With the long Irish winter still in full effect, I decided I needed some Winter sunshine and I packed my case and headed for some solo travelling in Marrakech. I didn’t want a long flight time and when I was researching places to visit Morroco popped up. Some of you might remember last February I headed to Dubai, I wanted another adventure just without the expensive price tag of Dubai. I booked flights to Marrakesh with Ryanair and they worked out pretty cheap considering you are flying to Africa. The flights worked out cheaper than flying to the Canaries and the flight time was also shorter than I expected. I flew out Sunday afternoon and a few hours later I touched down in the vibrant city of Marrakesh. I was solo travelling on this trip and I want to share a few tips with you if you are thinking of heading off on a Morrocan adventure.
Is Marrakesh safe for solo travelling?
So the short answer is yes but there is a but! Just like any country you travel to you need to be cautious. Marrakesh is an adventure and I wouldn’t recommend it to people who like to sit at the pool. If you love an adventure, love rambling and exploring then this is the place for you. If this is your first solo trip then you might find it a little overwhelming. During my trip, I never felt unsafe but I did have moments where I veered off the beaten track and felt a little overwhelmed. However, it wasn’t as bad as people had made out and I had an amazing trip. I found the people were really hospitable especially in my riad where they looked out for me. Here are some tips to stay safe when solo travelling in Marrakesh.
- When you arrive at the airport you can get a free sim card and for a €10 top up you get 10g of internet data. I got a sim card so I could share my location with my friends and keep in contact. I was able to use my phone with no problems. Sometimes just knowing you can easily be in touch with friends and family gives you a sense of reassurance.
- You will attract attention but don’t be put off. Yes, you will get some “lovely eyes, beautiful girl” comments down the Medina but it’s okay to ignore and keep going. I never felt unsafe whilst exploring by myself, however, I didn’t like the Medina once it got dark and I choose to explore all day so I could spend my night having dinner close by my Riad. I did notice more police patrolling the Medina at night time. After a few days, I felt confident walking around the Medina and I even started to have some banter with the locals too.
- Google maps. If you have no data you can download a map of the area on your phone before you arrive. I didn’t want to look lost so I had my phone under my scarf and used it to guide me to my destination. Some of the roads around the souks lead to dead ends. If you do need to ask for directions then ask the shopkeepers inside the shops and not the people on the street as they can give you the wrong directions to get you lost.
- Taxi’s, agree on a price before you get into the taxi and be firm. I chose to book a transfer from the airport through my riad. I did get some taxis when I was out exploring, I was just firm before I got in and asked for a price before I hopped in. I didn’t have any issues with the taxis. To be honest you be mostly on foot when rambling around the Medina and you can easily walk to the tourist attractions.
- Dress code. When I was researching the dress code most people had said to dress conservatively. I chose to cover up and I wore midi dresses with sleeves that covered my shoulders. You won’t see many people going around in shorts and crop tops. I was glad I packed a scarf too as I was able to use it to cover my chest and I felt more covered. A little tip, in the souks the ground can be quite dirty so aim for ankle length trousers, jeans or dresses so they don’t get wet. Lightweight fabrics are best as it gets really hot. My personal advice would be to cover up especially as a solo female traveller. You can still wear a pretty dress but choose ones that have sleeves and covers the knees. I if you were following my stories on Instagram you might have seen some of the dresses I wore, here are the links to items I wore whilst on my trip.
Where to stay?
When travelling to Marrakesh you have two options. You can stay in a hotel on the outskirts or you can stay in the heart of the medina in a riad. A riad is a traditional Morrocan house with a garden or courtyard inside. At the moment a lot of riads are being converted into boutique hotels. I chose to stay in a riad so I could easily explore on foot. I stayed in Riad Elisa spa and hotel and it was only a few minutes walk to the main square Jemaa el-Fnaa. The staff were lovely here and I also went to the spa for a Hammam. It felt like a home away from home the whole time I spent here. The Medina can be loud, busy and overwhelming but as soon as I stepped back inside my Riad it was calm and quiet. A lot of the riads offer lunch and dinner and you can just book a table and check out the other riads. One of my faves was 72 Riad Living. This riad had an amazing rooftop to take in the sunset. I also had my dinner here and the interior is amazing with friendly staff too.
What is there to do?
Loads! It really is an explorers dream. When researching a place, I check out Tripadvisor or Viatour for day tours. I love a good day tour especially when I am solo travelling as you get to meet new people. You can choose to go full on explorer or spend an afternoon in a spa and get a Hammam. Here are some of the things I did and the places I explored too.
Exploring the Medina
When you first enter the souks you will be overwhelmed but do give them time and try to explore them as much as you can. On my first day, I did a walking tour around the medina with Mohammed, I will link to his tour here. Filming and taking photos can be hard in Marrakesh so I asked Mohammed if he would help me walk around whilst getting photos and I got to see some hidden corners of the Medina that I wouldn’t have been brave enough to explore alone. You will see donkeys pullings carts, poor cats full of dust hiding in corners with smells and sounds you probably have never experienced. You can use google maps to help you navigate but sometimes getting lost is part of the fun. Always walk on the right when strolling through the souks as motorbikes and mules will whizz past you. The most popular square in the Medina is Jemaa el-Fnaa. This place comes alive at nighttime but do be extra careful of scammers, pickpockets and henna ladies around here. Sadly you will see snake charmers and monkeys used to entertain tourists. This is really disappointing to see that the animals are allowed to be treated this way. Do not take pictures of them as their owners will hound you for money. They will also try and place the snakes on your shoulders, simply walk away and ignore. If the Medina gets a bit much then head to one of the many rooftop cafes and bars to relax and take in the scenery. As soon as you go up to a rooftop it instantly becomes calmer and you can enjoy the view and rest your feet before you head back out to the souks.
The Majorelle Gardens
Probably the most Instagrammed garden in Morroco. Unfortunately, I found these gardens to be a letdown. However, I did have my lunch here and there is a Berber museum also within the gardens. The landscaping is stunning. So many varieties of cacti and succulents. However, what ruined it for me was the annoying Instagram photoshoots. The other tourist areas were nowhere near as bad as Majorelle gardens. If you do want to go and see the blue house and gardens then get there as soon as it opens so you can enjoy the garden before the selfie sticks and Instagram models get there. The gardens are a short walk from the Medina and I used google maps to navigate. I found the roads intimidating at first but once I figured out how to cross the road I was grand and enjoyed the walk to the gardens.
I really liked walking around Bahia Palace. It was much bigger than the Majorelle Gardens and there was more to see. Do get lost in the smaller rooms and courtyards within the palace as I noticed other people didn’t explore these areas and they were my personal fave. There are small gardens within the palace, with the ground and walls covered in the gorgeous infamous Moroccan tiles. There is a really nice spice souk beside Bahia Palace and I strolled through the souk on my way back to my riad.
Le Jardin Secret
This was my favourite garden to see. It was recently renovated and there is stunning architecture throughout. There is also a cafe with a roof terrace where you can take in the view below. What I loved the most about this place were the intricate hand-painted doors. I loved the colours they used and the craftsmanship that went into the restoration. These gardens are within the Medina and you will easily find them on google maps.
The Photography Museum
This was a hidden gem. It had one of my favourite rooftop views of the city. There was tons of photos and history to explore in this small museum. I loved the decor of this building and I loved that it was quiet. I watched a short movie about the history of the Berbers before having a coffee on the rooftop terrace.
This was the most fun I have had in a long time. I booked a quad biking trip through my riad. We drove out to Palm Grove where I hopped on a 2-hour quad biking trip. When you get to Palm Grove you will notice tons of palm trees. I had never been on a quad bike before and I was nervous that I would be too small to fit on one. The quad was easier than I thought to drive and after a quick safety lesson and a few minutes practise, I was out in the desert terrain. You do go off-road and it does get dusty and bumpy but that is what it is all about. I got to drive past peoples farms and I even had to stop to let some goats cross the road. I also got to stop for some mint tea in a tiny village that we passed through. You can also ride camels in Palm Grove however, I disagree with animals being used for tourism so I opted to ride a quad instead of a camel.
Get A Hammam
You cannot come all the way to Morroco and not get a Hammam. This was one of my favourite spa days I have ever had. Basically, she scrubs you to death and throws buckets of water over you. It sounds way more relaxing than I am explaining it. You can go to a public spa to get a Hammam or you can get one done in a spa within a hotel or riad. My riad has a really nice spa and I got a Hammam and deep tissue massage. When it comes to the Hammam don’t be shy. She will make you strip to your bikini bottoms. I laid on a hot stone where she covered me in some black soap that smelt like eucalyptus. Then it the room filled up with steam. When she returned she scrubbed my whole body and applied a clay mask. When she came back she poured buckets of water over me and even shampooed my hair. It was like being an adult baby getting scrubbed and washed. My skin felt amazing after it. I got a deep tissue massage after and I floated out of the spa afterwards. If you are staying in this busy city then I recommend a Hammam to escape from it all and relax. I actually got another Hammam on my last day before I headed to the airport to come home.
Ourika Valley Trek and visiting a Berber home
If you want to head out of the city then I recommend heading to the Atlas mountains and visiting the waterfalls at Ourika Valley. Now, if you do this trek please bring a pair of runners as it is a proper hike especially if you want to climb and see all of the waterfalls. I literally climbed rocks and trees to see all of the waterfalls. The views were amazing! Sometimes you can see wild monkeys climbing in the trees. I booked a day trip to the Atlas mountains through my riad. When I arrived at Setti Fatima I went on a trek with my guide Redouan and he took me through the valleys and literally held my hand as I stumbled over the rocks, I even climbed a tree! You do have to have a small level of fitness as it is a proper hike. My legs were killing me the next day but taking in the breathtaking views made it all the worthwhile. I also visited a Berber village where a lovely woman let me inside her home to see around it and also gave me some mint tea. The Berber people are so hospitable and they seem to live such a simple content life. They had a sense of community and made do with the things they had. If you want to book a trip to the Atlas mountains then check out this link. There is also a three-day trip where you stay in the mountains which I regret not doing.
For me, one of the downsides to Marrakech was the use of animals for tourism. In the main square, you will see monkeys with chains around this necks used to lure tourists to take photos. They are kept in small boxes and I couldn’t see any water for them. They were also thrown around when a tourist came near and encouraged to perform. I also witnessed a lot of mules and donkeys being used to carry trailers around the Medina. There are a lot of motorbikes so I don’t see why people still use them, I understand that some poor families rely on working animals and some looked better cared for than others. Sadly I also witness a horse that had collapsed on the side of the road. The horse was pulling a carriage and at first, I thought a car had hit him but he had simply collapsed from exhaustion. I also saw camels when visiting the Atlas mountains on the side of the road. There was also a baby camel which was probably terrified by the passing cars on the road. When travelling please do not support these people using animals to make money, do not take a picture with the monkeys or snake charmers and choose a quad bike over a camel. You can also make a donation to SPANA, the website is in French but you can easily make a donation if you want to help out.
I hope you found this post useful. I loved my trip to Marrakech and I loved the people and their culture. I do recommend Marrakech for adventure lovers however it is not a place I would recommend for small children or people who are looking for a relaxing sun holiday. There are some larger hotels outside of the city that have accommodation better suited for families or you can check out the other cities in Morroco like Casablanca, Fes, Rabat and Essaouira. I hope you enjoyed my post, I tried to make it as detailed as possible for you and I also have a Youtube video which you can catch here. If you have any questions or want to know anything more then please comment below in the comment section and I will get back to you.
Thanks so much for reading,