The ultimate 10-day road trip along the Moroccan coast
A road trip from Casablanca to Marrakech makes for a wonderful adventure. Although we can arrange any number of itineraries in Morocco, depending on our clients’ interests, we believe that for ocean lovers who wish to do something a bit different, the following 10-day trip – taking in the highlights of the Moroccan coast – might be just what you’re after.
Begin your journey in Casablanca, the city made famous by the eponymous 1942 film starring Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. Here, you will feel more like a local than a tourist and will get a great insight into modern-day Morocco. The New Town is particularly impressive, with former admistrative buildings and hotels built in a combination of Hispano-Mauresque and Art Deco styles.
On arrival, settle into your home from home for two nights will be Hôtel Le Doge, a characterful hideaway that epitomises the Art Deco style for which the country’s most populous city is known.
With just one full day in Casablanca, we recommend spending your first morning with an architect from Casa Memoire, an organisation that aims to protect the city’s heritage. He will guide you around the delapidated Art Deco buildings, telling you all about their history and architectural features. Have lunch at Villa Zevaco, an Art Deco house built in 1947, in the Marché Centrale, which serves a variety of French dishes such as fresh fish or filet de boeuf.
In the afternoon, explore the rest of the Marché Central, where rows of colourful stalls sell crafts as well as fresh produce. There’s also an incredible spice market here, which is well worth a visit to breathe in the heady aromas of Morocco. Later, your guide will accompany you to the Hassan II Mosque, designed by French architect Michel Pinseau, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Morocco’s largest mosque – and the seventh biggest on earth – can hold 25,000 worshippers inside and 85,000 in the courtyard. At 210m, the mosque’s minaret is supposedly the tallest in the world. It is one of only two mosques that non-Muslims can enter (except on Fridays).
The following morning, you will drive south from Casablanca to El Jadida, a charming Portuguese port just 45 minutes away, which is home to a stunning 16th-century fortress and cistern, a legacy of the Portuguese occupation of this port town.
Here, you will stay at the Hotel L’Iglesia, a stylish former 19th-century Spanish church in the centre of the ancient city. You can spend the morning relaxing on the rooftop terrace, which overlooks the ocean, or go for a stroll along nearby El Jadida Beach. At midday, meet your guide who will take you out for a delicious local lunch, before opening your eyes to the history of the town.
After one night in El Jadida, you will continue to Oualidia, a little-known fishing village with a picturesque salt-water lagoon backed by a large sweep of sandy beach overlooked by a deserted summer palace and a 17th-century kasbah.
There is only one place to stay here: La Sultana, an amazing hotel with only 12 suites, which overlooks the lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. This peaceful, unspoilt place is a heavenly place to unwind and we always encourage our clients to spend three nights here in order to sink into coastal living, engage with the local people and make the most of the things you can do here.
Oualidia is all about the scrumptious fresh seafood, private picnics on the beach and oysters – but your days here can be as busy as you would like them to be. A highlight of any stay here is heading out with some fishermen to catch crabs and fish, which they will then grill for you on the beach. It is Morocco’s centre for oyster production and you can go to the farms and join in with the oyster shucking.
In addition, you can go for long walks along pristine beaches, try some surfing (whatever your level) or set out with a naturalist to spot sandpipers, curlews, herons, diving swallows and more. Oualidia’s wetlands offer some of Morocco’s best birdwatching opportunities, particularly in spring and autumn, when migrating pink flamingos flock to the marshes on their journey between Spain and sub-Saharan Africa.
After three idyllic nights at La Sultana, your next stop is Essaouira, just a three-hour drive along the coast road. To break the journey you can stop off at Safi, a 16th-century coastal town with another Portuguese fort and famed for its pottery. In Essaouira, you will spend two nights at the superb Heure Bleue Palais, a Relaix & Chateaux property that is ideal for exploring this laid-back former Portuguese fishing village.
With its whitewashed houses with blue shutters, laid-back Essaouira has a very different vibe to Oualidia. There is a big music and art scene; in fact, many artists have settled here, following in the footsteps of Cat Stevens and Jimmy Hendrix in the Sixties. It is a fun place to wander around, soak up the atmosphere of this cool, coastal medina and its souks, and wash fresh seafood down with local wine.
Known as the ‘Wind City of Africa’, Essaouira is also a good choice for windsurfers. Sidi Kaouki, a beautiful beach just south of the town, is the best place to try some surfing, paddle-boarding and some yoga. But one of our favourite things to arrange for foodie clients is a cookery workshop at l’Atelier!. You will rustle up and enjoy dishes such as zaalouk (aubergines and tomatoes), harira (a traditional Moroccan soup) and sea bass tajine with vegetables.
After two nights in Essaouira, you will drive inland to Marrakech, breaking your journey at the Val d’Argan vineyard to taste some Moroccan wines. You will spend three nights in Marrakech at the Villa des Orangers, a lovely boutique hotel at the foot of the Koutoubia Mosque.
There is so much to do in the city and we can arrange a huge variety of exciting, exclusive experiences. For those interested in photography, we can arrange for you to spend time with a photographer who will help you to capture this vibrant place on camera. For art lovers, we can set up a meeting with a designer or a contemporary artist, such as Moroccan painter Larbi Cherkaoui whose work has been exhibited in around 15 solo and 20 group exhibitions, mostly in Morocco and France.
Alternatively, we can organise for you to explore the Medina’s bustling alleyways in a vintage sidecar, do a private drumming workshop – fantastic for families – or have a fascinating behind-the-scenes experience in a working tannerie. Shopaholics can set out with one of our personal shoppers and we can even organise for you to design your own kaftans – you would choose the fabric and the kaftans would be made and delivered to the hotel.
Marrakech is also full of superb places to eat and we can help you select and book the best spots for you. To mention a few, the Bacha Coffee House, a hidden gem in the Dar El Bacha museum, is perfect for lunch near the Medina. For dinner, nothing beats the rooftop bar and restaurant, Kabana, or +61, with its mouthwatering and creative Moroccan menu.
For a complete change of scene, we recommend spending half a day in the Agafay Desert, a short drive away. This stony desert offers a striking backdrop to a special lunch, camel riding or quadbiking and is a stark contrast to the hustle-bustle of the city. Alternatively, you could head out into the High Atlas Mountains for a trek, lunch with Berbers or a visit to a village market or cooperative.