Morocco is a diverse gateway to Africa with epic mountain ranges, ancient cities, sweeping deserts, palm-fringed oases, good surfing conditions along the coast and warm hospitality. It’s easy to get around on public transport; nevertheless, I decided to rent a car to be more flexible and to drive through the desert by myself. As many hostels and hotels offer camping facilities, bring your own tent to save some money on accommodation.
• Marrakesh: This overwhelming and diverse city is a great introduction to Morocco. Especially the medina (the historical old town) with its narrow streets, crowded souks, spices, arts, amazing food places and the impressive market place "Djemaa el-Fna" will make your stay unforgettable. The medina is packed with accommodation. Make sure to check out one of the cheaper traditional riad style places such as Riad Hotel Essaouira which has a great location right next to Djemaa el-Fna.
• Atlas Valleys with Mudbrick Villages: Another must-see are the beautiful valleys of the highlands and the Atlas Mountains where time seems to have stopped 100 years ago. I am talking about the fact that there are more donkeys on the road than cars, manual labor in the fields und whole villages built of mudbricks. One of my favorite places was Ait Bougomez Valley about 150km east of Marrakesh.
Tip: "La Maison Berbère" located in the village of Agouti is a beautiful place to stay.
• Oases, Palmeraies and Kasbahs: Of course you can't leave Morocco without having seen an oasis with its typical palm groves (palmeraie) and historic fortresses (kasbah). Places I can definitely recommend to visit are the Skoura Oasis and the Draa Valley. A good stopover inside the Draa Valley is the city of Zagora where I stayed at an incredibly nice and friendly place called "La Petite Kasbah". Jebel Zagora, a mountain which offers great views of the area is nearby.
Tip: For the best food (also at a good price) in town, check out Marwa restaurant on the main road which is popular with locals.
• Erg Chegaga: This breathtaking stretch of up to 300m high golden sand dunes close to the border with Algeria is undeniably one of my favorites in Morocco. Tours through this part of the Sahara Desert can be arranged in Marrakesh, Zagora and M'hamid. You can choose between trekking, camel riding and 4wd four-wheel drive tours or a combination of the three from one day to several weeks.
Tip: I can recommend “Desert Passions” who have their office in M'hamid but also pick you up from the other cities. www.desert-passions.com.
• Ait-Ben-Haddou: This mudbrick ksar (fortified village) under UNESCO protection with its kasbahs, about 30km northwest of Ouarzazate, is one of the most famous photo motifs of Morocco. The surreal setting on a small hill next to the river banks is the reason why it was used as a film location, for example in Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia and Game of Thrones. You get the best views from one of the roof terraces on the other side of the river.
Tip: Check out “Lafibule D’or” which is an extremely welcoming and friendly place next to the hotel “Chez Brahim”, offering great food served on its roof terrace and good value options to stay overnight.
• Cascades d’Ouzoud: These amazing waterfalls are one of the most popular destinations for daytrips from Marrakesh. However, keep the tips below in mind.
21.11.2017 - Chris
...when to go:
The amount of water falling down the cascades depends on the season. In spring (between March and May), Morocco’s high season in tourism, the level is at its highest because of the melting snow in the Atlas Mountains. But even though I visited this place in the dry season (September/October), they were still very impressive (check out the photo gallery)!
Nonetheless, it is not only the season, but also the daytime of your visit that is important. The tourist busses from Marrakesh usually arrive after 10am, so stay overnight in or around Ouzoud and get up early to enjoy the falls without any tourists around! Yet the late afternoon provides the best light for taking great photos since the sun shines right into the gorge.
...where to stay:
The cheapest and most relaxed accommodations are found inside the gorge in 10min walking distance from the foot of the falls in downstream direction. Here you find lots of basic hippie hostels with great settings for as little as 3 US-$ (for setting up your own tent) to 8 US-$ (for a bed in a double room including breakfast). I can definitely recommend Rasta's relaxed camp "Le Havre De Paix". These places can only be reached on foot after having descended to the bottom of the falls, so keep your luggage as light as possible.