Which is the best North African destination for a holiday with a very young toddler.
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I would say Morocco or Tunisia, although I have only travelled in Tunisia as a couple (Sidi Bou Said, Djerba and the Sahara), so would not have been as aware of any potential issues. The reaction to kids in both countries is amazing – your toddler will be spoilt rotten, and in some cases you may actually find the attention a little too much, with people wanting to cuddle, caress and kiss your child, or hold them for posed photographs (especially if they have blond hair!). Getting hold of basic supplies such as disposable nappies won’t be a problem, either.
We travelled to Morocco last year with a 4-year-old and a 21-month-old, and while they both loved the souks of Fez and Marrakesh, donkey rides in the palmeries and camel trips into the Sahara, the younger one was definitely more of a worry, mainly regarding hygiene (lots of picking up stuff from grubby streets!) and health, as being under 2 years old he had not had all his standard vaccinations by then, as yours won’t have either. If you take sensible precautions against the sun (heatstroke, dehydration), watch out for stray dogs and cats (rabies is present in both countries) and be discreet if breastfeeding, then you should have a great trip. I would also suggest, from bitter experience, that you check the caps on bottled water, as we were caught out by a shopkeeper who had refilled a “new” bottle with tap water.
It’s also worth noting that, while the FCO can sometimes be overly cautious, they are currently advising against all but essential travel to parts of Algeria and Tunisia (Chaambi Mountain National Park, which is unlikely to be of interest anyway), and to Egypt as a whole.
Hi Keith. My husband and I want to travel to Morocco in May with our daughter who will be 21 months. I’m glad to hear that your 21-month old enjoyed the trip. We have about a week (possibly 10 days) total to spend in Morocco and would like to see Marrakesh, Fez, and the Sahara if possible. The trip you describe sounds pretty much exactly what we’re looking at doing, actually.
Could you provide some information on how you traveled, and any advice you have for us on things to do or not do – like take a long train or bus with the toddler, rent a car, hire a taxi, etc.
May is a lovely time to be in Morocco. Hopefully, you can get 10 days for your trip, but either way I think you may end up preferring to concentrate on two of your three possible destinations in that time: Fez and Marrakesh or Marrakesh and the Sahara.
Fez is my favourite city in Morocco, and is worth at least 3 or 4 nights. It’s about 8 hours from Fez to Marrakesh via the Middle Atlas (or 7 hours if you go the “long” way round via Rabat and Casablanca – further but quicker, as it’s on the motorway), so you’d want to break the journey, maybe in Azrou and, for the night, at the Cascades d’Ouzoud. That would give you 5 nights or so in Marrakesh, which would allow you to see the city and also get into the Atlas Mountains for a day (or overnight) trip.
Or you could fly into Marrakesh and also add on a visit to the southern oases and the Sahara. This is an incredible region of mud-brick kasbahs and palmeries; just bear in mind that you’re looking at a 750km round-trip to Zagora (for the Sahara) from Marrakesh, or over 1000km if you wanted to go to Merzouga.
We hired a car to travel on from Fez and to get us around the south, which meant we could stop where and when we wanted and we could easily transport our three kids (and associated paraphernalia!) around. Driving is pretty easy outside of the cities (we dropped the car off at the airport at Marrakesh). Plenty of buses and grand taxis run between Fez and Marrakesh, though they often leave very early and, in the case of grand taxis, cram in as many passengers as they possibly can – which is an experience in itself!