Here's a funny story. My boyfriend and I decided to plan a romantic, adventurous trip together to Morocco. After two days of romance, I got food poisoning. Then two days later, he got food poisoning. We spent the majority of our trip trading off bathroom use and trying our absolute hardest to get out of bed and explore.
And that is my trip to Morocco in a nutshell! Needless to say, my boyfriend and I are now closer than ever and we will never look at each other the same. My advice to you if you go to Morocco would be to a) not eat the street food and b) at least be dating someone for a year before going to Morocco together. We only followed one of those rules. We've been together a year and a half.
Regardless, it was a great trip and we are lucky to be able to go on vacations like that. Before we fell embarrassingly ill, we were able to fully immerse ourselves in two of Morocco's smaller cities: Chefchaouen (also known as the blue city) and Asilah (a beach town on the coast of Morocco...we went out of season). After I got sick, we went to Rabat, Morocco's capital. I was lucky to experience a few hours of Rabat and then we quickly moved on to the Moroccan country side, where we stayed at a beautiful lodge called Berber Lodge. This was my favorite part of the trip. It was absolutely gorgeous. Our plan was to go to Marrakech the next day, but then my boyfriend was hit with the bug and we decided to just stay the rest of our trip at the lodge, which was 25 minutes outside of Marrakech. On our final day, we explored Marrakech for a few hours, then both felt sick so we went back to Berber Lodge. If there's one thing I want to do again, it's visit the Moroccan countryside. It's not only picturesque, but full of small Berber villages that give you a really authentic taste of culture outside of tourist attractions.
Are you over our romantic food poisoning tale yet? Thought so! Ok. Here's a more structured overview of our trip and what we did in each city.
Also known as the Blue Pearl, Chefchaouen is a small city in the Rif Mountains. It's about an hour drive from Tangier and definitely worth the trip. One thing to note is that this village is small. You can see everything in about 2 hours, tops. It was such a beautiful place (and extremely grammable, might I add) but one of my favorite part of this town was our hotel experience.
Where I stayed
Lina Ryad & Spa
This is the only five-star hotel in Chefchaouen. It's located right in the heart of the small village and has a beautiful, open layout and large rooms. If you decide to stay here, they provide breakfast in bed included in your hotel room price. They also have a beautiful spa and private pool, which you can reserve. My boyfriend and I went to a hammam, which is basically a Middle Eastern version of an exfoliating steam bath. We sat there in a steam room as a hilarious Moroccan lady (she literally kept making jokes that we couldn't understand but still found funny) washed us with a hose and exfoliated our skin. It wasn't quite a romantic experience, but it was definitely a memorable one. Don't be fooled by the whole sexy "steam bath experience," it's really straight to the point. Then, to top it off, my boyfriend was kind enough to treat me to a massage and facial for a belated Valentine's Day gift. As I'm usually working 24/7, this much R&R was extraordinary.
If you're looking to relax, a day in Chefchaouen and a stay at Lina Ryad & Spa is the right move. You can see the whole city in about 2 hours and then go treat yourself back at the hotel.
If you're really adventurous and not big on relaxing, you can go for a hike up the mountain surrounding Chefchaouen.
There's not just "one thing" you should see here. Instead, it's really about exploring the village and walking around. The city itself is a tourist attraction.
Asilah is one of Morocco's beach towns and I only recommend going here if it's in season (AKA summer) and you enjoy surfing. To be honest, it didn't really blow me away. However, I'm glad we went because we got to see what non-touristy parts of Morocco are like. I also had an eye-opening experience at the doctor's office in Asilah when I had food poisoning and was prescribed Coca Cola.
Where I Stayed
This is one of the nicest hotels in the small town of Asilah. It's quaint, small and has a cute restaurant and hookah lounge. Would I die to stay here again? No. Do I think it's the best option we had? Yes. The service was great (sorry to bring food poisoning up again, but the woman who worked in the lobby walked me to the doctor) and the room was nice. And judging from my boyfriend's dinner, the restaurant was pretty good as well. All in all, Hôtel Alba was pretty on point.
The city itself is also small, but much more modernized than the village of Chefchaouen. While it's more "modern," that doesn't mean it is fueled by tourism half as much as Chefchaouen. Another thing to note if you go here: don't eat fish unless it's high season.
Where I Stayed
Riad Dar El Kebira
This was a classic riad with a beautiful lobby, and instead of a courtyard inside, there was a beautiful roof. Unfortunately for me, I was confined to the room for most of the trip, but I captured the beautiful lobby for you guys.
In terms of the city, Rabat was my favorite of the trip. I noticed Marrakech was basically 90% tourism and in my opinion, Rabat had so much more character. In Rabat, you can see both the old medina and the more modern city. I recommend exploring both and seeing some attractions.
The Andalusian Gardens are beautiful. It's basically a secluded public garden with flowers, fruit trees and lots of stray cats.
Who knew an incomplete mosque would be so beautiful? My photo doesn't do it justice because it started raining, but I highly recommend you go.
The Old Medina
Okay, going to be completely honest. The Old Medinas in both Rabat and Marrakech smell pretty bad due to the leather tanneries in the city. That aside, they are beautiful and walking in them makes you feel like you've transcended to another time period. Just don't eat the street food.
The city outside of the old medina is very different and much more modernized. Rabat is pretty conservative, cosmopolitan and "orderly" as I saw on Traveller. I thought this was a great description. It's much more
25 minutes outside of Marrakech, there are berber villages in the mountainous Moroccan countryside. What I didn't realize before this trip is how much natural beauty Morocco has to offer in addition to the rich culture and beautiful architecture.
Where I Stayed
Talk about a getaway. Berber lodge is a luxury lodge with the same traditional berber architecture as traditional Moroccan villages. It's a new project by French architect, Romain Michel-Meniere, and not only is it beautiful and secluded, but the food and service is excellent. It's a true escape (there's only one room with wifi) and I wish I was back there sinking into a good book right about now. In my opinion, this was the best part of the trip.
Let's talk about Marrakech. I had always dreamt of going to Marrakech when I was younger. In that dream, I was in my most glammed out conservative outfit, acting super chic and smoking hookah on a rooftop. Not only is that completely not what I did here, but I realized during my visit that this city is not really like that.
Marrakech is known as Morocco's fun city and it's definitely fun. While I unfortunately didn't get to explore the restaurant and social scene, I've heard great things about it from multiple sources, so I believe it. There are also tons of tourist attractions from the Majorelle Garden (which is supposed to be gorgeous, just prepare for a long line) to the Saadian Tombs... really something for everybody. We didn't stay in Marrakech since Berber Lodge was 25 minutes away, but here is what we did:
The Old Medina
Like Rabat, the old medina in Marrakech has traditional Berber markets and souks. The one in Marrakech is much bigger than the one in Rabat, but the architecture here is much more vibrant than Rabat, which is more corporate.
This is a palace and set of gardens in Marrakech. What's so cool about Moroccan architecture is that you will see a tiny door in a small alley and have no idea that it leads to a beautiful courtyard with colored tiles and fountains. Everything is really a surprise with this kind of layout. The Bahia Palace is one of the most well-preserved historical sites in Morocco. It was built from 1866-1867 and takes up a whole 2 acres of Marrakech.
This feels like a whole different world. The modern city of Marrakech feels luxurious compared to the old medina. We only walked around briefly (because it really isn't that big) but it's beautiful.
Did this vacation go as perfectly as planned? LMAO. Obviously not. But did we make the best of it and enjoy immersing ourselves in such a rich culture? Yes. I wish we had time to check out Casablanca and Fez, but that's for next time! And next time, I will be bringing us packaged protein bars for every meal.....
Until then! Xoxo