Backpacking Marrakech, Morocco: A Quick Guide

Morocco is a fascinating country to visit with diverse landscapes, exotic culture, and affordable prices that make it perfect for backpackers.

The dunes of the Sahara desert beckon adventurers dreaming of living out their Arabian nights fantasy, but Morocco has much more to offer, from the Atlantic coast to the Atlas mountains and plenty culture, heritage and food.

At the heart of Morocco lies Marrakech, a historic imperial city where ancient souks still bustle with life and are a feast for all your senses.

If you’re looking to get a taste of Asia, without spending so much on the airfare, then backpacking Marrakech, Morocco, is your best bet.

If you’re thinking of visiting here’s my Marrakech travel guide for backpackers to help you out.

A Quick Guide to Backpacking Marrakech, Morocco
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Top Things to do in Marrakech

  1. Explore the souks

Marrakech’s souks are a big maze of colourful goods and an experience for all the senses. It’s best to enter the souk from the Djemaa El Fnaa square and wander around.

There are various sections selling olives, spices, leather goods, etc, but be sure to negotiate the price if you want to buy something.

While there are tours organised that have a guide take you around, its something backpacker’s can do for free at your own pace. Ensure you allocate at least 3 hours and don’t be surprised if you get lost.

If you’re a foodie, there are cooking classes that you can participate in as well. It starts with collecting fresh ingredients from the souks and ends with a scrumptious meal that you make for yourself! Yum!

You should also visit the Djemaa El Fna, a UNESCO World Heritage site, at around sunset time to get a taste of the local night life.

marrakech-142764_1280

  1. Unwind at a Hammam

A Hamman is a traditional bath house that can be as luxurious or as basic as you please so it’s an interesting experience to have when backpacking Morocco. It’s a very relaxing experience for less than half the price on offer in most of the European countries

There’s so many Hammans in Marrakech so the prices are very competitive. Irrespective of what you choose, you’re splashed with warm water, led to a steam room to let the pores open and then scrubbed clean, followed by a massage.

  1. Wrinkle your nose at a tannery

If the colourful dye pots at Fes caught your attention but you can’t make it there, Bab Debbagh is Marrakech’s own local tannery and is only a 15 minute walk from the souk.

While you may not find colourful dyes here it’s still a really interesting insight into Moroccan life. Locals double up as guides near the entrance and explain the process. Ensure you set a price before you head off into the tannery and carry a spring of mint to help with the pungent smell!

djemaa-el-fnaa

  1. Get lost in the Jardin Marjorelle

If you’re looking for some tranquillity and to get away from the crowds escape to Jardin Marjorelle. The beautiful gardens are densely planted with shady tropical trees and has an impressive collection of cacti, many as tall as trees and others twisted into incredible shapes. I may put this off for last if you’re running short on time as it’s a little pricey for backpackers on a budget.

  1. Marvel at the carvings in the Ben Youssef Madrasa

If you’re an architectural buff, then visiting the Ben Youssef Madrasa may be right up your alley. The college was one of the largest theological colleges of its time and contains colourful geometric carvings.

Priced at just 2 Euros, this is another great place for students, backpackers and budget travellers to take a break from the crowds and learn more about Moroccan history and culture.

spices-in-the-souk

Day Trips from Marrakech

Marrakech also makes a good base for exploring more of Morocco and there are plenty of day tours from Marrakech that make this easy to do.

If you want to get out into the desert you can chose from a 1 day tour which visits the smaller desert of Zagora (which can get a little hectic) so if you have time go for the 3 day tour to the Sahara desert.

Try paying a visit to the Sahara if possible. It is an experience like no other! Hills of sands as far as the eyes can see, light up to a golden colour at sunrise. It is magical!

If you’re not to keen to step far out, organisers such as Dunes and Deserts conduct day trips on Quads and Buggy on the outskirts of Marrakech, to the tiny Agafay desert. Quite a mini adventure!

golden-rays-of-the-sun-in-the-sahara

Where to Stay in Marrakech

When in Marrakech the best place to stay is in a traditional Riad – and don’t worry if you don’t have wads of cash to splurge on a luxury hotel – some backpacker hostels are even located in riads!

Most of the riads are located within the Medina and if you plan on staying here, it is easier to get to most of the places listed above, as they too are located nearby.

Here’s some recommendations:

  • Riad Dia: A backpacker hostel that includes free breakfast, is located close to the square and is very cheap!
  • Riad Casa Sophia: Another clean and small riad close to the square, looked after by 2 brothers who are very helpful and informative.
  • Riad Mboja: Located near the old Mosque and a 15 minute walk from Djemaa EL Fnaa square is a good budget option and they also arrange airport pick-ups and drop-offs.
  • Riad Mandalay: Features a lovely roof-top terrace and is located near the Saadian tombs in a great spot near the square but away from the noise.
  • Riad Yasmine House: A traditional Riad located in the medina, beautiful and clean. Dinner can be opted for at the Riad itself if required. A little difficult to get to, but it is with most of the places within the medina. Staff is sent to direct you if you require assistance.
  • If you’re not keen on staying in the medina, Les Jardins d’Issil is the place, 20 minutes away from the medina. The tent cabins here are cool and comfortable, arranged around a botanical garden and a pool. Pre-set authentic Moroccan meals are also served here.

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Where to Eat in Marrakech

Although you are likely to find tagines at every corner, there are many restaurants that serve a tasty one for cheap. If you’re not too keen on trying the local fare, some also serve a variety of unique salads and sandwiches ad kebabs if you prefer something familiar.

Some great personally tried and tested ones are:

  1. Amal: A non-profit association dedicated to the empowerment of disadvantaged women, through restaurant training and job placement, the meals here are pocket friendly and as authentic as it can get! The menu changes everyday and the service is efficient.
  1. Latitude 31: Although it serves European dishes too, Latitude 31 serves the best Tagines. The desserts are elaborately decorated too!
  1. Cafe Clock: A great place if you’re looking for some entertainment to go with your food. The food here consists of small budget meals and they conduct various cultural activities in the evening. The date milkshake is a must-try!
  1. Marrakech Henna Art Cafe: Right in the middle of the medina is this budget artsy cafe that serves small meals, a mix of Moroccan and European fare. They pride themselves on unique dishes like the Avocado couscous salad, which is super delish!
  1. Comptoir Darna: If you’re looking for a night out in town, complete with belly dancers and good food, Comptoir is the place to be. Although pricey, an energetic crowd and cultural activities sure make it worth it!

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Top Tips for Visiting Marrakech

  1. The average daily budget for backpacking Marrakech is about 350-450 MAD (Moroccan Dirhams) per day about US $35-45.
  2. Wander around the souk and pay attention to the prices being quoted. Do not purchase items right away. Haggle only if you’re interested in buying
  3. Morocco is a conservative country so women should dress modestly to avoid stares and unwanted attention.
  4. Marrakech is pretty safe, however avoid wandering in the medina late at night if not in a group
  5. The best time to make purchases in the souk is early morning or late evening
  6. It’s really worth splashing out on a well-organised trip to the Sahara. Prices vary depending where you inquire, but a well-arranged trip helps you take in the countryside safely without being stressed or tired.

How to Get to Marrakech

Cheap Ryanair and EasyJet flights fly you directly to Marrakech from a lot of airports throughout Europe. In peak season November – February it gets expensive so ensure you book in advance.

Although the frequency of the trains isn’t great, they are still a dependable option when it comes to getting to Marrakech from within the country itself.

Visa is not required for a lot of nationals, but please check depending on the passport you hold.

 

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Bio: An Analyst by profession, Lavina D’Souza writes articles on her blog, A Capricious Compass, to motivate individuals who work a 9-5 to break free from the notion that you cannot prioritize travel.

A Capricious Compass contains her quirky stories around the world in addition to detailed guides and itineraries.

She also contributes to publications like The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog and Elite Daily and more, including print media.

Follow @acapriciouscompass on social media.

 

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4 comments

Suman Kumar November 9, 2016 at 10:14 am

I like your blog very much

Reply
Global Gallivanting November 10, 2016 at 5:02 am

Thank you 🙂

Reply
michelle newby April 26, 2017 at 11:38 am

This is great!! and super helpful. i took a read through this post before i was just there over easter weekend. I highly recommend a cooking class, it was a great way to get to know and understand the culture.
http://www.livingincinnamon.com/travel/2017/4/20/dar-les-cigognes-the-sanssouci-moroccan-cooking-school-marrakech-morocco

michelle

Reply
Anna May 3, 2017 at 9:50 am

Hi Michelle, thanks glad you liked the post and had a good time in Marrkech. 🙂

Reply

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