Planned Itinerary and Questions-Morocco, April 2016

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Aug 25th, 2015, 05:18 PM
  #1
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Planned Itinerary and Questions-Morocco, April 2016

So I've bought the airline tickets and am super excited to be heading off to Morocco next April. After months of research and consideration, I've landed on the following itinerary. I'd welcome any feedback on obvious problems or omissions you might see. Recognize that I am locked in to the # of days and departure points as the airline tickets are already purchased.

0: Late afternoon Delta flight from Minneapolis to Paris
1: arrive Paris 8:40 a.m. 4 hour layover, then fly to Casablanca. Arrive 2:40 pm. Rest of day to recover
2: Visit Hassan II mosque in the morning. Catch 1:00 CTM bus to Chefchaouen to arrive ~ 7:00 p.m.
3: Chefchaouen
4: Bus from Chefchaouen to Fes, with goal to arrive by early afternoon. Afternoon & evening in Fes
5&6: Fes
7: Day trip to Volubilis, Moulay Idriss, Meknes
8: Train from Fes to Marrakech (~ 7 hours as I recall). Settle into riad and dinner.
9-11: Marrakech (one early morning to do a balloon trip over desert)
12: Day trip hiking in Atlas mountains
13: Day trip to Cascades d'Ouzod
14: Early bus from Marrakech to Essaouira. Most of all day and overnight in Essaouira
15. Travel from Essaouira to Casablanca (bus or train) to arrive by late afternoon. Overnight Casa
16: Early morning flight from Casa to Paris. All day and overnight in Paris
17: Morning flight from Paris to Minneapolis

So here are some questions I have:

1. I've tried to avoid backtracking to save precious travel time. But it seems like even without that, travel within Morocco is quite slow, as intra-country flights all seem to go through Casa, and many sights like Chefchaouen and Essaouira aren't serviced by train. So days 8 and 15 seem to be pretty much lost to travel. Are there better ways to navigate around the country that I haven't considered?

2. Is basically 24 hours in Essaouira enough time or if not, would you cut a day from Marrakech-perhaps cut the Ouzod falls?

3. Rather than an early morning bus from Chefchaouen to Fes on day 4, would any of you advise a later day bus to basically give me 1 1/2 days in Chefchaouen rather than 1 day? That would still leave me 2 full days for Fes.

4. For day 15-Essaouira to Casablanca, I've researched both the direct CTM bus as well as the Supratours bus to Marrakech and then transfer to the train to Casa. Both journeys are about 7 hours. Would you recommend one mode of travel over the other and if so, why? I just want to be back in Casa by around 6:00 pm that evening as I have an early morning (7:40 a.m.) flight that next morning to Paris.

5. Other comments?

Thanks much everyone.
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Aug 25th, 2015, 06:23 PM
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Day 7: How do you plan to get all 3 places in different directions from Fes? If not a tour, train to Meknes is close & easy. Grand taxi is how I got to Volubilis from Fes on my way to Chefchaouen. I haven't been to Moulay Idriss but imagine there are shared grand taxis. May not be practical all in 1 day.

You might consider a grand taxi, rather than the bus, from Chefchaouen to Fes, with a stop at Volubilis. It would make more sense than backtracking to Volubilis later, saving time.

#1, regarding saving time traveling: I think all in all you have a very doable itinerary. I wouldn't worry about getting places faster. I find the being forced into slower modes of travel can be very pleasant, seeing the countryside, talking to people as you go, stopping, as you do on the bus to Essaouira for a snack. It all works very well, from my point of view.

#2. I like Essaouira very much, enough to stay a week or more. You don't have time for that but if you're inclined, yes, I recommend cutting a bit of here & there for 2 or 3 days there. Everyone has their travel style and not everyone is as fond of Essaouira as I am but give it chance if you can.

A couple of my blogs on my last visit to Essaouira:
http://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/house-in-essaouira
http://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/groc...g-in-essaouira

#4. I'd take the bus & train. I find the bus perfectly comfortable for the shorter segment but especially like the countryside between Marrakech & Casa on the train and being able to stretch my legs. Nothing very special about the scenery, I just like to see it going by from the train.
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Aug 26th, 2015, 10:17 AM
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Sallam 'lekum MinnBeef,
Well done on constructing a very do-able itinerary (most travelers would have tried to squeeze in a visit through the Atlas to the desert). I agree with the learned Mme Perdu, although she does have a soft spot for Essaouira whereas I am forever in awe of Marrakech The only thing I could add is with regards to the day trip on day 7, whereby I suggest booking a day tour with a private driver/guide. The round trip route (Fes - Meknes - Moulay Idriss Zerhoun - Volubilis - Fes or v.v.) is easily managed from Fes as a private day trip, and isn't backtracking on the route from Chefchaouen to Fes other than the N4 section between Zaggota and Fes.
Happy travels
Darren Humphrys
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Aug 26th, 2015, 10:40 AM
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I love Marrakech too, DH, certainly as much as Essaouira. The solution is to have time for at least a few days in Essaouira, and MANY more in Marrakech. That's generally speaking and I understand MinnBeef doesn't have that luxury.
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Aug 26th, 2015, 05:27 PM
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Mme. Perdu and DH-

Thank you very much for your assessments. Glad to know I have a workable itinerary. I'm very much a Type A personality but the more I travel, the more I realize that it's just not wise to try and cram too much into one trip. I really did want to include a desert visit in my origiinal itinerary, but all of the tour companies I researched required at least 3 and sometimes 4 days to visit from either Fes or Marrakech. And it seemed like much of those days were simply spent in the van. So out it went, at least for this first trip.

To your specific questions and feedback:

1. Re. the day trip to Volubilis/MI/Meknes, my plan is to sign on to a day tour, either in advance or through my Fes riad. Traveling solo like I usually do, I find that these occasional 1 or 2 day tours with other tourists are a nice way to interact with others while then allowing me to get back to doing my own thing at the end of the day.

2. Mme Perdu-thank you for the blog links. I'm looking forward to checking them out.

3. Thanks also for the recommendation to take the train back from Marrakech to Casablanca. Ultimately, I want to get close to the airport that night due the early flight to Paris that next day. Do either of you know which is closer to the Casa airport-the train station or the CTM bus station?
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Aug 26th, 2015, 05:42 PM
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You can take the train directly to the airport from the main Casa station, Casa-Voyageurs. Just across the parking lot next to the station is a reasonably priced hotel where I've stayed twice, Ibis Casa Voyageurs.

http://www.ibis.com/gb/hotel-2032-ib...rs/index.shtml

I suggest you reserve to guarantee a room. Not that it'll necessarily be full but I've seen people turned away when I knew they had rooms, I'd just been given one with no reservation. It sounds odd, I know, to recommend a place where that sort of thing can happen, but I suspect he was under orders to keep up appearances. And I do like the place and it's so convenient.
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Aug 26th, 2015, 11:21 PM
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MinnBeef,
To answer your question #3, the CTM bus station and the Casa Port train station are both in downtown Casa, while Casa Voyageurs train station is a couple of miles east but is still well and truly in the city. The airport is on the very fringe of Casablanca, some 15 miles inland.

As Mme Perdu suggests, the Ibis Casa Voyageurs is adjacent to the Casa Voyageurs train station and is your best bet to ensure you can board your airport-bound train at the time you desire. Just so you know however, there are also two alternatives:
1. The tramway (opened in 2012) also stops directly outside Casa Voyageurs station, thus offering the alternative of staying in accommodation along the tram line (e.g. along Ave Mohammed V). The tram service commences at 5:30am.
2. The train service that travels from Casa Voyageurs to the airport actually commences at the newly revamped downtown Casa Port station, thus offering you the alternative of staying in nearby accommodation (e.g. Ibis Casablanca City Center, Novotel Casablanca City Center, Sofitel Casablanca Tour Blanche, which are located next to each other and across the road from Casa Port station).

The CTM bus station and Casa Port train station are a short walk (10 minutes) from each other, as is the CTM bus station and Marché Centrale tramway station.


First choice however...I recommend catching the train from Marrakech to Casablanca and overnighting at the Ibis Casa Voyageurs.

La shukrran ala wajib (ask for a translation when you're in Morocco).
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Aug 27th, 2015, 06:25 PM
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Thank you DH. By the time I return to Casa on that last night in Morocco, my objective will be to settle in and relax a bit, before hitting the sack and having to get up quite early to get to the airport by probably no later than 6:00 a.m., as my flight to Paris leaves at 7:30. The Ibis Voyageurs sounds like a good bet for a place to stay. Do you happen to know what time the train (not tram but train) to the airport starts running?
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Aug 27th, 2015, 07:24 PM
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Looks like every hour at 13 past starting at 5:13.

CASA VOYAGEURS - AEROPORT Med V

Départ Arrivée
05h13mn 05h45mn

http://www.oncf.ma/Pages/Accueil.aspx
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Aug 27th, 2015, 11:23 PM
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Yes MinnBeef, as Mme Perdu advises. You'll see on the ONCF website that there is also an earlier train departing at 03h13 and arriving at 03h45 if you wanted to be really, really early
There's a bit of construction work going on at the airport and some of our travelers have become disoriented within the terminal because the check-in counters for some airlines have been temporarily re-located. Upon your arrival on day 1, perhaps it's worth having a look around to locate where you'll have to check-in and do immigration upon your departure on day 16? Just in case your 05h13 train is a bit late.
Darren
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Aug 28th, 2015, 08:02 AM
  #11
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Mme. Perdu and DH-

Thank you again. Comforting to know there is a train from Casa Voyaguers that will get me to the airport just before 6:00 a.m. (as painful as that sounds! ). The Ibis Voyageurs hotel also sounds like a great option. I will take a look at that.
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Sep 3rd, 2015, 09:01 AM
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Mme Perdu, you've convinced me to spend an extra night in Easaouira! Having looked over my original itinerary, it seemed to make little sense to travel there from Marrakech for what would have been less than 24 hours time in the city. I will now have 1 1/2 full days in Essaouira.

Re. Marrakech, that leaves me 4 full days to try and accomplish the following must do's:

Djemma el fna (day time and night time visits)
Ali Ben Youssef Medersa
Souk shopping (I'd love to find a large rug if I could)
Saadian Tombs
Bahi Palace
day trip hiking in Atlas
day trip to Ourzod Falls
morning balloon trip

Does 4 full days in Marrakech seem like enough time to cover the above items?
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Sep 3rd, 2015, 09:49 AM
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No.
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Sep 3rd, 2015, 10:29 AM
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That's what I was afraid of. May have to drop the balloon.
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Sep 7th, 2015, 04:24 PM
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So thanks to encouraging and valuable feedback from MmePerdu and Darren Humphrys, I made one small tweak to my itinerary and have settled on the following:

0: Late afternoon Delta flight from Minneapolis to Paris
1: arrive Paris 8:40 a.m. 4 hour layover, then fly to Casablanca. Arrive 2:40 pm. Rest of day to recover. Perhaps walk through the Old Medina.
2: Visit Hassan II mosque in the morning. Travel to Chefchaouen in early afternoon to arrive by early evening.
3: Chefchaouen
4: Bus or Grand Taxi from Chefchaouen to Fes, with goal to arrive by early afternoon. Afternoon & evening in Fes
5&6: Fes. Tour Fes el Bali. Brave the souks!
7: Day trip to Volubilis, Moulay Idriss, Meknes via a tour operator to be arranged in advance.
8: Train from Fes to Marrakech (~ 7 hours as I recall). Settle into Riad Kheirredine and dinner at Riad.
9-12: Marrakech + day trips to hike in Atlas and visit Cascades d'Ouzod. One early morning to do a balloon trip over desert, if possible. (If have to drop something, I lean towards dropping the balloon as I have already done it in Cappadocia, but would really like to do it again.
13-14: Grand Taxi to Essaouira. Arrive late morning/early afternoon to allow 1 1/2 full days in Essaouira. Enjoy the sea air, eat some great fish.
15: Grand Taxi or bus back from Essaouira to Marrakech and then train to Casablanca. Spend the night at Ibis Voyaguers.
16: Early morning flight from Casa to Paris. All day and overnight in Paris. Thinking I'll pay a return visit to see the beautiful stained glass at Ste. Chapelle and then have a cool dinner somewhere.
17: Morning flight from Paris to Minneapolis

Some of the top experiences I am most looking forward to:

1. Visiting the Hassan II Mosque, as it's about the only mosque in Morocco that non-Muslims are allowed to enter and it looks totally gorgeous!

2. Walking around Chefchaouen. I know some have said it's boring and not worth the time but something about it intrigues me.

3. Volubilis, for the historical aspect of it.

4. Visiting the Djemma el Fna. Seeing the snake charmers and having a cafe noir or mint tea in one of the cafes above the square. Hearing the call to prayer from the Koutoubia mosque.

5. Souk shopping everywhere. Would LOVE to find a large hand made rug (8x10 or 6x9)in the souks but I'm sure with the inevitable searching and haggling, this could easily take the equivalent of a full day, which I really don't have.

5. Hiking in the Atlas. Seeing the snow capped peaks and hopefully seeing tons of wildflowers. (mid-April)

6. Ballooning over the desert if I can fit it in with only 2+ full days to tour Marrakech.


Would appreciate any additional thoughts any of you might have!
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Sep 7th, 2015, 04:30 PM
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Hi!the train takes too long from Marrakech to Fes,the bus is also slow and you're tired after u get to your destination,I have a suggestion for you and you can consider it or forget it because I did follow a friend's tip,i had a budget of my trip to Morocco I gave it to a travel company I told them what I wanted to do and visit and the made for me the best itinerary,they booked accommodation, a driver at disposal to take me where I want when I want,without the trouble of taking a train for 7 to 8 hours or getting riped off with grand and petit taxis you save so much time,you spend it relaxing by a your swimming pool.
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Sep 7th, 2015, 06:10 PM
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You mention the call to prayer from the Koutoubia Mosque. Even better, sit or stand on the roof terrace at your riad and listen to the call begin, then move from one mosque to another as it travels through the city. Quite wonderful. And something I look forward to every visit is being asleep and waking just enough to hear the early morning call, while it's still dark, then drifting back to sleep. Also wonderful and otherworldly, coming from a place where there isn't such a thing.

I like your attitude, MinnBeef, you're going to have a wonderful time. And if you're lucky, Morocco will have it's way with you, as it has with me, and this will be the first of a number of visits.
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Sep 7th, 2015, 11:07 PM
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MinnBeef,

I also like your attitude, and also really hope that al-Maghreb al-Aqsa weaves its special magic on you. You will need to have a sense of humor in the Arabo-African sense (don't take anything too personal, laugh and smile a lot, slow down and share a mint tea or three, strike up a conversation) as you are using public transport, which we all know can sometimes be frustrating. Good on you for sticking to your guns with Chefchaouen, which incidentally might be the best place for you to pencil-in an hour or two of carpet haggling/buying. The women of the Rif (like their Atlas and desert sisters) also weave carpets, and there's a great Ensemble Artisanal on the edge of the medina, plus quite a few other shops that will gladly take your money off you but in a chilled, kif-induced kinda way

Mme Perdu, the reason I travel is to wake up in the morning knowing I'm somewhere really...different, and the early call to prayer ("Allah Akbar!") always provides me with this feeling. I agree wholeheartedly with you.

Happy travels, Minn Beef.
Darren
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Sep 8th, 2015, 08:28 AM
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MmePerdu and DarrenHumphrys-thank you once again. As I don't leave until late March, I know I will have many other questions before then, and will plan to reach out to you in these forums for additional perspective and guidance!

MB
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Sep 8th, 2015, 10:23 AM
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Afwan = You're welcome!
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