Hello and welcome to part 2 of the Morocco adventure! A big thank you to everyone who enjoyed part 1, I hope you can find some activities in this post to get you itching to book your own trip out here! The following activities are listed in the order that I did them on my holiday so you can let me know in the comments below which one/s really tickle your fancy!
For me this was a special activity to book because I have tried in the past to go but fate always told me no. It was either I couldn’t find the place or when I finally did, it was closed…this was all while I was in South Korea and urgh it was completely frustrating! So getting to finally go in the desert landscape of Marrakech was uhmazing! I booked my experience easily through Tripadvisor and once you pay, you get a voucher sent to your email address – make sure to type it in correctly! You have to have this either in paper form or can access it on your phone. All experiences booked with Tripadvisor I printed before I went but if you want to use your phone, I recommend taking a screenshot of it so you don’t have to worry about not having Wifi to dig through your emails.
Here is the list of quad biking tours available – all year round – I specifically did the tour through the palm groves. This was around 2 hours on automatic quad bikes – which you use your thumb to control the accelerator – nice and easy for someone who had never been before! The tour takes you through the groves, on the road, over rocky paths, flat sand where you can speed over and into the remote, clay houses where you get treated to a breakfast or lunch – depending on what tour your book – of traditional Moroccan pancakes! I went in Morocco’s ‘winter’ and it was still easily 25 degrees celsius so the wind from the quad with the beautiful sun, made for great riding.
Before we ended back at the tour centre, the tour guide parked us next to a dirt track with high turning slopes and jumped onto my quad and took me over the track! Drifting around the turns, kicking up huge dust clouds was definitely my highlight of the tour – until the tour guide sat behind me and told me it was my turn! Whooo slightly scared but mostly excited, the tour guide held the handle bars whilst I drove to make sure nothing happened but it was great to even attempt something like that.
Sounds great but how did you actually get to the quad biking place?
Aha~ good question! With almost all the tours you book, you get picked up by the company’s taxi service! So before booking anything get your accommodation sorted so you give your pickup address. If the company can’t pick you up directly from your hostel/hotel, they will give a pick up location near by. This is what my tours did so I asked the receptionist of my hostel to call the company again to confirm the address and then show me exactly where it was. So don’t be afraid to ask staff members for help – this can be such a relief since many of us go abroad without the expensive phone plans!
Visit a Hammam
A who? A Hammam is like a spa where you get washed – like various kinds of body scrubs to clean you like never before! As well as numerous massage and facial options too! Hammam refers specifically to the body scrub so if you hear ‘hammam and massage, I give you for good price!’ Know that the wash is included. Hammams are pretty common in the markets so you can either find a specific one or just wander into any. If you do go for one, I recommend going during the day as they tend to be quieter and you can negotiate the price hehehe. So I went twice because you don’t get to have that kind of treatment for so cheap, very often. I went for 1 hour hammam (body scrub) and 1 hour full body massage – all for 300 Dirham so like £24? Bargain!
What to expect – you get naked, people will see you naked, people will touch your naked body – so if you’re cringing this might not be for you but for everyone else – you put all your belongings into a tray and walk into a tiled sauna-esque room. You’ll be told to lie down, turn over, stand up and sit down while someone scrubs all the gunk you didn’t know you had, off of your body. The warmth and the special black salt they use makes it very relaxing – until you realise they clean everywhere. However, they are very professional so they aren’t doing anything except being extremely thorough. Warning, when they tell you to turn over, expect all the weird wet body slapping sounds on the tiles haha, just cringe through it my friends you will feel amazing afterwards – promise!
The massage was heavenly, I’ve never had one before but on this trip I had two! For so cheap, I was clean and completely zenned out so I would recommend this to anyone coming to visit. It’s especially good after coming back from the desert! A tip is to bring a comb/hairbrush and deodorant to reapply after everything but other than that enjoy!
Or the Garden of Majorelle, for 70 Dirham you can explore the gardens created by Jacques Majorelle – a French orientalist painter who fell in love with Marrakech. Laced in the gardens are various plants, flowers, bamboo, water features, museums (30 Dirham extra) and a cafe. The garden is open every day, making it easy to visit whenever you want to. If you’re into artsy selfies this is the place for you!
Hot Air Balloon Ride!
I booked the Marrakech By Air tour, again via Tripadvisor and had such a fun time! I used to skydive a lot at university so I take any opportunity to get back up into the air. I initially wasn’t going to do this because of money but then I found some that I had hidden from myself! So if you’re finding it difficult to save money just think – could this get me on a hot air balloon? And maybe the motivation to save will be stronger!
Like with the quad biking, I was picked up at a pre chosen location near my hostel but for this because it’s reliant on the weather being good, you do have to call the day before to confirm. So again just ask your receptionist if you can use their phone to save any stress on taking out phone plans.
For this experience we got TWO breakfasts, one before and after the ride – so fancy! Also this tour includes a short camel ride too so it’s a good one for ticking all the boxes. The balloon ride itself was super relaxing with amazing views of Marrakech and the Atlas mountains sitting behind it. However what really made the tour was the tour guide, he was hilarious and seriously enjoyed his job. I mean you would too if you got to control what sounded like dragon’s breath – two gas cylinders pumping fire into the balloon above – and cracking jokes with potentially scared tourists.
My 2 day 1 night tour to the Sahara Desert
Like I mentioned in the first Morocco post I organised this tour with my hostel, a total of 500 Dirham/ £40! How the tours work is that you get taken to where all the mini tour buses are and put into a group of 15 people – so what you’ll find is that even though you’re there by yourself, tours such as these lets you make new friends really easily. Remember the Atlas mountains I saw from the hot air balloon? Well to get to the desert you have to drive through them – stunning snow capped mountains with sheer drops, winding roads, villages untouched by time and beautiful sunshine.
Even though the tour was 2 days most of it is driving – through beautiful landscape mind you but the desert is far. However on the way there we stopped at a little place called Ksar Ait Ben Haddou – a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a 13th-15th Century village that’s also been featured in many films and TV Shows – Gladiator and is Meereen in Game of Thrones – I STOOD WHERE KHALESI STOOD *ahem* This was a complete surprise as was the ‘small money’ of 25 Dirham for the compulsory tour – there’s going to be a theme here. However you get to walk up this village, where people still live, learn the history and see some cool art – I’m not one for buying art but back in the day where secret messaging was rife. They used to write in saffron, tea and sugar on white paper – which shows nothing until the paper is heated by a flame. There will be live demonstrations of the waves of transformation the paper undergoes into beautiful pictures of the desert, camels, palm trees and buildings. So with something that cool I had to indulge a whole 50 Dirham for a piece!
On the tour only breakfast and dinner are provided for, lunch and water you have to get yourself so you will stop a few times to get food and water but I would bring a big bottle of water to save some money. The restaurants you go to for lunch will be a bit pricey so make sure to have plenty of money for the trip out to the desert; as the cursed ‘small money’ makes its appearance along the way.
When you get to the edge of the Sahara Desert you will abandon your mini bus for a camel and before I rode a camel it was like the thing you have to do but here are some thoughts I had whilst on mine:
- Lean back when the camel gets up!
- Please don’t bite or spit at me!
- Is that what camels really sound like?
- Oh this is fun!
- *20 minutes later* this is the most uncomfortable thing ever – my romantic notions of becoming a desert nomad have been destroyed!
- I thought you sat in between the humps and not on the actual hump!
- I can’t decide if I want to be on the camel or be the tour guide walking in front…
- Surely I can make this more comfortable *moves around* this is impossible
- Why are my legs swinging about as though I’m running?
- *Dismounts from camel, waddling* I’m never getting on a camel again! (Says the girl who’s been on two rides at this point in the journey)
Ok, so depending on how many days/nights you actually have time for dictates which part of the Sahara Desert you visit. Since I didn’t have that much time I was taken to the Zagora Desert which is fondly known as the smol Sahara Desert because of the wee sand dunes there. If you want the classic sweeping sand dunes that you can sand board down then you need to go on a longer tour and the Merzouga Desert is the one you want.
However at the end of the day it’s all the Sahara and I was in store for a magical experience, the camp had around 10, 4 people tents (with beds!) centred around a fire pit and carpets. There’s a separate tent for dinner and the bathrooms – though bring tissues and hand sanitiser for this trip! As the night progressed and true darkness descended the sky lit up with countless stars. Like you could see the tiny stars in between stars, the Milky Way was visible and I saw around 10 shooting stars. I wish I had a camera with good enough quality to picture it all but maybe it’s best that you save the image for when you get out there yourself.
The Saharan sand is so soft like silk, smooth and cool to touch. I’ve never really touched anything that fine before and when the day came around, there was time to play on the small dunes and ensure that you’ll be finding the Sahara Desert in your clothes and shoes for many weeks after!
To get back to civilisation you have to ride a camel – oh my days why are there no good saddles for camels?! Also everyone on the tour got asked for ‘small money’ once we had reached our bus so try if you can to have coins on you because the smallest note is 50 Dirham and it’s a bit much to pay when the camel rides have been advertised as included. So remember 20 Dirham max for small money!
And for our second day we got to explore Ouarzazate – it’s known as the last city before the Desert and is another prime film location. You’ll find a film set here that you can visit as well as a cinema and you’ll be able to see other sets being built around the city as well.
On Trip advisor you’ll find these tours to the desert of varying lengths but if you have some time once you’ve arrive in Morocco to shop for a great tour, I would do that because the ones on Tripadvisor are more expensive than what you can haggle for on the streets. However that’s up to your sense of travel style – do you like to book everything first, do a half – half thing that I did or just wait and see what’s around?
I went with half and half because I wanted to be sure I had some activities booked and the rest were nice surprises along the way.
Phew! Turns out I did a lot in my week in Marrakech! I hope you enjoyed hearing about my experiences and maybe you’ve had a dash of inspiration for your next trip! Let me know your thoughts and feelings in the comments below – especially if you’ve ridden a camel too haha. The next post will cover all the delicious food in Morocco as well as some more tips and tricks but for now thank you for taking a trip with A Scot, A Broad – catch you on the next post!