Road trip in Morocco

As the new year approaches, we often feel a certain amount of wanderlust. Shoelifer has sensed it and, in response, has prepared a road trip in Morocco! First, because it’s more eco-friendly than flying, and second, because there are so many beautiful things to see… Let’s start by heading south to bask in the sun! 

Why not allow ourselves a bit of simplicity at the end of this tumultuous year? At the editorial office, we have chosen a local trip, while still slipping into tourist mode. With nine sites listed as UNESCO World Heritage and several others recognized as intangible cultural assets, there is no shortage of ideas for planning a road trip in Morocco. Ideally, plan for around 7 days, depart  from Rabat or Casablanca (alone or with family or friends), and head towards the Agadir region. Fasten your seatbelts, take a break every two hours, and don’t forget your sunglasses and good spirits!

El Jadida, the former Portuguese fort

Bordered by a eucalyptus forest, just an hour and a half from Casablanca, El Jadida proudly displays the ramparts that have protected its medina since the 16th century. This former Portuguese city is one of the first built in Africa by Portuguese explorers. It houses a must-visit site: the famous cistern, a former armory turned later into a water reservoir for the city. With its striking arches, it served as a set for Orson Welles‘s Othello.

The heart of the city is best explored on foot, and you will gladly stop for tea at Iglesia, a former church restored into a charming hotel and restaurant. A walk along the main beach, Deauville, is a must. A long stretch of fine sand, El Jadida’s corniche is still punctuated by the remains of hotels, casinos, and pools that recall the city’s splendid aura in the 1930s and 1940s. Medina lovers can spend the night at Dar Malaïka. Nestled in a small pedestrian alley, the place is a lovely interlude where you can rest and enjoy a hearty breakfast before continuing our road trip.

For those who prefer to enjoy staying off the beaten path, head to the Maison d’Hôtes Kohinor. On the coastal road towards Oualidia, be sure to take a look at the Tazotas. These traditional stone constructions serve as farm huts in the fertile lands of Doukkala, among the most fertile in the country. Near the Sidi Moussa lagoon, a prime location for observing flamingos and other ducks, you’ll feel like your going back in time. We recommend spending the rest of your stay strolling with the ebb and flow of the tides.

Essaouira and Sidi Kaouki in the trade winds

By highway, the journey takes 4 hours but allows us to drive through argan trees while keeping an eye on the ocean. We arrive in the former Mogador (yes, another Portuguese city), which is one of the most visited cities in Morocco. It enjoys an exceptional microclimate that makes it an ideal destination at any time of the year. Well known for its famous Gnaoua Festival, Essaouira is a maze of alleys dotted with colorful stalls. Legend, and a bit of history too, has it that Jimi Hendrix visited the city, as well as the neighboring village of Diabat, during the summer of ’69. The hippie spirit, bohemian trend, and decidedly artistic orientation of the city can be partly explained by this.

Also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city and its well-preserved fortifications can be visited from early morning until late at night. Stroll along the fishing port where hundreds of seagulls come to snatch a few fresh sardines from the fishermen. Get lost in the alleys of Mellah while looking for Al Magana, erected by Marshal Lyautey in the 1920s. Take a windsurfing lesson in the bay… so many things to do in 2 or 3 days.

To fully enjoy the mystical vibes of the city, some of which appear in episodes of Game Of Thrones, it’s ideal to stay at Palais l’Heure Bleue. A charming hotel, classified as Relais & Châteaux, the building is a historic residence located in the heart of the old city. To discover the beauty of the surroundings you only need to travel  a short distance from the city, heading to Sidi Kaouki, where we also suggest you spend a few nights. Eco-lodges and guesthouses have flourished since the 1970s and 1980s in this region, which creates a paradise for surfers.

Riad Baoussala is an eco-lodge designed with respect for the environment. It is located halfway between Essaouira, Sidi Kaouki, and Cap Sim. Surrounded by eucalyptus trees, you will be welcomed with warmth and care. It’s the perfect compromise to enjoy the city but also its countryside by going for walks, or riding on horseback or on a quad.

Sidi Wassay, suspended above the cliffs

After about 4.5 hours of driving, our road trip in Morocco takes us to the heart of the Souss Massa National Park. Far from the beach resorts of Agadir, the mouths of the Souss and Massa rivers transport us to a wild setting. Here, life is lived to the rhythm of wildlife protection and migration. The last colony of bald ibises, flamingos, ostriches, and gazelles rule here. The cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean serve as shelters for bird species that come to mate or simply rest during the long journey that will take them to Africa in winter and Europe in summer.

All this beautiful fauna shares the environment with fishermen and the park rangers  who ensure the proper respect of the rules to avoid harm to the preserved areas . We suggest you spend the next two nights in Sidi Wassay. Facing the ocean, with a deserted beach at your feet, you can take over  the Grotte de Wassay during your stay. Its luxurious comfort and a preserved natural setting will help you escape from the world and its turmoil. That’s what slow living is. On the agenda for the day: a walk on the cliffs, bird watching, fishing, or even paragliding for the more daring.


Ouirgane, ending with the head in the stars

Before letting you go back home, we decided to offer you a last little detour through the Atlas Mountains. A 4-hour drive, passing through the highway towards Marrakech, will make Ouirgane the last stop on our Moroccan road trip. Ideally for 2 nights, you could decide to celebrate the New Year with your head in the stars. In the heart of the Toubkal National Park, you will discover a new facet of Morocco. The red mountain slopes and snowy peaks will be the idyllic backdrop for your hikes. If you’re traveling with your  family, we suggest you stay at Domaine de la Roseraie. In the pure Berber tradition, you will be accommodated in a comfortable and cozy setting, and feast on the local cuisine.

Alone or as a couple, the other possibility is to stay at Domaine Malika – Adults Only. The setting is just as comfortable and green, the cuisine delicious. From the village of Ouirgane, you can visit the Marigha salt mines and take a tour of the valley villages on a mule. You will likely taste the tafernout bread and see women weaving brightly colored carpets. In the evening, you can only be captivated by the thousands of stars visible to the naked eye, far from any light pollution!

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