A First Timer's One Week Morocco Itinerary - Fez, Chefchaouen, Marrakesh

Putting together a one week Morocco itinerary was the first time in a while that I’d felt daunted by a trip. We only had a week in the country and there is so much to see and do in Morocco! Most people do not have the luxury of infinite time off work though, so if you’re looking for a week guide, which sees the main sights but doesn’t pack too much in and exhaust you, then this guide is for you!

Ultimately, I decided to focus on three main cities for the week I was there: Fez, Marrakesh and Chefchaouen, and reassured myself I would go back one day to see Casablanca, Essaouira, Meknes, Tangier and the Sahara on another trip!

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The best time of year to visit Morocco

The best time of year to visit Morocco is in the spring (March-May) or autumn (September-October) when the temperature is warm but manageable. In the summer it can get extremely hot and winters can be quite harsh with snow in areas.

I visited in mid-September and the weather was great every day, usually 25-30 degrees Celsius. The evenings did get chilly after the sun had gone down and particularly in Chefchaouen which is further north and further in the mountains, but a light sweater was just fine.


Is Morocco cheap?

Cheap is relative but I would say Morocco is cheaper than the UK and the USA (where my partner is from, who I was traveling with). For a normal meal for two (2 mains, 2 deserts, 2 soft drinks) we paid roughly £15-20/$19-25. Morocco is a dry country so alcohol is rare or extremely expensive if it is served in tourist resorts. You’re better off just avoiding alcohol for the duration of your trip.

While there is a huge range of accommodation to suit all budgets, we found some extremely good value riads to stay in in all three cities. The cheapest we stayed in was £27 per night for two of us, the most expensive was £80 per night for two of us, all had our own room and bathroom (except for one hostel), they were all such unique properties and most in Marrakech have a pool in the riad courtyard. Of course there are also exclusive, luxury resorts that go up to £1,000 per night!

We found transport between cities to be a bit more on the expensive side. CTM bus company is the most well-known and trusted transport option around Morocco. They have a bus station in most cities where you can buy tickets, or you can purchase them in advance on their website. We flew from Fez to Marrakesh to keep our travel time short and that flight cost almost double our flight from London Stansted to Fez. Looking at flights now though, they are as cheap as £27 one-way with certain carriers.

Although we did find extremely cheap flights from London Stansted to Fez with Ryan Air. £25 one-way fare with priority baggage.


Is Morocco safe for female travellers?

On the whole, yes. However, I was travelling with my boyfriend and I know that made a difference. We were both hassled, accosted, grabbed and touched in the Medina, especially in Fez, which we honestly both felt so uncomfortable with and it did put us off Fez. We were also scammed in Fez and felt like we were very targeted there as tourists.

Helena standing in a souks shop surrounded by many patterned tapestries in Marrakesh medina

Souks in Marrakesh medina

If you stay on the main Medina streets and the popular tourists areas, I would say as a woman alone you are probably safe, there are other tourists around too who would be able to help if you felt uncomfortable and like anywhere else, take the precautions you would usually.

Unfortunately, having experienced what we did, I don’t think I would return to Fez and especially not alone. We strayed too far from the main Medina streets, got lost and someone tried to show us out, even though we said no, he continued to walk ahead of us and steer us, he then lead us further into the medina and demanded money.

A group of his friends gathered around us and I felt extremely intimidated, we gave him the equivalent of US$10 and he eventually left us alone to find our own way out of the medina but I was very scared. This might sound negative to be sharing this, but I think it’s important to be honest about experiences like this. Equally I’ve heard people say the opposite and that they felt targeted in Marrakesh but not in Fez.

On a positive note, I felt completely comfortable and safe exploring alone in Chefchaouen which I did one morning without Taylor coming with me.


How to get to Morocco

The good news is that flights to Morocco are very reasonably priced and the main cities are regularly served by several European carriers, including EasyJet and Ryan Air. We flew directly into Fez from London Stansted with Ryan Air and it was a very short 2 hour flight. There are regular flights from the UK into Fez, Marrakesh and Tangier, so you have plenty of choice!

We decided to fly into Fez because it made it easier for us to take a bus to Chefchaouen for an overnight trip. Then we could also easily fly from Fez to Marrakesh.

The many colorful spice baskets of Morocco

spice baskets Morocco


A first timer’s one week Morocco itinerary

Day 1: Fez

We arrived in Fez around 10am which was super helpful for us to spend the day getting our bearings in the city. (Scroll down to Day 4 for the list of things to see and do in Fez).

Fez airport is unexpectedly modern but the taxi system outside the airport is a bit of a free-for-all. There is a flat fare rate displayed on the taxi boards outside, so as long as you get in a registered taxi then you won’t be ripped off. Although the taxis are parked down in the main car park, so it’s a case of taxi drivers jostling for your ride and being allocated by their bosses (or someone who seemed to be telling them all what to do!).

The journey from the airport to Fez Medina is about 35 minutes, make sure the taxi driver takes you directly to your accommodation or arrange transportation with your accommodation directly. The Medina is very confusing and most roads are not marked on any kind of map app. You will get lost if you walk, so make sure you are delivered directly to your accommodation to avoid getting lost and ripped off in the Medina.

As per my story above of what happened to us, getting lost is easy and looking like a lost tourist turns you into a target. Unless you know Fez well or are travelling with a local, I really do not recommend you go “off the beaten track”.

We used this first day in Fez to get our bearings, settle into our accommodation and also buy our CTM bus tickets to Chefchaouen the following day. The CTM bus station is not in the old town Medina area, it’s actually about half way between the airport and the Medina so we asked our taxi driver to stop their quickly on the way so I could pick the tickets up.

For our first night in Fez we stayed in a private room at Riad Verus, which is an absolutely beautiful hostel style accommodation. But the private room for two with a private bathroom was actually a similar price as two beds in a dorm, so we decided to get the private room. We loved this hostel, it was in a great location, had an amazing rooftop and communal area, the owner was so welcoming and super helpful giving us maps, food recommendations and advice for getting around the city. The hostel also included breakfast in the price and it was a huge breakfast!!

If your accommodation has a rooftop, I highly recommend you spend the first evening up here, enjoying the sights and sounds of Fez with a warm mint tea and listening to the bustling streets and call to prayer.

A top down view of a colorful room with many carpets and decretive ties at Riad Verus Fez hostel

Riad Verus Fez hostel


Day 2: Chefchaouen

It might seem stressful to be rushing straight off to Chefchaouen the following day, and obviously it depends on your own schedule, but as we didn’t want to be coming back from Chefchaouen the night before our flight from Fez to Marrakesh in case there was any delays, we decided to go to the blue city first and ensure we had a full day to explore Fez when we returned.

If this sounds a bit stressful to you then I highly recommend booking onto this organised day tour from Fez to Chefchaouen to make the most of your day and don't miss the chance to see the blue city!

Or this alternative if the first one is booked up.

As I mentioned in day 1, we bought our tickets in advance from the CTM bus station. A bus ticket from Fez to Chefchaouen costs 110 MAD each way (approximately £9/$11) according to CTM website. I recommend you buy them in advance as I had originally planned for us to get the first bus of the day to Chefchaouen to allow maximum time to explore. That first bus was fully booked already so I had to get the 11am bus instead. The bus journey is approximately 4-4.5hrs on a very windy road, so if you get travel sick, come prepared!

There are alternative ways to get to Chefchaouen which are quicker, taking a Grand Taxi will cost $200+ but can take up to 5 people, so if you have a group to share with, this might be a more comfortable option.

Once you arrive at Chefchaouen, buy your tickets for your return immediately. We again struggled to get the bus we wanted as all CTM coaches were fully booked. We ended up travelling with one of the other bus providers at the kiosks in the main station hall - Nejme Chamal. While we had no issues with this alternative bus company, the tickets were more expensive and the bus was definitely not as nice!

The CTM station is also slightly outside of Chefchaouen city and it’s a steep walk uphill in the heat, you’re best to take a taxi from outside the station to your accommodation. This shouldn’t cost you any more than 25 MAD.


Things to see and do in Chefchaouen: the Blue Pearl City

  • Explore! Although Chefchaouen is also full of winding streets and alleyways, it’s nowhere near as big as Fez medina and we didn’t really get lost - except in the fun, adventurous way! The streets really are blue so head out and explore and take lots of photons.

  • Visit the Kasbah - located in the main town square, this is a 15th century fortress and spanish-style gardens. The fortress is clay orange in colour if you’re looking for a change from the blue! The fortress was a former prison and the Portuguese Tower is named after the prisoners who built it. From the top of the tower you will have beautiful panoramic views of the city. Entrance for tourists is 60 MAD, there are no signs in English as you walk around the exhibition, but you can pick up an information leaflet in English from the entrance.

  • Climb up to the Bouzaafar Mosque to see sunset over Chefchaouen (or sunrise if you’re an early bird!). This is one of the most famous view points of Chefchaouen. It is a fairly easy 20 minute walk up from the Medina. Expect crowds during peak season at sunset!

  • Eat at Bab Ssour for authentic and cheap food in Chefchaouen. You’ll see the popular tourist restaurants around the main square opposite the Kasbah, with roof terraces and music, you can expect to pay a premium here. Instead, head to Bab Ssour restaurant. It is still very central, but tucked down an alleyway through an arch, people often walk straight past. Here we shared a table with strangers and enjoyed authentic Moroccan dishes for a great price.

  • Check out the local stores and vendors. Although there are often the same souvenirs over and over again, we actually found a lot more unique products in Chefchaouen to buy as souvenirs.

  • Head to colourful Place El Haouta - this colourful plaza is on the western side of the Medina and has lots of local activity. The backdrop of the mountain is also beautiful!

Where to stay in Chefchaouen

A blue door surrounded by colorful tiles in Chefchaouen

doorway in Chefchaouen

We stayed Hotel Dar Terrae which could not have been more perfect. The location was incredible, right near all the photo locations I wanted to see and only a couple of minutes walk to the main square. The hotel was so unique, the whole property is painted blue and yellow and our room was beautiful. The bathroom was shared but it was right nearby the room. Breakfast was included on the roof terrace, it was freshly prepared and super tasty! All this cost us only £32 per night!!

Other options we considered were:


Day 3: Chefchaouen

Be sure to enjoy the breakfast at your accommodation, it’s probably the most authentic breakfast you’ll find!

Spend the rest of the day exploring the city and any of the things listed that you didn’t have chance to cover the day before.


Photo locations and Instagram spots in Chefchaouen

If you’re looking for the famous Instagram spots in Chefchaouen, here’s a quick list of where you can find them:

  • The paid set - possibly the most famous photo spot in Chefchaouen because a clever local has set up their courtyard to make the perfect insta-spot and you can take a photo there for a small fee. To find this, look up Le Reve Bleu on Google Maps - this is a shop/art gallery. Right next to here is a 3-way fork in the path and the doorway to the courtyard is just off this. I’ve also recently see that this location has been added to Google Maps as “Pic photos IG’.

  • For the blue steps with colourful plant pots, this is called Derb El Assri on Google Maps. Walk along Hassan 1 street to get to the bottom of Derb El Assri.

  • Completely blue stairway - this is the entrance to someone’s house, so please respect that. It can be found on Rue Bin Souaki.


Head back the Fez

Remember to allow 20 minutes to get to the bus station. You can get a taxi from the main road right behind the Kasbah, labelled as Plaza el-Majzen on Google Maps.

If you’re travelling with CTM, remember to allow for your journey from the CTM bus station about 20 minutes to the Fez Medina, especially if you’re arriving after dark I would suggest taking a taxi. If you’re travelling with another bus company then some buses stop much closer to the Medina.


Day 4: Fez

This is the day to pack in as much as possible in Fez before you leave tomorrow! Fez is huge and sprawling but it is walkable, just wear good shoes!


Things to see and do in Fez

  • See the Blue Gate - the traditional Medina entrance.

  • From the Blue Gate explore the two main shopping streets in the medina - Rue Talaa Sghira and Rue Talaa Kebira.

  • Continue all the way through the Medina on these two main streets, see the gold souks, henna souks, perfumeries, clothing stores and street food. If you want to purchase something be sure to haggle, if you don’t want to purchase anything, do not make eye contact or show interest in a store, otherwise you’ll be hassled.

  • Al Attarine Madrasa is a beautiful historical building said to be the oldest university in the world. It is now a tourist attraction and you can still see the original courtyard and bedrooms. Coach tours do come and go but we went in the middle of the day and managed to get a quiet few minutes in the beautiful tiled courtyard. It’s right at the end of the main medina streets you’ve been walking down, so you should come to it naturally.

  • Visit Place Seffarine - the traditional metalwork plaza in the city. You can see the metal workers crafting their work, the sound of banging on metal and welding is an amazing atmosphere. Here is the place to be to buy traditional and unique Moroccan lanterns or metalware.

  • Place R’cif - probably the easiest way to get out of the Medina and onto the main roads if you don’t want to walk back through the hustle and bustle! This square is also full of sellers, but through the archway you can catch taxis.

  • Chouara Tanneries - these are the most famous tanneries in Morocco and the biggest in Africa. They’re a bit of a walk outside the east side of the medina. To view from above you will just need to go into one of the leather stores surrounding the tanneries and they will take you to the roof terrace (and give you some mint to cover the smell!) The expectation is that in return you will buy some of their leather products from the shop, but if you don’t want to, just tip the person who guided you. Warning: the smell is very strong and can be hard to take.

  • The Royal Palace in Fez - this was our favourite spot in Fez. It’s outside the Medina and although you can’t go inside the Palace, the grand doors are incredibly beautiful to see and photograph.

  • The Royal Palace is right next to the Jewish Quarter and we spent a fun hour or so just wandering around here, eating pastries and looking in stores - no one hassled us here!

  • For some respite, take some time in Jnan Sbil. These are gardens we discovered not far outside of the Blue Gate and you can enter just by the Bab Chems gate. The park runs the length of Ave Moulay Hassan. Fez can be overwhelming and we enjoyed a couple of hours in some greenery here.

To get the most out of visiting Fez (and to avoid getting lost!) I highly recommend this Fez Medina guided tour.


Where to eat in Fez

Similarly to breakfasts, if you have the chance to eat at your riad, I recommend you doing so at least once as this is often the most authentic and local style food you will have. Plus it’s a lot easier sometimes to eat at your riad than try to find authentic restaurants which aren’t overpriced!

When we did eat out, we were recommended the Cinema Cafe, a modern Moroccan style restaurant with authentic and western cuisine to suit everyone. The prices were reasonable and the staff were so lovely!


Where to stay in Fez

I already mentioned Riad Verus if you’re looking for a budget option.

For a mid-range option I cannot recommend Dar Le 44 enough. It’s fairly new and definitely a more modern style riad located not far from the Blue Gate inside the medina. We booked last minute as our previous accommodation fell through and Zahra was so welcoming and such a wonderful host. She speaks fluent French too.

If you’re looking to splurge on Fez accommodation the check out Palais Medina & Spa or Riad Al Makan.


Day 5: Marrakesh

At the time of writing this, there is one direct flight a day, 4 days a week with Air Arabia. The days vary throughout the year so check what suits your itinerary best. We got our flights for £27 plus baggage, three months ahead of our trip. The times also vary, we found only one day a week did 6am flights and the rest were late night flights. We decided to get an early flight so we could maximise our time with a full day in Marrakesh.


How to get around in Marrakesh

I would recommend arranging airport transfers with your accommodation. Even if they don’t have their own transfer vehicles, they will be able to recommend and arrange someone reliable to pick you up/drop you off.

Once you’re in Marrakesh medina, again everything is very walkable and we found it a lot easier to navigate than Fez!


Where to stay in Marrakesh

I actually booked three different riads to stay in for each night we were in Marrakesh and they were all incredible (this is not sponsored, I paid for them all completely). Check out this post on how to pick the best riad to stay at in Marrakesh, including 18 of the best riad options based on budget.

Riad Chorfa

This was my favourite riad, it was so beautiful and colourful with a gorgeous pool and huge rooftop area and in the best location - just a short walk to Jemaa el-Fna. The room was very opulent and great value for the price: £65 per night for a double room with private bathroom and breakfast included.

Riad Assouel

This was the most expensive accommodation we stayed at (£80 per night for double room, private bathroom). This was a lot more sleek and felt more like a traditional hotel but still gorgeous with a large bathroom suite, a heated pool in the courtyard and a huge rooftop area.

This riad was located slightly off the main road into a more local area, I felt a little uncomfortable going down the dark alley to get to it at night but nothing happened and the owner was very helpful.

Rodamon Riad

This was our budget accommodation at just £27 a night for two beds in a dorm room. Yes, this was a hostel but it was stunning, such a lovely atmosphere, clean and modern but still with traditional elements like the turquoise tiling, pool in the courtyard and huge rooftop terrace. If you’re looking for a budget lookalike riad for Riad Yasmine or Riad BE, this is your place!


Things to see and do in Marrakesh

Marrakesh medina souks

Marrakesh medina souks

  • Jemaa el-Fna is the main square in Marrakesh medina where all the market stalls appear in the evening. We definitely preferred the square at dusk in the evening when the lighting was soft and pink against the buildings, the air was cooler and the scams of performing animals have thankfully left. Please do not give any money to the people making animals “perform” they treated the animals so badly, it was horrible to see.

  • Koutoubia Mosque is the opposite side of the Jemaa el-Fna square if you keep walking through. Although you cannot go into the mosque, it’s a beautiful imposing building, great for photos and the Parc Lalla Hasna behind it is a nice area to wander around and find some shade and respite from the souks.

  • Speaking of souks… The souks of Marrakesh are everywhere. There is no right or wrong place to see them, just wander around and explore! The main street and the one that will lead you to the square is Souk Laksour. I recommend walking down Souk Laksour and Souk Semmarine and dipping in and out of the side streets, this way you’re less likely to get lost in the medina.

  • El Badii Palace is south of the medina and is a huge complex housing the remains of a 16th century palace built by the Sultan Al-Mansour to celebrate victory over the Portuguese in 1578. The huge central courtyard with an orchard and pools still remains but the actual buildings were demolished in the late 17th century. Tickets were 70 MAD which was a bit steep for the lack of English signage, although the area is very impressive.

  • Bahia Palace is nearby the El Badii Palace and is a fully intact palace and gardens. It is also 70 MAD to enter and does not have signage so we decided to only visit El Badii Palace. But I was told the Palace is much more beautiful to photograph.

  • Jardin Majorelle - these are the private gardens of a villa owned by artist Jacques Majorelle where famous fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent lived. The gardens are beautiful and colourful but get extremely busy. I recommend arriving early in the day or the hour before closing. You can buy your tickets in advance on the website and these cost 155 MAD to just enter the gardens. If you would like to visit the gardens, the YSL Museum and the Berber museum, the cost is 355 MAD for a combined ticket. Note that the museums are closed on Wednesdays.

  • The Medersa Ben Youssef is a beautiful traditional 16th-century college building with an ornate tiled courtyard. Unfortunately it is closed for renovations until 2020 so we did not visit, but if you’re visiting after 2020 it definitely is worth seeing.

  • the Museum of Marrakesh is right near the Medersa Ben Youssef however I was told by several people it is a very dilapidated museum, with very little information in English and not worth visiting, so we skipped this.

There is obviously so much to do in Marrakesh and we actually did all these things spread over our 2.5 days in Marrakesh so we could take it slow and also enjoy some time in our riads, in the pools and enjoying the rooftop and excellent service.

You really can explore Marrakesh at a pace suitable to you or escape and enjoy the luxury of your riad.


Where to eat in Marrakesh?

vegetarian pastilla at Cafe Kif Kif

vegetarian pastilla at Cafe Kif Kif

  • Cafe Medina Rouge (previously Cafe Kif - Kif) - we loved it here so much we went back twice! In the perfect location with a terrace overlooking Koutoubia Mosque, this cafe-restaurant had such a fun vibe and was cheap too. They had loads of veggie options which we loved, our favourite was the veggie pastilla.

  • Nomad - we ate here on our first night and while the food was good, it was very pricey for small portions. But the atmosphere was good and it was modern. If you want to eat on the roof terrace you usually need to book in advance.

  • Atay Cafe Food - a great spot for a quick lunch stop.

  • Cafe des Espices - in the spice souk and opposite Nomad, this is a great spot for lunch or dinner and cheap too.


Day 6: Agafay Desert excursion from Marrakesh

There is so much to see and do that as I mentioned, we spread it over our last few days in Morocco. If you are maybe not interested in a lot of these sites or if you only want to visit one or two, then this would be the day to do a desert tour or desert camp excursion.

We didn’t go on one (since we had one booked in Jordan 2 weeks later) but all our riads offered desert excursions either as a day trip or overnight trip at an additional cost. I would recommend booking these in advance if you’re travelling in the peak season, or at least a couple of days ahead of time.

Alternatively if you'd prefer not to stay overnight in the desert, book this Agafay Desert Day trip from Marrakech which allows you to experience with Atlas Mountains and the Agafay Desert with pick up from your hotel or riad, all in a day trip from Marrakesh.

Experiencing glamping in the Sahara is a magical, once in a lifetime experience! But the Sahara is an 8-12 hour drive and if you’re short on time in Morocco, chances are that you will not have time to visit! But the good news is that there’s another desert much nearer to Marrakech which is suitable for day excursions or overnight desert camp trips. Agafay Desert is a stone desert about 40km south of Marrakech and with a backdrop of the Atlas Mountains, it really is spectacular.


Day 7: Marrakesh

Riad Chorfa Marrakesh

Riad Chorfa Marrakesh

This is your last day in Marrakesh so whether you’ve still got palaces to visit (see the list above!) or you want to spend your time around the pool in your riad, this day is really up to you. We had a lunchtime flight so just chose to relax in our riad until our taxi arrived.

Again, I would recommend ordering a taxi directly with your hotel or with a service they recommend. Although this might be slightly more expensive, the taxi driver will come to the hotel and fetch you and lead you out of the medina to the main road (since cars can’t drive inside the medina). So it means you won’t get lost and miss your flight!

Have you been to Morocco? What was your experience like?


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