Visit Volubilis in Morocco: how to get there and what to see

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Alejandra Rangel
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Visible from the nearby holy city of Moulay Idriss Zerhoune, and from the highest points of the valley, Volubilis is the best known archaeological site and best preserved of the Morocco. This ancient Roman city, located between the imperial cities of Fes and Meknes in a fertile plain, once extended over 40 hectares.

History of Volubilis, Morocco

The history of Volubilis perfectly represents the many cultural influences of Morocco. The city bears the marks of several civilizations.



Volubilis was founded in the XNUMXrd century BC at a time when the area was part of Mauritania, which was then the territory of the Berbers. It was his capital and his administrative center and also one of the most remote cities of the Roman empire, located in the southwestern region.

The city grew rapidly when it was controlled by the Romans. The Romans transformed it into a typical city, complete with palaces to house Roman officials, a historic center, a triumphal arch, and temples dedicated to the Roman gods. Christianity was the religion practiced and Latin was the language spoken by the Greeks, Jews and Syrians who inhabited the city.

Volubilis began to truly thrive in the second and third centuries. At its peak, the city had between 10.000 and 20.000 inhabitants according to historians and lived mainly from the olive oil trade. The plains near Volubilis are still covered with olive trees!

The Romans left Volubilis towards the end of the third century AD. Later it was inhabited by a Christian community. Later, with the arrival of Islam in Morocco, the city became Muslim and was inhabited until the XNUMXth century.

Volubilis was not completely abandoned, not even when the capital was moved to Tangier in the third century and not even when it was founded Fes in the eighth century. This was until the XNUMXth century when a great earthquake seriously damaged it.



At present, Volubilis remains an important and well-preserved Roman site. The nearest town is Moulay Idriss, named after the great-grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. The site became famous abroad when Martin Scorsese chose it as a characteristic setting for his film "The Last Temptation of Christ".

What Volubilis looks like today

The Roman ruins of Volubilis are very interesting to visit as they are particularly well preserved for a 2000 year old city! Volubilis is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

The site rests on a plain at an altitude of 396 m. On both sides, it is bordered by two different rivers: Fertassa and Oued Khomane. Visitors find here fertile lands and splendid gardens, in stark contrast to some of the arid landscapes of the Moroccan desert in the south.

The city once had many stately homes, dozens of bakeries, and over 100 oil mills. After the earthquake that damaged the uninhabited city of Volubilis, numerous objects and statues were looted or exhibited in museums. Blocks of stone or marble were used for construction in the surrounding area, including for Meknes.

However, the Volubilis site remains worthy of interest.

 

One of the symbols of Volubilis is the arch of Caracalla. This well-preserved arch measures 8 meters high and more than 20 meters long. Its initial height was 14 meters! There is also the Porta Tingis, the Decumano Massimo, the Basilica and the Campidoglio.

But the real attraction of Volubilis are the beautiful tile mosaics that cover the floors. The images of Bacchus in his chariot and the depiction of the myth of Orpheus are almost perfectly intact and still in their original places, as are the Bath of Diana, le labors of Hercules, the Nymphs in the bath, Dionysus and the four seasons. In all, there are around 30 mosaics on the site, some fenced in for conservation and protection from visitor wear and tear.



The site is quite extensive, it takes at least 2 hours to visit Volubilis.

Visit Moulay Idriss Zerhoun

When visiting Volubilis, you can also stop for a short visit to the nearby town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, of around 10.000 inhabitants.

Moulay Idriss Zerhoun is an important spiritual city in Morocco because it houses the mausoleum of Moulay Idriss, founder of the city and the Hydrissid dynasty. Moulay Idriss is also the founder of the city of Fes.

Access to the city of Moulay Idriss has long been forbidden to non-Muslims. Only since 1916 have even members of other religions been able to visit this city, except for mosques.

The narrow streets typical of the medinas of other Moroccan cities offer beautiful glimpses for photographs. From here you can see the ancient city of Volubilis and the fertile plain that extends below the city!

Where sleeping in Volubilis

Volubilis is a Roman ruins site, obviously it is not possible to sleep on the site itself.

The best way to sleep near Volubilis is to spend a night in the nearby village of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun. An important village in the history of Morocco, although not very visited, it is a pleasure to spend a night there!

Spending a night near Volubilis allows you to visit the site early in the morning, without tourists. A recommended facility is Dar Zerhoune. Dar beautiful, well maintained, very clean and perfectly located! One of its strong points, the view from the terrace.


Another very convenient city to visit is Volubilis Meknes, located just 40 minutes by car.

Find a hotel near Volubilis

 

Practical information for visiting Volubilis, Morocco

    • Entrance to the site costs 70 DH for adults and 30 DH for children under 12.
    • If you visit the site in the summer it is best to avoid the hottest hours, as there are no places to shelter from the sun.
    • The visit to Volubilis lasts approximately a couple of hours.
    • You can find a refreshment point before the entrance and nearby the bathrooms.
    • Parking is free (in front of the main entrance to the site).
    • Access to the site is also possible with strollers.
Book a tour to visit Volubilis

 


How to get to Volubilis, Morocco

The ruins of the Roman city of Volubilis are located near the city of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, 30 kilometers north of Meknes.

By car

If you are traveling by car to Morocco, it is very easy to reach Volubilis from Meknes or Fes. A large car park allows you to park right in front of the site entrance.

The journey takes about 1h30 by car from Fes and about 30/40 minutes from Meknes.

  • Da Casablanca: Take the highway towards Rabat then Fes (Fez). Exit at Meknes West and take direction Moulay Idris Zerhoun, then Volubilis.
  • Da Fes: By motorway: direction Meknes, exit at Meknes East, then Moulay Idris and after Volubilis.

By Taxi

If you don't have a car, you can take a taxi to Volubilis (and elsewhere) but it's not the cheapest option.

The least expensive solution is to take a big taxi from Meknes. Large taxis take around 6 passengers and depart when the taxi is full. If you want to leave immediately, you have to pay for all 6 seats. In Meknes, large taxis leave from the station near the French Institute.

The Festival of Fes Sacral World Music, which takes place every June, holds an annual concert in Volubilis within the ancient Roman ruins which are a two-hour drive from Fes.

Volubilis in Marocco -
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