January 28, 2020

Itinerary for 8 days road-trip in Morocco

One of the most diverse countries in the world where we spent hours cruising to document some of the Earth’s most distant places. We’ve experienced bustling streets of Marrakech, stayed at an amazing wild tented camp, got up close with camels and ended our trip with the most beautiful sunset in the vibrant red Atlas mountains. Here is our detailed itinerary day by day along with some insider tips and selection of the best things to do while visiting.

OUR ITINERARY SUMMARY

Days 1-3: Marrakech (2 nights)

Days 3-4: Ait Ben Haddou (1 night)

Days 4-7: Sahara desert (3 nights)

Days 7-8: Head home (1 night)

Day 1: Marrakech

Stay: Marrakech is one of those places where you should skip staying at the hotel and let yourself have a more authentic experience and stay in one of the many beautiful riads within the old city instead. There’s a great variety of choices, but we decided to book with the Riad Kasbah for 2 nights and quickly found out why this tranquil oasis is so popular on Instagram.

Eat: I and Uroš planned to go out to Naranj for dinner the first evening as I’ve read they have some of the best meals (eggplant couscous, fromage briouates, mezzés plate…) in Marrakech. Unfortunately, coming in from Fes with Uroš’s two little cousins we all felt a bit jaded so we went straight to bed.

See: You would have thought there wouldn’t be much to see on our first night in Marrakech due to our late arrival, but it was the first 800 meters on a badly-lit street to our riad when the culture shock hit the younger two cousins. You never quite know what you’re going to find around each corner. There are the obvious stalls with food and spices, but then suddenly you’ll stumble upon a stall selling animal parts/skin or creepy barber shops with mopeds rushing through.

Day 2: Marrakech

Eat: Starting a day on the rooftop in Morocco is a must, so this is where we decided to have our typical Moroccan breakfast with pancakes and good cuppa tea – at our riad’s hidden rooftop, which was also our favorite part of the day in Marrakech.

See: Since we were traveling with Uroš’s two younger cousins we decided for our first stop of the day to be Palais El Badi – a place where you can get some space to “breathe”. After they started to feel somewhat comfortable we took them for a real, authentic Marrakech experience in the noisy medina. We went on a stroll through a labyrinth of narrow streets and souvenir shops until we reached the main sight – Jemaa El-Fnaa. This is the main square of Marrakech, and also home to the quirkiest characters you can come across during the time in this city. Snake charmers, men with monkeys on chains and henna scammers – while it is really chaotic, overly touristy and at times quite uncomfortable, this city’s most popular attraction can’t possibly be skipped when visiting. Whatever you do, just DON’T take photos with the chained monkeys – it’s really unfortunate animal cruelty. We decided to taste freshly pressed pomegranate juice at a mere 50 cents (5 dirhams) a cup at one of the stalls and as we were passing through a local man sneaked upon the older one of the cousins and tried to place a snake around his neck. Quickly after we decided to move along as the boys had been a little shaken up.

Eat: After what’s already been a long day of wandering the souks we deserved to sit down and have a warm meal. We went for lunch at the Atay Cafe which offers epic views of the Koutoubia Mosque and the Atlas Mountains in the distance. While the food is nothing to rave about and service can be pretty slow at times (like at most of the places that we visited in Morocco), it’s worth ordering by far our favorite Moroccan dish called “tajine”, traditionally cooked in an earthenware pot, and enjoy the view.

See: Refreshed, we wandered back through the souks for a little shop-until-you-drop’ (rugs and carpets, leather shoes and bags, lamps, tea glasses, tajines, spices and a lot more!). We’ve read somewhere that if you’re not sure what to bargain, you should first head to the Ensemble Artisanal Marrakech – this is a government-sponsored, collective of artisan shops. All the products there are supposed to be sold at fixed prices, so you can get an idea of what things should cost. Then when visiting the souks it is easier to have an idea of what to pay. Other stops throughout the day were the Koutoubia Mosque being the highest point in Marrakech due to a law that no building can exceed the height of Koutoubia’s minaret, and Ben Youssef Madrasa College (super picturesque).

For the sunset, we went back to Jemaa el-Fnaa to soak up the night-time ambiance because it’s an entirely different experience – dancing performers, storytellers, games … This time we went up to Cafe Des Epices’ rooftop for another pot of tea to observe the chaos below us and listen to the sound of prayer (tip: we suggest arriving about 60-90 minutes before sunset to get a seat before the tourists come streaming in). After tea, we showed the boys traditional food stalls (if you feel daring, try the snail soup called “Babbouche” for 20 cents – 2 dirhams). We haven’t stopped at any of the stalls as we were a bit afraid to upset our tummies, but they say the stall 93 or 31 are good for grilled food & stall 14 Krita for the seafood. After having enough of the vendors trying to get us to make a purchase we joined a fun local game with Coca Cola bottles in the middle of the square and about half an hour later we decided it’s time for dinner.

Eat: We initially planned to visit Le Salama Restaurant with belly dancers, but unfortunately we missed they were only performing at 9 pm. But we can confirm that the garden-like atmosphere is something worth visiting and that the mojitos are great – me and Uroš visited a couple of years ago.

There is another great option for belly dancers – it’s Comptoir Darna and it’s open 7 pm – 3 am all nights. This restaurant/club hosts live oriental shows, very intense and dramatic everywhere you look, with red and black being the main colors (as per the Red City – Marrakech), and even though it’s a little pricey it’s worth visiting. Other options for a party night out are Pacha Club or Theatro.

Stay: Our day was complete when we returned back to our hidden haven aka. riad from the hustling Marrakech to drink the last pot of tea (yep, that stuff is addicting!). What a hectic day, it hit all the senses!

Day 3: Marrakech

Stay: In the morning we took time to enjoy the pool and I marveled at the fact that it was almost November, while the boys had fun and flooded the patio. I took a long bath before heading out to dusty Medina again.

Eat: Some of us were up for a wild taste of camel burger, so we decided to have lunch at the Café Clock (budget-friendly, chilled out atmosphere) while slowly saying goodbye to the Red City.

See: This afternoon was reserved for an ATV spin through Palmeraie desert. It was a few hours of adventure that we all loved! Tip: make sure to wear your least fancy clothes as you’ll be covered in sand dust when you’re done. There was tea & pancakes stop in between where we were able to get ourselves somewhat cleaned, but it didn’t really matter. And bring something to cover your mouth! We booked our quad bike tour through Marrakech Best Of.

Eat: By now we’ve worked up quite an appetite so we headed to Nomad for dinner. This place is one of Marrakech’s most talked-about restaurants and arguably most Instagrammed as well (more recommendable to see day-time). The food served here is a modern take on traditional Moroccan cuisine and is perfect for vegetarians and vegans alike. If you ever want a chance to see what the hype is all about, then make sure to book a reservation well in advance since it gets extremely busy with trendy travelers. It’s also one of the few places where you’ll find beer around here and even sun hats are provided. 🙂

We’ve added a few more suggestions below to fit into your Marrakech itinerary in case you’re not in the need for speed (quad bike desert adventure) or if you’re staying in for a longer period than us:

  • To add some colors head to Jardin Majorelle – it’s a botanical garden preserved by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (tip: go early to avoid the crowds).
  • Take up a cooking class – a few years ago me and Uroš did one with Riad Soundouss and loved it! First, we shopped ingredients at a local souk with a local chef (we could even pick our own (still alive) chicken and of course I decided not to watch…) while she explained what spices are needed and how they will be used. In the afternoon we started prepping our tasty tajine creations, and the best part, of course, was eating them! It was a 4-course menu that we made! The class took about 3 hours and we were provided a recipe at the end (tip: take a private cooking class for a more unique experience).
  • Try one of the traditional hammam spas that have been apart of Moroccan culture for centuries and finish it off with a delicious mint tea. Not only it’s supposed to be super beneficial, but when you’ve shopped out, it will revive you. Here are some of the good ones: Les Bains, Heritage Spa, Les Bains de l’Alhambra, Hammam de la Rose, Hammam Rosa Bonheur …
  • Rent a bike and cycle through Marrakech’s main attractions, including Menara gardens for a postcard view of Atlas Mountains.
  • Make a photo sesh for Instagram, because literally everything is worth a snap!

Day 4: Ait Ben Haddou

Stay: We stayed at the Auberge Ayouze but would most definitely NOT recommend it! It didn’t make for the best place to start our day as we had to wait for 1,5h for our breakfast while we were already very short on time. It was over an hour when we got our coffees and teas, but still no food! When it was time to complain to the owner, he had a horrible attitude and yelled at us. We had booked this place because it had great reviews but it definitely didn’t prove to be worth it – warmly suggest you book anything except this. Best to look for a place in the center of Ait Ben Haddou or very nearby, so that you can wake up early and arrive before the crowds do. My dream place to book was Kasbah Tebi (it doesn’t have electricity, but you’re given plenty of candles which makes it quite adventurous and romantic at the same time). Unfortunately, it was occupied for our time being.

See: We spent our late morning exploring Ait Ben Haddou where numerous movies have been filmed: Gladiator, Game of Thrones (we’re such fans!), Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth, and many more… This place has truly preserved its architectural authenticity and it’s no wonder many have chosen this place as a backdrop – it’s a fantasy! We hiked both hills – the hill above the kasbah, and the hill across from the kasbah offer completely different views of the surrounding area (45min to complete both). We wished we could stick around to appreciate the golden hour as Ait Ben Haddou is said to be one of the best places to watch the sunset in Morocco.

Eat: Food-wise, there weren’t many options available while we were here. One place good though was Auberge Cafe Restaurant Tamlalte (decent-sized tajines for about 4 usd (40 dirhams) each).

See: We continued our trip to Erg Chigaga desert as we’ve had about 4 more hours to go. If you have time, make a quick stop at Ouarzazate – Hollywood of Morocco (CL Film studios + castle – 5 usd (50 dirhams) entrance). We were then picked up from a little town of Mhamid in the late afternoon of our Day 4. By now we’ve realized it took us almost a full day to get to the camp – all together was approx. 11-12 hours (which was split by 2 days) and while it’s a LONG trip, the journey is worth it! We booked our driver through our desert camp, and you can do the same when booking!

Day 5-7: Sahara Desert

Stay: Umnya Dune Camp – This place was absolute bliss. Our tent was set amongst the rolling dunes of Sahara desert and hosted its own huge private outdoor area, separated by dunes, which made us feel like we’re the only ones in existence! So well furnished and luxury equipped, the beds were better than what we sleep in back home, superbly clean white sheets and towels, just spotless! Don’t even let us start on the quietness and peace – we’ve had the best sleep of our lives here! Umnya is for real one of those places we can’t possibly recommend enough – moreover, it’s extremely ecological, ensuring there is little to no impact on nature – check our IG highlights “Morocco” to see what we’re talking about!

Eat: Not sure about the other camps in Sahara, but we got really spoiled by fresh, organic food – certainly not something we would expect deep in the desert. We’ve learned why they say you can’t call yourself a foodie unless you’ve tried Moroccan food! 🙂

See: There isn’t a specific sightseeing point in Sahara – it is the WHOLE experience itself. Life-changing and must do while in Morocco. There’s not a dull moment. Quite the opposite: there’s camel sunset riding, golf (!), wild nomads tour, dune bashing, admiring planets with telescope (even day-time), sand-boarding, day-time racket sports, wild gazelles spotting, traditional sand bread preparation, dining under millions of stars eating tajines, listening to Berber music by the fire, followed by stargazing and watching small creatures like scarabeo crawling out at night.

Day 7-8: Time to go home

The day we had been dreading the whole trip. We left the desert behind, with our private driver from the desert camp, to set-off on the 12-hour drive to Fes and back home. Honestly? – we thought we were gonna die, haha! Luckily, we passed some awesome sightings in the Atlas mountains and a wide variety of landscapes, but unfortunately, we had to skip seeing Todra Gorge as we were short on time. Eventually, we arrived in Fes by almost midnight. Next day we had plans to do the ultimate experience of medieval Morocco – visit the famous leather tanneries (lots of strong smell; advisable to buy a sprig of mint to hold under your nose to make the smell mildly more bearable) … But plans change sometimes. Long story short: It was a tad overwhelming trying to find parking space in Fes’s medina which is the largest pedestrian-only space in the world – highly NOT recommendable! So we dropped off our car at the airport and said our goodbyes to Morocco. For now. 🙂

WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE

Keeping in mind the vast distances when planning our trip! We would definitely choose to fly in and out of Marrakech to avoid the extra 10 hours on the road. Being spontaneous and quite optimistic, we had initially planned a stop in Fes and Chefchaouen, but only then realized it’s impossible as our stops were too distant between one another. Our kind of itinerary should be extended to about 14 days to go at an easy pace, but the tickets were booked and it was hard to think about Morocco without thinking of the iconic Sahara Desert.

There have been ups and downs on our trip, parts of some have been REALLY tiring, but we’ve made some amazing memories along the way, so we hope this inspires you to see this vibrant country. 🙂

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