Southern Morocco Road Trip
Updated April 2020, Southern Morocco Road Trip was originally written in March 2018
A self-drive, budget, off the beaten path guide (but don’t worry, there’s a couple of on-the-beaten path stops too!)
Looking to get off the main tourist trail in Morocco? Head south! Morocco’s stunning south Atlantic coast and Antiatlas Mountains are just as, if not more stunning than the more frequented Mediterranean coast. Want to veer even further off the beaten path for an added adventure? Continue further south into Western Sahara! Check out this post if you plan to delve further into the Western Sahara (or on to Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, or Guinea-Bissau!). But don’t fret if you don’t want to drive in Morocco- you can easily get to most all these places on this itinerary by grand taxi.
In this post, you should learn everything you need to know to plan your own southern Morocco road trip.
Tips for driving in Morocco
Aside from Morocco’s congested cities, driving in Morocco isn’t as crazy and difficult as you’d think. That said, here are a few tips to help ease you into driving in Morocco.
- Morocco drives on the right.
- Only locals know the etiquette of individual roundabouts. I had read prior to heading out on the open road that in Morocco traffic typically yields to vehicles entering the roundabout (which is backward from like, everywhere else). What we noticed is that in some roundabouts cars yield to the vehicles already in the roundabout and at other vehicles in the roundabout yield to those cars entering it. Just watch what the other cars are doing before you enter. We had even asked a police officer about it, his words: Cars are supposed to yield to the vehicles already in the roundabout, but in reality, every roundabout seems to have different rules.
- Lines are merely a suggestion.
- There are possibly more traffic police officers in Morocco than Moroccan civilians. They will pull you over for any amount of speeding because it turns out there’s not much else for them to do.
- Not only do you have to pay attention to other vehicles while you’re driving in Morocco, expect to have many a near-miss with humans, but goats, camels, donkeys, bicycles….. the list also goes on.
- In cities it is congested, just because there are lines denoting three lanes doesn’t mean we can’t squeeze in 5 lanes of traffic- and we will.
- Do not drive with any amount of alcohol in your system- it’s super illegal and not punished lightly.
- There will be constant honking. Moroccans honk for everything (this is the case in much of the developing and third world, so didn’t come as a shock to me). They honk to signify they’re going to pass, are passing, completed passing, because you aren’t yet revving your engine at a red light about to turn green, because OH MY ALLAH, A WOMAN IS DRIVING?!?!, we’re now playing a game of head-on chicken: who will budge first?, hi, fuck you, get out of the way, or because you’re having a conversation with your friend in the passenger seat and you are using your hand to show her how small your friends in high school rolled their joints (thus, making the a-ok hand gesture at your friend- which is the Moroccan equivalent of the middle finger*) subsequently making the guy on the motorbike next to you go absolutely ape-shit giving us the a-ok gesture back, screaming his head off AND honking- this actually happened, I’m not kidding.
- Just drive cautiously, welcome to Thunderdome.
*I’m fully aware the a-ok hand gesture is the middle finger/fuck you gesture in a number of countries, not just Morocco. Just didn’t think about it given the conversation we were having. Sorry Moroccan dude on that motorbike.
The currency of Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD). It’s possible to pay in Euro at some businesses. There are ATMs in the cities and currency exchange desks as well. Higher-end hotels and boutiques will also take credit cards. At the time of writing (April 2020) the exchange rate for MAD were:
- $1 USD = 10.20MAD
- 1 Euro = 11.71 MAD
- 1 AUD = 6.20 MAD
- 1 CAD = 7.20 MAD
- 1 GBP = 12.64 MAD
Need to rent a car?
Shop rental cars at Rentalcars.com! Yes- they rent in Africa too…
Handy tools to grab before hitting the open road
- Bradt Morocco Guidebook
- Lonely Planet Morocco
- Foder’s Travel: Essential Morocco
- National Geographic’s Morocco Adventure Map
- Morocco Marco Polo Guide
Southern Morocco Road Trip Itinerary
Marrakech to Aglou Playa
You have two main routes here to start off your southern Morocco road trip, one quicker, the other more scenic.
The quickest option is to go via the toll road*- A7. The downside is that it costs money and there’s no scenic stops**. It is a pretty drive as you cut through mountains and desert, there are just no stops.
*Please note that I am a shitty blogger and didn’t bother to write down the fee for the toll road, so I do not have the cost for you.
**Also note that there are only 2-3 petrol stations on the toll road between Marrakech and Agadir, meaning those are your only chances to use a toilet. One of us may have peed in a plastic bag in the backseat as the other one drove 120 kph down the highway. And by may, I mean it totally happened. We Alaskans aren’t the classiest people- but we do well and get creative in these types of predicaments.
The alternative option would be to drive out to Essaouira from Marrakech, adding it to your Morocco road trip, and take the coastal roads down to Agadir and onto Aglou Plage. Shop Essoaouira accommodations here. Road tripping not your thing? Not to worry- check out this Essaouira day trip from Marrakech.
Aglou Plage is a nice relaxing, small town that sits on the coast. You could choose to stop for lunch and a quick walk along the short coastal sidewalk or beach and continue onto Mirleft or Sidi Ifni for the night. Or you can alternatively spend the night in quaint Aglou Plage before continuing down the coast. There is a campsite on the beach, or you can Shop Aglou Plage accommodations here.
Spending some time in Marrakech? Check out my girls’ guide to the city
Aglou Plage to Sidi Ifni
This stretch of the southern Morocco road trip is super scenic! The road hugs the coast, sometimes you’re high above the water, perched up on cliffside with sweeping views of the rocky coastline below and at other times you’re right at water level. Personally, we thought the best time of day to be adventuring this stretch of road was at sunrise and sunset. Two of my favorite spots to stop for amazing views were the cliff just north of Mirleft with aerial views down onto Marabout Beach and it’s little mountain in the middle of it, and just as you enter Sidi Ifni from the north. However, there are countless places to stop just off the road- so make your own adventure. Some will opt to spend the night in Mirleft rather than Sidi Ifni as there are more accommodation options here, shop Mirleft accommodations here
Now it’s on to Sidi Ifni. Sidi Ifni ended up being our favorite place in Morocco, with a calm, laid back vibe, adorable white and blue architecture, thick ocean mist, a relaxed beach, Spanish colonial flare at every turn, and the lovely and kind inhabitants. With that all said, there isn’t an overwhelming amount of things to do in Sidi Ifni itself, which for me after 4 months of travel and Morocco being my final stop, was the absolute best thing about it. For those looking for things to do around Sidi Ifni, a few of those things include surfing, trekking outside the town, admiring the Moorish architecture, visiting nearby Legzira Beach and its beautiful arch, or just kick back at a street-side cafe with a mint tea and watch the sleepy town wake up. There are a handful of accommodations in Sidi Ifni- shop accommodations here.
Of course, you could stop at Legzira on your way down from Mirleft to Sidi Ifni, but Legzira Beach is a welcome break from your Morocco road trip. Headed back north for 10 minutes north after a lazy morning in Sidi Ifni up to Legzira to explore. Alternatively, you can spend the night at Legzira Beach instead of Sidi Ifni. A couple of the beach-side restaurants second as hotels, or additionally you could check out the Legzira Beach Club.
The main draw to Legzira Beach? The beautiful rock arch a short walk south along the beach- trust me it’s well worth it! There used to be a second, more impressive (according to some Instagram users who did get to see it and commented to tell me so) arch but it collapsed in the dark of night back in 2016. According to other Instagram users, there are several more rock arches along the beach around Legzira. I’m so lucky because my followers tell me about different locations like this. I know some people who get hardly any engagement or comments on their posts. That must be difficult. Of course, some people could always use Upleap to help them increase that engagement. There are reviews available at https://platypusreviews.com/upleap/ for those who want to know more. Hopefully, this will help some people out!
Sidi Ifni to Tafraoute
Time to wave goodbye to the coast (that is unless you take the Western Sahara option I added at the end of the post!). Head inland to the beautiful town of Tafraoute high in the central Antiatlas Mountains. I know the time estimate you get on google maps says 3.5 hours, but plan for it to take much longer with all the stops you’ll make at scenic spots along the way.
Tafroute is just lovely. It’s compact and walkable and has stunning nature all around to keep you around for days. Many will use Tafraoute as a jumping-off point for day treks and multi-day treks into the Antiatlas Mountains, while others will spend a day (or several) enjoying its laid-back demeanor and friendly Berber locals. There are several things to do in Tafraoute including visiting the painted rocks, Ait Mansour Gorge, cycling, La Tete du Lion, Les Roches Bleues, and more! Shop Tafraoute accommodations here.
Need more ideas? Check out the 19 best things to do in Morocco
Not into exploring the wilderness on your own? Check out these tours and activities in Tafraoute on Viator.
You can opt to drop out of the Antiatlas Mountains toward the coast and head back north to Marrakech if you are on limited time and don’t want to head into the Sahara (or are planning to take a tour of the Sahara). If you do opt to head toward the coast from here, pull up your Morocco map on maps.me and pick a path that looks like a backroad through the mountains. You’ll likely be rewarded with driving through villages perched on cliffsides and be on the lookout as you pass Argan trees- you’ll more than likely find a few full of goats, and even a few camels grazing with their owners nearby.
Additional Southern Morocco Road Trip Option:
Rather than calling it after Tafraoute, you can alternatively add a DIY addition to your Morocco road trip into the Sahara! This will take you from Tafraoute to Taroudant, over to Ouarzazate and to Merzouga where you can take a camel tour into the desert camps at Erg Chebbi. After spending the night (or a few) at Erg Chebbi, make your way back to Marrakech with stops in Tinghir, Ait Ben Haddou, and of course, a trip in Morocco can’t be complete without visiting the High Atlas via the town of Imlil.
Tafraoute to Taroudaunt
Make your way north from Tafraoute, on this 3-hour scenic drive (likely will turn longer with all the photo stops)
Nicknamed Little-Marrakech for its souqs and squares, but is far removed and has sweeping views of the icy pinnacles in the High Atlas in the distance from the heart of the Souss Valley. Make sure to explore the Medina. Shop Taroudant accommodations here.
Still stuck in Agadir? Check out this Agadir to Tarodaunt guided tour.
Taroudant to Ouarzazate
You’re getting warmer! This is the gateway to the Sahara. If you’re a movie buff make sure to check out the Atlas Film Studios to see some of the famous sets from a number of your favorite movies. Other spots to see around Ouarzazate are the Taourirt Kasbah and Musee de Cinema. Ouarzazate is also a great place to grab any odds and ends before taking off into the Sahara (and much cheaper than waiting until you arrive closer to the desert). Planning to spend the night in Ouarzazate? Book your hotel here.
Want to get off the beaten track in Ouarzazate? Check out this 3-day quad tour out to the beautiful Ifni Lake.
Thinking about visiting Merzoga? Check out my post, Top Merzouga Desert Tour Tips
Ouarzazate to Merzouga
It’s not the most exciting drive between Ouarzazate and Merzouga, and I’ll warn you now, it’s long, unfortunately. Don’t fret- it’ll well be worth it to spend a night or two under the stars in the Sahara Desert. Book your camel trek out to Erg Chebbi from Merzouga to spend a night in the desert here. Alternatively, if you choose not to come out to Merzouga on your own, you can easily book a Merzouga desert tour from Marrakech here. Planning to spend a night or two in Merzouga itself? Shop hotels here.
Merzouga to Tinghir
Tinghir is a nice stop to break up the drive from Merzouga to Ait Ben Haddou. With its lush and green oasis to explore, and make sure to get a carpet-making tour from one of the shops in town. If you do want to spend the night nearby, head over to the nearby town of Boumalne. There are a few hotels on offer there.
Tinghir to Ait Ben Haddou
Another great stop for movie buffs. Famous films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator had scenes filmed here. Explore the old Kasbah while you’re here as well. There are a few hotels in the newer side of Ait Ben Haddou if you do decide to stay out here. Shop Ait Ben Haddou tours from Marrakech.
Ait Ben Haddou to Imlil
Imlil is a great escape from Marrakech alone if you don’t have the time to spare to stray too far from the city. Quiet, calm, and nicely nestled in the High Atlas. Shop places to crash in Imlil here. Not looking to explore the High Atlas on your own? Check out this High Atlas tour from Marrakech.
Imlil to Marrakech
The final stretch! The drive from Imlil to Marrakech is actually not too long, so make sure and stop and enjoy the scenery of the Atlas Mountains as you make your way back into the Marrakech madness.
The Western Sahara Addition: Sidi Ifni to Dakhla via Laayoune
So you wanna get way off the beaten path on a Morocco road trip? Add Western Sahara to your itinerary. I wanted to add this to my road trip itinerary but couldn’t because of timing conflicts with other parts of our trip. From what I did read in guide books and have heard from others, Western Sahara is a truly unique experience. So, it looks like I’ll be back one day! Need help with accommodations in Western Sahara? Search through Laayoune accommodations here, as well as Dakhla accommodations here. Make sure and visit desert islands off the coast of Dakhla on catamaran day tours.
Have any questions about this Southern Morocco road trip?
Ask your Morocco road trip questions in the comments section below!