Over 10 days in the Summer of 2018, we took a much-awaited fabulous trip through Morocco. The final itinerary placed us in 5 main cities – Casablanca, Chefchaouen, Fes, Marrakech and Ouarzazate – with a few more sights and brief stopovers in between.
With two young kids (9, 13) there were all kinds of concerns swirling around in our heads – from the simplest (no Mac-n-Cheese?), to more involved ones involving logistics, driving, language, and safety. The more we read up on the Internet, the more polarized our views became – swinging from no problemo, to what are we thinking.
To add to it all, as we found out later in our planning cycle, we would be visiting during Ramadan, which brought additional questions to mind.
We are a family that prefers to drive. Everywhere. It comes out of necessity. The Rowdy Planeteers like to stop every so often at arbitrary places to take photographs. They like to linger at places longer than others would. And they prefer to be out and around during times of day (like dusk) when others are busily crowding restaurants.
For Morocco, we decided to take our very first all-organized yet individually customized tour package. We wanted to get the flexibility of driving on our own, with the advantage of having a local driver, local guides, accommodations, food and all planning all taken care of. No big buses, and yet no stressing it out.
All of these constraints in mind, we ended up doing quite a bit of research – both reading, and calling up – on who should be our tour operator of choice. We ended up with Odynovo Tours as our overall planning partner, and their on-the-ground counterparts, Pure Morocco Tours for the actual trip.
Laura Li at Odynovo was extremely efficient, patient and flexible when it came to catering to our complicated and ever-changing demands.
Having done the trip now, we cannot help but praise the crew at Pure Morocco Tours for the absolutely unparalleled service that they have provided. We are pretty demanding customers (see above), but Fatima (our trip coordinator), Salim (our driver) and the team went out of their way to make our trip exceptional.
Flexible, courteous, knowledgeable, and professional with a drive to make our trip comfortable, enjoyable, seamless and stress-free. Fatima is now a friend.
It is said that the true worth of an services organization is exposed when things don’t go according to plan. Planned outcomes are always smooth, but its the handling of the unplanned events that separate the bad from the exceptional.
There were two unplanned events that Fatima handled unbelievably smoothly. One was logistical – a hotel that we didn’t like because it was too modern. The other was a little more personal and involved, and required her to spend a day of her personal time with us, which she so graciously did. There was one personal unplanned event in Salim’s own life, but he didn’t let that get in the way at all. We only learned about it much later.
We have been recommending Pure Morocco and Odynovo to all of our friends, and cannot recommend them enough to the reader.
For our itinerary –
Day 1: Land in Casablanca, and see the Hassan II mosque in the evening. You could also spend this evening in the medina if you so please. Chill.
Day 2: Morning was spent visiting the grand Hassan II mosque and a little bit of the city, followed by a drive to Chefchaouen. We arrived at Chefchaouen in the evening, around 4 pm. Our riad, Lina Ryad and Spa, was forgettable from the outside, and memorable from the inside.
Day 3: We spent an entire day wandering around the streets of Chefchaouen. The city is incredibly compact, photogenic and friendly. Just don’t wear blue.
Day 4: A little bit more of Chefchaouen, and then a drive to Fes. We stopped at the Roman ruins of Volubilis and also made a quick stop in the town square of Meknes. The evening was spent at the Merenid tombs in Fes, and one of the best meals of our trip at La Maison Bleue.
Day 5: A guided tour through the alleyways of Fez with a stop at the famed tannery. Lunch was at the gorgeous Dar Zineb. In the evening we simply relaxed on the rooftop bar of our Riad – Palais Amani.
Day 6: A long drive towards Marrakech. We had two options – the desert route or the boring highway route. We chose the highway route given that it was the peak of summer, and we wanted to get to Marrakech quickly and spend an evening exploring. We reached by 3pm, and had the bulk of the afternoon and evening to explore the Jemaa el-Fna at night. Our hotel, The Pearl Marrakech, was in the modern part of town, but only a 7 minute walk from the Jemaa el-Fna.
Day 7: A walking tour of the various sights and sounds of Marrakech. The evening could be spent in the edgy Comptoir Darna.
Day 8: A long 4 hour trip through the absolutely barren, remote and fantastic Atlas mountains to the edge of the Sahara at Ouarzazate and Ait Ben Haddou. Ait was an oasis town on the extremely busy and prosperous trans-Saharan highway, and is now a ghost town with only 4 inhabitant families. The entire town is in the middle of nowhere, built completely out of mud, and has no electricity or plumbing.
We spent the night in the movie memorabilia themed Temple des Arts built by a gentlemen who was in the Hollywood movie business supplying props to the various studios that have cropped up nearby. The second best meal of the trip was our dinner at this hotel.
Day 9: The long 4 hour trek back through the Atlas mountains to Marrakech airport for our flight back at 1 pm.
As a variation, you could skip that one extra day in Chefchaouen or add another day for an excursion to the port city of Essaouira, or a night stop in the town of Meknes.