One of the most amazing, restful and “magical” holidays I have ever been on. I visited Casablanca, Marrakech, Imlil, Fes, Chefchaouen, Merzouga, Bomalne, and Ouarzazate in November 2012.
Moroccans speak Arabic, French and Berber, but I found it easy to get by in English.
Accommodation is cheap (backpacking accommodation available from 50 dirhams for a dorm and 100 dirhams private), food is cheap (you have to try the tagines), and transport is easily available and cheap.
Let’s start with some details on the transport options:
There is a major rail network running from North (beyond Fes) to South (beyond Marrakech).
Each city/town has a Gare Routiere (bus and taxi rank), with transport that pretty much goes anywhere in the country.
Grande Taxis (old Mercedes Benz) are used for inter-city / inter-town transport, and transport 6 passengers.
Petit taxis only travel a few kilometers within a city. They take up to 3 passengers (your driver will pickup and drop other passengers while transporting you to your destination).
All the taxis are negotiable – you have to request and negotiate the rate upfront.
There are 2 official bus companies in the country – CTM and SupraTours (run by the train company) which have reliable buses with scheduled departure/arrival times.
You can also use public busses (if their departure time is more convenient, or if they go to places that the official buses do not go). The public buses may be less clean, and make more stops along the way.
My itinerary / route around Morocco:
Flew into Casablanca airport.
Took a train from Casablanca airport to L’Oasis station where I transferred to another train to Casa Port station. My hotel was a short walk away.
From Casablanca I took a 3 hour train to Marrakech (1st class).
In Marrakech, I took a local taxi to Gare Routiere where I got a Grande Taxi to Imlil.
From Imlil I took a Grande Taxi to Marrakech Gare Central, where I got a Petit Taxi to Gare Marrakech (train station).
From Marrakech I took a 7hr 1st class train to Fes.
At Fes station I walked to a hotel in town.
In Fes I took a Petit Taxi to Gare Routiere where I got a public bus to Chefchaouen.
From Chefchaouen I took a CTM bus back to Fes.
Frim Fes I took an overnight Supratours bus (Supratours office is opposite the Rail station) to Merzouga town.
In Merzouga town I walked to/from Hassi Labied (but you can hire a Grande Taxi for 50 dirham each way).
From Merzouga I took a Supratours bus to Tinghir Gare Routiere. A short walk from Gare Routiere is another smaller local taxi rank with Grande Taxis to/from
Todra Gorge. Beware of the touts at Gare Routiere. If you need directions to the local taxi rank (3 minute walk), ask a taxi driver for help.
From Tinghir I took a Grande Taxi to Boumalne (I spent the night in Boumalne but others usually stay 15km away in Dades Gorge).
From Boumalne Gare Routiere there is a mini-bus that regularly departs to/from Dades Gorgen (picking and dropping off passengers along the route).
From Boualne I booked a Supratours bus to Ouarzazate.
In Ouarzazate I had to take a Grande Taxi from Gare Routiere to/from Ait Benhaddou.
From Ouarzazate Gare Routiere I took a public bus to Marrakech (it is safer to travel this route in the day).
From Marrakech I took a train back to Casablanca, and back to the airport.
Hotels and Hostels:
Hotel Amoud (near Casa Port station) – decent room, okay breakfast Ibis Casa Voyageurs (shares the same parking lot as Casa Voyageurs station) – nice room, convenient for a one night stay if you are planning to take the train early the next day.
Rainbow Marrakech hostel in the Old medinah – I loved this place, spent 8 nights here and would go back. Very friendly staff, good rates, awesome backpacking atmosphere, free breakfast and wifi.
Spent one night at Refuge Toubkal Les Mouflon (minimum 4 hour hike to the base camp on the route to the summit of Mt Toubkal). Spent another night at Annexe Toubkal les Mouflon – a riad (guest house) in Imlil, comfortable accommodations, good food, very friendly.
Hotel Sofia – Nice hotel in the new city, a short walk from Fes railway station with lots of restaurants nearby.
Funky Fes hostel in the Old Medinah – spent one night in the dorm. They cook Moroccan and western meals. Nice bathrooms. Good backpacker atmosphere, with lots of tours that the hostel can arrange.
Stayed at Chez Youssef lodge in Merzouga town – a riad owned by Youssef. Comfortable room with heating/cooling, tasty meals.
I pitched up in Boumalne looking for accommodation (could not find anything online). Stayed a Hotel Tamazirte (short walk from Gare Routiere) – 50 dirham shared or 100 dirham private room. Had a good tagine in the restaurant below. Friendly owner.
Stayed in Hotel Royal – it is the best located, cheap and clean (but simple) accommodation in Ouarzazate. Located on the central square. You cant book the hotel online, but you can contact them for availability: firstname.lastname@example.org / tel: 00212 524 882 258
Unfortunately I did not get a chance to visit Essaouria (seaside town) with great seafood, and good accommodation.
Your best resource is Google – you will find tons of advice on each of the cities/towns/tours.
For accommodation, I relied on hostelbookers.com – got the best rates and up-to-date reviews on locations.
Also check out Jonathan’s blog for more details on Morocco – www.backpackingsolo.com
My Photo Albums:
Here is a great vid for those considering hiking up Mt. Toubkal near Imlil (the highest mountain in North Africa):