Morocco is a country with a truly vibrant culture and a rich history. It is a popular travel destination that offers a whole range of experiences, from the sandy beaches of Agadir to the medieval old town of Fes. I’ve just had the opportunity to spend 4 days in Morocco on a small getaway where I tried to see and do as much as possible. Morocco is a big country that definitely deserves a lot of time to be properly discovered, but even if you are short on time or money, you can definitely experience a great deal.
Day 1: Tangiers
We took the ferry from Algeciras in Spain to the new Tangiers Med Port. Tangiers Med is just under an hour from the city of Tangiers so make sure you factor that into your planning. The port has a money exchange, so make sure you get some Moroccan Dirham (10 MAD for $1).
You need to leave the port and walk up to the main road to get the bus, which only costs $0.75. You can also catch one of the old yellow Mercedes taxis on the main road, which is usually a lot faster. A taxi will generally cost between $1.50 and $3, depending on the season and how well you negotiate. Practically everything in Morocco is negotiable and you can always aim to knock at least a third off of any price. Whatever you do, avoid taking one of the taxis directly at the port. They will rip you off.
Once you arrive at Tangiers, it is best to go and discover the old town. We travelled in winter, which is a great time if you want to avoid the masses of tourists and experience the real Morocco. Lack of tourism also means that you have a lot more leverage when negotiating prices.
Tangiers has a very nice old town with winding streets marked by little markets and stands. Spices, leather, ceramics and natural cosmetics are the most popular and original things you can buy in Morocco. Tangiers usually gets a bit rep for being incredibly touristic and quite unauthentic. However, if you go into the heart of the Medina (the old town), you will find a lot of great shops, restaurants and cafes. Moroccan men of all ages sit in the cafes for hours, watching football and sipping on sweet Moroccan mint tea, often smoking hash as they do so. It is definitely an experience and is especially nice during winter.
The old town is definitely the nicest part of the city, but you can easily visit the new town and other sights around the city via taxi, especially if you are looking to go out for drinks. The coffee in Tangiers is great! Always take the blue taxis known as “petit taxi”; they have to charge by the meter and you rarely pay more than $2-3 to go anywhere in the city.
Tangiers has a lot of great hotels, hostels and guesthouses. We stayed at the Dar Rif Guest House, which is great if you want to save money and have a real experience of Moroccan hospitality.
Day 2: Chefchaoen
A day is enough to see most of what Tangiers has to offer so after breakfast we decided to take a 2.5 hour bus to Chefchaoen. Head to the bus station in Tangiers and ask for the next bus to Chefchaoen. You will likely see Moroccan men in Berber robes repeatedly shouting “chaoen chaoen chaoen”. The bus costs about $3.50.
Chefchaoen is a uniquely beautiful city in the mountains of Northern Morocco. It is a third of the way between Tangiers and Fes and was once an old Spanish town. This is a very traditional town rife with Moroccan and Berber tradition. The remarkable thing about Chefchaoen is that all of the buildings are painted in white and light blue. The theme extends across the whole town and is meant to be of religious and spiritual significance. Chefchaoen is definitely a sight worth seeing and the best you can do is to just spend hours getting lost in its pretty streets and markets.
Chefchaoen is truly authentic and is the place where we had the best food of the entire trip. If you walk around the Medina, you will find some very traditional places that are packed with locals chowing down on tajine, couscous, shish kebab and fried fish. The place we ate at was packed with men of all ages, crammed into a small place as strangers sit and eat together. We had Moroccan feast with salad, chicken tajine, chicken kebab, rice, fried potatoes and drinks for $3 each.
You can see most of the town in 5 hours, which is why we decided to take the 6 PM bus straight to Fes so that we could get up early the next day to discover Morocco’s oldest city and former capital.
Day 3: Fes
It is not without reason that every list of “places to visit this year” includes Fes. If you want to experience the medieval Morocco, this is the place to go. We spent our whole time in the amazing old town of the city. Fes el Bali, also known as the old medina, is the largest pedestrian no-car zone in the world, with 90,000 streets and 14 gates within the district’s beautiful medieval walls.
Getting around Fes el Bali can be quite daunting and young Moroccans take full advantage of this. On a number of occasions you will be confronted by young men telling you not to go down a certain road, claiming it to be closed, dangerous or only accessible for Muslims. Always ignore what they say as they try to trick gullible tourists into getting scared and paying them to show them the way.
Finding your way around can be hard, so it is wise to have Google Maps ready in advance. If you are staying in the old town, speak with your accommodation before arriving as they will likely offer to help you find your way. Always find out the name of the nearest gate so that you can find your way back via taxi ($1) if lost.
We stayed at a riad called Kasr Nada, which is an absolute must while at Morocco. This riad was a brand new one that had recently been opened by two young men. On the inside, this building was a tall, beautiful palace-like structure decorated with mosaics and traditional Moroccan painting. The hosts were very hospitable and organised for a student to give us a tour of the old medina.
Getting around can be tough, so it is a good idea to ask your accommodation to organise for a guide to show you around the city. Our guide took us around for hours, showing us the famous ceramic shops, the UNESCO heritage tannery and various other sites across Fes el Bali. Guides tend to work on the basis of tips, so it is definitely worth it if you want to see everything.
Day 4: Meknes
After an intense action-packed day in Fes, we moved on to our last destination: Meknes. The train from Fes to Meknes costs $2.20 and only takes 35 minutes. Meknes is less popular among tourists, but highly spoken of by locals.
The fact that fewer tourists visit Meknes is reflected in the city’s prices; you can have a full meal for less than $3 and accommodation can be found for very cheap. The city boasts some beautiful riads. We stayed at the Riad D’Or, a stunning 18th century palace for just $20 a night.
Meknes is the best place for buying souvenirs, especially if you want to buy things like spices, tea and leather. The small streets are filled with market stands that sell everything you could ever want at great prices.
In terms of sights, Meknes is a city that is best discovered by walking through the small avenues of the Medina. The city walls are beautiful and the grand mosque is also worth peeking into, though keep in mind that only Muslims may enter. Meknes also has a museum, though it must be said that it is quite small and underwhelming. The main square of the city is definitely worth seeing as crowds gather to see street performers from all walks of life. From snake charmers to acrobats, the main square of Meknes has it all. Meknes is a great place for discovering the real Morocco in a more current sense.
Morocco is an often-overlooked jewel that offers all sorts of adventures and experiences, even if you only have a few days to spend there.