When I spent one week in Morocco in December, I did so to go visit my friend Amanda from MarocMama.com, the Morocco travel blog. That meant two things.
One, I didn’t have to worry about creating a Morocco itinerary, as she would take me around.
And two, I took it easier than I do on most trips as we also spent quite a bit of time just chatting.
Nevertheless, I got to see and so plenty of things during that week and I’ll share all of it with you below.
- One week in Morocco – Morocco itinerary for Marrakech, Essaouira, and a desert trip
- Day 1: Marrakech Medina and more
- Day 2: Marrakech in a sidecar and more
- Day 3-4: Two-day tour through the mountains, to the Agafay desert
- Day 5 and 6: Essaouira
- Where to eat in Marrakech – also if you want to get really local
- Where to stay in Marrakech
- Where to stay in Essaouira
- How to travel to Morocco
- Frequently Asked Questions about Morocco
- Pin for later
One week in Morocco – Morocco itinerary for Marrakech, Essaouira, and a desert trip
Day 1: Marrakech Medina and more
We spent my first day in Marrakech doing the inevitable: we wandered the alleys of the Medina and headed into the souks.
The Medina of Marrakech is often described in terms of sensory overload. The sounds! The smells! The colors! But what I noticed most, were the people. Craftsmen patiently working on a piece of clothing, an accessory or some interior decoration by using techniques that were handed down from generation to generation. People buying, selling, haggling, and, of course, tourists like me taking it all in.
You have the feeling that there’s so much going on at once that if you even dare to blink, you’ll have missed something. And that’s probably true.
I must admit that before taking the plane to Marrakech, I had looked forward to taking tons of photos at the Medina, showcasing the colorful pottery, the piles of herbs and the flowing fabrics. But once I was there I found it very hard to point my lens at anything.
This had happened before. I always find it hard to take photos of things like market stands or even pretty houses as I always feel like I’m somehow disrespecting the privacy of the person owning or running the thing I want to photograph.
Amanda told me it was fine to take photographs in most places as long as I was a bit subtle about it, but I still rather didn’t. And that had more to do with my lack of confidence than it did with my surroundings.
We didn’t go shopping at the Medina but if you’re into crafts and home decoration, you can spend days here picking and choosing.
That’s not only because there’s so much on offer but also because it’s so easy to get lost in the alleyways. Now, navigating the Medina has become a lot easier with apps like Google Maps and the benefit of those is that you can actually allow yourself to get lost while still knowing that when it’s time, you have something that’ll let you find the way out again.
Another must on your Marrakech itinerary is the famous Jemaa el-Fna square. We passed here several times during my stay and while it was always buzzing, I highly recommend you visit it during the evening at least once when yu visit Marrakech.
That’s when all the market stands come out that lit up the square and fill it with scents.
For a proper view, go get a drink at one of the rooftop bars surrounding Jemaa el-Fna. We had some tea at Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier.
The Koutoubia mosque and Parc Lalla Hasna
From Jemaa el-Fna it’s only a short walk to the square with the grand Koutoubia mosque. While non-muslims can’t enter the mosque, it’s such an iconic building that it shouldn’t be missed.
Behind it lies the Parc Lalla Hasna, which is rather small but still fun to go and see because of the mosaic fountain.
Day 2: Marrakech in a sidecar and more
A sidecar tour with Insiders Experience
On my second day in Marrakech, we explored the city in a rather unique way: on a motorbike/in a sidecar!
Felix from Insiders Experience takes people around Marrakech in a vintage sidecar motorbike. So cool! And not just the looks of it but the experience as well.
Helmets on, we zigzagged through the alleys of the old town, past the city gates, into the suburbs and the new city. Along the way, we made stops to visit some places and learn more about the history of Marrakech.
The tour we took is called “The Secret Ride” and it took us back to the Marrakech of Yves-Saint-Laurent and his contemporaries. Some of the places we stopped at – like that palm grove where we checked out the old irrigations system – you would simply pass by if you didn’t know what you were looking at.
Others – like that one restaurant – you’d visit without fully understanding the history of it and still others you can only visit when you take this tour. THey’re otherwise closed to the public.
I don’t want to give too much away, but we might have visited a private part of the famous Majorelle Garden…
To top that all off, our guide Felix was extremely knowledgeable. He gladly answered whatever questions we had and seemed to have an endless depository of stories.
If you want to discover Marrakech in a unique way, I can highly recommend a tour with Insiders Experience.
The Maison de la Photographie de Marrakech
After a quick lunch (more on where to eat in Marrakech below), we decided to visit the Photography Museum of Marrakech. It’s located in a typical Moroccan home with outdoor galleries and an inner courtyard.
Entry to the museum costs 40 dirham which, at the time of writing, is a little over €3.5 or $4.
The private collection consists of about 10,000 documents – photos, but also postcards, magazines, and other visual representations – of Morocco taken between 1870 and 1960. It also holds the first color film ever to be shot in the Atlas Mountains. The thematic temporary exhibitions highlight different parts of the collection throughout the year.
If you solely check the photography on display, visiting the museum could only take you half an hour. However, there’s also an interesting historical documentary about people living in the Atlas mountains and the museum has a rooftop terrace from which you have great views over the city, so don’t miss those.
Maison de la Photographie de Marrakech
46, Rue Ahal Fès, Marrakech
The Bahia Palace
The Bahia Palace dates back to the 19th century and is one of the top things to see in Marrakech because of the intricate woodwork, gorgeous ceilings, and mosaic courtyards. It’s not massive, but if you’re into photography I’m pretty sure you can spend quite some time here. Especially as you’ll have to dodge the other people visiting :-)
The entry fee is only about €1/$1 and the Palace is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Avenue Imam El Ghazali, Marrakech
Day 3-4: Two-day tour through the mountains, to the Agafay desert
On my third day in Morocco, we were supposed to go for a drive through the Atlas mountains to then end at a tent camp where we’d spend the night. Unfortunately, the weather conditions were a bit off and so the sleepover was canceled but we did go back the next day to have dinner at the camp and experience what it would have been like had we spent the night.
A day in the Atlas mountains
It’s quite special that you don’t even have to drive for an hour from Marrakech to reach the mountains and be in a completely different setting. Our trip first took us through tiny villages, slowly ascending, until we were properly in the mountains and even saw… snow!
Yup, snow. It was December after all and it does snow and get properly cold in Morocco in winter too.
We snapped some shots and got out of the car to breathe in the fresh mountain air before driving to our lunch spot for the day. We’d be having a homecooked meal with a Berber family at their home.
Let me say straight away that that was something I’ll never forget.
We were welcomed by a young woman who spoke remarkable English (rather uncommon among traditional Berber women) and showed us around their home, which was built against the side of the mountain and had a rudimentary, rough look.
She took us to a small room next to the actual kitchen, where our lunch was being prepared the traditional way. I wish I wouldn’t have waited eight months to write this down because I have to admit, I’ve forgotten the details of how this worked.
What I won’t forget is our meal. We had it kind of outside, in an area of the house that was entirely open on one side, sitting on a patchwork of color carpets each displaying different patterns and ways of weaving. And while we ate, the woman told us how she taught herself English using nothing but a dictionary and the interactions she could have with visitors.
She also told us how they’d only had electricity for the last ten years and how kids in the area would have to walk several kilometers if they wanted to go to school.
We were so close to Marrakech and yet worlds away.
Want to enjoy a home made meal with an Amazigh (Berber) family, including a tea ceremony? Check out this tour.
It includes hotel pick-up and drop-off by an English-speaking guide.
If you’d rather be surprised, have a look at this secret picnic day trip.
An English-speaking driver will take you on a picturesque ride through the Atlas mountains after which you’ll be treated to a Moroccan picnic feast in a secluded spot.
Dinner in the desert
After that lunch, we were supposed to drive to the tent camp and spend the rest of the day and the night there but as I mentioned, the weather conditions weren’t great and when there’s chance of a storm, the camp organization prefers to cancel as they don’t want to put anyone at risk (or give them a bad time).
So we ended up spending a quiet evening in Marrakech but we did go to the camp the next night and while we didn’t spend the night there, I can definitely tell you about dinner.
We got there around 4 or 5 in the afternoon so that we had time to check out the campsite and go for a small walk through the desert to reach a dune top from where we could see the sunset. Yes, it was as idyllic as it sounds.
Someone from the camp accompanied us on our walk to make sure we were alright.
We reached the dune before sunset and so we took some photos, chatted, and goofed around. Well, I did, running down the dune and back up again so that Amanda could make a funny video :-)
When we’d admired the landscape and the sky for a while it was time to head back for some pre-dinner drinks. As it was rather chilly, we both opted for a cup of tea with little bites that we enjoyed in one of the comfy outdoor chairs right by the fire.
Yes, it was still as idyllic as it sounds.
Toes and fingers heated by the fire, we made our way into the dining hall. It was a large tent opened up on one side so we had a view of the camp. Heaters and a blanket were provided so we could enjoy our three-course meal without being cold.
I took photos of the food but they didn’t turn out great as it was too dark. You’ll just have to trust me that it was tasty.
After dinner, guests can enjoy some time by the fireplace or head to their tents. In this case, we went back to Marrakech, happy we got to have dinner in the desert.
Want to have a hassle-free dessert meal experience?
If you book this tour, a driver will take you from your hotel in Marrakech to the Agafay Dessert where you’ll enjoy a gourmet Moroccan lunch. You’ll have time to wander around, relax, or take an (optional) camel ride. Afterward, the driver will take you back to your hotel.
The Majorelle Garden
Because we’d only gone back to the desert in the afternoon, we had time on my fourth day to do a bit more of Marrakech sightseeing. The Majorelle Garden is a real Marrakech must-see so we decided to go there.
It was the only time during my visit that we had to wait in line somewhere to get in. It’s not that it was that busy but the people at the cash register just weren’t the most efficient.
Once inside, everyone was well-spread out over the gardens but if you wanted to get a photo of something or someone without other people in it, you did have to be patient. I can imagine it gets crazily crowded here in high season.
So was it worth a visit? I do think so. The garden is definitely beautiful and you can’t get around the amazing combination of that blue and yellow. Just don’t expect it to be a massive place as it’s rather small and if you don’t plan on taking a loooooot of photos, you’ll need less than an hour to see it.
The entry fee was 40 dirham and you can also by a combination ticket that gives you access to both the garden and the YSL Museum next door.
Day 5 and 6: Essaouira
On my fifth day in Morocco, we drove from Marrakech to Essaouira to spend two nights in this coastal town. Essaouira is much smaller than Marrakech and mostly popular because of its small historical center and good waves. If you’re into surfing, Essaouira is one of the best places to visit in Morocco.
We spent our morning wandering around the Medina and had lunch at the smallest Italian restaurant I’ve ever come across – it only had three or four tables. Unfortunately, Amanda wanted to revisit that restaurant on a next trip to Essaouira and found out the owners had gone back to Italy.
We also walked past the small fishing port and visited the old Portuguese fortress. It’s one of the things to do in Essaouira and you can enter it for free. It gives you nice views of the coastline and offers some fun photo opportunities.
Behind the fortress, lies Essaouira Beach but it was a bit too chilly to go sunbathing and so we skipped that.
In the late afternoon, we headed back to Villa Anouk where we spent a quiet night. I’ll tell you more about the places I stayed at when I was in Morocco below.
The next day, we headed back into town to check out some nice-looking shops and cafes I’d spotted the day before.
Fun finds were Le Comptoir Oriental (a gorgeous interior decoration store, but much pricier than what you’d pay for the same items in the Medina in Marrakech), Historie de Filles (clothing and accessories), and L’Atelier (a lovely cafe and interior decoration store that also organizes cooking workshops).
For lunch, we left the center and drove to La Fromagerie, a cheese farm where you first say hi to the camels before enjoying a multi-course cheese meal. It lies tucked away at the end of a side street from the main road so you really have to keep an eye out for the sign.
The rest of the day we spent relaxing at Villa Anouk.
Day 7: homebound and a note on this itinerary
On my last day in Morocco, we drove back from Essaouira to Marrakech and had lunch before it was time for me to catch my flight home. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll have noticed that my week in Morocco itinerary was way less packed than my usual trips.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, that’s partially because I was visiting my friend Amanda and my trip was really about spending time with her, seeing her home and also meeting her family (I’d only met her husband once) and also because, at the time, Amanda was pregnant. She’s now given birth to a beautiful boy, named Adam.
I do hope that the above has given you some inspiration on what to do in Morocco so it can help you when you are planning a trip to Morocco yourself.
But it’s not over yet! Below, you can read a bit more about where I stayed and ate.
Where to eat in Marrakech – also if you want to get really local
Lunch at La Famille
When you’re hungry and need a break from the busy Medina, La Famille is the place to go. An unimpressive door on the street leads into a beautiful garden with wooden tables, lounge chairs and more green than one would expect in the Medina.
On the menu, which changes with the seasons, you’ll find vegetarian Mediterranean dishes and when you’re done eating, you can do a bit of shopping as the restaurant also has a small shop selling ceramics, jewelry, baskets, and some leather goods.
If you want to make sure you have a table, it’s best to make a reservation as this place is popular.
Restaurant La Famille
34 Derb Jdid
Lunch at Naranj
Naranj is a big place, with a seating area on the ground, the second and the third floor as well as the rooftop terrace, if I remember correctly. The service here is friendly and the food delicious. On the menu, you’ll find all kinds of Middle Eastern and Mediterannean dishes.
While I’m sure it can get crowded inside, the rooftop terrace was the perfect place to find a bit of calm in the otherwise hectic Medina.
Lunch at Amal Women’s Center
Amal is a non-profit that helps disadvantaged women by training them to work in the restaurant industry and by helping them to get a job. In order to fund their program, they organize lunches, do catering and offer cooking and baking classes.
We visited their center for a lovely, all-you-can-eat buffet lunch.
Dinner at I Limoni
I Limoni serves Moroccan and Italian food in a beautiful courtyard with shaded patio. Tucked away in a quiet little street, it can be a bit hard to find but it’s a must to go here once. Both the service and the food were exquisite.
It was a bit too dark for photos, though. Sorry about that :-)
40, Dyour Saboun, Bab Taghzout, Marrakech 40030
Marrakech food tours
If you want to eat local, though, and actually go where the locals go, there’s only one option: Marrakech Food Tours. You might think I’m saying this because it’s run by my friend Amanda, but there’s a reason her tours are featured in magazines worldwide.
She even gets hired to help restaurants who want to put Moroccan food on their menus.
Marrakech Food Tours only takes you to places where you’d never go as a tourist and where Amanda’s Moroccan husband’s mom would love to eat. They let you taste the real Marrakech.
Have you gotten hungry yet? Have a look at some of their tours:
The Evening Tour
A fully licensed guide takes you to hidden hideaways while serving you typical Moroccan dishes such as meat, couscous, and sweets. You’ll get nibbles along the way while you learn about Moroccan street food and the vendors selling it. One thing is for sure: you won’t leave this tour hungry!
The Walk the Kasbah Sandwich Tour
A licensed city guide takes you around Kasbah and Mellah, the oldest neighborhoods of Marrakech, where you’ll try four different Moroccan sandwiches as well as some other bites. You’ll learn about the history of these areas in between stops and will definitely not need to eat anything else afterward.
The Medina Mix Walking Tour
This tour is a mix of the evening tour and the street food tour, including both sit-down restaurant stops and street food stops. The dishes you’ll try aren’t typically on restaurant menus and you’ll get plenty of background information while walking the Medina.
Something different: afternoon tea at the Royal Mansour
Amanda is a tea lover just like I am and so she booked me a surprise afternoon tea at the Royal Mansour, probably the fanciest hotel in Marrakech and especially beautiful in December when it’s decorated for the holidays.
The afternoon tea, or “gourmet tea”, as it was called over there, was served at the hotel bar and we got to choose between the Moroccan Tea, the French Tea or the British Tea. The Moroccan tea consisted of Harcha, msemen with butter and thyme honey and Moroccan petits fours.
The French Tea consisted of toast with duck foie gras, Norwegian salmon and cheese as well as a pastries selection and the British Tea was the traditional version with scones, cupcakes, muffins, brownies, marshmallows and a selection of finger sandwishes.
We both chose the British Tea :-)
It was calm at the hotel, with just one other table booked for tea, and so we could really enjoy our treats while chatting away.
Where to stay in Marrakech
Where I stayed: Maison 28
The nights I spent in Marrakech, I spent some at Amanda’s place and others at Maison 28, a riad in the Medina. When I was visiting, the riad was brand new and the woman who runs it, a friend of Amanda’s, let us try it before opening.
That means I can’t really comment on how it’s run now that it’s fully operational but I can say that it’s become a true hot spot for creative retreats. So much so that the property is often fully rented out. You don’t need to belong to an organization or come with a group to join, though. Just have a look at their website to see if there’s anything on the calendar that interests you.
There are hundreds of riads alone in Marrakech so choosing where to stay can be a massive time-suck. That’s why I’ve made a first selection for you to choose from. The following all:
- get a minimum review score of 9/10
- include breakfast in the room price
- offer free WiFi
- have an airport shuttle service
- get a minimum review score of 8/10 for their location
Budget: Mosaic Hostel
The Mosaic Hostel lies less than 15 minutes walking from Jemaa el-Fna and serves a daily continental breakfast. Guests can choose to stay in a dormitory or a double or twin room.
Riad La Parenthese
Riad La Parenthèse is located in the heart of the Medina and features rooms with a modern Moroccan decor, a seating area and a private bathroom. Aside from the included breakfast, guests can also enjoy an on-demand dinner which feels more like a family feast. The staff here seems to be wonderful.
Riad Les Nuits de Marrakech
Riad Les Nuits de Marrakech lies literally one minute away from Jemaa el-Fna. It features a swimming pool, a hot tub, and a terrace with views of the Medina. All air-conditioned suites at this riad have a seating area and are equipped with a flat-screen television. Guests who wish to stay in at night can enjoy traditional Moroccan cuisine at the riad.
Riad Dar Andamaure lies in the center of the Medina and has a panoramic rooftop terrace with a view of the Atlas mountains. Guests can use the hammam as well as the heated indoor swimming pool or enjoy a traditional Moroccan meal on request.
Riad Jnane d’Ô
Riad Jnane d’Ô is owned by French artist Jacqueline who gave each room its own story. Guests can relax in the garden or at the rooftop terrace and the reception here is open 24/7. Dinner can be provided on-demand and Jacqueline will gladly help you plan your days, telling you where to go and which places to avoid.
Ryad El Borj
Ryad El Borj is just a 5-minute walk from Jemaa el-Fna and welcomes its guests in a charming riad with patio and panoramic terrace. It serves a traditional breakfast with local specialties and is happy to help organize activities for its guests. Guests state their tay here was better than at many a 5-star hotel.
The above is obviously just a very small selection of what Marrakech has to offer in terms of accommodation. If you want to look further, check Booking.com for not only a wide selection, but also a ton of filters you can use to find the perfect place to stay for you.
Alternatively, you can check all the deals they have on for Marrakech here:
Where to stay in Essaouira
During our time in Essaouira, we spent two nights outside of the city center at Villa Anouk, a large guest house with a swimming pool, sun terrace, and plenty of secluded outdoor spaces, located right off the main road.
Every element at Villa Anouk was handbuilt by local craftsmen in the Moroccan Beldi tradition. That means that the house is entirely made out of stone and wood, with thatched wooden ceilings. Aside from the five suites, there’s also a superior double room and a twin room. Each room has a unique interior design.
An elaborate breakfast is served in the morning and dinner can be prepared on demand. The Villa also offers an on-demand air-conditioned taxi service to and from Essaouira, Marrakech, and Casablanca airports. If you’re coming by car, there’s ample parking space on-site.
Some of the best hotels in Essaouira center
If you’d rather stay in the center of Essaouira, the following are good options.
Ryad Watier lies in the heart of Essaouira’s Medina, just a 4-minute walk from the beach. It has two rooftop terraces with views of the sea and a dining room with access to a patio. In the library, you can find board games and books. An elaborate breakfast is included in the room price and an airport shuttle service is offered ondemand.
Villa Quieta features free on-site parking as well as an outdoor swimming pool. Guests can rent a bike here and a lovely breakfast buffet is included in the room price. The staff is extremely helpful and happy to book you a taxi to the Medina (1.5 km away) if needed. An airport shuttle can also be arranged.
Chems Bleu lies in the middle of the Medina of Essaouira and just a 4-minute walk from the beach. Guests can relax in the patio or on the sun terraces with views of the ocean An exceptional breakfast is included in the room price and an airport shuttle can be arranged at an additional cost.
Riad Emotion lies in the heart of the Essaouira Medina and just a short walk from the beach. Each room has its own seating area where you can enjoy the included breakfast but breakfast can also be enjoyed in the patio with fountain or on the terrace with sun beds. This riad also has a dining room where traditional dishes are prepared for lunch and dinner. An airport shuttle can be arranged.
How to travel to Morocco
I flew to Marrakech Menara Airport on a direct flight from Brussels Airport. Lots of flights from Belgium didn’t go direct but I always prefer flying direct when I can.
Check Skyscanner for a good overview of flight options and prices from your departure airport. It’ll show you who flies to Marrakech direct too.
I bought my tickets to Morocco well in advance (several months) as they’re never really cheap and become more expensive as the departure date nears. You might want to keep an eye on deals or price trends if yo’ure flexible in when you go.
Someone on Instagram asked me for information on travel logistics once you’re in Morocco but I’m afraid I can’t share my own experience in regards to that, as I was traveling with Amanda the entire time and she has a car in Marrakech. Usually, her husband dropped us of in the center or we took a taxi. We also used her car to go to Essaouira.
I highly recommend you check her website, MarocMama.com, for tips on how to travel around the country and avoid getting scammed by taxi drivers, for example. She has a ton of good information gathered over years of living there.
Frequently Asked Questions about Morocco
What to wear in Morocco?
I dedicated a whole post on what to wear in Morocco in December, including a list of things I packed. Check it out here.
Is Morocco expensive?
Morocco isn’t cheap.
My friend Amanda told me that lots of people travel to Morocco or Marrakech in particular because they think it’ll be a cheap destination but the prices there aren’t that much lower than in an average, not extremely touristy European city. Sure, it’s different when you leave the cities and some things (like produce) do cost less, but don’t plan a trip to Morocco just because you’re looking for a budget getaway.
That being said, you don’t need to pay an arm and a leg to properly experience Morocco either. There’s lots of budget accommodation and food prices are fair.
How many days in Marrakech?
I’ve spent a week in Morocco, of which five days in Marrakech. While I didn’t see it all, I do feel like I got a good first impression of the city and also know that I probably would have done a bit more had it been warmer and had I been there purely as a tourist and not mainly to visit a friend.
Like with any city, I feel like it’s better to go briefly than to not go at all and I’ll never tell anyone that they’re not going somewhere long enough but if you do want a figure, I’d say four full days would be okay for your first time in Marrakech.
What is the best time to visit Marrakech?
While it wasn’t crowded at all when I visited Marrakech in December, I’d say autumn or spring is probably the best time to go to Marrakech as it won’t be as hot as in summer, but it won’t be as cold as it was in December either.
Is Morocco safe for solo female travelers?
I was asked this question byu one of my Instagram followers and will reply the same I told her. I don’t feel that I can give an educated answer as I’ve only experienced Morocco for a week and during that week I was always with my friend Amanda, who lives there.
So I was never alone and the other woman I was with, was a local, which makes a difference as well.
That being said, we were only once talked to in a way that made me feel hassled and this was by a bunch of rude young guys hanging around. In the souks, we did get addressed by vendors but as soon as we said “no merci” or Amanda told them no in Arabic, they let us be.
I think that if you use your wits, you should be fine. Just realize you’ll probably get a bit of extra male attention.
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