Hi. We wanted to share our great experience with folks planning or thinking about a trip to Morocco, especially with families.
Will try to respond to questions in time (if any!), but I don't log on very often so forgive me if there's a delay. In fact this is the first time I have posted, but I decided I should because it was a posting on tripadvisor that convined me to take my family to Morocco. So to say thank you for this great forum, and to encourage others to use it more, here is my post-trip wrap up.
For our first trip to Morocco we decided to cover as much ground as possible, sort of 'scope' the place, and to use a guide - arranged before we went. Both were great decisions.
We're already planning our return trip: definitely less time 'on the road' next time, more riads (local houses southern Morocco style, converted into beautiful places to stay) and less shopping (!). Our dilemma is what to choose: sun & sand on the beach near (but not in) Agadir? Hiking and biking in the Atlas mountains? Or maybe back out to the endless desert and brilliant blue sky (together with camels, scorpion stories and starry nights). We left Morocco feeling we had barely scratched the surface of this amazing place.
Here was our itinerary for anyone interested.
We flew into Agadir direct from Europe, and headed inland by taxi to Taroudannt (2 hrs, $50, way too much, but what the heck, we got a ‘grand taxi’ at the airport, it was really easy). We stayed at Riad Maryam (see Lonely Planet / Rough Guide and below for details). Mr Habib and his family made us all feel very welcome – children too. The place was clean and fresh, alive with the sound of birds nesting in the trees in the central courtyard. A good place to start as Taroudannt is not as busy as Marrakesh but still with lively markets and a town square that comes alive in the early evening. We used this town to brush up our bargaining skills and get a few of the more touristy things out of the way before heading inland for the less forgiving touts in the more touristy places!
After a couple of days our guide from Authentic Morocco came to collect us from our riad. We had arranged an itinerary with their London based advisor (who has been to Morocco dozens of times personally and professionally - see her name below).
We have ever used a guide before: and it was a great idea. As we left Taroudannt we knew we could relax for the rest of the journey. Abdullah was at the wheel of a new Landcruiser (the roads are fine, but drivers a little crazy), he spoke perfect English and had spent his whole life traveling around Morocco introducing visitors to his amazing country. He proceeded to show us nooks and crannies, new places and old, family and lifelong friends, that we wouldn’t have seen or met otherwise.
We traveled 1600 kilometers (1000 miles) with Abdullah over the next 6 days, he would drop us off at our hotel or riad in the evening and collect us in the morning for another day of exploring. I won’t go into too much detail but this is what we did:
Taroudannt to Dades Gorge via Skoura. Our first hotel at Ouarzazate was a bit too modern and touristy for our taste. Not our style, so we mentioned this to Abdullah in the morning. He then to our amazement proceeded to change our itinerary so that we could stay at more authentic places along the way.
We went to Merzouga (towards the Algerian border), hopped on to a few camels and trekked over brilliant sand dunes under a perfect late afternoon sky to our camp. Everything was ready for us: a huge tent, carpets out on the dunes, dinner of a truly wonderful tagine. (We brought our own bottle of wine: tip for next time). We built a fire once the sun went down and stayed overnight, sleeping under the stars (my wife chose to stay in the tent: it was lovely and warm). My kids and I loved the experience of waking up as the sun rose over the endless dunes, to the sound of the rooster and goats from the nearby nomads (watched by the curious camels). We de-camped after climbing the fabulous dunes, and walked back to showers and fresh clothes, a hearty meal, some impromptu drums and singing from Abdullah and some other guides, and then back on the road to explore more of Morocco.
We headed back to Marrakesh, over high mountain passes, but took out time. It was a long drive to Ait Benhaddou and Telouet, where we stayed at a place used as a base camp for groups heading out to climb into the High Atlas mountains. Telouet is a Berber village, we also visited the abandoned Kasbah of Pasha el Glaoui. We ate like the Pasha himself, every night we would go to bed vowing not to eat so much the next day!
We were dropped off in Marakesh, where we spent the obligatory couple of days being swept along in the hustle and bustle, doing a bit of shopping and planning our next trip back!
A few people I can highly recommend if you are heading to Morocco:
(our guide) Abdullah +212 736 25954
Our trip organizer based in London:
Liz Williams, Authentic Morocco
Ryan Mariam in Taroudannt
And in Marrakesh one of the many wonderful Riads offering great value accommodation in a quiet and tranquil setting just 10 minutes walk from the hustle and bustle of the old part of this amazing city:
Riad Dar Warda
(find them at www.riadsmorocco.com)
Happy to share more information, feel free to contact me with questions or comments.
Safe and happy travels