MOROCCO (~7.5 days)
Language(s) Spoken: English, French, Spanish, Arabic
Currency: MAD, Moroccan Dirham
Outlet: 2 pins (Type C)
T-Mobile Data: Not Covered
Driver’s Seat: Left (same as US); *would not recommend renting a car and driving yourself
Cities Visited: Tangier, Chefchaouen, Marrakech, Sahara Desert (Merzouga)
CHEFCHAOUEN (2.5 days)
For the second leg of our trip we were in Morocco! We flew from Lisbon to Tangier for the night, and were off to Chefchaouen the next day!
I was absolutely smitten with the city they call “The Blue Pearl,” from the gorgeous blue walls to the friendly locals, it felt like walking through a fairytale. We originally were only going to stay one night, but loved this city so much we extended our stay for another night! We spent our days wandering the streets, browsing souvenir shops, befriending the local cats, and just taking in all the city had to offer. The city felt really safe and locals were so friendly and helpful if we needed anything, we did a short walking tour with our Airbnb host, but other than that we just wandered on our own.
Naomi & Mohammed were the BEST Airbnb hosts I’ve ever had! We were a bit nervous to be visiting Morocco because we weren’t sure what to expect but they helped us arrange our taxi to and from the airport and Chefchaouen, got us data cards, and guided us around the city! I highly HIGHLY recommend staying with them in their beautiful home!
Cost: Local Maroc - $37/night for 2 people
Highlights to See/Do:
*Spanish Mosque - situated on top of a hill, it’s a little bit of an uphill hike to get there (~20 min) but the views are so worth it. We took a quick city tour with our Airbnb host Mohammed and he ended the tour at the top of the hill. You get to see the whole city and along your route you can see locals washing their clothes in the river and local farm animals, it’s just a wonderful way to take in the beauty of this city.
~$15 US per person
*Cooking Class - we did a cooking class with our Airbnb host, Mohammed, and made Beef Kefta Tagine, Moroccan Salad, and Fruit Salad in the comfort of our own little home. It was a super simple recipe but so much fun to learn about the different spices, techniques, etc. It was so much fun and such a great way to bond with our host some more and learn more about the Moroccan culture.
~$30 US for 2 people
*Lina Ryad and Spa - we were first greeted with juice and cookies before our traditional Moroccan Hammam (body scrub). It was glorious, they put you in a steamy room and scrub off all your dead skin cells - about an hour later, you walk out with silky smooth skin. It didn’t really hurt, but if you have sensitive skin I’d definitely do some research ahead of time! I also added a 30 minute massage afterwards and walked out feeling like a new woman. Highly recommend this spa! We didn’t have enough time, but they had a pool area to lounge in and I believe it’s a hotel option for you to stay at as well!
Cost: ~$70 US for both treatments
*Shopping - all the souvenirs! it was truly difficult not to blow all my money in Chefchaouen, they have so many cute shops filled with local treasures such as handmade soap, argan oil, rugs, blankets, cute trinkets, handmade wooden everything, etc. If you’re stopping by Chefchaouen, I highly recommend getting souvenirs here because I feel like the quality was better than Marrakech and the shop owners are super friendly. I do think Marrakech had better prices because of the abundance of options but you should definitely haggle and explore to see what items you’d like to bring back with you! There are shops literally everywhere! So just wander to your hearts content, but try to remember how to get back to your riad because the city is built like a bit of a maze.
Foods/Restaurants to Try:
*Beldi Lalla Mesouda - super cute and quaint little restaurant situated in the middle of Chefchaouen. Mint tea is a must - though, I always ask for less sugar because I’m not much of a sweets person. Their lamb tagine w/ veggies and Morrocan soup were delicious!
Sky - so…we caved and got Chinese food on our second day but in our defense, we had been on the road for a little over a week! We heard about this restaurant through the locals and it totally hit the spot! We got their beef fried rice, vinegar cucumbers, and egg rolls. If I were to go back, I definitely would want to try their hot pot because that’s what they’re known for!
*side note: honestly, you could walk into most any restaurants and get a really authentic Moroccan experience! We randomly stumbled into a few to grab a snack or some tea and they were all super accommodating and the food was delicious!
SAHARA DESERT (2 days)
Off to Marrakech! We flew with Royal Air Maroc and had a 3 hour lay over in Casablanca, total duration from Tangier to Marrakech was about 5 hours. We emailed our riad, Monriad, ahead of time and arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport and for dinner to be served upon our arrival! More Lamb Tagine and Moroccan soup!
Cost: Monriad - $250 for 5 nights for 2 people ($125pp)
*we LOVED staying here! They were super accommodating, it almost felt like we were staying at someone’s home! We knocked and someone opened the door for us every time we got back. They even left me some local soap to take home as my birthday present!
Because we planned the Sahara trip after we had already booked our riad, we just used it to store our luggage while we were in the desert since the hotel was such a great price! We packed everything we needed in our backpacks for a one night stay and just brought that with us. We decided to do the longer trek to Merzouga because the sand dunes are far more impressive than the parts of the Sahara that are closer to Marrakech.
The next morning, our tour guide Mohammed from Camel Trekking, came to get us at 6AM. It was not an easy wake up call, but we were so ready!
Cost: $340pp including roundtrip private transportation, 1 night stay at the Sahara Desert Camp with roundtrip camel ride, sandboarding, traditional Moroccan show, dinner, and breakfast
Going to the Sahara is not a difficult trip at all, Mohammed was super accommodating to our needs and made sure to take us to the best sites including:
Atlas Mountains - we got to see a bit of the sunrise in the Atlas mountains! This was more of a pitstop but Mohammed was very willing to stop anytime we saw anything we were interested in!
Aìt Ben Haddou - this was the set for the movie Gladiator and various scenes from Game of Thrones! We got to stop here and wander around the ancient city, it was really cool to walk through and we had a lot of fun experiencing a city that thrives in the dessert.
Hotel Kasbah Ennakhile - Mohammed stopped here for us to grab some lunch! It felt like a little oasis and we were served a really delicious lunch overlooking some sweeping views of the dessert and rows of date trees.
After about a 10 hour drive (not including stops) we made it to the Sahara where our camels were waiting for us! Our guide provided us with frozen water bottles and head scarves to protect us from the beating sun and we were off on our ~1 hour camel adventure. I was living out my fantasies of the scene from Aladdin where the camel’s shadows glide across the sand! My only warning would be that your crotch is going to hurt…a lot..but it’s worth the trek!
Once we arrived at the camp, we quickly climbed to the top of this giant hill to try to catch a glimpse of the sunset. It was proven to be a very difficult task because the hill was made of sand, and as you tried to climb up, you would slide down a few inches each time. We finally made it to the top, took some gorgeous photos and came back down just in time for dinner in the main dining tent.
After dinner, we had some downtime to walk around the campsite so we went back to our tent to get settled in. We opted for the tent with the toilet and shower and I am very grateful because we were very sticky after a long day of traveling. Later that night, they put on a show for us where they played us traditional music, showed us how to play the instruments, and even taught us some traditional dances.
Then for the final event, they turned off all the lights at the camp, and walked us out into the dessert with flashlights to let us see the stars. Cue “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay, because wow, I have never seen anything like it. We got really lucky because when we were there because it was during a moonless night (something that happens every 14 days) and we could see all the stars including the Milky Way in full glory. We climbed up to the top of a smaller hill and the guides taught us to bury our feet into the sand to keep them warm. We just sat out there for a couple of hours staring at the sky, completely enamored by the stars. It was definitely the highlight of the trip.
That night, we ended up not going to bed til about 2AM, and the next morning (after many snoozed alarms), we dragged ourselves out of bed at 5AM to watch the sunrise. It was spectacular, I would wake up at 5AM everyday if this was my morning view. We spent the rest of the morning wandering the sand dunes, taking photos, and just in complete disbelief that we were in the SAHARA! A truly magical experience.
Before we left the camp, we had a quick breakfast and the guides gave us some boards to go sandboarding! (think snowboarding, but sand) The trek uphill was not rough, but coming down the board was really fun! We did one run before we had to grab all of our things and meet the camels to take us on our trek back to Mohammed.
We were so sad to be leaving the dessert that we convinced our guide, who actually grew up in the dessert, to take us on a ride through the sand dunes! He was very well versed with the curves of the sand dunes and took us on a quick ride up and down the hills. It was SO much fun! And the perfect way to wrap up our time in the Sahara.
The trip back was…not so fun. Since we did all the stops on the way there, we basically drove back 10 hours straight with one quick stop for lunch. We were exhausted, sleep deprived, hot, and at that point, I just wanted to be horizontal on a bed. Mohammed was really kind and tried to make it as comfortable of a ride as he could. If we could do this leg of the trip all over again, I would suggest contacting Mohammed ahead of time and telling him your itinerary in Morocco, that way if you’re planning on visiting other cities, he can be your guide and help plan your trek so you’re not driving 10 hours into the dessert and then 10 hours back in the span of 48 hours. For example, he could meet you in Tangier, take you to Chefchaouen, then Fez, the Sahara, and then Marrakech so you’re not backtracking. I would definitely try to add Fez if we could go back!
Overall, the exhaustion was very very worth it and I highly recommend Mohammed from Camel Trekking Excursions! I’ve had friends use this same tour with the extra stop in Fez and they absolutely loved it as well! Mohammed is super friendly, extremely accommodating, and made the whole experience just absolutely incredible.
MARRAKECH pt. 2 (2.5 days)
Now to really explore Marrakech! We tried to give ourselves a few extra days here because it’s the city that everyone loves but we ended up using 2 of those days to go to the dessert. To be honest, I felt like 2.5 days was more than enough! We were able to see everything we wanted to, while still having some downtime to sit at cafes and truly enjoy ourselves.
Highlights to See/Do:
*Bahia Palace - gorgeous palace in the middle of the city! It was built by one of the king’s for his favorite wife. I would take an audio tour because we didn’t and ended up trying to eavesdrop and piece together the story based on other guides we saw at the palace haha, but highly recommend spending at least an hour or two here
Cost: 10 Dirham (~$1 US)
*Jardin Majorelle - the reason why most people go to Marrakech! The blues of this garden are something else, they even sell cans of paint for you to bring home! It’s a very old garden that was bought by Yves Saint Laurent himself because he was so inspired by Moroccan culture. It’s not as big as I imagined, but definitely worth a stroll through. I would suggest going at open to avoid lines and standing in the sun for hours!
Cost: 70 Dirham (~$7.30 US)
Yves Saint Laurent Museum - here you will find the iconic YSL sign. Located right next to Jardin Majorelle, it’s a small museum that walks you through some of YSL’s most iconic designs and tells you a little bit more Saint Laurent himself. If you’re short on time, I would choose Jardin Majorelle over the museum.
Cost: 100 Dirham (~$10.50 US)
*Souks - I love a good souvenir market, but the Souks in Marrakech are on a different level. It’s rows and rows of bags, shoes, trinkets, jewelry, spices, soaps, beauty products, lamps, etc. It’s quite overwhelming to be honest! I much preferred shopping in Chefchaouen over Marrakech, mainly because it was must less crowded and we weren’t constantly being run over by motorcycles/breathing in exhaust fumes, but it’s definitely a fun experience that you need no more than 2-3 hours for. The best part is, you never know what you’ll find! This is also where I got my gorgeous lantern store shot! Some of the shop keepers are super friendly, I typically asked if it was okay to take a photo and they would say yes or no.
*La Mamounia - it’s one of the most famous hotels in Marrakech with the beautiful hallway and swimming pool that I’m sure you’ve seen on Instagram that are for guests only. They have beautiful gardens that you can walk around and I highly recommend spending a few hours here. We made dinner reservations for my birthday that night so they let us wander the premise to our hearts content and we got some amazing photos!
*Koutoubia Mosque - as one of the most iconic buildings in Marrakech, it’s pretty hard to miss. We unfortunately weren’t able to go inside due to religious reasons, but we did make it a point to visit and admire it up close. It’s a beautiful structure with lots of history and religious significance.
Le Jardin Secret - we had some time to kill in the afternoon so we decided to check out Le Jardin Secret. It’s a very small garden situated in the middle of the city. It takes no more than 5 minutes to walk through the whole thing so I wouldn’t say that this is a huge priority, but if you have some time and want to relax and wander around a cute little garden while enjoying a cup of moroccan mint tea, this is a great option!
Cost: 60 Dirhams (~$6.30 US)
Foods/Restaurants to Try:
*Naraj - you can make a reservation if you’d like, but we just walked in and it was totally fine! Their hummus is probably the best I’ve ever had! And they seated us upstairs on their little rooftop and it was just perfect.
*Nomad - basically where all the instagrammers go. It’s a super cute rooftop with the most amazing lamb chops! We loved it so much we ended up going twice!
*La Mamounia - the hotel/restaurant we celebrated my birthday at! I think the food was decent, nothing mind blowing but a very nice experience. I would suggest making a reservation to wander the premise and ordering a la carte or choosing their smaller set menu.
I’d say my favorites in Morocco were definitely Chefchaouen and the Sahara! The country felt very safe and everyone is super accommodating to English speakers. Of course, because you are traveling, just be aware of your surroundings and keep your personal belongings zipped and in front of you at all times, but we only ever felt that hustle and bustle in Marrakech.
Feel free to reach out via Instagram if you have any questions (@regina.fang), I have more videos highlighted in my stories.
Have the best time on your Moroccan adventure & drink some extra Moroccan mint tea for me!