The perfect 2 week luxury vacation of Morocco. We explored Fes, the Sahara desert, the Atlas Mountains and Marrakesh.
Highs & Lows
Hiking in the Atlas Mountains & visiting our guides' family home.
Air France lost my luggage for most of the trip.
We planned a full country tour of Morocco for our anniversary. I highly recommend this itinerary as I felt we had a good pace in each location. Morocco is a special country and we loved every minute of it.
We wondered and explored the charming maze that makes up the pedestrian only alleys of Fes. We visited the famous leather tanneries (we were handed mint leaves to hold up to our noses to mask the horrible smells), and shopped for a Bedouin rug. On the 2nd day we drove outside of town to explore Roman ruins and various historic sites. On the 3rd day we drove 2 1/2 hours back to Casablanca airport to pick up 1 of 2 of our bags (sadly, the 2nd bag still hadn't made it-don't get me started on the unorganized state of Air France). This turned into a middle of night drive back to Fes we had a midnight dinner of gas station food with our guide and driver. It certainly was frustrating but made for a funny memory forgoing our fancy planned dinner for 1 am feast of packaged foods.
Still having no luggage (my husband's arrived), I made a dash for the local Fes mall and had 30 minutes to buy contact lenses (thank god they didn't ask for a prescription), toiletries, and random clothes that I could take with me as we headed out to the desert (PS: they had a great Nike store in Fes!). We drove through a beautiful forest and mountain area. After about 4 hours, we were heading into the desert. Eventually, we came to a hand off area where we boarded a jeep and started into the sand dunes. Ultimately, we spent the night in a luxury camp, and watched the sunrise over the dunes. Truly beautiful!
We awoke very early the next morning to enjoy tea and watch the sunrise over the dunes.
Dar Ahlam is one of my favorite places I've ever stayed. It's quiet luxury that caters to a small number of guests. Every meal is prepared in a special location around the property and customized to whatever you like. We went for a run through the village and saw tiny garden plots watered from century old irrigation system. School kids waved to us as we wondered. We didn't see any retail stores, just tiny homes, and gardens. It was a nice quiet break from long days of sightseeing. It was expensive, but worth it!
The Atlas Mountains and the Kasbah Tamadot hotel was a real highlight of the trip. The resort is simply stunning and located in the perfect spot with incredible views.
The Atlas Mountains are just over an hour away from Marrakesh, but you really feel away from it all. We hiked two days - the first day we met our guide and had a rigourous hike that also included an older gentleman, and his mule to carry our lunch. It was charming.
The 2nd day, we wondered through the local village and our guide invited us into his home for tea and to meet his wife and kids. We then moved onto a tougher hike and had lunch in a very tiny, local spot overlooking the mountains.
I can't emphasize enough how special this area is and I highly recommend a visit!
Just an hour away from the Atlas Mountains we arrived in bustling Marrakesh. On our first day, we walked all around the Medina, browsed through the hundreds (thousands perhaps?) of souks. We also wondered in the main square, Djemaa El Fna - the famous North African center square which is bustling from dawn to well after dark. The food stalls and fresh juice stands are a must! It's hectic but it's a delight to soak it all in. We found a small cafe on a 2nd floor and had tea over the square at sunset with the call to prayer in the background.
We also took a tour of Yves Saint Laurent's former home and garden (Jardin Majorelle). It's a beautiful oasis near the center of the city and gives you a peek inside the French designers life.
As a special treat, I did a hammam bath and massage at the incredible La Mamounia Resort which is an opulent Moorish-inspired hotel built in 1923. Next time, I would love to get dressed up and have drinks at the bar. The decor is simply magical.
Casablanca is a busy city located on the sea and has charming old town. We only stayed 1 night as a stopover on our way home.
Q & A
What would you have changed?Not much. We felt that we saw a good part of the country. We never did a “beach town”, which we didn’t regret. The desert camp was amazing, but it would have been a bit more fun with a big group of friends and it took 6 hours of driving to get there.
Anything go wrong during the trip?My luggage was lost for 7 days, but each city had everything I needed (Fez had a mall with a Nike store!). We had to drive late into the night to retrieve one of bags which meant we had to cancel a fancy dinner. We made the most of it and made a 1 am pit stop and had reheated frozen pizza at a gas station with our guide and driver. Made for a fun memory!
Packing tips?After losing my luggage for much of the trip, I now only travel via carry on. I have 1 roller bag, and 1 large duffel that fits under the seat and do laundry at hotels 1/2 way through trips. Women should plan to cover their shoulders when walking around the towns (no need to be modest in most nice restaurants). Weather in September was pleasantly warm, dry, but not too hot.
Restaurant recommendations?The food all throughout the country was incredible. Lots of flavors but not spicy hot. We ate lamb, chicken and some goat along with vegetables and incredible fruit. I ate pretty much everything on this trip. Great options for vegetarians though.
Any surprises?Such a varied landscape with mountains, ocean, lush valleys. While there are plenty of tourists, it never felt like the country is overrun by them. Morocco had the exotic charm that I hoped for.
Booking details?We used Heritage Tours as our travel agent and tour guide which I highly recommend. We flew Air France from Seattle to Paris, then Paris to Casablanca.