded up to the nearest dirham or tipped 10% because they do not take offense to tipping like other countries do.
Foods to try : Tagine, Couscous, Pastilla, Baklava, Kebabs, Mint Tea, and local Watermelon.
Here are some favorite meal experiences we had :
Nomad in Marrakech
Things we wish we knew beforehand :
- The Sahara Desert is really far away. Reeeeally far away. But so worth it!
- Friendly Men most likely just want your money. (just be smart)
- Many Moroccans are fluent in French. So if you can brush up on that, it might be easier than trying to learn Berber or Arabic.
- Bread is pretty much the main portion of every meal especially breakfast. (nothing wrong with this because its freaking delicious but you might be missing protein for breakfast after a while)
- The shopping. We knew Morocco had good shopping.. but not THAT much. From rugs, to baskets, woven goods, pottery, shoes, bags, leather goods, silver jewelry, spices, tea, oils, incense.. really anything good in life. I wasn’t prepared for so much goodness.
10 Day Itinerary
Day 1 – Marrakech.
Morning Flight // Pick up rental car
Check into Riad : See Accommodation Suggestions
After arriving to Marrakech, we quickly realized we could have easily spent a few more days there to eat, shop, and explore. If your time allows for it, try to spend at least 3 days in Marrakech. There are lots of tourists, but lots of local corners and pros to this beautiful city as well.
Day 2 – Marrakech. Drive to Essaouira in the evening.
Breakfast at Riad
Drive to Essaouira
Because of the long hours of daylight when we went (April/May) we were able to do most of our driving in the evening which aloud us to explore a little more in the areas we loved. This itinerary aloud us to spend almost 2 days in Marrakech before heading out for Essaouira.
Day 3 – Essaouira
We took this day to explore the beautiful Medina and relax at the Riad.
Day 4 – Essaouira
More downtime and relaxation. Plus a little shopping.
Day 5 – Day trip to Taghazout (stay in Essaouira)
Breakfast at Riad
Drive to Taghazout
Dinner in Taghazout : See Food Suggestions
Drive back to Essaouira
We so badly wanted to stay in Taghazout. But with our timeframe and hopes to see and spend time in the desert, we only slotted out day trips to Taghazout and Agadir. This aloud us to stay in a Riad for a longer amount of time and unwind but still surf while on the coast. Essaouira is a coastal city as well so as long as we were staying on the coast, we didn’t mind the drive to Taghazout.
Day 6 – Essaouira/Marrakech/Ait Ben Haddou
Breakfast at Riad
Pack up // Last moments in Essaouira
Drive to Marrakech
Early Dinner in Marrakech
Drive to Ait Ben Haddou
Check into Mud Hotel : See Accommodation Suggestions
The drive to Ait Ben Haddou (Ourzazate) from Essaouira is about 6 hours. So we decided to break up this stretch by stopping for an early dinner in Marrakech. I totally recommend this. Plus it is always better to drive in the late evening or at night (on any road trip) to save being stuck in traffic.
The stars were incredible as we were approaching Ourzazate.. we had to pull over for them and I pretty much cried.
Day 7 – Ait Ben Haddou/Zagora/Erg Chebbi
Breakfast at Mud Hotel
Explore Ait Ben Haddou
Drive to Zagora // Transfer to Erg Chebbi
Camp in Sahara : See Accommodation Suggestions
Dinner, dancing, stories, and fire under the stars
The drive to Zagora is about 3 hours. This is where the Sahara Camp Excursion will pick you up to take you into Erg Chebbi (Sahara Desert) either by car or camel. So you want to give yourself enough time to arrive in Zagora before it gets dark. Depending on who you book your tour with, they may require you to arrive at a specific time.
Ait Ben Haddou was such an incredible town. I regret not staying there as long as I would have liked but it was necessary to head out if we wanted to make it to the desert. I would suggest at least a full day for Ait Ben Haddou.
Day 8 – Erg Chebbi. Drive to Midelt in the evening.
Sunrise Camel Ride
Early Breakfast at Camp
Relax or Activités in the Dunes
Early Lunch at Camp
Transfer to Zagora
Drive through mountains to Midelt
Dinner at hotel
The drive to Midelt is about 6 hours. It is insanely beautiful and scenic so be prepared to stop a lot. We stopped somewhere near Errachadia to admire the landscape for a while. It was so breathtaking. There isn’t much to see in Midelt (mostly a half way point to rest for the night) so don’t feel bad arriving late if you choose to spend more time stopping along the way.
Day 9 – Chefchaouen
Early Breakfast at Hotel in Midelt
Drive through Azrou Monkey Forest
Continue to Chefchaouen
Check into Riad
The drive to Chefchaouen from Midelt is 6 hours (again haha). We broke up the drive by driving through Azrou to play with the monkeys. The drive was also super breathtaking, so give yourself plenty of time to stop and site see as you make your way through the mountains. We personally didn’t get to follow this itinerary towards the end of the day because several of us got really really sick which delayed our drive time.
But Chefchaouen was at the top of our list and the main reason why we came so far north verses heading back to Marrakech to fly out. You can also stop in Fez along this route.. but we quickly decided to skip Fez and keep driving. We were not impressed and didn’t really have a great experience there.
Day 10 – Fly Home
Breakfast in Chefchaouen
Lunch in Chefchaouen
Drive to Tangier
Fly out of Tangier Airport
The drive to Tangier is about 2-3 hours. I would try to get an evening flight so that you can spend most of your day in Chefchaouen to see it during the day.
This was our 10 day itinerary! We experienced a few bumps along the way and had to adjust our itinerary while on our trip due to missed flights and getting really sick. But for the most part I would say it was the best way to see and do everything we wanted to do and see the highlights within 10 days. We don’t mind driving and had a group of 4 to switch off and break it up. All in all I would of course reccomend more time (like with any place!) but this 10 day itinerary is the perfect combo for seeing ALL the amazing sites you want to see and not feeling too rushed.
Highlight Locations for our Trip :
Ait Ben Haddou
If you want to cut down on the amount of driving, here are two things you could do : either cut Erg Chebbi or Chefchaouen out. The desert is a long ways away. At least 6 hours from all of the other places that are within 3 hours from each other. And there are other camps outside of Marrakech you can stay at to experience a desert excursion. So ask yourself if an additional of at least 12 hours of driving is worth it to you. Obviously it was to us and it was the highlight of our trip. The Sahara Desert was easily one of the most beautiful places I had ever been to. And KamKam dunes was simply amazing! I would go back in a heartbeat.
Also if you cut out Chefchaeouen, there would be no reason to head up north (according to our itinerary). This little blue city was the only reason we went back up north and flew out of Tangier verses Marrakech. So ask yourself if Chefchaouen is worth all of that driving to you. And again, obviously I’d say it was to us as well.
The driving was one of my favorite aspects of the trip and the most beautiful parts of Morocco were discovered while driving for long stretches in between villages and cities. We wouldn’t have experienced those sites if we hadn’t driven all the way to Erg Chebbi and then to Chefchaouen.
Other Places We Hope to see Next Time
For those of you wondering why Fez is not included in this itinerary, well we didn’t really care much for Fez and actually didn’t have the best experience there. I only feel comfortable including the locations we absolutely loved in this itinerary. I felt like Fez had its pros and cons like most other places but the pros that Fez had were x10 in Essaouira and Marrakech. Obviously if Fez is on your bucket list then make it happen! Don’t take my word for it 🙂 You can include Fez in this itinerary on your way from Erg Chebbi to Chefchaouen.
Useful External Links that Helped Us :
Our Conclusion of Morocco
Do we love Morocco? YES. Would we go back? Can’t wait. Morocco was incredible and exceeded all of our expectations. I definitely suggest seeing this beautiful country at some point in your life. Who do we suggest Morocco to? The travelers and adventurers. Morocco can be a little dirty, uncomfortable for some, and hot. But if you love culture, adventures, and if something so foreign – slightly uncomfortable makes your heart beat with joy like it does mine then go. Go for it.
Taghazout put a smile on our faces and also made us 5 years old.
daily and nightly baths were the highlight for all of us in Essaouira
thanks to my new friend for teaching me the ways.. and to also protect your face from a sand storm
my feelings about the monkeys and puppies. I need them.
true relaxation at the KamKam Dunes
actually more excited about the fact Caleb is wearing Birkenstocks than being on a camel
Thanks for reading!