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MOROCCO | TRAVEL GUIDE


TRAVEL TIPS


  • There are trains you can take to the major places on the list, however I would recommend renting a car or hiring a driver for most of it. The roads are very good and it’s easy to navigate to the main destinations. 
  • Most people in Morocco do not drink. It’s actually against the law for Muslims. In most cities, it is very difficult to find alcohol of any kind. 
  • Carry a scarf to wrap around your legs or head in case you want to enter any of the mosques. 
  • Morocco is generally very safe with low crime, but you need to be extra aware in the Medinas. 

WORDS TO KNOW:

  • riad: a large traditional house built around a central courtyard, often converted into a hotel.
  • medina: the old walled part of town.
  • souk: a market or marketplace; a bazaar.
  • kasbah: the citadel (fortress), usually set in the old city.
  • tagine: stew of spiced meat and vegetables prepared by slow cooking. Meat will vary, but you will eat this for most meals.

Northern Morocco

TANGIER


After a period of significant decline from the 60s to 2000s, Tangier has been reborn as one of the country’s premier beach destinations. Both the Moroccan government and foreign investors have directed more funds towards the city’s future and the ferry from Spain {Tarifa} takes less than an hour. 

TO SLEEP

  • Riad La Tangerina Great location, well designed and has an awesome roof terrace looking across the sea to Spain.
  • Le Balcon de Tanger In the old medina, with a good mix of Moroccan & French design. Great seaside views from most rooms and breakfast included. 
  • Airbnb Affordable private rooms and full flats. We stayed with Fouad (our awesome host) in a private room. He was the best host, especially for budget travelers, and showed us a very local Tangier experience. 

TO EAT & DRINK

  • Cafe Hafa Over the years The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and others have frequented this iconic 100 year old cafe. It’s set on a hill overlooking the straight of Gibralto. This place is surprisingly packed with locals given it’s recognition. Must go for an afternoon tea and sunset. 
  • El Morocco Club chic, moorish decorated cafe-restaurant-bar. great place for a drink and some small bites. you may even catch live music here too.
  • Le Number One friendly dive known to be fill with tangier’s expat writers, artists and self-styled deviants.

TO EXPLORE

  • Librairie des Colonnes Historic multilingual book store with essentials for your Moroccan adventure. Restored in 2010 by Pierre Bergé, the former partner of Yves Saint Laurent.
  • Le fils du detroit Great live music space where nightly jam sessions come from master musicians playing teardrop-shaped ouds, tubular drums and violins.
  • Boutique Majid Antique shop including carpets, wood carvings, textiles, etc.
  • Hercules Caves Seaside caves that are Tangier’s most famous natural attraction. Known for their rock formed window to the sea that resembles Africa. 
  • Plage Achakar Beach next to the caves and only 20 minutes from downtown. Fun waves to body surf here or just lounge in the sun.
  • Cinematheque Tanger Film and theater studio for Moroccan film. shows indie flicks and Hollywood faves in a 1938 Art Deco building, and it has an adjoining café on the Grand Socco, Tangier’s main square. 

 CHEFCHAOEUN
[THE BLUE CITY]


Beautifully set between the Rif mountains, this town has recently become very popular, mainly due to their picturesque blue walled medina. Given the rise in tourism, we were pleasantly surprised by the authenticity of this town and the people. It’s small, cuter than pictures show, straddled by mountains and the shopping experience in the medina is much more relaxed.

TO SLEEP

  • Riad Rifandalus Great location in the medina - a close walk to everything. We loved their roof patio for the views and incredible sunsets. 

TO EAT & DRINK

  • Pizzeria Mandala A rare Italian spot and it’s a tasty break from tagine. The town hasn’t seen much culinary diversification yet. 
  • Aladdin The food is not superb, but their roof terrace that looks over the kasbah and square is the best. If nothing else, go here for tea at night. 
  • Morisco One of the best restaurants in the main square, serving dishes specific to the region, with a nice patio. Good spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner
  • Sfenj Moroccan doughnuts, try them when they are warm and fresh!

TO EXPLORE

  • Shop in the medina It is much less aggressive than Fes or Marrakesh, cheaper than the bigger markets too.  
  • Spanish Mosque High on a hill overlooking the entire city. Short 20 minute hike from the medina and is a great spot to catch sunrise or sunset.
  • Akchour A day trip hiking the Rif mountains, where there are waterfalls and a river to swim in, marijuana grows wild too. It’s beautiful and a great way to beat the heat.

SOUTHERN MOROCCO

FES


Founded in the 9th century, this ancient walled maze of a city is like nothing you have ever seen. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of stalls with local artisans selling just about everything. Think a real life Aladdin's World. 

I recommend getting a guide to tour the medina, even locals get lost and it should be less than $30 for the day. At night avoid the medina, there isn’t much to see [everything is closed] and can be dangerous if you take a wrong turn in the dark. From first hand experience, it is very hard to find your way out even with maps in hand.  

TO SLEEP

  • Dar Seffarine A beautifully renovated guest house by norwegian designers – impeccable design around 75 Euros a night w/breakfast.  

  • Riad Idrissy Located in the car-free district of fes, in a 400 year old building with chic moroccan design and a delicious restaurant 
  • Hotel Sahrai or Riad Fes If you want luxury... these places are also open to the public for cocktails/food/pool use.

TO EAT & DRINK

  • The Ruined Garden Located within Riad Idrissy, they offer an innovative approach to local street food. We found ourselves here multiple times and couldn't get enough of their spiced iced coffee! 

  • Street Vendors The food is cheap, extremely good and very sanitary. Be brave and check out one of the stalls, preferably that is packed with locals. 

  • Cafe Clock Quirky hippy atmosphere. Inside and terrace eating, offering Moroccan/Middle-Eastern cuisine. Famous for the cinnamon-salsa-topped Camel Burger [which we did not try because ... well....]. Western & traditional ingredients make for a fun experience. 
  • La Mezzanine Outside of the medina, a full bar and rooftop terrace are the main attractions here serving tapas and traditional dishes.
  • Resto Número 7 Innovative pop-up style concept that hosts chefs from around the world for three month placements. The cooks bring their own creative twist inspired by Moroccan cuisine and the local, market-fresh ingredients [reservations needed].
  • Le Coin des Artistes A small reggae place we stumbled upon just outside the medina with good pizza and live local music. 

TO EXPLORE

  • The Medina Getting lost here can be a fun adventure, but beware that the shop owners will try to rip you off. We met a young man on the street who offered to take us on a half-day tour and it was well worth the $15. Your hotel can also arrange but will likely cost a bit more. 

  • Leather Tanneries It is true about the smell here, but they give you mint to ease the odors and it's honestly not that bad. It is incredible to see the strange process in which they make all their glorious leather. 

  • Al Quaraouiyine Oldest university in the world with beautiful architecture, it now functions as a mosque. This is a must see and is in the heart of the medina.
  • The Mellah (Jewish Quarter) Established in 1438, it is the oldest of the mellahs in Morocco. Though very few Jewish people live here today, it is well worth a stroll to see the history and architecture.
  • Fondouk el-Nejjarine The fondouk was constructed in the 18th century and originally served as roadside inn for travelers and traders. Also known as the “Wood Museum”, it faces the old Place el-Nejjarine (Carpenter’s Square). 
  • Volubilis Ruins that you can explore on your way to or from Fes. It feels similar to the acropolis in athens, but much less famous or known about. We went towards the end of the day as the sun was coming down and it was beautiful.

the Sahara desert
[Merzouga & Ouarzazate]


The world's largest desert which could comfortably fit the United States right inside it's borders. The famous sand dunes you've probably seen are called Erg Chebbi, and are located near the town of Merzouga. This town is about an 8 hour drive from Fes or a 10 hour drive from Marrakech and will be your jumping off point into the dunes. 

HOW TO GET HERE 

Rent a car, hire a driver or take a bus [CTM is your best bet for a pleasant experience]. If you are traveling to or from Marrakech, it is very common for people to stop for a night in Ouarzazate to break up the drive [more on that below]. This is what we did and would highly recommend. 

WHERE TO STAY

There are TONS of options for sleeping in the desert. You can make it happen anywhere from $50/person to $250/person depending on the experience you want. We decided a more private experience with meals included made the most sense for us and after researching a ton on camp options, these seem to be some of the best:

Desert Luxury Camp This is where we stayed, definitely one of the more luxurious desert options, but their "all inclusive" approach removes any stress of planning. Read more about our experience at this camp here

Camp Adounia The camp designed by our riad in marrakech [which we loved!], they were not open during our visit, but based on our time spent at their riad, i imagine it is a beautiful experience.

Kam Kam Dunes Chic glampsite with great style and service. 

OVERNIGHT STOP ON THE WAY

Ouarzazate Home of the oldest Kasbah in the world, this small town is in between Merzouga [the desert] and Marrakech. I recommend planning this stop into your itinerary – to learn about the history, visit Aït Benhaddou and break up the long & winding drive. 

Marrakech


Marrakech is the most common stop in Morocco and it can be overwhelming… there is lots to do here. It is the economic hub of the country and the most westernized. Drinking is more common here, the culinary scene is international, the chic design influence is everywhere and the markets are massive!

TO SLEEP

  • Zamzam Riad Beautiful riad and spa, tucked away from the medina madness. This place is tranquil, elegant and feels like home in the best way. 
  • El Fenn Riad Bigger and closer to the square, this riad is chic and glamorous. Definitely more of a splurge, but seems worth it for the experience. 
  • Beldi Country Club Just 15 minutes by taxi from the action, this place is a fully loaded oasis. They have it all and in style, enjoy their gorgeous pool.

TO EAT & DRINK

  • Eat at the food stalls! Do as the locals do, they are well regulated and have been serving food here in the famed square for years. Favorites: #5 for soup, #1 for escargot, #42 for freshly squeezed juice #110 for egg potato sandwich <3
  • Nomad Modern spot with really creative twists on Moroccan classic dishes. Scenic rooftop cocktail bar and dining terrace. The trendy spot to eat in town, the food is delicious & unique and the experience very memorable. 
  • Amal Center Stop for lunch to get good food and support a great cause. Funds go towards empowering local, disadvantaged women through training and education. 
  • Café des Epices Across the street from Nomad and also has a great roof terrace for sunset. Stop in for a tea, coffee or just a bottle of water. Decent food too.
  • Latitude 31 - Popular spot with solid food options in a pretty setting
  • Bakchich Café  Right off Jemaa al-F’na, chicly styled café for breakfast/lunch or those seeking a vegetarian friendly menu.
  • Cafe Arabe Laid back place for dinner if you are looking for a break from moroccan food. Classic Italian food as the owners are from Rome, on a warm night their courtyard is very peaceful.
  • Kechmara In the new town, this is a perfect stop for coffee, lunch or cocktails. They have a nice upstairs terrace for an afternoon drink.

TO EXPLORE

  • Jemaa el-Fnaa The historic main square constantly bustling with juice vendors, food stalls and entertainers of all kinds. At night, we spent hours trying the various foods and roaming through the souks (you can stroll til 3am!). 
  • Majorelle Gardens Go early to beat the crowds. Beautifully curated garden showcasing a variety of cacti and is home to many species of birds endemic to North Africa. It’s gorgeous and all set off by the special cobalt blue. Yves Saint-Laurent purchased and his ashes were spread here after his death.
  • Ben Youssef Mosque The oldest (12th century) and most important mosque in Marrakesh. Rebuilt in the 19th century, but worth visiting the grounds.
  • The Maison de la Photographie Mainly documenting berber life, their collection of original black and white photos of Morocco from 1870-1950 are stunning. Housed in an old fondouk, don't miss their awesome roof cafe and views of the medina. 
  • Bahia Palace Beautifully maintained woodcarving, geometric painted tiles and stuccowork throughout the walls and ceilings of this palace.
  • Mellah of Marrakesh The old Jewish Quarter that was mainly occupied by metal workers, sugar traders, bankers, jewelers and tailors. 
  • Saadian Tombs The site holds over 60 tombs (of Sultans & others), 100 beautiful gardens, and really impressive architecture. 
  • Ourika River & Valley Day trip (1 hour drive) to hike through waterfalls and beat the summer heat. Tons of cute cafes and shops all along the river. Head to Ouzoud Falls for larger waterfalls and more intense hiking (2.5 hour drive).

TO SHOP

  • 33 Rue Majorelle Beautiful concept store next to Majorelle Gardens. Only carries emerging local designers, jewelry, homewares, art, books and clothes (baby stuff too!). Not cheap, but high quality as opposed to many of the souk vendors.
  • Mustapha Blaoui Large warehouse space that is somewhat hidden in the medina behind big double doors. Tons of fun things to look through from furniture, rugs, paintings, pottery, housewares, etc. Fun experience to check out if nothing else.

ESSAOUIRA
[the coast]


Charming windswept port town, known for being very laid back and chill. For many years it has been popular amongst surfers, backpackers and locals looking for rest & relaxation. Today it has emerged as Morocco’s hip cultural hub and epicenter of local Gnawa music. From lounging on a beach to checking out art galleries to staying in the chic-est of riads… it is a dream town and the best place to unwind after the intensity of traveling in this country..

TO SLEEP

  • Villa Maroc Tucked on the outskirts of the medina, this riad feels like a tiny castle. The atmosphere is warm and intimate with always lit candles + fireplaces. Their dinner and breakfast was stand out delicious. Their other property, Jardin de Villa Maroc is 15 minutes away with a pool and typically more abundant sunshine [they offer free shuttles daily].
  • 5 Columns Beautifully restored house in the Chbanat area of Essaouira, famous for its textile workshops.

TO EAT & DRINK

TO EXPLORE

  • Explora Morocco Rent surfboards here (beginner friendly) - $5 an hour and comes with a wetsuit. Good surf right out front on the beach, but even better breaks are within an hour by car @ Sidi Kaouki
  • Shopping in the Medina is laid back and chill, just like the city, which was very refreshing after Fes & Marrakech. There are also selling things you won't find in the other markets. 
  • Ride a camel on the beach They are lined up on the sand and it's actually pretty fun & an opportunity you don't get often. They can also take you to the JImi Hendrix cafe, famed for when he visited in the 60s.
  • Argan Tree Goats Keep your eyes peeled for these guys in the trees. It's amazing to see and these guys are very key in the argan oil process
  • Festival D'Essaouira Gnaoua If you happen to be here in June, check this out!
  • Surf & Yoga Retreat [Taghazout] 2.5 hours south is this small, but growing surf town. Surf Maroc is the premier outfitter for board rentals, lessons, yoga and more.

 

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