Cheap Way to Africa on Avios: Morocco
There was a recent airfare deal on AA to Morocco from airfare watch dog pic.twitter.com/d5HMFWwj9T.
After looking at a map, Casablanca is only 500 miles from Madrid. Iberia has flights to CMN (Casablanca). This would be a great time to use Avios points.
As I live in Boston, I can take advantage of the Boston-Dublin flights that will get me to Europe. Aer Lingus also has cheap flights elsewhere in Europe, including Madrid. You would then use some Avios points to get down to CMN. I saw there were some options to go to Morocco by Ferry or Ferry/High Speed train from Barcelona, which would be an interesting route to take.
Casablanca – 9k Avios roundtrip
Marrakesh: 15k Avios roundtrip (12 miles over the lowest tier)
Both flights have good availability in the last week of September, but I would expect decent availability outside of holidays. Iberia flies to both Casablanca and Marrakesh from Madrid and Barcelona.
The flight MAD-CMN is 9k points and $170 in fees roundtrip. You can reduce this fee if you transfer the Avios to an Iberia account. Remember that you will need an Iberia account open for three months before transferring Avios from BA account to Iberia. Also, American Express Rewards is a transfer partner of Iberia. Here is a post that covers transferring Avios from BA to Iberia:
The cheapest option would be fly to Casablanca and then take an overnight bus to Marrakesh. It is covered in the blog posts below.
To get to the Sahara Desert, many of the trips start in Marrakesh and it takes about 36 hours to get to the edge of the Sahara Desert. Since I do not have much time, I would opt to fly on Avios directly to Marrakesh and start the trip into the Sahara, and then stopping in Casablanca via flight on my way back to Spain (Madrid or Barcelona).
Below are two blogs about trips into the Sahara Desert from Marrakesh. There are many trip operators that goes into the Sahara so both posts said you don’t necessarily have to book ahead of time. The last blog recommended a trip four or more days as about three days is used to just get to the desert.
This would be my plan if I were to do a trip:
BOS-DUB-MAD-RAK then RAK-CMN, CMN-TNG, take a ferry from Tangiers to Spain, then high speed train into either Madrid or Barcelona. There is an overnight ferry into Barcelona but many recommended the high speed train.
As this is a blog about running, here are two marathons in Morocco:
Casablanca Marathon (10-27-2013): No online registration. Registration the Friday or Saturday before the marathon. You can get a guaranteed entry from foreign tour operators for about 200EUR with 3 night hotel package.
Marrakesh Marathon (1-26-2014): Online registration available. Marathon for 50EUR.
Both seem very interesting but I would run Casablanca if I had the choice as it is the Moroccan capital city with a lot of history. However, I feel better with the online registration of the Marrakesh Marathon.
An interesting double marathon weekend would be the Casablanca Marathon on Sunday, then Dublin Marathon on Monday. Packet pickup for Dublin and registration of Casablanca would be a bit difficult but very interesting. Fly into Casablanca for registration Friday, then Packet pickup in Dublin on Saturday, then back to Casablanca Saturday night before the Marathon. Fly back to Dublin Sunday and run Monday. You could possibly arrange packet pickup on Friday, Casablanca registration Saturday and run, then back to Dublin for the marathon Monday.
There is an ultra marathon as well: Marathon Des Sables. It is a six day 156mi ultra marathon through the Sahara Desert. According to wikipedia, it is considered the hardest foot race on Earth.
There is the Zagora Marathon that is on December 29th, 2013. The website isn’t working and there is not much information about it. I would opt to run in the bigger marathons of Casablanca or Marrakesh.