By Karlie Marrazzo
Morocco – the name of this North African country conjures up images of ancient cities, bustling markets, mysterious men in djellabas disappearing down side streets in ancient medinas, convoys of camels trekking through the vast desert, and any other number of exotic clichés that also happen to be true.
My husband Dave and I were first inspired to visit Morocco after a trip to Spain in 2011 where we visited the Alcazar in Seville and the Alhambra in Granada, two very important and intriguing Moorish sites. Sometime in 2013 we found an amazing deal on flights to Lisbon, one of our favourite cities in the world. We knew that there were lots of short, direct flights to Morocco from Portugal, so we booked the flight without a second thought and set to planning for February 2014 to celebrate Dave’s 30th birthday. We are fairly seasoned travel planners, but we soon realized that planning a trip around Morocco, a country 22 times smaller than our own, was a little more challenging than expected. I’ve gathered up all of the information from our trip and am now sharing our 14-day Morocco itinerary with you, to hopefully make your planning and decision making process a little bit easier! I have linked to our detailed posts about each destination throughout.
Day 1: Rabat
Arrive in Casablanca/spend night in Rabat
Flying to Morocco from Canada can be quite convoluted and expensive. We were able to get a great sale through Air Canada on fares to Lisbon and go from there. TAP Portugal offers flights to Casablanca and Marrakech, so we decided to start in Casablanca and work our way in a circle, flying back to Lisbon from Casablanca 14 days later.
Our flight arrived in Casablanca around 6pm. We knew we were going to be there twice and didn’t think it looked very interesting, so decided to spend the first night and part of the next day in the capital city, Rabat. To get to the main train station, Casa Voyageurs, you can either take a train from the train station at the airport (confusing, I know) or take a 45-minute, expensive taxi. We hadn’t purchased tickets to Rabat in advance and didn’t know if tickets would be available on such short notice, plus we had just flown all day, so we took the 300Dh taxi ride. Once we arrived at Casa Voyageurs, it was easy to get two tickets at the counter for the 7:45pm train. The first class compartment was quiet, the seats were plush and comfortable, and there weren’t many people on board. First class train tickets in Morocco are very affordable, so feel free to splurge.
Taxi – 300Dh
Train tickets to Rabat – 70Dh/each in first class
Time: 45 minutes in the taxi, 1-hour train ride.
Accommodation in Rabat: Riad Zyo
More information: Rabat highlights: My first day in Africa!
Day 2 and 3: Chefchaouen
Rabat to Chefchaouen, spend two nights
There is an extensive bus network running throughout Morocco with routes offered by several different companies, the main ones being CTM and Supratours. We had zero luck trying to book tickets on their websites, so the nice people at each and every riad we stayed at helped us out by picking up the tickets for us. The basic bus station is a 5-minute taxi ride from the medina. There is a small concession in the lobby and a restaurant/snack shop with a washroom in the station. The bus was comfortable, but I got bored quickly after the sun went down as the reading light didn’t work and there were no TVs in the back of the seats.
Cost: 85Dh/each. 5Dh per checked bag.
Time: Approx. 4.5 hours. One bathroom break.
Accommodation in Chefchaouen: Casa La Palma
More information: Tangled up in Chefchaouen
Days 4-6: Fes
Chefchaouen to Fes, spend three nights
After spending two nights in the calm blue of Chefchaouen, we boarded another bus destined for the ancient city of Fes. Tickets in hand, we still arrived at the bus station one hour early. There were a handful of buses waiting but there was no organization or platform numbers, just a man walking back and forth, calling out destinations and sort of pointing passengers to the right bus. Be very aware so that you don’t end up on the wrong one! There is a washroom outside the station as well as a small store.
Time: Approx. 4 hours. One bathroom break.
Accommodation in Fes: Dar Roumana
More information: Celebrating and struggling in Fes
Optional daytrip to Volubilis, Meknes, Moulay Idriss.
Days 7-10: Marrakech
Fes to Marrakech by train, spend four nights
All of the trains in Morocco are run by ONCF and can be a more comfortable option for traveling longer distances. The ONCF website is only available in French, but is easy to use to look up timetables and ticket prices.
The journey takes about seven and a half hours, so we caught the early train at 6:50am so we would have some time that day to explore Marrakech. Bring your own toilet paper or Kleenex because even though there are washrooms on board, the ones I experienced usually didn’t have any paper.
Cost: 295Dh/each in first class
Time: 7-7.5 hours
Accommodation in Marrakech: Riad Dar Nouba
Optional day trip to Essaouira.
Day 11-12: Sahara Desert
Two night trip to Sahara Desert.
A trip to North Africa just wouldn’t be the same without some time in the Sahara Desert. There are countless options for visiting and exploring the Sahara, from endless tour companies offering basic camping and hiking treks, to luxury desert experiences, to renting a 4×4 yourself (which I would not recommend unless you are an incredibly skilled driver), to taking the bus to the edge of the desert and hiring a guide from there.
Erg Chigaga vs Erg Chebbi
There are two areas of the Moroccan Sahara that tourists can visit – Erg Chigaga and Erg Chebbi. Erg Chebbi is by far the more popular choice amongst tourists who just have to have that snapshot of themselves in front of some majestic dunes, standing beside a camel. Erg Chebbi is only 1km from the town of Merzouga, which means that there are hotels and amenities available to those who don’t actually want to camp. Erg Chebbi is often referred to as the “Coca-Cola desert” because you can sit on the patio of your hotel sipping a sugary drink and gaze at the dunes.
Erg Chigaga is much further from civilization, with the closest town, M’Hamid, 60km away. From there, the camps within the dunes are only accessible by a bone rattling 4×4 trip or a multi-day camel ride. These dunes are the largest and highest in Morocco. We chose Erg Chigaga, and booked a guide through Sahara Services. This included round-trip transportation from Marrakech, one night in M’Hamid, and one night in a camp amongst the dunes.
Cost: 235EUR/pp. This includes driver and fuel, meals, one night hotel stay, one night camping.
More information: Journey to the Moroccan Sahara
Erg Chigaga a moving Moroccan adventure
Day 13: Marrakech
Marrakech, one night
Book yourself into a nice riad, enjoy a hot shower, rinse sand out of every spot on your body, repeat. Take one last stroll through the medina and get a good nights’ rest in a comfortable bed.
Accommodation in Marrakech: Riad Agdim
Day 14: Casablanca
Marrakech to Casablanca
We were able to walk up to the counter and buy our tickets only a few days prior to departure. Our compartment was full so I wouldn’t suggest pushing your purchase until the last minute if you can help it. The first class cars are broken into compartments, not spacious but not cramped, with six seats each.
Cost: 140Dh/each in first class.
Time: Approx. 7 hours.
More information: From the Sahara to London in 72 hours
Taxis in Morocco: How to avoid getting ripped off
Osprey Farpoint review: Musings of a first-time backpacker