I am SO excited to be sharing a review of the highlight of our trip to Morocco, the Fez-Sahara-Fez two day Desert Camel Tour! On the tour we got to see so much of the country, ride camels, and sleep in nomadic tents in the Sahara. I’ve broken the post up into two parts to cover the 7 hour trip across Morocco from Fez and the actual time in the desert (mostly because I have SO many pictures).
To recap, we had three days in Morocco total, flying into Fez in the evening of Day 1 and flying out of Fez on the evening of Day 4 back at the end of April.
My biggest decision about how to spend our time came down to whether or not to do the Desert Camel Tour. With only 72 hours in a country, we could have easily spent the full three days exploring Fez and fitting in one day trip. But, I AM SO GLAD we opted to spend the two full days traveling to and experiencing the Sahara.
The magic in Morocco, for me, lay in something so foreign, so different, so new. And the rolling sand dunes of the desert were just that.
A few things for people looking to take a similar tour (or just scroll on down through our pictures):
Before You Book
Online I found so many different listing for Camel Desert Tours. I assumed they were the same tour, with different listings on various sites or different drivers advertising the tour and taking their cut to transport you to the desert. I was surprised when we arrived at the edge of the Sahara to find there are actually quite a few different base “hotels” that trek you out to different camps in the desert. From what I could see, they looked pretty similar. I recommend the one we went on, but if you’re searching online, I would pay attention to the reviews of the specific people. The quality of your host/guide/driver all impact your stay and I think there is likely a greater variety in people than in accommodations between the different tours.
We used GetYourGuide.com to book our tour from FesDesertTour.com. I paid online before we went and downloaded the GetYourGuide app. This had my voucher on it even when I wasn’t connected to wifi and was very easy to use (although I never actually needed to use my voucher). When I booked the tour online it asked for the address of our first riad where we were picked up.
I was a little worried, after not hearing anything directly from Fes Desert Tours, that no one would show up to pick us up at our riad but everything went smoothly.
Fez to Sahara to Fez 2 Day Tour
We started the morning with breakfast at our riad (guest house) in Fez and our driver picked us up at 9am. The drive from Fez to the desert is just under 7 hours, but there are stops scheduled all along the drive with plenty to see.
We drove up out of the Fez valley about an hour to the winter ski resort village of Ifrane. It was built by the french in the 1930s and looks like something out of a Swiss picture book. We stopped for just a few minutes to stretch our legs and take a few pictures.
Cedar Forests + Wilk Monkeys
One of my highlights of our whole stay in Morocco was the next stop in the cedar forests of Azrou. Wild monkeys gather around peddlers selling peanuts and bags of fresh fruit and I could have spent all morning here! A whole bag of peanuts was 50 cents and the monkeys would come right up and take them out of your hand. I had a few get bold enough to come tug at my pants to ask for some.
We didn’t have any coins on us and our driver paid the peddler for our bag of peanuts. If you’re traveling, I’d recommend having a few coins on you.
**It’s worth noting that this, a long with most of the stops, felt quite touristy. But at this stop I didn’t care – the monkeys were so fun! As we were leaving a whole bus of tourists pulled up and I think the experience might have been a little less magical if we’d been doing it alongside fifty other awestruck people.
Lunch in Midelt
We continued on, stopping for lunch at a busy local restaurant in Midelt, a town famous for fossils. We did see a couple of tourists but it was fun to eat surrounded by natives, just out for a weekend meal with their family. I ordered Tangine, a traditional Moroccan dish I’d read about, and Ben followed our guide’s lead and ordered chicken. Before our meal arrived our guide excused himself to go pray and I invited Ben to go along with him.
With lunch they served a traditional pita-like roll with lunch and no one seemed bothered by the flies landing on everything. We sipped fruit smoothies and mostly looked around, taking everything in as we ate. Next to us was an older man in a turban eating alone. Across from him was a family with a toddler, a baby, and a large number of shopping bags. The girl giggled whenever we made eye contact and I missed my little Lincoln back home.
Following lunch we had a long stretch of driving, with a stop at the Ziz valley, a huge oasis of palm trees in the middle of an otherwise barren landscape. With a few of these stops to take pictures there were small tables set up where you could purchase souvenirs. We didn’t look at the wares and stayed closer to the lookouts and no one pressured us to purchase anything.
Ben and I took naps and I listened to a podcast for the final few hours to Merzouga, on the edge of the Sahara.
And quite a few more pictures:
Don’t the buildings look like something you’d find in Switzerland? This was as we drove toward Ifrane.
^The town of Ifrane has a ski resort, a university, and homes for the wealthy (according to our driver)
^Everything was so lush and green
^Our guide insisted we take pictures in front of this lion statue (along with the rest of the tourists).
^ I couldn’t get over the views! Our driver asked if I wanted to stop for pictures every 20 minutes or so and I knew we’d never make it to the desert at that rate, but it was hard to say no.
^I did take him up on the chance to stop and snap a few pictures at this beautiful lookout with flowers growing on the side of the road.
^Views of the valley
^Vacations without small children mean this was probably the first time I wore a long necklace in two years.
^MONKEYS! I loved how close they would let me get with my camera (not nearly as close as they would let me get if I had food in my hand though)
^Staring down Ben and munching on his peanut
^This one jumped right up onto a car!
^They also offered horse rides for a small fee
^Look at that tiny baby monkey! He was quite a bit more timid than the others and was scared into the tree by a larger monkey. The only way to coax him to the lower branches was with more peanuts.
^Just another stop on the side of the road for a beautiful view
^The local restaurant we stopped at in Midelt had all of these chickens roasting.
^It’s about 10 dirhams to 1 U.S. dollar so we were pretty amazed at these prices! This was probably the cheapest and best meal we had in Morocco
^And this was possibly the best fruit smoothie I’ve ever had. I got to practice ordering in french and wasn’t quite sure of exactly what I ordered but it was delicious.
^Tangine is a traditional Moroccan dish (but it takes awhile to make).
^Ben and our driver both ordered, “chicken.” This is what showed up.
^The restaurant we ate at.
^Another beautiful stop along the drive and our last one before the last few hours of driving to the desert.