It’s Wanderlust Wednesday over here at GWS, where the only reasonable cure is booking a ticket or hopping in the car! The only question: where to? If Morocco isn’t on your list—high on your list—allow today’s Travel Guide to change your mind. Morocco checks all our boxes: great food, beautiful scenery, historical sights, bucket-list type excursions, and kind people. Lauren Fair is one of our Preferred Wedding Artists and she took the trip of a lifetime with her husband, Tim, and their close friends, Julie + Shane. (PS: Traveling with kindred-spirit couples? We’re all for it! We’ve been hearing more folks planning “buddymoons” and we say the more the merrier!) Lauren is not only sharing her wanderlust-worthy photos, but we’ve got the scoop on where to stay, what to see, and where to get that perfect Moroccan rug you’ve traveled the world over for. (Tip #1: Pack an extra suitcase.)
If you’re stuck behind a desk this fine Wednesday, let’s all take a moment to live vicariously through Lauren’s gorgeous photos across Morocco, shall we? We’re making four stops from the sea to the desert, so grab your scarves, darlings—away we go!
Essouira: The Scenic + Colorful Western Coast of Morocco
Lauren + co hopped an early flight from Pisa, Italy to the Marrakech airport. From there, it’s a 2-hour drive to the coast.
Where to stay in Essouira:
Try the Tangaro Hip Hotel + Resort, situated about 2 miles outside the old medina in a peaceful, coastal area.
To do in Essouira:
Wander through the medina, go shopping for rugs, pottery, leather goods and more! You can also go inside the big fort, which was a major feature in Game of Thrones. Explore the fish markets with all the colorful blue and white boats, which make for awesome photos. The entire color palette of the city is white + blue and feels a little bit like Greece! We liked how the vendors and shop owners weren’t nearly as aggressive in Essouira as in Marrakech. I bought a huge leather pouf, some hand painted pottery and a few other souvenirs here! Definitely enjoy the mint tea with sugar and take a walk up onto the walls surrounding the city!
LOVING all these vibrant colors!
Anyone else geeking out over these Game of Thrones sights??
Aït Benhaddou: A Historic Pit Stop on the Way to the Sahara
We drove through the High Atlas Mountains on some seriously crazy roads to get out to Merzouga, which is the start of the Sahara Desert!
Where to stay:
We stayed at Riad Maktoub and loved it.
To do in Aït Benhaddou:
Along nearly the entire drive, there is a gorge with an oasis running through it. Just beautiful scenery of lush green palms and red brick villages surrounded by desolate rocks, mountains and peaks. We stopped at Aït Benhaddou for the evening to break up the long drive out to Merzouga. We loved this old, amazingly preserved city that’s been feature in Game of Thrones, Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and more. The best time to see the city is at sunset or sunrise, and we did both! It’s great to get there first thing in the morning before any other tourists arrive. Climb all the way to the top for amazing views of the landscape surrounding Ait Ben Haddou!
How sweet are they? Lauren + Tim have been married for 7 years, many of those spent traveling…#dreamlife!
We stopped in Dades Gorge on the way back from Merzouga to Marrakech and had the best meal of the trip at our riad that night! We stayed at Dar Jnan Tiouira Dades and the experience is another one to disconnect from your phone and enjoy (the owner turns the wifi on only at request). When we arrived, we were greeted with fresh mint tea and a delicious vegetable tajine for lunch and spend the afternoon exploring the gorge. There are lots of great hiking trails and it’s fun to drive up “one of the most dangerous drives in the world,” which actually isn’t that dangerous, but makes for a cool photo at the top!
Sahara Desert: The Ultimate Camping Experience
Merzouga is about a 6-hour drive from Aït Benhaddou.
Where to stay:
We stayed at Caravanserai Luxury Desert Camp and it was the experience of a lifetime.
To do in the Sahara:
The BEST part of the trip!! We chose to experience the desert through a camping + camel rides and could not have loved it more! The guides picked us up in Merzouga with camels and we took about a 2-hour ride through the desert to reach the camp. The Berber guides made us feel so welcome and the tents were SO luxurious! Marble bathrooms with hot and cold running water and full showers—honestly some of the nicest bathrooms of the trip! There was even wifi available, which is crazy to me, but we all agreed to not connect to it and just fully unplug.
By the way, Lauren + Julie have THE best travel wardrobe, no? May as well do some shopping before we book our tickets—it’s only practical.
Fun fact about Julie + Shane: he actually proposed in the Sahara 7 year ago! These two love to travel and we even shared their Icelandic Anniversary Session (photographed by Julie, of course) right here on GWS!
We spent the afternoon sand boarding, running up and down the dunes, taking countless photos as it approached sunset, and just soaking in the hospitality with delicious cookies and mint tea served by our Berber guides. After dark, they cooked an incredible meal for us full of spices and flavors with fresh veggies and fruit. Stuffed from the 5-course dinner, we joined the other guests around the campfire where our guides sang and played instruments for us til late into the night. I have never seen stars like that in my life—truly the desert night sky is one of a kind! We’d just fallen asleep in our tent (under about 4 feet thick of blankets) when a major sandstorm woke us all and kept us up. It was the craziest experience and made the night feel so dreamlike!
We woke up for sunrise, did a little more sand-boarding, and ate breakfast before heading back to civilization and Merzouga via camels (this time just the 4 of us, which was so fun). We couldn’t recommend caravanserai more!
Marrakech: Home of Bustling Markets + Major Tile Inspiration
The foursome stopped through Dades Gorge to break up a 2-day drive to Marrakech.
Where to stay:
We stayed at Stay at L’Oriental Medina Riad & Spa, an incredible new riad (traditional Moroccan house) just a short 10-minute walk from the main square in Marrakech.
To do in the Marrakech:
Jemaa el-Fna: The main square and the best place to people watch, see snake charmers, try the fresh orange juice, and see everything and anything for sale!
Visit the markets: Ask at your riad for recommendations. The hosts at our riad drew us a full map of which market contained what items, which was so helpful!
Go rug shopping: We bought an amazing Berber style rug here (and yes, bought another suitcase to fly it home). Definitely pack an extra packable duffel bag (or 5) with you because you will absolutely want to shop and take everything home with you! In addition to the rug we found amazing lanterns, jewelry, leather goods and so much more!
More Marrakech Reco’s:
- Most places in Morocco accept only cash, even gas stations. Make sure you visit the ATM each day to have enough cash with you!
- For women: be sure to be modest and respectful in your clothing. It is generally looked down upon to show your shoulders and knees, so we planned on lots of midi dresses, jumpsuits, scarves and loose linen pants + clothing!
- Try alllll of the foods! We ate so well on this trip and everything we tried was amazing, especially the tajines and fresh oranges with cinnamon!
What a phenomenal place, right?! So thankful to Lauren for sharing her photos and recommendations. Now, off to grab some friends and book those flights. Rug + tile heaven, here we come!