10 days in Morocco – the ultimate Morocco itinerary

A dalliance in the desert or a snowy retreat into the mountains, a Morocco vacation comes layered with adventure amidst some truly breath-taking natural scenery. From the Sahara to the Atlas mountains, the nation unfolds in legendary style, showcasing imperial history in the gateway cities of Casablanca or Marrakech where ornate Riad hotels, once home to Morocco’s wealthiest, now serve you. Though you’ll certainly be itching to stay longer, our Morocco itinerary 10 days aims to cover all sides of this wonderful country, appreciating a cheeky sunset on the dunes as well as an ample tagine in the medina of Marrakech.

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Jardin Majorelle, Marrakesh | Photo: T

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As the gateway to Africa carpeted by both Saharan sands and Berber tapestries, Morocco is a remarkable place to visit

Gay travel in Morocco

Gay travellers to Morocco will delight in the beauty of Morocco just like anyone else, but nevertheless, there are some downsides to visiting the country as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. First up is the fact that homosexuality is technically illegal in the country and punishable by up to 3 years in prison. Even male-on-male kissing is banned under law and Moroccan authorities are becoming more – not less – strict on this. Same-sex relationships within the country do of course exist but the likelihood is that gay men and women stay hidden so as to stay safe. Discretion is therefore advised for travellers, even in the more gay-friendly towns and cities such as Marrakech and Tangier. If meeting local gay men through dating and hook-up apps be aware of the dangers and meet in a public place, also avoiding public displays of affection whoever you’re with.

Marrakech is namely the nation’s best city for gay travellers though even here there are no dedicated gay destinations and the gay scene has become notedly more quiet in recent years.

Why visit Morocco?

As the gateway to Africa carpeted by both Saharan sands and Berber tapestries, Morocco is a remarkable place to visit with warm locals keen on welcoming you onto the continent. Besides pastoral mountains and dunes that stretch on for days, Morocco’s cities are also worth their salt, proffering traditional pleasures of souks (marketplaces), hammams (public baths) and riads (residential palaces), all woven in amongst grand squares and centuries-old religious architecture. Base yourself in a luxury riad for a slice of traditional Moroccan hospitality, whether within a desert kasbah, the winding centre of Marrakech or the glitzy hub of Casablanca. Outside of the biggest cities, Rabat and Tangier also deserve your time, giving ever more opportunities to sample traditional Moroccan cuisine, all sprinkled over with the signature spice of ras el hanout.

Photo: Moussa Idrissi

Photo: Aziz Acharki

Best time to visit Morocco

Depending on where you want to travel, Morocco can be a good all-year-round destination. The high season runs twice a year – once from March to May and again from September to October, when the temperatures are pleasant enough for city breaks and exploring. If considering springtime, be aware of possible sandstorms in the Sahara as well as frequent rains in the north. Prices remain pretty consistent throughout these times, excluding the Easter period when demand for accommodation peaks. Another festival to be aware of is Ramadan when public transportation schedules are often disrupted.

You’ve also got the winter season to consider if you’d like a quieter getaway, particularly the popular Christmas and New Year periods in both Marrakech and the southern regions, while the Sahara Desert comes cooler and more bearable than other times of year. Avoiding the north in the winter is a smart choice as chilly, wet weather descends and snowfall can make the mountain roads a bit of a nightmare.

Lastly, there’s low season which falls in the hottest months from June to August. Though this can be prime time for beach getaways, with domestic tourism peaking on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coast, temperatures can get pretty brutal away from the water and, as such, discounted rates can often be found in the cities.

Photo: Louis Hansel

Getting around Morocco

You may wish to sandboard down Saharan dunes or snowboard in the Atlas mountains but first, we’ve got to get there. Thankfully public transport in Morocco is easy to navigate, with a reliable rail network linking all major towns across the north and coastal regions, centring on the travel hub of Marrakech where buses and taxis can be found in abundance. We’d recommend taking the train between major cities as they come fast and comfortable with optional ‘couchette’ rooms on the Tangier-Marrakech and Casablanca-Oujda night routes. When weighing up whether to take a bus or a shared taxi, generally we’d argue for the taxi which, although priced slightly higher, arrives about 30% faster than the bus with added comfort. If you are set on catching a bus, consider the long-distance night buses which are markedly cooler and faster than those that run during the day, though accidents have been known to occur on busy night routes. If travelling during the day, be savvy about your seat selection by choosing the side away from the sun.

Unless you’re planning on travelling a long distance (from Casablanca to Laayoune or Dakhla in Western Sahara, for example), moving on land is the cheaper and more convenient option than flying. Another favourite option is to rent a car for the cost of around 3000dh (US$320) per week. This is especially good if travelling the southern region where buses and trains are few and far between (though grand taxis are about). Insurance is often included in the price of the rental, though you may want to pay extra for more coverage, making sure to check for a spare tyre, toolkit and documentation when you pick up the vehicle. Though Morocco’s long, straight and well-surfaced roads are a joy to drive, there is a high rate of accidents due to aggressive and negligent driving. Because of this, you should treat every driver as a wild card and take extra caution when coming up to blind curves and intersections. Driving in the city can also be quite stressful, in part due to the traffic and the absence of street signs, while driving at night has its own troubles; such as other cars without lights and wild animals that wander into the roads.

Photo: Zakaria Boumliha

Photo: Mari Potter

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Morocco is a fascinating mix of Arabic, Berber and European cultures all set within a diversity of natural landscapes carpeted in either snow or scorching sand, depending on the season

The Morocco itinerary highlights

Morocco is a fascinating mix of Arabic, Berber and European cultures all set within a diversity of natural landscapes carpeted in either snow or scorching sand, depending on the season. The mystic and the mythical infuse every bit of this Texas-sized nation making it a joy to discover but also easy to get lost in, especially in the maze-like medinas of the biggest cities. Though it can be hard to fit everything in to just a 10-day Morocco itinerary, that is what we’ve tried to do, giving travellers a little taste of everything from imperial cities to sand dunes.

Morocco | Photo: Zakariae Daoui

1. Marrakech

The most visited of all Morocco’s cities, Marrakech will win you over with a vibrant combination of Islamic architecture, Jewish heritage and North African flavours. The Ben Youssef Madrasa and the Koutoubia minaret come first as key Islamic institutions, while within the old mellah district the Lazama Synagogue and Miaara Cemetery mark Jewish traditions. Then for the flavours which come in aromatic plumes over the medina’s souk markets all laid out haphazardly, in line with the city’s medieval-era plan. Buy spices, traditional rugs or babouches, or indeed any of the treasures held within each market, the best of which being the Souq Semmarine and Souq El Kebir.

Wake up with the call to prayer and discover the city at its most peaceful (and coolest) by walking parts of the 19-kilometre medina before everyone else. The square of Djemaa El Fna lies as the main artery of the city, coming alive as the day wears on with carnival performers, soothsayers and musicians. Though touristy, the square is emblematic of the entire city, allowing visitors to regroup with Moroccan cuisine, juice and dessert before venturing back into the labyrinth to find the best deals at smaller artisan markets such as the Souq Haddadine.

If architecture and design is your thing, Bahia Palace and Dar Si Said come intricately tiled and painted, while the Saadian Tombs lie carved in opulent marble. Two of the top museums in Marrakech are the Musée de Mouassine and the Musée de Marrakech both of which offer some of the city’s best stucco and wood design. Even your accommodation will likely be an artsy undertaking, particularly if staying in any of the riads in Marrakech, home of the best luxury hotels Marrakech has to offer and testament to the city’s ancient artistry.

Marrakesh | Photo: Andrea Piacquadio

Jardin Majorelle, Marrakesh | Photo: Othmane Deghlouz

2. Fez

Though you might know it as a felt hat first and foremost, the town of Fez did in fact come first. It was first in a lot of things too; as it was in Fez where leading scholars, mathematicians, astronomers and theologians all once worked and where, thanks to them, the city became built up with mosques, madrasas (schools), palaces and ornate Riad Fez properties. Though the city lost influence in the 19th century, its cultural and mythical clout lives on, with restoration efforts and car-free urban areas making the city a rich place to explore. Craftmanship and leather products are big news in Fez and have been since medieval times. Even today, one of the city’s top attractions is the Chouara Tannery, a thousand-years-old institution featuring a series of wells filled with natural dyes, pigeon poop and cow urine (to soften the leather). Though gross-sounding, the tanneries are well worth the stench, showcasing a truly rare method of leather production. One of the only ways to visit the tanneries these days however is to haggle masterfully with the owner of a leather shop nearby.

It’s not all Fez hats and leather gear that gets us hyped for the city, but it’s also the rather more downbeat attitude (in comparison with Marrakech) leading to more affordable stays and fewer pushy vendors! With your extra spending money, visitors can live within the medina area alongside some 90,000 locals. Though chaotic, the atmospheric souks and commercial areas are joys to get lost in, blindly navigating nameless alleyways to eventually end up at the main squares. The best of these squares come centred by grand fountains while around the edges you’ll find spicy food stalls, artisan shops and staircases leading to any number of rooftop bars with winning views of the city’s minaret-laden skyline.

Stay in a top-rated Fez Riad for a taste of all-inclusive Morocco, making sure to pass through the 13th century Al-Attarine Madrasa (the Arabic School of Perfumers), located beside the souk of the same name and second only to Marrakech’s Ben Youssef Madrasa in grandeur. Last but not least then is the Royal Palace of Fez, still frequented by the King of Morocco on his holidays and therefore not open to the public. Regardless, the entrance to the palace is still a great place to take a picture!

Fez | Photo: Lahbabi Art

3. Chefchaouen

A blue-washed mountain village based in the valleys below the Rif mountains, Chefchaouen has all the makings of a rural utopia, made all the more attractive through its blend of Moroccan and Andalusian styles. ‘Why is Chefchaouen blue’ is routinely asked but in actual fact the old medina comes is red when viewed from above, thanks to the terracotta roof tiles. Walking the streets and narrow lanes, however, Chefchaouen is certainly blue, with its pastel-painted houses becoming ever more compacted towards the Plaza Uta El Hammam and restored 15th-century kasbah (protective fortress). Once a backpacker’s haven (particularly among those fond of the local ‘kif’ or cannabis), Chefchaouen has since become a more gentrified spot with a range of accommodation and good food options, though thankfully the city’s authenticity remains intact.

Chilling is the order of the day within this mountain town, though if you’re looking for things to do in Chefchaouen, then simply walking from end to end taking photographs of the old-world features amidst Rif mountain scenery should take at least an afternoon.

Chefchaouen | Photo: Mohammed Lak

Chefchaouen | Photo: Kyriacos Georgiou

4. Sahara Desert

Spreading over more than 10 countries, the Sahara is a desert of epic proportions not to be underestimated. Of these 10 countries, Morocco is considered one of the safest entry points, allowing for exploration of the not-to-distant dunes as well as a number of desert undertakings, such as sandboarding, camel riding, 4×4 expeditions and camping under the stars.

In the desert it’s likely you’ll make a pass through the medieval town of Ait-Ben-Haddou, following in the footsteps of Timbuktu traders who would stop here on their journeys to Marrakech. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site (as well as the film set for both Game of Thrones and Gladiator), Ait-Ben-Haddou is an awesome place to stay if camping is not on the agenda. Of the desert’s natural wonders, the Todra Gorge is a must-see, stretching through a series of limestone river canyons in the eastern part of the Atlas Mountains. This area and the nearby town of Tinerhir is a frequent stop on 4×4 tours, allowing for insights into Berber mountain lifestyles before moving onto Dadès Valley for more accommodation options.

Worried about getting lost in the Sahara, get peace of mind with our guide on how to plan a Morocco desert trip.

Photo: Federico Gutierrez

Photo: Rafael Barquero

5. Casablanca

Our final stop in Casablanca showcases a contemporary side of Morocco as the place for young citizens to seek their fortunes in both business and creative endeavours. Depicted as a romantic town in the 1940’s movie Casablanca, the real life version is nothing like it and instead stands as the largest metropolis in the country. The past is still very a part of Casablanca, seen amongst the Moorish builds and mixture of French colonial and traditional Moroccan styles, but, despite all this, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how forward-thinking the city can be. In particular, Casablanca’s European influenced food scene oozes modern sophistication, while reconstruction ensures the city’s grandest attractions are safeguarded for the next generation. The Place Mohammed V and the Parc de la Ligue Arabe both have ongoing construction projects, while new builds such as the Grand Théâtre de Casablanca continue to breathe fresh life into old spaces.

Ending your Morocco holiday in Casablanca, you may take it slow hanging out among the picturesque cafés and marketplaces around Quartier Habous or even take a day or two along the coast, renting a suburban residence in Ain Diab. Of the top things to see in Casablanca, the Hassan II Mosque is a standout attraction as the largest mosque in Africa (and 5th largest in the world). The pride of Morocco, the Hassen II Mosque can even be visited by non-Muslims, allowing anyone to catch sight of the breath-taking architecture and interior design, spanning some 53,000 square metres of wood and 10,000 square metres of zellige ceramics, almost exclusively made in Morocco. The site can hold a total of 105,000 worshippers at once, within the prayer room and adjacent yard, which offers skyward views at the 210-metre-tall minaret, an essential feature of Islamic architecture.

Casablanca | Photo: Mehmet A.

10 Days in Morocco Itinerary Starting from Casablanca

Breaking your Morocco 10 day itinerary down day-by-day, this is what it looks like;

Day 1: Arrive in Casablanca, explore Hassan II Mosque

Day 2: Finish up in Casablanca and travel to Fez

Day 3: Get settled in Fez, checking out the tannery and royal palace

Day 4: Take a day trip to Chefchaouen

Day 5: Embark on your journey to Marrakech by way of the Sahara

Day 6: Move to a camel or 4×4 tour ending in Merzouga or Dadès Valley

Day 7: Continue on to Marrakech stopping at Ait Ben Haddou on the way

Day 8-10: Explore Marrakech and its medina before heading home

Having trouble planning?

Choose us at Mr Hudson to curate your trip for you using our Trip Design service. Our team of trip design experts aim to bring you the vacation of your dreams, based on your unique style, budget and preferences. Alongside a comprehensive daily itinerary, we’ll provide links to the best hotels, attractions and restaurants to suit you, so you don’t have to scout the web yourself!

Photo: Moussa Idrissi

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