Last spring, we hosted a workshop in Tuscany and found incredibly priced flights to Marrakech from Pisa. We traveled to Italy then Morocco with our best friends Julie + Shane (who you’ve seen many times on our blog!) and Morocco absolutely blew us away! Thankfully, they had been there several times before and had such amazing recommendations for where to stay + visit. We also explored new places together and all of us absolutely fell in love with Morocco. The colors, tiles, texture, smells, sights and sounds are overwhelming but incredible. While there are some parts of the cities that can feel a touch dangerous, overall we felt incredibly welcomed and the richness of the sights and sounds were so inspiring! I’ve included our full itinerary including all the hotels and sites we visited at the bottom of the post!
Day 1: Essaouira
We took a 5 am flight from Pisa to Marrakech, picked up our rental car and drove 2 hours and 45 minutes to the gorgeous seaside town of Essaouira. The buildings are all white and blue (giving it a little bit of a Grecian feel), and beautiful seaside town made famous by Game of Thrones as one if the iconic filming locations! We stayed at the incredible Tangaro Auberge & Spa slightly outside the main town and absolutely loved it! This entire hotel is lit by candles and fireplaces for light and is truly one of the most peaceful places ever. Also, the MINT TEA. This was our first welcome to a Moroccan riad or hotel and the tradition of welcoming guests with sweetened black / mint tea, bowls of olives, pita bread and cookies is something I’m pretty sure every hotel worldwide should adopt! If you want to stay right in the city, Villa Maroc was our second choice and looked beautiful as well!
What to do in Essaouira: Wander around the fort (you’ll recognize it from Game of Thrones!), eat delicious Moroccan food, shop for rugs, poufs, pillow covers, pottery, vases, tiles and more at the open air markets, visit the fish markets down by the ocean, and relax on a rooftop. The best meal we had was at Ramsess – truly incredible food and their tagine was to die for! Pro tip: The merchants LOVE bargaining with you! Don’t be afraid to negotiate and chat with them – they’re all kind and the negotiation is a fun part of the shopping experience in Morocco!
Day Two: Drove from Essaouira to Aït Benhaddou
The drive from Essaouira to Ait Benhaddou took about 6 hours. We passed by some pretty wild landscapes to start our journey out towards the Sahara! We drove by some pretty insane scenery, and ended our roadtrip by spending the night in Aït Benhaddou at Riad Maktoub. Our journey out to the Sarhara (Merzouga) was long and took us through some honestly sketchy roads through the mountains and deserts as we took in all the sights! Ait Benhaddou is this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site fortress in the desert that’s been used in many movies, such as Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator. We got up before sunrise the next morning so that we could explore and hike the entire town while it was empty!
Day 3: On to Merzouga + the Sahara Desert!
We got an early start for our 5.5 hour drive towards the Sahara Desert! The little town of Merzouga marks the edge of the Sahara, and you leave your cars there and travel by camel past this point! We arrived midday and quickly purchased head scarves to keep the sand and sun out of our eyes. This day and night in the Sahara Desert was easily the highlight of the trip and we LOVED the luxury desert camp we booked through! We stayed at Caravanserai Luxury Desert Camp, which included a two hour journey on camels through the desert, gorgeous glamping accommodations, all of our meals, activities, sandboards, and private bathrooms with hot & cold running water and marble showers – say what?! The ride through the desert was pretty unreal as we were surrounded by the golden sand dunes everywhere we looked. We were all pretty much like little kids experiencing such a surreal moment in time. We ran up and down the dunes playing, sandboarding, finding new vista points, taking a million photos and it was truly one of the best days I can ever remember! We finally tired out and sat down to watch the sunset together snuggled up on a dune. Our incredible hosts, the loveliest Berber tribesmen cooked us the freshest, most delicious four course dinner inside the dinner tent. Then we all gathered around the firepit while our hosts played the drums and sang late into the night…truly a surreal experience that I can’t recommend more!
Day 5: Roadtrip to Dades Gorges
We woke up in the night tucked under layers and layers of blankets to a crazy sandstorm – such a wild experience! In the morning, we were treated to a delicious breakfast, a little more sandboarding, and a morning camel ride through the desert back to Merzouga, where we grabbed our car. The drive from Merzouga to Dades Gorges took about 4 hours and we checked into the lovely Dar Jnan Tiouira Dades.
Day 5: Drive to Marrakech
After an amazing dinner at our riad and a good night’s sleep, we started the 5 hour 45 min drive towards Marrakech!
We stayed at L’Oriental Medina Riad & Spa, which is the most absolutely lovely little riad tucked down a pink city street. We were again welcomed with mint tea and snacks, then checked into our ultra chic Moroccan rooms for the afternoon. We were so excited to get out and explore everything Marrakech has to offer! After being in the wide open Sahara desert and then in the remote Dades Gorges, it was a bit of culture shock for me to experience this chaotic, overwhelming, noisy city. The beauty of the riads, hotels, and buildings in Marrakech were absolutely UNREAL.
Get lost in the souks, visit Jardin Majorelle, wander the pink streets, see the green oasis of Le Jardin Secret, do a traditional hammam, eat at :
- Al Fassia
- Atay Cafe
- Chez Chegrouni
Visit Ben Youssef Madrasa (which was sadly closed when we were there, but has some of the most beautiful tilework! Stroll through Jemaa el-Fnaa, the central square at dusk, for a visual assault of the senses – beware of the snake charmers!! We enjoyed the beautiful tilework at Bahia Palace and quite literally everywhere had stunning, colorful tiles. Visit Hotel Mamounia and El Fenn for stunning architecture and rooftop drinks.
I came across your blog accidently and so enjoyed reliving your trip. I was in Morocco in 2018 and could have been called the grandmother (as I was 74 then) of all in the tour group.. I am hoping to do a self publishing book of my trip. Would you please share the very first image of Essaouira. I would never take someone’s images without their permission. You could send as an attachment to my e-mail address.
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