15 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Sahara Desert Tour

Taking a Sahara Desert tour and riding camels into the orange-hued sand dunes was a big bucket list item of mine. 

Perhaps it’s because I watched Aladdin far too many times as a kid (sorry Mom). Or maybe because after riding horses and going dog-sledding, this seemed like the logical next step?

Or perhaps it was the solitude of the desert and the immensity of the dunes that compelled me. Either way: I was sold.

Whatever the reason, when I was in Morocco I spent nearly two days of my life in a van from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert. Was it worth it? Well… it’s complicated.

Photo of shadows in the sand dunes in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. A line of camels is walking in the desert on a sand ridge.

Like with much of my Moroccan experience, there were some serious highs and lows, and I wish I had been better aware of what the Sahara tour would actually entail — which is why I’ve written this post for you.

I found that managing my expectations was key to enjoying my time in Morocco, and I think it will be the same for you.

So, is a Sahara tour worth it? I’ll let you decide.

If you’re wondering if a Sahara Desert tour is worth the money, I’m here to break it down for you – the good, the bad, and the truly WTF experiences I had along the way.

Without further ado, here are the top 15 things I wish somebody told me before my Morocco desert tour.

Ripples of sand and sand dunes in a beautiful orange color in the Sahara Desert in Morocco
Is a Sahara tour worth it? I’ll let you decide.

Morocco Desert Tour FAQs

How do you get to the Sahara Desert in Morocco?

The best way to get to the Sahara Desert is typically by guided tour from one of Morocco’s main tourist hubs. 

You can also take a bus to Merzouga and then book some desert activities separately. 

Alternately, if you really want to avoid the drive, you can fly to Errachadia Airport. However, it’s still 2 hours away by car from Merzouga, and you won’t be saving that much time.

How do I get to the desert from Marrakech?

Visiting the Sahara Desert from Marrakech is the most common way to access it. But it’s not close! It’s typically about 12 hours to the desert (one way), spread across two days of transit on the way there and then one full day on the way back.

Typically guided tour is best but other options include booking a bus to Merzouga, renting a car and driving to the Sahara, and flying to Errachadia and then booking a taxi to get you to Merzouga.

What are the best desert tours in Morocco?

I’ve done a ton of research on what the best tour companies are after my subpar experience (which you can read about more below). 

If you’re coming from Marrakech, I suggest this tour. If you’re coming from Fes, I suggest this tour.

If you are coming from Essaouira, Rabat, or Casablanca, it’s a lot further to the desert and I suggest making a waypoint at Marrakech.

The rooftops of Marrakech with the tall minaret of the mosque and Atlas Mountains in the distance on a sunny day

What sand dunes will I see in the Merzouga Desert?

Since most desert tours from Marrakech go as fast as possible, you will likely see the Erg Chebbi dunes, which are the closest to Merzouga.

On a 3-day tour to the Sahara, you will not see Erg Chigaga, the largest dune in the Sahara. This would require different planning than your standard Sahara desert tour.

What are the best things to do in the Sahara Desert?

There are all sorts of activities you can do in the Moroccan desert — from camel trekking to desert glamping to sandboarding to ATV riding and more. 

A 3-day tour actually gives you fairly limited time in the Sahara Desert. You will do a sunset camel trek, have a desert camp meal, sleep in a tent, stargaze, and be able to watch the sunrise before leaving again — that’s about it.

If you want more time in the Sahara Desert, I suggest taking the bus to Merzouga and planning an independent trip there rather than taking one of the Marrakech tours.

How do I visit the Sahara Desert independently?

Eco tents in a glampsite in Morocco with views of the dunes and some desert shrubbery on a hazy day.

If you don’t want to do a tour, you can visit the Sahara Desert (fairly) independently by getting yourself to Merzouga, either by bus or rental car, and then renting accommodations in the desert.

There are all levels of desert camp available. There are some great luxury glamping options such as the Sahara Desert Luxury Camp and the Desert Bivouac Merzouga which offer improved amenities such as private bathrooms and beautifully designed rooms.

There are also more bare-bones accommodation options like Desert Berber Fire Camp and Dune Merzouga Camp.

Tip: When pricing out your trip and making decisions, don’t just look at the base price, but also look for what’s included in each property and make an assessment based on that. You may have to pay for transit, meals, etc. which could eat into your “savings!”

What to Pack for a Sahara Desert Tour

Person tossing sand while wearing a scarf around their head sitting in the orange sand of the Sahara Desert

Motion sickness pills: Don’t underestimate how winding the roads will be leading out to the desert! You will cross all sorts of high mountain passes between Marrakech and the Sahara Desert. Motion sickness pills will be your friend. I had motion sickness bands and they helped (but not quite enough). I wish I had Dramamine!

Snacks: I didn’t enjoy the food at the lunches we stopped at along the way and I wish I had packed enough snacks to skip a lunch or two. Snacks can also be a nice pick-me-up when you need a little sugar rush after countless hours of driving. I like packing Larabars for a pick-me-up.

A filter water bottle: I used a lot of plastic during my Sahara desert tour and I regret it. I since have become more conscious of my plastic waste and now use a Grayl water bottle which filters out all manner of icky, undrinkable water and makes it 100% safe to consume.

Long sleeve shirt and pants: Even if it’s hot, you’ll want to have your arms and legs covered for multiple reasons during your desert tour. For one, it’ll protect you from the hot Moroccan sun… but for another, it’ll shield you (a tiny bit) from prying eyes.

A scarf: It can occasionally get windy in the Sahara Desert. Your guides will insist that you have a scarf they can wrap around you like a turban to protect your face from the sand, and they will make a stop in Erfoud or somewhere nearby the desert to buy overpriced scarves. Just bring your own scarf because the scarves you can buy there are not good quality and are basically single-use.

Layers (in winter): If you’re visiting the Sahara in the winter, you’ll want to bring warm layers as the desert can drop down to freezing in the nighttime (not kidding!). Bring a thermal top/leggings (I like these from 32 Degrees) as well as a thin down jacket to keep you warm.

A camera and tripod (for night photography): You’ll want a camera with a zoom lens and the ability to use manual settings to capture the best of the desert in all its beauty. A smartphone won’t quite do it!

This is the camera I used in the Sahara desert. I also suggest a tripod if you want to photograph the Milky Way and do some astrophotography — you’ll likely never find darker skies!

Tents for camping in the Sahara Desert at night, lit up by a fire or lantern, with the Milky Way overhead

Things to Know Before Your Morocco Sahara Desert Tour

You cannot do a Sahara desert trip on a day trip from Marrakech.

Merzouga, the gateway to the Sahara, is 350 miles or around 560 kilometers of winding mountain passes and dizzying curves away from Marrakech. 

As a result, you shouldn’t expect to be able to reach the Sahara in a day from Marrakech! At a bare minimum, you need 3 days, all of which will entail serious amounts of driving. 

It’s about 12 hours of driving in a van each way between Marrakech and Merzouga, not including stops, so expect to spend a good portion of your 3 day Sahara desert tour on the road.

If you only have time to do a day trip from Marrakech, you will simply not be able to see true sand dunes like you can see in Merzouga and Erg Chebbi, full stop. Adjust your expectations so you won’t be disappointed! 

Cushions set up around tables to enjoy tea in the rock desert outside of Marrakech
A desert camp in Agafay Desert outside of Marrakech

If you only have one day, you can do a camel ride through the rocky desert and palm grove outside of Marrakech. Prices are quite reasonable – you can check prices for one-day tours here.

With two days, you’re a little better off – you can get to the Zagora Desert and do a sunset camel ride, a desert overnight, and a sunrise camel ride the next day. 

Tours to Zagora are a little pricier than the day trip, obviously, but still a good value at under $50 per day – learn more about two-day tours here.

While Zagora isn’t quite as impressive as Merzouga (by a good margin), it’s still a worthwhile option to compare. I wrote quite a bit more on how to decide between the two in this post on choosing between Merzouga vs. Zagora for your Morocco desert trip.

A desert camp in Zagora, Morocco

If you can spare the time and the money, then I highly recommend picking the Sahara desert.

 In my opinion, the rock desert and palm oasis outside of Marrakech is nowhere close to how spectacular the Sahara Desert is. As a result, it should only be booked if you have extremely limited time or funds and have a camel ride on your Morocco bucket list. 

The Zagora Desert is closer to what you want from a Sahara Desert tour, but it’s still a ton of driving plus an overnight, so I’d urge you to just go for the full three day tour instead. 

It’s not much more money (about $30 more than the Zagora tour), and absolutely nothing in my life compares to the beauty of seeing the sun rise and set in the Sahara Desert for myself with my own eyes.

Book your 3 day Sahara desert tour here!

The Sahara Desert is even more magical than you expect.

People in the Sahara Desert on a camel trek through the sand dunes led by Berber guides

In my 60+ countries of travel, I’ve still never seen anything quite as beautiful as the Sahara Desert, even to this day and even despite some negative experiences I had there (more on that in just a bit).

There is something otherworldly about the contrast between the orange sand and the blue sky, and the way the sand rippled in perfect formations that look drawn by an artist’s hand

As sunset fell, I almost wanted to pinch myself to confirm that it was real. But if it was a dream, I didn’t want to wake up.

The softness of the orange sand, the seeming infiniteness of the rolling dunes, the way that footsteps looked as they left magical trails in the sand, and the inky blackness of the sky punctured by a million tiny stars at night — there’s simply no comparison to the Sahara Desert.

Getting to the Sahara Desert from Marrakech is a royal pain, and yet it is completely and utterly worth it.

Book your Sahara tour in advance so you can read reviews.

berber guides leading a small group of four people through the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert

The worst piece of advice that I got about taking a tour to the Sahara desert is that you shouldn’t book it in advance and rather wait for a tout in the souks to offer you a better price.

Here’s the thing: you will likely get a cheaper price, but you will not get a better deal, as you will make up for that price difference somewhere, either with poor quality service or through scams and upsells along the trip. 

I went on one of the cheapest tours I could find, and I don’t recall the company name as I booked it from a random tout in the souk (as I was told to do). But I can tell you — I didn’t save any money in the end, and I had a worse trip for it. 

One of the worst parts was getting told that the A/C in the van is “broken” on a 115 degree Fahrenheit day so they can save on gas. 

They put on the fan and insisted the A/C wouldn’t work, and they only put it on after I insisted many, many times… upon which, the A/C magically worked perfectly.

I was constantly up-charged on everything, from lunch to the made-in-China scarves that they insist you need for the desert. I was stubborn and just tied a shirt around my head at this point, just to prove a point.

Oh, and I also got scammed by a rug vendor in a Berber village, but more on that later.

Instead, I highly recommend booking your Sahara desert tour in advance with a company with a good reputation and a strong online presence. 

Quite frankly, it’s not because of any merits of the company itself or the uniqueness of the tour. All tours follow a similar route (High Atlas Mountains, Aït Benhaddou Kasbah [which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site], the Dades Valley & Dades Gorge, Todra Gorge, Ouarzazate, etc.)

It’s just because a company that has put in work to establish a solid online presence has a ton more to lose than the hundred or so indistinguishable tour companies who make their profit off of selling to tourists on the street, for whom reputation and word of mouth means little. 

They will be more scrupulous and careful as to protect their reputation and their livelihood, and that’s a good thing for the consumer.

After carefully researching several Sahara Desert tour offerings and comparing them to my own experience, the company that I’m comfortable recommending to my readers is Ando Travel

With an average of 4.4 stars out of nearly 2,000 verified reviews, including several positive reviews from women, this company is tried and tested in a way that I’m comfortable with recommending, despite not having tried this exact tour for myself. 

You can check tour specifics, itinerary details, and prices here on Get Your Guide

A sunset happening in the Sahara desert with an orange-toned sky.

In the sake of fairness, it’s important to note there are some bad reviews, mostly from people who said that there’s too much driving — unfortunately, this is true no matter what company you go with. 

Be aware no matter what you choose that the Sahara desert is huge, as it’s the largest desert in Africa (and the largest hot desert, period, after the Antarctic and Arctic deserts). 

Morocco’s section of the Sahara Desert is basically on the border of Algeria, and you have to cross through the High Atlas Mountains, so there is simply no avoiding the drive. 

Any shorter tour will not take you to the Sahara, but instead to far less impressive rocky deserts closer to Marrakech.

If you want to go onward to Fes after your trip instead of returning to Marrakech (a common choice to avoid backtracking, and one that I made), they also run a tour from Marrakech to the Sahara ending in Fes, which you can find here.

Be cautious and do your research if you are a solo female traveler.

The sun setting over the Sahara Desert with brilliant pink and dark clouds

I’m telling you this because I, in my eternally stupid penny-pinching ways, did exactly the opposite and paid the price. 

I don’t remember what the exact name of the tour company I went with: something incredibly generic, literally like Sahara Tour Morocco (I should note that I did this tour before becoming a more diligent note-taker as a blogger)

I followed the (bad) advice of others and just went wandering through Marrakech and booked it in-person from one of the men selling tours, as I was told it was the best (read: cheapest) way to book a Sahara desert tour by other backpackers. 

While sure, it was cheaper (I paid about the equivalent of $75 USD for a 3-day trip in July, after some haggling), I ended up having a pretty horrible experience. 

They lied about many things: the inclusions, the air conditioning, how I’d get to Fes after my tour finished. But worst of all – I was sexually harassed by my guides, and I was nearly groped in my sleep on my tour. 

It all started innocently enough, sitting after dinner chatting with a guide trying to learn more about Berber culture. 

Without victim-blaming myself, I must say that I need to remind myself that North American (and specifically Californian) friendliness is not always the smartest move with people from more conservative cultures, as some men take talkativeness as an invitation.

After a while, this guide got progressively creepier and creepier as the night got darker, angling closer to me as we talked. 

Then he asked me if I wanted to go somewhere alone with him to see the stars better (um, they’re plainly overhead, but k), despite my repeated insistence that I just wanted to sit and enjoy by myself.

Eventually, I had to tell him quite directly that he was bothering me and needed to leave me alone, and he went away. It may sound simple enough, but for a nonconfrontational girl like me who hates conflict, it was difficult. 

Luckily, he left without much protest, and I enjoyed the next few hours a lot, chatting with my fellow travelers and admiring the vastness of the sky and the hints of the Milky Way overhead.

Later that night, choosing to sleep outside where there was a breeze instead of the stuffy, impossible to breathe in tents (as all the other travelers were doing), a different guide set up his sleeping site about five feet from me. 

He placed a large pillow as a buffer between us, which I took comfort in, and I fell asleep. I honestly remember feeling glad that I had a benevolent guardian to keep me away from the creep who was hitting on me earlier.

I woke up maybe an hour later to him staring at me, saying “shhhhh,” just a few inches away from my face, the pillow he had placed between us nowhere to be seen. It was, in a word, terrifying. 

He tried to tell me to go back to sleep, but you better believe my a** was up and in my hot stuffy tent as quickly as I could manage in my sleep-drunk state. I didn’t sleep much the rest of the night, obviously.

Since I didn’t book online, had no plans to return to Marrakech (I ended my tour in Fes), or have any papers confirming who I went with, I didn’t really have a way to review the tour. I also didn’t feel comfortable going to the police for a variety of reasons (language barrier, gender norms, etc). 

If I had booked it online, I could have read reviews from other female travelers. In the event that something happened, it would have been much easier to report the bad behavior I experienced on this tour and to ensure it wouldn’t happen to other female travelers down the line. 

I still feel sort of sick to my stomach when I think about not being able to report this and the fact that this behavior will likely continue to other women. This is why I recommend booking in advance with a reputable company.

Ripples in the sand in the Sahara Desert beautiful orange sand

For solo female travelers, I recommend booking online. I suggest this tour if you want to go onward to Fes, or this tour if you want to go back to Marrakech at the end of your trip.

Sadly, this kind of behavior is not that uncommon for Morocco. Other women have had similar experiences with their guides in the desert (read Lauren of Never Ending Footsteps’ experience here and my friend Kiona’s experience with Morocco here

I’ve also, of course, heard positive stories as well, though these usually come from men or people who traveled as a couple. 

As a solo female traveler, I can tell you though that it’s better to spend the extra money and book a tour in advance so you can read all the reviews. That won’t completely shield you from an assault or harassment, but it’s one small (but important) layer of protection.

A lot of fuss is made about dressing properly in Morocco. I will say that I was covered up almost all the time and not particularly provocative in any way, shape, or form, and I was harassed frequently.

Allison wearing a dress that comes down to her knees and a white light linen jacket
A typical outfit I wore on my Sahara Desert Tour, outside of Dades Gorge (my skirt didn’t show my knees, it just blew up a little in the wind as I took the photo)

When writing this post, since I didn’t have a personal tour recommendation, I vetted the companies and pored through the reviews pretty thoroughly. 

The tour I recommend above looks to be the best, safest option for solo female travelers; however, I’d check reviews again before you book as things may have changed since when I wrote this.

Read what is included carefully.

Camel shadow on the sand dune in Sahara Desert, Merzouga, Morocco

My Sahara desert tour included round-trip transportation to and from Marrakech and the Sahara Desert. This included pick up and drop off at your riad.

When booking my tour with one of the tour operators in the medina, I told them I wanted to go onwards to Fes, a common thing tourists do to avoid backtracking. 

The tour operators said that all the transportation (including to Fes) was included in the price they gave me, but I never got that in writing, and surprise surprise – when it came time to get a shared taxi towards Fes, we ended up having to fork out about $30 USD or so per person to get there. 

But at this point, after nearly being groped by one of the guides, I was ready to get out of there — no matter what the cost.

Tip: If you want to go onward to Fes like I did and avoid backtracking, be sure it is included on your tour! I suggest this Marrakech to Merzourga to Fes desert tour.

The shuttle bus was comfortable enough, but they kept insisting that the A/C was broken after the first day, which was annoying, as I was overheating with only the fan on. 

After enough of the minibus complained, they turned it on again and voila: it was magically working. Strange.

The tour included two nights accommodation, one in a hotel on the way to the desert and one in the desert camp itself. The accommodations at both were of decent quality, actually, they were better than I expected for the price, to be fair. The tour cost included the camel ride as well.

a dish of meatballs served with bread in a tagine
A (much better) meal in Marrakech

Here are a few things most tours do not include: no lunch on any of the days, so you’ll have to either BYO food or add on another $10 USD or so for each meal. 

No matter what tour you go on, you can be guaranteed that you’ll be forced to eat at expensive, mediocre restaurants — likely wherever your tour guides get the best kickback, unfortunately! 

Most tours don’t include any beverages, water, personal expenses, etc. If you choose to not return to Marrakech and instead go onwards to Fez from Merzouga, that transportation is not included, either.

Keep your expectations in line with reality.

rugs surrounding a campfire and some makeshift tents in the Sahara

The price range of Sahara Desert tours varies wildly based on the level of luxury. 

One blog post I read said their (comped) tour cost $700 USD per person for a 3-day tour, which is expensive for many — and definitely an outlier for Morocco.

However, it would absolutely be worth it for a special occasion like a honeymoon when you won’t want to be crammed in a van with 15-odd other travelers. 

Meanwhile, on the low end, you can spend as little as $75 USD for a 3 day – but with significant sacrifices in comfort, luxury, and flexibility. 

You won’t be staying at the luxury desert camps you’ve seen the Instagram girls enjoying, but rather bare-bones tents with an outhouse and very few creature comforts. 

But who needs showers when you can bathe in the gorgeous light of a million tiny stars in the clearest night sky you’ll ever get a chance to see?

Most tours cost somewhere in the ballpark of $100-200 USD for a 3 day, 2 night Sahara tour, and that’s a fair price.

The tour that I recommend above is a little more expensive than I paid, costing around $130 USD, or about $43 per day (currently running a promotion for about $100!) – which I think is fair given all the inclusions and its good reviews. 

Check out the ratings & reviews of this Sahara Desert Tour!

There is also this private tour option by the same company which routes Marrakech – Merzouga – Fes.

This is a great option if you are continuing onwards north to places like Fes, Meknes, Chefchaouen, and Tangier.

Riding a camel is not at all like riding a horse.

A group of camels near the dusk hour sitting on the sand

If you’ve romanticized a camel ride in the desert, let me demystify that for you. This is no pleasant horse ride through a field. 

Riding a camel is among the least comfortable things I’ve done, and I’m amazed that people actually even trained camels to be ridden after feeling how freaking uncomfortable it can be!

While camel trekking, my thighs were sore by the end of the first hour. I could barely feel my butt when I got off the camel. 

The camel slid in the sand quite a bit, leaving me lurching and clutching on for dear life (camels are even taller than they look).

Anyway, the next day, I was given the option to ride on the roof of their ATV or go back the same way doing a camel trek – you better believe I chose the roof (though TBH, that was mostly to avoid the creepy guide).

Despite my complaining about the discomfort, however, I’d do it again – the views are simply that magical, and the camel ride — as uncomfortable as it is — is a huge part of the desert experience.

Going in the summer isn’t the worst idea ever.

view of Erg Chebbi Dunes in the Sahara Desert - at sunrise, in Morocco

I did my Sahara Desert tour in July… aka the stupidest time in the world to go to Morocco. 

It was 115° F (46° C) in the desert the day we arrived… so that may have had something to do with why the prices were so low.  

The car was hot and stuffy, but that was because my driver purposely shut off the A/C, something that won’t happen on a reputable tour.

Still, I’ll say that 115° F in Morocco isn’t nearly as bad as 90° F and humid in NYC (I’m a Californian who grew up in a particularly hot part of the state, and I will fight to the death that dry heat is 100x better than wet heat). 

To me, the desert heat wasn’t a deal-breaker, especially since we arrived at the desert at sunset when the night breeze was already coming in nice and cool.

And at night, it cooled down to a nice 75° F (24° C) or so, and it was downright pleasant and beautiful with a light wind.

The tents were still like an oven that would have been impossible to sleep in, but outside underneath the stars downright pleasant (minus the would-be gropey guide…)

On the other hand, it will be freezing in the winter.

Man wearing winter clothes standing in the Sahara dunes

Many people approach the desert with the misconception that it’s hot year-round, but this is patently false. 

The desert is home to wild temperature swings – even in the summer, a 115° F day dropped to a 75° F night, a 40° F temperature variation. This is standard. 

This is true even in the winter. In the peak winter months such as January, the desert will be around 65° F / 18° C in the day and hovering around 32° F / 0° C at night.

And yes, it even snows sometimes in the Sahara!

If you visit the Sahara Desert in winter, you’ll want to bring some thermal tops (I like these from 32 Degrees) as well as a thin down jacket to keep you warm.

Be prepared for long days of driving and some dull stops.

Atlas mountains in Morocco with a road below it at a mountain pass on a sunny day
The beautiful Atlas Mountains on the way to the desert.

It’s about two long days in a van from Marrakech just to get to the Sahara desert (not including the 12 hour drive on the way back). 

If you have 2 or 3 weeks in Morocco, that’s fine – but if you have a really limited amount of time for your trip, it’s a lot of time in a car.

The views are simply beautiful, particularly the Atlas Mountains and the Dades Gorge, so keep your camera at the ready to snap some shots. You’ll pull over a few times at scenic overlooks throughout the trip, which helps to break up the drive.

However, besides stopping at the UNESCO site of Ait Ben Haddou (where some scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed) and a pretty gorge, most of the stops are pretty uninteresting. 

Many stops were aimed at getting as much money out of you as possible as opposed to being interesting for sightseeing. This is common with group tours, even small group tours, but it was annoying nonetheless.

I will say that they did give us a lot of bathroom stops, which as someone with a clinically small bladder, I really appreciated!

Bring some anti-nausea pills.

Allison, the author of the article, standing with a dress with matching seasickness bands and shoes
When your motion sickness bracelets match your shoes, that’s fashion.

There are so many twists and turns on the road to the Sahara Desert because you have to pass through the Atlas Mountains, the Dades Gorge, and the Tizi n’Tichka mountain pass — all of which involve countless hairpin turns!

I get motion sickness quite easily, so I lulled myself into a state of near-constant semi-slumber for the two days with the help of my Sea Bands

They worked okay at keeping me from barfing, but I would have preferred actual Dramamine (personally, I’d choose the normal version over the non-drowsy, to better help me sleep of all those hours in the van).

I’d also bring some stomach medicine like Pepto Bismol tablets just in case, as Morocco has some issues with food safety and undrinkable tap water that can end up messing with some travelers’ stomachs. 

I was fine during my two weeks in Morocco, but I know several people who got food poisoning while they were there, so better safe than sorry. 

Bring plenty of cash (about $100 USD worth).

A wallet on a table with 20 50 100 and 200 dirham notes

There are plenty of little add-ons throughout the Sahara Desert tour that end up driving up the price quite a bit. 

Figure about $1 per bottle of water (unless you come equipped with your own Steripen or LifeStraw water purifier, which I recommend to help reduce plastic waste), $2 per soda, money for tips for various people you encounter along the way, and extra for souvenirs and strongly “recommended” purchases along the way.

Your guides will also take you to expensive and uninspiring restaurants for lunch, though since I wasn’t a big fan of Moroccan food to begin with, that wasn’t a huge loss in terms of flavor. 

The cost of lunch while on your Sahara desert tour is usually about $10 USD per meal, which is about 3 times the price of a meal elsewhere in Morocco.

This is pretty standard for every tour and is part of the reason why the price of your Sahara Desert tour is so low – virtually all tour guides are getting a kickback for bringing people to the restaurant.

Be aware that most stops are designed for the guides to make more money

Pretty much every stop we made along the way to the desert was rushed and not that interesting. 

All of these stops seemed designed for us to spend extra money, rather than to enjoy a particularly beautiful location.

For example, the stop at the rug store, the gift shops at Ait Ben Haddou, and the completely unnecessary stops to encourage us to buy specific scarves to wrap around our heads for the desert tour.

I understand this is how they make up for their slim margins, but I just wish the tour cost a bit more and we didn’t spend so much time making a million souvenir stops and instead spent more time at the few stops that were interesting, like Ait Ben Haddou and Ouarzazate and the Draa Valley and the Gorge. 

But anyway, that’s how guided tours in Morocco go, I guess!

Buy a rug with caution.

A man pouring mint tea at a rug shop

In a moment of weakness, I splurged on a gorgeous hand-woven Berber rug at the village near Tinghir, paying about $35 USD for a very small lambswool rug. 

Mind you, when I took this Sahara desert tour, I didn’t even have a home — so why I needed a rug was beyond me.

Anyway, when I unwrapped it a few days later, I discovered they had swapped it out for another one entirely!

Despite not having touched the rug, I opened it to find it completely and totally falling apart at the edges.

I ended up trashing it rather than lugging around a fraying rug for the rest of my trip. Nice one, friendly-seeming rug guy. Nice one indeed.

Anyway, when I unwrapped it, I discovered they had swapped it out for another one entirely – it was completely and totally falling apart at the edges, and I ended up trashing it rather than lugging around a fraying rug for the rest of my trip. Nice one, friendly-seeming rug guy. Nice one indeed.

Consider the pros and cons carefully.

A hazy sunrise in the Sahara desert

While I had a mixed bag of experiences, in my opinion, it was still absolutely worth taking a Sahara Desert tour, as it was a huge bucket list item. 

However, if I could do it again, I would have researched what tour I took, and not have just gone with the cheapest desert tour option that a tout offered me on the streets of Marrakesh. My safety is worth more than a few dollars, and so is yours.

I don’t want to scare you from taking a Sahara desert tour: thousands of solo female travelers take them, and take them safely.

But in the spirit of full transparency, I want to share my experience with you so you can be prepared should any shadiness occur in the Sahara. (And judging by the fact that my story is not unique, that is a possibility).

I will readily admit that traveling Morocco can be frustrating as a woman. Adjust yourself accordingly: be courteous, but distant; not rude, but not friendly, and you’ll likely have a more positive experience than I did.

I’m of the belief that you shouldn’t let fear dictate what you do or take away from your dreams. 

Even though I had a bad experience on my Sahara desert tour, there are a few things I could have done differently. 

I could made friends with and stuck with other female travelers rather than chatting with the guides. 

I could have vetted the tours more carefully and picked one with better reviews rather than the lowest price.

To be clear, this is not to victim blame myself, nor to victim blame anyone who has had something similar happen to them – it is solely upon the predator to not be a predator, and not on the victim to prevent harassment or an attack.

However, just like there are measures to can take to avoid theft, there are a few things you can do to make yourself slightly safer against harassment from men. 

I hate that I have to write this here, but my experience is so not out of the ordinary that I feel compelled to share these tips. Sadly, these are just facts of life for traveling alone in a country as unfriendly to solo women as Morocco is.

If you don’t like the idea of a Sahara desert tour, you could take the badass alternative and rent a car and driving out to the Sahara Desert, like fellow travelers Along Dusty Roads did. 

But again, if you’re solo, this may not be the best course of action – road trips are always best enjoyed with a travel buddy.

Ultimately, you’ll have to make the call, but in my gut and despite what happened to me, I say go for it – the Sahara desert is something that must be seen to be believed. 

Even with all the crap I dealt with on my 3 day Sahara tour — I wouldn’t take it back. I’d just go with another company, obviously.

More Morocco Travel Resources

I’ve written quite a bit to help you plan the perfect trip to Morocco! 

First, start with my Morocco travel planning checklist – it walks you through every step of the planning process.

Next, check out my Morocco packing list with specific advice for what women might want to wear in Morocco. 

If you are starting your trip in Marrakech, like most people do, I have a guide to the best riads in Marrakech on any budget, as well as a guide to spending 3 days in Marrakech with recommended tours and outings.

13 Inspiring and Funny Quotes about Morocco

Looking for some quotes about Morocco to remember your time there or as a Morocco Instagram caption?

Here are some of the best Morocco quotes from travelers, Moroccans, and writers.

The Best Quotes About Morocco

“Morocco is built on tolerance.”

Mohammed VI, King of Morocco

“A little imagination goes a long way in Fes.”

― Tahir Shah, writer

“In Morocco, before you even get to the matter of the sale, you have to coax the owner to sell.”

― Tahir Shah, writer

“Moroccan traffic isn’t like normal traffic. It’s armed combat, a war of wills, in which only the bravest have the chance to survive.”

Tahir Shah, author

“If Aphrodite chills at home in Cyprus for most of the year, then Fez must be the goddess’s playground.”

― Raquel Cepeda, writer

“The past is buried deep within the ground in Rabat, although the ancient walls in the old city are still standing, painted in electrifying variations of royal blue that make the winding roads look like streamlets or shallow ocean water.”

― Raquel Cepeda, writer

Morocco is such a beautiful place. It’s incredibly beautiful. And also it is captivating place because for a writer, you feel that you make impact. I mean, when I write something in the press, the day after in the fish market, people will be discussing it.”

Fatema Mernissi, journalist

“In Morocco, it’s possible to see the Atlantic and the Mediterranean at the same time.”

Tahar Ben Jelloun, poet

“Morocco is the greatest. I should be getting money from the Moroccans because I’m just telling everyone that it’s a wonderful place to go.”

Bill Murray, actor

“To visit Morocco is still like turning the pages of some illuminated Persian manuscript all embroidered with bright shapes and subtle lines.”

Edith Wharton, writer

“I love Morocco – it’s a real challenge to all five senses. You think you know something, and you don’t. It’s wonderful. It keeps you on your toes that way.”

Amy Ryan, actress

“The days of predatory poets in search of literary inspiration and young flesh are probably over for good. Hippies can just as easily get their bong rips in Portland or Peoria. But the good stuff, the real good stuff, the sounds and smells and the look of Tangier, what you see and hear when you look out the window and take it all in, that’s here to stay.”

Anthony Bourdain, chef, author, and TV host

“As you wake up to sort of Morocco coming to life, and you drive a two hour journey through the desert as the sun is rising over the sand dunes… I saw landscapes and visual stuff that I’ll never forget. It was special.”

Jim Sturgess, actor

10 Days in Morocco: The Itinerary You Should Steal For Your Trip

If you’re planning a trip to Morocco, you’re likely a bit overwhelmed with the options.

Marrakech, the Sahara, Fes, Chefchaouen, Essaouira, Casablanca, Rabat — what to choose and what to skip?

This Morocco itinerary assumes that you’ll have 10 days in Morocco to spend how you wish. However, there are way more destinations worth visiting in Morocco than a 10 day Morocco itinerary can possibly cover, so you’re going to have to make some tough choices.

To create a flexible Morocco itinerary that doesn’t rush you, yet allows you to make changes to add or subtract destinations as you see fit for your travel style and Morocco bucket list, I’ve chosen three main legs of this Morocco itinerary: Marrakech, the Sahara Desert, and Fes. Both Marrakech and Fes have optional add-on day trips you can to add on to customize your itinerary to best match what you want to see.

Sahara desert in Morocco

Of course, this isn’t the only way you could spend 10 days in Morocco. You could do a coastal route, starting in Agadir, visiting Taghazout, Essaouira, and Casablanca before flying out of Rabat. Or you could combine coast and inland and do Casablanca, Essaouira, Marrakech, and the Atlas Mountains.

It depends on what you’re most interested in, but in my opinion, this itinerary for Morocco covers the most-coveted places to visit in Morocco in the quickest yet most laid-back way possible. But feel free to deviate from it however it makes sense!

Your Ultimate Morocco Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Marrakech

This Morocco itinerary has you arriving in Marrakech as it’s typically one of the cheapest airports to fly into. Marrakech is also at the top of most people’s Morocco bucket lists, enticed by beautiful images of Instagram of luxe riads, ornate doors, and sumptuous spice markets.

Marrakech is perhaps Morocco’s most touristic cities, which means that unfortunately, touts latch onto tourists here with perhaps a little more relish than in other parts of Morocco. Be firm with your refusals, make less eye contact than you’re used to, and always walk with purpose: these three things will make your time in Marrakech a little less hectic.

NOTE: I’ve written a more in-depth three days in Marrakech itinerary which you can read here (it’ll open in a new tab), but I’ll summarize it below. If you want more detail, read the original Marrakech itinerary.

Quick Tip: It helps if you have a transfer to your hotel pre-booked so you don’t have to deal with Marrakech taxi drivers – who drive a notoriously hard bargain – upon arrival to the airport. This inexpensive transfer service will take all the stress out of arrival. Prebook here.

Check into your riad

Marrakech is known for its exquisite riads, and staying in one is undoubtedly one of the highlights of any Morocco itinerary. I’ve created an entire post on the best and most photogenic riads in Marrakech, but you can also skim below for my top 3 recommendations, one for each budget category.

Budget: For a gorgeous budget riad in Marrakech, I recommend Riad Matham. The building is historic, dating back to the 16th century when it belonged to a rich Berber family. With a plunge pool right in the heart of its quiet courtyard, blooming bougainvilleas and lush olive and palm trees, an in-house hammam, traditional Moroccan home decor and soaring high ceilings (nearly 5 meters high!), and gorgeous architecture, you’ll be surprised by how affordable a touch of luxury can be in Morocco. There’s a shady rooftop terrace for you to enjoy a view of the medina from your own quiet oasis.

Just 8 minutes’ walk away from Djemaa El Fna, and 3 minutes away from museums such as the Photography Museum and Ben Youssef Madrassa, the riad is perfectly positioned in the medina so that everything is easily accessible on foot. The riad is quite intimate, with two rooms and four suites, all attended by kind hosts who make you feel like family. There is a hammam with a steam room that you can use, and massages can be booked at the riad for an affordable price.

>> Check prices, availability, reviews, and photos here

Boutique: For a gorgeous luxury riad in Marrakech without a crazy price tag, I strongly recommend the beautiful Les Sources Berbères Riad & Spa. Welcoming you with the scent of jasmine when you arrive, this quiet Marrakech riad feels like a hidden gem away from the hectic medina. With a pool to dip in on hot days, and a rooftop terrace with a hot tub for cooler nights, plenty of seating areas in the courtyard, and a communal lounge, it’s a wonderful and spacious feeling riad where you can feel like you’re having your own private moments, or chatting with fellow guests should you feel more social.

Every room at Les Sources Berbères has A/C and traditional yet understated Moroccan decor, with a seating area to spread out and relax in and a private bathroom designed with traditional tiling in each room. There’s a hammam on site with a traditional Turkish steam bath and massages available for an additional charge. A delicious and free breakfast is included in your stay, with homemade jams and bread that guests rave about.

>> Check prices, availability, reviews, and photos here

Luxury: With a private pool at the heart of its courtyard, gorgeous white walls with rich wood detailing, plenty of archways, greenery, and nooks to relax in, Riad Melhoun & Spa is a gorgeous and luxurious place to get away from the business of Marrakech and enjoy a traditional riad. It has all the luxury riad spoilings: a lovely sun terrace to relax on, a pool to take a dip in, and a hammam/spa to unwind in.

Each room has a different name and a different vibe or personality – from a traditional four-poster bed with canopy to a more playful flower-print bed with bright pink pillows. Every room has unique photography on the walls that showcases the beauty of Marrakech. It’s located a 3-minute walk away from both Bahia Palace and El Badi Palace, so it’s in one of the best areas to stay in Marrakech.

>> Check prices, availability, reviews, and photos here

Start out at Koutoubia Mosque

Unfortunately, unlike in other Muslim-majority countries, non-Muslims are not permitted to enter mosques in Morocco. And honestly, given the way that Instagrammers treat Morocco as a backdrop for their fashion shows, I don’t necessarily blame them.

However, you should still visit the outside of Koutoubia mosque, nearly a thousand years old at the highest point in Marrakech due to a law that no building can exceed the height of Koutoubia’s minaret. Koutoubia also is a wonderful point of reference in the medina, with its labyrinthine network alleyways and unmarked streets, so

Shop the souks and hone your haggling skills

Does anyone come to Morocco without the intention of doing some serious shopping? The souks of Morocco are legendary, full of hand-crafted artisan gems, sumptuous leatherwork, aromatic and colorful spices, and gorgeously hand-painted ceramics… to name just a few.

It’s difficult to find your way in the medina (and even more difficult due to the fact that basically any sign pointing you to Jemaa el-Fna / ‘The Big Square” should be disregarded as a blatant lie). So I suggest not even trying and allowing yourself to be swallowed up by it, dedicating several hours to perusing its wares.

Haggling is the name of the game in the souks, and it’s a game the shopkeepers are bound to play better than you. My personal strategy is twofold.

First, I like to walk around the souks and lightly haggle on some items I may be interested in buying with some of the shopkeepers, intent on the idea that I won’t be buying, just to get an idea of what the prices actually should be. Second, I have a firm price in mind of what I think the item is worth spending to me. If I have to go above that, that depends on how much I want the item, but I don’t worry about possibly being able to get it for less, since I already found it worth it at that price to me.

This reduces the buyers’ remorse I feel while shopping and streamlines the haggling process for me, which I find a bit overwhelming.

There are any number of amazing Moroccan souvenirs you could bring home with you, but a few of my favorite items are: olives, spices, ceramic plates, decorative mirrors with a Moroccan door motif, leather poufs, leather bags and shoes, and lamps. But of course, you’ll know what speaks to you better than I do!

If you want a little guidance in the souks, which can be a bit overwhelming, you can take this guided souk walking tour.

Travel comfortably and book your souk tour here!

Pro Tip: One word of warning, though, is that if people see you’re on a guided tour they tend to adjust the prices upwards. This is great for getting a handle of the souks, the lay of the land, and how haggling works, but you may want to come back later to actually buy.

Have a delicious late lunch at Café des Épices

After all that shopping, you’ll likely have worked up an appetite: so now it’s time to find your first lunch in Marrakech. If you don’t have any idea of where to eat, my suggestion would be Café des Épices. It’s where I ended up on my first day in Marrakech and I loved the intimate atmosphere that feels a world away from the souks — even though you’re nestled in the heart of the busy medina shopping district.

I ordered a tasty meatball tagine — (this is at the stage of the trip where you will love every tagine set in front of you; I warn you that after 10 days in Morocco, you may never want to see a tagine or couscous again!) with fluffy bread and can definitely recommend this as a great introduction to Morocco’s food scene!

Address: 75 Derb Rahba Lakdima, Marrakesh Medina 40000, Morocco

Do some more shopping

Refueled by lunch, you’re at your prime to re-enter the lion’s den – I mean the souks – and drive a harder bargain, now that you have a better idea of the souvenirs you want to bring home and the rough prices you’re comfortable paying.

Marvel at Jemma el-Fnaa from a distance – preferably a rooftop restaurant

I have mixed feelings about Jemaa el-Fnaa. For one, it’s the heart of Marrakech, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site for its centuries of importance.

Here, you’ll find the freshest, most delicious orange juice at a mere 50 cents (5 dirhams) a cup, the lively sizzle of grilling meat… and you’ll also find snake charmers who have abusively de-fanged their cobras, monkeys who have been snatched from the wild in order to pay tricks, and ladies grabbing your hand to try to give you a henna tattoo at an exorbitant price.

To save yourself a headache, do not take any photos of the snake charmers, henna ladies, etc. and do not allow anyone to hand you their monkey or put any henna on you as you undoubtedly will be hounded to pay. Just ignore or say no to people and move on.

I don’t mean to dissuade you from visiting Jemaa el-Fnaa; I just want you to know what to expect.

A less hectic way to enjoy the chaos of Jemaa el-Fnaa is to people-watch from the birds-eye view of a rooftop café. The location means that it’s a bit of a tourist trap, but for me, I’m more than willing to pay a bit extra to enjoy the shenanigans of Jemaa el-Fnaa from a distance. If you’re looking to keep to a budget, I’d look elsewhere, but I’d suggest Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier or Café de France as a good place to sit, have a sugary mint tea, and enjoy the madness.

I suggest arriving about 30-45 minutes before sunset to get a seat before the tourists come streaming in. Then, you can relax and enjoy for about an hour, watching as the lights come on and Jemaa el-Fnaa gets its nocturnal energy. However, unless you’re starving at this point, there are much better places to eat, so I’ll suggest moving on after you have a tea and a gander to our next stop on this Morocco itinerary.

Enjoy your first dinner in Marrakech

By now, you’ve probably worked up quite an appetite. If you managed to restrain yourself at our previous stop, I’ll now suggest you make your way to one of the following worthwhile restaurants in Marrakech.

For a budget-friendly, chilled out atmosphere, I strongly suggest Café Clock. (Address: Derb Chtouka, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco). It feels a world away from the busy vibe of Marrakech’s medina, and the prices will delight you at around $5-7 for a starter and $7-10 USD for a main dish (including their famous camel burger!)

It’s not the cheapest you can eat in Marrakech, but it’s great value for money and the food safety is very high (as opposed to street food, which can definitely trigger sensitive stomachs if you don’t pick wisely).

A more touristy — but admittedly rather fun — option is to have a decadent dinner and a show. There are several options, but Lotus Club is easily the best, though it is rather pricy. This option includes hotel transfers, several hours of live music and dancing, and a 3-course meal complete with a half-bottle of wine [wine is a resource you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in Marrakech, as many restaurants in the medina are dry].

Intrigued? Reserve your spot for dinner here.

Day 2: More of Marrakech

For the next day of your Morocco itinerary, I suggest diving deep into all the culture that Marrakech has to offer.

Visit the El Badi Palace

Personally, I didn’t personally visit when I went to Morocco but I was looking for a suitable replacement for Ben Youssef Madrassa [which is now closed, though it was open when I went to Morocco]. I think this comes close to the mix of history and photographability that Ben Youssef offers. However, when Ben Youssef reopens (due to be in March of 2020), I suggest perhaps swapping El Badi for Ben Youssef, or adding Ben Youssef to this day’s itinerary.

El Badi Palace literally translates to “the incomparable palace.” Perhaps that was true at the time, but time has made it a bit worse for wear. However, you can still see many vestiges of its former beauty, so it’s still well-worth a visit.

This palace complex took a decade and a half to build and it shows the peak of the craftsmanship of the Saadian age. At the height of its time, the palace had 360 rooms, decorated ornately with handcrafted furniture, as well as a courtyard complex with a pool. Rich with gold, onyx, Italian marble, and exquisite tilework, the Palace was an ostentatious display of Saadian wealth.

While much of the original palace is in a state of disrepair, there are still several gorgeously preserved parts of the palace with excellent tile mosaics, ornate stained glass windows, and beautiful courtyards – so there is still plenty to photograph and visit, all while you imagine the former beauty of it in its heyday.

Marvel at Bahia Palace

Whereas the El Badi Palace is a bit worse for wear after centuries of disuse, Bahia Palace is in remarkable condition. Built during the second half of the 19th century, Bahia Palace is one of the most well-preserved historic monuments in Marrakech. Its simple color scheme of white, wood and understated tilework accents, primarily of turquoise, yellow, and deep blue, is gorgeous.

Built over 14 years, the palace has about 150 rooms and takes up nearly two acres. To say that it’s beautiful would be doing it an injustice: it’s mindblowing. Its many ornaments, lavishly-decorated doors, breathtaking fireplaces, floors and ceilings of the finest wood: every single detail adds up together to achieve something that is truly spectacular.

Visiting Bahia Palace is an unforgettable experience for any visitor and a must-do if you’re in Marrakech.

Visit the Jewish Cemetery

While today, Morocco is known as having a majority Muslim population, the country has been an important part of Jewish history for centuries. You can see that history at the Jewish Cemetery near the Bahia Palace, but its simplicity and bareness will be quite a contrast to the ornateness of Bahia Palace.

The Jewish Cemetery in Marrakech is the largest of its kind in Morocco and has been in continual use since the 16th century. Today, the Jewish population of Marrakech is quite small – a mere 200 or so Jews – as much of Morocco’s Jewish population moved after the founding of Israel.

Despite the mass exodus of Moroccan Jews, the area around Marrakech is still important to Jewish history, with several important Jewish pilgrimage sites located on the outskirts of the city. While Morocco’s population is 99% Muslim, the country has done an excellent job of protecting its Jewish citizens and Jewish history.

Stop for lunch and tea by the Saadian Tombs

At this point, you’ve done quite a bit of sightseeing and have definitely earned a nice, sit-down meal.

I suggest Kasbah Café, which has a gorgeous view of the Moulay el Yazid Mosque from its terrace restaurant. It has fair prices, good food, and it’s not out of the way for the rest of the day’s sightseeing.

Explore the Saadian Tombs

The Saadian dynasty played an important role in Moroccan history. Under their rule, Morocco grew greatly as an important power. As a result, you can still see their presence in much of the architecture and monuments of modern-day Marrakech.

The tombs of the Saadian dynasty, built by Sultan Al Mansour in the 16th century, contain marvelous tombs and mausoleums built to commemorate the Saadian family, including the Sultan’s own tomb, just as ornate as you’d imagine.

Please keep in mind when photographing that this site that this is a burial site and all photography should be respectful, just as you’d be at a graveyard.

Day 3: Day Trip to Essaouira or More of Marrakech

At this point, here’s one of the first points of divergence on this Morocco itinerary: you can either opt to spend another day in Marrakech, soaking up all the fantastic sights it has to offer, or go on a day trip to the lovely coastal city of Essaouira, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Game of Thrones filming location (double the bang for your buck!).

It’s a bit of a long day trip from Marrakech – about three hours each way – so it may not be the best use of your time unless you really want to see Essaouira. Also, this Morocco itinerary has you starting your journey into the Sahara Desert tomorrow, which means a long day of driving. For that reason, you may want to either switch days 2 and 3, so you don’t have so many long car days in a row, or you may want to skip over the day trip entirely.

Whatever you choose, it’s up to you. A day trip to Essaouira is inexpensive and a wonderful way to spend one of your days in Morocco – especially since this itinerary is otherwise entirely inland and has very little time in Morocco’s coastal cities, which have a unique vibe all on their own. For that reason, I’m inclined to recommend spending a day in Essaouira.

This is the Essaouira day trip I recommend – at 25 euros for a day trip, it’s a fantastic deal and has overwhelmingly positive reviews. The tour includes transport, visiting Essaouira’s Moulay El Hassan Square and its souks (markets) and medina, a fish lunch (extra charge), an argan oil cooperative stop, the jeweler’s quarter, and some reviewers even talked about making a stop to see the famous ‘goats in a tree’!

Book your Essaouira day trip in advance here!

However, there’s also a case to be made for spending more time in Marrakech. While I won’t go into huge detail here, as you can simply peruse my full Marrakech itinerary here, here are a few ideas on how you could spend your third day in Marrakech.

  • Visiting some of Marrakech’s excellent museums. The Marrakech House of Photography is phenomenal and my personal recommendation. If you’re interested in Moroccan textiles and rugs, I suggest Musee Boucharouite. If you’re keen to learn more about Marrakech’s history, the Musée de Marrakech is interesting if you can read French (there is no English signage, so it’s skippable if not). For interesting art, check out The Orientalist Museum of Marrakech or The Heritage Museum.
The stunning interior of the House of Photography
  • Indulging more in Marrakech’s food scene. I’ve listed a few of my recommendations for where to eat in Marrakech, but a food tour will take you even deeper. I suggest this 3.5-hour food tour + dinner, which will show you around the medina to some of the best food spots in Marrakech and introduce you (safely!) to local street food. It’s run by Urban Adventures – one of my favorite tour companies, as I’ve gone on several of their tours in Europe and always been impressed. You can pre-book the tour here.
  • Learning how to cook Moroccan food for yourself. Especially if you plan on buying a tagine as a Morocco souvenir, it helps to know what to do with it. One of my favorite ‘souvenirs’ for myself is some recipes I can make when I get back home and the food cravings hit! If you really want to dig deeper into Morocco’s tasty food culture, discover the art of making tagine from a local, where you can learn the recipe and technique for making Morocco’s famous tagine in this hands-on cooking class. Book your cooking class here.
  • Have some hammam time. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point in your trip and just want to relax for a bit, I recommend a spa day! I love experiencing spa culture in different countries, and having a traditional hammam in Marrakech is a really unique experience – from the black soap to the scrubbing with the kess, it’s unlike anywhere else. You can arrange for a hammam with your riad or pre-book this hammam and massage package here.

Day 4: Embark on your Sahara desert journey

Now, it’s time for one of the biggest items on most people’s Morocco bucket lists: a trip to the Sahara desert!

One tip I have for maximizing your Morocco itinerary is that the Sahara Desert is far from everything – so make the most of it as a transit opportunity to get you from point A to B. The Sahara Desert is roughly equidistant between Marrakech and Fes, so use your Sahara Desert tour to take you to the next place on your Marrakech itinerary, Fes, rather than reverting back to Marrakech for no reason only to move onwards from there.

But first, a word of warning. I highly suggest you do not just go with a random tout who promotes their tour to you in a medina. While you will likely get a better price because you can haggle, you also may get an extremely unpleasant tour (as I did)… which over the course of 3 days can really take a toll on your trip and your mental health.

I had a really bad experience, which I wrote about here, involving sexual harassment and nearly getting groped in my sleep by a guide. This was a time I valued my budget over all else, and it really bit me in the ass. It’s not a mistake I’d make again.

Instead, I recommend booking with a vetted travel company who offers online reviews, so you can match up others’ experiences with your expectations. I strongly recommend this private Sahara desert tour if you have the money for it (about 200-250 euro per person for a 3-day trip, depending on group size) – it has the best reviews of all and avoids many of the trappings of a group tour such as too many shopping stops, being rushed, or being stuck with annoying group members.

Book your private 3 day Sahara desert tour today!

However, I totally get that may be a bit expensive for some people who are trying to do Morocco on a budget. In that case, I’d suggest a shared tour such as this one. However, this specific tour doesn’t have reviews shared yet on Get Your Guide, which makes me a bit hesitant to suggest it, so I’d really recommend going with the above private tour if possible.

Anyway, regardless of which tour you pick, I’ll briefly go over the stops (as all Sahara Desert tours generally follow a similar itinerary) so you know what to expect. Keep in mind that it’s nearly 600 kilometers of driving distance between Marrakech and the Sahara, including winding mountain roads, so the trip is broken up into two days heading to the Sahara and one day going onward to Fes.

Atlas Mountains

One of the first places you’ll stop on your Sahara Desert tour is a few different photo spots in the Atlas Mountains.

You won’t have time for a hike or any major sightseeing of the lovely Berber mountain villages you’ll find here, but you will love the views as you drive (just be sure to bring some motion sickness tablets as this part of the trip can be quite winding!)

Ait Ben Haddou

This UNESCO site is also another Game of Thrones filming location, where it stood in as Yunkai, one of the cities of Slaver’s Bay.

Usually, you can hire a guide for an optional fee (though depending on the tour and the persistence of your guide, it may not feel optional), who will give you a little more information about Ait Ben Haddou.

Alternately, you can visit the kasbah by yourself, which means you’ll have more individual photography time but less context. It’s up to you what you prioritize – I chose to skip the guided tour and walk around independently.

Ouarzazate

Also known as Moroccan Hollywood, Ouarzazate is perhaps best known for its incredible film studio, Atlas Film Studio, but it’s also a lovely place to stop and sightsee for a bit (you’ll want to stretch your legs after so much time on the road!).

It’s the largest city you’ll see between Marrakech and Merzouga, so it’s interesting to see how life is in this small Moroccan city. Its Taourirt Kasbah is extremely impressive to see (and you’ll probably recognize it from a movie or two). You won’t have much time here if you’re making just a short stop on your way to Merzouga, but it’s still a worthwhile pause from the driving!

Dades Gorge

This spectacular canyon is one of the last stops you’ll make for the day and it’s absolutely stunning.

The red rock looks like something out of the American Southwest and the series of switchbacks you’ll take snaking your way through the gorge are breathtaking in more ways than one (again, motion sickness pills).

Tinghir

Most desert tours end the first day in Tinghir, where there are plentiful accommodations, although depending on the exact tour you choose, where you stay overnight may vary (my tour stayed near the Dades Gorge, personally).

You won’t get to see much of it, since you’ll likely arrive after dark depending on the time of year and your exact tour, but it has nicer accommodations than other smaller cities so it’s a good place to lay your head down for the night.

Day 5: Continue into the Desert

The beginning of this day will mostly be driving (though many include a stop at the beautiful Todgha Gorge, pictured above) as you continue from your hotel onwards towards Merzouga, where you’ll arrive a few hours before sunset to prepare for your camel ride into your desert camp!

I won’t go into too much detail about this day because it really depends on the tour. My day had me going to a small Berber village and visiting a rug maker (who scammed me and replaced the rug I wanted with one that was falling apart at the seams, but that’s a story for another day) and making a few other stops at natural wonders along the way. But to be honest, this day mostly is a blur of being in a car until finally arriving in Merzouga.

Once you arrive in Merzouga, you’ll get up on your camel (which is terrifyingly high up, I might add, especially if you for some reason thought a camel ride would be similar to a horse ride like myself…) and embark into the desert just as the sun is setting. It’s an absolutely magical experience… except for the camel’s saddle jamming into your private parts with every step. That part I could leave.

Once you arrive at your desert camp, you’ll settle in around the fire while your guides make dinner.

Depending on your tour, again, this could be delicious — or it could make you come down with food poisoning, as happened to my less-fortunate friends (yet another reason why I suggest going with a guide with an online presence – a reputation to maintain = more care with food safety). And trust me, you probably don’t want food poisoning on the long road to Fes tomorrow….

Finally, most nights end with some drumming and stories around the fire in the middle of the desert. Even during the summer, the desert can get surprisingly cold at night, so bring some layers to stay comfortable. For perspective, it was 115 F (46 C) during the day in the desert in July… and around 75 F at night (24 C). Don’t assume that because it’s the desert it’ll be hot all the time!

If you go in fall, winter, or spring, you’ll actually likely want a small down jacket to keep you warm, because it can get quite cold in the late fall, winter, and early spring… and sometimes even snow!

Day 6: Desert Sunrise & The Long Road to Fes

After waking up for a desert sunrise, you’re in for a long day ahead! Most of the day you’ll be heading into Fes, which is an epic journey that takes most of the day.

Again, this will depend on your tour. I went with a crappy company who just organized a taxi driver (and told me the transfer was included when I booked but then charged me again upon leaving) so we just drove all day with the exception of a break for lunch.

A proper tour will include several stops between Merzouga and Fes. For exact stops, check the itinerary of a Marrakech-Merzouga-Fes tour like this one.

Once you arrive in Fes, you’ll want to check into your riad and get settled. I recommend opting for something extra comfortable after your tour through the desert. You’ll be quite exhausted at this point, so you’ll really crave some comfort. Plus, you get better value in Fes than Marrakech, so your money will stretch further here.

I’ve written about all the best Fes riads here, but like I did for Marrakech, I’ll summarize them briefly, broken down by budget category, below.

Budget: The lovely Riad Ibn Khaldoun is a fantastic choice in Fes. This is one of the most colorful riads you will see! The riad has stained glass windows, patterned floor tiles, painted walls, intricately carved wooden furniture and so on. It doesn’t just end in the common areas – even the rooms are like that! 

There are beds with sheer canopies and very luxurious bed covers with designs. It just feels like every corner of this riad is fully decorated, so that every corner is perfect for the ‘gram – all you need to do is work on finding your perfect angle when you take your photos!

Breakfast is served daily, and it is included with your stay. Guests loved the food and many even said that the food was the best they tried in the city. You should try the tasty tagine they cook for dinner, aside from the other à la carte Moroccan dishes they offer. 

>> Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Boutique: The stylish Riad Fes Authentic Palace & Spa offers 13 guest rooms with the usual riad layout. Aside from being close to the Blue Gate, it is nearby to a car-accessible road which makes it really convenient. This riad is practically made for Instagrammers, with countless beautiful spots in the riad to snap photos. Personally, it’s hard to pick the best spot to take photos here, but the roof terrace, the pool area, and the courtyard are all contenders!

Most of the rooms have a balcony with a view of the pool or nearby mountains. They are also fully equipped with all the things you need like a fridge, coffee machine, and A/C that also has heating capabilities in case you’re visiting in winter. The furniture — such as beds, tables, and chairs — are done in the typical Moroccan style with beautiful carvings. The mattress and pillows are covered with embroidered bed covers (sheets are available for an extra cost). If you are planning to book two rooms, you can ask for interconnecting rooms — great for families and groups of friends.

The spa services are next level, as to be expected from a riad with spa in the name! There are full beauty services, such as manicures and pedicures, hair styling and treatments, waxing, as well as other wellness services like massage, body scrubs and wraps, facials, etc. There’s also a hammam for Moroccan style bathing — a must-do for any spa enthusiast.

>> Check prices, availability, reviews, and photos here.

Luxury: The charming Riad Palais Bahia has a beautiful courtyard without the usual bright colors, offering a more refined and elegant aesthetic in shades of black and white. A panoramic view of the houses, lighting up at the medina (amidst the mountain background) awaits you on their rooftop terrace during sunset – just like a postcard! 

The menu at their restaurant has delicious Moroccan, Spanish, and Italian dishes. You can also order wine to pair with your meals — not always an easy task in the often-dry Morocco! The restaurant is open from 6:30 AM until 11 PM and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The poolside bar, aside from being very photogenic, is a nice place for some drinks and to cool off at the pool at the same time. 

There’s never a dull moment in this riad because there is a library with a collection of nice books (you might just learn something new or, better yet, find a lovely trashy pool read to relax by the water with). The service desk can also help you book tickets, guides, and day tours. When you need to relax, you can also take a dip in the pool or optionally unwind in the steam room and get a deep tissue massage for the ultimate in relaxation!

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Day 7: Get Oriented in Fes with a Medina Tour

After resting up and enjoying a leisurely breakfast in your Fes riad, it’s time to get acquainted with the city.

Fes is a bit of an overwhelming city. Its medina is the largest pedestrian-only space in the world… meaning there are countless alleyways to get lost in. Fes also has a bit of a grittier feel than Marrakech, and I felt much more comfortable there with a local guide than I did walking around by myself.

Start with a tour of the medina

I suggest doing a medina tour to get oriented with the city. This one is highly regarded and well-rated, and it’s inexpensive to boot, at only 15 euros for a tour.

On this tour, you’ll visit the souks, the exterior of two mosques (as non-Muslims are not allowed inside), the Nejjarine Fountain, the 13th-century Islamic madrassa, and the Batha Palace. It also includes the Chouara Tannery (which can be overwhelming to visit on your own, especially since the leather factory salespeople can be quite pushy).

I hired a guide for Fes, finally sick of prioritizing budget over comfort, and it was the best money I spent in Morocco. It’s a place that can quickly become overwhelming without a guide, so it’s worth booking a tour.

Book your Fes medina tour today!

Have lunch at one of Fes’s restaurants

I have two recommendations for where to eat in Fes: Made in M and Le Tarbouche. I recommend picking one for lunch, based on where you end your medina tour, and saving the other for dinner (or eating in your riad, because riads often have some of the tastiest food you’ll find)

Relax at your riad

At this point in your Morocco itinerary, you likely need a bit of a down day. Don’t feel guilty taking some time off of sightseeing to enjoy your riad – after all, experiencing riad culture is an essential part of a Morocco trip!

Lounge on the rooftop terrace with a book, take a dip in the pool, or if you’re staying at a riad with a hammam, spend some time in the steam room or even treat yourself to a massage.

Day 8: Visit Meknes and the Ancient City of Volubilis OR Sightsee in Fes

One of the reasons I suggest Fes as a base for your final block of time in Morocco is because it’s so close to several amazing day trips! The first one I’ll recommend is a combined trip to Meknes and Volubilis: two very different, but equally interesting, sights.

You can do this two ways: either as a guided tour (I suggest this one) or by hiring a private driver for the day, which you can arrange via your riad. A private driver will usually be cheaper, but there’s no guarantee the driver speaks English and is knowledgeable about the sights you’ll see. A guide is better if the history is important to you; a private driver is better if freedom is more important. I usually prefer a guide, but your mileage may vary.

Whatever you end up deciding, make sure you visit both Meknes and Volubilis!

Volubilis is exquisite: ancient ruins of a Roman city (yes, the Roman Empire stretched all the way to Morocco — pretty incredible right?). The Berbers shook off the Roman Empire in the third century AD and it was never recaptured by Rome due to how far on the edge of the empire it was. It was inhabited for centuries after, first by Christians, later by Muslims, before being abandoned in the 11th century when Fes became an important nexus of power and Volubilis became less relevant.

Meknes is one of the four imperial cities of Morocco (the others are Rabat, Marrakech, and Fes – so following this itinerary for Morocco, you’ll see 3/4 of them!) and it has a huge amount of history in a small area. From the exquisitely photogenic Bou Inania Madrasa to the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, there are several beautiful sights in Meknes worth seeing if you dedicate about half a day to it.

Alternately, you could just spend the day relaxing in Fes and checking out more of its sights. Here are a few more points of interest you may want to check out.

  • The Royal Palace with its gorgeous golden doors. Note that it’s not open to the public, but the facade is beautiful enough to make it a must-see in Fes, with its Wes Andersonian symmetry.
  • Bab Bou Jeloud, aka the Blue Gate, with its picturesque arches, which functions as a gateway to the Medina.
  • The Mellah (Jewish district) and Synagogue, which isn’t always covered on medina tours but is a sight well-worth seeing inside the medina
  • More shopping! I always suggest shopping without the presence of a guide if you want the best deals. Go with a guide to get a handle of the streets and the wares on offer, return independently, savvier and ready to bargain your heart out.

Day 9: Spend a Day in the Blue City of Chefchaouen

I wasn’t expecting to like Chefchaouen as much as I did, but it was the true highlight of my Morocco itinerary! I strongly recommend giving yourself at least a day in Chefchaouen. If you have an extra day that you’re not sure how to spend, or if Meknes and Volubilis don’t speak to you, then I’d opt to spend the extra day in Chefchaouen.

You can visit Chefchaouen from Fes via CTM bus independently or opt for a tour to avoid having to figure out public transit in Morocco. I recommend this affordable tour – both small group and private tours are offered.

Frankly, it’s really easy to wander around Chefchaouen independently, as it’s quite small and it’s more about the scenery of the Rif mountains juxtaposed against the gorgeous blue backdrop of the city.

A guide isn’t strictly necessary, so this is one place where you could skip the guide to save money, but if the idea of navigating the transit system stresses you out and you’d rather opt for a transfer, you can join a small group for under 40 euros for the entire day trip, excluding meals.

Book this easy Chefchaouen day trip here!

If you go independently, here are a few sights you shouldn’t miss in Chefchaouen.

  • The Smurf-blue medina…. but that’s hard to miss!
  • Place Uta el-Hammam
  • The Kasbah Museum
  • The Grand Mosque
  • The Ethnographic Museum

Day 10: Final Shopping & Prepare For Your Flight

On your final day in Morocco, I recommend having one last leisurely Moroccan breakfast, spending any last dirhams you have in the souks (as it’s actually illegal to take dirhams out of Morocco!), and maaaaybe springing for one last massage or hammam if time permits.

Your one last thing is to get yourself to the airport. Your hotel can help you arrange it for a fee, or you can book your transfer from Fes to the airport here so you don’t have to worry about it later!

And there you are… a complete 10 day Morocco itinerary that’s customizable to your preferences! A few other alterations you could make: skip the day in Meknes and give yourself one more day in Marrakech, swap the Sahara for Essaouira and Casablanca on the coast before making your way inland into Fes, or adding a day trip to the Atlas Mountains and its picturesque Berber villages to your time in Marrakech.

Really, there’s no wrong way to spend 10 days in Morocco – so feel free to adjust this itinerary to your liking!

11 Incredible Riads in Fes Worth Staying At

Fes is a historic city with an immense, labyrinthine medina: the largest car-free urban area in the world.

Wandering the medina is equal parts fascinating and frustrating. You get lost over and over again, but it can be an opportunity to discover new routes, beautiful doors and buildings, and hidden madrassas tucked away down alleyways, stacks of goods and sacks of spices, and all the shopping one’s heart could desire.

And of course – it can also get tiring, passing by touts trying to bring you to the tanneries, vendors trying to get you to buy their wares, and guides offering their services. That’s why you need the perfect place to stay to get away from it all.

The best oasis from the chaos of staying in a medina is by picking an excellent riad in Fes to escape from it all. While normally, I tend to think of hotels as just a place to lay my head at night, in Fes, riads are an essential part of the experience.

Fes riads are at the heart of your travel experience — which is why I think it’s essential to pick the best riad in Fes possible for your budget. Your riad owner generally works three important jobs — your host, your travel agent, and your chef. They help with everything from obtaining souk guides to bus tickets to guided tours and providing delicious homecooked breakfasts and often dinners upon request.

While I generally recommend staying in a riad in Fes, you may want to stay outside the chaos of the medina, in which case I would suggest picking one of the beautiful luxury hotels on the outskirts in Fes outside the medina.

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Wondering where to stay in Fes? These riads in Fes are some of the most beautiful Fes hotels. A Fes riad is like a small B&B with traditional Moroccan decor elements. These riads in the Fes medina are sure to inspire Instagram-worthy photos with their beauty, and they're some of the most Instagrammable places to visit in Fes!
Wondering where to stay in Fes? These riads in Fes are some of the most beautiful Fes hotels. A Fes riad is like a small B&B with traditional Moroccan decor elements. These riads in the Fes medina are sure to inspire Instagram-worthy photos with their beauty, and they're some of the most Instagrammable places to visit in Fes!

Best Riads in Fes for Budget Travelers (Under $75/Night)

Riad Razane

This beautiful Fes riad is located just a brief walk from the city center, and it has a history that dates back to the 14th century. Despite its low price tag, Riad Razane is a 4-star accommodation straight out of an Instagrammers dreams.

At its heart is an intricately painted and detailed courtyard, where you can lounge and sip on some Moroccan mint tea and escape from it all. There is a small fountain in the middle, and some indoor potted plants are also strategically arranged to refresh the senses. This is a really nice place to take photos, as the already-beautiful surroundings are made even more more luxurious due to the ornate chandelier. 

This small boutique riad in Fes has a total of 7 rooms, so you’re guaranteed an intimate experience with plenty of individualized attention. The economy rooms are more sparse and modern, whereas the triple and quadruple rooms have nice wooden furniture with detailed paintings.

Each room has different styles and materials used, but the overarching theme is the colorful tiles with different patterns and designs which scream Moroccan decor. All rooms have a private bathroom with free toiletries, an A/C (an absolute must if staying in Fes in summer — I suffered when I stayed with only a fan) and free WiFi. 

They serve a free traditional breakfast which past guests have loved. Just in case you wish to try something else, you can ask their staff, and they can give you a map with some nearby restaurants. If you are adventurous, you can try the different local street food which you can find near the hotel. While there isn’t a proper hammam at the riad, you can request to get some nice massages on-site; just ask their front desk. 

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Dar Mehdi

Dar Mehdi is not your typical Fes riad, as it doesn’t have a courtyard. However, it is one of the oldest houses in Fes, and you can still see a lot of old intricate mosaic tilework and the painted wooden roof serves as a sort of communal space like many courtyards in riads do.

The rooftop terrace has lots of comfortable seating plus plenty of pillows, and it’s is a nice place to relax since it has stunning views of the town. You can also have your breakfast here!

The rooms are simple and clean, and there are some Arabic words framed or painted on the walls as a motif. The bed frame has nice paintings and details, but it usually is not seen because of the bed covers. Past guests have noted that the mattress was a little firm: not something for people used to really soft ones, but great if that’s your preference. All rooms have a private bathroom and a balcony where you can view the medina views.

The private bathrooms are quite stunning because of the designed tiles; even the sinks look like lovely ceramic bowls. However, guests thought that the toilets should have been placed before the shower area so that your feet won’t get wet going to the toilet. This could be easily fixed by bringing some flip flops for the hotel.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Riad Ibn Khaldoun

This is one of the most colorful riads in Fes you will ever see! You will see stained glass windows, patterned floor tiles, painted walls, intricately carved wooden furniture and so on. It doesn’t just end in the common areas – even the rooms are like that! 

There are beds with sheer canopies and very luxurious bed covers with designs. It just feels like every corner of this riad is fully decorated. It is quite difficult to describe how well-decorated this riad is. Every corner is perfect for the ‘gram – all you need to do is work on finding your perfect angle when you take your photos!

Breakfast is served daily, and it is included with your stay. Guests loved the food and many even said that the food was the best they tried in the city. You can also order and try the yummy tagine they cook for dinner, aside from the other à la carte Moroccan dishes they offer. 

There is an ATM on-site, as well as a currency exchange center. The guests loved how helpful and friendly the staff was on this property. You can directly ask them to help you with transfers, guides, and other necessities, so you get fair prices and avoid any hassle.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

The Best Mid-Range Riads in Fes ($75-150 Per Night)

Riad El Amine Fes

If you were to choose one word for this Fes riad, it would have to be majestic. You won’t even believe how beautiful and surreal it is once you are here! It is so photogenic that it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo here.

The best spot to take a photo would be the pool area! It is also very clean and the water is replaced frequently so you don’t have to deal with any grime in the pool. You can also relax here and they have some themed restaurant nights, where you can listen to some traditional music or even get a henna tattoo in the comfort of your own riad.

They have rooms and suites, which are stylish, fully-furnished and spacious. They have extra-long beds with bold and vibrant colored sheets. Some have headboards with intricate paintings and carvings that you pretty much want to steal and take back home with you (or at least I do!).

All rooms have an A/C, heating, washing machine, safety deposit box, ironing facilities, and a minibar. The ensuite bathroom has golden sinks and faucets, golden mirrors plus the typical Zellige Moroccan tiles carefully decorated to create beautiful patterns. Toiletries are included, but towels and extra sheets are available for a small extra fee. There are also balconies in all rooms, and you can see the garden from here. 

The free breakfast is delicious and you can choose from eggs, breads, and pastries which you can pair with hot milk, coffee, orange juice, or tea. The price range is a little high compared to local restaurants, but guests found it was well worth it when it comes to taste.  You can also check their on-site restaurants, Essâadia and El Bahia, which serve authentic Moroccan dishes like tagines, pastillas and salads. 

However, the roof terrace is being renovated at present (2019) so it is not available as of writing. They have bought the riad next door and it will be up as well as having some exciting new developments next year, so stay tuned. The spa offers different kinds of treatments with local ingredients like black clay, Ghassoul, and essential oils — plus all treatments end with a yummy cup of Moroccan mint tea! 

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Riad Fes Authentic Palace & Spa

Riad Fes Authentic Palace & Spa offers 13 guest rooms with the usual riad layout. Aside from being close to the Blue Gate, it is nearby to a car-accessible road which makes it really convenient compared to many of the other best riads in Fes on this list. Many of these riads would require you to walk 10-15 minutes before you can reach it, which can be a hassle. This will also make tour shuttles easy to find you!

This riad is practically made for Instagrammers, with countless beautiful spots in the riad to snap photos. Personally, it’s hard to pick the best spot to take photos here, but the roof terrace, the pool area, and the courtyard are all contenders!

Most of the rooms have a balcony with a view of the pool or nearby mountains. They are also fully equipped with all the things you need like a fridge, coffee machine, and A/C that also has heating capabilities in case you’re visiting in winter (yes, Morocco can actually get quite chilly in winter!).

The furniture — such as beds, tables, and chairs — are done in the typical Moroccan style with beautiful carvings. The mattress and pillows are covered with embroidered bed covers (sheets are available for an extra cost). If you are planning to book two rooms, you can ask for interconnecting rooms — great for families and groups of friends.

The private bathroom has rain-style showerheads and colorful tiles – and some even have tubs, a great way to relax after a long day of sightseeing. You will also be provided toiletries at no extra cost. Closet spaces and cabinets are also available, so you can also store your personal toiletries if in case you brought some. Towels are also not free, so just bring one if you can. There’s just something tall people should watch out, the doors – don’t bang your head!

The riad is quite family friendly. Parents can leave their kids with a sitter and safety gates for infants are available upon request. The TVs also have children’s networks they can watch, plus there are some toys and books they can read.

The spa services are next level, as to be expected from a riad with spa in the name! There are full beauty services, such as manicures and pedicures, hair styling and treatments, waxing, as well as other wellness services like massage, body scrubs and wraps, facials, etc. There’s also a hammam for Moroccan style bathing — a must-do for any spa enthusiast.

What guests loved the most is the hospitality of the staff. They will even escort you the moment you arrive at the riad. You are definitely treated like royalty in this palace-like accommodation!

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Riad Kettani

This French-owned pet-friendly riad will surprise you once you enter and see the spectacular architecture and style. The typical horseshoe-shaped arches and mosaic tiles are in pristine condition, and the riad is decorated with intricately carved furniture made out of wood and metal.

The mosaic tiles on the floors and walls do not make use of bold colors – most are dark blue and help in creating a more toned-down look perfect for people who prefer a calm and elegant atmosphere. The best spot to take photos here would be the courtyard, the rooms, and the charming terrace on the rooftop. 

They have different room types to choose from (doubles and suites) and housekeeping performs daily maintenance. The double beds are literally two single beds placed together, which can be annoying for couples, so keep that in mind.

Just like most riads in Fes, the private bathrooms have some issues with ventilation and separating the wet and dry area, so it’s suggested to bring rubber flip flops that you don’t mind getting wet. You can pack lightly as toiletries are provided. Safety deposit boxes are also provided in each room so you can keep valuables safe.

There are no lifts in the property and the stairs can be a bit steep, so it may not be suitable for elderly guests or those with mobility needs. Guests appreciated the is a 24-hour service desk which is on call to attend to their needs like booking activities and tours, exchanging currency, storing luggage, and reserving car rentals. 

The restaurant Nezha serves Moroccan dishes daily, and you can get a 3-course meal for Є18 (around $20 USD) — plus you will dine in the beautiful main hall. Special menus and something for kids is also available!

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Best Luxury Riads in Fes ($150 USD+ Per Night)

Riad Alkantara

This riad tones down the patterns and prints by keeping it simple and elegant. The rooms are all suites and laid out on the floors are gorgeous Moroccan rugs (it’ll make it hard to leave without one!)

You will also notice Moorish octagonal side tables with painted details. The beds either have a canopy frame or one with a platform bed frame with a comfortable headboard. Some pillows and bed covers are ornately decorated and embroidered. Private bathrooms are complete with lovely-smelling L’Occitane bath and body products.

The outdoor pool is surrounded by a garden with palm trees and ivy-covered walls, and it looks simply picture perfect. There are also loungers where you can just lay back and feel the warmth of the sun. You can also listen to the birds as they sing a sweet melody for you — you truly won’t feel like you’re in the city at all in this oasis of a riad!

The shaded terrace is where you can find the lounge bar. There is also a restaurant with an international gastronomic selection, as well as the all-time Moroccan favorite dishes such as tagine.

If you want to buy some souvenirs, you can get them at their gift shop. You can see here some clothes and small hand-made precious items. It is also an exhibition area where they display Moroccan artistry. Parking is available at a fee of €10 per day (roughly $11 USD).

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Riad Palais Bahia Fes

Riad Palais Bahia has a beautiful courtyard without the usual bold colors, offering a more refined and elegant aesthetic. A panoramic view of the houses, lighting up at the medina (amidst the mountain background) awaits you on their rooftop terrace during sunset – just like a postcard! 

The menu at their restaurant has delicious Moroccan, Spanish, and Italian dishes. You can also order wine to pair with your meals — not always an easy task in the often-dry Morocco! The restaurant is open from 6:30 AM until 11 PM and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The poolside bar, aside from being very photogenic, is a nice place for some drinks and to cool off at the pool at the same time. 

There’s never a dull moment in this riad because there is a library with a collection of nice books (you might just learn something new or, better yet, find a lovely trashy pool read to relax by the water with). The service desk can also help you book tickets, guides, and day tours. Pets are also allowed, though there might be extra fees charged.

It is also very convenient for travelers because an on-site currency exchange center is available so you won’t have to go out of the alleyways in search of an ATM. You can also dip in the pool or optionally unwind in the steam room or get a deep tissue massage for the ultimate in relaxation!

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Palais d’Hotes Suites & Spa Fes

This riad was once a small palace that was restored in 1944 and transformed into a guest house that accepts guests from all over the world. The rooms have different styles, and the double rooms make use of French country furniture — which is an unexpected twist with the exterior Moroccan decor. The junior and deluxe suite options both have a patio or a terrace with a view of the pool or the city. 

The grandest of all rooms is the premier suite, and it does look like a sultan’s room! It has huge windows that have heavy decorated curtains that drape down to the floor. Luxurious carpets cover the floor and a comfortable sofa with a table that has lovely metal décor elements (like candelabras and teapots) make it more beautiful. All of the rooms feature a tub and private bathrooms. 

The only thing that guests found a bit off about the location of the property is that there is a long alleyway that you need to walk through before you reach it. This is quite common in Fes. However, it can be a bit of a hassle if you want to book a taxi, but a brief walk is not always a bad thing!

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Luxury Hotels in Fes ($150+ USD Per Night)

Hotel Sahrai

Hotel Sahrai is an extremely luxurious 5-star hotel that has modern features executed in a very Moroccan manner. It doesn’t have a traditional courtyard, but it has a similarly styled lounge area that has really high decorated ceilings and beautiful origami shaped lamps which exude an opaque romantic glow at night. 

The modern soundproof rooms and suites have a little touch of Andalusian artistry. The walls are either adorned with a Beni Ourain rug or exposed brick, and it helps complete a more sophisticated look. Some corners are also accented by luxury vases. The private bathroom has glass walls, but there are curtains too in case you want a bit more privacy.

For ultra luxury, opt for the Sahrai Suite. It has a terrace which has a huge glass door that you can open to allow fresh air. There’s also a sun lounger and a table with some chairs where you can have an al fresco breakfast. 

Speaking of breakfast, it is optional and you can get it for $21 USD (quite pricy for Morocco, but it may be worth it if you don’t want to venture outside the hotel bright and early in search of breakfast).

Guests loved the relaxing vibe of the Relais de Paris Restaurant, which serves a Parisian brasserie menu. If you are up for some local dishes, then you have to try Amaraz Restaurant. There are two bars; for a party you and your friends can’t forget, there’s the Jungle Bar, but if you want something more laid-back, then Arcades Bar is for you.

The 24-hour service desk and concierge can help you rent cars and other activities. Free parking is also available in the hotel. The Givenchy Spa is everything you want a luxurious spa could have! It offers treatments and services all using the designer label products to complete that 5* experience.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Palais Ommeyad Suites & Spa

Palais Ommeyad Suits & Spa is a 5-star hotel that has a modern twist to make you feel like royalty. This 18th-century building is located on the far edge of the medina and offers 32 rooms complete with hot tubs. Yes, hot tubs!

There’s still a lot of Moroccan vibes and spots where you can get really nice photos here. A lot of windows have stained glass cathedral-like glow when the lights hit them – no filter necessary!

The hypoallergenic rooms are spacious and luxurious and elegantly furnished. It has long beds with the Palais Ommeyad signature engraved on its headboard. The bedding is comfortable, and you can really tell you get what you pay for.

The chandeliers are of different styles and lighting is a little dim but romantic. They used Moroccan mosaic tiles on the walls to create a unique aesthetic. There are also dual sink basins aside from the Jacuzzi in the private bathroom. It does feel great to soak after a long tiring day!

Breakfast is served from 6 AM until 11 AM, and there is a wide variety of food in the buffet. There’s also a restaurant inside that serves international dishes, and they have special menus for kids and for those who need to meet dietary requirements. 

If you’re not going around the nearby attractions and have nothing left to do, you can optionally check the offers of the spa which are wonderful! They offer anti-stress and energizing massages and rejuvenating treatments. There’s also a hammam and heated pool where you can soak all your worries away!

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

13 Unique Things to Do in Marrakech

If you’re planning a trip to Morocco, Marrakech likely figures highly on your itinerary.

There are so many unique things to do in Marrakech that it’s hard to narrow it down — and after reading this post, get ready for your Marrakech wish list to get even longer!

Here are the coolest and most interesting things to do in Marrakech!

Visit the desert & ride a camel (or a quad bike!)

You can frolic along the desert and palm trees or better yet, ride a camel! I would recommend this half-day tour (check here for rates and availability) so you can fashionably ride a dromedary (AKA, a one-humped camel) while wearing nomadic attire should you choose!

You will also get a chance to visit a remote Berber village and sip local Moroccan tea in the afternoon. What’s extra convenient about getting this tour is that you will be picked up and dropped off from your hotel or accommodation.

If you are more adventurous and feel the need for speed then you can ride a quad bike as you go along the Palmeraie of Marrakech.

The best view of this oasis is at sunset, so if you choose you can also take a camel ride at sunset for a romantic experience. A lot of luxury hotels and resorts are also here should you choose to have a longer stay outside of the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.

Someone who wants to experience all of this and want to end the day with a relaxing massage plus a hammam bath can check this tour!

Check out the otherworldy and lovely gardens

The Anima Garden is one of the most unique gems you will find in Morocco. An Austrian artist named André Heller is responsible for the creation of this one-of-a-kind botanic garden. It took him 6 years to finish this masterpiece of installation art.

As you stroll along the different pavilions and paths, you will experience different smells and sights that will spark your imagination – a perfect way to get some inspiration or just to destress.

It is around 26km from the southern part of Marrakech, and there are free shuttle services at the Koutoubia car park (behind the Koutoubia Mosque) that can take you to the location. You can also get this ticket so you can skip the line and enjoy the gardens for three hours, which is plenty of time to marvel at the garden.

Food and drinks aren’t included, but you will be glad to know that you can buy one inside. The café serves snacks and dishes, mostly sourced from the garden itself! Someone who is traveling around July and August should be aware that shuttle services are limited during this time of the year.

Another garden is the Menara Gardens, which is a beautiful botanical sight to see near the Atlas Mountains that has olive trees surrounding it and an artificial pond (with lively big fish!). It is said that the pond was used to hold the water from the Atlas Mountains to keep moisture for the olive plantation.

The pavilion inside has a green roof and it is elevated above the ground (this is why it is called a menara). There isn’t much explanation or signage in the garden so it is best to get a local licensed tour guide, such as this one, here.

The best part about this tour is that it combines two famous Marrakech gardens in one and it includes transit to both. You will be picked up from your riad or hotel, and you also get to check the famous property once owned by the acclaimed fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, the Majorelle Garden.

The garden showcases a rich blue-colored mansion inspired by Moroccan architecture. There are also a collection of cacti, and unknown to many, the ashes of the late Yves Saint Laurent were actually scattered in this garden. The tour ends with getting a glimpse inside the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque!

Take a cooking class in Marrakech

No one should miss tasting the traditional tagine (pronounced as Ta-zheen) while visiting Marrakech. It is a stew that has vegetables and meat that’s extremely tender (vegetarians rejoice — veggie tagines are very common as well).

To their tagines, Moroccans usually add a lot of spices, herbs, fruits, and nuts. The meat used can vary (mostly chicken and beef, though never pork) and there’s a Berber tribe that makes use of lamb and beautifully arranges the vegetables around it.

Do not confuse yourself, because tagine can also refer to the inverted funnel-shaped cooking pot they use, as well as the stew itself. You can actually experience how to cook with one by attending this class which is taught by an expert chef.

The first thing you do on this tour would be to shop at a local souk for some ingredients (you could pick up your very own tagine in the souks later!) while your guide explains what spices are needed and how they are used.

The class itself will take about 3 hours to prepare your tasty tagine creations, and of course, eat them! After the class, a recipe will be provided to you so you won’t have a hard time thinking about what to buy after the class.

Alternatively, you can also prepare a 4-course meal al fresco — Moroccan style. While your main meal is being cooked in small clay ovens, you will be taught to prepare sides and salads. Once your slow-cooked meal is done, enjoy it with a tasty glass of Moroccan wine, plus a yummy dessert after!

Cooking courses can also be tailored to what you want, but most recipes depend on the availability of ingredients seasonally. They also offer an additional optional tour at a Moroccan bazaar. The day’s cooking class will end with a nice warm tea plus some snacks. If you like the experience, feel free to tip!

Have a traditional Moroccan hammam bath

Relaxation and cleansing are an important part of Moroccan social life, which is why the hammam is still an integral part of Moroccan culture!

While Morocco is a conservative country, bathing naked (segregated by sex, of course) is totally normal and par for the course. Though of course, if you’re uncomfortable, you could generally bathe in your underwear or swimwear, although local rules for each hammam may differ.

Relaxing amongst locals chatting and bathing at a local hammam is one of the most unique things to do in Marrakech. Curious how it works?

Each gender has its own separate bath area. Once you enter, you will notice a bucket of a gooey-looking black soap (which is made from olives) and the scratchy kessa gloves (which are used for exfoliation).  Some people are surprised by the gunk that shows up being exfoliated by the gloves – it is actually your dead skin! People love the feeling after every bath because you feel squeaky clean and buttery soft from head to toe.

While you can visit a hammam on your own if you’re brave, going with a guided tour can be a little less intimidating as there are sure to be no language barriers. I suggested this a cost-efficient and hassle-free hammam experience including round-trip transfers, which you can book here.

This hammam experience includes a relaxing 50-minute massage with oils from the endemic Argan trees (also known as liquid gold due to its vast properties!). No need to bring towels or bathrobes, as these are provided, but make sure not to forget to bring extra underwear.

The perfect way to end this ritual is to sip some mint tea (aside from the snacks in between treatments) which also helps soothe your throat. It is indeed a total relaxation package!

Taste an explosion of flavors

Marrakeshi food is not just about tagines or the famous couscous, there’s actually so much more!

The key to Marrakech cuisine is the unique and authentic spices and ingredients. You can try some of their nuts, dried fruits and local favorite dishes like the chermoula, brochettes and maakouda.

Chermoula is a tangy herby and lemony sauce, usually served in a tagine or served on top of fried or grilled fish. Brochettes are like Moroccan kebabs (grilled meat in skewers), whereas maakouda is a tasty fried snack made from potatoes, eggs, and spices. 

Jemaa El Fnaa is a place where you can find most of these food shops. It is also declared as an Intangible Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.

You may find tour guides as you enter the square, but beware of fake ones or ones who claim to give a ‘free’ tour. They will end up asking you to pay them a hefty cost!

It is best to get a trusted 3-and-a-half-hour tour that’s complete with a guide that will take you to a Moroccan food escape. After a tour of the square, you will be taken to the spice market where you can smell different aromas of turmeric, saffron, dried fruits and so on.

See the sights above the desert on a hot air balloon

Aside from riding camels in the beautiful Palmeraie (Palm Grove), you can also hop in a hot air balloon to get a breathtaking view of the beautiful oasis, the countryside, and the mountains.

But that’s not the main highlight, once you get higher and higher you will see the clouds as the sun creates majestic silhouettes over them – it is so surreal!

The easiest way to get to the location would be through a shuttle service when you get this hot air balloon package tour. Travel will take you around 45 minutes from Marrakech and they will pick you up and return you to your riad.

While watching how they prepare to inflate the balloon, professional hot air balloon pilots will also guide you and give you a quick briefing on what not to do while on-board, since other people are also sharing the ride. The experience will last for an hour or so. Once you land, you can optionally add on a camel ride or just relax and enjoy the scenery.

The final activity of the morning would be tea at a Berber village – you just can’t get enough of that yummy mint tea! Once you arrive at the village, Berber people will warmly welcome you with their tasty tea and traditional hospitality.

Stroll around at night when the medina springs to life

One of the most popular places in the medina is the Jemaa El Fnaa, which I wrote about in my guide here for a 3-day itinerary in Morocco. In the post, I mentioned what things you need to know when going to this chaotic square, as it can be quite an assault on the senses and there are quite a few scams which can occur to unsuspecting visitors, especially at night!

It does help to get a night tour to avoid any hassle because your local guide will be there to assist you. You won’t just enjoy the night music at the square, but also a nice free drink at a rooftop bar overlooking the chaotic beauty of the square. Time will also be given for you to admire the gorgeous architecture of the Koutoubia Mosque from the outside at night (unfortunately, not the inside, since non-Muslims aren’t allowed to enter).

Since you have a local guide, you will be taken off the beaten paths where you can unlock some secrets unknown to many tourists. Get to taste tanjia (it is different from tagine, although both are cooked and given a name based on the pot in which it is cooked), a tasty Moroccan dish with lots of meat and a bit of vegetables. Other local snacks are included on the tour for free as you stroll around.

Attend a leather working class

The Chouhara Tannery in Fez has been famous for producing quality soft leather in the traditional way since the 11th century. It is considered as one of the most iconic sources of leather in the world because all tanning procedures and operations have been preserved in the traditional way — including the step where they cure it in pigeon poop!

They turn the hides into beautiful pieces of belts, jackets, bags and shoes while adding a lot of stylish Moroccan influences. Another thing that adds up to its uniqueness, is the use of natural dyes coming from sources like spices, pomegranates, and flowers.

However, if you don’t have time to visit Fez on your trip to Morocco, you can still learn about the craft’s long history in Marrakech. Just be careful and avoid the prevalent Marrakech tannery scams by instead booking a guided experience.

Someone who is curious about the craft of leatherwork need not go far from Marrakech to attend a leather-making workshop, which you can book online.

Expert craftsman Youseff and Oumaima will take you on a journey about how they make leather and how they prepare it. You will make your very own babouche slipper (it is a heelless slip-on shoe that looks like the Instagram-famous Gucci Princetown mules) from scratch!

There are snacks and tea served if you get hungry while working on your masterpiece. The best part about it is bringing it home!

Memories are also easily kept as you will get a souvenir photo that will be sent digitally through your email.

Learn to speak the language

Learning a language can be quite difficult, but Moroccans are quite talented linguists. Some Moroccans even know more than four languages, but you won’t encounter everyone like this. When traveling, you should at least try to pick up a few basic words, as it will be easier for you to interact with local people as well as to bargain in the souks.

A 90-minute Arabic language class (it’s that easy and quick to learn the basics!) will surely help you communicate and understand body language and insider tips on what you should and should not do. Moroccan teachers will also be provided to ensure you are learning from the best.

The class will begin with a quick tea ritual and a guide on how to make the famous and extremely yummy mint tea. Booklets are also provided for free so that if in case you forget some words outside, then you have a quick cheat sheet.

After the quick intro class, you will feel more comfortable and engaged in communicating with locals. The next time someone blocks your way and sells or asks you for something, you will know now how to better deal with them without being thought of as rude.

See a wonderful performance at the Lotus Club

A tasty dinner with a nice dance show is a date-night Marrakech can’t-miss at The Lotus Club’s restaurant and bar.

It is located in the Hivernage District, outside of the chaotic medina, so you can have a sweet and fun escape from the hecticness of the medina and see a different side of modern Marrakech.

The place will surely give you a luxurious ambiance, plus you can listen to the best mixes of their DJs for a fun night out. You can choose from three different menus which range from local to international cuisine, with a lot of fusion recipes in case you don’t want to pick just one cuisine! There are also drinks like colorful cocktails and mocktails you can’t find elsewhere, plus a good selection of beers and wines.

The experience is superb as you watch the dancers (beautiful and glamorous Marrakeshi women) perform live on stage (just like Vegas!). They are called the Artistic Revue OhLaLa. Once a month, they also invite international artists to perform.

You can actually book a 3-course meal for two here for a cheaper price. Just make sure to bring your passport or ID because those 18 and under are not allowed to go inside. Drinks are not included in the voucher, but you will not regret the nice music and performance they showcase!

Wander around the colorful souks and meet the artisans

The souks are not just an open marketplace but also a spectacular loop of alleyways where you can get lost. Items are stacked up to the heavens, making the place look like a forest of products being sold.

If you love shopping or planning to get unique finds at the souks, then it is best to have a local private English-speaking tour guide to help you find hidden treasures and keep you on track (Google Maps is just terrible in the medina).

The licensed guides are very informative and will ask you if you already have a shopping list with you so that he can personalize the tour. The adventure usually starts at Mellah, a walled Jewish quarter that means “salt marsh.” You will also get to know the sellers and the unique finds they offer from colorful tiles, home décor, carpets, fabrics, jewelry and so on.

The best part of the journey will be at Al Kawtar Women’s cooperative, where every purchase you make will give back to the local community. It is a boutique that sells handmade embroidered clothes, scarves, bags and children’s wear that help empower disabled Moroccan women.

Before you head back to Jemaa El Fnaa, you will have some tea and a quick snack with your tour guide, where you can ask him for any last-minute tips and tricks and shopping recommendations. The entire tour will take around 3 hours.

Capture special moments with a talented Marrakeshi photographer

Memories are perfectly stored in the photographs we take every time we travel. While it’s easy enough to snap selfies as you travel along Marrakech, if you’re commemorating a special moment or this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, I suggest hiring a professional to shoot your photos in some of the most beautiful and photogenic places Marrakech – it’s more affordable than you may think!

You can have different options on how many photos (from 15, 30, 45 and 75 photos) you would like to be taken, and it doesn’t matter if you are a couple, group, family, or just a solo traveler!

You can customize the locations of your photos or ask for their local insight. There are usually 2 or 3 locations allowed, depending on the package you wish to get. If you still don’t know where to have your photos taken, then they can give you the best recommendations.

After 5 days, you can download the professionally edited photos in their online gallery for free. Just note that travel expenses are not included in the package, so it is best to choose locations that are nearby to each other or factor in cab fare.

Planning a Trip to Morocco: Your 11-Step Travel Checklist

If you’re planning a trip to Morocco, I’m sure you’ve daydreamed of its many colorful walls, ornate doors, aromatic spices, and busy markets chock-full of dreamy décor. You probably have bookmarked a few Instagrammable spots you want to check out, and maybe you’ve gone so far as to sketch out your desired itinerary.

But there’s a lot more that goes into planning a vacation to Morocco than meets the eye at first glance, and I’m here to help you plan the trip of a lifetime with minimal effort using this simple Morocco trip planner checklist! AKA, I’m helping you learn from my mistakes so you have a much better time than I did.

Morocco is not a country you want to show up unprepared to. It’s not a destination for travelers who still have their training wheels on. Harassment is constant, whether it’s sexual in nature or simply vendors/guides trying to get you to make a purchase. In the medinas, you can’t really take much at face value; directions are often wrong and signs often lie, trying to lure you into a specific shop.

Basically, you need to adjust your expectations and prepare yourself mentally that Morocco is not a relaxing destination. But, with preparation, you can reduce a lot of stresses and end up enjoying your trip due to your advance planning. So, without further ado, here’s how to plan a trip to Morocco without the stress or hassle.

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Planning to travel Morocco? Here are my best Morocco tips, from what to wear in Morocco, to an ideal Morocco itinerary covering Marrakech, the Sahara desert, Fez, Chefchaouen, Tangier & Casablanca. 

Morocco culture | Morocco photography | Morocco market | Morocco people | Morocco riad
Planning to travel Morocco? Here are my best Morocco tips, from what to wear in Morocco, to an ideal Morocco itinerary covering Marrakech, the Sahara desert, Fez, Chefchaouen, Tangier & Casablanca. 

Morocco culture | Morocco photography | Morocco market | Morocco people | Morocco riad

Planning a Trip to Morocco in 11 Simple Steps

Step 1: Check visa requirements

Morocco has a pretty permissive visa policy. At present, here are the nationalities that do not require a visa for stays less than 90 days (but please confirm with your country’s embassy to Morocco before going forward as policies sometimes change).

All EU citizens, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Gabon, Hong Kong (30 days), Iceland, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore (30 days), South Korea, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, U.A.E., U.S.A.

Citizens of the Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Mali must receive an electronic travel authorization but do not need a proper visa. Citizens from all other countries not mentioned here require an official visa from a Moroccan embassy, so if you are from a country that is not visa-exempt, check your country’s Moroccan embassy website to see requirements.

Also, be 100% sure that your passport has at least 6 months validity in it. If it does not, there is a huge likelihood that your plane will refuse to allow you to board, and even if you do get to Morocco, they may refuse to let you in if your passport is due to expire within the next 6 months.

Step 2: Book your tickets!

How much is a flight to Morocco? When planning a Morocco vacation, a large part of the cost will depend on where you are coming from, obviously, as well as where you fly into.

The main airports in Morocco are Marrakech (RAK), Rabat (RBA), Casablanca (CMN), and Fes (FEZ). If you are flexible with where you arrive, you may find better deals.

I generally use Skyscanner in order to take advantage of their powerful search engine which allows you to search multiple dates as well as multiple airports.

If you’re coming from the U.S. or Asia, expect to pay at least $500 USD roundtrip unless you get a major deal. If you are flying from Europe, though, you are in luck — flights to Morocco can often be less than $10 USD each way when you encounter a promotion!

If you are trying to save money on a flight, you may want to compare what it would cost to fly into Europe to a country that has cheap flights to Morocco and see if then taking a budget airline flight from there is cheaper. There are typically good deals to Morocco from major French, German, and British cities.

Step 3: Plan your Morocco itinerary

I’m in the process of creating a Morocco itinerary you can easily replicate, but you can start with my 3 day Marrakech itinerary. If you have a short trip to Morocco, I’d recommend spending it in Marrakech as it has the most things that are of interest to tourists and generally is one of the cheaper airports to fly into, especially from Europe.

If you have more time, I’d recommend adding on a trip to the desert (read my guide here). That adds another 3 days to your itinerary. So if you only have one week in Morocco, I’d just do 4 days in Marrakech (allowing one day for a day trip) plus 3 days on a desert tour which includes return transfers from Marrakech.

If you have more time, I’d opt for a desert tour that ends in Fes (like this one) so you can spend about 2 days in Fes (optional), then another 2-3 days in Chefchaeouen, my personal favorite place in Morocco. You can spend a few days exploring the photogenic blue medina and spend a day hiking in Akchour.

From there, it’s easiest to depart via Tangier as it’s only a 2.5 hour bus ride, or you could also go back to Rabat (the capital) or Casablanca (one of Morocco’s most beloved cities). That’s enough to easily fill in another week or so.

If you had more time still, you could continue down the coastline to Essaouira and Taghazout before circling back to Marrakech and flying out. For that itinerary, I’d recommend about 3 weeks.

There are also multi-day tours you can take if you’d like to take some of the stress out of planning a vacation to Morocco. This 7-day whirlwind tour incorporates Marrakech, Ait Ben-Haddou, Ourzazete, the Sahara, Fes, Meknes, Casablanca, and Rabat, before returning to Marrakech. If you have limited time and you really want to see all of Morocco, this is the best tour, but it’s very fast-paced. Learn more about the itinerary and inclusions here.

A shorter but slower-paced trip would be this 4-day tour which encompasses Fes, Meknes, Rabat, and Marrakech, but skips the desert.

Step 4: Budget your trip

Before you can get booking tours/activities and accommodations, I think it’s helpful to have your budget in mind for your trip so you can create an appropriate Morocco travel plan.

So, how much does a trip to Morocco cost? Really, almost whatever you want it to.

You can really spend a wide range in Morocco. If you are planning a trip to Morocco on a budget, it’s quite possible to see the country for about $30 a day, but this means you will be limited in terms of shopping, activities, and accommodation options.

Honestly, after having done it, I don’t recommend visiting Morocco as a backpacker as I think it’s much better experienced as a mid-range traveler. There are so many great activities and day trips that will not quite do the trick on a backpacker budget, transportation between cities can be quite pricy, and the experience of staying in a riad is simply a Morocco must-do (I wouldn’t want to go to Morocco and stay in a hostel, not when there are beautiful riads to stay in all over the country!).

Mid-range travelers, family travelers in Morocco, and luxury travelers will have a much better time in Morocco. A beautiful riad can be had for about $50-70 USD per night for a couple or family traveling Morocco with kids, which gives you plenty of wiggle room to spend on shopping, activities, and meals. A budget of $100 per day per person in Morocco will give you a pretty luxurious experience, staying in gorgeous riads, eating as much as you want, enjoying massages at hammams, going on day trips and activities, etc.

Meanwhile, if you really want to spend, the sky is your limit as there are lots of gorgeous luxury properties like La Mamounia and Riad Yasmin which can easily go for upwards of $500 per night.

I recommend deciding in advance what you want to spend in total, breaking that into a per-day, per-person cost. Allocate about 1/3 of that for accommodations, 1/3 for activities, and 1/3 for incidentals and extras like shopping, transportation between cities, and meals. That should give you a good benchmark for how to budget for Morocco.

Step 5: Plan Your Activities

This advice may be a bit controversial as some people say you should wait until you get to Morocco to book activities as you can often haggle a better price in person.

This is what I did when I was in Morocco and it bit me in the ass, as I ended up paying for a cheaper desert tour that cut a lot of corners (no A/C on the bus on 115 F degree days, assuring me the transfer onwards to Fes was included when in fact it wasn’t, taking me to a scammy rug shop where they replaced the rug I purchased with something that was falling apart at the seams… oh, and I woke up with my desert guide in my face presumably moments away from groping me in my sleep).

So, after that, I highly recommend booking all your Morocco activities in advance so that you can be sure of their safety and reputation, as there’s not exactly much transparency when it comes to dealing with tour vendors in the souks, who will tend to promise you the world and wait until you are far, far away before you realize they weren’t exactly truthful.

While Morocco is safe, scams involving tourists abound, so do your research ahead of time to avoid being disappointed.

You may pay a little more, but you are much less likely to be disappointed or tricked, and honestly, that’s worth paying for to me. If you’re comfortable taking a gamble in pursuit of a bargain, you can wait to book until you’re in Marrakech, but as someone who did just that – I don’t recommend it.

For me, I enjoy a blend of independent travel and structured activities. I recommend touring Morocco on your own, and combining it with classes, activities, and day trips with locals to enrich your experience.

I’ll briefly list a few of the activities I think would be crucial to enjoying a Morocco trip and you can piece it together to create the perfect trip for yourself – just click the link to read more about each activity.

Suggested Marrakech Activities

Suggested Desert Trip

Suggested Fes Activities

Suggested Chefchaouen Activities

Suggested Tangier Activities

Suggested Casablanca Activities

Step 6: Book your accommodations

Of course, you can’t go to Morocco and not stay in a riad! So, what exactly is a riad? Basically, a riad is a Moroccan traditional home that has been converted into guesthouse, with a gorgeous inner courtyard that is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of hectic Moroccan cities.

I’m currently in the process of creating guides to the best riads in different Moroccan cities, but here are my recommendations for Marrakech.

Budget: Nondescript on the outside, Riad Dar Maria is gorgeous and cozy on the inside. Its updated design makes the indoor courtyard a lovely place to relax, and comfortable private rooms with A/C offer excellent value for the price. The riad is family-run and they treat you like one of their own. Highly recommended by fellow travelers with a 9.5 average rating on Booking.com. Click here to see lowest prices and current availability.

Mid-range: The lovely Riad Enchanté lives up to its name – it will truly delight and enchant you. With stunning tilework, a rooftop terrace (with jacuzzi!), large rooms with A/C, and amazing attention to detail (check out those lovely wooden doors), you’ll probably never want to leave this homey, delightful riad. Click here to see lowest prices and current availability.

Luxury: For five-star comfort at not insanely outrageous prices you can’t do much better than Villa Lavande, a traditional riad with a comfortable in-house hammam, a gorgeous pool, air conditioning (a must if you travel in summer), and helpful staff. Cooking lessons are available on-site in case you fancy learning how to make your own tajine… or you can simply eat at the in-house restaurant beloved by guests. It’s located in the medina but away from the hustle and bustle, the best of both worlds. Click here to see lowest prices and current availability.

Those are my 3 main recommendations, but I’ve come up with 21 other recommendations for awesome riads in Marrakech here!

Step 7: Research any vaccinations you may need & prepare a travel medicine kit

The CDC is my guideline when checking travel vaccinations for different countries. They recommend checking that you’re up-to-date in terms of boosters for the following common vaccinations: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), tetanus, chickenpox, and polio. They also strongly recommend Hepatitis A and typhoid, both of which can be gotten from contaminated food or water.

Other potential vaccines you may want to consider are Hepatitis B and rabies. Rabies is possible in Morocco, and a tourist recently died of rabies after being bitten by a cat. Keep in mind that even if you get the rabies vaccine, you still need to get post-exposure shots after a potential encounter with a rabid animal.

If you get bitten or scratched by an animal while in Morocco, whether you’ve been previously vaccinated or not, you need to seek immediate medical attention and doctors can assess whether or not to give the post-exposure series of shots. Rabies is nearly 100% fatal, but the vaccine is 100% effective if given in time after exposure, so please don’t take any chances.

I had to do a series of rabies post-exposure shots after a cat bite in Ukraine and while it was annoying, especially since I had to coordinate the shots over 3 different countries, I am glad I took the precaution.

In terms of travel medicine kit, I always recommend having the following items in your mini first-aid kit: stomach tablets like Pepto Bismol, anti-diarrheal like Imodium, motion sickness pills like Dramamine, and painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin. Be sure to also bring sunscreen and a strong mosquito repellent, preferably with DEET, as well as some after-care for the inevitable bites. A topical antibiotic and bandaids are also great for any bumps or scrapes. More on this in my Morocco packing list section!

Step 8: Learn a few common Arabic words and phrases

While French is widely spoken in Morocco, and it can come in handy if you already speak French, if you are going to learn a few phrases I recommend learning the Moroccan Arabic (Darija) phrases which tend to be more widely understood. In the North, Spanish is widely spoken – I found it useful in both Chefchaouen and Tangier.

Moroccans are quite talented linguists, and on one occasion I had a conversation with a taxi driver in no less than 4 languages (Arabic, Spanish, French, and English!). It’s not uncommon to meet Moroccans who speak 4+ languages – especially shopkeepers, who love to impress you with a litany of greetings in a variety of languages hoping they’ll land on your language!

Generally, most people who work in service or tourism will have at least a functional understanding of English, and younger people in cities tend to have a fairly high level of English. However, you may not get very detailed answers to your questions unless you hire a qualified English-language tour guide.

Regardless of the language abilities, I still recommend you learn a few Darija phrases to show respect to the country you’re visiting!

Hello – As-salaam alaykum
Thank you – Shukrun
Please – Afak
Excuse me – Smahli (add -ya if speaking to a woman)
Yes – Iyah
No – La
No, thanks – La, shukrun (trust me, you’ll want this one)

It’s a small gesture, but it shows respect to the country you are visiting, so I highly recommend learning at least a few words: at minimum, hello and thank you.

Step 9: Pack your bags!

If you’re not sure what to pack for Morocco, I’ve got your back – I’ve written a Morocco packing list here. It’s geared towards female travelers, as that’s my experience, but men may find some of the recommendations useful as well and can just substitute out their own clothing and toiletry recommendations. I include all the recommended dress for women there so please refer to it as this article is already quite long already!

I recommend bringing a backpack and not a suitcase to Morocco if you can. The medinas are quite annoying to roll a suitcase through and you have a lot more agility with a backpack. I use and love this Tortuga backpack for travel as it’s carry-on friendly yet can fit all I need for 3+ weeks of travel.

Keep in mind that pickpocketing is pretty common in crowded areas of Morocco, especially the Marrakech souks. I recommend this backpack with locking zippers which is made by PacSafe. It has a ton of security features – metal mesh that makes it slash-proof, locking zippers that can then be threaded into a hard-to-open clasp, and RFID blockers. It’s also very subtle and doesn’t look like a tempting, expensive bag. But just as importantly, it actually is quite cute and you won’t mind being seen or photographed with it!

Step 10: Prepare for your arrival

There are a few things you should do prior to arriving to make your life easier.

1) Download Google Maps for the city you’re arriving in. It’s not always the most helpful for the Moroccan medinas, which have too many alleyways that aren’t represented on the maps, but it’s a good start for getting oriented, so have it anyway.

2) Book a shuttle to get you to your hotel. Your hotel may offer you this service, or you can book a transfer online from a reputable company here for about $15 USD. Don’t get a taxi at the airport or you’ll likely get ripped off.

3) Figure out either if you’re going to use a roaming plan on your phone or if you can purchase a local SIM card or WiFi device. Doing this research in advance can save you a fortune!

4) Have some cash in USD or euros on hand in case you have any issues with withdrawing money from the ATM. You get a better rate withdrawing from the ATM than exchanging money, so I recommend using an ATM as much as possible and only exchanging your cash in an emergency.

Step 11: Don’t forget travel insurance!

I put this last so it’s fresh on your mind: travel insurance is a good idea for Morocco and for travel in general! I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for years. It’s nice to have the peace of mind it gives me in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.

While Morocco is safe to travel around, there’s always risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe. The last thing you want is for an illness, crime, or accident to ruin your trip – so it’s better to be prepared.

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

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Planning a trip to Morocco? This post will help you with planning your itinerary, picking the most beautiful places to visit in Morocco, choosing the best things to do in Morocco, basic Morocco travel tips & customs, and beyond. Covering Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes, Chefchaouen, the Sahara Desert, & more, this guide to Morocco’s landscapes and cities will help you plan everything from what to wear in Morocco to what to pack to culture tips, market tips, and beyond.
Planning a trip to Morocco? This post will help you with planning your itinerary, picking the most beautiful places to visit in Morocco, choosing the best things to do in Morocco, basic Morocco travel tips & customs, and beyond. Covering Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes, Chefchaouen, the Sahara Desert, & more, this guide to Morocco’s landscapes and cities will help you plan everything from what to wear in Morocco to what to pack to culture tips, market tips, and beyond.

21 Best Riads in Marrakech: A Curated Guide on Where to Stay

One of the best parts about planning a trip to Morocco is getting to pick out the picture-perfect riads. A riad is basically a family-run Moroccan guesthouse located in the old medinas, based around an open central courtyard with private rooms on a few floors. It’s a small and intimate experience, and it’s one of the best ways to get in touch with Moroccan culture as a tourist.

Your riad hosts can make a huge difference in your stay – recommending guides, drivers, and off the beaten path spots where you won’t get ripped off as a tourist. In the atmosphere of Marrakech, where scams are rampant and taking advantage of tourists is commonplace, a riad host is almost like a ‘fixer’ – solving problems, negotiating fair deals, and helping you navigate the more difficult aspects of Moroccan culture for outsiders. The personal nature of your relationship with your riad host, who typically only has a handful of guests at one time (as a riad is much, much smaller than your traditional hotel) is one of the biggest reasons why I recommend staying in a riad in Marrakech.

There are many beautiful places to stay in Marrakech, from boutique to luxury hotels, but I think that riads are the best bet. They’re unique to Morocco, help you dive into the culture with the kind guidance of a local, and personalize your experience immensely. That’s why I’ve narrowed down the best riads in Marrakech for all budgets (skipping over bigger luxury hotels) so you can spend more time planning other parts of your Morocco trip, like taking a trip to the desert or deciding what to wear.

I’ve picked 7 gorgeous and stylish Moroccan riads for each budget category for a total of 21 of the top riads in Marrakech. For the purposes of this article, I’ve defined budget as being generally under $100 USD a night, mid-range as $100-200 USD a night, and luxury as $200+ USD per night.

However, keep in mind that prices do fluctuate depending on room type/size available, time of year, and other variables, so use the budget categories as a guide rather than as gospel. You may see some hotels in the luxury category for as little as $100 a night in certain low seasons (mid-summer and the dead of winter, generally), so these are really loose guidelines, but they should be helpful in getting started.

Best Riads in Marrakech: Budget (Under $100/night)

Top Pick for A Marrakech Riad on a Budget: Riad Matham

For a gorgeous budget riad in Marrakech, I recommend Riad Matham. The building is historic, dating back to the 16th century when it belonged to a rich Berber family. With a plunge pool right in the heart of its quiet courtyard, blooming bougainvilleas and lush olive and palm trees, an in-house hammam, traditional Moroccan home decor and soaring high ceilings (nearly 5 meters high!), and gorgeous architecture, you’ll be surprised by how affordable a touch of luxury can be in Morocco. There’s a shady rooftop terrace for you to enjoy a view of the medina from your own quiet oasis.

Just 8 minutes’ walk away from Djemaa El Fna, and 3 minutes away from museums such as the Photography Museum and Ben Youssef Madrassa, the riad is perfectly positioned in the medina so that everything is easily accessible on foot. The riad is quite intimate, with two rooms and four suites, all attended by kind hosts who make you feel like family. There is a hammam with steam room that you can use, and massages can be booked at the riad for an affordable price.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Simple Beauty on a Budget: Riad la Parenthèse

With a gorgeous inner courtyard with a small plunge pool, Riad la Parenthèse is one of the best riads in Marrakech to stay in on a budget, especially if you don’t want to sacrifice comfort or style.

You get the traditional Marrakech riad vibe with authentic local furniture and design elements. Your stay includes a continental breakfast every morning, and home-cooked local dishes are available in the evening upon request. There’s also a sun deck with loungers on the rooftop

Just 800 meters away from Djemaa El Fna, Marrakesh’s main square, Riad la Parenthèse is tucked away from the chaos of the crowds in a quiet side street. The rooms are decorated with modern Moroccan design, inspired by the souks that surround the riad. The rooms are a comfortable size and air-conditioned; each has a small seating area to enjoy and a private bathroom with either a bath or shower. It’s hard to find a better riad in Marrakech for the price (and nearly-perfect ratings).

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here

Color & Culture on a Budget: Color Safrà

For a budget yet gorgeously designed riad in the heart of the medina, Color Safrà is a fabulous choice. It’s located 400 meters from Madrassa Ben Youssef and 600 meters from Djemaa El Fna, so it’s truly in the heart of Marrakech. Despite that, guests praise it for its quiet and calm in the heart of the city, so you can rest assured that you’ll have a peaceful night’s sleep here.

This traditional Marrakech riad is typical of what you’ll see all throughout Morocco: tiled floors, gorgeous details crafted by local artisans, open courtyard, and plenty of greenery to refresh the eyes and give you that oasis of calm feeling. There’s a shaded rooftop terrace for relaxing; however, note that there’s no plunge pool so if you are visiting Marrakech in the summer you may want to opt for a place with a pool as temperatures can soar up to 115 F / 45 C! Rooms have A/C though, as well as a ceiling fan, so you can stay cool despite the scorching temperatures.

Check out prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Personality & Traditional Charm: Dar Daoud

A mere 300 meters from Djemaa El Fna, Dar Daoud is right in the heart of the Marrakech action and it’s a great choice to stay for your first time in Marrakech. With white walls with blue accents, the colors remind me of Santorini, creating a gorgeous calm aesthetic throughout the whole riad. There’s a rooftop lounge area to relax in though keep in mind that Dar Daoud doesn’t have a pool area so if that is important to you, you may want to find a different riad in Marrakech.

The rooms are compact but have the basics of what you need: seating areas, air conditioning, a wardrobe for your clothing and belongings, private bathrooms (except for the single room). Guests rave about the hospitality of the host, Bader – nearly every review mentions him and how helpful he was!

Check out prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

The Lushest Hostel You’ve Seen: Equity Point

This gorgeous and sumptuous Marrakech accommodation is actually a combination of hostel and riad: Equity Point offers a bit of luxury even for backpackers and solo travelers on a budget. You’ll find a variety of room options here, from private twin and double rooms to beds in 4, 6, and 8 bed dorms.

That said – the decor definitely doesn’t look like your average backpacker hostel. It’d be a great place to stay for solo travelers, especially solo female travelers who may find Marrakech an intimidating place to navigate independently (I sure did!) and want to find people to explore it with.

With a gorgeous pool to enjoy on warm days and a rooftop terrace with a bar, there are plenty of common areas to mingle and meet fellow travelers. The rooms are beautifully decorated, whether private or dorm, and give you that traditional riad feel (with a hostel pricetag!).

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here.

Luxe For Less: Riad Laly

This gorgeous, unique boutique riad has serious design vibes and is surprisingly inexpensive given its beauty – Riad Laly is on the cheaper side of this price range! Each room is different, but the interior design is on point everywhere. Some rooms have decorative doors as headboards, gorgeous Moroccan lamps which cast intriguing shadow patterns everywhere, beautiful throw pillows – you get the idea.

There are plenty of common spaces to enjoy, including a rooftop terrace where you can eat their delicious (included) breakfast each morning. It’s 400 meters from Djemaa El Fna and easy walking distance to virtually all that’s of interest in downtown Marrakech. If visiting in summer, note that there is A/C (with additional charge) but no pool.

Check out prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here

An Oasis Amongst Orange Trees: Riad Al Nour

With an orange-tree shaded courtyard adorned with traditional Moroccan tiled floor and woven carpets, Riad Al Nour is your picture-perfect, colorful oasis from the chaotic Marrakech medinas. There are plenty of communal lounge areas to sit and enjoy the tranquility of the riad and its beautiful design. The rooftop terrace is a wonderful place to relax, with a gorgeous panorama of the mountains which surround Marrakech.

Rooms have quite a bit of personality, with lots of color livening up the traditional Moroccan decor, and lovely tiled bathrooms that recall a hammam. Air conditioning is available in all of the rooms, but there is no pool on site, so keep that in mind if visiting in the summer!

Check out prices, reviews, availability, and more photos here

Best Riads in Marrakech: Mid-Range ($100-200/night)

Top Pick for Understated, Affordable Luxury: Riad Adika

With a gorgeously Insta-worthy plunge pool at the heart of its open courtyard, Riad Adika is a wonderful place to relax and unwind when the souks get to be too much. The riad’s design is minimalist yet beautiful: white walls, intricately detailed wooden doors and details, leather and wood accents, and a turquoise pool at the heart of it all. There is a hammam on site, and massages are available upon request

There’s a chic rooftop area to relax in, with benches with throw pillows and plenty of shade to relax beneath on hot days as well as sun loungers if you fancy tanning a bit. At night, the rooftop turns into a romantic candlelit terrace where you can enjoy tagines and other traditional Moroccan dishes from the riad’s kitchen.

The rooms are unique for a riad, brightly lit with plenty of light streaming in, enhanced by the white walls and high ceilings. Traditional details like woven rugs and Moroccan lanterns add to the romantic atmosphere of the rooms.

Check out prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here

A Secret Getaway & Spa: Les Sources Berbères Riad & Spa

For a gorgeous luxury riad in Marrakech without a crazy price tag, I strongly recommend the beautiful Les Sources Berbères Riad & Spa. Welcoming you with the scent of jasmine when you arrive, this quiet Marrakech riad feels like a hidden gem away from the hectic medina.

With a pool to dip in on hot days, and a rooftop terrace with a hot tub for cooler nights, plenty of seating areas in the courtyard, and a communal lounge, it’s a wonderful and spacious feeling riad where you can feel like you’re having your own private moments, or chatting with fellow guests should you feel more social.

Every room at Les Sources Berbères has A/C and traditional yet understated Moroccan decor, with a seating area to spread out and relax in and a private bathroom designed with traditional tiling in each room. There’s a hammam on site with a traditional Turkish steam bath and massages available for an additional charge. A delicious and free breakfast is included in your stay, with homemade jams and bread that guests rave about.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here

Over-the-Top Moroccan Glamor: Riad & Spa Le Secret de Zoraida

With a gorgeous courtyard centered around a large pool for guests to enjoy, the Riad & Spa Le Secret de Zoraida is a fantastic escape from the noises of Marrakech. With a lovely sunny rooftop where you can unwind (and a hot tub to enjoy on cooler nights) and plenty of cozy nooks to relax in with a book or a cup of Moroccan mint tea, there’s a lot to love about this mid-range Marrakech riad.

The rooms are decorated to the nines – not for people on the minimalist side of the spectrum, but better suited for those who want to live out their Moroccan royalty fantasy. The bathrooms are insanely luxurious with bathtubs adorned with rose petals on request. There’s a hammam on site where you can enjoy a traditional Moroccan scrub and massage for an additional charge.

Check prices, reviews, availability, and more photos here

Beautifully Understated & Tasteful Luxury: Riad Magda & Spa

For a cozy and comfortable riad in Marrakech that offers affordable luxury, take a look at Riad Magda. Extremely spacious, with a beautiful pool (that gets even more beautiful when it’s all lit up at night, with Moroccan lamplight casting beautiful shadows everywhere), there’s plenty of places in Riad Magda to relax and enjoy the break from the medina buzz.

The rooms are large and well-designed, simple yet elegant, with plenty of seating room to spread out your belongings and still relax in a large, comfortable bed away from it all. The rooms are romantically lit, not too bright or dark (as many riads can be due to the lack of outdoor windows, which helps with noise reduction but doesn’t add much in the way of light)

There’s a gorgeous hammam and spa on site where you can relax and get the traditional Moroccan scrub treatment – basically, an hour of intensive scrubbing and rubbing that is equal parts painful and relaxing, but ultimately leaving you feeling baby-soft afterwards. If you want a more traditionally relaxing experience, skip the scrub and head straight for a massage table!

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here

Eco Luxe: Riad Le Rihani

With a lovely aesthetic, the eco-friendly Riad Le Rihani is a great choice for where to stay in Marrakech (also, it’s one of the most stylish and Instagrammable riads in Marrakech on this list!).

From the moment you arrive and are welcomed with traditional Moroccan pastries and mint tea, you’ll feel at home. Centered around an outdoor pool, there’s also a rooftop terrace where you can relax in a canopy bed, a hotel library, a fireplace area, and a hammam offering a handful of different massage treatments.

Each room has its own individual personality, stylishly decorated with a luxe yet relaxed Moroccan aesthetic. In terms of rooms, there are everything from double rooms to suites to larger 4-person family suites if you want or need more space. For couples or for families, it’s a fantastic place to stay in Marrakech.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here

Modern style & Instagrammability: BCK Art Riad

If you’re looking for one of the more Instagrammable riads in Marrakech – this is it! BCK Art Riad is literally designed to be photographed – from the gorgeous pool to the plush Berber rugs to the colorful floor pillows, it’s an interior design dream.

The in-house hammam is just as beautiful, with Moroccan lanterns lighting the dim spa room in a smattering of shadow and light. There are so many nooks and crannies of this designer riad to relax in, and there’s colorful art on the walls to add vibrancy and a modern touch to the more traditional Moroccan elements.

The rooms are decorated in a more modern style, with quirky wall art, white linens, and exposed wood elements, perfect for someone who prefers a little more of a streamlined look rather than over-the-top glamor. BCK Art Riad is a little more away from Djemaa El Fna than others – about 1 kilometer away – but this means it’s a little extra tucked away from the noise.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here

The Most Gorgeous Courtyard in Marrakech?: L’Oriental Medina Riad & Spa

With white and turquoise tiles, plenty of greenery, and a gorgeous plunge pool in the courtyard, L’Oriental Medina Riad & Spa is a wonderful relaxing riad in Marrakech away from the crowds of Djemaa El Fna but just a 15-minute walk away. It’s close to other tourist favorites like Ben Youssef Madrasa and several of Morocco’s best museums. Like many riads it can be a bit hard to find, but once you arrive, a sense of calm and isolation envelops you.

The riad also has a rooftop deck to relax on with loungers and shaded areas, where it is also possible to dine at night (or you can eat by the pool). There’s an on-site hammam and spa if you want to relax or get a massage during your stay in Marrakech.

Rooms are affordably priced for the quality and comfort level and very colorful, full of traditional detailing inspired by the souks surrounding the area. Breakfast is included in the price and is a generous Moroccan spread of fresh bread, jams, fruit, juices, and more.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here

Best Riads in Marrakech: Luxury ($200+ a night)

Top Pick for the Best Luxury Riad: Almaha Marrakech

With an enormous pool surrounded by white stone archways and wispy curtains and a cascade of greenery coming from the second floor, Almaha Marrakech is like something out of a dream. Relax by the pool by day or enjoy the scenic rooftop at night, with carpets on the floor and lit up by lantern light: everything here screams photogenic glamor, making it my top pick for the most Instagrammable riad in Marrakech.

Oh, and if the giant courtyard pool isn’t enough, there’s also a whole ‘nother one tucked away down a quiet set of stairs where you can also relax more privately on some sun chairs. There’s almost perhaps one of the most gorgeous hammams in a riad in Marrakech, with gorgeous Islamic tilework, massage tables for further relaxation, and steam rooms and sauna available.

To speak of the rooms themselves, they are extremely large, bright, and spacious, great for a longer stay in Marrakech. Rooms have seating areas, fireplaces, enormous beds, simple yet elegant wooden Moroccan furnishings with white walls: basically, my dream home. For the price and quality, this is best luxury riad in Marrakech.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here

A Picture-Perfect Getaway: Riad Melhoun & Spa

With a private pool at the heart of its courtyard, gorgeous white walls with rich wood detailing, plenty of archways, greenery, and nooks to relax in, Riad Melhoun & Spa is a gorgeous and luxurious place to get away from the business of Marrakech and enjoy a traditional riad. It has all the luxury riad spoilings: a lovely sun terrace to relax on, a pool to take a dip in, and a hammam/spa to unwind in.

Each room has a different name and a different vibe or personality – from a traditional four-poster bed with canopy to a more playful flower-print bed with bright pink pillows. Every room has unique photography on the walls that showcases the beauty of Marrakech. It’s located a 3-minute walk away from both Bahia Palace and El Badi Palace, so it’s in one of the best areas to stay in Marrakech.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here

Understated Luxury & Attention to Detail: Riad Dixneuf-La-Ksour

This traditionally designed Marrakech riad has a gorgeous, restrained beauty to it. Many riads in Marrakech go a bit over the top in terms of the decor but at Riad Dixneuf-La-Ksour, less is more. Detail and quality is the name of the game here and you’ll find both aplenty.

You can relax by the pool in summer or read a book by the fireplace in the lounge in the cooler months. A traditional breakfast can be had at the poolside every day, included in the room price. The rooms have an airy and spacious feel with lots of bright light, and the Moroccan furnishings are well-chosen and artfully crafted. There’s no hammam or spa center on site but the staff can help you book at a nearby one.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here

A True Garden Oasis: Riad Yamina 52

The courtyard at Riad Yamina 52 is basically a garden which the entire riad is built around: a lovely pool in the middle of everything and a gorgeous canopy of trees above it shielding the pool from the sun. There’s also a rooftop terrace to enjoy a shady mid-day break from exploring Marrakech when you want some peace and quiet.

The rooms are pretty much a Morocco-inspired Pinterest board come to life: beautiful rugs, traditional lanterns, wooden furniture, colorful textiles. There are a variety of rooms at a range of price points, from surprisingly affordable doubles to more luxurious suites.

Check prices, availability, reviews, and more photos here

A Riad Fit for a King: Riad Dar Essalam

Truly looking like a palace more than a hotel, Riad Dar Essalam is an amazing place to stay in Marrakech for travelers who want extra. The only word to properly describe this riad is majestic, even over the top.

Some of the rooms look straight-up fit for a sultan: we’re talking stained glass in the ceilings, fireplaces, intricate canopies adorning four-poster beds, Moroccan rugs and throw pillows everywhere. Others are a little more simply done, so peruse each room when making your booking to ensure you pick something that suits your personal style.

The interior of the riad is beginning to be photographed at nearly every angle, with gorgeous colorful tilework in all the communal areas: it’s almost like staying in a madrassa (Islamic school) turned hotel. However, a few things to note: there is no on-site pool or hammam, so if these are deal-breakers for you, this is not the hotel.

However, if you’re planning on visiting in a cooler month when you won’t need a pool and are happy to check out a hammam elsewhere – this would be a perfect place to stay for some supreme luxury (for a surprisingly good price – many of the rooms are well under the $200 benchmark I established for a luxury hotel).

Check prices, availability, photos, and reviews here

Unfussy Glamor & Beauty: Ryad Dyor

For luxury for less, check out Ryad Dyor. This gorgeous central Marrakech riad has a plunge pool and hammam on site for the ultimate relaxation. At night, the courtyard gets an even more magical look with lanterns and candles surrounding the pool area, begging you to relax and unwind poolside after a long day exploring Marrakech and its surroundings.

The design of this riad is understated beauty at its finest: white walls broken up with pops of color and intricate detail, whether that be beautifully embroidered pillows on a bench inviting you to relax, traditional leather ‘poufs’ to sit on, wood elements, intricate Moroccan tilework. It screams tasteful luxury, whereas some other riads can be a little over-the-top in their design.

The rooms are large, extremely spacious, and a beautiful mix between modern and traditional Moroccan elements. The rooms are really bright and airy (again, not always easily found in Marrakech riads!) with soaringly high ceilings and tasteful decoration. The en-suite bathrooms are simply beautiful, with either a relaxing bathtub or shower. Basic double rooms are affordably priced; for a little more luxury, opt for a suite which are larger and more comfortable.

There’s a hammam and massage center on site, with both an indoor and outdoor pool, sauna, solarium, and steam room available. The riad is slightly larger than others, as it’s a combination of two family-owned riads which have been blended together; the original property dates back centuries and the walls are over 300 years old!

Check prices, availability, photos, and reviews here

A Perfect Wellness Getaway: Bliss Riad

For a boutique riad in Marrakech where design is king, check out the beautifully-designed Bliss Riad. It’s a great place to go for a wellness getaway. Not only is there the typical plunge pool and steam room that you’d expect from a luxury riad in Marrakech, but you can also take yoga classes, indulge in mani-pedis, get hair treatments or waxes, etc. – it’s basically a riad meets full-service spa all-in-one.

There’s a library on site where you can pick a book and relax in one of the many reading nooks the riad offers, or you can relax on the sun terrace and enjoy the views over the medina rooftops. A lovely staff, delicious dinners, and beautifully-designed rooms all get a special shoutout from guests. One thing to note is that sound carries quite a bit in the riad, so be prepared with some earplugs and to conduct yourself quietly during the evening hours.

Check prices, availability, photos, and reviews here

More Morocco Travel Resources

I’ve written quite a bit to help you plan the perfect trip to Morocco! First, start with my Morocco travel planning checklist – it walks you through every step of the planning process.

Next, check out my Morocco packing list with specific advice for what women should wear in Morocco.

Since you’re reading this article, I’m assuming you’re visiting Marrakech – so here’s a guide to spending 3 days in Marrakech with recommended tours and outings!

If you want to visit the Sahara Desert, check out my 15 things to know before you go post as well as this post between choosing between Zagora and Merzouga.

Morocco Packing List: What to Pack for Morocco for Women

Planning a trip to Morocco can present some challenges, and the most pressing question for many travelers, especially women, is the matter of what to pack for Morocco.

The country’s reputation for conservatism is well-deserved, and street harassment in Morocco is an ever-present issue that women must contend with. While men have less at stake when it comes to deciding how to dress in Morocco, the conservative culture means that even men aren’t immune to following a different dress code.

However, this guide is focusing on a woman’s packing list for Morocco, as it’s what I have personal experience in.

Morocco Packing List

What to Pack Everything In

For Morocco, I really don’t recommend bringing a suitcase. The medinas are full of tiny alleyways that are easy to lose yourself in, with plenty of obstacles in your footpath. You’ll often have to traverse not well-paved roads, and doing that all with a 40-something pound rolling luggage is the recipe for a nightmare.

Instead, I recommend traveling with a backpack (here’s the carry on size bag I bring everywhere, or another style that’s check-in sized). The carry-on size backpack I swear by is my Tortuga Backpack, which I love because it means that I can avoid checking in my luggage – saving time and money.

Why do I recommend Tortuga so much? Here’s why: this bag is 45L and has got three main compartments: one for a laptop and other flat objects, one giant rectangular compartment perfect for packing cubes stuffed with clothing, and one smaller compartment with pockets for passports, pens, odds and ends, etc. that I stash all my extras in – plus one small outer zipper pocket for anything you want quick access to. It also has a water bottle holder on the outside as well as buckles so that you can strap something like a yoga mat to the outside. Plus, it’s quite comfortable to wear, with a padded hip belt and comfort-molding shoulder straps complete with a chest strap so that you can distribute weight perfectly across your body in the event that you need to wear your backpack for longer than usual. Check out more specs and details here.

However, if you’re doing a lot of shopping in Morocco, you may want to bring a larger suitcase and leave a lot of room in it. My friend who I traveled with for much of my Morocco trip always had a hassle with her luggage, but ultimately she bought so much that she was glad she had it.

Another idea is to bring a backpack for your trip and to purchase an inexpensive duffel bag or suitcase to bring back all your Moroccan souvenirs in!

Whatever you bring, I also recommend packing cubes to organize your clothing and make opening your luggage more easily. I personally use these packing cubes and love them.

I also like having a separate laundry bag which I can give to my riad or a local laundromat if I need to on my travels. Like packing cubes, you don’t need anything fancy at all – it is just a receptacle for your dirty clothes, after all. I do like having a cute one like this one from Kikkerland though, because I’m impractical.

What to Wear in Morocco for Women (Summer)

The standard for how to dress in Morocco for women is to cover your shoulders and knees. This is more of a sign of respect for the culture and not because it will protect you from harassment.

Non-Muslims are not allowed in mosques in Morocco, so you don’t have to be concerned with dress code regarding religious sights. The closest thing to a mosque a non-Muslim can enter is a madrassa, a religious school, and I’d recommend to dress on the conservative side when entering these.

My general outfit was a thin linen-blend T-shirt that covered my shoulders paired with a midi-length skirt and sandals. Other options include a maxi dress with sleeves or a shawl to cover the shoulders or a T-shirt or blouse tucked into a pair of loose pants. Don’t overthink it and pick loose, breathable materials preferably made out of natural fibers.

  • 3-5 long dresses, preferably with sleeves: Or as many as you can fit without overpacking, really.
  • 5+ tees that cover your shoulders: The more neutral, the better. You will sweat a lot, so minimize your white. I suggest black, gray, and a few bright colors. Resist the urge to wear tank tops.
  • 2-3 below-the-knee skirts: I like a midi length that hits below the knee but above the ankle, because it is A) cuter and B) less likely to get dirty from dragging on the ground. However, some maxi skirts thrown into the mix wouldn’t hurt either! If you’re wary to wear a long skirt in the heat, don’t be! The extra fabric around your legs traps some cool air, making you feel less hot.
  • 2-3 pairs loose, airy pants: Think loose materials, especially natural fibers like linens. Thin, cotton pants will do to keep you covered without adding too much heat, but they’ll trap sweat and moisture and are not ideal. Don’t even think about jeans.
  • 2-3 thin scarves/shawls in different colors: Think thin, light materials that you can easily gather to cover your shoulders if you need to chasten up a sleeveless top. There’s no need to wear hijab or cover your hair in Morocco unless your faith requires it. Also, it prevents your guides from bullying you into buying an overpriced scarf to wear on your face if you ride camels in the Sahara Desert. I was petty and just wore a shirt on my face. It wasn’t cute.
  • Sunglasses: Good for the sun, but also for avoiding eye contact with would-be suitors and street vendors
  • 1 pair sneakers: The streets of Moroccan cities are usually quite dusty and are not the cleanest. I like having a pair of closed-toe sneakers that are breathable. I usually wear a pair of black Nikes as I find they look cute even with my dresses and I’m all about options.
  • 1-2 pairs sandals: Sometimes, though, it’s simply too hot to deal with anything but sandals.
  • 1 bathing suit: If your riad or hotel has a pool, you’ll definitely want this! Inside your riad/hotel, normal rules regarding dress code and conservatism don’t really apply, so feel free to wear whatever bathing suit you are most comfortable in.
  • 1 cardigan or sweater: It gets super cold at night in the Sahara, so if you are planning to go there, even if it’s the summer, be sure to bring some layers.
  • Backpack with locking zippers : While Morocco is safe enough for tourists, it’s not completely free from petty crime – especially in the souks, which can get crowded. While wearing a shoulder bag with security features is probably the most secure option, it’s just not comfortable if you carry a lot of stuff with you during the day like I do. I swear by PacSafe and love their PacSafe Citysafe backpack. It’s actually super cute, PLUS it has locking zippers, slash-proof construction thanks to a wire mesh interior, and RFID blockers. It helped me not be so on edge in souks and busy medina streets.
  • Wide-brimmed hat: If not for Instagram, then to protect your face from harmful and punishing UV rays

A Note for Women Regarding Dress & Sexual Harassment

Let me get on my feminist soapbox for a moment here: street harassment is fundamentally about power, not desire. No matter how you dress in Morocco, if you’re a woman and you’re not in the presence of a man, you will almost undoubtedly experience sexual harassment, verbal comments, proposals, and potentially even unwanted physical contact or assault.

I visited in July, the hottest month of the year, and dressed according to basically all the norms, and I was still harassed at least 20 times a day and possibly much more. Dressing properly in Morocco will not render you immune to harassment, but it is a sign of respect. Even if a large percentage of the men will not show you respect, choosing instead to harass you based on your gender, I still think it’s imperative for us as travelers to show good faith and try to adhere to their customs.

That said, women in Morocco will have a far easier time if they are with a man. My friend who traveled to Morocco with her husband experienced almost no overt sexual harassment.

What to Bring to Morocco: General Odds & Ends

For random things I think you might want to bring, here’s my odds & ends packing list for Morocco. Use your judgment as to whether or not it’s essential given your travel style and personal needs.

  • Hanging Toiletry Bag: Trust me – nothing will piss you off faster than searching for your toiletries in a never-ending pile of junk. Using a simple hanging toiletry bag is life-changing. It has the perfect number of separators, organizers, and pockets without taking up any excess space. It’s kind of like those tents at the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter — you’d be amazed how much fits in one little pack.
  • 1 pair flip flops: Whether you visit a hammam, are walking around your hotel, or taking a shower at a hostel, bring these. PEOPLE. Athlete’s foot is no joke. I’ve dealt with ringworm before (which is basically athlete’s foot on any part of your body that’s not your foot) and it is miserable to get rid of. Save yourself the trouble. Buy a pair of cheap rubber flipflops and be happy.
  • travel towel: In case you visit a hammam or place which does not provide towels, a small microfiber towel can be really handy to have. I was also happy I had it in the Sahara desert, so I could give my face a quick wash and dry.
  • eye mask: I swear by this contoured eye mask as it doesn’t put uncomfortable pressure on your eyes but completely blacks out any light. Great for if your hotel room doesn’t block out a lot of light, if you’re trying to sleep on a bus ride, or for the plane ride over.
  • Some earplugs or good noise-canceling headphones: If you’ve never visited a Muslim country before, you’re in for a treat the first time you hear your pre-dawn call to prayer! I love Hearos — they’re the best ear plugs I’ve used. I’ve also been eyeing these noise-canceling headphones, which could be handy if you have a lot of bus or plane travel planned.
  • Hand sanitizer: Many public restrooms don’t have soap, so having some hand sanitizer is always good.
  • Kleenex packets: Like above — public restrooms may be lacking in the toilet paper department, so having some Kleenex in a portable sleeve is a nice choice.
  • Sunscreen: Morocco is sunny as hell. For people with sensitive skin who want to be a bit extra, I recommend this fancy Japanese facial sunscreen to prevent acne, and then I use a general sunscreen on the rest of my body.
  • Travel medications:  I carry Pepto-Bismol for standard stomach troubles, Imodium as a nuclear option for diarrhea (i.e. you have to ride a bus for several hours), some sort of painkiller like ibuprofen for headaches and minor pains, and some sort of motion sickness tablets (ESSENTIAL if visiting the Sahara Desert due to the windy roads). That usually covers the bases for me — anything else I may need, I grab on the road.
  • Electrolyte packs: I love these in case I get sick on the road or just do a bad job at hydrating for some reason. I use Pedialyte.
  • Any prescription medication you may need
  • Mosquito repellent: Despite the fact that Morocco is a very dry country, mosquitos are prevalent and they are vicious. However, there’s not really any risk of malaria, and the CDC doesn’t recommend any sort of prophylaxis measures, so leave the anti-malarials at home.
  • Adaptor: Morocco uses C and E plugs, the same as most of Europe (save the UK and Malta). Pack an adaptor if you need it!

Toiletries For Women

There aren’t a lot of big box shops in Morocco outside of the malls on the outskirts of the cities, as commerce in the medinas is generally more about smaller stores. If you’re particular about the kind of toiletries and brands that you’re partial to, I recommend bringing plenty from home.

  • LUSH solid shampoo: Life-changing. Just trust me. Pro tip, buy online or in store from LUSH and you’ll save serious money over Amazon, but it’s also available on Amazon if you’re doing a big Amazon shop.
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste & floss
  • Brush or comb
  • Hair ties if you have long hair
  • ALL THE DEODORANT
  • Moisturizer with SPF for day and SPF-free cream at night: Morocco is super drying, and you’ll want to replenish all that moisture that’s being lost.
  • Make-up remover wipes — trust.
  • OIL BLOTTING SHEETS!
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Any make-up that you want
  • Feminine hygiene products. Definitely bring tampons if you use those as these would be hard to find in Morocco. I use a Diva Cup personally and love it.
  • Glasses, contacts & solution: whatever you need to see
  • Razor

More Morocco Travel Resources

I’ve written quite a bit to help you plan the perfect trip to Morocco! First, start with my Morocco travel planning checklist – it walks you through every step of the planning process.

If you are starting your trip in Marrakech, like most people do, I have a guide to the best riads in Marrakech on any budget, as well as a guide to spending 3 days in Marrakech with recommended tours and outings.

I also have a guide to 15 things to know before booking a Sahara Desert tour, as well as how to pick between a desert tour in Zagora vs. Merzouga.

Zagora vs Merzouga: Picking the Right Desert Trip from Marrakech

If you’re planning a desert trip from Marrakech, there are a lot of different options, and it can be quite confusing to say the least. There are a lot of words bandied about – Zagora, Merzouga, Ouarzazate, Sahara – and it can be a bit much to decipher if you’re not familiar with Morocco’s geography.

When I was planning my trip to Morocco, I spent a lot of time researching the best desert tours from Marrakech, which was where I landed. I ended up picking a Sahara desert tour which, ultimately, in fact never brought me to the Sahara at all (most tours don’t).

According to the slayer of dreams and bringer of realness, Wikipedia, the dunes I visited were actually part of the “semi-arid Pre-Saharan Steppes and not part of the Sahara desert which lies some distance to the south.” Oops.

So, first things first, let’s clear up the terminology: most ‘Sahara’ tours bring you to Erg Chebbi and its surrounding ergs (massive sand dunes) which are not quite the Sahara per se, but are pretty damn impressive and pretty damn close. These ‘Sahara’ tours in fact bring you to the tourist center of Merzouga, where you then embark on camelback into the ergs.

However, I spent several years of my life blissfully unaware of this fact, and most tourists will as well, and I think you’re basically close enough to say you’ve been to the Sahara Desert if you’ve been to Merzouga.

Zagora vs. Merzouga: What’s the Better Fit for Your Trip?

Choose Zagora if…

… You’re on a short trip

The Zagora desert is about 6 hours away from Marrakech, as opposed to Merzouga, which is about 10. There are basically zero options for a day trip or one night stay to Merzouga/the “Sahara” short of booking a private driver, and that would be so much driving time that I wouldn’t recommend that.

If you only have, say, 4 days in Marrakech and you want to see the desert, I’d recommend opting for a Zagora tour as it’s shorter and only will take up two days and one night of your trip, as opposed to a Merzouga desert trip which would take up nearly all of your time in Morocco.

However, bear in mind that the Zagora desert doesn’t have proper dunes in the same way that Merzouga has and is more of a rocky desert. While it is, literally, a desert, it likely won’t live up to your dreamy expectations of massive, coral-orange sand dunes. Deserts come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the Zagora desert will not have dunes as you might expect.

… You’re on a tight budget

That said, because the desert trip from Marrakech to Zagora and back is far shorter and requires one less night of accommodation, it’s a bit cheaper than the other options (and involves less expenses that end up adding up, such as ‘suggested’ tips and guides and overpriced lunches)

If you want the chance to ride a camel and visit a rocky desert in Morocco but budget is a concern, I’d actually recommend doing just a day trip to the Palmeraie (there’s a camel + quad bike option that looks fun!) instead – it’s much cheaper and the surroundings aren’t that drastically different.

… You are flying in and out of Marrakech and don’t want to backtrack much

Because Zagora is closer to Marrakech than Merzouga, it is an easier option (read: about 8+ fewer hours driving) if you are flying in and out of Marrakech.

However, I generally recommend that you fly into one airport in Morocco or out of another to avoid tedious backtracking. Personally, I flew into Marrakech and then made my way up to Tangier and took the ferry to Spain, which is another common route that many people opt for. My itinerary looked like this: Marrakech – Sahara – Fes – Chefchaouen – Tangier – ferry to Tarifa, Spain.

If you’re going back to Marrakech, say, to fly back out or possibly to visit Essaouira or another coastal town, going to Zagora may be smarter (but again, I’d actually probably recommend the Palmerie instead, as it’s way closer and fairly similar in terms of landscape).

Choose Merzouga if…

… You want to say you’ve been to the Sahara Desert

Sahara desert in Morocco
Sand this orange? I’m going ahead and calling it the Sahara.

While, technically speaking, Merzouga is the gateway to the Sahara Desert and the ergs (sand dunes) you’ll find here are part of the “Pre-Saharan Steppe,” in popular speaking, everyone considers the dunes outside of Merzouga to be the Sahara Desert.

And looking around at the impressive sand dunes you’ll find everywhere, it’s not hard to see why that distinction is pretty much just nitpicking. You’re surrounded by sand and 150-meter-high dunes: go ahead and call it the Sahara (I did).

… You want the true camel-in-the-desert experience

Yes, the sands really are this color!

While I didn’t personally visit the Zagora Desert, I’ve read all the reviews and most people were a bit disappointed in their trip. Mostly, they were disappointed that their camel ride was basically along a highway, and only the last bit of their ride went into the actual ‘sandy’ part of the Zagora.

That will definitely not be the case with Merzouga, where you immediately embark into impossibly high sand dunes that look picture-perfect and seem to go on endlessly.

Honestly, if you’re going to go 6+ hours into the desert, you may as well go all the way.

… You want to continue onwards to Fes and Northern Morocco

It’s quite a waste of time in my view to go from Marrakech to Merzouga and then back to Marrakech, unless you are flying in and out of Marrakech as your only option and aren’t planning to do anything else in Morocco.

Far better, in my mind, is to use Merzouga as an inconvenient triangulation point for future Morocco exploration. There are tours that go from Marrakech to Merzouga to Fes (this is the tour I recommend if you want to do that route). It’s what I did when I visited Morocco and it saved me a full day of transit compared to going back to Marrakech and continuing onward. And since transportation in Morocco isn’t exactly the most comfortable, that’s saying something.

Choose either Zagora or Merzouga for…

… An incredible night under a starry sky

My astrophotography skills are nil, so this is definitely a stock photo, but I can tell you firsthand: even to the naked eye, the sky in the dunes of Merzouga is INCREDIBLE

Whether you opt for Merzouga or Zagora, either way, you’re far away from the light pollution and hustle and bustle of urban Moroccan life. If you’re lucky enough to have a cloudless sky, you’ll enjoy some of the most beautiful stars of your life.

However, the further you go east into Morocco towards the Algerian border, the more remote it gets and therefore the less light pollution you’ll find. If you’re into astrophotography and want to take some amazing photos of the Milky Way, I’d definitely choose Merzouga over Zagora as the stars there are truly incredible and worth the 3-day trek again.

… To stop at the Atlas Mountains, Ait Ben Haddou, and Ouarzazate

Atlas mountains in Morocco
The beautiful Atlas Mountains on the way to Merzouga from Marrakech

The tours follow a fairly similar itinerary and you’ll get to stop off in the Atlas Mountains, the UNESCO-listed kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou where Game of Thrones and Lawrence of Arabia were filmed, and Ouarzazate a.k.a. the Moroccan Universal Studios.

I loved Ait Ben Haddou and stopping in the Atlas Mountains, however briefly, so I was grateful that these were included. My trip to Merzouga also included a stop in the stunning Dades Gorge (trips to Zagora don’t) and I felt this was definitely a plus that the trip to Merzouga offered.

… An incredible but challenging experience

I don’t want to burst your bubble when planning an epic desert trip from Morocco but no matter which you choose, both desert excursions present their fair share of challenges. For one, both include several long days of driving – Zagora involves two looong car days, whereas Merzouga is three long days of driving with the final day being almost entirely all on the road. Also, camels hurt like HELL to ride.

Both are tiring and involve quite a few annoying quirks, such as constantly being upsold things like guides, unnecessary scarves that are supposedly ‘mandatory’ for the desert, and expensively mediocre food. Keep of all this in mind (I go into more detail on my Morocco desert guide). Don’t let these things ruin your trip, but be realistic about what to expect and you’ll be far less annoyed.

Just Tell Me Which To Pick: Zagora or Merzouga?

Merzouga. Honestly, I don’t think that going all the way to Zagora is worth it, especially when you can get to Merzouga which is a lot more impressive with just a little more time and patience.

If you have limited time, I’d probably opt for doing a camel ride through the Moroccan Palmeraie (there’s a camel + quad bike tour option as well as a sunset camel ride option). It’s a half-day excursion giving you plenty of time in Marrakech without the hassle of heading all the way into a lackluster desert.


The Zagora desert can’t quite compare to Merzouga

If you’ve settled on Zagora, then I’d recommend this tour by Ando Travel (not sponsored, just the best-rated option). They have one of the better reputations among tour operators in Morocco and they have a 4.3/5 rating on GetYourGuide, which is among the highest for this specific tour type. As always, read through recent reviews before committing.

»» Book your roundtrip Marrakech-Zagora desert trip today «« 

However, I’d really urge you to pick Merzouga vs. Zagora if you’re picking between those two.

In that case, I’m still sticking with Ando Travel as I’ve researched them pretty thoroughly and they seem to be well-reviewed by solo female travelers (I was nearly assaulted on my desert tour, so you have to be careful with who you book with).

As for going to Merzouga, this tour goes from Marrakech to Merzouga and back and has an overall pretty solid review (4.4/5 stars with over a thousand reviews). I feel comfortable recommending them to couples, families, and solo travelers, and you can check out the most recent reviews here to ensure nothing has changed since the time I wrote this article.

»» Book your roundtrip Marrakech-Merzouga desert trip today «« 

However, what I would recommend most strongly if you can is to plan to go from Marrakech to Merzouga and onwards to Fes and Chefchaouen. Chefchaouen in particular was the highlight of my Morocco experience and since it’s pretty much Instagram heaven, I’m sure it features heavily on many people’s hopeful Morocco itineraries.

In that case, rather than doubling back via Marrakech, I’d recommend finding a tour that moves onward to Fes. That used to be annoying, and when I did it I had to negotiate with my tour company to figure out a driver to take me onwards to Fes (which, surprise surprise, I got cheated on… which is why you really should never book a trip in a souk and instead use reliable booking services like GetYourGuide or Viator). Ando Travel also organizes this kind of trip, and I’m happy to recommend them here.

»» Book your Marrakech – Merzouga – Fes trip today «« 

Finally, be sure to read my guide to visiting the Sahara (aka Merzouga) before you go – there’s a lot in there I wish I had known before my trip.

And if you’re going to be in Marrakech, be sure to check out my Marrakech itinerary for how to spend 3 perfect days in Marrakech.

Where to Stay in Marrakech

Since I’m assuming you’re starting your desert tour in Marrakech, here are my top picks for where to stay in Marrakech if you haven’t yet figured out your accommodations.

Budget: Nondescript on the outside, Riad Dar Maria is gorgeous and cozy on the inside. Updated design makes the indoor courtyard a lovely place to relax, and comfortable private rooms with AC offer excellent value for the price. The riad is family-run and treats you like one of their own. Highly recommended by fellow travelers with a 9.5 average rating on Booking.com. Click here to see lowest prices and current availability.

Mid-range: The lovely Riad Enchanté lives up to its name – it will truly delight and enchant you. With stunning tilework, a rooftop terrace (with jacuzzi!), large rooms with AC, and amazing attention to detail (check out those lovely wooden doors), you’ll probably never want to leave this homey, delightful riad. Click here to see lowest prices and current availability.

Luxury: For five-star comfort at not insanely outrageous prices you can’t do much better than Villa Lavande, a traditional riad with a comfortable in-house hammam, a gorgeous pool, air conditioning (a must if you travel in summer), and helpful staff. Cooking lessons are available on-site in case you fancy learning how to make your own tajine.. or you can simply eat at the in-house restaurant beloved by guests. It’s located in the medina but away from the hustle and bustle, the best of both worlds. Click here to see lowest prices and current availability.

More Morocco Travel Resources

I’ve written quite a bit to help you plan the perfect trip to Morocco! First, start with my Morocco travel planning checklist – it walks you through every step of the planning process.

Next, check out my Morocco packing list with specific advice for what women should wear in Morocco.

If you are starting your trip in Marrakech, like most people do, I have a guide to the best riads in Marrakech on any budget, as well as a guide to spending 3 days in Marrakech with recommended tours and outings.