From Tetouan to the Sahara: a 5-day road trip guide
4 Moroccan cities + 1 desert!
Sleeping in the middle of the desert under a starry sky of a thousand stars, waking up by the strong sneeze of a camel, and watching up close the traditional Moroccan ceramic handcraft were only a few of the highlights of my 5-day Morocco road trip. Intrigued? Grab a cup of coffee (or a mint tea) and follow me on this trip to Mama Africa.
The Chouara tannery in Fez, a rainbow of natural dyes
Day 1: almost missed our ferry but we had a lucky fairy
Back then, I was living in Cadiz, it was 07:00 and I was waiting for my friends to take the bus to Algeciras. Just a few minutes before hopping on the bus, Manuel said that he forgot his passport and ID, essential documents to embark on the ferry. Long story short, we missed our bus and had to wait for the next one.
We had almost a 1.5-hour drive ahead and couldn’t wait to hop on the ferry to Ceuta from the port of Algeciras and start exploring Morocco. We arrived at the port of Algeciras 5 minutes before departure and thankfully we embarked on the ferry to Ceuta!
After an hour of playing UNO (and losing most rounds 😛), we reached the north coast of Africa! And now you might think let’s explore Morocco, right? Noooope!
Ceuta doesn’t belong to Morocco as it is a Spanish autonomous city. Therefore, we still had to pass the borders. After an hour, we finally made it to the Maghreb, the place where the sun sets.
There, Ángel, our Spanish friend who is also working as a tour guide in Morocco was waiting for us in his car. That meant only ONE thing! Our 5-day road trip to Morocco was about to begin exploring the beautiful city of Tetouan first.
Stretching our legs and finding a restroom (road trip aftereffects) was our number 1 priority. After that, we took a walk through the narrow streets of the Old Medina and the whitewashed houses perched high on the foothills of the Rif Mountains.
That is probably why Tetouan is also known as the “White Dove”. Then, of course, it was time for a quick break for mint tea before hitting the road again for about 2 hours to reach Chefchaouen where we would spend the night.
A little square in the Old Medina of Tetouan
Day 2: walking around the bluish Chefchaouen
Waking up in the bluest landscape of all felt like I was in the Moroccan version of the Smurf’s village. Back in 2016, Chefchaouen was already popular but now being on the trends of Instagram and TikTok it gets really crowded, especially during the summer months!
Don’t bother searching for the top things to do in Chefchauen, as the village itself is the sight! We walked around the Blue Pearl’s narrow streets, played hike and seek with the kids, saw the picturesque doorways, and took pictures in front of the impressive murals.
Somewhere between the alleys, we met Mr. Anwar, a top rug seller with kind eyes and a wide smile. His shop is covered in colorful rugs perfectly matching his vivid personality and we couldn't resist buying some for ourselves. Will you?
The picturesque El Hauta square in Chefchaouen
After a few hours of strolling around Chefchaouen and shopping in the Medina, it was time to eat! I recommend you opt for a lunch buffet to try all the local products and flavors. We went to the Parador restaurant (within the Parador Hotel) and enjoyed our meal with stunning views.
Having a lunch buffet is totally recommended as it includes local delicacies and vegetarian options such as split pea soup, eggplant, couscous with vegetables, caramelized onions, and peanuts on top!🤤
Tip: the most instagrammable spots require a small fee to take a photo. However, I wouldn’t do it as Chefchaouen has so many beautiful corners and picture-perfect spots to take pics.
Happy after having lunch in the Parador restaurant in Chefchaouen
Day 3: taking ceramic workshops in Fez
The next morning we woke up in Fez, one of the oldest and most famous cities of Morocco. As we had Ángel with us (the tour guide guy) we knew exactly where to take a turn or where to eat in Fez etc.
However, if you’re not so lucky, I definitely recommend you book a tour with a local or a licensed tour guide as the old town of Fez is truly a labyrinth! Trust me, it’s very easy to get lost in these alleys!
We had only a day in Fez so we wanted to see as much as possible but also enjoy our time there while experiencing the culture, chatting with locals, and of course bargaining for the dreamy ceramic tiles.
We started our tour early in the morning from the impressive Royal Palace outside the Old Town. Stop and stare for a while at the golden doors with the impressive handles and then of course take some memorable pics with your friends.
Tip: you are not allowed to enter the Royal Palace and you can neither take pictures of the royal guards.
One of the seven gates of the imposing Royal Palace in Fez
Then we passed through the Jewish Quarter and headed towards the busy Medina! You will know that you are in the right place as soon as you see the ornate Blue Gate also known as “Bab Bou Jeloud”.
Here, you can see the impressive and world-famous tanneries with colorful leather pieces drying in the sun, smell the spices, and taste the strong flavors of delicious wraps.
We couldn't resist and grabbed one of those tasty vegetable wraps with hummus sauce on our way to a traditional Moroccan ceramic workshop.
When we finally reached the pottery studio, we had the opportunity to make Moroccan ceramics with our own hands and of course, learn some of the secrets of Moroccan pottery art from the local craftsmen.
Something like this was expected. Never did it!
Day 4: a 1.000.000-star hotel in the middle of the Sahara Desert
We left Fez early the next morning as we wanted to head towards the town of Merzouga and the Sahara Desert. It was about a 7-hour ride including a stop in the town of Erfoud.
So, our plan was to arrive in Merzouga by noon, take a 4X4 excursion to the reddish, giant sand dunes and finally reach the campsite of the Berber tents where we would spend the night. It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life so far and you should definitely go for it. Why?
Me, trying to blend in
Just imagine sleeping under the Saharan stars with nothing but mountainous dunes of rosy sand surrounding you on all sides. Just think of having dinner in a beautiful tent with live Moroccan music and traditional dancing around a bonfire until late on a clear starry night.
The sky was so bright that we barely needed any light except for the bonfire keeping us warm. And yes, it can get really cold in the Sahara Desert at night so bring some warm clothes.
It's indeed a 1,000,000-star hotel, isn't it?
Day 5: the day of our return
I chose to sleep next to the opening of the tent so I could see the starry night. However, a surprise was waiting for me a few hours later.
I remember waking up from a loud noise only to realize that it was a camel sneezing just a few meters away from my face. Be careful because they also spit but that is another story for another time.😋
Anyway, that was when I realized that the sun was rising. So, everyone woke up with cold feet but a warm heart because we wanted to watch the sunrise and no matter how tired we were, we wouldn’t miss it for the world!
Berbers walking towards their camels in the Sahara Desert
Spending the night in the desert with the Berbers and seeing nothing but the sun rising over the endless dunes on the horizon was so unreal.
I will be forever grateful for experiencing this moment and I have to admit saying goodbye to the spitting camels, the Berbers, and the Sahara Desert wasn't easy.
Ten hours later we were very tired onboard the ferry to Algeciras from Ceuta. As we were leaving Africa behind, I thought to myself, what a wonderful world ♪♪! Some places are inexplicably magical and definitely leave a mark on your memory, your consciousness, and your heart.
Hello world! I am Eleni Kotidou, a copywriter, an incurable wanderluster and fellow traveler. With 26 countries and hundreds of destinations in my resume, I am here to share my expertise and give you the best tips for your ferry trips. Somewhere between air and nautical miles, I realized that I have a weak spot for ferry trips, endless blue horizons and sunbathing on the deck. So, I guess it comes as no surprise that I work as a copywriter at Ferryhopper 😛. Now, pack your bags and let’s scratch island hopping off your bucket list 📝!