8 Days for a Trip to Morocco from Chicago
February 19, 2019 7:10 PM   Subscribe

Enough time for Marrakesh+Fez+High Atlas+Erg Chebbi Desert Overnight?

I am trying to plan a last minute trip from Chicago to Morocco. Ideally leaving on a Saturday and returning on Sunday in March (8 days). Between flights to and from Morocco this doesn't leave much time.

Is it feasible to spend time in Marrakesh, Fez, the High Atlas, and maybe a short camel trek at Erg Chebbi?

My thought is to fly into Marrakesh spend two days there, maybe one day in the gorges or high atlas, one day overnight into the desert at Erg Chebbi, and then two days in Fez. Plus some travel time in between. Does this seem feasible? My main concerns are the travel times.

The train between Marrakesh and Fez seems to take over 7 hours with driving being a little faster. Just getting between the two is going to eat up most of a day.

Flying out of Fez might be problematic given the limited number of flights. To get a reasonable flight might require traveling from Fez to Casablanca.

Anyone have any Morocco itinerary recommendations for a relatively short trip?
posted by cycleback to Travel & Transportation around Morocco (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That is pretty seriously pushing it. I did a four day trip (with these guys, who I thought did well) from Marrakesh to Fes via the gorges and desert (the camel trek was quite short; a couple of hours perhaps). It was four solid days (leaving Marrakesh first thing on day 1 and arriving Fes the evening of day 4), with a fair amount of time in the car. Amazing scenery, but pretty packed itinerary.

Marrakesh and Fes are both very complex, chaotic cities worth spending time in, especially so you don't feel internally pressed to see stuff while simultaneously dealing with all of the pressure from seemingly everyone you meet.

Given the jet lag and culture shock, you're going to have a hard time fitting it all in with that time frame; if you could add a couple of days for that itinerary, it'd be a lot more reasonable.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:29 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Agree with Homeboy Trouble. I did a trip to Morocco that sounds like what you're considering, and -- while it was a really great trip -- it felt like we spent an awful lot of time just getting from place to place.
posted by cranberry_nut at 3:37 AM on February 20, 2019

No that's seriously far too much. Also I would choose Morocco or Fez; both are hard going for tourists new to Morocco and it's just too much on a very short agenda. Also please be sure to research the ethics of your camel tour company if that's a thing you want to do.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:54 AM on February 20, 2019

I did this: flew into Casablanca, took train to fez for two days, then got a driver that took us for 3 days and took a camel ride and stayed night in the Sahara then 3 days in marakkesh then one night in Casablanca.

I did not think it was that hectic. Go for it!
posted by sandmanwv at 5:00 AM on February 20, 2019

I'm going to agree with sandmanwv in dissenting from popular opinion here. When we did Morocco, we basically did most of Lonely Planet's 2-week itinerary in about 8-9 days.

Flew into Casablanca, caught the train to Meknes the next morning where we stayed 1 night, then Fez stayed 2 nights (can HIGHLY recommend La Maison Maure), then got a driver to take us via the gorges to Merzouga / Erg Chebbi for a night in the desert. From there we headed to Marrakesh for 2 nights, but spent our second day there on a day trip to Essaouira, which we wound up being really glad we did. Caught a train back to Casablanca from Marrakesh for our onward flight.

Is it squeezing a lot into a little time? Yes. Did we have to decidedly skip some things (hiking in gorges, etc.) that we would have liked to have done? Yes. Was it the only time we were likely to be able to spend a longish week in Morocco? Yes. So why not try to see as much as possible?

One thing I'd recommend - get your itinerary planned, riads booked, and drivers figured out ahead of time. The train timetables are easy enough to figure out on your own, but you WILL run into scammers offering to befriend you and help you sort out transport / accommodations and you will get shafted if you go with them. Have as much as possible arranged before you arrive, so that you don't have to make any new "friends" while you're there.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:35 PM on February 20, 2019

I recently did a Marrakesh>Fez>Chefchaouen>Fez trip in about the same amount of time. It was tight, but it worked. I want to point out that the trip between Fez and Merzouga also takes a full day. That's 2-3 full days of traveling, not including your arrival and departure days. I wouldn't recommend spending that much time traveling considering how short your trip is. Camping in the Sahara is a once in a lifetime experience, literally for me, because I'm glad I did it, and I hated every second of it. If you only have 8 days, I'm not sure it's worth spending 2 days on that unless that's one of the things you're specifically going to Morocco for.

I also thought Marrakesh was overrated. The souq is super touristy and full of cheap trinkets, unlike the souq in Fez. I'm sure Marrakesh would be nice if you were staying at a hotel with a spa or something. We stayed for about 3 days, but I think we would have been fine with 1 or 2. Luckily you can just show up at the train station in Marrakesh and buy a ticket to Fez at any time, and even if all the seats are sold out they'll let you sit in the hallway of the train until some seats open up. I would recommend bringing as little luggage as possible.

I love Fez. It's more conservative so you're not going to get the nightlife of other places, but it's much less touristy. The souq and the ville nouvelle are great. If the weather is ok, walk up past the cemetery to the Hotel Les Merenides and sit out on the rocks overlooking the city for a great view. I showed my friend that spot and she loved it so much we went back a second time just to sit again for a while. My friend and I both wished we had left Marrakesh earlier to spend more time in Fez.

You could easily take a train from Fez to Casa in a few hours one morning and then fly out that evening or the next day.

My friend and I tried to make reservations before we showed up in Morocco, but the online forms weren't working so we just winged it. It was totally fine, which is one of the nice things about traveling in the Middle East. We got train tickets last minute and our hostel luckily had a van to take us to Chefchaouen. You might want to try to make some phone calls to make reservations to the desert.
posted by Penguin48 at 1:39 PM on February 20, 2019

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