I recently visited Morocco and had probably the best road trip in my life outside the USA. One week is plenty for an awesome Moroccan road trip if you follow these directions. However, if you are a business traveller looking to extend your trip, a long weekend is also sufficient to discover what Morocco has to offer. There are various conferences in Marrakesh, Fes, Casablanca and Rabat and these cities are very well connected. That’s because the country has several thousand miles of dual carriageway, so renting a car and driving across Morocco is relatively simple.
I never visited Africa before and I read somewhere that Morocco would be a good starting point. During my Moroccan road trip I visited:
- Dades Gorges and
- Ait ben Haddou
The Moroccan Road Trip Itinerary
This is my itinerary for one week, but you can easily split this anywhere to suit your needs. Ryanair and Easyjet operate cheap flights to various Moroccan airports. I picked Rabat, which is the capital of Morocco. The streets are very pretty in the old town, and the people were equally friendly. I am very happy I started out here as Fes was a bit of a shock to the senses, so Rabat and Sale was a good introduction. If you want to enlarge any of the images, just click to see them in a pop up window.
Morocco Car Rental Costs
I rented a car at the airport from Hertz and drove to Rabat Sale for the night. My flight arrived past 8 pm so there wasn’t much else to do. The return plane ticket was only £42 ($60) and the car for the week was £95 plus fuel. The next morning I walked around Rabat and headed off to Volubilis and Moulay Idriss.
Volubilis, Moulay Idriss and Fes – Ancient Towns in Morocco
Volubilis is an ancient Roman town in the North of Morocco. Driving to Volubilis from Rabat took about 2.5 hours but it takes even less on the motorway. Volubilis is one of the most well-preserved roman ruins in the country. It sits on top of a hill, surrounded by gold coloured fields and olive groves. From atop of the hill it is easy to see Moulay Idriss, the other nearby attraction. Read more about Volubilis here.
In the afternoon I left for Moulay Idriss and my final destination for the day: Fes. Fes is a beautiful Moroccan town with huge medieval walls surrounding it. The moment I arrived I had flashbacks to Age of Empires II, fighting with the Mamelukes. As soon as I entered through the main gate I felt like I flew back in time to the Middle Ages. What made it even more interesting is that my favourite Jewish philosopher, Maimonides studied here!
There were restaurants everywhere, shopkeepers offering their goods and musicians playing music. Donkeys carried merchandise from one end of town to the other and children were running after their parents.It was absolutely fascinating to see such a change in scenery.
Fez is a real shock to the senses and not just the sights – also the smells. One corner it smells like chocolate and coffee, the other it is the pungent smell of the tanneries. But more about Fez later.
The Atlas Mountains
After nearly three days in Fez I was ready to leave. I decided to drive to Ifrane, a city high up in the Atlas Mountains. Ifrane is a very clean and European city – a stark contrast to Fez.
Hassi Labied and Merzouga
Following Ifrane I drove all the way to Hassi Labied, near Merzouga, 9 hours away. This is where the yellow and golden sand dunes of the Sahara begin. Merzouga was absolutely breathtaking: seeing the endless dunes for the first time was quite special!
I stayed in a Berber bed and breakfast called Riad Aicha. The place is run by Ibrahim and his brothers providing for a great experience. Here is a link: http://www.riadaicha.com.
After a delicious breakfast I went on a long walk in the morning in the Erg Chebbi Desert. The desert walk was just awesome, here is an article I wrote about it.
Back in the hotel Ibrahim cooked lunch for me from scratch. At first I didn’t understand why he wanted to know in advance if I wanted lunch or not but then I realised: he was cooking everything from scratch!
He made chicken and vegetables for lunch after which I went on a camel ride. We rode out in the evening and spent the night out in the Erg Chebbi Desert. It was the first storm of the year in the desert and I was in the middle of it! Check this video to see it for yourself.
Moroccan Road Trip to The Dades Gorges
The storm in the desert caused floods high up in the mountains and the police had to close some of the roads. This meant that I had to take many detours, causing considerable delays in my journey. The drive from Merzouga to the Dades Gorges takes you through the Valley of the 1000 Kasbahs.
This area is where hundreds of ancient fortifications line the roads. The problem is, the roads here are very congested and traffic just crawls along. Because of all the delays I reach my destination late in the evening: I stayed in another Berber B&B for the night near the Dades Gorges. Ibrahim in Hassi Labied recommended the place as his childhood friend owned it. From here I drove to Ourzazate and Ait ben Haddou.
Visiting Ait ben Haddou During Your Moroccan Road Trip
Ait ben Haddou is an ancient kasbah, a town where travelling merchants lived. The kasbah is an ancient earth and wood fortification which also served as a meeting place for caravans that just crossed the Sahara. The place I visited is very tourist-centric but I was there in the low season so it was very quiet. This was my penultimate day and had to start driving towards the airport.
Roadside Motel with a View
After Ait ben Haddou I headed over to Telouet, another ancient town. I had to drive around the highlands to get there, but thanks to this I witnessed a beautiful sunset at the top of a mountain. Driving in the dark wasn’t fun on the narrow roads though!
Especially that this narrow rural road was undergoing some upgrades. I kept driving towards Marrakesh as my flight was the next day but in the end I gave up and stopped at a motel instead as I was falling asleep behind the wheel. The motel served food even at 1030 pm so I had my last tagine of the trip and went to bed.
Last Day in Rabat
I spent my last day in Morocco driving towards Rabat. I arrived in Rabat around 3 pm so I still had plenty of time to walk around one more time. Since I didn’t visit the beach before I decided to go there. Here I spent the next hour watching some Moroccans surfing and then headed out to the airport. I am proud to say there wasn’t a single scratch on the car when I returned it!
Visiting Volubilis and Moulay Idriss
There Is More!
If you enjoyed this post and want to read a similar story, scroll down to see the related posts section. You might also want to watch some of my other videos on Youtube. Also, I’ve made friends with Emily from the Planet and Me blog where she wrote about Chefchaouen – the blue city. I really enjoyed her blog post so check it out if you are planning to go there. And here is another article about Casablanca.