We are just back from our Easter vacation in Morocco and are still hung-over with what we experienced. It is a beautiful country, with great food, nice people and everything to make you fall in love with it.
The very first step was to obtain a visa for Morocco. Please read my blog on Applying for a Moroccan Visa before you plan your trip.
Although we wanted to see every bit of the country, yet, we had to balance between the places to see and the number of days we had in hand. After a lot of deliberation, we decided on a 7-day trip to Morocco and tried to optimize our itinerary as much as possible.
Travel to Casablanca by evening flight and check-in to a hotel or resort not very far from the airport. We checked in to the Magic Village Resort, which was a good value for money, with excellent staff and a great breakfast the next morning. Their free airport shuttle was an added advantage.
Do not waste your time after the flight lands. There is usually a huge queue for immigration and it can be a long wait.
Important things about exchanging money: If you have a credit card, use it to withdraw the local currency from an ATM.
After our first grand Moroccan breakfast, we hired a taxi from the resort and explored the city of Casablanca during the daytime. The taxis are not so expensive. We paid 50 Euros for the entire day for 3 people and were taken to most of the attractions in Casablanca. The resort was quite helpful in arranging the taxi at a reasonable charge. The highlight of this day was a visit to the grand Hassan II Mosque. Read about our experience in this city in my blog post on A Day in Casablanca.
We took a late-evening flight from Casablanca Airport to Errachidia. We met our friend and local guide Hassan from Moroccoeverywheretours, who drove us to our Riad in the desert town of Merzouga in almost 2.5 hours. This was the quickest way to reach the Sahara Desert which, unfortunately, most people are unaware of. Read how we arranged this transfer in The Quickest way to reach Sahara Desert in Morocco.
Casablanca is the biggest city of Morocco, which means that it has a never-ending traffic. Hence plan your visit in advance. The drive from Errachidia to the desert can be a bit tricky, hence I would highly recommend to hire a car with a driver, like we did with Hassan. However, if you are driving by yourself and are stopped by the Police, try to strike a conversation with them. Locals say that they feel respected in this way, and let you go easily.
After another delightful breakfast at the Riad Ouzine, we set out on a 4X4 wheeler to explore the Desert, experience the local Gnaoua Music and have lunch with a Berber family. Shortly before sunset, we embarked on a camel trek deep inside the Sahara dunes, watched the sunset atop a huge sand dune and ended our day in a Luxury Desert Camp deep inside the desert. It was coupled with great food, lovely people, music and dance.
With a bit of research and proper planning, you can really have a lifetime of an experience here. Read my blog on Camping in the Sahara Desert in Morocco to know more and get first-hand tips and suggestions and of course, more pictures.
As was the trend by now, we had a rather overwhelming breakfast before we left the desert camp. After an hour of quad bike tour in the desert, we started on our road trip towards Aït Benhaddou, a place famous for movies like Gladiator, Prince of Persia, and very recently, Game of Thrones (remember Yunkai!). On the way, we had lunch at Restaurant Sahara just after Erfoud, stopped by the beautiful Tinghir Oasis, explored the Todhra Gorge, admired the rugged beauty of the Boumalne Dades and drove through the Valley of Roses. After a satisfying day-trip across the beautiful valleys and gorges, we crossed Ourzazate and reached our Riad Paradise of Silence late in the evening to end an awesome day.
This day trip crosses through beautiful roads and valleys. Hence, do not rush, especially if you are behind the wheels, as the roads can be tricky and the strong Atlas winds may have effects on steering the car. There are loads of scenic beauty on offer during the entire stretch of this journey. Hence, try to soak in it as much as possible.
After our breakfast by the pool-side on top of the hill, we crossed the Oued Ounila to reach the Ksar Aït Benhaddou and walked along the Kasbah to the top. This is a magical place and designated Unesco World Heritage Site. It was not hard for us to visualize the scenes of Game of Thrones or Gladiator which were shot here.
After another wonderful experience, we started our way towards Marrakech. We had to cross the High Atlas Mountains, more often than not along treacherously twisted roads, providing quite an element of suspense (and surprises too!). We arrived in Marrakech in the evening and went for a relaxing walk to the Jmaa el Fna Square later in the evening, ending the day having another round of delicious Tajines in Taj’in Darna, on one corner of the square, with amazing views from the terrace and quality food, priced very reasonably.
For me, one of the best souvenirs from Ait Benhaddou was a painting made from tea and saffron created by a local artist. Again, negotiate the price! The roads in the Atlas Mountains are not the best in the world, and there are construction works going on perennially. Hence, it is best advised to cover this stretch during daylight.
It was the day of our daytrip to the port city of Essaouira on the west coast of Morocco. All three of us being hardcore Game of Thrones fans, the fact that Essaouira was one of its shooting locations, proved to be an added excitement factor. We started on the morning and the drive took us approximately 2.5 hours. Essaouira is astonishingly beautiful offering you loads of options. Our experiences in Essaouira are documented in my blog A Daytrip to Essaouira.
We returned to Marrakech in the evening, walked around in the Old Medina and had a relaxing dinner at the grand Café France, again at the Jma el Fna Square. After a walk through the Old Medina and the spice market, we were back in Riyad in time to get a good sleep.
In case you want to buy souvenirs like Carpets, Argan oil cosmetics, ornaments, Essaouira would be cheaper than in Marrakech. Never forget the ‘B’ word though! Enjoy the delicious freshly-caught fish fries in the Essaouira Port area.
It was our day of enjoying the fascinating city of Marrakech. Our day started once more with a heavenly breakfast in our Riad, the Riad Bayti. Staying in this Riyad was an ‘out-of-the-world’ experience and something I would recommend everyone to have once in a lifetime.
We did a lot of stuffs like riding a horse carriage and exploring the Medina, enjoying the vibrant Jma el Fna Square during daytime, visiting a Hamam Bath or enjoying Belly Dancing along with our dinner at the famous Dar Essalam Restaurant inside the Medina. But these were not all we did! Read my blog on Things to do in Marrakesh to know more.
Always ask at your Riad for recommendation on a good Hamam Bath and tell them your choices and preferences. If you wish to enjoy Belly Dancing, book your table at the restaurant much in advance.
Although we found Morocco to be very safe with lovely people, yet, be careful of your baggage in crowded places in the big and touristic cities like Marrakesh.Better be safe than sorry and do not let anything and anyone hinder your travel experience!
Overall, our Morocco trip was one of the most memorable trips we have had till now, and can highly recommend it to everyone.
We are also thankful to our friend and guide Hassan and Moroccoeverywheretours for arranging most of the things during our trip, for driving us throughout the country and last but not the least, for his invaluable tips and guidance.