When us backpackers travel around the world, we search for those magical destinations that knock us off our feet – a country that surprises us around every corner and inspires us to keep searching for more adventures. And I must say… Morocco took our breath away! Our Morocco backpacking itinerary tooks us all over this beautiful country.
It was the first time I felt a real sense of culture shock. Morocco has a deep-rooted religious and cultural heritage that brings to life a proud country. The Moroccan people are more than welcoming to backpackers who are looking to share in the experience.
One day you could be surfing in the Atlantic Ocean and the next day find yourself riding camels into the Sahara desert. There is so much to see and do!
Luckily for you, we are going to share with you our itinerary for the 17 days we spent falling in love with Morocco. Here are some tips for experiences you should not miss out on!
Morocco can be quite the affordable destination for you budget-conscience backpackers!
Us Canadians were INCREDIBLY jealous when we heard some fellow European backpackers spent as little as €80 on their flights. Considering that the cheapest tickets we could find cost C$700, we managed our budget from there.
And not to worry! Once you arrive in Morocco it is smooth sailing.
Lindsay and I had no trouble keeping to a C$45-$50/day budget. That includes everything from transportation, food, accommodation, and little knick-knacks to take back home.
For the countless unforgettable experiences, backpackers need to put Morocco on their bucket list. Here is a step-by-step break down of how we explored Morocco!
Day 1: Casablanca
When you fly in from North America, you are most likely going to arrive in Casablanca. It may not have the same allure of Marrakech or Fez, but this cool, cosmopolitan city is a confident example of where modern Morocco is headed.
For a nice stroll around town, take in the gorgeous blend of French and Mauresque architecture in the downtown core. Afterwards, lounge the day away in one of many cafes to drink some delicious mint tea.
When in Casablanca, you can’t miss seeing the Hassan II Mosque. It is the third-largest mosque in the world, and its grand square back-dropped by the crashing Atlantic Ocean is a sight to see!
Days 2-4: Marrakech
Marrakech is Morocco in your face! The sights and sounds are unending and the thrill of travelling in Morocco comes to life.
Incredible souvenirs can be found around every corner of the medina, accompanied by the smells of teas, spices, and leather! Check out the beautiful zellige tilework scattered throughout the medina along city walls, outside mosques, and embroidering public fountains. Just watch out for the donkey carts that are still trudging down these ancient alleyways.
Some of the best deals in the country can be found in these souks, but be ready to be taken to school on bartering. We got to know many great locals by chatting them up in their shops (another great way to get special prices!). Just remember to have fun as you banter with the shopkeepers and find a deal where both sides win.
When nighttime roles around the main square of Jemaa el-Fnaa explodes with food vendors and street performers. If you’re like Lindsay, avoid the slithering cobras and let the nightly festivities take you away.
You will soon feel anxious to escape the chaos of Marrakech, I know we sure did, but we found sanctuary not too far away!
Where We Stayed in Marrakech: Hostel Rainbow – (super close to Jemaa El-Fna) https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/17537534
Days 5-7: Essaouira
Hands down one of our favourite stops on our trip! Essaouira is becoming a popular escape for many backpackers as the easy, breezy lifestyle of this charming seaside town is a welcoming change of pace. As you walk around town you will soon notice that everyone is a little more laid back here, and you can’t help but relax too.
Explore the old fortress walls of Castelo Mogador and enjoy (or wretch) at the smell of the days catch in the fisherman’s port. The stray cats live quite well here feasting off all the scraps!
Needless to say, you can eat the freshest seafood you have ever had in Essaouira.
ALTERNATIVE: Catch some waves, dude!
Seeing that you are in one of the best surfing hotspots in Africa, why not give it a try!
Our Airbnb host Flurina set us up with her friend Abdel at Kite Surf Maroc, and the whole day was spent catching waves, and lounging on the beach with our new friends. After just one day we were hooked! All backpackers need to add surfing in Morocco onto their itinerary. Thank you Flurina, Abdel, and Youssef!
Where we stayed: Dar Warda https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/21500520 (If you do stay with Flurina, please say hi for us!)
Days 8-9: Tour to the Sahara (Ait Ben Haddou – Dades Gorge – Todra Gorge)
I am going to be honest here, if you have more time, exploring the High Atlas and desert regions at your own pace is the best option. Not a tour! In order to have more flexibility for the rest of our trip, we decided to catch one of the many Merzouga desert tours headed out of Marrakech.
Although the tour may not have been the best, the magic of the Sahara helped me to forget all my worries. Riding in on a caravan of camels was painful, goofy fun and the dramatic slopes of untouched sand dunes looked like a mirage.
I WAS LEFT SPEECHLESS!
As the setting sun reveals the night sky, be sure to find your own hideaway in the dunes for stargazing and watch the world go by.
We will share more of our opinions on Morocco desert tours in an upcoming blog post!
Days 10-12: Fes
Tip: Buses from Merzouga or nearby towns to Fez are possible, but be careful on weekends. Routes and times will change without you being notified. You will come to know it as Moroccan time!
So after we learned about this new time zone the hard way, we finally arrived in the cultural heartland of Fez.
The old medina in Fez is a maze. NO EXAGERATION! On your first day spend some time just wandering the streets freely, and get to know Fez inside and out. This way you will have an easier time finding spots you would like to visit on your second day.
This ancient city still ticks like it did nearly 1000 years ago. You can see this in action in the Chaouwara tanneries where Fasi locals dye leather in the most brilliant colours using the same methods as their ancestors. You can also visit the Al-Karaouine Medresa, an early school of Islam and the oldest university in the world!
Tip: Fake guides approaching you on the street or trying to mislead you is a nuisance in Fez. Simply ignore them and keep a smile on as you explore.
Where we stayed:
Homestay with Saida and Hmar – https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/22192874
Dar Adam (Gorgeous! Check out their photos) – https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/2507835
Day 13: Volubilis/Moulay Idriss
From Fez we took a day trip to the neighbouring Meknes. Lindsay and I soon realized we had grown tired of the city life, and needed a breath of fresh air!
On the flip of a coin we were off to the Roman ruins of Volubilis. You can piece together the stories of this ancient city inspecting the mosaic artwork and architecture that still remains. A marvelous site well worth the visit!
Not too far away is the holiest city in all of Morocco, Moulay Idriss. The town is the final resting place of King Moulay Idriss, the first king of Morocco and a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. There are multiple lookouts where you can take in the pearly white building and the stunning terrain the surrounds Moulay Idriss.
If you have the whole day, take a shared taxi from Meknes’ train station to either of these sites for as little as 20Dh/seat one-way. The drive is less than 30 minutes. Otherwise, grab some friends and hire your own driver for the day for a total of 350Dh.
Days 14-16: The Kalaa Mountains
Maybe the most secluded, and incredible stop on our Morocco backpacking itinerary.
From Fez we made our way North into the snow-capped Rif Mountains. We arrived in the town of Chefchaouen, but immediately left the city limits for a truly special experience.
We were staying on a farm up in the hillside over the village owned by a man named Ahmed.
This was paradise in the mountains! Ahmed cares for a humble farm that sits nearly 1000 meters up the Kalaa Mountain. He works tireless to grow organic plants and lights up at the chance to share his passion with you. It is a beautifully simple life in Kalaa.
Spend your days trekking into the nearby forests, hills, and villages. At dinnertime, retell your adventures around the campfire with a hot plate of Ahmed’s finest cooking in hand. Ahmed’s meals are to die for and made from ingredients picked from his land!
If you stick around long enough and ask Ahmed nicely, he may take you on a full-day trip to a hidden waterfall that very few locals even know about. Ahmed claims it’s his personal waterfall just for his guests 😉
Backpackers can stay with Ahmed as a volunteer (for free!) helping him tend to his plants or pay roughly $30CAD/person a night to cover lodging and food.
Where We Stayed: Sommet Natural – https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/14604169
Days 17: Chefchaouen
With its pastel blue alleyways and endless photo opportunities, Chefchaouen is a town unlike anything you have seen before.
Chefchaouen’s old city is painted blue to ward off bad spirits. You can feel this energy from the locals who will go out of their way to help you and the charm to be found around every corner.
The medina is quite small and only needs one day to be fully explored. To cap off your day, hike up to the Spanish Mosque outside of town to enjoy a fantastic sunset.
Tip: Avoid the tourists by hitting the streets early in the morning and enjoy some shopping in the afternoon as vendors begin to open.
Morocco is a beautiful, rich country that has a lot to offer. The buzz of its ancient cities will excite your senses and bring you out of your comfort zone, but the diversity in landscapes and climates means there is always an exciting outdoor adventure waiting for you.
Lindsay and I already have a long, LONG list of new places and regions we would like to experience. We were always reminded by the many kind Moroccans we met along the way of the Arabic saying “inshallah.” It means, “if God will have it,” then one day you will return. I know that day is not too far away.
Have any questions about our Morocco backpacking itinerary? How about any suggestions? Feel free to leave us a message in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org