Low-budget Travel Guide to Morocco on the path of the best hostels

05/11/2019

An on-the-road adventure discovering the best places to visit in Morocco

The white Casablanca lying on the ocean, until Rabat, passing through Tangier, Chefchaouen, Fès, Ouarzazate, Marrakech and the Sahara Desert. An exotic journey through the landscapes of North Africa, meeting cities and villages rich in history and millenary culture. All while staying for a good price in the best hostels of Morocco.

Situated on the Atlantic coast of the country, Casablanca is one of the biggest cities in Morocco as well as its economic capital. The city was made famous by the film that owes its name to the city, masterfully played by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, and it is distinguished by its traditional architectural features, but also by its modern architecture. Home to one of the biggest and most beautiful mosques in the world: the Hassan II Mosque. Constructed in 1990 by King Hassan, it represents the mirror of modern Morocco. Being one of the few mosques open to non-Muslims, the visit is absolutely recommended. Built partly on water, it's striking in its size: a 200 metre high minaret and a prayer hall that can accommodate 25,000 worshippers. What's more, it's home to a school, a library and a museum, celebrated for its splendid Peripato (the colonnaded walkway which stretches across the entire perimeter).

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Casablanca Hassan II Mosque: Flickr @StevendosRemedios licence

Equally impressive is the Casablanca Cathedral, built in neo-gothic style with an Art Deco influence which today is now deconsecrated, used for exhibitions and cultural events. Don't miss out on the inside of Villa Des Arts, a thirties building that displays masterpieces of Moroccan art, or the splendid Royal Palace of Casablanca, unaccessible to tourists, or even the Square of Mohammed IV with its famous market where you can find typical products of Moroccan cuisine. Unmissable is a long walk through La Corniche street that skirts the sea, a roam within the labyrinth of alleys of the ancient Medina, or a guided tour of the ex tribunal Mahkama du Pacha. Intriguing and full of mystery, the tomb of Sidi Abderrahmane, located on a rocky island in front of the city. Legend has it that this character walks on water and travels across mysterious worlds. This place is surrounded by mystery and you can meet with fortune tellers that populate the area. Between typical dishes, we recommend trying the 7 vegetable couscous and the seafood, true specialties of Casablanca.

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Flickr @StevendosRemedios licence

Where to sleep:

The Hotel Central is situated in the Medina neighbourhood, a few minutes from the Hassan II Mosque and from the Port. Its restaurant offers traditional cuisine, and it's possible to taste the tea on the splendid panoramic terrace.

THE ATLANTIC CHARM OF RABAT

Rabat offers many UNESCO World Heritage sites. One of the symbols of the capital is the Tower of Hassan. The project initially started with the objective of reaching 70 metres high, but the building stopped at 40 metres after the death of the sultan. In the vicinity there is the tomb of Mohammed V, inside which photography is not permitted.

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Flickr @StevendosRemedios licence

It's worth visiting the necropolis of Chellah, a place where peace and quiet presides, a place in which nature and history come together as one. In the ancient Roman city of Sala Colonia, it's possible to see the storks that have made these places their home. The Medina, the Royal Palace, and other touristic attractions such as the Kasbah of Oudaïa, the fortified neighbourhood that served as the starting outpost during the conquest of Andalusia. Visiting it today means to go and see a fascinating little village with blue houses, and taking a walk in the Andalusian-style gardens.

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Alley of the Medina, Rabat: @inali_campbell

Near to the Kasbah is the street of consuls, the artisan spirit of the city full of little manufacturing treasures. Regarding gastronomy, it's strongly influenced by Moorish cuisine (from Granada to Toledo) with desserts M'killa and Kadra R'batiya, and the couscous with onion, raisin, caramelised eggs and almonds.

Where to sleep:

Riad Meftaha, located in the neighbourhood of Marassa Ocean of Rabat, 6 minutes by foot from the Kasbah of Oudaïa. Rooms with private bathroom, facing out onto the patio. Calmness, serenity, cordiality and culinary discoveries are the key words of Riad Meftaha, where it's extremely lovely to take a nap in the sun on the terrace and star-gaze at night.

TANGIER, THE PEARL OF THE NORTH

Nicknamed the 'pearl of the North', the city of Tangier has ferry links to Spain. It could be an ideal departure point if you decide to travel by car, or one of the stops if your journey starts from Casablanca.

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@inali_campbell

For a long time it has been considered the cultural capital for writers and artists, and one of the most ancient cities of North Africa, permeated by the charm of the stories of The Thousand and one Nights. We depart from the Grand Socco, the Tangier market which is home to many cafes, restaurants and street vendors. Tangier is a port city and is known for its excellent fish soup. The cuisine and the intense aromas are not however the only way to remain fascinated by the city. The panoramas are equally marvelous and the clothing worn by the inhabitants, made by the local craftspeople, is a blaze of colours. To enter into the heart of Medina we pass through the grand Arcade, the white portal, and further ahead we become fascinated by the various souks and alleyways, like the alley of Sidi, the street of tailoring, with craftspeople at work with spools of thread. Following the street we meet the door of the Kasbah, next to which there are snake charmers, singers, musicians and other such things that refer to Spain.

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Cape Spartel, where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean, is home to a nineteenth-century lighthouse and on the same road there are the beaches of Tangier and Achakar as well as the Caves of Hercules (where he would have rested after his 12 Labours). Other noteworthy attractions for nature-lovers are the park of Perdicaris, the Garden of Mendoubia, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Medina Art Gallery and the Dar el Makhzen palace.

Where to sleep:

Dar Omar Khayam is found five minutes by foot from the sea and ten from the city centre. At the Dar (traditional moroccan house) you can have breakfast on the balcony, read a book in the moroccan living room or peacefully sunbathe on the patio.

The Melting Pot Tangier Hostel is ideal if you want to meet people and if you are travelling alone. This hostel has an on-site bar, a big kitchen and two terraces where it's possible to have a BBQ. The Melting Pot Tangier Hostel is in collaboration with many agencies in the city that offer activities such as kite surfing, wind surfing, diving, horse riding, parachuting and excursions in the mountains or natural beaches.

CHEFCHAOUEN, THE BLUE CITY

Chefchaouen, nicknamed the blue city, we have previously mentioned in our article on chromotherapy during travelling. The city is home to around 40,000 inhabitants and islocated on the mountains. Chefchaouen is an oasis of peace, full of charm and authenticity, and it's considered one of the most beautiful villages in Morocco. There are many things to see in the blue city: the Medina and the Grand Mosque, the fountain of Ras El Maa, the cave of Toughoubit, the bridge of God and Akchour, the forest of Talassemtane, the waterfalls and mosque of Cherafat, all these splendid places to visit.

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FÈS, THE QUEEN OF THE MAGHREB

Fès, it's a UNESCO World Heritage site. Some of its neighbourhoods are unique and truly characteristic, especially that of the leather tanners. The craftspeople have a terrace to monitor their wells where the tanning is performed; the smell is perhaps not the most pleasant, but the atmosphere that presides is of authenticity and daily working life.

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@wandering.rox

Passing through the streets you reach the Bab Bou-Jeloud, which borders the old quarter with the walls of Fes el Bali. The splendid portal in the centre of the other two smaller ports dates back to 1913, and its centre, a ceramic type, was painting in the colours of the city (blue and green). El Bali is the most ancient area, and it hasn't changed in 1000 years. Towards the ninth, the Andalusians arrived to unite with Morocco, and so little by little the Andalusian district is formed, determining the two cultures of the city. Around the city there are other discoveries: the northern Borj, a fort dating back to the 16th century, the Karaouyine mosque that is homes to the Muslim University, and the city of El Jedid, to the north of the city.

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Credit Flickr @anna & michal licence

Where to sleep:

Relax in an authentic ancient palace of Fès, which has been transformed into a bed & breakfast, the Dar Bensouda. Garden, pool, patio and even a turkish bath. Everything is done to guarantee you have a lovely stay.

THE SAHARA DESERT

Merzouga is known for its dunes, the highest in the country including the Erg Chebbi. The dunes are a timepiece of the area, a marvellous natural wonder that dazzles every time the visitors visit, be it in the morning with the rise of the sun, or in the evening counting the stars. This sand is said to have theraputic powers, used to cure rheumatic diseases, so it's not surprising to see people from all over the world roll around in the sand during summer. It's the ideal place to fulfill a trip in the desert, also because many tour operators offer camel rides, quad bike hire, or even camping organised under the stars.

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On the road that takes you to Ouarazate, a modern Moroccan city that expanded in the 20s, you could take a detour to visit the Todra gorges, the oasis palmaria of Skuora and the Valley of the Roses (where only two times a year the enchanting Roses of Damasco bloom, typical of the region).

Where to sleep:

In colourful Berber style, La Vallée des Dunes guesthouse is found in the village of Hassi-Labied, 10 minutes from Merzouga. The terrace has a special view of the dunes and its restaurant offers traditional home cooking.

OUARZAZARTE 'THE STAR OF THE CINEMA'

Idolised by directors for the shooting of their films, it is no coincidence that it is nicknamed the Hollywood of Morocco. One of the most important monuments is the Taourirt Kasbah, dating back to the 17th century when it was the residency of the Pasha of Marrakech, another character of Moroccan royalty. Even the artisan market of Ouarzazarte is very important. It's specialty? The carpets!

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Flickr @StevendosRemedios licence

On the road that takes you to Marrakech, the village of Ait-Ben-Haddou is found, that could give you déjà vu. In effect, many filmmakers have used it as a shooting location for the sets of many historical films: the Gladiator, Asterix and Obelix, Cleopatra Mission, Alexander, Babel, Prince of Persia, the Sands of Time. Even some television series, such as Game of Thrones, have been filmed in Morocco and you can add to the tour Essaouira and Ait-Ben-Haddou, known as Aspator and Yunkai in the series. Speaking of food, Ouarzazate is known above all for its couscous, Madfouna tagines and its moroccan cuisine, full of spices.

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Where to sleep:

A themed stay is the Cinema Riad Ouarzazate. It's found in an ideal location, between the splendid valleys of Tabounte Ouarzazate and the splendid mountains of Alto Atlante. You can have breakfast in the Berber common room and relax on the terrace.

MARRAKECH, 'THE RED CITY'

The city is known for many reasons, for example the events organised such as the Marrakech Festival of Popular Arts, Art in Marrakech and the Sun Festival (national festival of youth and music), Samaa Festival of sacred music, Festival of Contemporary Dance, International FIlm Festival of Marrakech or Marrakech Laughter ("the manifestation of laughter"). The city is always turning more into a place of luxury tourism, however many places are still accessible to all budgets. Jema-el-Fna is the square in the heart of the Medina, and it's the centre of life in the city. A myriad of stalls during the day bring the market to life, in which the most varied and exciting activities take place: various instruments are played, and there are also snake charmers, monkey trainers, henna decorators and lots more.

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The remaining monuments are the Saadiane Tombs, dating back to the XVI century, the Bahia Palace built in the XIX century or the Koutoubia, the religious building of Marrakech (visible only from the outside). If instead you prefer natural scenes, the Botanical Garden of Majorelle is breathtaking, and only a few kilometers from the city you can find the Menara, the biggest olive grove of the city.

Where to sleep:

Boho 27 Hostel of Marrakech has a very comfortable patio to relax, a balcony for the sun and a communal living room. The staff take good care of the customers, organising airport transfers. A specialty of the hostel is the possibility to follow cooking courses!

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@mathilde_pannier

Morocco has won you over and you've decided to visit?

We recommend car to travel around, to have more freedom and to be able to reach the mountain villages such as Chefchaouen. However, the train and bus are two alternatives that you can take into consideration. Regarding the length of the trip, obviously it depends on the days you have available, but we advise at least one week to see as many places as possible. The new trend is in fact 'slow travel' after all...

Organise and book your next holiday in Morocco using the panel bellow and follow our recommendations for the best hostels to stay at!

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