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Morocco 14 day itinerary-Marrakesh, Sahara, Chefchaouen, Essouria

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Oct 22nd, 2018, 05:25 PM
  #1
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Morocco 14 day itinerary-Marrakesh, Sahara, Chefchaouen, Essouria

I am trying to plan my 60th birthday celebration with a 14 day trip to Morocco in March with my husband. On my actual birthday, I want to be in the Sahara with the camel ride, sunset, sunrise experience. There are so many options on having a Sahara experience. After researching, my ideal would be a 4 day trip from Marrakesh, with 2 nights in the desert ( private tent and bathroom would be nice), I know it is a long journey in a car, but we are up for that. As long as someone else is driving, we love seeing the country by car! Any suggestions on camps would be much appreciated.

Also, I am researching flights in to Morocco. On my list to visit is Marrakesh, Essaouira, Chefchaoun, and the Sahara. I am trying to optimize travel plans and want to do the route in a way that makes the most sense. We want to have enough time in each place to be able to relax and try to avoid 1 nighters if possible.

I am hoping we can find a reasonable rate to fly into Marrakesh and out of Fez, but we may have to do a circle due to fares.

Any advice on this?

Our ideal in each place would be this. How best to do?

Marrakesh-3 nights
Sahara tour-4 nights with 2 in the desert
Essaouira-3 nights (2 minimum)
Chefchaouen-2 nights

This leaves us with 2 nights. This could be 1 night in Fez or Tangier depending on how we are going to Chefchaouen. Or, another night in Marrakesh if we need to do a circle.

We don't mind taking bus, trains, or private transport. We only want to make sure we are traveling wisely and efficiently on the limited amount of time we have for our holiday!

Thank you in advance for any advice.
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Oct 23rd, 2018, 07:28 AM
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Hi Roadster,
Sounds like a great itinerary - hope you will enjoy your birthday celebrations! I am in my 40's and travelled to Morocco during the summer with my two daughters, both in their 20's. We started in Marrakech and went on to do a three day/two night road trip, finishing by camel trekking and a night in the desert in Merzouga. We had a private driver - the company will either recommend a trip with stops for you or will let you customise your journey. We got them to book accomodation for us as well - the hotel on the first night was comfortable and clean, and we got a lovely dinner and breakfast there. We stayed in a private tent in the desert - there was an option to upgrade to something fancier, although we just stayed in the standart tent. We stopped in various places along the way - the company provided us with guides when we needed them. The driver was great and also knew a lot about the history and geography of the country which we were interested in, as two of us are teachers! The name of the company was Morocco Road Trips - I would highy recommend them! Again, have a great holiday!
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Oct 23rd, 2018, 08:26 AM
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Thanks for the info!
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Oct 23rd, 2018, 09:56 AM
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Roadster, while the places you want to visit are lovely, including Chefchaouen in this itinerary will be very difficult, and you will be spending far too much time on the road. I do think that Marrakech, Essaouira, and the Sahara make an ideal trip in that time frame. I also want to add that, while Chefchaouen is visually stunning, I found it less satisfying than other places since it is just about tourism. Yes, it's very pretty, but also very crowded. On the other hand, we loved Essaouira, as it is beautifully sited on the water and has a lovely ambience. Please see my recent trip report to get a feeling for the places you are interested in.

I worked with a wonderful driver/guide, Salem, from Moroccan Family, and if you see my trip report, you'll see why we adored him so much. I recommend him highly if you are interested. Another Fodorite worked with him as well and also had a wonderful trip.

Morocco, A Visual Journey

Last edited by progol; Oct 23rd, 2018 at 10:17 AM.
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Oct 23rd, 2018, 06:50 PM
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I canít imagine going to Morocco and only going to Fes to fly home. I would put your two night to Fes without question. And Iíll be contrarian re. Chefchaouen. While I spent 8 hours on a bus to get there Fromm Casablanca and then 4 hours on another bus to get from Chaouen to Fes, it was totally worth it. I spent two nights there and itís one of my favorite Morocco memories.

But go to Fes!!!
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Oct 23rd, 2018, 06:50 PM
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Thank you for the advice and telling me about your thread. I appreciate the insight about Chefchaouen, I know it adds a lot of travel time to go there and to Fez from Marrakesh. Sometimes as much as I want to pack a lot in, I would rather spend more quality time without the hassle. I will have to decide on whether it is worth it.
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Oct 23rd, 2018, 06:56 PM
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Duly noted! We have fun wherever we go and I am sure we will enjoy all of the places. I only want to optimize my route the best way. Thanks
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Oct 24th, 2018, 03:50 AM
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Clearly, everyone will respond differently to a place! And to be fair, we found the vendors and hawkers in Chefchaouen nowhere near as aggressive as in other towns further south. And from what I've read, many travelers enjoy walking in the hills above the town, but I have physical limitations, and can't really do that type of walking, so perhaps that affected our experience, too. It is very pretty, though, with all the blue walls and steps.

The way we did it: we flew into Casablanca, then stayed our first night in Rabat, so that we could drive the next day to Chefchaouen. The drive is very manageable from Rabat. The surprise was that we really liked Rabat, too.

From there, we drove to Fes, stopping in Volubilis before we arrived. We love to see Roman ruins, and really enjoyed these.
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Oct 24th, 2018, 07:07 AM
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We just celebrated my husband's birthday in Morocco and had the same decisions as to which cities we needed to experience and how much time to allot. We found Moroccan Family Tours through this same chatline as they were highly recommended by Progol along with her posting and pictures We are so grateful we found Karaoui Salam who was our driver/guide throughout Morocco. This company personalizes every tour to the individual. They will do whatever it takes to make sure you are comfortable and tailor every riad or hotel to your specific wishes. We were overwhelmed with the beauty of the country and the warmth of the people. We also deliberated as to whether to visit Chefchaouen and are so happy we did - its magical. We used Tripmasters for the flights as we went to Portugal first. We flew into Casablanca and Karaoui Salam picked us up and we drove to Rabat. He gave the history of the country and peoples as we passed through each part of the country. We spent 1 night in Rabat, 2 nights in Chefchaouen, 2 night in Fez, 1 night Merzouga, 1 night Desert, 1 night Boumalen Dades, 2 nights Marrakech, Every moment was delightful, the colors, the mountains, the valleys, the old and the new, just breathtaking. We rode the camels, We love Karaoui Salam - he will help you plan your trip and you will have the trip of a lifetime!
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Oct 24th, 2018, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by suzyg View Post
We just celebrated my husband's birthday in Morocco and had the same decisions as to which cities we needed to experience and how much time to allot. We found Moroccan Family Tours through this same chatline as they were highly recommended by Progol along with her posting and pictures We are so grateful we found Karaoui Salam who was our driver/guide throughout Morocco. This company personalizes every tour to the individual. They will do whatever it takes to make sure you are comfortable and tailor every riad or hotel to your specific wishes. We were overwhelmed with the beauty of the country and the warmth of the people. We also deliberated as to whether to visit Chefchaouen and are so happy we did - its magical. We used Tripmasters for the flights as we went to Portugal first. We flew into Casablanca and Karaoui Salam picked us up and we drove to Rabat. He gave the history of the country and peoples as we passed through each part of the country. We spent 1 night in Rabat, 2 nights in Chefchaouen, 2 night in Fez, 1 night Merzouga, 1 night Desert, 1 night Boumalen Dades, 2 nights Marrakech, Every moment was delightful, the colors, the mountains, the valleys, the old and the new, just breathtaking. We rode the camels, We love Karaoui Salam - he will help you plan your trip and you will have the trip of a lifetime!
So, so glad to read this, suzyg! He is a gem, isn't he? I'm so pleased it worked out so well for you! Of course, we had the best trip because of him, too.

Roadster, if you're interested in a private driver and working with a wonderful guide, I recommend Salem (or Salam) Karaoui without reservation.

The
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Oct 24th, 2018, 03:24 PM
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I don't want to burst your balloon, but Erg Chebbi, Erg Chigaga and the other places in south east Morocco are not the Sahara Desert. Better you find out now than later.

Having said that, Morocco's two largest ergs (sand seas) are without doubt well worth visiting irrespective of whether they are part of what Western society calls 'The Great Sahara Desert'. The Arabic word ṣaḥra means dry and you will see this word used in the dry mountainous area of Morocco called Jbel Sahro which is mainly volcanic basalt rock with very little water. I have crossed the Sahara desert twice, travelling south from Guelmim (officially called the 'Gateway to the Sahara') into Western Sahara, then over the border into Mauritania, and finally crossing the Senegal River into Senegal which is in the 'Sahel', the ecoclimatic transition zone between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south.

You can see the route on the map below which covers the first part of the journey as far south as Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. I have also marked with two red blobs the positions of Erg Chigaga (left blob) and Erg Chebbi (right) so you can see very clearly they are nowhere near the Sahara.

Morocco 14 day itinerary-Marrakesh, Sahara, Chefchaouen, Essouria-map_sahara.jpg
____________________________

Last month I spent the day as a guest of the faculty Alkhawayn University in Ifrane, and at dinner that evening was talking to two of the professors, Dr John Shoup, Professor of Anthropology and Dr Eric Ross, Professor of Geography. Both have been in Morocco for twenty plus years, are clearly experts in their field, and conduct wide-ranging field trips. They both confirmed that Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga are NOT part of the Sahara and might even be considered as not really desert because of the high rainfall. They confirmed the two ergs are part of the Pre-Saharan Steppes and the desert region (still not the Sahara) starts south of Taouz.
____________________________

When I first visited Erg Chebbi in 1974 there were very few visitors and the main hotels I remember were the Desert Inn (Chez Michel) and Hotel Yasmina. Nowadays there's more than 70 hotels in the western lee of the dunes. Water is obtained from a huge aquifer under Erg Chebbi and a system of khetteras (underground canals) brings the water to Khamlia, Merzouga and Hasilabaid. The water in this aquifer is nowadays being used faster than rainfall is replacing it and it will run dry in probably twenty years.

Satellite photo: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/im...-of-erg-chebbi

Rain and hailstorms are a fairly regular occurrence at Erg Chebbi and there has been serious flooding at least three times since 2006. The 2006 flood was probably the worst. An Italian company had built Riad Maria at the northern end of the dunes near Hotel Yasmina in an area called Foum El Hench (mouth of the snake). The Arabic word 'foum' is used in the same way the English use mouth as in Plymouth, Exmouth, etc, to denote the exit of a river. In this case the river exit was the edge of the dunes. They had been warned of the danger of building there so erected a protective wall one metre high. When the water came is was in a huge wave two metres high which trashed Riad Maria and killed three of the employees.

So... at the end of a very long post, I enjoy Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga and visit them often. I think everyone will agree they are well worth visiting, there's a lot to see and do in the vicinity, you will certainly have the experience of being in a desert with sweeping dune fields.

But it's not the Sahara.

.

Last edited by TimCullis; Oct 24th, 2018 at 03:27 PM.
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Oct 24th, 2018, 03:51 PM
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Tim, I appreciate your great love and knowledge of Morocco, and accept that whaat many of us think of the Sahara is a misnomer. But whether or not it truly is the Sahara or the desert is, I think for many of us, not that important. It does provide that amazing experience of being in a desert-like place under an open sky, and wandering through large sand dunes. It doesn’t matter what it’s actually called - the experience is still very special. For many of us, this may be the only opportunity to get to Morocco and to a desert (whatever it is!).
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Oct 25th, 2018, 12:01 AM
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Totally agree, which is why I keep reinforcing the message that the area is most definitely worth visiting.
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Oct 26th, 2018, 06:54 PM
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Thank you for the insight. I hate it when I am inaccurate about where I am going. I am looking for a desert experience and I think this will be perfect.
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Oct 28th, 2018, 02:47 PM
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Hi Roaster, if you read my trip report Morocco Magic, you will get an idea of distances, driving difficulty ( busses and trains) and my impressions of each place we stopped. This may give you a little insite while you’re planning. Though we did all our own driving and only hired guides as needed ...being close in age (we’re a bit older), may show you what’s doable with the amount of time you have. I’m sure you’ll have an amazing trip where you choose to go!
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