One Week in Morocco
Morocco has been on my wishlist for far too long. The country is packed with almost too many options of what to see and do: From bustling Marrakesh with its maze-like souks and exquisite food scene to the natural beauty of the Atlas mountains and their hidden Kasbahs offering up some of the most lavish hospitality not to mention the golden sands of the Sahara Desert that stretch out further than you can imagine. Even Buzzfeed has got in on the action, raising the profile of the city of Chefchaouen, so that it's dreamy white- and blue-washed image is no longer a secret tourist enclave for the Spanish.
My ambition to see everything, do everything and of course eat and drink everything was not quite feasible. But it was also not completely out of the question.
My one week Morocco itinerary was jam packed and admittedly included a number of 8 hour drives, but still made for a relaxing holiday. Most importantly, for me at least, I sampled a flavour of the variety that Morocco can offer between city and rural, modern and traditional plus everything in between.
Would I have liked more time in Morocco? Of course. I had to forgo some of the 'must sees' and prioritise with reluctance. But if you are considering a trip, a week or so is more than enough to have a wonderful trip and experience than you may have anticipated.
Hiring a car was a must for this trip and I would emphasis that while sharing the road with more donkeys and carts than I imagined possible, the journeys were pretty straight forward. I've become accustomed to the flexibility and freedom that having your own vehicle offers, but if driving in foreign lands isn't for you then I would suggest planning your route using trains as opposed to buses or private taxis as they are more comfortable and reliable in Morocco.
Shop the souks of Marrakesh
Marrakesh is a centre of organised chaos. Arriving into the city all of my senses were hit with an array of different curiosities simultaneously competing for my attention. Since time was limited, Day 1 revolved for the most part around soaking up the energy and atmosphere of the city, paired with my chosen lunch and dinner reservations - La Terasse des Epices and Dar Yacout - which were happily within walking distance of both the Riad and the Medina.
Whenever practical, I always try to spend as much time in a city on foot. Marrakesh lends itself to this, most of what you are hoping to see will be no more than 30-45 minutes from you at any moment, plus the whole atmosphere feels very safe and friendly.
Drive the roads of Morocco
To say that I am not a huge fan of using my time travelling between locations is a gross understatement. For years I have dreamed about the day when instant travel will be a real option, when I can pop across to visit my friends in Australia in the blink of an eye, go to the beach in the evening after a terribly grey day in the office in London. But until then, travel days have reluctantly been accepted as a necessary evil. Driving in Morocco isn't as interesting as in other countries, since the landscape between cities is arid and becomes a little repetitive. That said, it is relatively easy and every now and then you cross a donkey, small village, or crazy rock formation to keep you entertained.
Plus, the reward at the end of the journey is always worth it!
Day 3 & 4
Discover the 'Blue Pearl'
Chefchaouen is a small city in North West Morocco that you may not have heard of, but have almost certainly seen as almost every online platform has been awash with its pretty blue and white images. Personally, I was unconvinced that driving for 8 plus hours to visit one city was justified. I was wrong. Yes, the photos I had been persuaded by had made the place look cute and idyllic, but I was unprepared for just how beautiful it would be. If you are wavering of whether to visit Chefchaouen or not, I urge you to go.
A night of indulgence - Ourika
Wow. Just wow.
Kasbah bab Ourika is the height of luxury. Tucked away up in the mountains, surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty this was the perfect retreat from the more touristic encounters with Morocco so far. Every last detail of the sprawling vista was gorgeous and I was completely and utterly enamoured with the detail and thought that had gone into the design.
An unexpected highlight of the trip, this single night may have spoiled holiday accommodation for me for a lengthily period of time.
Explore the Atlas Mountains
While Ourika was admittedly in the Atlas Mountains and afforded spectacular views, it wasn't the mountains 'proper' and didn't offer the hiking that I had set my heart on. With only a short time to play with, Imlil was the perfect base with easy to navigate day hikes filled with waterfalls, quaint Berber villages and a view of Mount Toubkal, the tallest mountain in Morocco. Unfortunately the weather had otherplans, starting with a fine mist of rain in the early morning, gradually increasing to a heavy showers forcing the walk to be abandoned as some of the paths turned into mini waterfalls themselves.
The rain did, however, mean that the mountain tops which were uncharacteristically bare in the morning became snow capped by the time the hike was abandoned - which makes for a lovely photo to be appreciated from the warmth of the car!
Lose yourself in Essaouira
Switching the rocky mountain terrain for the coastal city of Essaouira, we arrived just in time to head to the beach to watch the sun tip beneath the waves. There's something soothing and calming about being near water and Essaouira did not disappoint.
With a wonderful melange of old meets new, the city embodies a rich culture spanning art, food, historical architecture and much more. It's worth taking a wander along the sandy beaches and around the Medina beach by night and day, each offering different and unexpected charms.
Depart from Marakkesh
One of my 'must dos' for Morocco was taking a balloon ride over the desert. Watching the sun slowly rise over the huge expanse, slowly warming the land with it's hues of pink and caramel was captivating. Including a traditional Berber breakfast and a hilarious camel ride, before heading back to the relaxing hideaway that was our riad, this was really the perfect ending to an exhilarating week in Morocco.
This one week guide is perfect for a glimpse into Morocco's rich and diverse culture. An alternative option would be to switch Chefchaouen for a desert safari or for an extra few days hiking in the Atlas Mountains. That said, if you decide not to go to Chefchaouen then you could potentially base yourself out of Marrakesh and do day trips to all the locations.
Although I had return flights to Marakkesh, these were booked prior to finalising what to see and do, if I were to repeat the week in Morocco I would look into returning from Fes or Casablanca and shuffling around the itinerary which may reduce the dreaded travel between locations and maximise time out of the car / train.