I’ve been meaning to get around to writing a blog post all about my recent trip to Marrakesh, and finally I’ve had chance to sit down and start it. I kinda got side tracked, as most of you will know, as I got struck down by two types of poisoning over there, but luckily i’m fully on the mend now!
Sometimes we just fall unlucky, and my experience hasn’t tainted the beautiful sights and scenes I explore in and around Morocco. What I would say, however, is that we went on a short trip of 5 days and 4 nights, which limited our travel and trip plans.
I’d highly advise looking into a car rental in Morocco, to truly get the best experience and see as much as you can.
We stayed at the Hivernage location of Marrakesh, giving us a 30 minute walk to the Jamaa el Fna square and all the main local attractions. However, en route to the Jamaa El Fna square, we would pass the Koutoubia temple, the stunning cyber park, and of course, The Souks.
The good thing about Hivernage is that you are set slightly out of the central Medina of Marrakesh. So, when getting a car to begin a road trip to some key places around Morocco, you’re in a good starting place to avoid the traffic and get on the main routes to take you to North Morocco, etc.
Here’s a few places worth day tripping to whether you are staying in central Marrakesh, outer Marrakesh, or any other parts of Morocco…
The Souks and Jemaa el-Fna
Jemaa el-Fna sits at the very heart of the city’s medina, and this tends to be where all The Souks lead to. The square is a sprawling, terracotta-hued square overlooked by the Koutoubia mosque tower.
It’s a bustling place sprinkled with colourful food stalls, clothing and bag stalls, henna artists, snake-charmers, monkey-handlers and bell-clad dancers. It’s rife for street food and juice stalls too, giving you a large taste of what The Souks are all about.
In a nutshell, The Souks are a maze like no over. Narrow and inconspicuous, the various entrances to the souks themselves are tucked behind the restaurants and cafés that border the square. Mopeds and bikes zip through them at full speed down the sheltered lanes, lined with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of market-like stalls.
Great for bargain hunting, interesting for exploring, and absolutely brilliant for getting lost for a few hours!
If you are travelling to The Souks and Jamaa el-Fna from neighboring cities like Casblanca and Rabat, you’ll venture down windy, long roads from the North, heading South.
However, when you approach Marrakesh and get closer to The Souks, the roads go extremely narrow, making it harder for driving, with lots of bikes zipping down the closed in roads. You may want to find a focal point a mile outside of The Souks, and park your car there.
Tip: You’ll find a tranquil place hidden in The Souks called Le Jardin Secret. Hunt it down on the map to escape the hustle and bustle for an hour or two, and soak in the beauty.
El BADII Palace
If you want a slice of historic Morocco, look no further than EL BADI Palace. The Palais el-Badi was built at the end of the sixteenth century by the sultan Ahmed al-Mansour to commemorate the victory of the Battle of the Three Kings against the Portuguese.
Since it is currently a ruined palace, we have to trust the enormous size of the patio and historians to get an idea of how it was when it had just been constructed. It sure is one incredible place, that blows you away with it’s size, beauty and discoveries.
We spent a good 2-3 hours here, exploring every single corner. It’s also a sun trap, and again, a moment of peace close to the manic Souks.
The palace of Bahia (which means the palace of the beautiful and the brilliant) is a nineteenth century palace of eight hectares located in Marrakech. It is one of the masterpieces of Moroccan architecture, one of the major monuments of the country’s cultural heritage and one of the main places of tourism in Morocco.
Here, you escape the madness of the Medina, by walking around and exploring what is again a maze of beauty. It’s an old historic palace which opens to gardens and stunning hallways, providing a place of calm and beauty.
You’ll find Palais Bahiaa is a great spot to stop at if you’ve been driving for a good while, as it gives you a good two-hour break in a beautiful spot. Plus, the Palais has space for cars outside, so after battling the narrow, manic roads that lead to Palais Bahiaa, you’ll be relieved to find space to park up and stretch your legs.
If Marrakesh provides just one thing, it has to definitely be that it is home to some of the most stunning ancient palaces.
We couldn’t head to the Atlas Mountains as we ran out of time to book a trip, but I’d strongly advise planning your own, in which a road trip comes in handy! This trip is voted the number one in Morocco, and no matter which side of the country you stay, it’s meant to be worth your time.
The High Atlas, North Africa’s greatest mountain range, contains some of the most intriguing and beautiful regions of Morocco. They play the part of a historical and physical barrier between the northern plains and the pre-Sahara, with many extreme valleys which are very remote from the country’s mainstream or urban life.
The area is North Africa’s premier trekking destination; casual day-hikers and serious mountaineers alike will find appealing routes in the region, offering both staggering peaks (jebels) and well-trodden passes (tizis or, in French, cols). Just a short distance from the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh is Toubkal National Park, home to the impressive Jebel Toubkal (4167m) and numerous villages that appear locked in time. In addition to the highest peak, other worthy crests and hamlets can be reached with a trusted guide.
The first place you’ll come to when driving from Marrkesh is Ourika Valley, which takes just over an hour from Marrakesh. The trip is scenic and a delight for passengers, but beware that there’s a slight incline from around 45 minutes’ drive, and you’ll start to be driving up rockier up-hill roads.
However, once your car arrives to the valleys surrounding the Atlas Mountains, the roads start to flatten out and you’ll take in the most stunning views.
Perhaps plan a road trip here but look at getting a guide once you are there in case you need that extra help.
North Morocco Tour
If you are planning to stay in Morocco for longer than a week, look at using a car rental to help you plan a North Morocco tour. Start in Casablanca and end in Marrakesh! You could span it out to last 7-9 days, taking you from Casablanca to Marrakesh, stopping at places like Rabat and Fes on the way. Exploring the country this way lets you see the sights off the unbeaten track and gain a real taste of how the local live.
You’ll experience a range of driving routes and different types of roads. Some are long and winding, with views of desserts and mountains far ahead in the distance. Then, when you hit the outskirts of cities like Casablanca and Marrakesh, you’ll experience hectic 4 lane roads, police who stand in the street and control the traffic, and even horse drawn carriages which stick to the side of the roads.
Remember, Morocco is a very religious place. So read up on their ways of living and do your very best to respect this at all times when there.