It has been almost a year since me and my friends haven’t met all together. Some of us live in Riga, some in Vienna, some in Zurich but we try to stay in touch and make some epic trips together. This time we decided to do something exotic and settled on Morocco.

Several arguments were supporting the idea of going to Morocco including surfing, star gazing, having a little sunbath in late September and hearing some cool reviews of Morocco trips from our close friends.

Morocco is a huge country located in the northern Africa populated by 33 million inhabitants, 99% of which are Arabs. Interestingly, Morocco claims its right to the territory of West Sahara located to the south of Morocco territory, which is actually not acknowledged by the rest of the world, but also is not opposed. The territory is amazingly enormous but is pretty much useless as it consists mainly of the deserted land.

Morocco has a very rich history dating back years B.C., but in the new times Morocco was conquered by the Spanish and the French. You can indisputably spot the influence of the latter as French language is widely spoken in Morocco. Knowing French a little bit will get you a long way traveling there.

The local currency is called Dirham, which is equal to approximately 0.09 EUR. I believe that it’s better to change the currency in a big city in Morocco rather than in Europe or any other county. We did it at an exchange office in Marrakech. Keep in mind that paying with a credit card could be troublesome in small cities therefore be sure to bring cash with you.

When going to Morocco you should be open-minded, be ready for adventures, have low expectations and take a few precautions. I would not advise to go there if you are up for a luxury vacation by the beach, but rather if you are an adventurous traveler ready to explore something new, get to know new culture and you are not afraid of some difficulties or lack of comfort.

A regular street in Morocco. Image by mhobl / CC2.0

A regular street in Morocco. Image by mhobl / CC2.0


I have read a lot about the countries that are lagging behind on the development and are struggling to keep the level of civilization and hygiene of the first world countries but I have never imagined what it would be like to be in the middle of such a country. I was at first shocked to see the old town in Marrakech, dirty as it was, people running around trying to sell stuff, shouting at you, riding motorbikes right in the middle of the crowd. Being in the epicenter of this chaotic movement made me exit from my comfort zone for a while which made me very intense. I was anxious that the whole vacation would be alike with a lot of worrying, looking around and staying out of trouble. But it was just the matter of the first night. On the second day I got used to the surrounding disorder and got to live with a thought that I will have to spend a week in such an environment. So hey, I have a whole week of vacation with my closest friends and an adventure to never forget right in front of me, it’s time to relax and have some fun!

Day 1 and Day 2: Marrakech

We all agreed that Marrakech would be a perfect place to meet, as all of us were traveling from the different cities, although most of us flew Ryanair from Paris Beauvais airport.

In the airport terminal we went through the passport control (most of us did not need the visa as we were Latvian and Estonian citizens) and rented a car with Hertz (booked through autoeurope.com).

We choose one of the cheapest options and we did regret because it turned out to be a very small car for the five of us. We got an old Renault with numerous scrapes – the good thing we took the full insurance with no excess so that we did not have to worry about any damage to the car. My advice is to take the full insurance if you ever decide to rent a car in Morocco. Locals drive like insane there and you will feel much more secure having purchased the insurance. In total we spent around 400-450 EUR on the car with the full insurance.

In general, traveling in Morocco is quite cheap. We booked hostel rooms for 10-20 EUR per night and had meals at around 15-20 EUR per day so the most expensive parts of the travel were the plane tickets and the rental car.

We heard plenty of recommendations to keep our eyes open when dealing with Arabs especially in the touristic places. They seem very friendly but there is clear a reason for that. Tourism in Morocco is one of the most important sources of income.

But we didn’t expect to be tricked that quick :) When leaving the airport we asked a random guy for directions to our hostel. He jumped on his motorcycle and led the way. We tried to lose him, because we knew, that we will have to pay him for his service, but we were shocked when he found us in the traffic chaos. Eventually he led us to the hostel and we paid him around 6 EUR.

I feel obliged to say a few words about traffic in Morocco and especially in Marrakech. It’s crazy! There are tons of people going by motorcycles and passing by left and right. In addition to that, pedestrians are crossing the streets without looking around. Just be very careful and always watch in all directions – front, back, left, right! If you are an inexperienced driver or you are already scared from my story- don’t risk, because it is really that crazy. Just take a cab in the city and rent a car to go to the other cities, as the traffic on the highways is more or less well organized.

We got to a car park (I was in complete shock after driving in Marrakech), paid for the parking, and went to our hostel in the old city of Marrakech.

Our booked Hostel Riad Marrakech Rouge turned out to be brilliant. The hosts were extremely hospitable, offering us the local mint tea and a very good water pipe while we were waiting for our check-in. To our surprise all the rooms in the hostel were open and it was impossible to lock them. There were small lockers that could fit your phone, wallet and passport, but nothing more. When going out, you just leave your luggage in the room without any locks and hope for the best. In fact, Marrakech turned out to be a very safe place and nothing happened to our stuff or to us.

We went to grab a bite on the main square of Marrakech and have a walk around the city and the central market. We still were a bit worried and did not know what to expect from Morocco, bet we were also excited as we gathered together and still had 7 days of adventure in front of us.

Market in Marrakech. Image by SuperCar-RoadTrip.fr / CC2.0

Market in Marrakech. Image by SuperCar-RoadTrip.fr / CC2.0


Moroccan food deserves a special word to be said. It’s surprisingly monotone and tasteless in most of the cases. The main dish that you will find in any restaurant is a Tajine – actually “tajine” is a ceramic bowl, which is used for cooking, but it’s also a dish consisting of couscous, steamed vegetables and steamed meat. Unfortunately, there are almost no spices and hence no taste. After the whole week of traveling, we couldn’t look at the Tajine anymore. We ate it almost every day due to the lack of assortment in the menu of restaurants in Morocco. On the contrary, we really liked teas. Moroccans drink a lot of mint tea and they serve it in the special teapots, making the ritual of drinking tea thrilling.
Tajine. Image by SuperCar-RoadTrip.fr / CC2.0

Tajine. Image by SuperCar-RoadTrip.fr / CC2.0


As it is a Muslim country, Alcohol is rare in Morocco. You can only find it in upscale hotels and newer parts of the large cities like Marrakech. So if you plan drinking in Morocco, better buy alcohol at you departure airport duty-free.

In addition to that I feel obliged to warn fellow travelers that sanitary levels in Morocco are way below the European ones, therefore try to eat in clean and touristic places like large restaurants, hotels etc. The thing is that our stomachs in general are used to other type of bacteria, therefore when Moroccan bacteria gets in, our body feels the change and reacts to it. So three out of five guys in our group felt sick at some point of the trip. Don’t let a bacteria spoil you adventure in Morocco.

The old part of Marrakech is called Medina and it’s the place where the most of the attractions are located. Apart from the central square and the market, we went to see Mosque in Medina which is the largest mosque in Marrakech and Palais El Badi that dates back to the 16th century. In Palais El Badi you get an opportunity to step up to the roof of one of the buildings and overlook Marrakech from the top.

In general, I would say that the market was the biggest impression of Marrakech. Imagine an anthill and the ants running around the narrow passages doing their usual ant stuff. It’s like that but also noisy, pushy and thousands of motorbikes passing you by on the narrow streets of the market. Nevertheless, on the market you can buy almost anything from food to clothes and from electronics to jewelry. The variety of the merchandise is impressive. Be prepared to have a map, because the market is huge and you might just get lost.

Marrakech Market. Image by tomaszd / CC2.0

Marrakech Market. Image by tomaszd / CC2.0


In total we spent one evening and one morning in Marrakech, and had to move out by mid-day. For that day we had in plan to get to our surfing camp near Taghazout but on our way we had in plan to visit a local cheese farm and the city of Essaouira.

Day 2 – La Fromagerie, Essaouira, Taghazout

I was driving that day and found a relief when we left Marrakech and moved to a highway. As I mentioned previously, traffic in Marrakech was outrageous, while on the highway it is perfectly normal. In general, the roads in Morocco are surprisingly good. I have to admit that roads in my home country Latvia are so much worse than in Morocco. We almost had no problem getting around by car and enjoyed our journey despite the small size of our car :)

A few words about traffic regulation in Morocco. It is not uncommon to encounter police on the road and you will usually see the warning signs ~200m before the police post so you have to slow down. At any moment policeman can stop your car to check for the papers so be really slow. We got pulled over by a policeman for not wearing rear passenger seat belts. The policeman tried to give us a fine, but somehow we managed to negotiate. Maybe he was just trying to get a bribe from us, but we never gave him any money.

Our first stop was at the goat cheese farm and restaurant near Essaouira called La Fromagerie. You have to follow the signs on the road from Marrakech to Essaouira to find it. It is located just 10km from Essaouira on the route number 301. Once you take a turn on the unpaved road it gets really easy to find it. I must say that it was the best dining experience in Morocco. We had some great salads, fruits, cheese and perfect rose wine. It was also the most expensive meal in Morocco as we paid around 25-30EUR per person, but it was totally worth it. The host was very welcoming and came to have a chat with us from time to time. I definitely advise visiting the restaurant.

Next we headed to Essaouira, a small fisherman town by the ocean, parked our car and went for a short walk. We walked to the seaport, where fishermen were arriving with some freshly caught fish, and walked through the old part of Essaouira. The city is calm and it was nice to be in it after the crazy Marrakech rhythm.

Essaouira. Image by björn hornemann / CC2.0

Essaouira. Image by björn hornemann / CC2.0


After watching the beautiful sunset we went back to our car and drove to surf camp HashPoint near Taghazout. It was a bit difficult to find as we parked our car on the street and had to walk through some narrow streets but eventually we found it. We were given a small apartment with 5 single beds in one room, a small kitchen, a shower and a huge terrace with the ocean view. The terrace was the best part as we could sit there and enjoy the peaceful scenery of the ocean and listen to the waves hit the rocks just below us. We left the window open to hear the sound of the ocean and went to sleep.
Taghazout. Image by heatheronhertravels / CC2.0

Taghazout. Image by heatheronhertravels / CC2.0

Day 3 and Day 4 – Surfing in Taghazout, Paradise Valley, Mirleft

In the morning we ate a breakfast at the camp, went to pick up the wet suits and the surfboards and went to the parking spot. An old Mercedes taxi was waiting for us. But hey, it was five of us, and there was only one car. It’s a no problem in Morocco. The driver took all of us to the bay, which was about 15 minutes drive away from the camp where we unpacked the stuff and started our surfing lesson.

Some of us did surf before, some didn’t, but all of us were able to catch the waves and stand on our surfboards by the end of the day. If you do at least some sports on a regular basis, it will most definitely nail it. We had our surfing time from 10am till 5pm and did a mistake of not having breaks on the first day. We were deadly tired and it was difficult to make ourselves get up next morning and go through another day of surfing. But we were still glad that we did it!

Surfing in Taghazout. Image by heatheronhertravels / CC2.0

Surfing in Taghazout. Image by heatheronhertravels / CC2.0


By the way, if you plan surfing, don’t forget to bring a sunscreen. Otherwise, you will get sunburns instantly as the ocean water magnifies the sunbeams and you are directly exposed to them almost all day long.

In general we were very pleased with the surf camp. We had breakfasts in the mornings and a dinner in the evening. The camp provided an instructor, a wetsuit, a surfboard and some water and sandwiches on the beach during our surf session so that we didn’t have to worry about anything. It all cost us 120EUR per person for two nights and two days of surfing.

On the second day we finished surfing a bit earlier as we wanted to get to the Paradise Valley. It is located in the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains and it was a 40-50 minute drive from Taghazout. Paradise Valley is known for its beautiful hikes and cliff jumping. We parked our car and followed a trail for1-1.5 hours. The trail itself was very scenic changing from desert scenery to trees and bushes and finally to a mountain river with high cliffs. We got to the place which is supposed to be suitable for cliff jumping but were standing there for 20 minutes and trying to figure out how do we get to a cliff. We finally found a way to climb down and then climb up the cliff, which we did with shaking feet, as it was quite high and slippery. But what a fun it was to jump down the cliff into the perfectly green water! It wasn’t that high but was still an unforgettable experience.

Paradise Valley Cliff Jumping. Image heatheronhertravels / CC2.0

Paradise Valley Cliff Jumping. Image heatheronhertravels / CC2.0


We got back to the parking lot before the dark and drove to Mirleft where we stayed at Mirleft Tayought Guest House. The road to Mirleft was a bit creepy as it got dark and the highway was empty. The city of Mirleft also looked as if it was abandoned, but we were too tired to worry about it.

Day 5 – Legzira, Zagora

After a good night sleep at the guesthouse we ate an omelet at one of the local places (which was a total mistake by the way – you should not eat at non tourist places in small towns) and went to see a stunning wonder of the world – an arch on the beach of Legzira. We parked our car and went by foot for around 20 minutes. But you can see the huge arch from far far away. It’s a red stone cliff with an arch under it, which was formed by the strong waves very common in this area. Being below the cliff you wonder how is that possible that the nature made such an amazing spot. And yet it is possible right there in Legzira.

Legzira Natural Arch. Image by Dale Harvey / CC2.0

Legzira Natural Arch. Image by Dale Harvey / CC2.0


We had to move out as we booked a hotel in an observatory in the Sahara desert in the city of Zagora, which was an 8-hour drive from Legzira. It was a long way and at some point we looked at the map and decided to take a detour due to constant road works on the main highway. At first it appeared as a great idea. The road was scenic with a red desert, which reminded me of Arizona desert in the US. Then it got a bit creepy as we went through a couple of small towns and there were no tourists at all. And then it got really scary. We were driving through the savannah desert where the only living creatures we saw were camels. At some point the road ended and there were only small rocks leading the way forward. It was too late to turn back as we went 6 hours out of 8, so there was only an option to go straight. Then the sun went down and the rocks became larger. We felt how the rocks hit the bottom of our car and how our car struggles to go through. We knew that if we stop there then we’re not going to get our car out of there so we just pushed the gas pedal and went through.
In the Middle of Nowhere in Morocco. Image by Christiaan Triebert / CC2.0

In the Middle of Nowhere in Morocco. Image by Christiaan Triebert / CC2.0


Eventually we got to a civilization and ended up in our booked Kasbah Hotel SaharaSky. The host was a successful German guy, who lived in Morocco for many years and told some interesting stories about Morocco. For example, he was telling how people get from Algeria and Morocco to Spain illegally for 5000 EUR or how his Moroccan waitresses keep marrying hotel hosts and keep quitting the job.

The main reason we were going through the all-day drive was to enjoy stargazing in the desert. Guess what. Out of 7 days when we were in Morocco it was the only day with the cloudy sky, which was a real obstacle for watching the stars. Fortunately for us at 4 a.m. the sky became a bit clear and we got a chance to look at stars, the Moon and the Jupiter. I was just stunned by the Jupiter, how close it was in the telescope and how you can actually see the red spot, which is a long-lasting storm on the planet. Stargazing wouldn’t be as amazing as it was if it wasn’t for Patrick, the Belgian scientist who answered every question we had. He was a bit like a mad scientist but in a funny way.

Jupiter. Image by tonynetone / CC2.0

Jupiter. Image by tonynetone / CC2.0

Day 6 and Day 7- Ouarzazate, Imlil

The next morning we had a choice to make – either go camping to the Sahara desert and stay the night in or go to Imlil to hike the mountain. To be honest we were tired of the heat and so many flies kept flying around, so we decided it was time to go.

On the road to Imlil we took a stop at a city called Ouarzazate.

Ouarzazate. Image by Aleksejs Kolpakovs

Ouarzazate. Image by Aleksejs Kolpakovs


It’s a small town inhabited by Berbers with their own special culture and their own language. The city is also known for its movie-making studio, as some of the famous movies including Game of Thrones were shoot in Ouarzazate. In fact a movie was shot right there when we were taking a walk so we used the situation to take a picture :D
Gotten Into Some Trouble in Ourzazate. Image by local Berber with a Sward.

Gotten Into Some Trouble in Ourzazate. Image by local Berber with a Sward.


We took off to Imlil and arrived when it was already dark. We got two rooms in Riad Oussagou and went straight to bed, as we had to wake up early next morning to conquer the long hike. So we did wake up early, said happy birthday to Vitaly and went straight to the mountains.

It was quite warm outside, but some locals warned us that we have to take warm clothes with us, as it gets chilly on the top. Our total hike was around 18km and we did in 7 hours, taking few small breaks and one big break to eat an omelet somewhere high in the mountains. We took the Mount Toubkal trail and went about ¼ of it. Mount Tobukal is the highest peak of the Atlas Mountains and could be reached within two days. Halfway to the peak there is a refugee camp, where you can stay for the night. Keep in mind that it gets quite cold and windy as you approach ⅓ of the way, so bring warm clothes and blankets for the night if your intention is to conquer the peak. We had a more relaxed aim of hiking as much as we can and getting back to our hotel before it gets dark. The road was very scenic, with changing sceneries from rocky mountains to green valleys and waterfalls. During our long break we just sat on the mountain with the stunning view on an alley and had a nice talk about “the purpose of life”.

High Atlas Mountains. Image by Dirk-Heine / CC2.0

High Atlas Mountains. Image by Dirk-Heine / CC2.0


On our way back we caught a pouring rain, which made us think that we wouldn’t say no to the Moroccan sauna that is called hammam. When we arrived to the hotel, we researched for hammams in Imlil and found one somewhere in the center (if you can call it the center). Even after being in Morocco for almost a week we caught ourselves into the same trap :) Some kids started showing us the way and did not let us go without getting some spare change from us. I guess you just have to account for that when you are going to Morocco.

So we paid for the hammam and got in. We changed to our swimsuits in the changing room and went to the main rooms. There were two areas with tile floors and walls. The first room was for getting water and washing up but the second room was for lying on the floor, getting warm and getting massaged with a hard sponge. When we entered the chamber we noticed that only local guys are there and there are no tourists. We started to get worried for our stuff as there were no lockers and of course for ourselves as we are 4 tourists and there are around 20 locals. But our worries had absolutely no grounds. The locals were very helpful by telling us how to get the best of the hammam experience and after couple of minutes we were all lying on the tile floor enjoying the warmth and relaxing our tired bodies from the long hike.

We also did use the hard sponges for massage and for washing up and we went home clean and happy. On the way to the hotel we stopped by another hotel to get something to eat and I believe it was a tajine again :)

Day 8 and Day 9 – Marrakech and the Time to Go Back

Next morning we woke up and went back to Marrakech as it was the last day before we all had to fly back home. We stacked up some souvenirs from the market, had a final dinner and went back to a hostel. Last night we stayed at the Hostel Waka Waka and it was a disaster – the staff was unfriendly, the hostel was noisy and unbearably hot so that we couldn’t sleep. Good thing that we had to wake up at 6 am to go to the airport. We were so close to posting bad reviews with a picture of a bug that we found somewhere in the other city :D But we didn’t.

By that time we were all very tired as we had so many new impressions and we did a huge road trip through the country. We got ripped off for the last time in the airport when we tried to return our rental car 30 minutes earlier than we should according to our booking agreement. We casually bribed the counter guy 10 EUR to avoid the 30 EUR fine and went straight to the airport gate.

Final Words

On our way back we stopped in London for a 5-hour layover so we managed to go to the city to grab some burgers and drink a beer or two. It was such a pleasure to be back to the civilization with the regular food and nice beer. It made me think that I will sure value everyday things and comfort much more after returning from the trip to Morocco.

I would say that adventurous travelers should definitely visit Morocco at least once and experience the change of culture, the change of rhythm and perhaps even the change of values. It is not one of those trips, when you return and have nothing to remember except for lying on a beach for the whole vacation. It’s the experience you will remember for a long time.

Check out other destinations on the Trip Center Blogs and stay tuned for more posts!