• Lauren H

The Best of Morocco in 6 Days

Updated: Sep 22

A budget-friendly 6 Day Morocco itinerary where you live like a local, shop, learn about local crafts, go desert glamping, and camel riding.



Jump ahead to a section below:


Day One Fez

Day Two Desert Tour, Fez to Merzouga

Day Three Desert Tour Merzouga to Dades Valley

Day Four Desert Tour, Dades Valley to Marrakech

Day Five Marrakech

Day Six Marrakech and Casablanca


Build an Itinerary

Lodging

Bookings

What to Wear and Pack

What to Eat

Where to Eat

Shopping

Other Tips



Itinerary


Day One: Fez

Although Marrakesh is probably more well-known than Fez, Fez was my favorite spot in my whole Moroccan itinerary. The Old Medina of Fez felt like stepping back in time, in a way that no other place I have visited has. The Old Medina is a 12th-century neighborhood and the largest urban area in the world where cars can’t fit. Imagine the opening market scene of Aladdin, and that’s the Old Medina. Donkey carts still deliver the mail! I highly recommend paying for a guide to tour the Old Medina. Without a guide, my friends and I likely would have been lost for most of the day and wouldn’t have learned any history of the area. If you have a couple of weeks in Morocco, then getting lost in the Medina on your own could be fun though.


The Streets of the Old Medina in Fez
The Streets of the Old Medina in Fez

We hired our guide directly through our Airbnb host, which was cheaper than hiring one online. The guide we hired showed us historical and religious spots in the Medina and taught us about the local culture as well. He showed us a community bakery, a wishing spot, worship areas and more.


Fez is also well-known for its handmade crafts, leather, rugs, silks, pottery, silver and more. Be sure your guide takes you to see how each type of craft is made. The mini tours of the various craft workshops will teach you about the process and then of course also try to sell you the product. See my Morocco Shopping guide for tips on what items to buy where.



The leather tannery was the most interesting craft stop. In Fez they make leather naturally, and stain it naturally as well, using local plants for staining.


Views of a Tannery in Fez
Views of a Tannery in Fez

We stayed with our guide all day but also hired a driver for the afternoon so we could see the sites harder to reach by walking. Our first stop was the Golden Doors of the Royal Palace Fez. The gold doors are ornately designed traditional Moroccan doors at the entrance to the palace. Tourists unfortunately aren’t allowed inside the palace, the doors are the only spot to see.


The Golden Doors of the Royal Palace Fez
The Golden Doors of the Royal Palace Fez

We also drove to a viewpoint of the whole city, the famous Blue Gate at one of the Medina entrances.


The Blue Gate
The Blue Gate

Finally we visited a pottery workshop and store that is outside of the Medina. The driver is also useful for transporting shopping bags and heavy rugs you don’t want to carry all day.


Shopping after the Pottery Workshop Tour
Shopping after the Pottery Workshop Tour

We felt one long day to see the Old Medina and various craft stops was enough time in Fez. If we had another day in the area we would have taken a day trip to Chefchaouen from Fez.


That evening we watched sunset and listened to the evening prayers from the rooftop of our riad.


Sunset Views from our Riad's Rooftop
Sunset Views from our Riad's Rooftop

Day Two: Desert Tour, Fez to Merzouga

A quick note on desert tours: Be prepared for long days of driving to make it to the Sahara from Fez and returning to Marrakech from the Sahara. It was worth the experience though, and we wanted to see both Fez and Marrakech anyway. By avoiding a round trip desert tour (in and out of Fez or in and out of Marrakech), it saved us additional travel days as well. We hired a driver, again through our Airbnb, that was part of a desert glamping overnight package. The private driver enabled us to build our own itinerary of Fez-Merzouga (The Sahara) -Marrakech, versus a round trip from one of the cities.


Oasis Views on the Drive to Merzouga
Oasis Views on the Drive to Merzouga

The drive from Fez to Merzouga (one of the towns right outside of the Sahara) without stops is about 7 hours. We made a few stops on the way to help break up the drive. We first stopped in a European-feeling ski town, Ifran. This was a convenient place to buy road trip snacks, or desert camp snacks. They have stores with European chocolates and candies. Then we made a stop to see monkeys in a forest area near Azrou.


Monkeys near Azrou
Monkeys near Azrou

We also took breaks at a couple scenic viewing points.


We arrived in the desert before sunset and met at a hotel in Merzouga. We left our larger luggage at the hotel and packed a small backpack for the night. We wore the backpack with our belongings on the camel ride out to the glamping site. Other glamping camps will separately truck your full luggage out to the camp though, so ask about this before you depart on the road trip so you know how to pack in advance.


After sorting out our luggage at the hotel, we went on a sunset camel ride to reach camp. You may be joined with other travelers at this point. The ride was about an hour long and we stopped a couple times for photos.


The Sunset Camel Ride to our Glamping Site
The Sunset Camel Ride to our Glamping Site

Once we arrived at the glamping site we received welcome tea and had time to settle into our individual tents. A traditional Moroccan dinner with Tagine is then served in the communal tent.


A note on the camp—the tents have real beds and bedding, you won’t be on the ground. The bathrooms are communal trailers and are clean. There are toilets and sinks, but no showers. One tip for your visit—try to agree as a group to keep the lights off in the bathroom and only use flashlights/phone lights. One of our communal bathrooms left the lights on and attracted many large desert insects. The other bathroom that kept the lights off had way fewer bugs.


Our Glamping Site in the Sahara
Our Glamping Site in the Sahara

After dinner there was a music show and then most guests stayed up to watch the stars. It takes a while for the stars to come out, so don’t go to bed too early. After our long day of driving we took a short nap and then woke back up for star viewing. It was 11pm or midnight when they started to become most visible. The milky way was crystal clear and a stunning backdrop to the desert dunes. Pack snacks, drinks and cards for a mini star viewing party. Ask if alcohol is allowed before bringing it, not all camps allow it. Our camp didn’t offer or sell any extra drinks or snacks outside of dinner.


View of the Milky Way from the Sahara, Morocco Photo Credit Brett Alexander
View of the Milky Way from our Campsite, Photo Credit Brett Alexander

Day Three/Four

Desert Tour Merzouga to Dades Valley or Marrakech

We had the option to wake up before sunrise to start the camel trek back early, rather than sleeping in. They gave us this option because they knew we had a long drive to Marrakech, but I recommend it to everyone. Seeing the sunrise in the middle of the Sahara, via camel, was spectacular. We stopped at a sand peak that we could climb up to watch the sunrise from. The sunrise camel ride group was also a smaller group, which was another advantage of going early. When we arrived back at the hotel we showered and ate a simple breakfast.


Sunrise in the Sahara, Photo Credit: Brett Alexander
Sunrise in the Sahara, Photo Credit: Brett Alexander

After breakfast we started the drive back towards Marrakesh. The majority of tours split the drive to Marrakesh into two days and stop overnight in a guest house or hotel near Dades Valley. We were trying to fit many stops into a short 5-day itinerary and decided to drive all the way from Merzouga to Marrakesh in one day. It is an 8.5 hour drive without stops. This was not a common route, and it may be hard to find companies willing to make the drive in one day. Even our driver thought we were a little crazy. I’ve built this itinerary to show the more typical 2 days driving from Merzouga to Marrakech.


Day Four: Desert Tour, Dades Valley to Marrakech

Continuing the drive back to Marrakech we stopped at Kasbah Ait Ben Haddon, an ancient city in a desert mountainside. It is a UNESCO Heritage site and was a Game of Thrones filming location. They offered us a paid guide to show us around but we walked around by ourselves using maps.me app. There are vendors near the entrance selling crafts and souvenirs but once you are past them it’s a more quiet experience.


Kasbah Ait Ben Haddon
Kasbah Ait Ben Haddon

After that stop, we continued on driving through the Atlas Mountains. Right after the mountains, before Marrakech, we stopped at an argan oil store. They showed us how the oil was made, and we bought inexpensive argan oil products.


Day Five: Marrakesh

Similar to our day Fez, we hired a guide (through our Airbnb) to show us around. We spent most of the day in the Medina, but also hired a driver to make a few stops outside of the Medina.


We started the day by going to the Yves Saint Laurent Gardens. Go as early as you possibly can. Our guide helped us cut the line, but there were still large crowds inside.


The Yves Saint Laurent Gardens
The Yves Saint Laurent Gardens

We also stopped to see the largest mosque in Marrakesh, Koutoubia, from the outside. Note that tourists are not allowed inside this mosque and most mosques in Morocco.


We used our driver a couple times to help with our purchases or to take us from one far end of the Medina to another, but you’d be okay without a driver after the gardens. Most rug shops will deliver your purchases to your riad or hotel so you don’t have to carry them. Having a guide was useful though, he showed us interesting cultural stops that would have been hard to find on our own. The guide took us to a couple small palaces within the medina, a local lunch spot and he helped us with shopping and bargaining too. He seemed willing to customize the day however you wanted. If you wanted to save money, the Marrakesh Medina seemed easier to navigate than the one in Fez, so it’d be the one to try without a guide.


Make sure you spend at least part of your night in the main square of the Medina, Jemaa el-Fnaa. There are monkey tricks, fire throwers, acrobats, snake charmers, and interactive games. They also have a food market with stands selling a variety of small bites. The square is an entirely new experience at night compared to the day, so only seeing it during the day isn’t enough.


A food stand at the Jemaa el-Fnaa Night Market
A Food Stand at the Jemaa el-Fnaa Night Market

After going to the square we went out for dinner in the French Quarter of Marrakesh. It was fun to see another neighborhood of Marrakech and it was a refreshing break from tagine!


Day Six: Marrakech and Casablanca

Many of the international flights out of Morocco, especially those going to the States, fly out of Casablanca. Flights are usually cheaper and there are more direct options out of Casablanca. We spent the morning a bit more shopping in Marrakech and then hired a driver to take us to Casablanca for the afternoon. In Casablanca we went to see the Hassan II Mosque. We missed the interior tour, so make sure you time it right to arrive in time to tour the inside. Only walking around the outside is worth the visit though.


The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
The Hassan II Mosque

Walking Around the Exterior of the The Hassan II Mosque
Walking Around the Exterior of the The Hassan II Mosque

Build an Itinerary for a Morocco Trip

Anywhere in Europe is an easy add on to a Morocco trip. The flight we took from Seville to Fez was only $45USD. I have itineraries for both Seville and Portugal that are easy to add on to make a longer trip. If you have extra time for Morocco then I add an extra day in Fez and spend the day visiting the nearby town of Chefchaouen.


Lodging Recommendations for Morocco

In both Fez and Marrakech we stayed in traditional riads in the Old Medina. Riads are old homes of wealthy Moroccans. They are usually multiple stories tall and have an open air courtyard in the center. They often have detailed tile work throughout and small pools. Both of the riads we stayed in had furnished rooftops with views of the Medinas.


The Courtyard of one of our Airbnb Riads
The Courtyard of one of our Airbnb Riads

A Morocco trip isn’t complete without a riad lodging experience. Our stays in these homes made our trip feel authentically Moroccan. There are many riads that have been converted to bed and breakfasts and hotels in the Old Medina. With the hotels and guest houses you usually have a private room and bathroom and then share the kitchen and common spaces with other guests. We chose to rent entire riads through Airbnb, with rooftop views, courtyards and foot pools, all to ourselves. We rented a 7 bedroom home for $75/night in Fez! The riads also offered us a local host/cook to make us breakfast and dinners. We loved these meals and it was fun to get to know the locals while they cooked as well. The riad hosts also helped us to line up drivers, guides and our desert glamping, at much better rates than what we saw online.


The Foot Pool at one of our Riad Rentals
The Foot Pool at one of our Riad Rentals

Staying in the private riads was also an authentically Moroccan experience because the Airbnb riads seemed to be spread all throughout the Medina, not only by the hotels and tourist locations. We winded through tiny streets to find our way back home and felt like we were staying amongst locals. Our drivers and guides were all surprised we weren’t staying in the usual tourist areas of the Madina.



Bookings

  • The riads we stayed in both had a local host that helped us line up guides, drivers and coordinated a cook to make us breakfast or dinner in the home.



What to Wear and Pack for a Morocco Trip

Check out my Packing List for more recommendations on specific gear.


What to Wear

In Marrakesh, my friend and I, who are women, were comfortable in short shorts because there were so many tourists. In all of our other stops, and especially for stops while road tripping to the desert, we appreciated being in pants to attract less attention. We also only wore short sleeve tops not tank tops. We saw tourists wearing a bit of everything though, especially in Marrakesh. So if you want to wear shorts and a tank top, you’d be fine, you just may get more looks.

  • For the mosque in Casablanca you need long pants and sleeves to go inside but not a headscarf.

  • For the desert wear lightweight long pants, and assume whatever you wear on the camel is going to smell.

  • A light scarf was also useful when it was windier in the desert, it helped block sand from hitting you in the face.


What to Pack

  • Bring toilet paper or tissue packs around with you. They are useful for bathrooms, especially ones outside of the major cities while road tripping.

  • A headlamp with a red-light option is useful for the night glamping in the desert. It makes nighttime bathroom trips easier and the red light option helps prevent bugs from being attracted to the light.

  • If you plan to shop a lot, bring an extra collapsible bag to check as additional luggage on the way back.


What to Eat in Morocco

  • Tagine- Slow cooked stews and vegetable dishes in a cone shaped dish. There are lots of variations with different meats or even eggs.


A Tagine Dish
A Tagine Dish

  • Pastille-It is a pastry wrapped mix of chicken, vegetables and spices, that is a mix of sweet and savory. You rarely see it on a menu in the States.


Where to Eat in Morocco

Fez

  • Dar Hatim- A fun, traditional Moroccan dining experience. You take a few twists and turns through tiny run down Medina streets to find it, then it opens up into a riad, with ornate tiling and decor. We went for lunch where they served set meal options, but we still saw more variety in dishes than at other places. This is also the only place we found Pastille, so order it here.


Lunch at Dar Hatim
Lunch at Dar Hatim

  • Your own riad - If you stay in an riad, have their home cooked dinner for at least one night. One of our home cooked dinners was a favorite meal of the trip and a fun local experience.


A Tagine Dinner at one of our Riads
A Tagine Dinner at one of our Riads

Marrakesh

  • Le Grand Cafe de la Poste- A French restaurant in the French neighborhood of Marrakesh. Well executed traditional French dishes. It is a more expensive restaurant, popular with locals, and a break from Moroccan cuisine.


Shopping

See my Shopping Guide for more tips and information on shopping in Morocco.


Other Tips

  • If you want to attempt exploring either Medina without a guide, download the offline maps app called Citymaps2go. We were impressed with its directions in the Medinas that we used when navigating without a guide at night. It was better than Google downloaded maps.

  • In the tourist areas we found there was enough spoken English to get by. Negotiating in the markets was all fine in English.

  • You will need cash for most purchases in the Medinas, except for in larger rug stores that will accept credit cards. There are a few ATMs in the Medinas, but already having enough cash with you for each day is easier then trying to find them, especially in Fez. Fine dining restaurants will also take credit cards.



Trip Dates: September 1st -September 7th, 2019