Between the bustling medinas, the finger-licking good cuisine, and the impossibly photogenic landscapes, there’s no doubt Morocco is a country that has to be seen at least once in a lifetime. But while the enthralling, easy-on-the-eyes North African country is still rudimentary in many ways (limited Wi-Fi, virtually non-existent recycling, condescending mansplaining, oppressing vendors) it is still one of my favourite and most eye-opening trips to date and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking to travel just a little bit outside their comfort zone.
Clearly, Morocco can be an intimidating country to explore independently—which is why I was thrilled to join the Best of Morocco tour with Intrepid Travel (editor’s note: the exact tour I was on, Morocco Experience, is no longer available; this one is the most similar one that’S currently available). Here is what my group and I got up to on our 14-day trip.
There was a moment, at the beginning of the trip, where I thought I’d made a huge mistake (yes, the Arrested Development kind of huge mistake). Truth be told, I hated Casablanca; I thought it was nasty, dodgy, and I didn’t like the way people stared at my blonde hair, so much that I daren’t explore on my own despite the fact that I don’t get scared easily. To add fuel to the fire, a bird shat on my head an hour after my arrival and as much as I wanted to love Casablanca, I couldn’t help seeing this as a sign. Fortunately, we stayed just long enough to visit the world’s seventh largest mosque, and then we continued our journey up north.
Unsurprisingly, I wouldn’t recommend visiting Casablanca unless you’ve absolutely got to. Given the opportunity, I’d give it a happy miss!
It wasn’t until we got to Chefchaouen that I really got excited. The small, mountainous village far made up for Morocco’s dicey metropolis—in fact, entering Chefchaouen is like walking into a dream.
Wherever you’ve been in your travels, I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never seen anything like this before. An entire Medina—the core centre of any North African city—awash in every single hue of blue known to mankind. Turquoise, aqua, cerulean, navy, you name it. Why bother with a monochrome world when you can live in technicolour?
Definitely one of my favourite places in the world. Even four years after my trip!
You can imagine my reaction when I read that name out loud the first time. It doesn’t sound very… Moroccan, to say the least. Well, Christ on a Cracker, little did I know that Northern Morocco is home to some one of the finest Roman ruins in the world. No kidding.
Volubilis is situated on top of some of the most fertile land in Morocco and was famous throughout the Empire for its olive-growing business, grains, and wild animals that were sent to Rome for gladiatorial spectacles. Such high-quality and sought-after items made Volubilis one of the wealthiest cities on the Appian Way.
A lot of people warned me against Fes, despite it being one of the cities I was most looking forward to on this Morocco itinerary. They said it was overrated and commercially-driven, in addition to being a hellhole for tourists. I quickly understood why: in just 24 hours I had my crossbody bag grabbed at more than once, and I was chased down the maze-like streets of the medina by some man who just wouldn’t accept me not buying his leather wallet. But the thing is, I hated Casablanca so, so much, that anything after that terrible city felt like pure bliss to me.In all honesty, I kind of enjoyed Fes, in spite of everything. It wasn’t nearly as bad as people made it out to be, and you should absolutely not skip the city on your first visit to Morocco.
In all honesty, I kind of enjoyed Fes, in spite of everything. It wasn’t nearly as bad as people made it out to be, and you should absolutely not skip the city on your first visit to Morocco.
This stretch of the trip was characterised by plentiful kasbahs, orange-coloured sand dunes, and lush palmeries—the wild Morocco I had imagined. The charming Saharan village of Merzouga is surrounded by the emblematic Erg Chebbi sand dunes, where my group and I had the chance to embark on a camel ride and watch the sunset from atop the tranquil dunes. A wholly magical experience.
On a site note, it should be noted that camel riding is absolutely terrifying if you’re afraid of heights; unlike horses, which are already fully upright by the time you mount, camels are crouched to the ground supposedly to facilitate said mounting. IT’S A LIE. Camels are freakin’ tall, people, and rarely have I shrieked so loudly as I did when the camel stood up and almost toppled me off in the process. Be prepared!
The Atlas mountains / Dades Valley
Who knew Morocco had such fabulous mountains? I certainly didn’t. The grand Atlas range is awash with sculpted limestone stacks and mud-brick villages perched on treacherous hillsides. Not all tours include hiking excursions but if there was ONE place where you should go on a hike in Morocco, this is it. The scenery is absolutely stunning.
At last, a Moroccan city I didn’t hate! What a perfect place to conclude this epic adventure across the country! At this point in the trip, though, I was all tajined-out, hungry for the culinary treasures hidden in Marrakesh; this is when I was introduced to the multiple layers of this city, which I immediately became enthralled with. From the bustling Jemaa el Fna square to the numerous riads and the chic Bahia Palace and Jardins de Majorelle, my group and I were kept busy throughout our stay and it wasn’t without a hint of sadness that I made my way to the airport on the 14th day.
Other interesting stops on your Morocco itinerary
Basically a few of the places we went to but that, for some reason, I don’t have photos for! Still very much worth a stop, though.
- Moulay Idriss
- Ait Benhaddou
Morocco travel tips
Solo female travel in Morocco
I wouldn’t advise wandering in medinas on your own, especially as a female. This maze-like network of alleys is extremely confusing, even for someone like me with an impeccable sense of space and orientation. Keep a few friends close by, and don’t wander off on your own.
On being a female in Morocco: to be honest, it does require a few adjustments. I’m well aware that Morocco is one of the most progressive Muslim countries in the world and that women are comparatively fairly well treated. However, I couldn’t help but notice that women are almost absent from public places, especially as you drive further into the countryside. I was talked down on several occasions and mansplained more times than I could count. For some reason, it’s the condescending attitude that really got to me; I didn’t mind the dress code at all, but the condescending stares took a while to get used to.
Haggling in Morocco
Although there are great bazaars everywhere in Morocco, the cheapest prices are always, always in Marrakesh. If you don’t mind a bit of haggling or if you’re on a budget, wait until to get to the metropolis to purchase leather goods, tea cups, and other typical Moroccan souvenirs. Never, ever commit to the initial price.
The pressure to spend money will be strong throughout the trip, most especially if you travel with a tour company where guides are often unapologetic about taking visitors to their friend’s or family’s shops (and probably get a hefty finder’s fee in the process) Don’t let yourself be guilt into buying anything from them unless you truly want to.
Food in Morocco
The further you are from Casablanca and Marrakech, the more limited the culinary offer will be. Expect to alternate between couscous and tajines for the better part of the trip—to be fair, though, these are going to be the absolute best couscous and tajines you’ll ever have.