Morocco wasn’t on my radar – at all – until a fellow traveller, a woman who had far more travel experience than me, told me that the best trip that she’d ever done was Intrepid’s Best of Morocco tour.
She said this as we glided over the Indian countryside, near Jaipur, in a hot air balloon early one morning, which we both agreed was incredible. She clearly had some credibility, and in that instant, I knew exactly where I would be going next.
I went in February 2019, and over the next 15 days, on that exact same trip, I was awe-struck by the country’s beauty and the richness of its culture.
But there were a few surprises along the way. I had imagined Morocco as majority desert, but it’s so much more. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can go from snow-capped mountains to sparkling seas in a matter of hours, and the climate changes as quickly as the scenery.
And while you will do what every traveller to Morocco dreams of doing – explore its ancient medinas – you might also find yourself exploring some unexpected natural wonders. So, to make the most of your trip, you will want to pack a few key items. Here’s some suggestions:
Bring outdoor activity essentials
Morocco’s rural areas are incredibly diverse and one of the best things about this trip is seeing what lies beyond its most well-known cities. If you are looking for a little adventure on your travels, Morocco is where you will find it, whether it be riding camels through the dunes or mules up a mountain path, hiking to a Berber camp at the top of the Todra Gorge, or trekking to a Muslim shrine some 2300m above sea level.
This trip will not disappoint! Come prepared – pack:
- Runners with good grip – Lightweight hikers will also work, but runners (sneakers) are all around more convenient for the whole trip. Avoid slip-ons.
- Moisture-wicking t-shirts – Chances are, you will break a sweat.
- Day pack – You will need this for day hikes, and to pack essentials for overnight stays at the Sahara camp and at the guest house in Aroumd. Bring one that is a decent size and that has comfortable straps.
- Band-Aids – I never leave home without them. Blisters always seem to happen at the most inconvenient times. I also keep a bottle of Tylenol on hand wherever I go.
- Portable phone charger – This way, you’ll never miss a good pic.
- You own water bottle – To minimise single-use plastics.
On day 11, our group woke up to snow. That’s right. SNOW. Granted, they were just little flakes and we were near the base of Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in the High Atlas Mountains. But, still!
As a Canadian very much used to long and frigid winters, cooler temperatures are not a big deal but even I was surprised at how cold a few of the nights were in Morocco – obviously in the mountains, but also around Midelt and at the Sahara camp. You don’t want to be cold on your trip, so especially if you are going to be travelling in the winter months (November to March), bring these:
- Gloves – No one wants cold hands (and these will be very helpful when riding those mules!).
- Tuque – A surprisingly popular item in Morocco, this type of hat will come in handy in the mountains.
- Wind and water-resistant jacket – Bring one that has a removable fleece or wool liner (or bring two separate pieces). Having the option to layer – or de-layer – throughout the day is key.
- Long sleeve t-shirt(s) – Again, layer, layer, layer.
- Thermal underwear – Ladies, leggings will also work. On the coldest nights I layered two pairs along with my legwarmers, which if you have some, you might want to pack as well.
- Thermal socks – Bring at least one pair for your night at the Sahara camp. You will not be able to resist feeling that sand on your toes, but when the sun goes down, it gets cold fast and you will want something cozy on your feet.
- Neck warmer – Save some space in your pack by bringing this instead of a typical knit scarf. Or, take advantage of the many textile shops along your route. I picked a scarf up from a roadside vendor at the Tizi n Tichka, the highest mountain pass in North Africa, to ward off the chill while enjoying the spectacular view on a very windy morning. It’s a true souvenir.
Worst case, if you do forget something important, Morocco has a chain of affordable sports and outerwear stores called Triathlon. Your guide will know it and will likely have no problem stopping there if you ask.
Expect some serious sun
It is said that Morocco is ‘the cold country with the hot sun’ and it’s true. Daytime is lovely. Just days before the snow, we had been lounging poolside at the kasbah in the oasis at the Todra Gorge. And the following day, we would be seaside in Essaouira, soaking up the sun as we explored the old city. We were getting it all. Again, layers are key to managing temperature changes but here’s a few specific items you will want to slip into your pack:
- Sunscreen – Don’t be fooled by the occasional cold night. Much of Morocco enjoys a Mediterranean climate, and the sun is strong everywhere, so you want to protect your skin. If your skin is particularly sensitive, you might want to bring a hat.
- Lip balm – The eastern part of the country is arid. It’s the Sahara!
- Sunglasses – For obvious reasons.
- Sandals – Don’t leave home without a backup pair of footwear! But do bring something with good support because there is a lot of walking on this trip.
Pack with modesty in mind
Morocco is a conservative Muslim country, and you will notice that the clothing people wear is neither revealing nor meant to attract attention. Dressing appropriately is a wonderful way to show respect for the country you are visiting, and you will want to follow suit.
Gentlemen, the formula for you is quite simple: pants and a shirt.
Ladies, you need to be a little more mindful, but honestly, it will save you some unwanted attention.
Here’s some key items to bring:
- Cardigan or wrap sweater – Take a cue from the local women and bring one that covers your rear. It seems to be a wardrobe staple.
- Pants – You need these for public places. Skip the shorts and keep the leggings (and anything else that bares too much skin) for private group activities and travel time.
- Mid-length or maxi dress with a fitted long sleeve t-shirt – Wear your fitted t-shirt underneath your dress and you’ve got the perfect combo for exploring any medina.
And for those moments when you just feel like being a little more incognito, slip on your sunnies.
A few final tips
Laundry service is available at the hotels in Fes and Essaouira, where you will stay for two nights. Fees range between five to ten dirhams per piece of clothing, so you can pack knowing that having your laundry done will be an option.
As well, for most of the trip, you will be travelling by private van. Don’t take this an invitation to over-pack but do rest easy that with all that you should bring, Intrepid has made it very easy for you to focus on enjoying Morocco, and not worry too much about your baggage.
And finally, your trip ends in spectacular Marrakech, a city with some serious buzz. If you are the kind of person that likes a little nightlife, this is the place, so throw something a little dressier into your bag and plan on ending your trip in style.
Now, as they say in Morocco all the time, yallah, let’s go!
More useful pre-trip reading
Intrepid Travel has a wealth of resources available for anyone planning a trip to Morocco. Check 7 handy guides out below:
- Tips and advice for first-time travellers to Morocco
- A guide to Morocco’s 10 tastiest street foods
- How to ride a camel like a pro in Morocco
- What it’s like to travel in Morocco during Ramadan
- What it’s like as a solo female traveller in Morocco
- 5 beaches in Morocco you won’t want to miss
- An essential guide to visiting hammams in Morocco
Ready for the trip of a lifetime? Check out Intrepid’s range of small group adventures in Morocco.
(Image credits, from top to bottom: Intrepid Travel, Lani Innes x4, Intrepid Travel x3.)