If you’re asking yourself whether you should hop over on a day trip to Morocco from Spain, I have some thoughts.
So should you do it?
My short answer: Yes.
My longer answer: Yes, if:
- You’ve never been to Morocco
- You’re far enough south in Spain that it makes sense
- Your trip is not totally jam-packed every single day (read: you can rest the day after)
- You hire a local guide in advance
In May, my friend Beth and I made the crossing from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco for a single day introduction to a country we are now obsessed with visiting for a much longer period of time.
We spent the night before and the night after our trip to Morocco in Tarifa, which I highly recommend. Tarifa is a beautiful destination in its own right. We loved walking along the beach, watching the windsurfers, and drinking wine in a chiringuito while watching the sunset.
Ferries leave every couple of hours from the port in Tarifa and dropping you at the main Tanger Ville port in Morocco. The earliest ferry leaves at 9 am and you’ll want to be on it so that you can make the most of your day. It’s best to book in advance and arrive early so that you’ll have time to pass through security.
At the terminal in Tangiers, you’ll encounter guides ready to take you on a full day tour of Morocco. Some are better than others. If you’ve planned in advance to take this trip, book your guide in advance. This way, you can do the best research on guides and someone will be there with a sign with your name on it. When the guides at the port start trying to sell you their tour, just tell them you pre-booked and they’ll leave you alone. We even had one guide help us locate the guide we’d pre-booked after we told him the name of our guide. So, so kind of him.
We booked our tour through Aziz Benami, a private tour guide who also employs other guides who work to his ethical standard. My friend, Beth, and I booked a private tour so it was just us, our guide, and a driver in a minivan. In the morning, they took us driving all over Tangier and we got to get out for many photo opportunities. We saw some of the richest areas of Tangier and some of the poorest. We visited a luxury hotel and we visited a neighborhood where there are more potholes than road. The disparity of wealth was incredible to see in just a couple of hours. We visited a park and looked out at the Strait of Gibraltar, our guide orienting us to the flora and fauna the whole way along.
Our last stop before lunch was a camel ride on the beach. I was completely terrified (I’m not the biggest fan of riding large animals), but it was actually really fun and Beth had the BEST time. She loves horses and meeting all kinds of animals like camels and bulls and oxen and monkeys. I’m so glad she challenged me to do this.
For lunch, we went to a huge restaurant where we got to people watch both locals and Aziz Benami’s other private tour groups. We had our own table and our guides took a break, so we were able to chill out, talk about our morning and enjoy some delicious food. We had chicken tagine, stewed lamb, fruits, a sour tomato-based soup, and mint tea.
We capped the day with a couple of hours walking in the Medina. This was both my favorite part of the day and the part of the day that was most disappointing. I’d looked forward to seeing the winding streets and markets in the Medina for months leading up to the trip. True to expectation, the Medina was all narrow streets with lots of twists and turns. We would have been lost in moments without our guide. But many shops were closed and most locals were resting during the heat of the day, so there was very little excitement to be had.
Most tours include a walk in the Medina, ask your guide if you can take that portion of your tour in the morning when the neighborhood is much more lively, the shops are open, and the locals are shopping.
During this part of your tour, your guide will also take you to a few shops he has selected. If you purchase something, he gets a kickback on it. You might feel pressured to make a purchase. Don’t give in to that feeling. If you see something you like, purchase it, if not, don’t. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your guide to make stops at other shops you see and are more interested in. We bought scarves from a shop we asked to visit. We did not buy rugs or ceramics or jewelry from the shops our guide recommended. And our guide still really liked us and we hope to join him for the multi-day group tours that he conducts.
We arrived back in Tarifa at the perfect time for dinner and sunset at the beach. It was much easier than we’d imagined. However, we were definitely tired the next day from a full day guided tour and spent much of the next day resting.
Have you been to Tangier? Would you do it as a day trip?