The Vagabond’s Cheap Way for Visiting Volubilis and Moulay Idriss from Fes

This is an article about visiting Volubilis in Moulay Idriss, Morocco. Please, read on.

I’ve been to many sites of Roman ruins, from Ephesus to Barcelona, even in little Poitiers. Somehow the feeling never goes away. I call it wise ground. Dirt and rocks and carved stone, sometimes stacked, that has seen history. Wouldn’t it be marvelous to tap into the stone and hear the sounds that have reverberated off its surface, or to see all the turmoil of all the ages through its solid eyes? Even a small, meaningless thing like a young Roman boy falling and scraping his knee. Where’s that app?

In Morocco, when I learned of a Roman city called Volubilis, not 4 kilometers from the holy city (town, more like), of Moulay Idriss, I decided I had to go. Rome is well and good, but only in the early drunk morning when no one else is around to make modern noises and talk to keep you in the present. I want to wander alone in a Roman ruin, and let it take me back to whatever my small mind can imagine for me.

I was in Fes, staying in the Medina at Riad Doha. I took plenty of photos, and of Moroccan food, too. But I decided, along with Mayra, that we would do well to break away from this ancient city and see something ancientier. I prefer hitchhiking, always. But only when time is not limited. This is, therefore, a vagabond’s guide to a cheap way to visit Volubilis and Moulay Idriss from Fes.

How to get to Volubilis and Moulay Idriss from Fes

Some will tell you to take a taxi from Fes, but no vagabond or budget traveler should listen to such ridiculous advice. Instead, the train from Fes to Meknes is the best option, if not hitchhiking. It costs 20 Dirhams and takes about an hour. I placed a map below for you travelers to pinpoint the exact places I mention in this description.

Fes train to Meknes

Mayra in the train from Fez to Meknes

From the Meknes train station, make your way toward the Institute Francaise. Either memorize how to walk there, take a turquoise taxi, or figure out a city bus. The point on the map indicates the exact location where you ought to wait for a city bus to Moulay Idriss. The city bus will cost you around 10 dirhams. This in comparison to the 150 dirhams for a Grand Taxi.

Visiting Volubilis means getting to Moulay Idriss first. If Volubilis is the ancient ruins, Moulay Idriss is the closest modern town. On the map, you’ll see where you can get off in town to grab a bite in the market. From there, you can walk the 4 kilometers to Volubilis. Or, take a grand taxi for 50 dirhams (no vagabond will do this). The final option is to start walking and flag down a green minivan, which is a bus that will cost you 4 dirhams. Tell them to let you out at the road to Volubilis, and it’ll be about a kilometer from there walking. We hitchhiked from Moulay Idriss, which is the only trajectory we hitchhiked in Morocco.

The bus that can bring you between Volubilis and Moulay Idriss

The bus that can bring you between Volubilis and Moulay Idriss

As you can see on the map, Volubilis has a main entrance and a clandestine one. We paid the 4 dirhams it cost to get into the site. But for those visiting Volubilis who prefer to sneak in, there is a gap in the fence at the far northern gate. No guards around. There are no tickets or wrist bands. Here’s that gap in the fence:

The way to sneak into Volubilis, if you want

The way to sneak into Volubilis, if you want

To get back to Meknes from Moulay Idriss, after you’ve walked, hitchhiked or taken that green van taxi from Volubilis, try to get on the city bus again. If you’re doing this later in the day, it will be packed. Do not try to get on the city bus from Moulay Idriss’ market. Walk up the hill until you get to where the bus turns around. People will rush the doors so make sure you get on early. 10 dirhams to get back to Meknes from Moulay Idriss. The last bus I believe is at 20:00, so don’t be late. The last train from Meknes back to Fes is around 11:30.

Moulay Idriss, the bus stop for taking the bus back to Meknes

Moulay Idriss, the bus stop for taking the bus back to Meknes

 

Photos from visiting Volubilis and Moulay Idriss

To toy with your palette, here are some photos from visiting Volubilis. Also, some photos from Moulay Idriss.

Moroccan rural dwelling

Moroccan rural dwelling

Visiting the holy city of Moulay Idriss

Visiting the holy city of Moulay Idriss

Arcades at the main plaza of Volubilis

Arcades at the main plaza of Volubilis

A main gate of Volubilis

One principal gate at Volubilis

Moroccan Roman ruins of Volubilis

Moroccan Roman ruins of Volubilis

Overgrown Roman ruins

Overgrown Roman ruins

Corinthian headstones at Volubilis

Corinthian headstones at Volubilis

Ruins of Volubilis

Ruins of Volubilis

Swastikas at the site of Volubilis.

Swastikas at the site of Volubilis

A Roman mosaic. Volubilis has amazing Roman mosaics

A Roman mosaic. Volubilis has amazing Roman mosaics

Roman tiles, of which Volubilis is filled

Roman tiles, of which Volubilis is filled

A Roman mosaic with a swastika, and a pigeon or something.

A Roman mosaic with a swastika, and a pigeon or something

Me, wandering around the ruins at Volubilis

Me, wandering around the ruins at Volubilis

Volubilis Mosaics

Volubilis Mosaics


This is the Velabas travel blog. It’s a complement to the travel stories, which describe in narrative prose a journey hitchhiking around the world. This post about visiting Volubilis, Morocco’s best Roman ruins, is part of a series of posts on Morocco. Here are some of the others:


 

11 Responses

  1. Stephen says:

    Thank you Cale for this guide. I went to Meknes on the train from Fez last Friday and stayed overnight in a Riad near Bab Berdaine. I was expecting to go to the Institut Francaise to catch the bus as you suggested but the Riad family told me to get the Moulay Idriss bus from just outside Bab Berdaine, When coming out of the gate from the medina, you just turn left and walk a few paces and there is a small layby by the gate (on the same side of the road as the gate). I didn’t see any bus stop but the bus came along quite soon from the west, picked us up and took us down the hill and up the other side and then left by the Institut Francaise and then on to Moulay Idriss.

    So if you are visiting Meknes medina as well (recommended), that is the most convenient place to get the bus.

  2. Stephen Rudman says:

    It’s a number15 we took from Bab Bardaine. Ryad Bab Berdaine said it was 7Dh and that’s what we paid.

    We walked back from Volubilis to Moulay Idris and met 3 older Moroccan ladies all called Fatima who were also making the same walk. They were very friendly as we had a bit of Arabic and invited us for tea but we didn’t have time sadly. So nice to meet other people on a walk on a country road. We saw quite a few others walking in both directions.

  3. Stephen Rudman says:

    PS the Riad Bab Berdaine in Meknes was very nice. Only 20 euros for the night and really friendly with a nice breakfast. I have no connection with them 🙂

  4. Jose says:

    Cale,

    Thank you very much for writing this post! I went two days ago and followed your advice step by step. I can confirm that, until 2 days ago, bus 15 takes you from Meknes to Moulay Idriss. You can get down at the roundabout colse ro Moulay Idriss and walk to Volubilis (I hitchhiked 🙂 )

    Thanks again for all the help!!!

  5. Thomas says:

    Between the Bab Berdaine and Institute Francaise spots, bus 15 also picks up at the large roundabout by the bridge that connects the old and new sections of town. Look for the indented pullout diagonally across from McDonald’s.

  6. Simone says:

    nice post guys .. very informative thank you ! do you confirm one day trip from Fes is enough to see Volubilis and Meknes? thanks 🙂

  7. Yessica says:

    I just arrive after an amazing (and rainy) day in Volubilis, Mulay Idris and Meknes.
    Thank you so much for all the recomendation, I did just what you did except because Itale a petitaxi from Volobulis to Mulay Idris. I even pay 50 dh! Haha
    Thak you again,
    Yessica.

  8. Thiago says:

    I just did the trip from Meknes to Volubilis today, your post really helped us. What I would do if going again is getting off the bus 15 on the roundabout just before Mulay Idris and walk the easy 2km downhill to Volubilis.
    Your tip about the northern entrance will be useful as the ticket price will be 70 dirhans next month.
    Finally, be attentive on the green mini buses. Some tend to “forget” to give your change. Act as you already know the price!

  9. Nick Martini says:

    Hi, thank you so much for this blog! My wife and I had the best day in Morroco visiting Volubilis, despite being soaking wet from the rain. After spending our holiday feeling dragged through shops on organized tours while they try to shake every last MAD from our pockets. I mean, a tourist can only buy so much, one would think… anyway, We followed your tips took a cab to the train station in Fez (paid 20MAD which is still too much probably, 15 is a good price), the train was clean, straight forward and fast, 22MAD 35 min train ride (the 5 minute delay is no different than it would be in Belgium or probably any other country). Once in Meknes we took a cab to the bus station, petit taxis were not very willing to take us there but after negotiating a price of 20MAD we got dropped of nearby institute Francaise, unfortunately school was just out and as we arrived at the bus stop we had to compete with a hundred kids to get on the bus so we didn’t bother and waited for the next bus #15, which took about 45 minutes. I didn’t mind at all, especially after only paying 14MAD for the both of us. We got off at the roundabout before Moulay Idriss and walked the 2KM downhill which was nice after being in the poluted cities of Fez and Marrakech. The site of Volubilis was informative and the preservation of the mosaics was stunning and I’m happy we didn’t get a guide cause when a guided group walked by you could tell that they’ve just memorised the signs in front of the monuments.
    Out of laziness we took a grande taxi back for 90MAD to the big train station (there was a sign on the parking lot listing the prices to different destinations yet they tried claiming it’s a 120MAD – can’t blame them for trying- but don’t give in). The taxi ride back from the mall by Fes’ train station cause we ait dinner there was only 10MAD without bargaining, seemed fair to me (I wish taxis in Belgium were cheap like that). All in all we spent 330MAD tickets to Volubilis for the both of us included. Way cheaper than the €120 trip our riad tried to sell us and very satisfying and relaxing to do it by ourselves, with the help of this blog of course!

  10. Stefanie says:

    Thanks for this great info! How much time total do you think one needs to get from Meknes to Volubilis and back to Meknes by bus & walking (as you suggested), including time at the site? Thanks!

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