Morocco is the land of camels, souks, adventure and Bedouins. It’s also a perfect size for anyone looking for a unique two-week backpacking adventure.
Located on the west coast of Africa and a cheap flight away from the UK, it’s one of the best countries to visit for a budget backpacker trip. It’s a great option if you want to do some independent travel but need to schedule it in with work or education.
I travelled from Agadir to Marrakesh to Fez and onto Tangier via trains for two weeks and in this article I’m going to explain how you can do the same.
A Guide to Backpacking Through Morocco on a Budget in a Fortnight
Agadir, a city in the southwest, is the perfect place to fly into to make your way up the country. With all the activities on offer here you can tell Agadir is one of the most resort-like places in Morocco. Good for anyone who wants a hotel with a swimming pool and some infrastructure, and for anyone who wants to try any of the fun activities, safely.
Things to do
This is where you’ll find the best kitesurfing, surfing and windsurfing – as you may have pieced together, it’s a windy spot. It’s also a good introduction into life in Morocco. You can be among the markets and the people without the stress of Marrakesh. It’s also one of the few places where alcohol is readily available in restaurants.
There are also beautiful mosques to see – including the Grand Mosque – but it’s the Kasbah walls that are the biggest attraction. The enclosure dates from the 16th century and gives awesome views over the town when you climb to the top.
Food and drink
The popularity with tourists also means there are some great restaurants lining the beachfront where you can watch the sun go down and enjoy some live music. You’ll also see the locals come out in their traditional dress, as the day only really starts at sundown here. Don’t be surprised if they stare at you, you’re probably doing the same.
In Agadir there are Petit Taxis, which you can grab on the side of the road. They’re communal taxis, which will drop you off at your requested destination a bit like a bus, rather than an actual private taxi. These are the cheapest and best way to get around. As always, when you get in a taxi, trust your instincts.
Trains from Agadir to Marrakesh take 1 hour 45 minutes and tickets cost about £5. The trains are actually nicer than ones in England and you’ll pass some stunning Moroccan countryside.
A fascinating and ancient city of snake charmers, monkey handlers, tortoises, teeth pullers, henna tattooists… and that’s just in the world-famous main square of Djemaa El Fna.
Behind the medina walls the city is crazy, especially compared to the beach town of Agadir. I definitely wasn’t ready for the total onslaught on the senses here and felt a tad bewildered walking around. In fact, my friend and I had to escape to roof gardens to get away from the craziness now and then. Go, and you’ll understand!
Things to do
The best thing to do in Marrakesh is to wander through the maze of souks, where you’ll find everything from leather bags to antiques to ceramics to spices to cosmetics. Look out for the black magic market, where you’ll find a variety of dried creatures and other spooky offerings.
One of the top things to do in Marrakesh includes the Museum of Arts where for just 30dh you can see the lovely traditional Moroccan costumes and artefacts.
The Medersa Ben Youssef, the ruined ancient mosque and the Morocco Museuma are filled with beautiful mosaic, artwork and tapestries and the buildings are amazing. And make sure to find the old Marrakesh Cinema too for an insight into the golden age of film in Morocco.
Hammams (steam rooms) are another popular activity in Morocco. I avoided the traditional scrub and bath and instead had a delightful Algan oil massage for 300dh.
Food and drink
The only place we managed to find that actually served alcohol was La Boheme, which overlooked the main square.
As for food, by far the best place to eat is at one of the 200+ food stalls which spring up in Djemaa El Fna every evening. You can choose from a range of small plates, from calamari to tajines to meat skewers. We went down to explore and the boy sat next to me had a whole ram’s head slapped in front of him.
We enjoyed a good feast for two for less than a fiver. For dessert move to the spicy ginger hot cake stalls, or you could try the many snails stalls for a little slimy after-dinner refreshment.
Fresh orange juice is a highlight and a trademark of the square, where you can buy it freshly squeezed and locally sourced for just 10dh.
Trains from Marrakesh to Fez take 8 hours and cost from £13. If you want a cheaper option, which will of course take longer, there are buses too.
Fez is a great little town up in the north of Morocco – a stunning fort surrounds the Old Town.
The city has a super-relaxed vibe, it’s where the hippies used to hang out and you can definitely step in their footsteps with all the chilled bars, hanging rugs and shisha pipe bars everywhere.
Things to do
The Blue Gate is one of the highlights of Fez, so save your morning mint tea for a café nearby so you can sit and admire the view. The tanneries are also well worth a visit. This is where they bring all the leather in and dye it for handbags and leather items for the rest of the world. You can watch the workers doing their thing from the viewing platforms surrounding the pits.
Copper is another big trade here. If you want to see them bashing out the flecks, just follow the banging, you can’t miss it.
Food and drink
My favourite place to eat in Fez was Hotel Cascade. It was cheap, cheerful and delicious. I ate up on the roof which is decked out like a hippyfied living room, complete with sofas. Beautifully aged rugs hang on the makeshift walls and the hosts are cool – a storm hit while we were there and they gave us rugs so we could stay up and watch as we ate our tagines with the sky cracking above us.
Wait until early evening and hike up the hill for a coffee at the 5-star Hotel Merinides. They even have a lovely pool set into the mountainside. You’ll enjoy an incredible view across the whole of Fez and nearby Meknes too.
Trains from Fez to Tangier take 4 hours 30 minutes and cost from £7.
Tangier used to be filled with hippies and creative types – Jack Kerouac and Tennessee Williams loved it here – but now it’s mostly known as a port to get in and out of Spain. Stay a day or two and you’ll see there’s more to it than that.
Things to do
The Tangier Fish Market is one of the most popular spots in Tangier – bring your camera to catch the fishermen at work. Although don’t linger for too long or they’ll get annoyed and slap you round the face with a carp, possibly.
The Tangier Medina houses most of the fun with locals playing backgammon, the Grand Mosque in all its glory and the Old American Legation building too. Get your filters on, your Instagram fans are going to love it.
The beach is stunning and there’s also the New City, or Ville Nouvelle. as it’s known in this French and Arabic speaking part of the world. Here you can enjoy the Main Square and the Mendoubia Gardens, a shady spot full of fig and dragon trees.
From Tangier you can easily get the ferry across to Tarifa in Spain to continue your journey (takes 30 minutes and around £25) or use the airport to go somewhere else.
More cool places to go in Morocco
If you want to extend your trip check out these other spots in Morocco worthy of being included in your itinerary.
Essaouira – where Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley hung out in the 60s and the best spot for dune buggying.
Chefchaouen – the main attraction here is that the houses are all blue. It definitely makes for an interesting walk around, and for some cool Instagram pics too.
Jebel Toubkal / Atlas Mountains – visit here to see the highest peak in Northern Africa at 4,167m (13,667 ft). You could do it in a day, or you could take 3 days about it and really enjoy the scenery.