Morocco travel: Things to do and see
Morocco travel: There are 195 km between Marrakech and Ouarzazate. It takes almost 4 hours to drive from Marrakech to Ouarzazate, but the scenery is magnificent. There’s not much to do in Ouarzazate other than stroll through the souks and pass by the Place Almowahidin.
Ouarzazate is best known for its film studios. The Cinéma Studio Atlas, where you can see the sets of Hollywood films such as Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, and Kingdom of Heaven. You’ll also get a behind-the-scenes look at Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra.
You can also visit Kasbah Taourirt. Built-in the 17th century, it is one of the largest and most beautiful kasbahs in the country. It is even listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Add Fint Oasis to your itinerary. It lies to the south of the city, some 15 km away, but beware of the many stones on the road. With its pretty palm grove, immense rocky peaks and refreshing river, it’s a real little corner of paradise in the middle of the desert! You can even spend the night here if you wish.
Or why not take a dip in the El Mansour Eddahbi dam lake, just 17 km to the east of the town. The water is an enchanting blue!
And don’t miss the Ksar d’Aït Ben Haddou, filming location for Game of Thrones. This sublime Berber village, fortified in terracotta and overlooking the Ouarzazate River, has also been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Don’t hesitate to stroll through the narrow streets of the Ksar and spend the night there, just to enjoy the sunrise and sunset!
Tip: climb up to the granary at the top of the fortress for a superb 360° view of the whole village of Aït Ben Haddou and the surrounding valley.
Then head for Skoura, another pretty palm grove 45 km to the east on the route des 1,000 Kasbahs and Tineghir. You’ll follow the Oued Dadès.
There are 88 km between Skoura and the Dades Gorges. This region, with its lush valleys and red rocks, is one of the most peaceful in the country. Along the way, you’ll come across El-Kelaa El-M’Gona, a fortress that was once a prison for opponents of the regime.
At Kalaat M’Gouna, some 40 km from the Dades Gorges, you enter the Valley of the Roses. Here you can buy a wide range of rose products: soaps, water, cosmetics… Rose-growing is very important in this region. Many families make their living from the harvest, which lasts from mid-April to the end of May (it takes 4 tons of roses to obtain 1 kg of extract). This is the best time to visit: when the fields are in bloom. In May, there’s even a 4-day Rose Festival in the city.
If you want to spend the night, you’ll find plenty of ksars, gîtes and hotels, but if you can, do it in Boulmane Dadès.
The Dades Gorges are just splendid. Along the road that winds through the valley, you’ll discover many varied landscapes with incredible views of canyons, green fields and cliffs. There are many twists and turns through these landscapes worthy of the American West. Your activities in the area include numerous hikes, notably in the Canyon des Doigts du Singe.
Toudgha River and Gorges
In the hollow of the valley, you can cool off by the year-round flowing water. You can also climb the vertical walls.
Merzouga is a small village just over 40 km from Rissani. It’s right on the edge of the Sahara, not far from the Algerian border.
The Merzouga dunes are the highest and most beautiful in the desert. It’s even one of the most beautiful places in the world to admire the sunset/sunrise and take some great shots. A magical moment to experience
The best thing is to be able to bivouac on site to enjoy the desert to the full: take a camel, 4×4, or quad excursions, spend the night under the stars or in a pretty Berber tent, but above all learn the Bedouin way of life, listen to their stories and songs.
And if you don’t want to venture into the desert with your rental car, or because it’s simply forbidden by your rental agency, you can take a camel ride from Merzouga into the Erg Chebbi and spend a night in a camp from €69 per person.
The region’s specialty is getting buried in hot sand to benefit from its therapeutic properties against rheumatism. Moroccans love it!
You also need to see the lake just 10 minutes away, Lac Dayet Srji. Flamingos live there between November and May, as well as a host of other migratory birds (larks, ducks…). It’s quite bizarre to see them in the middle of the desert!
Where to stay in Merzouga
In Merzouga, you can stay in a luxury camp in the middle of the desert, or in more traditional accommodation if you don’t fancy adventure at all.
Zahra Luxury Camp is the first address I’d recommend. It’s 12 km from the ghost town and offers incomparable views of the Sahara dunes. A night’s stay, including breakfast, costs around €115.
Alternatively, there’s the Riad Suerteloca in Merzouga, where you can enjoy a little more comfort and an outdoor swimming pool at the gateway to the desert. This is definitely one of my favorites, at the exceptional price of €79 per night with breakfast included.
Morocco travel: From Merzouga to Zagora, it’s just over 4 hours by road. The area lends itself to a variety of excursions, including hikes on the Djebel Zagora or near the Falaise de Zagora. From here, you’ll have a superb panoramic view of the city.
South of Zagora (almost 100 km) you’ll find one of the two largest ergs in the Moroccan desert, Erg Chegaga, with dunes sometimes over 100 meters high. A unique natural spot!
Or continue west to Tamegroute. Here you’ll find the desert’s first library. Here you’ll discover some very, very old manuscripts.
If you can, visit Taliouine between mid-October and mid-November. Why should you? Because Taliouine is the saffron capital. You can see the fields in bloom and witness the harvest. If you want to buy saffron, do so directly from a cooperative. Not far away, there’s an ancient volcano where you can enjoy some lovely hiking: Djebel Sirwa.
Morocco travel: Continue on towards Taroudant, about 1h30 away. There’s nothing touristy about this town, but you’re sure to enjoy it, as life here is tranquil.
As everywhere else in the country, take a trip to the souk to stock up on spices and buy some superb Souss pottery for your family and friends.
Agadir is only 1h30 from Taroudant. Here, however, you’ll be in a real seaside resort. After a tour of the medina, the Kasbah, the Amazigh Heritage Museum or the Jardin d’Olhão, head for the beach for a swim or the marina for an offshore cruise.
It’s worth noting that you’ll meet a lot of French people here. Indeed, every year, many retirees come to spend the winter here. How can you resist the mild climate and the ever-present sunshine?
In the vicinity of this popular tourist destination, I’d recommend escaping to Paradise Valley, where you can cool off in sumptuous lakes, then venture into the Atlas Mountains. With your rental car, you can embark on this expedition yourself, or choose an excursion departing from Agadir from €20 per person.
Where to stay in Agadir?
If it’s not on your agenda yet, I recommend that you pack your bags and find out where to stay in Agadir.
Zephyr Agadir is just 1 km from the beach, an ideal location for this seaside resort. It also boasts an outdoor swimming pool and a restaurant. All rooms are fully equipped. Rates start at €53 per night.
The Hotel Argana Agadir is another upscale hotel complex. For €83 per night, including breakfast, you can enjoy all the luxury of a 4-star establishment, with access to a private beach with deckchairs. With an outdoor swimming pool, spa and hammam, we promise you a luxurious stay.
Morocco travel: If you continue north, you’ll pass Taghazout. This is where you’ll have the best chance of meeting surfers from all over the world. It’s a very popular spot for surfing. Want to give it a try? No problem, there’s no shortage of surf schools.
150 km to the north, you’ll find Essaouira. Known as the Pearl of the Atlantic, this fortified town is especially prized for its wild beaches, where Moroccans and tourists alike love to bask.
But don’t forget to take a stroll along the ramparts, through the medina and down the charming little streets, where you’ll find plenty of souvenirs to buy. Its authentic fishing port is also one of the most visited in the country.
Essaouira also boasts a number of art galleries, including Espace Othello. Essaouira is also famous for its argan oil. So, if you get the chance, visit a cooperative where you’ll see the women at work producing it.
And if you’re there in June, stay a while to attend the Gnaoua Festival, where you’ll hear some of the most spellbinding music around. I also recommend a trip to Paradise Valley, a little further south. Here you’ll find a variety of landscapes, including natural pools where you can take a dip.
Where to stay in Essaouira?
Here’s another city where you can spend several days, and here are the best places to stay in Essaouira.
Riad Kafila is a traditional Riad, with the added bonus of offering rooms with ocean views. From €79 per night, you’ll enjoy this exceptional location, with breakfast included.
Riad Baladin is another traditional Essaouira establishment, but I’m a big fan of the atmosphere and, above all, the decor. Here, too, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the ocean, and all the water sports are available to you, including surfing. You can also take advantage of the whirlpool bath, all for around €90 per night with breakfast included.
The best itineraries to follow
Morocco travel: When you take a road trip to Morocco, you can consider a variety of itineraries depending on your desires and what you absolutely must visit. Here are the different options for your road trip itinerary
Follow the coast
Morocco has some incredible cities along its 3,500 kilometers of coastline.
On the Atlantic coast, you can follow Rabat – Casablanca – El Jadida – Oualidia – Safi – Essaouira and finally Agadir.
Morocco travel: The Middle Atlas offers many different landscapes to discover, often green and very cool. In fact, it’s known as the Switzerland of Morocco.
For example, you could take the following tour: Fez – Meknes – Volubilis – Michlifen Massif – Azrou – Bin El Ouidane – Marrakech.
Or head to the High Atlas and discover the 4,167-meter-high Jbel Toubkal.
Discover southern Morocco and the desert
Consider yourself to be in the south as soon as you reach Marrakech. The city can be the starting point for many tours:
Marrakech – Atlas (Imlil and Mont Toubkal) – Toudra / Todgha Gorges – Dades Valley and then the desert (M’hamid and Merzouga).
Ouarzazate – Tinghir – Zagora – Taroudante – Agadir – Essaouira
Marrakech – Imilchil – Er Rachifdia – Erfoud – Rissani – Merzouga
The Anti Atlas with the 3,305-meter-high Jbel Sirwa is also a beautiful region to explore. You could do: Agadir – Inezgane – Tiznit – Sidi Ifni and finally Guelmim.
Touring the big cities
This is a completely different way of doing a road trip in Morocco. All the more so as, inland, some superb towns await you. They are steeped in history, and most have even been the country’s capital at one time or another: Fez, Meknes and Marrakech are all must-sees on any trip to Morocco.
Car rental in Morocco
If you’ve got a quality vehicle with which you can drive down to Morocco and have a great road trip, don’t hesitate, especially if you’re used to doing so! You’ll know your car by heart, and you’ll be able to react quickly if anything goes wrong.
Alternatively, you can fly to Morocco and book a rental car, which will be waiting for you directly outside the airport.
Where to rent a car?
Morocco travel: Take advantage of low rates by using price comparison services. If you book well in advance (several months before your departure date), you’ll have a choice of models and can save a lot of money.
It’s best to rent from a major car rental company such as Europcar, Avis or Rentacar. This will avoid any unpleasant surprises when you return your vehicle. You can also rent from a local company. For information, Medloc is a car rental specialist in Morocco.
Which model to choose?
Morocco’s main roads are paved, so if you’re only planning to visit the big cities, a city car will suffice. Beware, though, of the occasional pothole.
If you’re planning an off-road road trip in Morocco, you’ll need a 4×4. An off-road car will obviously be more practical, as some mountain roads can be almost impassable. But I’ll tell you more about that later in the section on driving in Morocco.
How much does it cost?
For a night in a two-star hotel at the most, you’ll pay €30 to €40 on average, but up to €50 and €100 if you want to sleep in a room with a bit of luxury and take advantage of activities such as swimming pools and spas…
You’ll find much cheaper hotel rooms in small, unrated but equally clean establishments.
Morocco travel: Expect to pay between €30 and €60 on average in winter, but most riads are more expensive in summer. Some offer double the price, while others can cost up to €275 per night.
Guest houses offer good value for money. On Booking.com, you can find rooms from €10-15 in winter (double room and breakfast included). The best-rated gîtes are €45-50/night, and luxury establishments can quickly rise to €250/night.
Morocco travel: Moroccan hospitality is world-renowned. Some will let you stay in their homes for the night without paying you a penny, or at least they’ll let you set up on their land without any worries.
Others, on the other hand, will rent you a room in their home. You can find rooms in private homes at a wide range of prices. However, you should expect to pay at least €40-50 for a single room, and up to €100 for a luxury room.