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Merzouga

Morocco: discovering a colourful country

To the point From the medinas to the Sahara desert, here is everything you need to know to plan a dream trip to Morocco!

Morocco is a very popular destination as it is easy to get to from Montreal. It’s a change of scenery and it’s not too far from Quebec!

This country will hypnotize you, with the smells of spices in the medinas, the vibrant colours of the artisans, the beautiful and diverse landscapes… There are so many things to discover in this Maghreb country.

Sahara

Morocco: the must-sees

Casablanca

Economic capital of Morocco, this “art deco” city will surely be your entry point to the country.

The spectacular Hassan-II mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world, can be found there, and is considered emblematic of Casablanca.

Casablanca 5

You can visit inside the Hassan-II mosque as part of a guided tour.

Casablanca

Tangier

In the north of Morocco, you’ll find the city of Tangier. Tangier is located opposite Spain, which is on the other side of the Strait of Gilbatar.

Tanger

The ferry Tangier-Tarifa connects Morocco and Spain; the journey takes about an hour. Indeed, for centuries, Tangier was the gateway to Africa for Europeans, and an amalgam of cultures can still be observed today.

Chefchaouen

This beautiful city is surrounded by the Rif mountains. Chefchaouen is one of the most beautiful cities in Morocco and even in the world, where you feel in an artsy and picturesque universe.

Chefchaouen 3

The medina of Chefchaouen is full of charm and unique with its bright blue and very distinct buildings. It was painted by refugees who lived there at the beginning of the twentieth century, because they wanted to contemplate the blue sky and paradise.

The large square of the medina is lined with multiple cafes and is flooded with a crowd of locals and tourists.

Chefchaouen 2

Volubilis

From Meknes, we were able to visit the Roman ruins at the archaeological site of Volubilis. These ruins have been very well preserved in this region of North Africa during the Roman Empire.

Vollubis

Fez

Then, we explored the alleys and streets of the famous medina of Fez. A medina is defined as the “old city” in contrast to the new modern European-inspired neighbourhoods. In fact, the majority of Moroccan cities are separated into a medina and a new town.

It is impossible not to get lost, because the medina of Fez is the largest medieval medina in the world.

Fes

This labyrinth is full of life, as it houses a large number of artisans, souks, restaurants, etc. I loved walking around there! Unlike the Khan Al-Khalili Bazaar in Egypt, I did not feel harassed by the shops.

Fes Medina

Thus, I was able to take advantage of my shopping experience and purchase several Moroccan handicrafts to bring home. In fact, you can see the craftsman at work and encourage him by purchasing beautiful items directly from him.

You can also take a look at the tanneries of Fez and buy leather products at a reduced price.

Fes Tannerie 2
Fes Tannerie

Merzouga

This small village is located at the edge of the Sahara; Merzouga is especially famous for its sand dunes which are the highest and most beautiful of Morocco.

Merzouga

There is a large number of campsites since the influx of tourists is very important. The typical activity offered is a camel ride at sunset, followed by a night camping under the stars, and a return to town at daybreak.

Some facilities and companies are really outdated and archaic. The difference can be enormous. For a better experience, do your research to find reputable operators.

Merzouga 2

On my first visit to Morocco, I booked a tour online and loved the experience. The walk in the desert was long and very satisfying; indeed, they knew that I liked to take pictures and they guided us to the most beautiful dunes.

Merzouga 5

Then, we had a king’s feast and ended the evening around a lovely campfire under the stars of the Sahara desert.

I loved it so much that I went back a few years later to relive the experience. Since I was aware that prices were 50% to 60% cheaper in the city, I decided to book directly with an agency in Marrakesh instead of dealing with Viator.

Wrong! I don’t even have pictures of the camels or the sunset, because it was already too late when we finally manager to get there. Then for supper, we had no utensils at our disposal nor plates for the meal…

Merzouga étoiles

Book your activity with Viator! By using a no-conversion-fee credit card like the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®, you will save 2.5% on foreign currency transaction fees.

And you’ll get reward points for that purchase. Points that you can then use to pay for your excursion!

Here are some suggestions for activities on Viator:

Gorges of Toudra

With huge cliffs on both sides, the gorge is an oasis of palm trees. Although there are plenty of souvenir vendors, it is still possible to find more serene places to walk.

Todra

These gorges are also a destination of choice in Morocco for climbing enthusiasts. Hundreds of routes are accessible on the reddish limestone walls of the gorges. There is a range of climbing routes for all levels and the weather is always good!

Ouarzazate & Aït-Ben-Haddou

A great number of films and series were shot in this region of the High Atlas: Gladiator, Game of Thrones, Prince of Persia, Sex and the City 2, etc. Even to this day, it is one of the first choices of filming locations; Atlas Film Studios is one of the largest studios in the world.

We can understand why, because Ouarzazate provides not only beautiful landscapes, but a quality of light that is highly prized by filmmakers.

paysage Maroc

We then continued towards Aït-Ben-Haddou, an old Berber citadel or casbah with superb panoramas at its top. This one is one of the most intact and demonstrates well the traditional Berber architecture. This citadel was very important in the history of Morocco, as it was located on the trade route between Marrakesh and Sudan.

Marrakech

Moroccans often speak of Casablanca as the brain of Morocco, while Marrakech represents the heart of their culture. Marrakech is the third largest city in Morocco after Fez and Casablanca. This city is located next to the Atlas Mountains and is a gateway to the Sahara Desert.

Marrakech

The city is divided into two distinct parts: the new town and the historical quarter with the medina and the Jemaa el-Fna square. The latter is emblematic of tourism in Morocco.

Snake charmers, henna tattoos, fortune tellers with crystal balls, musicians, restaurants, markets; this place is very lively and you can deeply feel its soul.

The Majorelle Garden is also a must-see during a visit to Marrakech. It is a botanical garden created by the French artist Jacques Majorelle; it took 40 years to build!

Jardin Majorelle

It would be easy to spend a week in Marrakech as it has a lot to offer. In addition, it is an excellent base for exploring the surrounding areas in Morocco.

Marrakech 2

Here are some ideas for activities on Viator:

Essaouira & Agadir

To end a trip to Morocco, I recommend spending a few days in a seaside port city like Essaouira or Agadir.

In Essaouira, you will probably be on the waterfront for most of your time. The winds can be strong enough to interfere with your tanning session, but the conditions are ideal for water activities, kitesurfing or windsurfing.

Essaouira

For those who prefer a quieter environment at the beach, Agadir is best. Indeed, Agadir is a little less open to the Atlantic so it is possible to lie on the beach. There is also a large choice of all-inclusive hotels and a greater tourist traffic.

Moroccan cuisine

Another must during a trip to Morocco: the food! You can expect every bite to be an explosion of flavour!

Festin du Maroc

The local cuisine is exquisite, and as I write this, I am still reminded of what I ate in Morocco. Tagine is probably the most famous Moroccan dish; it is a way of cooking meat and vegetables.

Magasinage Maroc

However, I still dream of returning to Morocco to taste a tangia dish. Like the tagine, the tangia is a way of cooking. The tangia is a ceramic pot where the meat is cooked and candied for long hours to infuse the maximum flavour.

Where did I eat the best tangia? It was from a vendor in a random street in Marrakech who simply had a counter… best street food ever.

Tangia

Indeed, the opportunities to eat at low cost with street food are everywhere! For a few dollars, you can get kebabs, massive sandwiches, sausages, etc.

Suggestions

I have been to Morocco several times and each time, La Sqala restaurant is on my schedule for both brunch and dinner because of its exquisite Moroccan menu. This restaurant is located in front of the port of Casablanca and not too far from the medina.

Organize your trip to Morocco

When to visit?

You can visit Morocco at any time of the year, as it is a very diverse country in terms of climate: the coast and the beaches, the mountains, the Sahara desert, the cities, etc.

Casablanca 4

The best time to discover the vast majority of what Morocco has to offer is in the spring and fall, i.e.

  • from mid-March to May
  • from September to October

The temperature will be ideal to visit while being warm, but still pleasant. It can be very cold in some areas in winter and the heat can be very oppressive in the middle of summer. Indeed, temperatures can be freezing in the Sahara desert in December and January.

Morocco‘s coastal regions, such as Agadir, can be visited year-round.

Merzouga

How much time is required?

You can easily be absorbed by the culture and feel the pulse of the country with only a few days, but I suggest spending between one and two weeks in order to discover all the hidden treasures of Morocco.

Geographically, it makes more sense to start the trip in Casablanca before exploring the north of Morocco (Fez, Rabat, Tangier, Chefchaouen) and then moving on to the Sahara desert and ending in Marrakech. From Marrakech, you can extend your stay in Morocco with a trip to Essaouira or Agadir.

On the other hand, you could start or end your trip in Tangier if you combine this trip to Morocco with a vacation in Spain or Portugal!

Chefchaouen

How to get to Morocco?

Travel points

When we went to Morocco, we paid for a flight in cash, as it was very cheap following a valuation calculation. I then used my free NBC travel points obtained with the National Bank’s World Elite Mastercard® to cover a large portion of the cost of the flight.

Also, I could take advantage of the card‘s travel insurance and use the travel credits for our seat selection.

Aeroplan points

Air Canada provides direct service between Montreal and Casablanca. Because of the pandemic, flights were temporarily suspended, but will resume for the summer season.

You will need approximately 30,000 Aeroplan points for a one-way trip to Morocco. Casablanca is, in fact, an Aeroplansweetspot for crossing the Atlantic.

Maroc Aeroplan

Since this flight is operated with Air Canada, you can benefit from a free checked bag for you and 8 people on the same reservation!

Avios Miles

On the other hand, there is also Royal Air Maroc which flies directly between Montreal and Casablanca. Since Royal Air Maroc has joined Oneworld, it is possible to use Avios to pay for a flight.

Avios fares are based on distance traveled, so the cost will be 20,750 Avios for a one-way trip.

Don’t forget that you can add a second destination (or even more), in Spain or Jordan for example, and take advantage of Oneworld’s multi-partner price list!

How to get around in Morocco?

Upon arrival at Casablanca airport, you can take the train to Casa Port station which is more convenient for people wanting to reach the tourist center the city.

The Casa Voyageur station connects Casablanca to other major Moroccan cities (Marrakesh, Tangier, Fez, Meknes).

To get to other cities like Chefchaouen, there is the CTM bus company with their own stations and offers a very safe service.

paysage maroc 2

As far as Marrakech is concerned, it is possible to take a public bus between Jemaa el-Fna square and the airport.

During our stay in the cities, we chose to stay near the main squares and medinas in order to move almost always on foot.

Cabs are not very expensive in Morocco, but you will have to use your negotiation skills.

Casablanca

Where to stay in Morocco?

Independent hotels

In Morocco, there are alternatives for all tastes and all budgets for accommodation. In large cities such as Casablanca, Fez or Marrakech, it is possible to find beds in youth hostels between $15 and $25.

For an authentic experience, book a night in a riad! A riad is a traditional Moroccan house on several floors surrounding an inner courtyard. In the past, the owners of the riads were rich merchants, wealthy people, etc.

Riad

Nowadays, most of the riads in Morocco have been converted into hotels, often very well located near the medinas.

The inner courtyard of the riads is now used as a restaurant or lounge for tourists. We loved our experience in this type of establishment with traditional architecture.

Prices for staying in a riad vary greatly from place to place, but you can get away with $60 to $75 per night in a standard riad in Morocco on Booking.com.

Maroc Riad Booking

Marriott Bonvoy Hotels

Finally, for Marriott Bonvoy fans, Morocco is a sweetspot of the program with many low-cost Marriott hotels.

So, apply for a Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card and a Marriott Bonvoy™ Business American Express® Card and it could give you enough points for almost every night of your trip to Morocco!

Maroc Marriott Bonvoy
City Hotel
Casablanca Sheraton Casablanca Hotel & Towers
Fès Fes Marriott Hotel Jnan Palace
Marrakech Le Méridien N’Fis
Marrakech AnaYela, Marrakesh, a member of Design Hotels
Rabat Rabat Marriott
Rabat The Ritz-Carlton Rabat Dar Es Salam
Tanger The Ritz-Carlton, Tamuda Bay

Conclusion

To follow my adventures on my Instagram account @wanderingaline, it’s this way!

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!

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