5 Days in Morocco - From Marrakech to the Sahara Desert
Morocco…it always seemed like a world away + was consistently top of my list on dream spots to visit. So this summer, I decided while I was traveling around Europe, to tack on a week to Morocco with our mum. Getting to experience this country was truly a dream come true + I can’t wait to share with you! Read on to see where to play + stay. As a reminder, we write travel guides for every major destination that we visit. If you’re planning a trip to somewhere other than Morocco, browse all of our guides, as well as a complete list of where we’ve been, HERE.
When I first booked my trip, I had planned to have 2 nights + a full day in Marrakech before heading to the desert. A cancelled flight, however, changed this plan so I ended up missing out on a day in Marrakech. The first night, I stayed at Riad Les Ammonites which we booked through Airbnb. I wish I could have stayed here longer - it was absolutely stunning + the service was incredible!!
Because of my cancelled flight, my first full day was spent traveling to the Sahara Desert. I booked through Marrakech Desert Trips for the 3 day desert tour. The first day, we drove through the Atlas Mountains to Boumalne Dades. The great thing about this tour is that you have your own private car + driver. That means any place you want to stop for pictures or for lunch, you can do it with no problem! It also means, if one of the drivers recommended stops doesn’t interest you, you can keep going + not waste your time. We stopped for the night at Hotel Babylon + enjoyed dinner + live music tucked into the mountains.
On our second day, we continued our drive to the Sahara. I’m not going to lie, the drive is long + we started to get to the point where we just wanted to get there. The tricky thing is, however, that the desert is HOT (shocker, I know) so we had to wait around for a little bit before driving all the way in because otherwise it’s simply too hot in the desert.
When we arrived, we pulled into a little hotel across the street from the Sahara (blew my mind that there was literally just a road + then the Sahara…I’d always imagined it being so much more remote). At the hotel we were able to drop off our suitcases + we packed a small bag with our passports, wallets + phones. Then came the most insane moment of my life…our camel ride through the Sahara Desert!!!
Our suitcases were driven through the desert to the campsite while we hopped on the camels for the ride. It was 108 degrees when we were riding the camels for two hours…make sure to bring plenty of water + lots of sunscreen! I opted to wear long pants + a long sleeve shirt because even though I was wearing sunscreen, my skin is pretty fair + I didn’t want to risk getting a terrible sunburn. I, + everyone else on the camel ride, also wore scarves over our heads. This helped to keep us cool + prevented me from getting a dreaded scalp sunburn!
Seeing the sand dunes that were SO orange will forever be one of my favorite memories + a total bucket list moment. We stopped about 1.5 hours in to watch the sunset over the dunes before continuing to our campsite. This is something that I would 100% recommend to anyone going to Morocco + I would do it all over again.
We then got to the campsite + were greeted with tea + cookies in a little outdoor living room area with millions of pillows + soft lighting. Our private tent was incredible + we each got our own bed. We didn’t pay extra for a tent with a bathroom, but ended up getting one which we appreciated! After we settled into our tent, our bags were brought to our tent + we got to head to a large tent for dinner. Live music followed the dinner + it was all an incredible experience.
The next morning, we opted to drive back to the hotel we had started in yesterday rather than camel ride back. This allowed us to get an extra hour of sleep + enjoy the sunrise over the Sahara + take some great pictures. It was also pretty cool getting to drive back through the sand dunes + took only 20 minutes.
Day 3 left us to drive back into Marrakech. Because I’d lost a day in Marrakech due to my cancelled flight, we opted to head straight back to Marrakech versus stopping along the way.
When we made it back to Marrakech we checked into Riad Puchka. The staff here was incredibly nice + accommodating, however, I think the location + room at Riad Les Ammonites was nicer. After freshening up, we spent the evening wandering the Souks. I’m not going to lie, I was dressed conservatively, but still experienced a lot of comments from the younger men as we passed. Nothing went further than commentary, staring, + a few walking beside us for a few steps, so at the end of the day it was relatively harmless. It was, however, overwhelming + off putting at first to try to navigate confusing alleyways + also avoid drawing any attention to us.
We woke up early to try to beat the heat + ventured over to Le Jardin Secret. Tucked in behind the hustle + bustle of the streets of Marrakech is Le Jardin Secret. The garden was stunning + was a great way to spend the morning. It’s only $3 for students + $5 for adults which is a great value. There is a restaurant in the garden for you to enjoy, but we opted to visit nearby Le Jardin for a quick bite to eat + a yummy juice.
In Marrakech, we would head back to the riad to relax out of the heat for a few hours. Before dinner, we headed to Farnatchi Spa for a traditional Hammam. It was $55/per person for a private Royal Hammam. I’m not going to lie, I’m NOT the person that openly changes in the locker room, so the thought of doing a Hammam was a little scary to me since I’d heard you’re completely nude. At Farnatchi, they gave us a little apron that you use to cover your bottom half. For me, this helped ease me into the process + made me feel more comfortable. We then went into a steam room + laid down for ~15 minutes. Then, our masseuse came back in + applied black soap to us + scrubbed it down with a mitt to get all of the dead skin off. After that, she rinsed the soap off of us + applied a clay. We again steamed with the clay on for 10 minutes before she again returned to rinse the clay off. To end it all, she massaged rose oil into our skin + that was that!
The Hammam was a great way to relax + I would do it again. Farnatchi was clean + relaxing + much more affordable than some of the other options that we read about online.
After our Hammam, we ventured over to Nomad for dinner. This was hands down our favorite dinner spot we enjoyed during our stay in Marrakech. The rooftop gives great views overlooking a small square + all the shops. The service here was also amazing. We ordered an appetizer that ended up not being for us (bone marrow…we tried to be adventurous). Of course, when we order food + there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, but we just don’t like it, we still expect to pay for it. Our waiter saw we didn’t eat it or enjoy it + took it off our bill for us…truly exceptional service + attention!
We spent day 5 venturing outside of the Old Medina (which is located inside the walls) to visit Le Jardin Majorelle. Another garden, this one far larger than La Jardin Secret. We got to the garden at 9am + there was practically no one there. The garden can be a great spot to get pictures, but you do want to get there early to avoid some crazy crowds! We popped into the cafe here to enjoy a coffee, juice + a quick treat!
After Le Jardin Majorelle, we went next door to Musee Yves Saint Laurent. I had no idea what a connection Yves Saint Laurent had to Morocco + it was a great museum! When we visited there was a traveling exhibit of Berber made rugs, as well as an incredible exhibit on many of YSL’s designs + creations, as well as a timeline of his success. The museum was incredibly interesting to me + I would argue would be interesting even to people who wouldn’t typically refer to themselves as “fashionistas.”
After the museum, we visited the stores across the street + I will say it was relaxing to be able to look at something in the store without immediately having someone come over to you to try to sell it (this is the case in the Souks). We then walked to a small grocery store to pick up a bottle of wine. Alcohol is not generally sold in the Old Medina, so we took this opportunity to buy wine while we could.
We then ventured back to our riad to beat the heat, + enjoy our rose by the pool. For dinner, we headed to Nomad’s sister restaurant, Cafe Des Epices. The food here was still good, but I would say Cafe Des Epices is better for lunch + Nomad is superior in terms of ambiance + food.
Tips + Tricks:
Dress Conservatively - If you’re staying the Old Medina this is especially important. Even when my shoulders were covered + my dresses went below the knees, I still attracted commentary + stares from men. Like I said above, it was relatively harmless, but it did put me on edge. I saw a handful of tourists wearing shorts or short skirts + tank tops. It definitely made them stand out more + I can only imagine what they endured.
Don’t Take Directions - Marrakech can be HARD to navigate. It’s filled with winding alleyways + they aren’t always clearly marked. We dropped a pin in Apple Maps when we were at our riads because Apple Maps had them marked slightly off. The directions provided weren’t always accurate, but we found they would get us relatively close + we could figure it out from there. There were always men telling us that the street we were going down is closed…this is NOT true. Ignore them + keep walking. The children, primarily boys, will try to give you directions. While they do know where they’re going, they’ll try to get you to pay them once they get you to your location.
Marrakech Desert Tour - Like I said above, I would 100% do this again + recommend it. I would, however, opt for their 2 day option versus 3 days. The camel ride through the Sahara was what I enjoyed the most + I’d have preferred not to have spent the third day driving when it wasn’t needed. The tour seems expensive (it was $300/pp for the 3 day option), BUT it includes 2 nights of accommodations, a private driver + van, as well as 2 dinners + breakfast. Not to mention the actual camel ride. To me, that seemed completely reasonable.
Haggle, Haggle, Haggle - At first, I was SO uncomfortable haggling. By the end of the trip though, I absolutely loved it! They’ll know you’re a tourist + they’ll use that to try to overcharge you. We found that they’'ll usually quote you DOUBLE what the item is really worth. If they ask you what you want to pay, be honest. Do NOT be worried about going too low. If they quote you first, I usually halved it. If they laughed my offer off + claimed it to be too low. I would shrug + say that’s okay, I don’t really need it + start to walk away. They want to make the sale + 10 times out of 10 they would agree with the price I wanted to pay. You can find some great deals in the Souks, but make sure that you’re paying for what you actually need. I found myself seeing a lot of stuff that I could buy, but that I didn’t really need. Do NOT let yourself be pressured into buying something. It’s easier said than done, but be firm + walk away if you start to feel uncomfortable.
Itinerary - While the time I had in Marrakech seems short, I found it to be the perfect amount of time. If you’re planning on staying in Morocco for longer than 5 days, I would consider looking at alternative places to visit. I know that Marrakech Desert Tours does a trip from Fes to Marrakech with a stay in the Sahara, but there are also overnight trains that would allow you to travel easily without wasting precious daytime.
Have you been to Morocco? If so, let us know what your favorite spot was!