Touring Morocco by Bicycle
I have travelled by bicycle in more than a dozen countries. Several places are my favorite ones, Taiwan for its easy-going atmosphere, Mongolia for its vastness, Kyrgyzstan for its beautiful nature, and Uzbekistan for its historical monuments and people’s hospitality. After spending more than three months in Morocco, I found it has all elements of these places.
For many people, they don’t even know where Morocco is. “Are you talking about Monaco? The land of super casinos?” It’s not bad when someone can mention Casablanca (all because of the famous movie), or Marrakesh. To many people, it is stupid to travel to such ‘dangerous’ and ‘undeveloped’ country, let alone travelling by bicycle. Well, that is the reason why I want to share my experience.
In short, why Morocco is the best for cycling trip?
- Natural Landscape: As a medium-sized country (similar to the size of Germany), its variation of landscapes is surprising remarkable. First, Morocco has Atlas Mountains, which have the highest peak in North Africa, and stretch across the whole country. It also has two coastlines, the Mediterranean Sea in the North, and the Atlantic Ocean in the West. And you can’t miss the dreamy desert in the South that has numerous oasis towns; you may even want to replace your bike with a camel.
- Multiclture: Morocco is an Arabic country, but 70% of the population is Berber. It was colony of Portugal and Spain and it has the unique Sahara culture from the South, so it forms a unique and mixed culture. It is also a relatively liberal Arabic country.
- Monuments and tradition: Four imperial cities (their kings are still present), historical colonized cities on coastal areas, and small ancient towns/oasis on the South.Many people are still living in a traditional way, like a century ago.
- Road condition: Of course the road is not as good as developed country, but other than a few main roads, most roads have very little traffic. With huge investment in infrastructure in recent years, many dirt roads became paved road. You can still have a feeling of adventures but acceptable road condition.
- Safety: Some people have the wrong impression that all Arabic countries are in a war or dangerous, but for those who have been here, we all know that it is even more safer than many European countries. I was worried to camp near people or village before. In Morocco however, I got problem at all.
- Hospitality: Maybe Moroccan are not as friendly as people in Central Asia, where sometimes you may feel they are too passionate. It is comfortable to get along with Moroccans and they are actually very interested in talking with foreigners. I made many Moroccan friends and often got good treats from them.
- Inexpensive budget: make your own breakfast and dinner, have lunch in restaurant and stay in campsite, you can spend less than 10 euro a day.
- Camping facilities: It may surprise you, for me, it is even better than in Europe. Campsites are quite densely located; usually the distance between two campsites is less than 100km, which is prefect for cyclists. And the most important thing is they all open throughout the year, no matter it is snowing or 50°C. Well, my expectation for campsite is only a flat land with hot shower…
I met many cyclists from Europe; some of them stayed in hotel (the cheaper one would be 10-20Euro a night), some camped next to locals’ houses or even asked if they could stay inside their houses. I was used to staying in campsite or having wild camping in hidden places. So here in these articles, I will focus only on road condition and camping information instead of talking too much on traveling information.
I have cycled for about 4000km in a few months, it would take time to organize all the details. And I didn’t plan to write these articles in the very first beginning, so I just rely on my memory for the section -Tanger to Fes. I hope the information is correct.
My Cycling Route:
- Tanger – Tetouan – Chefchaouen
- Chefchaouen – Moulay Idriss – Meknes – Fez
- Rabat – Meknes – Azrou
- Arzou – Midelt
- Midelt – Imilchil (Day 1) (Day 2) (Day 3)
- Imilchil – Boumalne Dades (Day 1) (Day 2)
- Boumalne Dades – Tinghir (Gorges Toudra)
- Tinghir (Gorges Toudra) – Goulmima – Errachidia – Meski
- Meski – Erfoud – Merzouga
- Merzouga – N’Kob
- N’Kob – Zagora
- Zagora –Agdz – Ouarzazate
- Ouarzazate – Aït Ben Haddou – Telouet
- Telouet – Marrakech, via Tizi n’Tichka
- Marrakech – Taroudant, via Tizi n’Test (Day 1-2)(Day 3)
- Taroudant – Agadir
- Agadir – Essaouira
- Essaouira – Safi – El-Jadida
- El-Jadida – Casablanca – Rabat
- Rabat – Asilah – Tangier
The best 5 Cycling route
- Midelt – Imilchil
Crossing impressive and dramatic landscape in altas mountain, hospitality locals in those remote villages inside the valley, river crossing adventure and blustery wind, the golden poplar trees in this region and Imilchil’s crystal clear lakes are remarkable, it is my favorite cycling route in Morocco.
- Imilchil – Boumalne Dades
Col Du Ouano at 2900m is the highest pass I have climbed in Morocco, and the road condition is also the worst, there are many breathtaking views all the way in Dades Gorge, prepare to stop and take photos!
- Zagora –Agdz – Ouarzazate
Countless kasbahs all along the Draa river show you the prosperity of this once important caravan route, together with the lush palmeraies and breathtaking mountains, plus the interesting contrast of the dry valley to a wide river during the time of irrigation, It is truly a feast for the eyes.
- Ouarzazate – Aït Ben Haddou – Telouet
UNESCO Ait Ben Haddou and numerous charming villages along the road, start from a pink dry valley to the hidden basin with grassland and pine trees, don’t forget to visit Telouet Kasbah, one of the richest and finest example to see Moroccan Artwork. This is also a historically important and controversial area, which makes you have a complex feeling.
- Marrakech – Ouirgane – Taroudant
Tizi n’Test is the most majestic and dramatic among all the mountain passes I crossed in Morocco, it’s probably the hardest climb but you get the best view as a return. I celebrated the 2017 new year in a silence and starry night, the moment that I will remember for life.
Budget airline such as Ryanair, Jet Airways have many flights to Marrakesh, Fes or Rabat from Europe. If you bring your own bicycle and you have enough time, it is not a bad idea flying to Sevilla or Malaga, then cycling to Algeciras/Tarifa/Gibraltar, and take the ferry to Morocco.
There are ferries to Morocco from Italy, France, Spain and Gibraltar. The shortest and cheapest one is from Algeciras to Tangier Med, which is about 35 Euro, and no surcharge for bicycle. You can easily search the boat schedule from http://www.directferries.co.uk.
You may have an impression that Morocco is a desert area – dry and hot. In fact, the weather varies a lot in four seasons in different areas. My first visit was in July; Tangier was quite comfortable and even cooler than Spain. It became much hotter once I left the coastal area. After two weeks, my Garmin showed 50°C at Fes, it was too hot to sleep at night, I couldn’t imagine what the condition further south to the desert would be…
But in early Nov, there is usually snowing in mountain area – Imilchil. During the winter, some roads would be blocked by snow, but it will be perfect if you go to the south, the temperature is around 20°C during the daytime (but drop to zero at night).
In general, only summer is not a good season for cycling, although the weather in the coastal area is bearable, but it is usually packed with local tourists. In winter, you have to check the weather carefully if you travel in Atlas Mountains.
I haven’t seen any professional bike shop in Morocco. Decathlon has shops in some big cities such as Marrakesh and Rabat. However, I met a German cyclist who bought a bike from Decathlon but it was broken in a few days. I would recommend you to bring your own bike and spare parts (parts are difficult to find too). Bicycle is common in Morocco, so you could find some small bike fixing shop in city, they will try to repair everything, even though they don’t know how to do it…
For gas fuel, the most common one is Clip-on standard CV270, you may find Cassette Gas(Aerosol) in big supermarkets such as Marjine, or sometimes at hardware shop. But it is not possible to find Screw-on gas fuel all over Morocco. Most petrol stations sell unleaded petrol, but some may refuse to sell you small quantity. Liquid fuel such as alcohol and kerosene can be found at hardware shop in big city. However, stock up more if possible since they are not that easy to find.