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ONE-WEEK ITINERARY IN MOROCCO
Although Morocco is still relatively new in the field of large-scale tourism, it has been on my travel list for some time. This is mainly thanks to Instagram’s photos of its magnificent tile palaces and amazing landscapes. That’s why, when I had a week off from university in January, it seemed like the perfect place to visit for my 21st birthday. So here is my week-long itinerary to Morocco, which contains everything you need to know to visit this North African country.
IS ONE WEEK IN MOROCCO ENOUGH?
Another thing to understand before visiting Morocco is the fact that it is a very large country (more than 400,000 km²). In addition, its major cities are spread over this vast area. For example, if you want to travel between Marrakech and Fez (two of the most visited cities in the country), it will take you more than 5 hours.
This way, if you want to visit all the cities and regions of Morocco, one week in the country is probably not enough. That said, although I didn’t see all of the country’s famous attractions during my week in Morocco, I left with the feeling that I had seen enough to understand the culture and appreciate the beauty of the country. Therefore, I would say that one week in Morocco is enough, but you can add a few more days to your own itinerary if you are desperate to see all its highlights.
ONE WEEK ITINERARY IN MOROCCO :
After looking for where to go in Morocco, I discovered that there are two main options if you only have time to spend a week in Morocco as I did. The first is an itinerary in northern Morocco that includes visiting sites such as Casablanca, Fez, and the famous blue city of Chefchaouan, as part of Instagram.
However, since Marrakech was the city in Morocco that I had read about the most, I decided to focus my trip around this city, and explore the central region of Morocco instead:
DAY 1: MARRAKECH
I traveled to Morocco with my mother, and our flight left London crazy early in the morning, which means that we landed in Marrakech around 11am. It is often said that the cab drivers at Marrakech airport charge an absurd amount to take you to the city, which is only about 10 minutes away. This is why we had arranged to be picked up by our hotel/riad. This proved to be a very wise decision, as it did not entail any hassle and the comfort of the air-conditioned 4×4 made the madness of the roads of Marrakech more bearable.
NOTE: During their stay in Marrakech, most people choose to stay in a “riad”. These are essentially townhouses built around a central courtyard in the medina/wall part of the city. However, they tend to be beautiful!
Our transport took us to Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square of the city. Beyond this point, the alleys of the medina become too narrow for the passage of cars. Luckily, our riad sent someone to show us the rest of the way to our accommodation, for which I am very grateful, as I am sure that my mother and I would not have found the riad on our own!
After checking into our room (and drinking the first of many Moroccan mint teas), we returned to Jemaa el-Fnaa square for lunch. We chose to eat at L’Adresse, which quickly became our favorite place to eat in the city, both for its fantastic food and for its rooftop location, which allows people to watch and observe the madness of the square below. Next, we began to research some of Marrakech’s famous attractions, starting with the Koutoubia Mosque, an impressive structure that dominates the city’s skyline. Although non-Muslims are forbidden to enter the mosque, it is always amazing to see it from the outside.
From here we attempted to walk to El Badi Palace, a ruined 16th century palace whose name translates as “incomparable”, which gives a glimpse of its grandeur. However, we got madly lost along the way, because of the medinas that confuse the labyrinths of streets, which all seem to lead to dead ends!
Instead, we stumbled upon the Bahia Palace, and since it is another must-see building in Marrakech, we decided to pay the entrance fee of 70 dirhams and take a look around. The palace is filled with amazing courtyard gardens, and incredibly detailed tiled ceilings, walls and doors, which means I strongly suggest you visit it.
Emotionally exhausted after getting lost, and physically exhausted after getting up at 5am for our flight, my mother and I decided to stop one day later and went back to our Riad to relax on its roof terrace and enjoy an amazing 3 course Moroccan meal.
DAY 2: MARRAKECH
Following our misadventure of the day before, we decided to hire a guide to show us around the famous souks (markets) of the city on our second day in Marrakech. Our guide was the most beautiful lady who told us many amazing facts about the city, and she knew the alleys of the Souks like the back of her hand, taking us to the best places and shops: from the spice house to the carpet house!
TOP TIP: The souks of Marrakech are a must to visit, but I strongly recommend that you hire a guide to show you around. You will be able to appreciate their madness without fear of being swindled or getting lost.
After buying some handmade sweets in the markets, our guide took us to the Marrakech Museum which exhibits many amazing pieces of Berber jewelry and weapons. However, the building itself is really the star of the exhibition, as it still has other amazing tiles and mosaics. I don’t hear a lot of people talking about this museum, but I highly recommend adding a visit to your Morocco itinerary!
NOTE: Next to the Marrakech museum is the amazing Ben Youssef Madrasa, an Islamic college with a fantastic interior. However, it was unfortunately closed for renovation during my visit to Marrakech (UPDATE: the collage reacted in March 2020, so you can visit it now).
Then we left the medina to go to the modern part of Marrakech to visit the most visited attraction of the city: the Majorelle gardens (or the gardens of Yves Saint Laurent). Having a guide to take us there was again fantastic, as she knew the best places to take a cab and had a season pass for the gardens, which meant that we were able to avoid the long queue to get in!
The gardens proved to be a quiet escape from the madness of the city. Its centerpiece is an electric blue villa, which many visitors seem to have frequented. However, I preferred to walk among the many exotic plants and fountains, while enjoying the sweet smell of the many lemon and orange trees in the garden. I could easily have spent my entire week in Morocco in the garden, so it’s really no surprise that it’s so popular!
TIP: Our guide suggested you not to pay more than 40 dirhams for a cab from the medina to the Majorelle Gardens.
After our visit of the gardens, our guide kindly showed us the way to the El Badi palace (which we had frustratingly spent the day before)! The visit was more than worth waiting for because the palace, although largely in ruins, was spectacular. Impressive walls and well-preserved mosaics offer an incredible glimpse of medieval Moroccan life!
a week in Morocco Palais BadiThis is what to see at the Moroccan Badi Palace
TOP TIP: The Bahia and Badi palaces are both located outside Bab Elmellah Square. To get to El Badi, you have to go down the street in front of the traffic circle in the square and turn right. You can also get to the Bahia Palace by going to the upper left corner of the square and following the road until you find it!
DAY3: EXCURSION TO THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS
After spending almost two full days in Marrakech, we were happy to have seen and experienced the best that the city has to offer. That’s why, the day after our week in Morocco, we decided to take a trip to the Atlas Mountains.
The Atlas Mountains stretch over 2,500 km and the terrain is incredibly varied. Closer to Marrakech, the landscape is quite lush, as vast canyons supply the region with water. In comparison, when we ventured deeper into the mountains, the landscape changed dramatically, with red rocky expanses resembling the surface of Mars.
In addition, the mountains are dotted with Berber villages, all seemingly untouched by the modern world. The most famous of them is Aït Benhaddou, a fortified village whose history goes back more than a thousand years. More recently, it has served as the setting for many famous films and television shows, such as Gladiators and Game of Thrones.
But the village is much more than just a movie backdrop! Walking in its adobe houses is like going back in time, and the view from its hilltop fortress is magnificent. It is therefore not surprising that the village is now considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Before returning to Marrakech, we took advantage of our trip to Morocco to visit the nearby city of Ouarzazate. This more modern city is home to the Atlas Studios, the largest film studios in the world! The Kasbah Taourirt, the former home of a powerful ruler, is another highlight you can visit.
I’m not going to lie, even if I would say that a visit to the Atlas Mountains is certainly one of the best day trips from Marrakech, it is a long day that involves at least 8 hours of driving, on roads that are often poorly maintained. However, the scenery more than makes up for it, and there are plenty of places to stop along the way to interrupt the driving! Therefore, when people will ask me what to see in Morocco, my first answer will be the beautiful Atlas Mountains.
DAY 4 AND 5: THE AGAFAY DESERT
Many people visit Marrakech and then continue on to the Sahara Desert. However, a trip to the Sahara takes at least 2-3 days. As we were limited to one week in Morocco, I decided that this was simply taking too much time in our Moroccan itinerary. So we chose to do what was closest to our goal and visited the Agafay Desert, which is about an hour from Marrakech. Although the desert here is rocky, the landscape is still breathtakingly beautiful.
You can opt for a day trip, however, we decided to spend the night in a luxury camp in the desert and enjoyed the two most relaxing days in pure comfort! As a result, my stay in the Agafay Desert was the favorite part of my week-long itinerary in Morocco. 🙂
We returned to Marrakech from the desert on the evening of our fifth day and had dinner with a view of the Great Mosque Bab Doukkala. As for our last two nights, we chose to stay further away from the center of the Medina.
I must say that I much preferred the location of our second Riad (which was close to the El Badi Palace) because the chaos of Jemma el-Fnaa was a bit too much for me. Far from the square, the locals didn’t seem to harass us as much and there was generally a more relaxed atmosphere which I really appreciated!
DAY 6: DAY TRIP TO ESSAOUIRA
We ended our vacation in Morocco by joining another day trip, this time to one of the best cities to visit in Morocco, Essaouira. Located on the Atlantic coast, Essaouira is nicknamed “the city of the wind in Africa”, a name it certainly deserved during our visit!
The wind wreaking havoc with my hair in Essaouira!
From Marrakech, the trip to the city takes about three hours. We hired a driver through GetYourGuide, and I felt very safe and relaxed during the trip, as our driver had clearly made the trip countless times! More than that, the scenery along the way was, once again, picturesque as the terrain is almost flat as far as the eye can see.
The magnificent views continued in Essaouira, as my mother and I started our stay in the city by climbing its “ramparts”, which offer a fantastic view of the city and the coast. These ramparts, which surround the city, are so impressive that they have been used to film scenes from Game of Thrones, which means that I felt like a Daenerys walking along them.We then enjoyed delicious Moroccan seafood and took time to explore the port and medina of Essaouria. The port was a hive of activity, and its electric blue fishing boats, which have become synonymous with the city, are a must see. In comparison, we found that the Medina had a relaxed atmosphere, allowing us to take a welcome break from the busy streets of Marrakech.
Thanks to this, I felt much more relaxed in Essaouira, not only did the locals seem less inclined to harass you, but its small size allowed us to confidently explore the beautiful alleyways and lanes without fear of never finding our way back!
Overall, although I only spent one day in Essaouira, I fell in love with its charm, relaxed nature, and seaside vibe. Therefore, even if you only spend a week in Morocco, I would say that it is a must-visit!
This completes my week-long itinerary in Morocco. I hope it will provide you with all the travel tips you might need to plan a trip to this wonderfully unique country! As I said, I personally found that one week in Morocco was enough, and I think that my itinerary allowed me to see the best parts of rural Morocco: the desert, the Atlas Mountains and the coast, which are certainly the most beautiful parts of the country?