Sometimes you don’t have the time you want. When we went to Morocco, we needed a Morocco 5 day Itinerary set up because we didn’t have much time. We get it.
Welcome to Morocco
Popular culture has made Morocco into a exotic place – a gateway to Africa that many people seek as a way to really sink, knee deep, into a culture wholly unlike their own. Pop culture is not wrong, but what the viewer may fail to fully grasp is just how gut-punching the whole 5 sensory overload can really be when you are in Morocco for the first time.
After going to over 30 countries around the world, I can say without question that Morocco was one of the most exotic and overwhelming countries I have ever been to. A Morocco itinerary is not for the newbie traveler, in my opinion. CNN has some tips about things to know before you go that I think might help prepare you.
I was struck by how much the past is still very much alive in Morocco and yet the present realities are polished and shiny, standing guard around the edges as a firm reminder that Facebook, TripAdvisor and Instagram are still present despite the small medieval streets and mint-tea hawkers.
For a good dose of Morocco, I have laid out 3 cities I think could best get the traveler through the highlights without totally going into overloaded culture shock.
A Morocco 5 day itinerary will be a whirlwind – make no mistake – and I would caution against piling too much on your plate. Taking the sites and sounds of the medinas (old city centers) in as much as you can before rushing off to the next place is a good idea and a great way to get the most out of your Morocco itinerary.
A Morocco 5 Day Itinerary
Fez: 2 days, 2 nights
We chose Fez for its old medina, history and proximity to so many cities around it.
Fez, as a first introduction to Morocco, is really overwhelming. That said, I was blown away by the sheer force of nature the old city had. It was vibrant, chaotic, and utterly foreign. You can read more about what we did in our post on Fez here.
We stayed at “Omar's House” which was a cheap option that was in the heart of the old city. Would I recommend this place outside the context of a Morocco itinerary? Hell no. But, given the dirt, noise, and disorganization that was so rampant throughout this country- this guest house fit right in.
Any other accommodation we could find was either really expensive or really dirty.
While in Fez we just walked around. Honestly, wandering was enough to really fill the two days we were there with a lot of stimulation. The markets, the hawkers, the shops, the locals… it’s all happening at once in a tiny space and there are locals and tourists and children and old people all crowding together between walls that are older than the USA and it is a wonderful feeling, until you feel a hand reach into your pocket.
So: don’t keep anything in your pockets.
We enjoyed sitting in cafes in Fez and drinking mint tea. The mint tea in Morocco is awesome and I drank about half my body weight.
I really liked the old market as well. The food was so appealing and fresh. I’d recommend eating your meals at the market in the medina rather than going to a restaurant. The one restaurant we went to was really touristy, overpriced and not very good.
If you get a chance to eat at your guest house, I’d recommend doing so. We ate at “Omar’s House” one night and that was a really yummy home cooked meal.
Caution: Don’t allow anyone to “take you somewhere”. A common scam in Fez is for a street urchin to ask if you are lost and then lead you on a wild goose chase around the city, demanding a tip when they are done. If you are accosted by someone who would like to “help you find your destination” firmly tell them you do not need the help.
Language: The dominant language in Fez is Arabic and French. There is shockingly little English here. We were able to communicate enough without French, but needed Google Translate a lot.
Chefchaouen: 1 day, 2 nights
“The Blue City” should be a stop on anyone’s Morocco itinerary. It’s such a beautiful city in the mountains. We were enchanted by the colors and vibrancy of this area.
We found that the food was the best we ate while on our Morocco 5 day itinerary and because Chefchaouen is smaller than Fez or Tangier so it was easier to digest and enjoy. You also don’t need a lot of time here. After 24 hours we had really exhausted everything we could do as tourists.
We stayed at an AirBnB with a host named Maria. She was originally from Spain and had come to Morocco seeking refuge from a really stifling life in her small hometown. She found that Chefchaouen was everything she could have hoped for: quiet, full of authentic, real people, and a place she could live that wasn’t full of the fury and outrage of Western TV and politics.
Maria really took us under her wing and showed us a side of Chefchaouen we would never have gotten a chance to see had we stayed in a hotel. She told us some of her favorite places to eat, hiked up to a monastery in the hills with us, and even took us to her favorite hammam (Moroccan baths!). She was fantastic, and made our trip incredibly memorable.
Hint: If you get a chance, go to a hammam. It’s a really cool cultural experience. You can opt to get a full body scrub and when I got one, it left me feeling as soft and fresh as a newborn baby. So worth it!
I can’t recommend a home stay enough. I love that you get to meet people you would never have a chance to see otherwise. You also get an opportunity to know a culture from the inside out. It can be hit-or-miss in terms of comfort (a hotel will likely be far more comfortable!) but a home stay offers such a unique experience. We love it.
I talk more about comparing accommodation around the world if you would like to read more about finding a place to stay.
Chefchaouen was our favorite stop; a must!
Language: The dominant languages in Chefchaouen were Arabic and Spanish. I can speak some Spanish, so I was able to limp through a lot of what needed to be said. We also had Maria to help us, but her friend – who checked us in when we arrived – only spoke Spanish.
Tangier: 2 days, 1 night
This Mediterranean City is a beacon to the old days of European wealth and influence. I was shocked by the slump and renovation of the city all happening at the same time. I wrote more details about my thoughts on Tangier here.
Unfortunately, Tangier is the first exposure to Africa for so many tourists and if this were my first dose of Africa I would be loath to go explore more of it.
Africa is a MASSIVE place and about as varied and different as Japan would be from Mexico. Morocco is only a small country in Northern Africa and Tangier is completely different from other cities in Morocco, too.
That said, it’s a landing city for so many newbies and it is totally unapologetic about itself. It’s dirty, it’s crowded, it’s chaotic, it’s spicy and exotic… it’s, well, Moroccan.
The two days we spent in Tangier were interesting, to say the least. We saw an African drums band play in the street (total highlight), got screamed at by a crazy guy (low point), met really sweet people, and escaped to our hotel room – a lot.
I wouldn’t recommend spending too long here on your Morocco itinerary. Thankfully, it’s a hub and it’s shockingly easy to get around the country from here. So, like: land here, see it – take a deep breath – and then move on with your Morocco 5 day itinerary.
Language: In Tangier, you’ll hear a lot of Arabic, Spanish and French. Because this is a port city there is a lot of English here as well, we found it the easiest city to communicate in while on our Morocco itinerary.
We traveled by bus and train when we were on our Morocco 5 day itinerary in April 2018. The trips were cheap and easy and surprisingly comfortable (especially the train!).
We opted to fly into Spain from Morocco rather than take the boat for several reasons:
- Renting a car in Spain was cheaper out of Madrid
- Flights from Tangier to Madrid were cheaper than taking the ferry
- Ferry boat tickets need to be purchased well in advance.
- We wanted to see Portugal and thought it would be easier to get there from Madrid.
This is not to say you shouldn’t take the ferry. I just can’t speak to the pros and cons of it.
We found that the Tangier airport was very nice, albeit quite small.
We landed in Casablanca and immediately took a train to Fez, deciding that the three cities we wanted to see would take us North toward Spain where we wanted to be for the next portion of our trip.
Buying a train ticket in Casablanca was easy. The person who sold us the tickets spoke *some* English and we were able to score 1st class seats for the 3-hour ride.
1st class was pretty cheap and it was very comfortable. We had our own little cabin and wound up sharing it with 2 other couples. They were delightful. Although none of us could speak the others’ languages, we still had a great time miming and speaking in broken fragments to each other. It was awesome.
We took a bus from Fez to Chefchaouen and then onward to Tangier. The buses were very comfortable and cheap. We could look out the windows and see the countryside. The roads were not too bad (although there was some damage from the spring rains).
With buses, you need to buy a bus ticket at least 12 hours in advance before boarding. The buses will sell out, especially over the weekend, so you need to be sure to get a ticket as soon as you can! Popular places, like Chefchaouen, won’t get as much bus traffic as the bigger cities, but tourists will go in droves, making a bus seat quite dear.
Be sure to check where the local bus station is to you as well. In Fez, for example, there were two bus stations and we needed to be careful which one our bus was leaving from!
Finding a taxi is not intuitive in Morocco. Most of the time they were nowhere hear the old medina and you had to walk to an entrance to the old city to get one. There is no Uber in Morocco either, so be sure you know where to go (or ask around) if you need to hail a cab to take you to the bus station.
Taxis in Morocco are not very comfortable. The drivers will drive like crazy people and although they all have meters they will absolutely not turn them on for foreigners. Be prepared to barter with your driver BEFORE you get into the taxi and establish a price. We asked our local host about what some fair prices were so that we wouldn’t get too ripped off.
Taxis will also hustle like crazy. They will stop along the route and pick up other passengers to drop off along the way, kind of like Uber Pool would do in a Western City, except your sorry touristy butt won’t get the discount. Expect to share your ride with a couple other occupants.
Also, we found that the idea of a “seat belt” was not a concept yet adopted in Morocco.
Final Thoughts on a Morocco Itinerary
As small as a Morocco 5 day itinerary may seem, we met a lot of people doing the same thing. Flights to Morocco from Europe are cheap and we met a lot of people who were coming to North Africa for a long weekend.
In my opinion, Morocco was overwhelming and a serious test of my patience at times (especially when so many people wanted to rip us off). We chatted with a couple of people who were traveling around on their own Morocco itinerary of over 2 months. I think this is way to long to spend there.
But, to each their own, right?
The 5 days we were on our Morocco itinerary were enough for us. If we were to go back, we’d spend some time in Marrakech because we’d heard that was a beautiful city and a great place to stop (especially to see some story telling there: it looks awesome!). The trouble is getting to any of the northern parts of Morocco because Marrakech is so far south. I guess this all depends on how much time you want to spend on a train or bus.
I would caution against holding the continent of Africa hostage to your impressions of Morocco. Northern Africa is entirely different from Southern, Western and Eastern Africa. After spending 2 months driving around Southern Africa, Morocco is about as different as China is from Turkey.
Have any questions about a Morocco 5 day itinerary? Let us know in the comments!