Road trips start to be a tradition for me and my husband. But to be very honest with you, we both have been hesitating if a road trip through Atlas Mountains in Morocco, on our own, in a rented car, will be a good idea… And you know what? It was completely unfounded :) So here you go. Sharing with you all the necessary information and a full road trip plan that you can follow. Tested and approved! ;)
Is Morocco safe?
First things first. I also had this question in mind. Is it really safe? The answer is simple and short. Yes, it is. The hectic and crazy driving you see in Marrakesh is absolutely not the case outside of the city. There are not many cars on the roads and people drive slowly and carefully. Moreover, you will meet local people that are really friendly and definitely no so pushy like in Marrakesh. Read my Important tips to stay safe in Marrakesh, to get the feeling what I mean. None of these scams I have mentioned in that article should happen to you while road tripping.
How and where to rent a car?
Now an important tip – we have been advised by a local person not to rent a car online but to go to the car rental and see with our own eyes what actually we are renting. I will not be lying, we have chosen a super random rental car, the first one we saw. And you know what? We couldn’t be more lucky! I can highly and sincerely recommend you Mountain Voyage company for several reasons:
- Reasonable prices – we have payed 40$ per day for Dacia Duster and that price included full insurance.
- Super nice and helpful staff. They also offer organized tours and can advise you some interesting places to see plus the best ways to get there.
- Renting conditions are pretty flexible. There was no issue at all once we decided on the way back we want to keep the car longer. One phone call to our car rental and it was done.
- They are located on the way out from Marrakesh (just next to Jardin Majorelle), so you do not need to drive through all this crazy city traffic.
Your trip step by step
We decided that we want to have 3 days road trip. We wanted to see a few nice places on the way, do some off road (but not very challenging one in terms of driving) and also, to have one full day of just pure relax, preferably in a nice and not crowded place with a swimming pool. Sounds good for you?
So here you go. How our trip exactly looked like.
11:00 am picking up the car from car rental at Mountain Voyage (and tourist office at the same place) close to Jardin Majorelle. You do not need much time for a paperwork, 15min is fine. Take the road N8 first and a few kilometers after Marrakesh you should turn to N9. Ideally use GPS (I recommend to download maps.me) otherwise just head towards Ouarzazate. After about 1h of flatland you will slowly start to climb Atlas Mountains.
13:30 you should be close to Tichka Pass unless you were stopping a lot taking photos (most likely). About 2km before the highest point (2260 m n.p.m.) you can stop at a very cosy bistro called Assanfou (https://goo.gl/maps/RrccPfXbfdT2) where I highly recommend local goat cheese with homemade bread. Sooooo good!
14:30 about 15min (7km) from the bistro you will reach a cross road just before Atlas restaurant. Instead of following the paved road, please take the gravel road towards Telouet. It’s an interesting and non touristic town to visit with a castle that is also worth seeing. After Telouet continue in the direction of Ait Benhaddou. Here you might need much more time than GPS suggests, because the landscape is very picturesque and quality of the road is slightly worst (but still doable).
16:30 arrive at Ait Benhaddou, take your time here, you need at least 1h to visit the castle. The view from the top is magical and this place is very famous from many movies such as Gladiator. The entrance to the castle is free.
17:30 leave Ait Benhaddou and head to Kasbah Azul
19:30 arrival at Kasbah Azul, just in time for your delicious dinner
In general I would suggest you provide yourself with at least 2h buffer for sightseeing and pictures while the landscape is great and there is much more to see and visit on the way if you are willing to explore it.
We fully devoted this day to relax and chill out at Kasbah Azul, had some walks around and just enjoyed doing nothing :) You can visit ruins of an old city, beautiful waterfalls or berber villages.
The way back was slightly different as we did not do the off road this time. We simply took N9 road directly to Marrakesh through Atlas Mountains. According to google map this should not take more than 5:30h but again, this is quite optimistic estimation. I would say you need at least 6h. Add to it an extra time for taking photos, visiting local shops that are located just at the main road, or exploring such places like Atlas film studio in Ouarzazate (you will pass it on the way).
Where to stay over the night?
I have to devote a separate paragraph for Chambres d’hotes kasbah Azul as I was truly amazed how unique and beautiful this kasbah is! We had two nights stop there, just to have one full day of doing nothing by the pool and seeing the area. It’s a small boutique hotel with 6 rooms only and we have paid around 100 $ per night including breakfast. I loved everything there: decor was beautiful, food was super tasty and you are literally treated like a vip guest. They have a lovely swimming pool area and their own hammam (a classic, wood-heaten, oriental sauna). You can relax while sipping Morrocan wine and just watching palm trees. Really peaceful little oasis. This place is also a good stop base if you are traveling from Marrakesh to Merzouga dersert.
What if a road trip is not your thing?
Than do not worry at all. What I can recommend is to use the same agency that we have rented our car from – Mountain Voyage. They offer some really interesting trips in very reasonable prices. Next time we would like to book with them a trip to Merzouga desert. Not that we did not enjoy our own road trip, but Merzouga is just pretty far from Marrakesh.
Also, please do not fully trust all the travel agencies that are offering you trips. Always check and compare with other agencies’ offers. I have been contacted via Instagram by a lady from a tourist agency that offered us exactly the same tour as we did by ourselves, for the amount of 1200 $. Not kidding, 1-2-0-0 $!!! Of course she was trying to convince me that her trip is something unique and different but in fact it was not. Even the hotel she was offering us was much more expensive in her price calculation than in reality (we called the hotel and checked prices).
Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that travel agencies are bad and I understand that not everyone wants to organize everything by themselves. I fully respect that. Just be careful as some of the agencies may want to take an advantage of our unfamiliarity.
I hope I have convinced you to consider this road trip experience :) Let me know if you have any more questions! Also, if you are traveling to Morocco you may find helpful my Step by step guide to your Marrakesh trip and Glamping in Morocco – honest review of Scarabeo Camp.