Morocco Travel Planning – sights and routes

13 Sep

Morocco Travel Planning is the summary of my six-week road trip through Morocco during the autumn of 2015 (October and a bit of November). The pace of traveling was slow, following the flexibility I had to go and stay wherever I wanted with a rented car.

Morocco Travel Planning 2015

Morocco Travel Planning 2015

Morocco Travel Planning – General Planning

My travel planning for Morocco started two months before the trip. I used the Lonely Planet Guide and ignored any other articles about Morocco on the internet. I considered that the guide book offered me enough, very-well synthesized information to plan my trip. From the guide book, I could choose the places where I wanted to go for six weeks – touristic places, UNESCO heritage sites, as well as off-the-beaten-track places. However, after booking the flight, I realized that six weeks weren’t enough for how much I wanted to visit, so I had to give up my plan to go to the very southern part of the country – Western Sahara (Agadir, Taroudant, Tiznit, Tafroute, Mirleft, Laayoune, Dakhla).

Morocco Travel Planning – Fixed Plans

Before leaving for Morocco, I had booked/ contacted/ written / messaged:

– my flight ticket, which I bought almost two months in advance

– my car, which I booked a few days after buying my flight tickets (with a later extension three weeks before the trip)

– a couple of Couchsurfing contacts who could have helped me with information, accommodation, and phone calls if anything happened to me in Morocco during my stay

– a couple of Couchsurfing requests accepted in Marrakesh, Casablanca, and Rabat (I messaged my hosts before the departure to Morocco as I knew I wouldn’t have time for messages during my stay in Morocco)

– a collaboration with a traditional riad in Fes-el-Bali (the old medina in Fes): here I wrote about Casa Aya Medina in exchange for free accommodation

– a four-day camel trek in the desert near Zagora-M’Hamid/ Erg Chigaga (the highest chain of dunes in Morocco): here I wrote about this Desert Camel Trek with Tizi Trekking in exchange for a free camel desert trek (4 days)

Morocco Travel Planning – Intentions, but nothing fixed

When I left for Morocco, I wanted to do/ go to the following places, but I hadn’t fixed dates for them:

– stop in Bhalil village for an interview with Kamal Chaoui, the owner of Dar Kamal Chaoui Berber guest-house

– explore all of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco (Fes, Marrakesh, Rabat, and Meknes)

– stay in local, traditional riads as much as possible and enjoy their elaborately colorful decorations (wood carvings, tilework, stucco plaster)

– sleep in local camping grounds as much as possible (Dades, Todra, N’Kob, Zagora, Chefchaouen) – I brought my small tent with me during the trip

–  explore local fortified mud-brick villages (ksar/ ksour)

– go to at least one local hammam and see how Moroccan women integrate this into their daily lifestyle (you can read about this experience I had in Marrakesh)

Morocco Travel Planning – Final Result

The final result of the trip to Morocco, where I stayed for six weeks, is a series of 21 travelogues. Enjoy your reading and let me know your opinion about Morocco. Which is your favorite place in Morocco? Why?

Morocco Travel Planning 2015

Morocco Travel Planning 2015

Fes old medina and the new town, Ville Nouvelle (4 days) –

  • two flights from Bucharest (Romania) to Fes (Morocco), via Brussels-Charleroi (Belgium)
  • explored Fes old medina (Fes-el-Bali)
  • hiked up to Borj Nord and the tombs of the Merinides
  • explored Fes new medina (Fes-Jdid) and the Jewish quarter (mellah)

Fes old medina (I): smells and prayers – Morocco

Fes old medina (II): smells and prayers – Morocco

From Fes to the Tafilalt Oases crossing the Middle Atlas Mountains (4 days) –

  • explored the old medina in Sefrou; breakfast with troglodytes in a cave in Bhalil village
  • road trip from Bhalil to Midelt, via Dayet Ifruah Lake – Ifrane – Azrou – Middle Atlas Mountains
  • discovered Kashbah de Myriem (monastery and Berber carpet workshop) near Midelt; road trip from Midelt to Erfoud, along the Ziz Gorges & Valley
  • half-day road trip around the fortified mud-brick villages near Rissani (ksar/ ksour) – Tafilalt Oases

From Fes to Midelt, passing Sefrou and Bhalil – Morocco

From Midelt to the Tafilalt Oasis, passing the Ziz Valley – Morocco

From Erfoud to Zagora, with stops along the Todra, Dades, and Draa Valleys (5 days) – 

  • road trip from Erfoud to the Todra Gorges, with a stop in Majha Fezna (khattara underground irrigation system) – Ksar el-Khorbat – Museum Sources Lalla Mimoun
  • road trip through the Todra Gorges up in the mountains to the Berber village of Tamtattouchte; driven along the Dades Valley (‘the valley of 1000 kasbahs’)
  • driven up the serpentine road through the Dades Gorges; road trip from the Dades Valley to Ouarzazate, via Boumalne des Dades – Kella M’Gouna – Skoura – Ouarzazate
  • explore the town center of Ouarzazate; road trip along the Draa Valley, via Agdz – Tamnougalt and a short detour to N’Kob desert town
  • returned and driven along the Draa Valley, via Oulad Othmane – Ksar Tissergat – Zagora

From Erfoud to the Todra Gorges, passing Ksar El Khorbat – Morocco

From Dades Valley and Todra to Skoura and Ouarzazate – Morocco

Traveling the Draa Valley to Zagora, with a detour to N’Kob – Morocco

Camel Desert Trek – Camel Desert Trek from Zagora to M’Hamid (4 days) –

Camel Trekking - Zagora M'Hammid (yellow - car, green - trekking)

Camel Trekking – Zagora M’Hammid (yellow – car, green – trekking)

  • Day 1: hike & ride in the Jbel Bani Mountains, via Faija Plateau – Col Oum Laachar Pass – Oued Lemhassa Valley – near Tighrghrin Oasis; camp near a well
  • Day 2: walk & ride via Tighrghrin Oasis – Ouad Mhasser Valley – Afrokh Nomad Camp; camp between the dunes in Erg Chigaga
  • Day 3: walk & ride from Erg Chigaga Dunes to the Bogarne Dunes; camp between the dunes in Bogarne
  • Day 4: walk & ride from the Bogarne Dunes to Ouad Naem; jeep ride to M’Hamid Lghzlan Camping

Camel Desert Trek – from Zagora to M’Hammid – Morocco

Long drive from the Sahara desert to Marrakesh (1 day) –

  • road trip from Zagora to Marrakesh, with a stop in Ksar Ait Benhaddou and drive past the Tizi N’Tikka Pass in the High Atlas Mountains

From Sahara to Marrakesh, with a stop in Ait Benhaddou – Morocco

The Pink City of Marrakesh (4 days) –

  • explored Marrakesh old medina (souqs and madrassas)
  • explored Marrakesh old medina (palaces, tombs, and mellah)
  • explored Jardin Majorelle; lunch at Naima’s family + local hammam in the afternoon
  • randomly strolled in the old medina

Marrakesh: the pink city – souqs and luxury (I) – Morocco

Marrakesh: the pink city – souqs and luxury (II) – Morocco

From Marrakesh to Casablanca, with stops in Essaouira and El Jadida (4 days) –

  • road trip from Marrakesh to Essaouira, with stops at Argan oil cooperatives
  • explored Essaouira old medina
  • road trip from Essaouira to El Jadida, with stops in Safi and Oualidia
  • explored El Jadida and Azzemour

From Marrakesh to Essaouira, passing Argan oil cooperatives – Morocco

The road from Essaouira to El Jadida, with stops in Safi and Azemmour – Morocco

Several days in cosmopolitan Casablanca (2 days) – 

  • explored Ville Nouvelle and the old medina in Casa
  • morning visit to the Grand Mosque by the Atlantic corniche
  • strolled with Coco in Quartier Habous (the new medina)

A few days in cosmopolitan Casablanca – Morocco

Rabat – The Royal City of Morocco (2 days) –

  • explored Chellah archaeological site
  • strolled inside Kasbah les Oudaias
  • explored the old medina and Ville Nouvelle in Rabat
  • visited Tour Hassan and Mausoleum of Mohammed V

Rabat – The Royal Capital of Morocco – Morocco

The road from Rabat to Tangier – Sale, Larache, Lixus, and Assilah (3 days) – 

  • road trip from Rabat to Larache, with stops in Sale’s old medina and the Exotic Gardens of Bouknadel
  • afternoon stroll in the old medina in Assilah – the City of Arts in Morocco
  • road trip from Larache to Tangier, via the archaeological site in Lixus and Larache old town
  • explored the old medina and the new town in Tangier

The road from Rabat to Tangier, with stops in Sale, Larache, and Assilah – Morocco

Tangier – the Gateway to Africa – Morocco

From Tangier to Meknes, with stops in Tetouan, Chefchaouen, and Moulay Idriss (6 days) – 

  • road trip from Tangier to Chefchaouen, with an afternoon stop in the medina and Spanish Quarter (Ensanche) in Tetouan
  • explored the old medina in Chefchaouen; rested at the camping site in Chefchaouen for one day
  • driven from Chefchaoeun to Moulay Idriss
  • explored the Roman archaeological site in Volubilis; explored the old medina in Moulay Idriss
  • an unexpected visit to the Roman aqueduct with Allal near Moulay Idriss; driven from Moulay Idriss to Meknes

Successful negotiation in Tetouan’s medina – Morocco

Chefchaouen – the blue city of Morocco

The pilgrimage to Moulay Idriss and Roman Volubilis – Morocco

From Meknes back to Fes (5 days) – 

  • explored the old medina, the mausoleum, and the royal stables with granaries in Meknes; bought a small Berber kilim
  • a short drive from Meknes to Fes; staying in an authentic Moroccan palace – Dar Moula
  • three days in the medina of Fes – shopping, daydreaming, food tasting
  • two flights from Fes (Morocco) to Bucharest (Romania), via Milano-Bergamo (Italy)

The Imperial City of Meknes and the last days in Fes – Morocco

This is the summary of my six-week trip to Morocco. Enjoy your reading and let me know your opinion about traveling to Morocco. Which is your favorite place in Morocco? Why? Where would you go?

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18 Responses to “Morocco Travel Planning – sights and routes”

  1. Chloe Beaver February 16, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

    I found your list of fixed plans very helpful. I have never been a planner and always struggle with planning my trips because I’d much rather take it day by day, but I realize that won’t help me on a solo trip or ensure that everything goes smoothly. It is helpful to know just how much you had already in place by the time you left, and it seems like those are the necessities to ensure you don’t get stranded along your way. Thanks for sharing!

    • Iuliana February 17, 2016 at 10:47 am #

      I always like to plan my trips if I buy roundtrip flight tickets. I am so excited that I am going to visit those places that it is impossible for me to not read about the country which I am visiting and visualize where to go first and then where to go next. I hope I inspired you a little.

  2. Vaisakhi Mishra February 18, 2016 at 8:34 am #

    2 months in advance! Sounds like a good plan to have a fixed itinerary and early bookings. This is such a detailed guide and I was so happy to see places beyond Fes, Casablanca, Chefchaouen. Frankly I always wondered why people didn’t talk about Rabat more even though it is the capital city! Would love to visit the country for its architectural treasures.

    • Iuliana February 18, 2016 at 10:06 am #

      Actually I booked only the car in advance. For accommodation, I decided it is a bit too much and as I had my tent with me, I had plenty of flexible accommodations in the camping grounds. Rabat has a wonderful kasbah and the villages in Morocco (those ksar) are the best places where you can see Moroccan true life.

  3. Paul Healy September 17, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    There are so many great places to visit in Morocco it can be hard to know where to start. I had a great time hiking in the Aït Bouguemez with local Beber people. I’ve never been to Chefchaouen, I thought it would be just an Instagram pit-stop but maybe I need to go next time.

    • Iuliana September 18, 2016 at 10:10 am #

      In my opinion, traveling is not about Instagram. Actually, people traveled long before instagram, so when you wee a country through the eyes of a traveler, you will discover places that maybe no other tourist has been there.

  4. Shreya Saha November 19, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    I have heard about only a few places in Morocco. Your plan is more in detail, and it’s great to see how you have nailed it. I also like to plan in advance and get few of the tickets and accommodations of my travel sorted. I am definitely putting Morocco in my list and this blog of yours is going to help me a lot.

    • Iuliana December 19, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

      Don’t hesitate to ask for any advice when you will go to Morocco. I am glad to help you plan your trip.

  5. Agnes December 19, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

    You had such a great trip around Morocco. Six weeks, it’s so impressive. I was in this country for 2 weeks, and I would like to come back. There are still so many extraordinary places worth seeing which you describe. Great route and tips!

    • Iuliana December 19, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

      I enjoyed those 6 weeks so much, it was a true blessing for me to travel through Morocco for more than one month.

  6. Linda (LD Holland) March 17, 2017 at 6:49 pm #

    On the travel wish list! Would love to visit Morocco. Although I am not sure we would stay for 6 weeks! It is great that you had a list of things you wanted to do even if you did not book them all in advance. Love to have that flexibility in my travel plans. Looking at the topics, I can certainly see why you got 21 blog posts about your trip. This certainly provides a great guide for anyone wanting to cover some or all of your route.

    • Iuliana March 18, 2017 at 10:08 am #

      i said the same thing when I went to Morocco, and staying only for 6 weeks was not enough. Now, it is true that my travel style is slow and I want to see the whole country if possible.

  7. Umiko July 16, 2017 at 10:54 pm #

    Honestly, I haven’t heard about most of the places you visited. All I heard – and I’m pretty sure majority of the people – are Fes, Marrakesh, Casablanca, Tangier, Chefchaouen, and Rabat. Then I heard about riads and souqs, and riding a camel. I guess that’s the touristy part of visiting Morocco? The country is sure full with interesting architectures and traditions.

    • Iuliana July 17, 2017 at 10:45 am #

      Oh, yes, those are the tourist landmarks marketed everywhere. But if you buy a guidebook (or read my travelogues), you will find plenty of other great place to see on the road between these important sights.

  8. Ummi Nadrah November 18, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

    Morocco has been on my list for a while but I haven’t done much research about it yet. Like most people, I had only heard of the more popular destinations like Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, and Fez. But this article definitely helped introduce me to other places in Morocco that are worth visiting. I will also Couchsurf when I’m there.

    • Iuliana November 19, 2017 at 10:44 am #

      I am so happy you found it useful. I trully believe that a country is more than its tourist destinations. And yes, Couchsurfing is a good way to meet local people.

  9. Bhushavali N December 18, 2017 at 6:15 pm #

    Wow! I’ve been wanting to visit Morocco since quite some time now, but yeah, I need a Visa to enter, so I’m still only in the figuring-out stage. So, super awesome that I came across your detailed guide. 4 days camel ride? Whoa! That’s extensive. Marakkech is definitely in the wish list. I hadn’t known of Chefchaouen, thanks for the info!

    • Iuliana December 19, 2017 at 10:45 am #

      You will find Chefchaouen beside Marrakesh, Fes and Casablanca in all tourist guides. You won’t find 4-day camel trek though …

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