Morocco for 9 nights in February

Old Dec 10th, 2016, 10:08 AM
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Morocco for 9 nights in February

Hello Fodorites,

My husband and I will be flying in and out of Marrakech for 9 nights in February and need some help planning a trip. I dont want anything toooo rushed. I was thinking 4-5 nights in Marrakech but I'm unsure where else!

Thanks for the help!
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Old Dec 10th, 2016, 11:41 AM
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The usual recommendation for an easy side trip from Marrakech is Essaouira on the coast, a still-active fishing community that has managed to up their game with infrastructure for a healthy tourism industry while still maintaining a feeling of authenticity and very interesting local culture. It may be my favorite place in Morocco.

There are 2 practical ways to get there, by grand Taxi (car & driver) or "luxury" bus, a very nice option. I've gone both ways on several visits and think I prefer the bus. Either way, there's a good place for a comfort stop about the halfway point, both buses & drivers take a break there. It's about a 3 hour drive altogether. Both transport options drop you outside the medina wall so neither has an advantage in that way. The bus is very comfortable and quite cheap.

There are nice accommodations for every budget, basic/clean to luxury. There are even a number of listings on Airbnb. And great seafood, of course.
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Old Dec 11th, 2016, 05:20 PM
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I was definitely thinking of Essouria for a night or two. How many days would you suggest there? And what about the remaining days in morroco? Would you suggest more cities or to go into the dessert for a few nights?
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Old Dec 11th, 2016, 05:47 PM
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This is where personal inclinations come in. I've been content on several occasions to divide my time between Marrakech & Essaouira and if, as you indicate, your preference is not to be rushed, that's what I'd recommend. With 9 nights I'd spend 6 of them, 5 full days in Marrakech, and 3 nights, 2 full days in Essaouira. It will give you the opportunity to know both places a bit, in a way those who tear through the country never do. They seem to think they do but I always wonder, how would they know?

I admit, I have strong feelings on the subject. It seems to me that when you're in a place you have the opportunity to see it. Whereas, when you're moving place to place to place, it's a blur. So I prefer to stop long enough to at least begin to take it in.
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Old Dec 11th, 2016, 05:59 PM
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I agree with Mme Perdu on the nights allocation. I had 2 nights in Essaouira this past April, which translated to about 1 1/2 days on the ground. While that was fine for me, I also did not get to the ocean, per se. I'm also one of those folks that like to be on the move constantly, so that amount of time was fine for me but if you want to move more slowly, then 3 nights there might be appropriate for you.

I had 5 nights in Marrakech, of which I devoted 3 days to the city itself and one day to a hike through the Ourika Valley and up Setti Fatma waterfall. 3 full days were plenty for me for Marrakech. 2 would have been enough but again, I like to be on the go constantly and seeing lots of new things each day. I also never made it to the new part of the city with the Majorelle Gardens, etc. YMMV.
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Old Dec 11th, 2016, 06:16 PM
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MinnBeef makes a good point. Marrakech has a great many things to see and devoting enough time to the city to see them at an elegant pace is very worthwhile. You must go back, MB, to see Majorelle Gardens, and other places you might have missed. I suspect you will.
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Old Dec 11th, 2016, 06:39 PM
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I agree, Mme. Perdu. I have wonderful memories of Morocco. I would also include a desert visit on my next trip, along with a return visit to Chefchaouen, which I absolutely loved.
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Old Dec 11th, 2016, 07:00 PM
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There are 2 smaller places I've never been and hope to on my next visit. Asilah on the ocean south of Tangier, and Safi where they make pottery, also on the ocean, north of Essaouira. I'd also like to go back to Taroudant. Maybe Rabat again. One of these days. It's been several years now and it's time.
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Old Dec 12th, 2016, 06:48 AM
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What do you think of something like the below:

Day 1 - arrive in Marrakech at 1 pm
Day 2-??
Day 3-??
Day 4-??
Day 5-??
Day 6- Marrakech
Day 7-Marrakech
Day 8 Marrakech
Day 9 - Marrakech
Day 10 - fly out of Marrakech in am

This itinerary leaves me with 5 nights, and 4.5 days in Marrakech. Is this too many days there? With this itinerary, I currently have 4 free full days. I could do 2 days/1 night Essouria or maybe just 1 day/1 night. Alternatively, I could do a dessert tour for a few days, as I read it is too far to go for just a day or two? I am open to any other suggestions!

Thank you so much!
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Old Dec 12th, 2016, 10:01 AM
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I think your sense of timing may be skewed by thinking of days instead of nights and not accounting for travel days. With 1 night in a place, you never have 2 full days, not even 1. With 2 nights you'll have 1 full day. A full day is waking up then going to sleep in 1 location. And why we generally account for days by counting nights.

Day 1 - arrive in Marrakech at 1 pm
Day 2 - Marrakech
Day 3 - Marrakech
Day 4 - Marrakech
Day 5 - Marrakech
Day 6 - Drive to Essaouira
Day 7 - Essaouira
Day 8 - Essaouira
Day 9 - Return drive to Marrakech
Day 10- Fly out of Marrakech in am

So you see with 4 full days in Marrakech (days 2-5), it leaves 2 full days (7 & 8) to spend elsewhere, plus 2 travel days. Add another destination and it begins to be rushed. I can't say if 4 days in Marrakech is "too many days there" for you. For me it's a great deal too few. But entirely up to you, your trip.

The above seems right to me. Each time you travel to a new location you must allocate days (there + back, or there + onward) for travel. Even though you may take 3 hours (or more to the desert) for the drive, with fiddling around before, then arrival and fiddling with arrival after the drive, you've used most of the day. So if you decide on 1 more destination you'll have something like:

1 - arrive
2 - Marrakech
3 - Marrakech
4 - travel to #2
5 - in #2
6 - travel to #3
7 - in #3
8 - in #3
9 - travel back to Marrakech
10 - fly out.

By the way, for camping in the desert in February, 45F at night, too cold for me. But if you decide to go to the desert, have a look at the map and chose a place other than Essaouira, one that reduces driving time. I assume you have a guidebook to read for alternate possibilities.
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Old Dec 12th, 2016, 10:57 AM
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Rereading, I see you may mean desert instead of, not in addition to, Essaouira. Entirely up to you, of course. However I find places toward and on the edge of the desert a bit dumpy, compared to Essaouira. Not necessarily bad, just in general not as nice. I can't really think of any I'd recommend with so little time. If you had more time it can be good to do a circuit including several places.

I should also say that I love walking around and hanging out. So I'm always looking for the best walking around/hanging out places. You have to make your decisions based on your own travel style.
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Old Dec 12th, 2016, 12:28 PM
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From what I am reading, it does not seem there is that much in Essouria? The beach will be much to cold to enjoy in February. Which leads me to believe just doing a mini trip there out of Marrakech could justify, am I wrong? I would love to get some comments back regarding if the desert is worth going to or not.

Day 1 - arrive in Marrakech at 1 pm
Day 2 - Marrakech
Day 3 - Desert tour
Day 4 - Desert tour
Day 5 - Desert tour, arrive back in Marrakech at night
Day 6 - Essaouira very early am
Day 7 - Essaouria, Return to Marrakech by noon
Day 8 - Marrakech
Day 9 - Marrakech
Day 10- Fly out of Marrakech in am?
Is this too rushed?

Alternatively -
Day 1 - arrive in Marrakech at 1 pm
Day 2 - Marrakech
Day 3 - Marrakech
Day 4 - Marrakech, take 7 pm bus to Essouria
Day 5 - Essaouira
Day 6 - Essaouira, Return to Marrakech by mid morning
Day 7 - ??
Day 8 - ??
Day 9 - Marrakech
Day 10- Fly out of Marrakech in am
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Old Dec 12th, 2016, 12:51 PM
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You'll never know how much you'll enjoy a place, compared to how much I and others enjoy a place, until you go and see for yourself. This holds true for whatever you're reading also. So just make your plans and if you find yourself wishing you'd made different plans, you always have the option of returning. There are no guarantees, just opinions.

As for "it does not seem there is that much in Essouria", what there is is a vibrant, scenic, compact, very beautiful seaside fishing town to enjoy with all that implies. It's a place I'd happily live. If you need to be entertained by specific activities, then it may be true that it isn't for you.

I hope others comment so you have more than 1 experienced opinion.
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Old Dec 12th, 2016, 12:54 PM
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Sorry, more than 2. MinnBeef seems to be a sensible person and since he enjoyed Morocco, a discriminating person of taste, too.
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Old Dec 21st, 2016, 06:28 PM
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Well, since you ASKED for other opinions... to me, Fez is the quintessential Morocco -- the one from the film Casablanca, and absolutely not to be missed, with its authentic Riads at less than $80 a night in Feb, and its little warrens, and you can watch things being made at different parts of town. I went in 2012 and am now trying to hitchhike a trip there on my way to Europe, as I loved it so much. I bet a flight between the two cities, is not very expensive. Marrakech was rather a disappointment for me (if you search my name you'll find more on this), at least after Fez and the desert! And people just weren't as nice.

Your basic French will come in very handy.

Essaouira is small but nice. It's the place for silver jewelry if you're interested. (Another one of my posts warns you to just plan to buy a rug... you will be happy you did -- I still treasure mine!) But I would choose Fez over them both. BTW the guides there are regulated by the government and prices are set. And yes, they get commission on everything you buy, so just give in and go with the flow... lol.

A couple of final points. People are not super big on hand washing there, but they are very big on handshaking. Purel comes in handy.

So do kleenex.

Many toilets are squat toilets so long skirts are not a bad idea.

Dress in layers as the temperature and wind changes constantly and a scarf or hood is always handy for the female for politeness and wind, (which can be bought there for only 2-3 times the price that they are here in Chinatown, sigh). Simple polite dress -- just a few things to mix and match as you will be carrying UP and down and UP and UP and UP it seems, over rough roads without sidewalks. Spending the money for the great travel drip dry stuff is totally worth it! Moneybelts are great too!

Expect to have a wonderful time. Expect to overpay sometimes -- it's all part of the show. You will love it.
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