10 Day Morocco Road Trip

windy road at dades gorge

Grab your favorite snacks and get ready for an adventure, we are going on a Morocco road trip! When we were first planning our trip to Africa I was not big on the idea of renting a car. I read a lot of blog post about the various ways car companies would try to scam us and I didn’t want to deal with the stress that goes along with having a car. Rachel on the other hand saw an instagram picture of Merzouga and was determined that we got there.

After adding up the cost of buses and how hard it would be to stop all of the places we wanted to, it became clear that a Morocco road trip was the way to go and I am SO GLAD that it was! We had a blast exploring at our own pace and stopping at some hidden gems. So here is our complete 10 Day Morocco road trip itinerary. If you want to read about our whole Morocco trip click here.

mountain views morocco

Here is a video from our Morocco trip!

Day 1: Marrakesh to Essaouira

Our first day was a pretty easy one. We picked up our rental car at the Marrakesh airport and then headed for the coast. We knew we would have to backtrack to get to the mountains and desert but decided it was worth it.

Picking up the car at the airport was easy. I had to make the dreaded decision (insurance or no insurance) and decided to do what I always do and just rely on the insurance that comes with my credit card. Due to the fact that I was not getting supplemental insurance with the car rental company they did require a larger hold on my credit card. The whole process was just as easy as it is in the US. I took the money I saved by not getting insurance and upgrade to a larger car with a diesel engine. (I heard diesel fuel is much cheaper in Morocco). 

As soon as we got on the road we realized that our downloaded Google Map did not function the same way in Morocco as it does in the US (no turn by turn directions). We later found out that Google Maps does not offer turn by turn directions in Morocco and a select few other countries. The good news is the drive is fairly straightforward and you can still follow along on the map.

Once in Essaouria, we found a large parking lot full of guys yelling at us to follow them to a parking space. We haggled with a couple of different guys and then let one of them lead us to a spot. It was all a bit hectic and they did not seem to appreciate that we had talked to multiple people. That being said I was parked and felt comfortable enough to leave the car for a couple of days (after taking a photo of the man watching it and his ID.) You do not need the car while visiting Essaouria. You can walk everywhere.

We spent two nights in Essaouira. To read our entire Essaouira post click here. 

Day 4: Essaouria to Aït Benhaddou

After a great couple of days in Essaouria we were ready to continue our Morocco road trip and head into the mountains and desert.  The trip from Essaouria to Aït Benhaddou takes about 6.5 hours and you have to pass back through Marrakesh but it really isn’t too bad. We listened to audio books and took lots of pictures (the drive is beautiful). 

morocco road trip views

You will probably recognize Aït Benhaddou from one of the 20+ movies filmed there. Today the village mostly houses tourist shops and small hotels but there are still four original families living in the ancient kasbah (everyone else lives across a small river in the “new” city). If you are in the area it is worth a stop to get out and see some of the old houses.

ait-benhaddou-rocks
ait benhaddou_

We stayed two nights at an amazing bed and breakfast in Aït Benhaddou but you could probably get away with one night. Check out our hotel here.

Wind your way up to the top of the mountain for a pretty cool view of the surrounding area.

 On our second night, we hiked up a hill near our hotel for another great sunset desert view.

sunset in ait benhaddou

Funny Story: Needing a break from Moroccan cuisine, we decided to try one of the few restaurants in Aït Benhaddou and ended up with Chinese. It was actually pretty good and we saw camels walk by as we ate spring rolls!

lunch camels

Day 7: Aït Benhaddou to Dades Gorges

This is probably the most beautiful driving day of the whole Morocco road trip! We took our time driving and taking pictures so it took us about 3.5 hours to drive to Dades Gorges.

We first stopped in Ouarzazate to check out the CLA film studios. Without planning ahead, we ended up with a private tour from a high school aged guy who was so nice and super knowledgable! We got to see movie props from Gladiator, The Mummy, and Cleopatra. Then we drove onsite to a huge fort where they film Game of Thrones. It was very cool!

cla studios

Afterwards, we went off course a little to check out Fint Oasis. A true oasis, it is so lush and beautiful! There are countless palm trees in the middle of the desert and we even saw a grape vine wrapped around a date tree beside another fruit bearing plant! Rachel wanted to grab some mint tea at the Auberge La Terrasse des Delices since they have a nice view of the oasis, but we ended up getting hustled into a walking tour.

oasis morocco

After Fint Oasis, the landscape changes a bit and is gorgeous! The rock formations are beautiful. Make sure to stop for a photo opp at Monkey Fingers! We only stayed one night in Dades Gorges but it was super fun. The owners of our hotel were GREAT and played us some Moroccan music to celebrate another guest’s birthday. See where we stayed here.

monkey fingers

Day 8: Dades Gorge to Merzouga

This is another beautiful day of driving. We went up and took a picture from the top of Dades Gorge before heading out of town. It is worth the drive but definitely one of the craziest looking roads I have ever seen (similar to crossing the Andes in Chile).

windy road at dades gorge

We also stopped by Todra Gorge which was huge and reminded us a lot of the Narrows at Zion in the US. The drive to Merzouga took about 4 hours and it was super easy. When you pull into Merzouga people will try to get you to stop and book tours with them. We already had our camel trek booked so we just kept our windows up and kept driving. Our trek left that day so we were able to check in with the host, drink the customary welcome tea, eat a quick lunch and then head out into the desert to continue our “Morocco road trip” the old school way! 

todra gorge

Next stop: Sahara Desert! The Merzouga Camel Trek / Glamping was super fun. We both thought it would be cheesier than it appeared online, but it exceeded our expectations. We really got into it and dressed the part!

camel ride in sahara
camel trek

It took us about an hour and a half to make it to our camp and the ride was spectacular. The sand seems to go on forever in every direction.

sand dunes

Just before making it to camp we stopped to climb up a sand dune and watch the sunset.

The “glamping” is actually super nice. We had our own tent with queen bed and there was even a dining area in the camp. All of our food was provided and prepared by the guides and they even did a concert at the end. We were joined by another group from Portugal and Argentina so it was fun to meet some new people. The next morning we woke up around sunrise, boarded our camels, and made the hour and a half trek back to the hotel we started at. The hotel was nice enough to let us store all of our bags inside and even provided free breakfast when we got back. We booked with Auberge Le Petit Prince. Highly recommended.

Morocco Road Trip Day 9: Merzouga to Fez

After breakfast, we drove to Fez to finish our Morocco trip where it started! The drive from Merzouga to Fez is long (7 hours) but the roads are good and there isn’t really any traffic until Fez.

On the way you will pass by a monkey forest in Azrou that you should absolutely stop at. We didn’t even know it existed until we saw monkeys sitting on the side of the road! They were so fat and not shy around people!  

monkey in morocco

We had already spent a week in Fez so we only did one night on the back end. We liked our riad so much, we booked it again! When we were about 10 minutes out from returning the rental car, we got pulled over by the police. They didn’t really speak English nor did we French, and it seemed like they were trying to haggle us for some cash. We offered them a small amount, claiming it was all we had. They didn’t accept it, said something else which sounded like a warning and let us go. We were about to leave the country the next day so we ignored it and hoped they didn’t detain us in customs (unrealistic, but you never know!). Nothing ever happened (phew!).

Returning the car at the Fez airport was almost painless except they asked us to leave and get a car wash (even though we got a carwash on the way there!) We had read this might happen so be aware and allow plenty of time to return your car. (Especially if you have a flight!) And that is it, a sucessfull and amazing Morocco Road Trip!

tannery vats

Want more information to plan your Morocco road trip? Check out the Morocco Lonely Planet here.

To read about our entire Morocco trip click here. 

Roadtrippin’ in Morocco,

-Grant

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