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12 Day Morocco Road Trip

More detailed blogs are coming, complete with the infamous Riki photos (of which there are 4,000 to go through).  But for now, here is our trip report from our 12 day journey in Morocco.  Check out 15 Tips for a Morocco Road trip as well.

We flew in and out of Marrakech, but this could be done from Casablanca as well, or even starting in Marrakech and ending in Fes (with a one-way rental).

Morocco road trip with cities
Map available here : 9 day road trip

12 Days in Morocco Itinerary (Short Version)

  1. Arrive in Marrakech.
  2. Explore Marrakech.
  3. Drive 4 hours to Ait Ben Haddou. 2 hour visit with lunch. Drive 3.5 hours to Todra Gorge.
  4. Drive 3 hours to Hassilabied (Merzouga). 1.5 hours on camel to camp.
  5. Camel ride and climb Erg Chebbi dunes.
  6. Camels back to Hassilabied.  4 hour drive to Midelt.  Stop in Rissani to see kasbahs. Amazing views of Ziz valley.  Stop at Source Bleu in Meski.
  7. 3.5 hour drive to Fes.  Drive through cedar forest near Azrou with Barbary monkeys.  Stop at Dayet Aaoua lake.
  8. Explore Fes.
  9. Explore Fes.
  10. Drive 1.5 hours to Volubilis. 2 hours visiting site.  45 minute drive to Meknes.
  11. Drive 2.5 hours to Mohammedia for lunch. Drive 3 hours to return car at Marrakech airport.
  12. Last minute shopping and return to Marrakech airport.

 


12 Day Morocco Trip Report

Day 1: Arrive in Marrakech late morning. Bus #19 (20 Dh low season, 30 Dh high season) to Jemaa el-Fnaa. Walk to Riad dar Nael (270 Dh/night plus city tax, incl. breakfast) in Medina. Explore souks.  Visit El Badi (10 Dh).

Day 2: Ben Joussef Medersa (20 Dh) to see amazing tilework and student dorms. Visit Ensemble Artisanal for handicraft market with fixed prices. Explored Kasbah neighborhood and went to El Bahia Palace (10 Dh). Bus from Jemaa el_Fnaa to Gueliz area (new part). Walked back.  Ate at stall #1 on Jemaa el_Fnaa (90 Dh for 12 sticks of meat and vegetable couscous).

Day 3: Bus #19 back to airport to pick up rental car (Hertz via Holidayautos for $139 (1400 Dh) for 9 days, mini). Drive 4 hours to Ait Ben Haddou. Visit ksar and climb to top (free). Drive 3.5 hours to Todra Gorge. 7 police checkpoints. Check in to Auberges Cavaliers (190 Dh room, 100 Dh dinner, 50 Dh breakfast).

Day 4: Drive 3 hours to Hassilabied (Merzouga). 3 police checkpoints. Leave bags at Camels House (375 Dh/night in tent incl camel transport and all food/water). 1.5 hours on camel to camp.

Day 5: Sunrise in the desert.  1 hour on camels to base of Erg Chebbi dunes. Climb dunes. Lunch at other camp.  Return to our camp for sunset.

Day 6: Sunrise in the desert. Camels back to Hassilabied for breakfast and shower.  4 hour drive to Midelt.  Stop in Rissani to see kasbahs. Amazing views of Ziz valley.  Stop at Source Bleu in Meski (5 Dh). 4 police checkpoints. Overnight at Riad Villa Midelt (350 Dh incl breakfast).

Day 7: 3.5 hour drive to Fes.  Drive through cedar forest near Azrou with Barbary monkeys.  Stop at Dayet Aaoua lake, but its half dry and has few birds.  Arrive in Fes and park at Ain Azliten (30 Dh/night).  3 police checkpoints.  3 minute walk to Fez Dar (215 Dh/night plus city tax, incl breakfast). Nejjarine Museum right before closing (20 Dh) for woodworking exhibit and terrace views.

Day 8: Early to Medersa Bou Inania (20 Dh).  Explored medina and souks. Medersa Attarine (20 Dh).  Art shopping at Galerie Yessari.  Through Jnane sbile park to Mellah, the Jewish quarter.

Day 9: El Batha Museum (10 Dh) to see handicraft antiques. Chouwara tanneries from viewpoint above (10 Dh to the door guy just to look – no shopping). Walked in El Andalus area and up to Bab Guissa and Merenide tombs (free).

Day 10: Drive 1.5 hours to Roman ruins at Volubilis and museum (10 Dh). 2 hours visiting site.  45 minute drive to Meknes. 1 police checkpoint. Parking at Place Lalla Aouda (20 Dh/night to parking attendant).  Short walk to Riad ma Boheme (200 Dh plus city tax incl. breakfast). Explored souks and silverworks.

Day 11: Drive 2.5 hours to Mohammedia for lunch near beach. 2 police checkpoints.  Drive 3 hours to return car at Marrakech airport (159 Dh in tolls). Bus #19 back to Jemaa el-Fnaa. Walk to Riad Riva (215 Dh plus city taxes, incl. breakfast).  Wander souks and leisurely dinner.

Day 12: Last minute shopping. 40 Dh taxi to the airport. Bus price went up April 1 to 30 Dh / 3 Euro each. Long lines at airport and passport control.

 

 

Car and Gas: Fiat Punto, approx 700 Dh / $70 in diesel (not incl. $10 scam), unleaded was about 1 Dh/L more expensive (~9.50 Dh vs 10.50 per liter, March 2017)

Total distance: 1650 km / 1025 miles

Total hours: ~26 hours, with plenty of photo stops

Tolls: 6, all between Meknes and Marrakech, 159 Dh / $15.80

Police checkpoints: 20, most in the south, stopped at 0

Morocco and swiss
Outline of Switzerland inside our Morocco route

Map available here : 9 day road trip

More tips here: 15 Tips for a Morocco Road trip

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15 Tips for a Morocco Road trip

My musings are based on the route below.  I can offer little advice for driving in the cities, as we avoided Casablanca and Rabat on this trip.  For more information about our itinerary, check out the other Morocco blogs (Coming soon).

Morocco road trip with cities.JPG

  1. Road conditions are good.  Our economy sized Fiat Punto had no problems in the mountains or desert, though we did not go off-piste at all.  The worst road we encountered was between Fes and Volubilis, where the edges were bumpy.
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    Road between Fes and Volubilis

    In the desert, the roads were generally smooth except where water occasionally passes over them.  These are marked with this amusing cat-like sign.

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    Thought this was a funny looking cat the first time we sped by
  2. Speed limits are well marked and range from 40/60 (in towns) to 120 (toll roads) km per hour.  Police radar traps are frequent as are checkpoints.  We met a couple whose fine for 68 in a 60 zone was about $20.  Drivers will often flash at you to warn about upcoming radar traps.  We were waved through all 20 checkpoints we went past, most of which were south of the Atlas mountains.
  3. Gas prices are lower than in Europe. Diesel (Gasoil) was around 9.50 Dh/liter (March 2017) and Unleaded (Sans Plomb) was around 10.50 Dh/liter.  There are plenty of gas stations along the main roads.
  4. Moroccan drivers are not all crazy or bad drivers.  We found driving in Marrakech and Fes to be hectic, but only a bit crazier than what we’ve encountered in Europe.
  5. Passing and honking are frequent occurrences.  Use your blinker when passing and honk to let the other driver know you are coming.  Most of the honking we encountered was just friendly beeps alerting us to their passing.
  6. Be alert at traffic lights.  If you are too slow to get moving, you will get honked at.
  7. Roundabouts or circles can be confusing.  For the majority, you should yield to traffic in the circle and this will be evident by a normal red triangle yield sign.  When there is a traffic light to enter the circle, you may be required to stop in the circle and wait for incoming traffic.  If there is neither a yield sign or a traffic light, yielding is the best bet.
  8. Watch out for animals and people in the road.  Many of the rural roads are used by pedestrians as well as herds of sheep and goats.

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    Watch out for monkeys near Azrou
  9. Signs are in Arabic and French.  Most roads signs are similar to those in Europe.
  10. Avoid scams.  We were the unfortunate victim of a gas scam at the Afriquia nearest to the Marrakech airport. Make sure the attendant resets the pump from the previous customer to avoid paying extra. We also read about scams involving people pretending to need assistance, only to take you to their friend’s shop.
  11. Use an app such as maps.me for offline driving directions.  We found this app to be generally accurate even though roads were rarely marked.
  12. Rental agencies are required to provide 3rd party liability coverage.  Consider booking your car with a credit card that offers additional insurance coverage for car rentals, so you don’t have to use the additional insurance offered.
  13. For entertainment during those long hours, we found the Moroccan FM radio to be decent with a mix of English and Arabic songs.  Bring a USB car charger to play your own music and to charge your phone.
  14. Check the spare tire has air and there is a working jack before leaving the rental agency office.
  15. Relax and don’t forget to pull over to enjoy the view (and if you’re Riki, take a few thousand pictures).

 

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In the Atlas Mountains between Marrakech and Ait Ben Haddou
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In the Atlas Mountains between Marrakech and Ait Ben Haddou

 

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Our little Fiat Punto
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Driving in the desert
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Pit Stop
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Road in Hassilabied, near Merzouga.  Fortunately, we only drove on this for a few blocks.
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Smooth roads except for some places where the shoulders are rough.
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Smooth and flat

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Distance markers for major towns are frequent.

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Motorbikes can also make this journey
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Watch out for these guys in the Medinas – real troublemakers.
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Meknes traffic
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Meknes Gate

Thanks for reading, and check out the other blogs on Morocco for more information.