Draft itinerary - Portugal, Spain, Morocco

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Oct 25th, 2013, 02:47 PM
  #1
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Draft itinerary - Portugal, Spain, Morocco

Just starting trip plans for all of March/early April 2014 - hopefully 6 weeks. Experienced solo traveler; looking to do the slow tour.

Fly into Lisbon - acclimate a few days - day trip to Sintra
Fly to Maderia - 2 or 3 days
Fly back to Lisbon and rent a car from the airport to wander north to Porto - at least 4 days
Fly to Seville - base in Seville to day trip in Cordoba, Jerez, Cadiz, Ronda - 2 weeks
Drive to Granada - Alhambra - 4 nights
Transport to Algerciras - possible stop in Gibraltar
Ferry to Tangier - a few nights
Transport to Fes via Rabat and Meknes - 4 days
Transport to Marrakesh - 4 days with side trip to Atlas Mtns/Berber village etc
Transport to Essaouira - 3 days
Transport back to Marrakesh airport to fly to Madrid (2 nights just as a layover)

I've done a bit of research (and will read lots more trip reports!) and have more details in my head but just trying to block out the big picture right now - especially flights. One big question I have is regarding weather. Since this itinerary has me moving north to south, is there an advantage this time of year of moving south to north?

Also curious if anyone has ever done the ferry from Motril to El Hoceima. I think it could be more interesting all the way around. Basically Granada/Motril - ferry - El Hoceima/Fes and skip Algerciras and Tangier.

Also could use some advise on transport in Morocco.

I'll post this in the Europe forum too.

Thanks!
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Oct 25th, 2013, 04:19 PM
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Do you have particular Morocco transport questions? Or just ways to get from place to place on the itinerary above.

I like the trains in Morocco. Tangier, Rabat, Meknes, Fes & Marrakech are all connected. Essaouira is not. Meknes is on the route between Tangier & Fes, Rabat is on the route south, on the way to Casablanca so if you take the train from Fes to Marrakech you'll pass through Meknes, then Rabat, change trains in Casablanca at Casa Voyageur station and on to Marrakech.

If you take a bus or grand taxi from Tangier or parts north to Fes you'll have the opportunity to stop in Chechaouen which I recommend. Then between there and Fes, if you go by grand taxi you can stop at Volubilis, a nice spot out in the countryside.

From Marrakech to Essauoira you can go by bus, cheap & comfortable. Or by grand taxi. I've done it both ways and have no preference, both are fine. Your accommodation anywhere can book you a grand taxi for any trip.

Regarding reserved seats on the trains, do buy 1st class. You'll often find someone sitting in your seat when you get on the train, someone wanting to ride 1st class with a second class ticket. When I've arrived to claim the seat it's always been vacated with a bit of attitude but no trouble.
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Oct 27th, 2013, 10:27 AM
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jgg
 
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We have been to both Morocco and Andalucia in late March (have not been to Portugal). Regarding weather we found it quite nice. A jacket/light coat was still necessary, particularly for evenings but had some warm days in Seville and Granada. I don't think it will make much difference whether you go north to south or south to north.

You sound like you are going at a nice leisurely pace - you will really enjoy it!! But, you are missing out on one of the most amazing parts of Morocco - the Sahara desert and with your leisurely pace, I definitely think you would have time to fit it in!!

We had a private guide on our trip to Morocco, so unfortunately can not be much help on transport questions.

Here are some links to my trip reports which you may find helpful.
http://www.fromhometoroam.com/catego...ope/andalucia/
http://www.fromhometoroam.com/catego...frica/morocco/
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Oct 27th, 2013, 10:45 AM
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People seem to enjoy their Sahara experiences even though they're all done by guides and tours and are a sort of faux experience. But then I guess most experiences we have as tourists are more or less faux and often enjoyable despite that fact.

When it's done as part of a tour with an overnight stay it's a group camping experience, strangers with you in your tent, which is not my idea of great. I like more privacy so haven't "done" the desert except to see some beautiful dunes. I don't think I've suffered for not doing it but wouldn't discourage you in general except for the issue of time. I would not, by any means, call your pace leisurely unless yours is the "if this is Tuesday" school of travel. Judging from your proposed itinerary I don't think you are.
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Oct 27th, 2013, 12:01 PM
  #5
jgg
 
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Our experience in the desert was just our family of four and our two camel men, we did not see anyone else the whole time and had our tent just for us. Of course this was a private tour, so cost can be an issue.
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Oct 27th, 2013, 12:26 PM
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Yes, jgg, it was clear that yours was a private tour. Just expanding the view as the larger tour option hadn't been mentioned. Some companies offer relatively small groups but usually as part of a comprehensive tour of the country. And private trips can be arranged through a Moroccan agent for desert camping only if independent travelers want a couple of nights under the stars.
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Oct 28th, 2013, 09:58 AM
  #7
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Thanks all! I just came upon a possible option that would be a small group tour from Fez to Marrakesh via Merzouga and Ouarzazate.
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Oct 29th, 2013, 12:01 PM
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We're just back from Morocco (see other posts under my name). We used Morocco Countryside Tours for a 4 day/3 night trip from Fes to Marrakech. They were great and I'd recommend them. Cost was 350EU per persone (and included everything except tips, a few bottles of water and a couple of lunches).

As for straight transport between cities, the trains were fine, cheap and generally on-time.
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Oct 30th, 2013, 06:36 AM
  #9
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astein12 you might be my new hero - thanks!
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Oct 31st, 2013, 03:53 AM
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Quite welcome... if you need any other info, let me know. We had a great time in Morocco and are still sorting through the pictures. Hope to have them online shortly.
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Nov 1st, 2013, 02:29 AM
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Jgg, you always have a trip report for somewhere I want to go! As you know, I'm planning Israel and Jordan for my family in April 2014 but a bunch if families are planning Spain/Mortocco together for August 2014. I can't wait to read your Spain/Morrocco report! You know your Vietnam report inspired my trip to Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos this past summer! I've been on safari in Tanzania where you head next. It's spectacular. Also been to South Africa on safari and toured the whole country numerous times and I know that it is on your list. Think Namibia when you do that. Astonishing, vast and uninterrupted countryside that you drive across for an amazing experience. Thanks as always for the help and tips.

Have fun acktom! Your trip thus far sounds fantastic!
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Nov 1st, 2013, 06:06 AM
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jgg
 
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Lolazahara- sounds like you have some fabulous trips planned!! We are really looking forward to our safari in TZ. Would have tacked on some time in South Africa but going in June when weather there would not be so great so will just have to do in a return trip!!
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Nov 14th, 2013, 09:04 AM
  #13
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I've done a lot more research and have revised my Moroccan itinerary as follows

Ferry from Spain to Cueta and on to Chefcaouen for 2 nights
Fes for 3 nights with day trip to Meknes and perhaps Ifran
Train to Marrakesh stay 3 nights
2nt/3day side trip to Atlas Mtns/Berber village/Desert camp etc - back to Marrakesh for 1 nt
Transport/bus to Essaouira - 3 days
Transport/bus/grand taxi to Casablanca for flight to Lisbon - 2 nights with night in Oualidia and last night in Casa

(I am in Marrakesh a bit more than I would like but I am limited by desert tour availability)

As always I am open to comments and suggestions. Looking for accommodations and restaurants.

Thank you.
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Nov 14th, 2013, 11:50 AM
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You'll go bonkers if you spend three days in Essaouira, unless you want to lie on a cold beach. For recommendations on accommodations, check out some previous postings, including mine. At least two of the guest houses that I mention---those in Chefchaouen and in Essaouira---are moderate in cost, considering the town, their location, and the facility. ZZ
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Nov 14th, 2013, 12:13 PM
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Thanks ZZ - I enjoyed your trip report.

I already checked out Casa La Palma in Chefchaouen and will certainly take a look at your recommendation in Essaouira. i may have the option of renting a friend's house but that hasn't been finalized yet.
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Nov 14th, 2013, 12:18 PM
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If you need structured activities Zambezi may be right. But I find Essaouira a great place to hang out and 3 days isn't too much for me. I think your itinerary is fine.

How much do you want to spend for your accommodations?
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Nov 14th, 2013, 01:01 PM
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After 5 weeks on the road, I'm thinking a few lazy days near the beach might not be bad.

I like funky B&B/inns/riads - mid range price. In addition to Casa De Palma in Chef. I was just looking at Riad Perle d'Eau in Essaouira. I could really use a good recommendation for Marrakesh.
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Nov 14th, 2013, 01:45 PM
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"Mid-range" doesn't tell us much but at €90-180 at the place you mention in Essaouira I'd say that's upper range, save ultra-lux, for Morocco. I have no experience with accommodations at that price so I'll have to leave the recommending to others. I will say, though, if you see a place that looks good and the reviews are good on Trip Advisor then you've got nothing to worry about.

By the way, as Zambezi intimated, the beach at Essaouira is not much good for lazing most of the time as it tends to be very windy, the wind surfing capital of the universe. But it's still a good place to be, assuming good beach is not your priority.
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Nov 15th, 2013, 05:36 AM
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" if you see a place that looks good and the reviews are good on Trip Advisor then you've got nothing to worry about. "

Not true, certainly not true for Morocco. Morocco seems to be peculiarly susceptible to self-promoters posting fake reviews, both here and on TA. Ignore all reviews by posters with fewer than, say, ten total reviews. Ignore any hotel etc. whose first page is mostly one-post wonders. Read with great scepticism.
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Nov 15th, 2013, 06:50 AM
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While in Fes/Meknes, be sure to visit Volubilis, Roman ruins overlooking a vast plain planted with wheat and dotted with poppies. Fabulous.
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