We travelled to Morocco for Christmas and New Year 2010/11. It was a last minute trip and we didn’t do an awful amount of planning, but it was a great experience. We decided to hire a car as buses were relatively expensive and after a nightmare overnight bus from Marrakech to Ouarzazate, which involved our bus driver storming off at 2am, we decided it was better to hire a car in Ouarzazate. I’d definitely recommend hiring a car as it nice to have the freedom to explore, save on taxi fares to remote sights, and avoid the terrible bus experiences.
Our itinerary: Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, Zagora, M’Hamid, Merzouga, Todra & Dades Gorge, Fez
1. Marrakech (3 days)
Explore the souks and spend some of your Dirhams!
Explore the Palmeraie on a bus tour
Eat and drink in the Jamaa el Fna (and observe the variety of evening entertainment!)
We stayed in Ouarzazate as a base to visit Ait Benhaddou, a UNESCO heritage site where tons of movies have been filmed included The Mummy, Gladiator, and Prince of Persia.
There is also a nice large square in Ouarzazate surrounded by cafes and restaurants.
3. Zagora (1 day)
From Ouarzazate we drove toward Zagora, stopping for lunch in Agdz and then continuing through the beautiful scenery of the Draa Valley.
Zagora is a great ‘stop gap’ town on the way to M’Hamid – there’s not a huge amount to do in the town exactly, but there’s a selection of restaurants and its mid-way between Ouarzazate and M’Hamid
4. M’Hamid (1 day)
M’Hamid was a little bit of a let-down for us as it felt like the ‘trash can desert’. We were warned though – the sand dunes near the town are full of rubbish – but if you head further out into the desert – 6 hours by jeep further out – you are able to obtain that ‘in the wilderness’ desert experience you desire. Unfortunately, this was a little out of our price bracket, and we spent New Year’s Eve gathered around a fire in M’Hamid drinking cheap Moroccan red wine with guitar playing Moroccan rock stars.
Although it wasn’t the New Year’s Eve desert experience we were expecting, it was certainly one to remember!
5. Merzouga (2 days)
After having a slightly disappointing experience in M’Hamid, we headed to Merzouga, the ‘coca cola’ desert…. Perfect sand dunes and you don’t have to travel 6 hours to find them!
We booked a one night desert safari in town and headed off that night to a Berber camp by camel. It was great, we had delicious mint tea served to us upon arrival, then had the opportunity to try sand boarding – if you haven’t tried it before – walking up sand dunes is extremely exhausting!
In the evening we were treated to a traditional Moroccan stew, and then taught how to play the Berber drums (Tam Tams).
6. Todra & Dades Gorge (3 days)
I’m so glad we decided to visit this region. In my opinion, it is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL area in Morocco. We spent a couple of days exploring the Todra and Dades gorges, admiring the deep gorges, rushing water, and rock climbers.
We also met a local trek guide who invited us into his house for a mint tea, Ben’s Kiwi friendliness got us invited into a lot of places for mint tea! We didn’t have time for a trek on this trip – but we would certainly go back and do one next time.
On our way back down to the valley floor, we gave the guide whom we met the day before, a lift to Tinghir market where he showed us around.
After visiting Tinghir we had to drive back to Ouarzazate to drop our car off – then we jumped on a bus to Fez.
7. Fez (2 days)
Fez is such a beautiful town, full of crumbling old buildings and the famous tanneries.
From Fez we got the train back to Marrakech.