A golden glow over Morocco

Escape the Cold: A November Road Trip Through Morocco

Ever wonder what it’s like to trade the chilly European November winds for something a bit warmer and way more adventurous? That’s exactly what we thought when we chose Morocco for our latest escapade! 

Imagine stepping into a world where every corner promises a new discovery – that’s Morocco for you. It wasn’t just about chasing the sun or leaving behind the sweater weather, though that was a big plus. This trip was our first thrilling dive into the vibrant culture of Africa, a continent we had long dreamed of exploring. Morocco, with its unique blend of African, Arab, and European influences, seemed like the perfect start to our African adventures.

In just a few days, we found ourselves wandering through the souks of Marrakesh, gazing at the star-filled skies in Merzouga, and navigating the historic streets of Fez. Every place we visited told a story, from the ancient walls of the medinas to the vast, whispering sands of the Sahara. 

We noticed how each city had its own rhythm, its own heartbeat, and we tried to capture that essence in our photos and, of course, in our Instagram captions. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for some inspiration, check out our Instagram Captions for Morocco article. It’s packed with ideas to help you encapsulate your Moroccan journey in words as vivid and memorable as the journey itself.

Essential Preparations: What to Know Before Your Moroccan Adventure

Embarking on a journey to Morocco promises to become an adventure filled with culture, stunning landscapes, and memorable experiences. However, before you set foot in this North African gem, it’s crucial to learn about the local customs before you start your trip – this to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience. 

  1. Limited Internet (Wi-Fi) // Mobile Data Preparation: In Morocco, while cities have good internet, rural areas might lack Wi-Fi. For uninterrupted internet access, especially for navigation and communication, it’s wise to have a mobile data solution. Consider getting a local SIM card or a global SIM like Airalo, which provides cost-effective data plans for Morocco.
  2. Drones Are Forbidden: Morocco has strict regulations concerning the use of drones by tourists. When you arrive at Moroccan airports, customs- and security officials are vigilant about detecting drones among passengers’ belongings. If you attempt to bring a drone into the country without the necessary permits, it will likely be confiscated by airport authorities.
  3. Full Car Insurance: If you’re planning to rent a car in Morocco for a road trip, opting for comprehensive car insurance is highly recommended. While Morocco offers beautiful landscapes for road trips, driving conditions, and road quality can vary. Comprehensive insurance can provide peace of mind in case of accidents, damage, or unexpected road conditions. We definitely needed it. 
  4. Speed Traps: In Morocco, authorities actively enforce speed limits and road safety, often using radar speed guns. Speed traps are frequent, and fines for speeding can be significant. Waze does not report these speed traps, so it’s important to consistently adhere to posted speed limits and traffic regulations to avoid fines.
  5. Beware of Overcharging: It’s not uncommon for locals to charge tourists higher prices (3 to even 10x) for goods and services. Whether you’re shopping in the souks, taking a taxi, or dining at a restaurant, be prepared to negotiate and haggle for prices. 

Camera essentials to photograph Morocco

When venturing into the diverse landscapes of Morocco, the first thing to consider is the variety of environments you’ll encounter. From small streets in the medina to expansive desert dunes, it’s important to only pack the essentials.

For photography, we recommend bringing a zoom lens, perfect for capturing distant scenes like the vast Sahara or the small details of city architecture. A wide-angle lens is also a must-have, especially when you find yourself in the narrow alleys of the medinas or in front of majestic landmarks where you’ll want to capture as much of the scene as possible.

Another aspect to consider is the variability of weather in Morocco. You might encounter bright, harsh sunlight, especially in open areas like the desert. This can be challenging for photography, leading to overexposed shots or harsh shadows. Having the right filters, such as a polarizer or a neutral density filter, can help manage these lighting conditions and allow you to capture the beauty of Morocco.

As an experienced photographer, my camera bag grew throughout the years. It currently contains various cameras and lenses, each with its own function and use – I’ve listed all of them below.

  1. Sony A7III DSLR Camera: My trusty sidekick throughout the trip was this camera. The Sony A7III, known for its awesome image quality and great performance in low light, was perfect for those dreamy Moroccan sunsets and night markets.
  2. Tamron 28-75mm Lens: Attached to my Sony A7III, this lens was a game-changer. It’s super versatile, which meant I could capture wide shots of the Jemaa el-Fnaa square and zoom in on the details of the Bahia Palace without changing lenses. 
  3. Macbook M1 Pro: Every night, I’d transfer my day’s photos to my MacBook M1 Pro. This laptop is a beast when it comes to handling big photo files and editing them. Plus, its battery life is awesome, so I didn’t have to worry about it dying on me while editing photos in the middle of the Sahara.
  4. Hohem iSteady MT2 kit: This Gimbal Camera Stabilizer was essential for getting those smooth, cinematic shots while walking through the medinas or riding a camel. It basically stabilizes your camera, which means no shaky videos – even when I was trekking through the Atlas Mountains.
  5. Hoya Variable Density II: Morocco is sunny, like really sunny. This filter helped me control how much light hit my camera sensor, so I could capture those bright desert scenes and not have them all washed out. It’s like sunglasses for your camera!

Spur-of-the-Moment Adventure: Our Last-Minute Trip to Morocco

Our Moroccan adventure was all about spontaneity. With just 12 hours’ notice, we decided to pack our bags and head to Morocco. We didn’t have any plans before we left, and we hadn’t done much research about traveling to this culturally rich North African country. As we boarded the plane, a mix of excitement and uncertainty filled the air. 

We quickly realized that our lack of preparation was both a challenge and an opportunity. Without a set itinerary or much knowledge of local customs and rules, we embraced the adventure, relying on our instincts and the kindness of locals to navigate Morocco’s beautiful landscapes and lively culture. 

Our journey unfolded as a testament to serendipity and the joys of unplanned travel.

Road Tripping Morocco: From Fez to Marrakesh

Our adventure took us to a variety of incredible places, each with its own unique charm. We started our trip in Fez, a city steeped in history and tradition. The narrow, winding streets of the Medina were a treat to explore. From Fez, we headed north to Chefchaouen, a hidden gem tucked away in the Rif Mountains

Our next stop was Rabat, the capital of Morocco, where modernity meets tradition. Strolling along elegant boulevards and visiting historical sites offered a glimpse into Morocco’s diverse facets. Ouarzazate was a cinematic adventure, with its breathtaking desert landscapes and ancient kasbahs

Finally, we reached Marrakesh known for its lively Jemaa el-Fna square and magnificent palaces.

Day 1 – An Unexpected Start in Fez

Our trip to Morocco started with a bit of a surprise; We were all set to leave Brussels Airport at 6 in the morning, but we found out our flight had a 6-hour delay due to a technical error in the airplane. While it wasn’t the ideal start, we discovered a silver lining: We learned about the Air Passengers Rights Regulation (EU261/2004), which meant we were eligible for compensation.

Upon arriving in Morocco, we faced an immediate cultural lesson: our drone, which we had eagerly planned to use for aerial photography, was seized by customs. This was because we hadn’t looked into Morocco’s regulations regarding drones. As it happens, drones are classified as military equipment there and are confiscated to prevent espionage. Fortunately, they assured us we’d get it back when we flew out – for a certain cost, obviously.

After all that, we picked up our rental car, a bright red Fiat 500. This little car would be our ride for the next 10 days of road-tripping.

Fez Airport, to our surprise, didn’t have a working Wi-Fi connection. So, our next mission was to find a place to activate our Airalo SIM card. The quest led us to a local McDonald’s, an unexpected yet familiar haven for internet connectivity.

Once we got our internet connection sorted, we went to our Airbnb, dropped off our bags, and then went out to explore Fez. Our journey started at the iconic Blue Gate of Fes, a stunning entry point into the city’s historical heart. We withdrew some local currency and meandered through the streets of Medina until sunset. 

Day 2: Time-Traveling in Fez and the Ancient Ruins of Volubilis

Our adventure continued as we explored the heart of Morocco’s cultural history – Fez. Known for its ancient medina, Fez is a city where time seems to stand still. To dive deep into its rich heritage, we enlisted the help of a local guide. Our guide, while knowledgeable, had an interesting approach: he led us to various local shops where skilled artisans showcased their crafts – from woven headscarves to the traditional art of leather making. Although it felt a bit sales-pitchy at times, watching these artisans at work was like witnessing history come alive.

The medina of Fez, a labyrinth of history, was an absolute highlight. Walking through its narrow alleys, we were surrounded by centuries-old buildings and markets, giving us a glimpse into a way of life that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. We even visited the University of Al Quaraouiyine, known to be the oldest existing, continually operating educational institution in the world, founded in 859. It was astonishing to stand in a place of such historical significance.

After our time in the ancient city, we embarked on a journey to the ancient ruins of Volubilis. The drive itself was an adventure, navigating through less-than-perfect roads. However, the destination proved to be a remarkable contrast to the urban hustle of Fez. Volubilis, with its majestic Roman ruins, stood as a testament to the diverse layers of Moroccan history. Strolling among the remnants of this once-great city, we were transported back to an era of Roman glory. The beautiful mosaics and towering columns spoke volumes of the past, and we found ourselves lost in the stories that these ruins whispered.

Day 3: A Colorful Journey from Chefchaouen to Rabat

Our Moroccan road trip took a new turn as we left our Airbnb in Fez to head to the charming town of Chefchaouen. Known for its striking blue streets, Chefchaouen is like a piece of sky on earth. But our journey there had a small hiccup – we got our first speeding ticket. It was a reminder to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the Moroccan landscape, even if the road to Chefchaouen was a bit rough and gave us the first hints of car troubles.

As we arrived in Chefchaouen, the town’s blue-painted buildings and quaint charm instantly captivated us. We decided to grab lunch at La Lampe Magique Casa Aladin, where we had a panoramic view of the town, making our meal a memorable experience.

After lunch, we wandered through the streets of Chefchaouen. The town, steeped in history, was originally a small fortress founded in 1471 to fight the Portuguese invasions of northern Morocco. The blue-washed buildings, a tradition started by Jewish refugees in the 1930s, added to the serene and dreamlike atmosphere. Amidst our exploration, we stumbled upon a local bakery where we couldn’t resist trying some of the local cookies – a sweet treat that added flavor to our adventure.

Our next stop was Rabat, the capital city of Morocco, known for its blend of historical richness and modern culture. The drive to Rabat was smooth, and upon arrival, we settled into our new Airbnb. Eager to stock up on supplies, we ventured into a local shop. 

Day 4: Discovering the Riches of Rabat

Our fourth day in Morocco began with an energizing morning run in the Urban Forest Ibn Sina, also known as “Hilton Park”. The park, with its lush greenery and peaceful trails, was a refreshing start to our day in Rabat, a city that beautifully blends its historical legacy with modern vibrancy.

Our first stop for sightseeing was the Hassan Tower and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. Standing tall at 44 meters, the Hassan Tower is an incomplete minaret of what was intended to be the world’s largest mosque in the late 12th century. The tower’s imposing structure, coupled with the stunning Mausoleum of Mohammed V, where the revered King Mohammed V and his two sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah, are laid to rest, made for an awe-inspiring visit. 

From here, we could also see the Grand Théâtre de Rabat and the Mohammed VI Tower, marvels of contemporary Moroccan architecture that stood in stark contrast to the ancient structures we were exploring.

Next, we wandered through the Andalusian Gardens, a tranquil oasis beside the water. These gardens, designed in the early 20th century, showcased the beauty of Andalusian landscape architecture with its flowing water features and exotic plants. Adjacent to the gardens was the Laalou Muslim Cemetery, where we stumbled upon a serene and contemplative space that overlooked the ocean. Here, we watched surfers riding the waves, a scene that beautifully captured the blend of tradition and modern leisure in Rabat.

For lunch, we stopped at Le Limonadier, where we enjoyed some delicious hamburgers – a comforting taste of familiar cuisine in the midst of our Moroccan explorations.

Our day concluded with a bit of shopping at the Centre Commercial Bouiblane, a modern shopping mall where we stocked up on supplies for our Airbnb. This mall, a hub of contemporary consumer culture, was a contrast to the historical sites we’d visited earlier, reminding us of the diverse facets of life in Rabat.

Day 5: From Rabat to Ifrane via Azrou – A Journey of Contrasts

Our fifth day in Morocco began with us checking out of our Airbnb in Rabat. We were eager for the next leg of our adventure, a trip to Merzouga. Knowing it would be a long drive, we planned a stopover in Ifrane, a decision that would add both excitement and unexpected turns to our day.

Our trip to Ifrane came with its own set of hurdles. Not only did we receive three more speeding tickets, a stark reminder to pay closer attention to local driving laws, but our journey was further complicated when our car broke down. Thankfully, we had full insurance coverage, which enabled us to use the depanage service. They towed us back to Fez, where our Fiat 500 was replaced with a Kia Picanto, allowing us to continue our travels.

On our way, we made a brief stop in Azrou, a small town known for its cedar forests and the Barbary macaques that call it home. Seeing these monkeys in their natural habitat was an enchanting experience. 

As we continued our journey, we finally arrived in Ifrane. It’s home to Al Akhawayn University, an English-speaking institution modeled after American universities, and stands as an example of Morocco’s diverse cultural influences.

As it was becoming a habit, our experience in Ifrane took an unexpected turn: The Airbnb we had booked turned out to be a fake listing. Faced with this situation, we had to book a hotel at the last minute. Fortunately, we found accommodation at a hotel named Zephyr, which offered us a comfortable place to stay after the day’s hectic events.

Day 6: Magical Moments in Merzouga

Day six of our Moroccan road trip brought us to a place straight out of a dream – Merzouga, known for its breathtaking sand dunes and a true bucket list destination for stargazing in the Sahara Desert. We checked into The White Camp, which offered luxury tents nestled in the heart of the desert, a stark contrast to the urban accommodations we had experienced so far.

We arrived at around 4 PM, and by the time we were all settled in, it was perfect for the activity we had been eagerly anticipating – a camel trek. Riding on camels, we ventured into the vast expanse of the Sahara, the world’s largest hot desert. 

One of the highlights of our day was wandering through the dunes with a snowboard. It might sound unusual, but sandboarding down the soft, golden slopes as the sun began to set was an exhilarating experience. 

As night fell, we were treated to a typical Moroccan meal under the stars. The food, rich in flavors and cooked in traditional style, was a delight. But the real magic began post-dinner with an impromptu concert. Local musicians played traditional Berber music, filling the night air with rhythms that seemed to echo the heartbeat of the desert.

The day ended with us stargazing from hammocks, a truly surreal experience. Away from the light pollution of cities, the night sky in Merzouga revealed countless stars shining brightly above us. It felt as if we were wrapped in a cosmic blanket, making us realize how vast and beautiful our universe is.

Day 7: From the Dunes of Merzouga to the Cinematic Charms of Ouarzazate

Our day began leisurely in Merzouga, waking up to a beautiful breakfast at The White Camp. The morning was spent soaking in the serene ambiance of the desert, lounging in hammocks until about 11 AM. There’s something about the desert air that makes you want to slow down and savor every moment.

Then, it was time to say goodbye to the dunes of Merzouga and head towards our next destination, Ouarzazate. Often referred to as the ‘Hollywood of Morocco’, Ouarzazate is famous for its film studios, where numerous well-known movies and TV shows have been filmed. 

We arrived in Ouarzazate around 3 PM and checked into the Residence Chay Hotel. The city, unlike the quiet dunes of Merzouga, buzzed with a different kind of energy. One of Ouarzazate’s must-visit places is the Cinema Museum, which celebrates the region’s rich cinematic history. Exploring the museum, we were transported into the world of movies, with sets and props that told stories of the many films shot in the area. It was like stepping onto the sets of some of our favorite films.

Our visit to the museum concluded just as the sun began to set, casting a golden glow over the city, enhancing its cinematic feel. For dinner, we chose The Full Sun, a local eatery known for its delicious food. The meal was a delightful blend of traditional Moroccan flavors, a perfect end to a day filled with new experiences.

Day 8: From the Studios of Ouarzazate to the Streets of Marrakesh

Our eighth day in Morocco started with a simple yet delightful breakfast from a bakery next to our hotel in Ouarzazate. There’s something special about starting your day with freshly baked goods, especially when they’re infused with local flavors.

After breakfast, we headed to the famous Atlas Studios, one of the world’s largest film studios by acreage. These studios have been the filming location for many well-known movies and series (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Prison Break, The Mummy, and Game of Thrones, to name a few), thanks to the unique, versatile landscapes that surround Ouarzazate. Walking through the studio, we were amazed by the elaborate sets and props, which felt like portals to different worlds and eras.

However, our smooth journey hit a small bump – literally – as we encountered car troubles with a flat tire. It was a bit of a setback, but part of the road-tripping adventure. After sorting out the issue, we continued our journey to Marrakesh.

We arrived in Marrakesh around 5 PM and checked into our Riad (Haj Thami). Marrakesh, known as the ‘Red City’ due to its famous red sandstone buildings, is a hub of culture, history, and commerce. 

One of the highlights of Marrakesh is the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, especially during sunset. This famous square is the heart of the city’s old quarter and comes alive in the evening with street performers, vendors, and crowds. Watching the sunset over Jemaa el-Fnaa was an unforgettable experience. The sky turned brilliant shades of orange and pink, casting a magical glow over the square. The sounds of musicians, the aroma of street food, and the lively atmosphere made it a sensory feast.

Day 9: A Day of Art, History, and Culture in Marrakesh

On the ninth day of our Moroccan adventure, we delved deep into the art and history of Marrakesh, a city brimming with culture. We started our day with a visit to the Bahia Palace. This palace, built in the late 19th century, is a masterpiece of Moroccan architecture and design. Its name means ‘brilliance’, perfectly describing its decorations and beautiful gardens.

Next, we visited the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, a modern tribute to the famous French fashion designer. This museum, near the Jardin Majorelle, houses an incredible collection of clothing, accessories, and sketches by Yves Saint Laurent. It’s fascinating to see how the bright colors and textures of Morocco inspired one of the world’s most renowned fashion designers.

Just a short walk from the YSL Museum is the Jardin Majorelle, one of Marrakesh’s most visited sites. This charming garden, created by French painter Jacques Majorelle and later restored by Yves Saint Laurent, is a tranquil oasis of exotic plants and lively colors. The striking cobalt blue, known as ‘Majorelle Blue’, is a signature feature of the garden, creating a vivid backdrop to the lush greenery.

Our day took a more personal turn with a visit to “Tattoo-studio Morocco”, where one of us decided to get a tattoo. It was an exciting experience, choosing a design that would forever remind us of our Moroccan journey.

To end our day, we dined at Restaurant Limoni, a charming eatery tucked away in the Medina. Limoni is known for its fusion of Italian and Moroccan cuisine, set in a beautiful courtyard with lemon trees. The food was a delightful mix of flavors, a perfect end to a day filled with art, history, and cultural exploration.

Day 10: A Relaxing Day in Marrakesh

Our tenth day in Morocco was marked by a slower pace, allowing us to soak in the unique atmosphere of Marrakesh more leisurely. Having traveled extensively over the past few days, we relished the opportunity to sleep in and start our day at a more relaxed tempo.

Once we were up and ready, our first stop was Cyber Park. This park, nestled in the heart of Marrakesh, is a fascinating blend of historic landscapes and modern technology. Originally a royal garden dating back to the 18th century, it now serves as a public space where visitors can enjoy the beauty of traditional Moroccan garden design while accessing free Wi-Fi. Strolling through its paths lined with orange trees, palms, and fountains, we were struck by how seamlessly the past and present coexist in this city.

As we ventured further into Marrakesh, we noted the hectic activity in the streets. We learned that the following day was a holiday commemorating the Green March, an important event in Moroccan history when hundreds of thousands of Moroccans peacefully marched into the Western Sahara in 1975. The city was abuzz with preparations for the celebration, adding an extra layer of excitement and atmosphere.

We ended our day with a return visit to Restaurant Limoni, which had quickly become a favorite of ours. Nestled in the Medina, its tranquil courtyard offered a peaceful escape from the city. 

Day 11: Farewell to Morocco

On our eleventh day in Morocco, we approached the end of our remarkable trip. We departed from our Riad in Marrakech in the morning, embarking on a six-hour drive back to Fez, where our journey had originally started. This return to Fez was necessary to recover our drone, altering our initial plan of flying out directly from Marrakech.

Upon arriving in Fez, one of our first tasks was to get the car washed. It was a mundane but necessary chore, and it gave us a chance to tidy up after the long days spent traversing dusty roads and sandy dunes. 

We then finally retrieved our drone, which had been confiscated upon our arrival. It was a bittersweet reminder of our first day in Morocco, full of excitement and a few unexpected turns.

Our journey in Morocco concluded with us boarding a flight from Fez to Valencia, ready to embark on another warm adventure. As we soared into the sky, leaving behind the land of sunsets and souks, we carried memories of a land rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. 

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