Many visitors to Morocco never venture outside the main tourist centres and they only get a fleeting glimpse of what this North African country is about. Make the most of your visit by travelling into the interior, to small Berber villages and vast, open landscapes. A Moroccan road trip is just the way to and get under the country’s skin.
Casablanca to Marrakech
One of the most popular points of entry into Morocco is bustling and vibrant Casablanca, the seaside city made famous in the eponymous movie classic and home to the stunning King Hassan II Mosque.
Marrakech is only about 240km away. It’s located in the High Atlas Mountains and has a much more ‘Moroccan’ atmosphere than cosmopolitan Casablanca. Explore the Medina with its souks, winding alleys, historic mosques and palaces and hammams.
Travellers often recommend that you take public transport from Casablanca to Marrakech to help you to prepare for the notoriously chaotic way of driving in the country. However, the highway is relatively quiet. In both cities you’ll find branches of major car hire companies such as Europcar, Avis and National Car Hire, so get a vehicle of your choice and then follow some simple driving tips.
Marrakech to Ouarzazate
From Marrakech, it’s a little over 200km to Ouarzazate on the edge of the Sahara. You’ll be travelling along mountain roads, so drive slowly and carefully. Enjoy the spectacular scenery from the Tizi n’Tichka Pass, which is about halfway between the two cities, and remember to bring some warm clothing if you visit in winter because snow is quite common here. About 30km before you reach Ouarzazate, turn off the highway and make a small side trip to Aït-Ben-Haddou. This beautiful mud-brick town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Quiet Ouarzazate makes for a great base from which to explore the surrounding area. Here you’ll also find both Atlas Studios and CLA Studios where several blockbusters were shot.
Ouarzazate to Erfoud
The next leg of the journey stretches over about 300km. You can cover the distance to Erfoud in about 4 hours but don’t rush it. Instead, stop and take in the views of the Dadès Gorge or take a closer look at some of the many kasbahs in the Dadès Valley. Near Tinghir with its palm trees, explore the dramatic Todra Gorge. At Errachidia, turn south to Erfoud, where Morocco’s only royal palace in the Sahara is located. Make this lovely town your base for exploring the Martian landscape, fossil deposits, little desert villages and the breath-taking Erg Chebbi Dunes. You’ll recognize the area from movies like The Mummy and Prince of Persia.
Erfoud back to Casablanca
To get back to Casablanca, you have several options. Take the sae route back or cut through the Middle Atlas region via more modern cities like Beni Mellal and Khouribga. If you have time, though, take the long way round via Fez and Rabat in the north for even more of Morocco’s treasures.
Morocco is a culturally explosive, geographically diverse and historically powerful destination. It is no wonder that it is such a popular tourist destination in Africa. At every turn there is something to see or experience that leaves you speechless. Being so close to Europe gives it an added convenience of short trips that put in you in a location that feels worlds away.
CITY BREAK IN MARRAKECH
Marrakech is a popular city destination; it is vibrant, full of history, culture and entertainment. A stroll through the city leads you to one of the busiest square in Africa Djemma El Fna; it is where all kinds of activities happen from dancing, eating, traditional tales and other performances that will leave you speechless. The souks will intrigue you with their variety and the mosques and medina will give you something diverse to write home about.
CULTURAL HOLIDAYS STAYING IN TRADITIONAL ACCOMMODATION
Morocco has a wide array of accommodations ranging from hotels and riads to auberges. For an exceptional cultural experience it is better to stay in riads or auberges. A riad is a traditional Moroccan residence with a courtyard which may contain flowers and a fountain right in the middle. Rooms are built facing the courtyards; they are decorated with rich traditional Moroccan designs and fabrics. You’ll find them in every Moroccan town or city and especially for holiday accommodation near Marrakech and in the city centre. On the other hand auberges are found in rural areas and are often made of mud in Kasbah style. You can also experience the nomadic lifestyle of the Berbers by camping in the Bedouin camps right in the middle of the desert. In this way you will get to experience the Moroccan culture in a more intimate way. The Moroccans are friendly people and you can therefore live among them without worries.
ADVENTURE HOLIDAYS IN THE MOUNTAINS
The High Atlas Range is the greatest mountain range in North Africa and is one of the most beautiful and intriguing parts of Morocco. It has retained remoteness and a certain degree of wilderness which is charming and captivating. Its rugged and towering terrains have made it a playground for thrill seekers and the perfect place for adventure holidays in morocco. Whether you want to engage in conquering the highest peak, trek through the quaint mountain villages or enjoy scenic walks with your family, the Atlas ranges do not shy away from any of your expectations. It is a place where you can combine adventure and cultural tours because it is also home to the Berbers.
Morocco gives you exhilarating holidays, holidays that inspire you by giving you an opportunity to indulge in your favorite sport. Morocco is an emerging golfing destination with numerous golf courses especially near the most touristic regions. If it is surfing in Morocco you are after, the crashing waves of the Atlantic coast will give you the experience of a lifetime. If you want to pursue both activities during your holiday, then the right place to head is Agadir. This area boasts of a number of great courses set in magnificent surroundings and the numbers seem to grow constantly. The spectacular coastline of Agadir offers stunning beaches where water sports such as kite surfing, jet skiing and wind surfing are possible.
A Moroccan holiday can introduce you to the rich variety of North African life, its history and culture, its religion and cuisine. Everyone likes the sun, the chance to relax and really feel that they can forget the problems of everyday life back at home. Those who choose Morocco and more precisely Marrakech are guaranteed an unforgettable experience.
History and culture
There are museums to explore and you can delve into the history of the region by going down a few steps into the Koubba El–Badiyin which is a surviving example of Moorish history from the 12th century. It is thought to have been part of a mosque at that time. The most visited monument in the city is a walled garden with mosaic graves from the Saadian period. There are three small pavilions holding graves, many were for the princes from the 18th century, but also others from before that time.
One of the pavilions holds the grave of Sultan Ahmed El-Mansour who ruled at the end of the 16th century. His palace is definitely worth a visit. It is now a fairly bare ruin but in its time it included walls and ceilings encrusted with gold brought all the way from Timbuktu. It took over 20 years to put together the pools, gardens and pavilions and was finished just before the Sultan died.
Marrakech Tours are designed to show you the essence of the city and you can take your pick of the things you wish to see. In museums such as Dar Si Said there are many exhibits of crafts and woodwork, kitchen implements, musical instruments and weapons.
Leather is definitely one of the things for which the city is famous. If you go to the tannery area you must be prepared for real pungent smells from the series of containers holding foul smelling liquids; little has changed since medieval days in terms of process with bird droppings still being an essential part of the tanning process. It’s an experience but whether you want to hang around long enough to shop is another question. Elsewhere there are plenty of shops selling excellent leather goods and not a hint of the smell that you experienced earlier.
The Souks of Marrakech will certainly lighten your wallet because there is far more than leather on offer. There are plenty of textiles and Moroccan carpets are world renowned. You will have the chance to taste the spices of the country whenever you sit down in a restaurant and if you want to know more they will all be available for sale when your guide shows you the markets. There are indeed many handicrafts that you may like to buy so it is worth travelling light which you can do during the warm months to leave space in your case.
Image attributed to Commons.wikimedia.org Donar Reiskoffer
With some of the most negative effects of the recent worldwide global recession beginning to wane, consumers and businesses are beginning to spend money on travel more freely than in the past several years. For tourists, there is probably a large amount of pent-up demand to visit new places and see things that they had been putting off for several years. For businesses, it’s an opportunity to create more long-term business relationships with companies, including both clients and vendors, from other countries. South Africa is especially appealing to both groups of consumers, which is why a recent report about the state of the hospitality industry in South Africa did not disappoint with its findings.
Balancing out Demand and Supply
A report recently released by the international accounting firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers indicates that tourism and hospitality in South Africa are on the move again. While the numbers are encouraging and are trending upward, the firm cautioned operators to postpone additional developments, unless they were absolutely necessary. Their advice is based on the fact that the available supply across South Africa is still not matched by the necessary demand. Until that equation balances out, any new developments are likely to upset the delicate balance that has been achieved. Across the board, the numbers are encouraging. Perhaps it was due to the successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup which put South Africa on centre stage and spurred people from all over the world to come and visit as soon as their economic conditions allowed. The report indicated that the average hotel occupancy, which stood at approximately 57% in 2012, was expected to jump all the way to almost 69% within five years.
A Magnet for Foreign Visitors
While a majority of visitors to South Africa (over 72%) come from other countries on the African continent, the interesting point that the report made is that there has been a noticeable jump in visitors from both United States and Europe. Many parts of Europe are still reeling from the economic crisis which plunged the entire euro zone into severe distress when the global recession hit. Nonetheless, there was an almost 10% increase in visitors to South Africa from Europe in 2012 and the trend can be expected to continue. During the same time, visitors from the United States increased almost 14% and given the fact that their economy is beginning to stretch its legs again, the numbers of visitors from North America in general can be expected to increase dramatically in the next several years.
Hotels Remain Front and Centre
The report concluded that the hotel business will remain strong and viable in South Africa for the years to come. They noted that quality operators such as TsogoSun.com can be expected to reap benefits from having high-quality accommodations and excellent management. The report calculated that there should be over 63,000 rooms available in South Africa by 2017, generating almost R 17 billion, a compounded yearly increase of almost 10%. This shows the staying power of the hospitality business in South Africa which will likely continue unabated, especially in light of the tragic loss of Nelson Mandela, which will attract even more visitors to the country.
Image courtesy of: freedigitalphotos.net Tom Curtis
Known as Zihua to locals, Zihuatanejo is as close as you’re going to get to paradise. Beautiful beaches, tasty food, friendly people and an easygoing lifestyle; it’s the formula for the life, wouldn’t you agree? This quick travel guide gives you everything you need to know before heading over.
We’re sure that one of the main reasons you’ve booked your holiday to Zihuatanejo is the abundance of beautiful beaches in the area. Our top two choices are Playa La Ropa and Playa Las Gatas.
Playa La Ropa was named after the Spanish ship that was wrecked nearby. Its cargo full of silks washed ashore, hence the name (ropa = clothes). It has that typical exotic feel, with palm trees in abundance. It’s also known for its incredible seafood.
Despite being somewhat isolated, Playa Las Gatas still has plenty going for it.The only way to get to it is by boat, making it quite an interesting excursion for the day. There’s plenty to explore, so there’s something available for everyone. It’s great for snorkeling due to the coral and it’s also quite safe for your children. There are plenty of bars and restaurants as well, which aren’t too destructive on the wallet.
How to Get Around
Don’t forget to take your walking shoes, as the main way to get around in Zihuatanejo is by foot. Don’t worry too much though; there are loads of taxis around should you need them. They’re not too expensive either. They can also take you to the nearby locations like the Posada De Los Raqueros in Troncones.
Otherwise, you can catch what are known as ‘lanchas’. These are small boats that are powered by small motors – they’re the best option if you want to hop from one coastal location to another.
Want to get to Ixtapa’s posh beach resort? You can catch a bus from the various central bus points, all of which take you straight to your destination.
What to Buy
In terms of trinkets and souvenirs, you get your usual range that you’d find in any Mexican resort town. Some items are well worth a look and local handicraft is available in abundance. Just steer clear of the cheap touristy junk!
Where to Eat
There’s plenty of choice in terms of eateries and we’re pretty sure you’ll enjoy all of the culinary delights on offer. Once restaurant we can recommend is Porto de Mara, which is one of the top fine dining experiences in the area and has a fantastic atmosphere. If you like seafood, then this place is an absolute must.
Our top choice is definitely Doña Licha. It’s basically the definition of Mexican home cooking – the food is tasty and filling, while the atmosphere is completely laid-back and relaxed. You won’t believe just how cheap it is compared to other touristy places. You can’t leave without paying this place a visit!
Being a resort town, Zihuatanejo definitely caters to those that want a drink (or two) during the evening hours. The main road to Playa la Ropa has a few decent places to get a tipple, of which La Bocana is at the top of our list.
Morocco is a good location to explore by car, offering spectacular mountain views, flower filled meadows and forests.
Tizi ‘n’ Test Pass
This route takes in some impressive mountain scenery. The road leads from Marrakech to Taroudannt, winding around hairpin bends. There are views of the Western High Atlas to the northwest and the Souss plain to the south. The distance between the destinations is approximately 136 miles.
While in Marrakech, you can explore the famous souks and markets. Taroudannt is a smaller and quieter town, but it is worth a look. The ramparts can be explored on foot or by horse drawn carriage.
Tetouan to Chefchaouen
On leaving Tetouan, the road starts to climb the Rif Mountains. There are small villages along the way, where you may see the locals in their traditional dress. This is a fairly short drive at less than forty miles.
The medina in Tetouan appears as though it hasn’t changed for centuries. This area is still relatively undiscovered by tourists.
Chefchaouen is an attractive mountain village, which has been described as one of the prettiest in Morocco. The town has cobbled streets and flower filled squares, set against the backdrop of the mountains.
The Dades Gorge
This short drive is one of the most scenic routes in Morocco. There are some impressive rock formations, which can be viewed up close on foot. This is a colourful valley, with green riverbeds and scarlet rocks. There are several villages in the valley, with traditional Berber architecture and groves full of fruit trees.
Ouarzazate to Zagora
The drive from Ouarzazate to Zagora is fairly long, at over one hundred miles. The road leads through the rocky and barren Jebel Anaouar, before dropping down into the Dra Valley.
The Dra Valley was formed by water from the High Atlas, which creates the occasional lush oasis.
This gorge in the High Atlas Mountains offers wonderful scenery. The drive can be started from the busy mining town of Tinerhir, which is a short distance from the most impressive part of the gorge.
The gorge becomes very deep and narrow, but there is a hard surfaced road which means that it can easily be accessed by car. It looks particularly impressive during the morning sun.
If you decide to rent a car to take a road trip while you are in Morocco, it should be easy to find a hire company. Global car rental companies like Alamo Car Hire operate in the area.
There are certain tips to bear in mind when driving in Morocco. It is good practice to slow down, even on a green light, as sometimes the lights are ignored when there is not much traffic. You should also ensure that you don’t exceed the speed limit, as this is strictly enforced. Also make sure that you are polite and courteous to other drivers, as this will help to keep the experience enjoyable.