My Summer Moroccan Adventure
This year I completed my first ever proper holiday in the sun, with a challenge given to try and spend some time just relaxing, instead of trying to pack in as many excursions as possible so I need a holiday when I come back to recover from my holiday away. Here’s our handy Agadir travel guide to give you some tips if you’re planning your own break in this amazing country.
We decided after Christmas to book four nights away in Morocco. Other than a day spent in Egypt as part of a Mediterranean cruise when I was 16, this would be the first time either of us had been on holiday to Africa. Travelling to Agadir, we were looking forward to a sun filled beach break.
When you arrive at the airport in Morocco and head out to find your transfer, you’ll be greeted by some very nice people who take your bags (whether you want them to or not) and escort you to your transfer. These people are not from your transfer company. They wait outside the airport for tourists and carry your bags across the road to your bus and then expect to be paid for it. The best thing to do it make sure you have some change ready as soon as you arrive, even a £1 coin will suffice, but you’ll be hard pushed to avoid them taking your luggage for you, or getting rid of them if you have nothing to hand over.
During the 30 minute transfer to our hotel it was quite daunting. First up, we were the only people on our shared shuttle service, and after a flight over where less than 25% of the seats were taken, we wondered how far out of peak season we had arrived in. Looking out of the window, we saw virtually no other tourists until we hit the very centre of Agadir, and even then the sightings were minimal.
Our hotel was the Palais de Roses, situated on Founty Beach at the other end of the front to the marina. A little further out than most hotels, but with good reviews, right on the front, and a beautiful pool. The staff were lovely and very helpful while we checked in, and we paid our city taxes upfront.
City tax is something all tourists pay to the hotel. When looking online for costs, it’s very difficult to work out how much you’re going to be charged, as it’s different for every hotel, and they’re not upfront about costs. Most say that it’s not much, but there are stories of people being charged exorbitant prices, and there’s nothing you can do about it. We paid for two people for four nights, and it cost less than £11.
Palais de Roses is a lovely hotel. The reception area boasts a number of seating areas around tranquil pools of water, with side rooms for privacy and a terraced area overlooking the pool and beach front. Our room was nice, very traditionally Moroccan in decor, a very good size, and a balcony. The only problem we had was that there didn’t appear to be anyone else there. The hotel is huge, and it wasn’t until we went hunting for the restaurant that we found another guest. Our first evening in the hotel felt very much like wandering the halls of the hotel ‘The Shining’.
If you’re not going all inclusive (which we weren’t), don’t eat your evening meals in the hotel. It was late, and we were tired, so we just went to the restaurant on site, and quickly regretted it. This was the only real low point to the hotel for us. The dinner was a buffet style menu, with very little to choose from, and the quality wasn’t too great. We had enough to tide us over, and the bill came to 500 dirhams (about £35), which is more than double what we learnt most main meals should be costing. The worst part was that after dinner we walked to the beach and found a restaurant right at the edge of the hotel which was a fraction of the cost!
Health and Safety
H&S in Morocco is practically non-existent. Despite being a very nice hotel, small issues could be noticed, such as paving being uneven and broken, and our shower head was a little wonky, but it was never so bad that we didn’t enjoy our stay. Other things on the hand we noticed could potentially have caused bigger issues. The pool is closed after 6pm, but only in the sense that there are no staff around. Nothing would be stopping you from going for a midnight dip. Something to watch out for if you have small children in tow. Another big thing in Morocco is disable access. It’s almost as if someone sent a memo to all the tourist places telling them to put ramps in everywhere for wheelchairs if they want to be attractive to the Western world, so they did. The only issue is that ramps appear to run alongside the steps, meaning that the gradient is way too steep for any wheelchair user to get themselves from bottom to top. But I suppose it’s nice that they put the effort in.
Our first full day in Morocco we decided to go on an excursion through the Atlas mountains to some of Morocco’s finest natural attractions. Due to the lack of tourists, our day tour consisted of just the two of us, and our guide, who stayed with us the entire day. We set off around 9:30am, and just before 10:30am we arrived at our first stop. As an extra stop-off, we were taken to see how Argan Oil was made by the women in Morocco. We had a lovely tour of their small botanical garden, were shown how the oil was made by hand, and got to sample some of the different honeys made on site.
After this short break we continued on towards Imouzzer. Most of the time the roads were really well made (better than the state of the roads in Manchester), but there were a few short stretches deeper into the mountains where I did consider that if we met up with oncoming traffic that our chances of survival would vastly diminish. It was also quite weird driving through the middle of no where, being miles since we last passed any kind of civilisation, and miles before we would do so again, and yet you would spot a random person trekking over the rocks or walking alongside the road. I could never quite work out either where they had come from, or where they were going to.
Imouzzer is a small Berber town known for its cascades. On arrival, we walked the short winding path towards this natural wonder. On the way, we passed a number of traders who’s favourite line seemed to be ‘Shufty shufty, looking is free’. It wasn’t too bad on the way there, but the attention is amplified when you’re the only tourists there. It was times like these when I wished we had been part of a small group, so at least all the focus from the locals wouldn’t just be on us.
We arrived at the cascades and the water trickling over the rocks into the beautiful natural pool was an amazing site. The only problem was that we were expecting cascades, and we received a trickle. While Immouzer is penned as a great tourist destination, what they don’t tell you is that Agadir gets about four days of rain per year, and without rain, there is no cascade.
While Imouzzer was very nice, and I don’t regret going, I think that had I known that the cascades were more of a trickle, I would have probably skipped the very long drive, and instead spent more time at Paradise Valley, or an alternative, non water dependant location. Imouzzer it beautiful, but unless you’re catching the rain, it’t nothing like it is in the brochures.
One thing we certainly don’t regret is the Moroccan Tagine we had for lunch on the way back to Paradise Valley. Stopping at a local restaurant, we arrived to find a beautiful table for two laid out in the courtyard, and not another soul in sight. We were served a three course meal, including an amazing chicken tagine where the meat just fell off the bone. That meal was by far the best we had in our time away, and I think the difference was the authenticity of the local cuisine, coming from a small restaurant in the mountains, as opposed to a more mainstream restaurant in the centre of Agadir. The three course meal plus drinks cost us 175 dirhams, a far cry from the 500 dirhams we had paid on our first night.
Our final destination of the day trip was Paradise Valley. We had been told to expect some walking at this destination, but nothing had quite prepared us for a full on trek through the Atlas mountains, down a dried up riverbed, over rough terrain and steep tracks, I was not looking forward to the trek back. On arrival however all of this was forgotten. Paradise Valley consists of three natural pools which offer cool waters for swimming and a peaceful setting within the heart of the Atlas mountains. Even at this peak attraction, we were joined by no more than 30 other tourists in our 90 minutes spent there, swimming and bathing in the sun.
The natural pools were really nice. I was initially scared of getting in. The water seemed really cold and the rocks slippy. I was worried that if I did get in, I would struggle to climb out again. Eventually I took the plunge, and after the initial shock the water was very nice, and I even got in a little swim with the fish. The trek back swiftly brought us back to reality, and I won’t deny that the hills were a struggle, but on this occasion, Paradise Valley was worth it.
Back at the hotel we met the concierge, who informed us of a mix up with the Berber night we had booked. We were unable to go the next evening, but could go on Friday. At this point I explained that we couldn’t go on Friday as we flew back that evening. Despite looking confused, the concierge agreed for us to go that evening instead. We popped to pool for a quick swim and then changed for an exciting Berber night experience.
We travelled back towards the airport to Chems Ayour where we were greeted by Berbers on horseback. We walked through the grounds being given a traditional welcome of milk and dates, experienced some traditional music and watched a ‘snake charmer’ who handled some kind of viper, before being shown to our tent. Being the only people from our hotel on the excursion worked well, as it meant we had a table to ourselves.
The evening began with a five course meal, with each course being accompanied by various local forms of entertainments, including music and dancing. My favourite was the belly dancing! All the food was very nice, but I had to have Sprite in my wine, as apparently they don’t have lemonade in Morocco.