A Travel Guide to Morocco: Visiting Fez, Chefchaouen and the Erg Chebbi Desert

So you want to go to Morocco!

You’ve already made a great decision but now you need help planning where to go and what to see! Morocco is a spectacular country to visit with tons of history, culture and some of the most beautiful architecture you’ll ever see.

The architecture and entryways in Morocco is so stunning.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Morocco several times, exploring the cities of Marrakesh, Fez and Chefchaouen. As well as, spending many nights sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert.

For my last two trips I used an outstanding company named Morocco Countryside Tours. This is a family owned and operated company with Said Boughrara as the main guide and point of contact. Said has since become a friend and someone who I greatly trust during my stays in Morocco. The company is highly professional, punctual and very well organized.

Freshly laundered clothes hang outside of the blue painted walls in Chefchaouen, Morocco

I recommend at least one week here. However,  it is possible to see quite a bit in a short amount of time as long as you don’t mind long driving days.

Continue reading to see my customized 5 day trip through Morocco, staring in Fez. Morocco Countryside tours does offer many pre-made trips on their website. However, you always have the option to change anything around to customize your Moroccan itinerary.


Day 1: Arrival in Fez


The first day of our trip was our arrival into Fez. Navigating through the airport is relatively easy and you may or may not need a visa depending on which country you are from. Be sure to check with your tour company or the appropriate websites to confirm prior to your arrival. It is also required to have at least 6 months validity on your passport to enter Morocco.

Passing by small villages as we drove through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

You will arrive at the Fès–Saïs Airport and make your way to the exit. Collect your baggage and head outside to meet Said or your tour guide. Since we arrived in the evening, we were taken directly to our Riad. We stayed at the lovely Raid Ahlam for the nights that we were in Fez. While the additional night was spent in the desert. More on that later!


Day 2: The Sahara Desert and Sleeping Under the Stars


The second day in Morocco you will wake up for your 8am departure to the desert. The journey from Fez to the Erg Chebbi desert takes approximately 8 hours. This will include a few stops along the way for lunch and photo opportunities.

As you depart from the city of Fez you will immediately notice the contrast between the city life and rural areas. Things tend to slow down once you’ve passed the outskirts of the city. You may even see some camels on the side of the road.

There are many oasis in Morocco that can be seen when driving through the Atlas Mountains

Beginning your journey, you will travel through the Middle Atlas Mountain Range towards the village of Midelt. Passing through the mountains you will see many villages surrounded by clusters of cedar trees.

Driving deeper into the Atlas Mountains you will begin to see more of the Berbers, or Amazighs. Native to this region in Northern Africa, the Amazighs live as nomads in the Rif and Atlas Mountains.

Lunch will be served at a local restaurant in a small town on your way to the Sahara Desert. Be sure to try the traditional tangine dish.

About halfway through your journey you will stop at Midelt, a village snuggled in-between the Middle and High Atlas Mountains. Here you will enjoy a traditional Moroccan lunch and have time to stretch your legs. After lunch you will continue on towards the desert, passing through the Ziz Valley. This is one of Africa’s largest oasis and is well distinguished by the large grouping of date palms clustered in the middle of the dry, desert land. Next you will pass through the town of Erfoud before finally reaching your destination for the evening.

Driving through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco will take you past some of the beautiful landscapes in the rural parts of the country.

Camel Trekking in the Sahara Desert

You will begin your camel trek at the small town of Merzouga in the Sahara Desert. Morocco Countryside Tours partners with Moonlight Desert Camp for this portion of the trip. Once you arrive at the hotel, you will leave the majority of your belongings locked in one of their rooms. Taking only what you need, you will be directed out towards the camels. After a brief introduction you will mount your camel and begin your trek through the Erg Chebbi sand dunes.

Camel trekking in the Sahara Desert. Be sure that you are choosing a reputable company that treats these animals well.

I will note that the camels were treated very well by their handlers and there were no signs of mistreatment. This is very important when taking a camel trek in Morocco or anywhere else. Please be sure to always do your research to make sure that these animals are treated kindly and respectfully. Be sure to use reputable companies and ask any questions if necessary.

Being in the Sahara Desert during sunset is just incredible . The light cast beautifully on the dunes.

The journey is long, lasting about an hour or so. As the sun begins to set you continue your journey through the dunes. The light casts brilliant shadows across the dunes creating some amazing photography opportunities. Before the sun completely dips below the horizon, your Berber guides will help you get off the camels. They have a few boards available so you can give sand boarding a try! It was really run and actually quite easier than I thought it would be!

The sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi desert in Morocco look stunning in the sunset.

Sleeping Under the Stars

Once the sun sets you will settle into the Bivouac camp where you will spend the night. The luxurious tents are decorated with the traditional Moroccan style. Inside there is a comfortable mattress, cozy blankets and colorful rugs. There are also fully equipped men’s and women’s bathrooms.
You will be served a delicious Berber dinner, consisting of tangine, along with many sides and bread. Afterwards, the Berber men will create a fire to warm you up from the chilly night air. Be sure to pack a light jacket or sweater for your overnight stay. They will play drums and sing Berber songs while you sip your mint tea under a sky full of stars.
Watching the milky way above our tent in the middle of the Sahara Desert
Without the city lights, the sky is crystal clear. So much so that you can even see the milky way. Bring your tripod to easily photograph the night sky.
Tip: Be sure to charge all of your equipment fully and bring a power bank with you. There most likely will not be any charging facility at the overnight camp.

Day 3: Depart the Sahara Desert and Drive Back to Fez


In the morning you will awake early from your comfortable bed. Collect all your belongings and find your camel. Departing while it is still dark, you will see the sun rise while out in the dunes.

Another hour or so later you will reach the hotel in Merzouga. Here you will have a hot shower and hearty breakfast before your 8 hour journey back to Fez.

One of the stops on our drive home was to a lovely rug shop in the middle of the Atlas Mountains.

Driving along the same route you will pass back through the Atlas Mountains. Stopping along the way at different locations to enjoy the landscapes of Morocco.

The inside of our Riad in the city of Fez, Morocco.

You will arrive back in Fez in the evening. Checking back into Riad Ahlam you will have a nice dinner before heading to bed.


Day 4: Day Trip to Chefchaouen


Chefchaouen is a real highlight to any trip to Morocco. Appropriately named the Blue Pearl of Morocco, the buildings of this colorful village are all painted in different shades of blue. The village is situated in a low valley surrounded by the Rif Mountains.

Overlooking the colorful town of Chefchaouen in Morocco's Rif Mountains

The narrow cobblestones streets are lined with local shops selling fragrant spices, handwoven rugs and beautiful blankets. Spend your day wandering through the maze of streets within the Old City and Medina. Maybe stop for some delicious Moroccan food in the heart of the town in the Plaza Uta el-Hammam.

Chefchaouen is one of the most beautiful cities in Morocco.

The journey from Fez to Chefchaouen is 3.5 to 4 hours each way. Prepare yourself for a another long day in the car if you choose to do a day trip like we did. I would have enjoyed staying a night here but unfortunately we didn’t have the time.


Day 5: Spend the Morning Exploring Fez


For your last day in Fez you will explore the city’s Medina and tanneries. Morocco Countryside Tours will set you up with a private local guide for the day. Our guide was wonderful and took us all around Fez, educating us on what we saw.

View of Fez from the balcony at our Riad.

Your last day is also the perfect opportunity to shop in the Souks and find yourself something nice to bring home. I had already purchased lamps and a rug on a previous trip to Marrakesh. But my friends were interested in a lamp so we stopped at a local shop so they could choose one.

There are so many beautiful handmade lamps to choose from in Fez.

You will also have the opportunity to visit a local tannery and see how they dye the animal hides. They use a combination of cow urine and then pigeon droppings to create an acidic wash to soften the leather. This definitely has a pungent smell and many of the shops will offer you a mint leaf to sniff. Be sure to check first because these may or may not be free.

The tanneries in Fez are a must visit when in the area. Here you can observe the process of how the dye the leather!

Your guide will take you around the Medina, inside the city walls, and show you some of Fez’s more famous sights. These will include the Al Karaouine University, the oldest in the region, the Attarine museum and Mulay Idriss mausoleum.

The authentic streets of Fez are perfect for exploring and getting lost!

This will end your Moroccan adventure and you will head back to the airport to catch your flight home.

The painted streets of Chefchaouen are truly a unique sight!

What’s Included in the Cost?

The price of the trip will vary depending on your specific itinerary. It is necessary to contact Said to arrange exactly what it is you’d like to see and do during your visit to Morocco. He will then put together the perfect itinerary for you, along with the pricing.

The following is included in the cost of the trip:

  • A fully private trip with transportation in an A/C vehicle with an English speaking guide/driver
  • Camel trekking for one hour with Moonlight Desert Camp
  • One night (half board-dinner & breakfast) in a traditional berber tent in the Erg Chebbi sand dunes in the Sahara Desert with Moonlight Desert Camp
  • Three nights (half board) at your Riad in Fez
  • Local Guide to explore Fez

The following is excluded from the cost and will need to be purchased on your own:

  • Lunches
  • Drinks
  • Entrance fees to any historic sites and museums that you wish to enter
  • Tips (optional but encouraged)

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The Ultimate Travel Guide to visiting Fez, Chefchaoeun and the Sahara Desert!

 

 

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