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Feedback requested on 24-night Morocco itinerary please

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Oct 27th, 2018, 10:50 PM
  #1
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Feedback requested on 24-night Morocco itinerary please

DH and I (well-traveled 50-somethings) have just purchased tickets to Morocco for April, flying in and out of Casablanca, with 24 nights to spend total. We are both keen photographers and have been reading others' trip reports and guidebooks, and below is what we've come up with so far. We prefer to spend at least two nights at each stop rather than one night here, one night there, so that we can slow down a bit and get a better sense of each place. We enjoy self-driving in the countryside for the freedom it gives us to stop and take photographs/detours along the way, and have self-driven in many other foreign countries such as Turkey, Thailand, Costa Rica, Namibia, etc., so are hoping it will be manageable in Morocco as well (outside the major cities of course). We plan to hire local guides in some areas but would prefer to travel from place to place on our own as much as possible. We do speak some French, but no Arabic. Any thoughts or suggestions on this itinerary would be appreciated.

Day 1: Arrive Casablanca late afternoon, overnight at Ibis hotel near train station
Day 2: Train to Meknes for 3 nights, with a daytrip to Volubilis
Day 5: AM train to Fez, then CTM bus from Fez to Chefchaouen for 2 nights
Day 7: Bus from Chefchaouen to Fez, 3 nights Fez
Day 10: Pick up rental car and drive from Fez to Merzouga area for 3 nights, with desert camel excursion and overnight in Erg Chebbi
Day 13: Drive to Tinerhir for 2 nights exploring Todra Gorge area
Day 15: Drive Dades Gorge then to Skoura for 2 nights
Day 17: Drive to Imlil for 3 nights exploring high Atlas region
Day 20: Drive to Marrakech and return rental car, 4 nights in Marrakech with daytrip to Essaouira
Day 24: Train from Marrakech to Casablanca, overnight Ibis hotel near train station
Day 25: Tour Hassan II Mosque in the morning, with late afternoon departure flight from Casablanca

Thoughts?
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Oct 28th, 2018, 04:43 AM
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I’ll make some suggestions based solely on my recent trip, which was only 15 nights. I wish I had the extra time!

Rsther than staying the first night in Casablanca , travel on to Rabat, a surprisingly lovely first city to spend some time. We were there for 1 night, but 2 nights would give you a good taste of the city and give you time to get over the jet lag.

We we only made a brief stop in Meknes, so did not get a full sense of the place, but it is a larger, more urban city than I expected. While we didn’t explore the city very much, I think 3 nights is too much, if you decide to keep it in your itinerary. I wasn’t sorry that we eliminated Meknes in our plans, but again, we didn’t have the time you have.

I would, however, give 2 nights to staying in Essaouira. It is such a lovely town, beautifully sited, with wonderful ambience. As a day trip, you’re spending a lot of time on the road. I know people visit it as a day trip, but it’s a long day. We loved the town, and think it worth staying at least a night, even 2.

The rest of the itinerary I’ll leave to others for feedback. As we don’t hike, I can’t really speak to the amount of time in the Todra Gorge or Skoura area, but it seems sufficient.
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Oct 28th, 2018, 07:45 AM
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I’ll go further and say, yes, go on to Rabat for a couple of nights on arrival, skip Meknes altogether. Rather than a day trip to Volubilis, go to Chefchaouen by grand taxi from Fes and stop along the way. If you happen to be there when the wild red poppies are in bloom in the fields alongside the road you can have your driver stop for photos, by you & of you in the poppies (An aside, these are the same poppies that appear later in Europe, moving from Morocco north as the spring weather warms).

I would also say to make time for at least 2 nights in Essaouira. It’s one of the most photogenic places, I think, in Morocco. Here are some of mine:

https://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/house-in-essaouira
https://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/gro...g-in-essaouira
https://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/gum...aouira-morocco
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Oct 28th, 2018, 08:14 AM
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And truthfully, I agree with MmePerdu to skip Meknes altogether. If you do go directly to Chefchaouen from Rabat, you could also stop in Volubilis on the way to Fes as well.

If you haven’t already looked at it, here is my recent trip report:

Morocco, A Visual Journey
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Oct 28th, 2018, 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by progol View Post
...If you do go directly to Chefchaouen from Rabat, you could also stop in Volubilis on the way to Fes as well.
I was trusting the OP to make that leap, to/from Fes/Chefchaouen, depending on how they rearrange things if opting to skip Meknes, bus one way, grand taxi the other. If you go from, say, Rabat to Fes (train is easy), stay a night or 2 in Fes, leave big bags at Fes accommodation for your jaunt to Chefchaouen, return for a night or 2 & onward with your rental car.

My policy is to abandon big bags for short trips or walking/hiking interludes as often as is practical. I Should/could have done it for Chefchaouen as itís, Iím sure youíve noticed, precipitous where the best places are. A daypack with a change would have been fine.
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Oct 28th, 2018, 06:51 PM
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The reason I was planning to spend our first night in Casablanca was because our flight is not scheduled to land until 3:35pm that afternoon, and I was thinking that if there is any delay in the flight, by the time we get through immigration etc. it just seems kind of risky to plan to get to Rabat that first night.

Regardless, I'm happy to skip Meknes altogether and substitute 2 nights in Rabat instead, then I can add one night in Essaouira and will try to take another night from somewhere else in the trip so I can get two nights in Essaouira...
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Oct 28th, 2018, 09:54 PM
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Thanks for all of the input so far -- revised plan below -- does this look better?
1 night Casablanca
3 nights Rabat
2 nights Chefchaouen
3 nights Fez
3 nights Merzouga area/dunes
3 nights Dades Gorge area
3 nights Imlil
2 nights Essaouira
4 nights Marrakech
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Oct 29th, 2018, 01:27 AM
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I don't think three nights in Meknes is excessive as it only gives two full days, one of which will be visiting Volubilis and probably Moulay Idriss.

Lonely Planet in its 'Best in Travel' review, writes “The notorious war-mongering sultan Moulay Ismail who moved Morocco's capital to Meknes in 1672 would be turning in his grave if he knew how few visitors the city receives today compared with Fez and Marrakesh,” see https://www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel/cities Visitor numbers to Morocco are skewed heavily towards Marrakech, with Fez getting only 12% of the number of overnight stays of Marrakech, and Meknes getting a minuscule 2%.

More than one million white slaves were captured by the Barbary pirates over a 100 year period in the 17th century ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbary_slave_trade ) and 20,000 of these at a time were put to work by Moulay Ismail building the massive fortifications of Meknes, using stone robbed out from the Roman ruins of Volubilis. You can still visit the massive underground prison which housed the slaves.

The Lonely Planet review continues, "At the heart of the city, Ismail’s elaborate mausoleum is a national treasure and it's scheduled to emerge soon from a two-year, top-to-toe restoration, giving travellers more reason than ever to visit this under-appreciated imperial city."

Nevertheless, if you do decide to drop Meknes and instead stop in Rabat you might also visit Rabat's twin city of Sale on the northern bank of the Bou Regreg river which is where Daniel Defoe had Robinson Crusoe as a captive of the Salť Rovers (pirates), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Sal%C3%A9
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Oct 29th, 2018, 02:16 AM
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That's food for thought, Tim.

I suppose I could subtract one night from Rabat and subtract another night from either Dades Gorge or Imlil, to allow 2 nights in Meknes...I'm a bit torn...
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Oct 29th, 2018, 04:15 AM
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I'm not sure that I would give Rabat 3 nights, either, but others might disagree. 2 nights seems just about right. Otherwise, I think the itinerary looks good. I assume you'll be going back to Casablanca for your last night. I don't think both Rabat and Meknes in your itinerary makes sense. Rabat was a surprise to us and we liked the city more than expected. But I don't think 2 large cities at the start of your trip would be too much.

As TimCullis points out, the Moulay Ismail's mausoleum is currently undergoing a restoration. We didn't know this and were very disappointed to discover that it was closed as I'd been greatly looking forward to seeing it and was the main reason for going to Meknes.
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Oct 29th, 2018, 07:49 AM
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Having stayed in Meknes on 2 occasions I’ll just say that I’ve found it a bit underwhelming, maybe more suitable for one’s 2nd visit, though a perfectly fine city. I think the atmosphere & setting of Rabat would provide more contrast to the other places on your itinerary. And, yes, there is Salť across the river to visit. I don’t think 3 nights would be too much, 2 days to catch your breath at the beginning.
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Oct 29th, 2018, 09:40 AM
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<<But I don't think 2 large cities at the start of your trip would be too much. >>

Oops, I meant to say, "I think 2 large cities at the start of our trip would be too much!" So skip Meknes and just go to Rabat. I think it makes more sense.
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Oct 29th, 2018, 09:06 PM
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Thank you progol. We loved your trip report with all the photos -- very helpful!
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Oct 29th, 2018, 09:20 PM
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We are torn about Rabat vs. Meknes, but if we take one night away from Marrakech at the end (and stay 3 nights there instead of 4), then we can do both, spending two nights in each, although it might be more moving around than we would ideally want to do:
1 night Casablanca
2 nights Rabat
2 nights Meknes
2 nights Essaouira
3 nights Fez
3 nights Merzouga/dunes area
3 nights Dades Gorge area
3 nights Imlil
2 nights Essaouira
3 nights Marrakech
(We will take the train back to Casablanca on our last day for our flight home which departs at 16:35.)
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Oct 30th, 2018, 06:31 AM
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It seems to me that indecision is prompting you to dilute your experience by moving more than you would like. You have a reasonable amount of time but, even so, you can’t see everything. I recommend that you bite the bullet & choose either Rabat or Meknes, for a 1st trip it hardly matters which, and put back those nights in Fes & Marrakech (I assume the first “Essaouira” on the list is meant to be Chefchaouen). By moving more, as you must know, more time is spent on logistics, less on simply enjoying the place (unless movement is what you crave and I know that’s true for some).

Last edited by MmePerdu; Oct 30th, 2018 at 06:33 AM.
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Oct 30th, 2018, 06:30 PM
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Do not drop the opportunity to visit the Hassan II mosque. The other posters here are probably tired of hearing me say this but Iíll say it again. Casablanca is an ugly city but wow, the Hassan mosque was my very favorite single thing I saw in Morocco. My memory of arriving there at 8;00 am, an hour before it opens and having the entire giant plaza and mosque to myself is a lifetime travel memory.

Fully agree with others to give at least at least one night to Essaouira. I have it 2 which was perfect. For me, 2 in Chefchaouen was also perfect. I had 4 nights each for Fes and Marrakech and think 3 for Marrakech would have been fine. I canít comment on your remaining pieces.

But please put the Hassan mosque back in there.
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