I received so many question about what to do in Morocco, that I figured I might as well write it all down.
Morocco has become a real tourist-destination with Ryanair flights from Europe for about €50. I went to Morocco alone, as a female solo backpacker, and to be honest, it´s certainly do-able, but not ideal. You’ll attract a lot of attention from men, which costs much energy. I guess whether you like Morocco depends on how well you can deal with this attention. It sounds negative, but I certainly enjoyed Morocco. So no worries, as soon as you know how to deal with all the attention, Morocco is very much worth a visit! So, what to do?
Most people start either in Fes (north) or in Marrakech (south), but everyone makes kind of the same loop. I started in Marrakech, slightly hesitant with many warnings from others in the back of my head. I’d heard many negative stories about this city, but to be honest, I loved it! The bustle, street vendors, snake charmers… I only had a few days in the city, but could easily have spent a week here.
In Marrakech you can organise a trip to the desert. I generally don’t like doing tours, but for the desert in Morocco, it’s much cheaper to organise it in Marrakech. It’s quite a way to get to the villages bordering the desert, so everyone knows that if you show up there, you want to get into the desert, and will therefore charge you much more. I went to Merzouga. I can’t recall the name of the company, but you can easily organise this in your hostel in Marrakech, they all offer kind of the same trip.
After the desert and crowded city, I felt like I needed some relaxation. The ultimate place to do this, is Essaouira. If you have more than 3 weeks in Morocco, you could consider going all the way down to Agadir, but if you don’t have that much time, don’t go further south than Essaouira.
Essaouira is a super relaxed town where you just stroll down the beach,
go (kite)surfing, eat fish and go for a drink (one of the few places in Morocco where this is ok). Just relax, catch some breath and surf! As with every surfer town, there are surfer-wannabees, looking for western girls. Be aware of this and don’t fall for their tricks! If a guy lets you pay for all the drinks, you should know that something’s wrong.
With pain in my heart I left Essaouira for a horrible, yet actually really funny bus ride to Fes. The only way to get here (at that time, low season) was by taking a night bus. The trip was supposed to take about 8 hours, but in reality took 13 hours. With someone emptying her stomach for the first 8 hours, I wasn’t very happy in this bus. Yet the guy sitting next to me was really nice. It almost resulted in a love story that would be worth a movie, almost.
Fes…. I didn’t like Fes. To be honest, this was probably because I felt ill and my hostel wasn’t great, because I met many people who absolutely loved Fes. Fes is a bit similar to Marrakech, as it’s one of the ‘imperial cities’ (Marrakech, Fes, Meknes and Rabat).
I spent 2 days in Fes to recover, yet as soon as I felt better, I went to Meknes. This is the city that most tourists skip, but that’s a mistake. I would even call it the often forgotten imperial city. It has the same old structure as the other cities, with city walls, an old medina and a palace, yet it doesn’t have the same amount of tourists. This was the city where I also realized that my French was really bad. In the cities I visited before, most people were used to tourists and spoke English. I was looking for the more ‘untouched’ Morocco, but the price was that English was kind of not existent. What to do in Meknes? Just wander around in the souk, go to the palace and eat lots of ice creams.
From Meknes you can do day trips to Volubilis and Moulay Idriss. You can do an expensive trip organised by your hostel, but you an also just take the local bus for about 1/10th of the price. Moulay Idriss doesn’t have much to offer, but since you’re in the neighborhood anyway, I would quickly walk in and out if I were you. You can go to the holy shrine, but they won’t let you enter, unless you’re Muslim.
Someone told me you can easily walk from Moulay Idriss to Volubilis. Yes, you can, but keep in mind that it’s not really comfortable when it’s about 40C. I started walking, but halfway realized that I didn’t like it and started hitchhiking (I wouldn’t recommend this in Morocco as a female girl travelling solo, unless you really know what you’re doing).
Volubilis is breath taking if you like ruins. It’s big and relatively well-preserved and doesn’t have many visiters. There’s no bus to Volubilis, so you have to go back to the roundabout near Moulay Idriss (again, you can walk the few kilometers, I hitchhiked).
From Meknes, I went back to Fes and then to Chefchaouen (there’s no connection between Meknes and Chefchaouen).
Chefchaouen: What to say about this little town…. It’s the place every tourist and backpacker goes to… And even though I generally don’t like these hubs, Chefchaouen is too cute to skip. It’s the place where everyone smokes weed, though even if you’re not so much into this, it’s a super relaxed place. Go to the local hammam, hike into the mountains, just stroll down the streets again and again and relax with fellow travellers on the roof top terrace of your hostel.
Chefchaouen is so charming because the entire city is painted blue. The story goes that ‘back in the days’, every house-owner painted his properties in 1 color. There was either a really really wealthy man that chose blue as his color, or someone told me a bullshit story. You might want to verify this 😉
From Chefchaouen I took the bus to Rabat. Rabat was the surprise of my trip. Everyone had recommended me to skip Rabat, since they said there was nothing to do.
Yet, when you tell me to skip a specific place, I go there. That’s just how I travel. Which resulted in 1 big surprise! Indeed, Rabat isn’t spectacular, though it has enough to offer.
I only had one afternoon in Rabat. In one afternoon you can try to cover as much of the touristic sites and you can, but I decided to go surfing instead.
In front of the kasbah, you will find many surfers waiting for a good wave. Even though I’m not a good surfer, they gave me a board and told me they would come and check if I was still alive in a few hours. Loved it! And what’s nicer than waiting on your board for a good wave with a beautiful old kasbah at the background.
Rabat is a good destination to spend your last night before you go to the airport in Casablanca.
Hostels in Morocco are super cheap. If you want to travel even cheaper, bring a sleeping bag and ask if you can sleep on the roof top terrace. They’re likely to let you stay there fore about half of the price, plus, in the summer this is the only place where it’s still comfortable.
Marrakech: Riad Dia. Friendly atmosphere, cool staff and if you’re lucky, even free dinner with music! Right next to Jemaa el-Fnaa, the central square.
Essaouira: I stayed at Surf & Chill, which really made my stay! Though the always friendly Wadie, who works there, recently started his own hostel (Surf Mellow). I haven’t been here yet, but I can’t imagine Wadie disappointing you.
Fes: Riad Verus. I didn’t like the vibe in this hostel, and it isn’t cheap. Though it’s clean.
Meknes: I couldn’t find a hostel in Meknes. I stayed in a riad where I heavily negotiated the price, though it was still expensive. Can’t remember the name, but it was one of the many riads in the old souk.
Chefchaouen: Hostel Souika. Thé place where every traveller stays.
Rabat: Auberge de la Jeunesse. A bit poor, but good enough for 1 night.
- Marrakech – Essaouira: 3 hours by bus (but book in advance, I just went to the busstation and had to wait for 3 hours before I could board a bus).
- Essaouira – Fes: 13 hours, overnight. There was only 1 bus I could take, a night bus. It’s not ideal, but the guy next to me was awesome, and even though we had a major language problem, we had great fun. He made my trip.
- Fes – Meknes: take the train! Comfortable, and a new way of transportation is always fun. It’s about half an hour when there’s no disruption, but the train station is quite far from the city center in Fes.
- Fes – Chefchaouen: About 5 hours by bus.
- Chefchaouen – Rabat: About 2 or 3 hours by bus.
- Rabat – Airport Casablanca: Take the train. It took me looooong due to disruptions, but would generally not take you longer than 1,5 – 2 hours.
Morocco is an Islamic country, but got used to tourists. This means that you won’t have to be fully covered when going there. Though, you’re making it a lot easier for yourself if you cover your shoulders and legs as a female traveller.
I guess Morocco doesn’t really need warnings. You’ll just figure out how it works. Sometimes it might make you grumpy, but what can you do? Everyone tries to earn something from the tourist boom. One thing that will happen frequently is getting lost in the narrow lanes in the old medina (everything looks the same!). For someone like me with zero sense of direction; don’t even try to find your way. There are plenty of kids on the street, willing to bring you to your hostel for some money (they’ll even do this without asking, but still expect money). They’re adorable and don’t really speak English, until your in front of your hostel. Then they’re suddenly fluent in English and curse you with words you wouldn’t even use. Don’t pay more when they’re doing this, because then you’re ruining it for other tourists.