So at the end of August, I decided that I wanted to travel somewhere in October. Not much lead time, I know. I had been eyeing a few destinations, and Morocco was one of them. But convenient flights were pretty expensive. The cheapest one that I had seen was $720 ish roundtrip, but that was with a 14 hour layover in Instanbul. Ain’t nobody got time for that. The next best option was at a $1500 price point. Anyway, I still don’t know what happened, but when I refreshed the tab that one night, I saw a $900 roundtrip from Air Canada, with just a 2 hour layover in Montreal. What happened?!?! I couldn’t even book it on Air Canada (it was showing up as $1500+), but I was luckily able to book on Kayak, and I just prayed that it wasn’t some glitch. I told my boyfriend about 10 minutes before I booked, and he was down to go 😀 So that’s how this trip came to be.
We spent a while deciding how we wanted to travel through the country. We ruled out driving pretty quickly. We could have backpacked and used public transportation, but based on the places we wanted to visit, it didn’t seem like the most efficient way to travel. We ended up going with a private tour company called Best Morocco Private Tours, and our 10-day trip was perfectly planned, thanks to them! So at a glance (will write more detailed posts later)–this was our Moroccan experience:
Day 1 – Rabat:
We landed in Casablanca early in the morning and met Hassan, our wonderful guide and driver for the next 10 days. He gave us a brief overview of our first day’s itinerary, and we started on the drive to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Main sights there were Hassan Tower and the Mausoleum. We also made a stop at a 12th century castle. The town within the Kasbah was super pretty – almost like a mini version of Chefchaouen (the blue city, featured in Day 2). We got to our hotel early-ish afternoon, and had the rest of the day to wander, relax, and recover from jetlag, lol. We discovered the famous Moroccan tagine dish on our first day (thanks to Hassan), and the rest of the trip, we had tagine at least one meal a day. So good!! Tagine is their version of a pressure cooker, and the texture of the meat that comes out of that thing is incredible! Lamb, chicken, beef, even vegetables!
Day 2 – Chefchaouen:
Chefchaouen was a pretty long drive from Rabat, but totally worth. They call it the blue city, and it was everything I imagined it to be and more! This was a city that I really wanted to see while in Morocco, so thank you Hassan for making it happen. I’ll probably do another post on Chefchaouen alone, so I’ll let the pictures below do the explaining for now 🙂
Day 3 – Volubilis/Fes:
Highlight of Day 3 was definitely seeing the Roman ruins in Volubilis. I didn’t even know the Roman empire extended all the way down to Morocco. It’s amazing how in tact most of the ruins are. The mosaics (my personal favorite) were absolutely breathtaking. Hassan found us a local tour guide to take us through the ruins. His English wasn’t the greatest but we were able to put our high school Spanish skills to use! Especially in the northern part of the country, you’ll find that locals are quite fluent in Spanish, in addition to Arabic and French. We ended our day in Fes, where we had time to do some exploring on our own before the guided tour the next day.
Day 4 – Fes:
Hassan set us up with an excellent guide to take us around the medina in Fes. We also got to visit a art/craft center outside the medina, where we saw what goes into making the amazing mosaics and ceramic pieces that Morocco is known for. It was crazy to see the artists working in person. They are so talented! Within the medina itself, we got to tour the souks, the old University, the tanneries, and a couple of additional specialty stores known for their craft (tablecloths/stitching, Moroccan rugs, etc.). This was so much better than our experience the previous day, where we tried to wander the souks ourselves. Of course, we got lost, and with so many people trying to scam us, it was quite the stressful experience. But an experience nonetheless. I’m happy we ended our stay in Fes on a better note though, with our wonderful guide.
Day 5 – Merzouga:
Desert day!! Another long day of driving, but once again, totally worth. Had to do some off-roading to get to the sand dunes in the Merzouga Desert (located at the edge of the Sahara), and we thank Hassan again for being an amazing driver! We had a 1-hour camel ride into the desert to get to our camp, and the views were amazing!! Another experience that I’m probably going to do a separate post on. Everyone at the camp was so friendly. The food was great, the tents were well-maintained, with running water, showers/toilets and everything. Loved the Berber hospitality, and the desert environment is truly one of a kind. We spend so much time just sitting on the sand dunes admiring the views in all directions. And when the sun set, the stars that lit up the night sky were incredible. Not something you’d ever be able to see in the city. We voluntarily woke up the next day at 5:30am to catch the stars again, and to see sunrise. An amazing experience overall, and definitely one of my favorites of the whole trip.
Day 6 – Dades Valley:
More trekking in the desert area. So many palm tree groves!! We tried dates for the first time – really not what I expected! The region there is known for dates, so all the markets that we went to , dates were everywhere. Downside is that flies really like the dates too, so there were a lot of flies around the desert area as well. But small price to pay for the amazing experience that we had. We got to see the Todra Gorge in the High Atlas Mountains – honestly looked like something from Arizona, even though I’ve never been to Arizona haha. It’s just what I imagine Arizona to look like. We stayed that night in Dades Valley, at the cutest hotel with the most welcoming staff. The home-cooked dinner was amazing, as was breakfast the next morning.
Day 7 – Ouarzazate/Marrakech:
Ouarzazate is the Hollywood of Morocco, and we got to visit several studios where major films had been made. We also visited Ait Benhadou Kasbah – definitely the highlight of the day! It’s classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has appeared in several films like the Mummy, Gladiator, even the TV series Game of Thrones! It’s quite the climb to get up to the Kasbah, but Hassan found us another great local guide who walked us through and gave us a good overview of the history there. We ended our day in Marrakech, and did some exploring of our own. The souks in Marrakech are so much easier to navigate than the ones in Fes! Well, I think they just look less intimidating cause the streets are wider. But overall, we liked Marrakech way better.
Day 8 – Marrakech:
Hassan paired us up with another local guide to tour the city of Marrakech. Lots of walking, but hey, after all the tagine, we needed the exercise. We got to see the Bahia Palace, the Saadian tombs, and the Koutoubia Tower. And, of course, the souks. We visited a local pharmacy where they gave us samples of Argan oil and other lotions (all of them smelled amazing, btw). Visited another carpet and leather store, where I finally caved and bought a pair of Moroccan slippers! Did an ok job haggling too, if I do say so myself. We learned our lesson, though, haha, after getting kicked out of a tablecloth shop in Fes for offending the vendor. Lesson learned…make sure you agree with your travel buddy on a final price before you start the bargain. Otherwise, they’ll pit you against each other and everything unravels, lol.
Day 9 – Essaouira:
Essaouira is a beautiful coastal town that honestly reminds me a lot of Santa Monica, haha. The vibe there is so chill, and the vendors at the market are much less aggressive as well. This place is known for argan trees, hence, argan oil as well. Also seafood, since it’s so close to the ocean. We shelled out on dinner that night…paid $90 for a whole lobster. Totally worth cause it was cooked so well. But…the lobster was actually our second dinner LOL. We first ate at an Italian restaurant (seafood pasta there was amazing, I’ll have to find the name of the place again), but as soon as they said they were out of lobster, we knew we had to have lobster somewhere else. We skipped breakfast the next morning…I wonder why 🙂
Day 10 – Casablanca:
Our last day in Morocco! 10 days went by so fast. So honestly, there’s not a whole lot to do in Casablanca. The two main sights (which we both hit) are the Hassan II mosque and Rick’s Cafe (made famous by the movie Casablanca, which I still need to see). The Hassan II mosque is breathtaking. It’s huge!! And so majestic. Perfect place for photos. We stopped by a cute area for lunch with an ocean view. Also tried McDonalds haha. We were curious after seeing McDonalds everywhere in Casablanca! But after trying their chicken nuggets and fries, we’ve decided that the version in the states is still better.
And that’s a wrap! Overall, our 10-day experience in Morocco was fantastic. Highly recommend Best Morocco Private Tours as a tour company. Hassan was a great guide and an amazing driver. Seriously…there was so much driving involved. We would have never been able to get to the desert ourselves if we had rented a car, haha. And the roads in the mountains were very difficult to navigate! But Hassan handled them like a champ. We learned so much about the country from him. His English is great and he’s very responsive and easy to reach via email. The process of booking the tour was quick and thorough. He was happy to make adjustments so that we could hit all the places we wanted to see, and he continued to follow up closer to our arrival date to confirm our flight times, etc. Coordination of everything while we were in Morocco was also seamless. The local guides that he found (especially Fes and Marrakech) were wonderful, and everyone was always super punctual. The trip was a perfect balance of free time and guided tours, and that’s something that we really appreciated!
We look forward to visiting again someday! 🙂