Category: Morocco

Glamping in the Sahara Desert

Visiting the Sahara with kids

Are you looking to visit the Sahara Desert with kids? This is an absolute must for any family travel adventure to Morocco! TraveLynn Family were provided with a complimentary overnight stay with Luxury Desert Camp. This is our honest review, including our tips and experience. Our boys were 3 and 5 years old at the time and we visited in April 2019.


Arthur was ahead of me, swaying rhythmically side to side with ease, a smile on his face as he surveyed the endless sea of apricot-coloured sand ahead of him. I on the other hand was on the camel at the back (well technically a dromedary), shuffling around failing to get comfy. Is it just me, or are camels the most uncomfortable thing to ride on?

Sahara camel riding

But my boys were in their element. We were halfway through our Morocco Easter road trip and it had been a long drive to get here. We’d parked our car in nearby Merzouga where we had been met by Hamid and his 4×4 which drove us into the desert, to then be met by our camels. I unashamedly forgot the names of our camels on introduction, and the boys decided to call them Mummy, Arthur and Ezra. Original. Daddy and Ezra (age 3) were on a camel together.

It was a slow plod on the camels as we were skilfully led around and over the shifting dunes. And would you believe that it started to rain?! And quite heavily at that! There was something quite surreal about plodding through the Sahara, one of the driest places on Planet Earth, in the rain. And just to add to the confusion, there was a heatwave happening back in the UK. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

camel riding in the Sahara

After about 40mins (though my legs will tell you it was longer) we arrived at our accommodation for the night – Luxury Desert Camp – nestled in the majestic dunes of Erg Chebbi.

The desert camp

Red carpets lined with tea lights, set pathways through the sand from the glamping tents to a central seating area around a campfire. We were taken to an undercover seating area to the side for a welcome mint tea, orange juice for the boys, and homemade Moroccan biscuits. Our small overnight bags were taken to our tent for us.

Luxury Desert Camp centre

Luxury Desert Camp welcome

The family tent consisted of two very large double beds (you could comfortably fit three in each bed), an en-suite bathroom with hot water, carpets throughout, and electricity (the site is solar powered). There are even electric blankets on the beds! It does get rather cold at night. We were definitely sleeping comfortably tonight!

Activities

As well as camel riding, there are lots of other things to do. On the drive to the camp, Hamid took us to a fantastic spot for fossil hunting! The Sahara was once a warm shallow sea, and you really don’t have to look hard to find fossils of anomites.

But the boys absolute favourite activity was sand boarding. Arthur has even decided he wants to be a professional sand boarder when he’s older. I was seriously amazed how quickly he picked it up, and with no instruction at all. Ez unfortunately had a broken arm (a pre-holiday injury), but he was happy just sat on the sand board to glide down (or running!) Although parents, be warned that it will be up to you to drag the sand boards back up the sand dune. This is no easy feat. Take water with you.

If you are staying an extra day, you can also take the camels out into the desert and enjoy a lunch and tea with local nomads. But once the kids are all sand-boarded out, enjoy a relaxing swing in the hammocks until the sun sets.

There is also a swimming pool on site, filled by a nearby well, although this was closed during our visit.

Dining and drumming

Dinner is served rather late (for those with young kids), at 8pm. We knew this in advance and had packed snacks to keep the boys going. All that sand boarding is hungry work!

Dinner consisted of a soup starter with bread, three large tagines for main (vegetarian included), and a fruit cocktail desert. There is no special meal for kids, but we were able to pick out the couscous, meat and veg for our boys. Although by 9pm, when the main was only just being served, they were absolutely shattered and asked to go to bed.

Luxury Desert Camp dinner

Once dinner is finished, the drumming commences around the campfire. The fast paced rhythms didn’t wake our boys, and they were fast asleep. Daddy stayed with them in the tent, whilst I watched the performance. It was a shame that the drumming didn’t start earlier as I knew the boys would have loved it. But I have fed this back to the camp and they are looking to change this for when families visit.

Luxury Desert Camp night

The next day

I set the alarm for 6:30am to watch the sun rise over the desert. Unfortunately there was too much cloud to see the sun rise. But there was still something special about the desert at this time in the morning; the fine sand was cold between my toes and there was a silence blanketing the land.

Luxury Desert Camp tea

I returned to my cosy bed after sunrise as my boys were still fast asleep. Breakfast was then served from 8am, consisting of fruits, cereals, juices, pancakes, yogurts, eggs, and hot dishes, as well as hot drinks.

We were driven back to our car in Merzouga just after 10am, so we had lots of time for more sand boarding practice before we had to bid farewell to the Sahara.

How do I book a night in the Sahara?

This overnight Sahara experience was a definite highlight of our Morocco family adventures. You can book direct through Luxury Desert Camp (click here).

At the time of writing, an overnight desert stay in the Main camp (there are also private camps available) was €200 / person per night. Children 6 and under are FREE. Children aged 7 to 12 are €50. These prices include a night in a luxury tent, all meals, non-alcoholic beverages, and activities including camel riding and sand boarding.

How to get to the Sahara Desert

Parts of the Sahara are currently off-limits to travellers. But it is very easy to get to in Morocco. Tarmac roads lead to Merzouga, then it’s just a short 4×4 drive to the foot hills of Erg Chebbi dunes.

We drove the 5 hours down from Ifrane as part of our 2.5 week Morocco itinerary with kids. But many travellers come direct from Marrakech, which is a 10 hour drive, partly through the winding roads of the Atlas Mountains. We returned from Merzouga back to Marrakech, but we took it slowly across four days.

We were self-driving. But if you just want to visit the Sahara from Marrakech, then Luxury Desert Camp can arrange a private transfer for you. However, if you take this option and you are travelling with kids, I recommend staying two nights at the Desert Camp to make the long journey it worthwhile.

The ease of getting to this part of the Sahara, means that it can get VERY busy with tourists. However, the experience we received at the Main Camp of Luxury Desert Camp was away from these big groups and there were only a few other couples staying the same night. Admittedly we had comfy beds and electricity, but sat on the sand dunes watching my boys whizz down them, I felt a million miles from anywhere.

What to pack for the Sahara Desert

Layers are key. The mid-day temperatures can be extremely hot, whereas nighttime temperature dip below freezing. Water and soft drinks are all provided FOC at the desert camp.

*Some of these items have affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, although I receive a small commission.

  • Take warm jackets, although there are lots of blankets to keep you warm in the evening.
  • A headscarf or hat to block the sun and dust.
  • Lip balm and sunscreen
  • A good medical kit as you are a good drive from any medical help.
  • A head torch is handy at night.
  • Pack snacks for the kids if they are unable to wait until an 8pm dinner.
  • Biodegradable wet wipes – the kids WILL get sand in their eyes.

Best time to visit the Sahara Desert

The best time to travel to the Sahara Desert is between October and early May as that is when daytime temperatures are milder. Though bear in mind that during winter months, nighttime temperatures drop below freezing and sandstorms are more frequent between January and April. The summer months (June-September) are unbearably hot.


Have you visited the Sahara with kids? I’d love to hear your experience!

 

 

You may also like to read:
Marrakech with a toddler: a one day itinerary
Why you should visit Essaouria with kids
REVIEW of Riad Les Hibiscus: one of the best riads for families in Marrakech

 

Chefchoeun view

Morocco with kids: a self drive itinerary

A comprehensive guide for any intrepid parents wanting to independently travel Morocco with kids. Particularly aimed at those with young kids. Our boys were aged 3 and 5 at the time. This post contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I receive a small commission towards the running of this blog. 

Chefchouen roof top

The call to prayer drifted over the rooftops as we gazed below to the blue washed alleyways of Chefchouen, our cheeks still flushed from the day’s trek in the surrounding hills. We were only three days into our 2.5 week Morocco self drive itinerary, but we had been transported to an entirely different world for our Easter family holiday, and our boys (who were just 3 and 5 years old) were in their element. It’s a country that we have now ventured to three times, and I know that this recent road trip won’t be our last.

For those living in Europe, Morocco is the ‘accessible Africa’. It’s a 3.5 hour flight with budget airlines from the UK, or your could even take the 2 hour ferry crossing from Spain. There are no visa or vaccination requirements, and no jet lag if coming from Europe. A total win for family travel.

Plus, the Moroccan landscape is fantastically diverse. Kids will love running around the maze of colourful medinas, camel riding over the sand dunes of the Sahara, and trekking through the snow capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains on a mule, not to mention all the warm interactions they’ll experience with locals who make a fuss over them.

Check out our Morocco with kids video to see what we got up to: 

This Morocco with kids itinerary takes in a big loop from Marrakech, up to the blue city of Chefchouen, via the capital, Rabat, down to the Sahara, and back across to Marrakech through the Atlas Mountains. Feel free to copy it exactly, tweak it to your preference, or just read for inspiration.

road trip route around Morocco

Our self-drive route around Morocco. Credit: Google Maps

Hiring a car in Morocco

By far the easiest way to get around Morocco with kids is by hiring a car. Not only does it provide flexibility to move around on your own schedule, but for a family of four, it worked out cheaper than using public transport. The total cost of car hire, petrol and tolls for the entire trip was £377 (which worked out at £19 per day).

Morocco family road trip

The roads are well maintained and the tolled motorways are excellent. We relied on Google Maps for navigation. Pick up a Moroccan sim for your phone from the airport. I paid €8 for 5GB of data with INWI, and reception was remarkably good across Morocco.

The main thing to be wary of is the tendency for local drivers to drift between lanes and cut corners on bends. Just remember when driving that there is no shame in being the slowest person on the road. It makes for much a more relaxed journey. There are also regular speed checks by police. It can be tricky to know what speed to drive as there are limited speed signs. When it doubt, stick to 60km/h. We found the police to be no problem whatsoever.

When visiting cities, we would park in car parks outside the city walls and walk to our accommodation. These were only DH20 per day (double this for Marrakech) and had guards on duty 24/7. Finding a parking spot was always straightforward and I have provided exact locations in this post.

Is Morocco safe for families

Whilst we’re unable to deem any destination as totally ‘safe’ in today’s troubled world, we found Morocco to be very safe with young kids. The main concern was the motorbikes speeding around the narrow alleyways of  Marrakech’s medina.

Some tourists report being hassled by touts and there have been pick pocketing incidents. But if you keep your usual travel wits about you, you will be totally fine. Most travellers to Morocco experience no problems whatsoever. Remember to dress conservatively, don’t wear flashy jewellery, and negotiate any payments up front.

In all honesty, if you’ve travelled a fair bit as a family to Asia or Africa, you won’t find Morocco a problem at all.

Finding the best value family accommodation in Morocco

We have visited Morocco with kids three times now, and every time we have found Airbnbs to be the best value. The Airbnbs we stayed at on this trip were £40 per night on average. The cheapest was £25 and the most expensive was £60.

Airbnbs give us the added benefit of self-catering facilities, separate rooms for the children, space to play, and are a good choice for larger families.

However, in places where we were just staying the night, we would opt for a ‘hotel’ on booking.com as breakfast the next morning would be provided, making it easier to get going the next morning.

Our costs and budget for travelling Morocco with kids

This trip was almost entirely funded ourselves, apart from our overnight Sahara Desert trip and two night stay in a Marrakech riad which was hosted. With regards accommodation, we consider ourselves ‘comfortable budget travellers’.

This is the break down of our costs:

  • Return flights from Manchester to Marrakech with Ryanair for two adults and two children (including 2 x 10kg checked in luggage) = £600 (This was over the Easter holidays, if you can travel during term time, you will probably find even cheaper deals)
  • Travel insurance for family of four = £12
  • Car hire of Hyundai i10 from Avis = £252
  • Excess car insurance for 1 year = £48
  • Petrol = £115 (we covered 2144 km)
  • Tolls = £10 (only on road to Rabat and then part of the way to Chefchouen)
  • One restaurant meal for family of four = £15
  • Average daily spend of accommodation = £40

Our 2.5 week self drive itinerary for travelling Morocco with kids

If you only have 2 weeks, cut out a day or two in Chefchouen, and perhaps skip Ifrane.

Day 1-2 – Rabat

We flew in to Marrakech and did the 3.5 hour drive from the airport to Rabat. This was a very long day, especially considering our 2:45am start from the UK, and it would have made more sense to fly in to Rabat or even Casablanca. However, this would mean paying a one-way fee on car hire, and at the time flights to Marrakech with Ryanair from Manchester were much cheaper.

Despite being the capital of Morocco, Rabat isn’t on the typical tourist trail. However, the medina is much smaller and calmer than Marrakech, and is easier to navigate, making it a good introduction. If you’re visiting Rabat with kids, and have previously visited Marrakech, you’ll find it quite a novelty allowing your kids a bit of freedom whilst you explore the narrow alleyways, rather than gripping on to their hand for dear life as mopeds brush past you at 60km/h.

Make sure you also head over to pretty Kasbah les Oudaias with its manicured Andalisian Gardens, blue-washed walls and views over to Salé, before heading down to the beach for a play on the sand. If time allows, enjoy a ride on one of the commuter rowing boats across to Salé.

Driving time: 3.5 hours
Where we stayed: Bungalow pieds dans l’eau – Harhoura

A lovely beach-front Airbnb, just a 25 minute drive south of Rabat. To get in to Rabat, we drove and parked at a tram stop and caught the tram to the medina.

Day 3-6: Chefchaouen

It’s a four hour drive to Chefchaouen, a pretty town perched in the rugged foothills of the Rif. As soon as we arrived, we knew we wanted to stay longer than just a couple of nights and immediately changed plans with our Airbnb host to extend our stay. Admittedly, you can do all the ‘sights’ in a day, but this is a place to soak in the atmosphere, get lost in the rabbit warren of blue washed alleyways, and slow the pace down.

Chefchouen_steps

The medina, like Rabat, is quiet enough to allow kids some freedom to run along alleyways and jump down steps. When you’ve finished browsing the markets (we like to give the boys a shopping list and a little pocket money), enjoy a trek to one of the viewpoints, then reward your efforts with a tagine or chocolate pancake from a rooftop as the call to prayer drifts around you.

Chefchouen is one of the prettiest towns we’ve ever been to. The secret is out though, and tourism has started to take hold. Don’t wait too much longer to visit this special place.

Driving time: 4 hours
Where we stayed: Dar Dunia 2

Our visit to Chefchouen was made all the more special by our fantastic Airbnb, which had a lovely outside seating area overlooking the rooftops of the medina.

Day 7-8 Moulay Idriss and Volubillis

Stock up on snacks for the 3 hour drive to Moulay Idriss as you won’t find much along the road, apart from the odd petrol station. After the tourists and vivid colours of Chefchouen, the holy town of Moulay Idriss will seem rather rustic and perhaps more authentic. The main square is a good place to grab a bite to eat, before heading to the mausoleum and wandering around the medina.

Volubilis

The next morning, head over to the impressive Roman ruins and mosaics of Volubillis. With our boys so young, we decided against getting a tour guide as we find them rather restrictive and would rather mill about doing our own thing. But guides are available at the entrance should you be visiting with older children. Allow 2-3 hours to explore the ruins.

Driving time: 3 hours
Where we stayed: Maison Amina

A massive house on the outskirts of Moulay Idriss. The local neighbourhood itself is rather run down, but there’s secure parking and it’s only a 5 minute walk to the main square of Moulay Idriss.

Day 9-10 Meknes and Ifrane National Park

In comparison to Fez, the imperial city of Meknes is much more laid back, and the narrow winding alleyways of its medina are fascinating to explore.  It’s an easy one hour drive from Moulay Idriss and we parked our car here (free parking on road), before venturing into the medina. Grab some lunch at one of the many restaurants spilling out onto Place el-Hedim, before driving on to Ifrane (1 hour 15 minutes).

Moulay Idriss

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with the ‘alpine-resort’ of Ifrane, which attempts to mimic the Swiss architecture. The town feels rather tired and tacky, the skies were grey and drizzly, and it was cold. If you visit during the winter months, it may be snowing; a novelty if coming from the desert.

If you do spend a day here, take a drive out to Lac Aoua to picnic and stroll along its shores. Back in town, ride the mini-train ride at a painful pace down the main road and back, before enjoying a wood fired pizza at one of the European-style restaurants. Make sure you snap a photo next to the lion statue, although you’ll have to join the queue behind all the domestic tourists.

Driving time: 2.5 hours
Where we stayed: Garden Switzerland

Basic apartment with two double bedrooms.  It felt very cold, dark and damp. May be worth spending more on accommodation here to experience a more cosy feel. There’s a playground around the corner and it’s a short walk to the City Market and main cluster of restaurants.

Day 11 – Erg Chebbi, Sahara

Stock up on snacks for the long drive to Merzouga and time your lunch stop at Erfoud, before hitting the Sahara Desert.

The Sahara was a definite highlight of our Morocco family travel adventures. We were invited to stay overnight at Desert Luxury Camping, Erg Chebbi. You can read our full review here, but it involved fossil hunting, camel riding, sand boarding, star gazing, and an overnight stay in some fantastic glamping tents. This is a must for any visit to Morocco with kids.

Driving time: 6 hours
Where we stayed: Desert Luxury Camping
Luxury glamping tents with super comfortable beds, ensuite bathroom, and solar power. Definitely worth a splurge.

Day 12 – Drive to Dadès Gorges

It’s a relaxed start to the day at Desert Luxury Camping, and you’ll have time for more sand boarding to work off breakfast before a 4×4 returns you to your car in Merzouga.

Drive the 3 hours to Tinghir for lunch, before heading to Todra Gorge to walk through its narrow cliffs reaching to the skies (you can park your car for free in the centre of the Gorge).

Todra Gorge

It’s then just over a one hour drive to the accommodation at Dadès Gorges. It was a long day, and left exploring the gorge until the following morning.

Driving time: 4 hours
Where we stayed: Dar Essalama
Good sized family room and nice breakfast. Good option for an easy overnight stay.

Day 13 – Drive to Aït Benhaddou

Head further up the road to drive through Dadès Gorges and admire its deep crevasse. You then need to back track down through the narrow hair pin bends towards the main road to Marrakech.

Dadès Gorges

Lunch stop at Ouarzazate, where many a Hollywood film has been shot (Gladiator, Prince of Persia), and wander around Taouirt Kasbah. It’s then a 45 minute drive to tonight’s accommodation, just north of Aït Benhaddou.

Driving time: 2.45 hours
Where we stayed: Family room for 5 with breakfast
Very basic, but good sized family room. Run by a lovely local family who have young kids. Breakfast included.

Day 14-15 High Atlas

Beat the crowds and get an early stary at Aït Benhaddou, one of the oldest medinas in Morocco and used for many a film set. Climb to the high point and take in the views over to Atlas Mountains. This is where you are now headed.

It’s a brutal 6 hour drive to Imlil. Winding, narrow roads, exposed to sheer drops. Take it slow. But if you prefer a more relaxed drive, take the main road in to Marrkech and then back out again, rather than the ‘short cut’.

Riding a donkey in the Atlas Mountains

We arranged a fantastic 5 hour hike through our accommodation. This took us up to Armoud and back down to Imlil, boasting impressive views of snow-capped mountains backed by crystal clear blue skies. You need a moderate level of fitness, but the boys got a helping hand from Jaqueline the Donkey.

Driving time: 6 hours
Where we stayed: Dar Aymane 
Its further up the hill and a little out of Imlil town, but you are rewarded with spectacular views. Good sized family room with balcony, heating and hot shower.

Day 16-17 Marrakech

After the past two weeks of adventures, the haggling, noise and chaos of Marrakech may come as quite a shock. Motorbikes whizz top speed down the narrow alleyways of the medina, so hold tight to your little ones. Shop owners and stall sellers will hassle you, so ensure your haggling skills are polished.

Your accommodation here is paramount to your sanity. Make sure you book an oasis from the chaos. We were invited to stay at the beautiful Riad Les Hibiscus (check out our review here), and we highly recommend it for families. We parked our car here for Dh50 per night.

Marrakech main square

Spend your final days in Morocco getting lost in the alleyways of the medina, shopping for those last souvenirs, and soaking in the spectacle of Jemaa el-Fna. If you need a break from the hustle and bustle, enjoy a horse and cart ride around the city, or visit Jardin Majorelle. Check out our one-day itinerary for visiting Marrakech with a toddler or young kids.

Driving time: 2 hours
Where we stayed: Riad Les Hibiscus
Driving time: 6 hours
A beautiful oasis of tranquillity just a stone’s throw away from the main square, AND family friendly.

Day 18 – Fly home or on to your next adventure

Allow forty minutes to get to the airport, and aim to arrive at the airport at least three hours before your flight to get through airport security and passport control.

If you have more time in Morocco…

If you do have more time, we recommend heading over to Essaouira. It’s just a three hour drive from Marrakech and is a wonderful place to just kick back for a few days or more. Within a compact area there is so much to explore, including the medina, the port, the ramparts, and the beach.

 

Have you travelled Morocco with kids independently? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


Morocco with kids pin

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Disclaimer: This trip was almost entirely funded ourselves, apart from our overnight Sahara Desert trip and two night stay in a Marrakech riad which was hosted. Also, this post contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, it is at no additional cost to you, but I receive a small commission.

You may also like to read:
Marrakech with a toddler: a one day itinerary
Why you should visit Essaouria with kids
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Riad Les Hibiscus

REVIEW of Riad Les Hibiscus: one of the best riads for families in Marrakech

Riads in Marrakech don’t often allow children under the age of 12 to stay. However, we may have found one of the best riads for families in Marrakech. TraveLynn Family was offered a complimentary stay at Riad Les Hibiscus in return for this honest review. A family room is €136 per night at the time of writing. 

Riad Les Hibiscus balcony

“Are you sure?” I asked as my boys dive bombed into the courtyard swimming pool. Until our arrival, this beautifully ornate centrepiece had helped to create a sense of tranquillity throughout the riad. Well not for much longer.

“Of course! Please enjoy!” came the reply from the smiling receptionist.

Hidden down a quiet alleyway just a stone’s throw from the clamour and chaos of Jemaa el-Fna, lies Riad Les Hibiscus; a stylish and peaceful oasis which is perhaps one of the best riads for families in Marrakech.

I was previously a bit nervous of booking us into a riad in Marrakech. They are renowned for being peaceful enclaves hidden amongst the hustle and bustle of the medina. Where couples dressed in floppy hats and chinos sip mint tea before delving into the next chapter of their book, and whisper to each other for fear of disturbing the peace.

Not really the place you would be comfortable taking a couple of energetic boys aged 3 and 5? Indeed many riads don’t accept families with children under the age of 12. Although some will waive this rule, I would be nervous about visiting these riads with my two.

Well that was why it was so refreshing to receive an invite from Riad Les Hibiscus for us to stay a couple of nights in their family room at the end of our 18 day Morocco road trip. A stylish riad in the centre of the medina, that welcomed young families? I definitely wanted to check this out.

Arriving to Riad Les Hibiscus

Although hidden down a quiet alleyway, the riad is very easy to find on Google Maps. As we were driving, we parked our car here (€5 per 24 hours) and walked the 5 minutes to the riad. If you are flying in to Marrakech, the riad can arrange a transfer for you.

With motorbikes whizzing past and throngs of tourists clogging the alleyways, blood pressure levels will be high as you knock on the unimposing doorway to Riad Les Hibiscus. But as soon as you step over the threshold into the soft olive and white décor of the open courtyard, complimented with palm trees and red hibiscus, an air of calm descends. Sink into an arm chair, sip your mint tea and breathe. The kids are happy in the pool and there is no rush to check in.

Looking around you’ll notice the monochrome photography and chicken wire sculptures. The doorways are framed by the classic Arabic arch and dressed with wrought iron bolts and latches. More guests come to join us in the courtyard. They smile at the boys and wave, delighted to see kids enjoying themselves. I order another mint tea.

The family room

Rooms encircle the central courtyard over two floors. The family room is located on the top floor, adjacent to the roof top. It’s the only room on the top floor, so you haven’t got to worry too much about waking your neighbours in the early morning. With the windows open, the roof top is also a nice space for parents to retreat to in the evening once the kids are asleep.

The room is a good size with a double bed and two singles (extremely comfortable). A cot can be provided on request. In the bathroom there is a deep bath with overhead shower (good pressure and temperature).

You will also find a small fridge (which is always handy for storing drinks and snacks), a safe, and a hair-dryer.

The swimming pool

The pool was shallow enough for our 3 year old (almost 4) to stand up in. It is on the chilly side, so pack wetsuits. Do be careful of some of the sharp tiles, this pool is partly ornamental after all. Plus, there is no lifeguard on duty, so please supervise your children at all times.

Riad Les Hibiscus courtyard swimming pool seating

Dining

Breakfast consists of a selection of breads, orange juice and a hot drink. There is no restaurant on site. But step outside the door, walk down the alleyway following the sound of the scooters, and you’ll find a vast selection of restaurants to suit all tastes.

Riad Les Hibiscus breakfast

WIFI

WIFI is very slow, unless in the central courtyard. One could argue that you’re on holiday, why not switch off? But for travellers returning from the desert or mountains, or wanting to plan onwards travels, the WIFI is limiting.

Would we recommend Riad Les Hibiscus for families?

If you are visiting Marrakech with kids and still want that riad experience, I definitely recommend Riad Les Hibiscus for families.

Riad Les Hibiscus alleyway

Whilst there were times I felt I needed to remind the boys to keep their voices down, no one ever remarked that they were too loud and we received nothing but warm smiles from the staff. After a morning haggling in the souqs and dodging the whizzing motorbike around the medina, the riad was the perfect place to relax and recharge our batteries.

Plus it was the perfect end to our Moroccan adventures. We had driven 2200 km over 16 days, ridden camels through the Sahara, trekked the High Atlas and been as far north as Chefchouen. These two nights at Riad Les Hibiscus was just what we needed, and we wholeheartedly recommend it to families with young kids.

 

Riad Les Hibiscus: one of best the riads for families in Marrakech

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You may also like to read:
Marrakech with a toddler: a one day itinerary
Why you should visit Essaouria with kids
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Marrakech itinerary with kids

Marrakech with a toddler: a one day itinerary

Have you ever seen pictures of Marrakech and immediately thought of crowds and chaos? Fun chaos of course, the sort of chaos that probably leads to an amazing experience but not something you’d want to attempt with little ones? If so, carry on reading because we totally recommend Marrakech with a toddler or even a baby. It was one of our first family travel adventures with just Arthur who was 14 months old, and at the time I was pregnant with Ezra.

Marrakech with toddler

Of course, there were crazy moments when mopeds brushed past us in the medina, swerving past a donkey, and the exotic fanfare of Jamaa el Fina with it’s snake charmers, street food, and musicians; but that’s what makes it so exciting. Arthur loved shopping for breads and juice in the markets, riding the horse and cart around the city, and dancing along with the drumming in Jamaa el Fina. When walking around the medina, it’s much easier to carry kids. So put them in a back carrier so they can be up high and see around them.

However for some, Marrakech can be rather overwhelming with the busy streets, haggling, and stories of tourists being hassled and pick-pocketing. Keep your wits about you, be firm but polite to sellers, and take it slow.

So if you’re visiting Marrakech with a toddler, here’s our one day itinerary…


07:00 – 08:00 : Breakfast 

One of the many delights of Marrakech is that you are never far from a street-side vendor selling delicious fresh bread. Join the locals and head for your nearest stall and pick up a cheap, healthy and hearty breakfast of baguette, fruit and juice.

08:00 – 09:30 : Walk around medina 

The medina in Marrakech is a vast labyrinth of alleyways, shops, motorbikes and chaos, interspersed with traditional souks, calm tea-houses and relaxing restaurants. If you visit earlier in the morning you will be able to enjoy it without too much of the stress which can be a feature later in the day. It’s not especially buggy-friendly so a back-carrier is ideal here to allow your little one to get a great view and for you to feel more relaxed that they won’t be anywhere near the hundreds of mopeds which buzz around.

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The best seat in the house

09:30 – 11:30 : Horse and cart ride around city 

If we had to choose the number one thing to do in Marrakech with a toddler or baby then it might just the be the horse and cart rides around the city. You’ll have to put on your best haggling coat initially but once you have agreed a fare you’ll be whisked away from the main square and taken on a magical journey around the city. The little ones will love the horses, sat in the beautiful carriage with the wind rushing through their hair. You’ll have the option of choosing the length of the journey so you can pick the trip which suits your kids.

11:30 – 13:00 : Lunch at a child-friendly restaurant 

Moroccans adore children and Arthur was usually the centre of attention wherever wewent, especially in the multitude of restaurants scattered around the medina. Some of them will be able to provide a high-chair but we got a lot of use out of our portable high-chair harness which you can attach to most ‘normal’ chairs found in restaurants.

Click here to purchase the Pueri Baby High Chair Harness 

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The menus are fairly extensive with bread, tagines, couscous, salads and chicken featuring in almost all of them. Top-tip, be aware that couscous has the ability to get very messy, very quickly, if left in the hands of a one year-old. Use caution but the locals didn’t seem to mind the clearing up anyway. It’s likely the little ones will be whisked off to the kitchen for a tour while you finish your meal. The restaurants overlooking the main square are particularly cool and provide a perfect view of the masses below, accompanied by a beautiful sunset over the Atlas mountains if you also visit later in the day.

13:00 – 15:00 : Chill time at your riad

When travelling with kids so young, we always allow for down time back at our accommodation every afternoon, hopefully for a nap! Staying in a riad is one of the special experiences of visiting Marrakech. Check out our review of staying at family  friendly Riad Les Hibiscus.

15:00 – 16:30 : Jardin Majorelle 

Jump in a taxi and head over to the Majorelle gardens; part museum, part gardens and part gallery. Here you’ll find a small botanic museum, plant-lined walkways and striking blue doorways waiting to be explored. In a city that can sometimes feel like the volume button is stuck on max, spend an hour or so here to remind yourself what silence sounds like.

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Taking some time out in the garden

16:30 – 17:30 : Rooftop snacks 

If you need a quick break during the day then the answer is right above your head. Marrakech is blessed with dozens of rooftop restaurants where you can escape the busy streets for a few minutes and grab a drink. The kids will appreciate the time-out and can enjoy either a fresh orange juice (mint tea for the grown-ups) or a simple snack, usually dispensed with a smile by the owner. The rooftops range from five-star luxury to basic, cheap and cheerful – find one that takes your fancy and climb the stairs (be warned though, the staircases are often almost vertical and can be missing the odd piece of tiling – see it as part of the adventure and hold onto the banister and kids tight).

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A quick pit-stop for delicious food

17:30 – 19:00 : Visit Jamaa el Fina 

Chances are, if you’ve seen one picture of Marrakech, it’ll have been of Jamaa el Fina; the beautiful square in the centre of the medina which showcases all that is magical about Marrakech and Morocco. It might look chaotic when you’re standing on the sidelines but once you’re in the mix you’ll soon realise it’s actually not unlike a medieval children’s play area with a myriad of activities to entertain your little ones: snake charmers, dancing troupes, musicians, juice stalls and food vendors selling gorgeous Moroccan food.

A good time to arrive is about half-an-hour before sunset; you’ll get to see the square change personality as the daylight disappears and the evening crowds begin to arrive. It’s also very popular with Moroccan tourists, some of whom might find your kids the most interesting thing in the square – prepare for lots of hugs and kisses!

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The world’s most exciting playground

 

So there you have it: a one day itinerary in Marrakech with a toddler. There is so much to do here, with many different areas to explore, people to meet and food to taste that you’ll not want to limit yourself to a day. Spend a few days here, soak up all the city has to offer and when you leave, you and the kids will have experienced something spectacular.

You may also enjoy a trip to the Atlas Mountains (only a few hours drive away and highly recommended) or if you fancy something even further afield then check out fabulous Essaouira on the Atlantic coast – read our reasons why you should visit Essaouira with kids.

Useful Travel Info:

Best time to visit: Mar-May & Sep-Nov
How to get there: easyJet fly London Gatwick to Marrakech daily.
ATMs: Plentiful and easily accessible in the medina
Visas: Not required for most nationalities for stays of up to 90 days. Passports must be valid for 6 months beyond date of entry.
Language: Morocccan Arabic (Darija), Berber and French
Time: GMT/UTC
Government travel advice: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/morocco

 

Marrakech with toddler pin

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We also recommend reading this great post by Mt Feet Will Lead Me for tips on how to avoid scams in Marrakech. Also, check out this post about costs of travelling to Morocco


Where would we be without our trusted Lonely Planet.

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Essaouira with kids

Why you should visit Essaouria with kids

Were you an intrepid backpacker in your previous life? Exploring distant and exotic lands on a budget, getting off the beaten track and feeling like you were doing something different? Now that young kids are in the picture, travel priorities may have changed. But you don’t have to get sucked into the package holiday bubble.

Let us suggest Essaouira (pronounced ‘essa-weera’). If you haven’t heard of it before, Essaouira is a bustling port city, with a beautiful windswept beach on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. It’s so much more laid-back than hectic Marrakech, but still retains a quintessential Moroccan charm and character, with a fascinating culture to satisfy the latent explorer in you. It’s a very gentle introduction to an Islamic country and you will be travelling with your kids in Africa!

 

Essaouira with kids - medina

We visited as a family in May when the average daily temperature was a perfect 24°C (also meaning we could pack light) and during the school term when flights are cheapest. We had the best time and this is why we think Essaouira is the perfect intrepid travel destination for young families:

No jet lag

Morocco is in the same zone as the UK. So no adjustments required to the daily nap routine whatsoever. Easy.

No travel vaccinations are required

As long as your little ones are up to date with their standard vaccination schedule at home, you’re good to go. Just ensure you have adequate health insurance before you travel as the national health service isn’t that great and the private hospitals in Morocco are very expensive.

Reasonable flight time and no visas 

Unfortunately there are no longer direct flights from the UK to Essaouira . You will have to get the bus from Marrakech to Essaouira. Check out Supratours for bus time and prices.

As for visas, they are not needed for most visitors to Morocco (including Brits) and you are allowed to remain in the country for 90 days. You also get a very cool stamp in your passports.

It’s cheap 

Now you have a family, your pennies just don’t go as far as they used to. Accommodation, travel, food and activities are a fraction of what they are in the UK. Just be prepared for some light-hearted haggling at times. Plus, easyJet have off-season return flights for only £42 per person. Now that is very tempting.

Great selection of afforable accommodation available 

Stay in a central riad with a rooftop overlooking the medina, or enjoy something a bit more upmarket with a pool for the kids. It’s a compact town so it’s easy to get around, and your tourist dollar goes much further here, so you can treat yourself with a bit of a splurge.

For budget try: White And Blue
For midrange try: Villa Daba
For luxury try: Heure Bleue Palais – Relais & Châteaux 

Essaouira with kidss - rooftops

Warm, friendly and open locals 

The locals absolutely adore children. We spent most afternoons just roaming freely around the medina; waving, high-fiving and chatting to locals. Even down at the port, the hardened fishermen wanted to meet our boys and teach them how to mend their fishing nets.

Essaouira with kids - fishing

There’s so much to do on your doorstep 

Sandy beach with safe, shallow waters, camels to meet and ride, the medina, souqs, fishing port and ramparts to explore. Essaouira is the perfect sensory playground for your little ones. There is enough to easily fill a week-long holiday, without having negotiate transport outside of the city. Plus, so many of these activities are FREE!

Essaouira with kids - camel

Meal times made easy 

Eating out anywhere in the world with little ones is not exactly a relaxing experience. Keeping them entertained until the food arrives can be a challenge, only for them to gobble it up in 5mins and the meal is over. In Essaouira, street food is available everywhere. From tajines and fresh seafood from the port, to the more familiar pancakes, shwarmas and fries. Vendors pile their carts high with fresh fruit and there are even French pattisseries dotted around the medina. There is so much on offer that all family members are happy. A big hit for our boys were the fresh orange juice stalls. Pick up whatever you fancy, whenever you fancy. Snack away whilst you continue your leisurely discoveries around the medina, or if it’s dinner time, make a pit stop on your way back to your accommodation to enjoy round the dinner table. Just don’t forget pick up some lovely Moroccan bread for breakfast the next morning. It’s rather sweet and the kids love it.

Essaouira with kids - OJ

This asside, there are plenty of restaurants that are very welcoming to children. Just have the kids tablet and sticker book handy for entertainment, as even a pancake may take 20mins to prepare.

Nappies and essentials are available everywhere 

And we really do mean everywhere! You will see bags of Pampers hanging from every other street stall! And the staples of milk, eggs, bread, crisps are easily purchased on your doorstep. Your kids will love the interaction with the individual stall holders; allow them to ask for/point to what you need, give them the money to pass over, whilst perhaps attempting a bit of Arabic if they can (‘es salaam alaykum’ – Hello, and ‘shukran’ – thank you).

Essaouira with kids - Mogador

Useful Travel Info:

Best time to visit: Mar-Jun & Oct-Nov
How to get there: easyJet fly London Luton to Essaouira twice per week (Tuesdays and Saturdays). Lowest return price we could find is in January for £42 per person!
ATMs: Plentiful and easily accessible in the medina
Visas: Not required for most nationalities for stays of up to 90 days. Passports must be valid for 6 months beyond date of entry.
Language: Morocccan Arabic (Darija), Berber and French
Time: GMT/UTC
Government travel advice: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/morocco

 

Travel Essaouira MOROCCO with kids.

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Where would we be without our trusted Lonely Planet.

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