Day 1 – Marrakesh
Day 2 – Ouarzazate
Day 3 – Dades Gorges/ Errachidia
Day 4 – Merzouga
Day 5 – Merzouga/Tilouine/ Agadir
Day 6 – Sidi Ifni
Day 7 – Agadir/Souks
Day 8 – Essaouria
Day 9 – Marrakesh
Day 10 – Marrakesh/Home
Marrakesh nicknamed the ‘red city”, home to the snake charmers, was the perfect start to our road trip into the ever-mesmerizing Sahara Desert. Just a 3-hour flight away from London, you find yourself sitting in the heart of Jamaa El-Fna, hearing the Adhan from the great Koutoubia Mosque (perks of it being a Muslim country is there is a mosque at almost every corner, so, therefore, Salah is made easy), seen from most pivotal points in Marrakesh. Upon receiving our rental car from the airport, we drove into Marrakesh and parked at the nearest car park possible on our route. Driving in the center of Marrakesh is near enough impossible (even if you are an excellent driver) so it’s best to park and walk on foot to your Hotel/Riad; we were fortunate enough that our Riad very kindly sent someone to find us and help with our luggage back to the Riad, though I’m sure that most Riads offer this service there are also petit taxis at hand that for a very small charge can drop you off to your location.
Before I start our next 10 days trip I would just like to mention that, we had set our itinerary months in advance and had planned what cities we wanted to have a stop at on our way there. We took our sat nav with us and had it synced with the Moroccan maps, so it was very easy to find our way around during our whole journey. This all corresponded with our hotel bookings, so if you did want to spend more days in certain cities make sure your timings of journeys are mapped out. Driving during the night could prove to be unsafe as roads are not always safe, so try as much as possible to leave for your destination early in the morning allowing you to arrive before sunset.
So, with that out the way, after our night in Marrakesh, our journey began 200 kilometers from Marrakech to Ouarzazate. Home to sets of (if I don’t say so myself) some of the best tv shows and films; Games of Thrones, Prison Break, Gladiator, The Mummy, and many many more. First stop was Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, arguably one of the most famous Kasbahs in Morocco, its location is in embedded in the High Atlas Mountains and makes for a lovely view on the way there. We parked and walked all the way across a river (there are steppingstones) and made it to a beautiful view of the whole Kasbah. Kasbah Taourirt is also another Kasbah situated in Ouarzazate and it also just as lovely, it was fascinating to see how the El-Galouis of the Kasbah lived and ruled the village. Inside both Kasbahs there are many souvenirs and paintings that are available for sale, we had our names written in Arabic calligraphy which was a great gift to bring back.
I assume at this point you may be thinking what we were thinking at the time, “it would be useful if we had a tour guide at this point”, well our wish seemed to be commanded; there are many local men upon entrance that are more than willing to be your tour guide, they know English, Spanish, French and of course Arabic, there is not a set fee, so it is completely up to you on how much you would like to pay, although I wouldn’t go overboard as you will be going to many more of these throughout your trip, 20 – 100 MAD should be appropriate depending on the quality of the tour/service you received, Furthermore you will be helping with their livelihood as for most people in the area, tourism is their only source of income.
Atlas Film Studios, now if you’re a big TV show or film nerd like me then this is the place you need to be, located 20 minutes from Ait Ben Haddou, you can view the actual film sets of various shows and films. One of my favorites was the studio of season 5 prison break (if you have seen the season), all the cells are still there, and you are free to roam around and take a look. The entrance fee is 80 MAD but very much worth it, great fun to look around and get all the pictures you desire. There was also an activity to quad bike around the area however we had spent a few hours in the studio therefore did not have time for this. There is also another studio called CLA studios however they were renovating when we were there so unfortunately, we were not able to see it.
After the journey and sites, we were exhausted but hungry, on the way to our hotel which was located in the center of Ouarzazate we found a restaurant that had some traditional tajines which were a great way to end our day because it was quite late, we were the only ones there at this time; just as an FYI, the nightlife isn’t thriving there so try and complete all your activities for the day before sundown.
The next stop was Errachidia, this is where we were going to stay over the night before our journey to Merzouga, however as you would expect there was plenty to see on the route there. The trip took us roughly 5 hours, so we tried to stop off at as many villages as we could because at every village there was something interesting to see and you would not want to miss out. Once we got to Errachidia there would not be much to do so we wanted to use this day wisely. These areas of Morocco are incredibly safe, and everyone is very kind so don’t be afraid to explore different towns.
Among various towns we passed a special one, Kaalat M’Gouna the ‘Rose Valley’, it’s home to the rose festival that takes place every year in May, we were there just before so they were all getting ready for it and had plenty of rose water to buy. We stopped at a rose shop, the lovely employees there, kindly showed us the process of extracting the rose water (you can ask to be shown, if not voluntarily shown) and they just about had rose water everything, face cream, hair oil, shampoo, lip balm, and the list goes on, but this is the genuine rose water so it’s okay to buy.
Afterward, we proceeded to drive up the Dades Gorges, seeing the picture below you can see why it is usually called the snake road. The drive up to the top was slightly nail-biting, to say the least, a truck filled with heavy goods met us on the way, therefore, we had to reverse back and as you can see it’s not your usual reverse, but nonetheless it is certainly a must-do. Eventually, when making it to the top the view is breath-taking, there is parking and cafe at the top, serving some exquisite Moroccan tea, which you will need after that drive.
Errachidia, I would really recommend as having as your mid-point before heading to Merzouga, because it will only leave you with a less than a two-hour journey to reach the desert.
On day four we had a late start as we were not going to be making a journey as long as our previous ones, therefore we could be more relaxed with timings. Our second stop of the day was at Rissani, we had done some research and found out that this village was renowned for what we called a ‘Moroccan pizza’ in Moroccan darija ‘khobz medfouna’, it was an XXXL pizza that was filled with chicken with Moroccan seasoning and tasted delicious. After our pizza, we had some time to spare so we visited the Moulay Ali Sherif Mausoleum which was also situated in Rissani and has lovely architecture if you wanted to have some downtime.
Finally, we reached, Merzouga, probably the highlight of our road-trip trip was seeing the sand dunes in the distance after almost five days of traveling. We parked our car and we all packed a small rucksack for the night ahead, we were shown to our guides who were going to be navigating us to the camp in the desert, don’t worry if you didn’t want to ride a camel for 2 hours (although it is exceptionally fantastic) there is also the choice of being transported in a 4×4. 1 hour and 30 minutes into our camel ride we stopped to watch the sunset and it was truly a picturesque view.
Upon arrival at our camp, we were taken to our dinner for the evening, it was in a tent with everyone else who would be staying in the camp for the night. The same men who bought us with the camels subsequently were the ones who were serving food, which was traditional Moroccan soup and Moroccan couscous, and they truly provided great service.
We were shown our tents for the night; worth mentioning that they have a steel door with each tent and straight lock, so there is complete privacy and safety if you were a female traveler. We had a show available of traditional Sahrawi music by the same men, (they were truly a jack of all trades), around a campfire, it was truly a very feel-good moment, as everyone was as interested and happy as you were.
The next morning, we arose super early, to view the sunrise with the other campers, with Moroccan tea and sweets to accompany the viewing. After having breakfast, we were picked up by a 4×4 and taken back to the hotel, we then sorted out various activities to complete during the day, these were suggested to us by the manager.
In the 4×4, we started our excursion by viewing some dinosaur fossils, and our driver, who was also our guide, started by taking us to where the sea used to be in the desert. Riding over the sand dunes was by far the most fun to have, it really set your heart racing.
One of the most heart-warming experiences out of the whole road trip was our meeting (which was part of our excursion) with a Bedouin family, who lived just on the outskirts of the sand dunes. They truly provided us with the utmost fantastic hospitality, and in true Moroccan style, we were served with fresh homemade bread and Moroccan tea by the wife and husband of the family. Their daughter showed us her rug making and was very happy for us to give it a go. She explained that her husband has a camel that he uses for tourists and in fact, that was their only source of income, her dad proudly stated that he wouldn’t want to live any other way. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I would recommend adding the excursion into your journey whilst you are there.
We next visited Khamlia, it holds a population of 405 of Gnaoua, they are traditionally known for their music which they did a private show for us, and it can only be described as enchanting and mesmerizing to watch, it was completely different to anything we had ever seen. After stopping for one of the best Tajines we had throughout our whole trip, we visited some local people who made fresh Kohl that was available to buy (this is one of the Sunnah’s of the prophet Muhammed SAW), and again this would be their only source of income, so it’s great to be a help out.
We ended our Merzouga journey by driving on quads throughout the desert it was truly an experience, so make sure you sign up for it when you’re there.
So, our trip to the Sahara Desert was over and we made our way towards Agadir, of course, we had to stop at some local villages on the way. Tilouine, is home to saffron and was our first stop of the day, thus the name ‘Saffron Valley’, we were not in the season for saffron so the shop we had stopped at, kind of had a mini cinema where you could watch the process of how the saffron is farmed and bought in for sale. These are the best places to buy any of these items if you would like to take them back with you, they are cheaper than what you would buy in major cities such as Marrakech or Agadir because it is where they are made. After a very long nine hours’ drive, we finally made it to Agadir, we checked into our hotel and it was very conveniently situated right by the seafront, so we went for a night-time walk. After a nine-hour drive believe me you will be shattered, so a good night’s rest was really needed, and we weren’t planning to get up early the next morning.
Next morning, Sidi Ifni, this is home to large fish trading, so get ready to be eating the best fish of your life, let me tell you it was some amazing fish, whatever fish you desire, Sidi Ifni has. It was a three hour also journey, and we only made one stop during the way and that was at a small town called Tiznit, Town is incredibly famous as being one of the best places for Berber Jewellery and therefore was one of the main reasons we stopped. There was not just Berber jewelry, but also various other types and an incredibly reasonable price so make sure you’re ready to haggle, any Ertugrul fans out there, there is plenty of rings of the same type. After we arrived at Sidi Ifni, later on in the afternoon, and just in time for dinner. As with any seaside town, there is plenty of restaurants for you to eat, they are all serving pretty much the same food so just take a look at the menu and pick your favorite one, I must say they were very large portion servings so make sure you don’t get too carried away. After dinner we proceeded to Legzira Beach, it is very well known for its rock archway, about a 15-minute drive from the center of Sidi Ifni, our timing coincided with the sunset so was a very scenic view, and thus concluded our day and we returned to our hotel in Agadir.
The next day was our chill out day, went to the Agadir souk, and well what I can I say you can spend almost half a day there as it’s so big. But it is also the home of Argan Oil, and in-shop of the souk shops you can see it being made fresh in front of you before purchasing, not only is it the real authentic Argan oil but it is also sold at a cheap price. After almost buying half the souk, we decided to go to the Agadir Crocoparc, which houses over 300 crocodiles, it’s the perfect outing for kids and adults, and even more so entertaining for kids with lots of fun activities. We ended our day by going up to the Agadir Oufella, again using Sat Nav we arrived at the bottom of the ‘mountain’ and there was a shuttle bus to take you up to the top of the kasbah every 30 minutes, so do not worry if you just miss it, however, do try and get there before sunset as we managed to get on the last bus before the cut of and it was close to sunset, this was because of the winds and therefore would not be safe for travels in the dark also. At the top, you have a view of virtually the whole of Agadir, so I would say this is a must view, if in Agadir.
The last new destination of our journey was, Essaouira, it’s a beautiful little town, and you should DEFINITELY visit, it was one of my favorite cities we had visited. It has become very well known since being a location on the tv series Game of Thrones, so it is an extremely popular tourist place. The Medina is small but filled with so much, more of a Tardis. You can work your way around the Medina and go to areas such as the Sqala Du Port and have a view of the town and the citadel. It’s an awesome town and very much worth going, my only slight negative, would be that if you are traveling by car, which we were, it is very hard to find parking and you may have a bit of a wait to find a parking space. And thus, concluded our journey and back to Marrakech.
We spent our a very relaxed last day in Marrakesh, explored the souks and Medina, and got ready to go home the next day. It was genuinely a beautiful experience, and if you ever have 10 days to spare you should GO, it’s a trip of a lifetime and very Muslim friendly!