volubilis roman ruins ancient archeological site

Visit to Ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis in Morocco

You would never expect to find ancient Roman ruins in Morocco. And not small ruins, but the whole city of Volubilis, Morocco, dating from the 3rd century BC and built in a 40-hectare territory.

When I first time visited the Volubilis Archaeological Site, Morocco, I didn’t think it to be so huge and well-preserved.

The mosaics, impressively better preserved than those in major world museums, were perfect to compile in my self-made photobook, showcasing their unique beauty. There is even a giant triumphal arch – impressive for that time.

History of Volubilis

Volubilis Archaeological Site is in a fertile agricultural area, about 30 km north of Meknes city and around 60 km from Fez. The history of Volubilis dates to the 3rd century BC as a settlement of a Berber, then proto-Carthaginian. Later Volubilis became the capital of the kingdom of Mauretania. From the 1st century AD onwards, Volubilis grew under Roman rule and was the Roman Empire’s most remote city.

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Since then, Volubilis, Morocco, has rapidly grown to 40 hectares, with a 2.5-kilometre-long wall to protect it.  As historians state, in the 3rd century BC, Volubilis was home to 20,000 residents. Most buildings,  public places, and residencies with amazing mosaic tile works and triumphal arches were built during that period.  Locals made their wealth mainly off olive oil production.

volubilis morocco roman ruins ancient archeological site
volubilis morocco roman ruins ancient archeological site

Tragic earthquake

In the late 8th century, Volubilis became home to Idris ibn Abdallah, the founder of the Idrisid dynasty and the “founder of Morocco”. Later, people moved from Volubilis to live to Fez and Moulay Idriss. In the 18th century, a powerful earthquake demolished many fully standing structures.

Only around the 1830s, the French army began excavations in Volubilis; many monuments were restored. However, until now, only about half of the 40-hectare site at Volubilis has been uncovered. In 1997, Unesco declared Volubilis a World Heritage site to protect this unique place.

volubilis morocco roman ruins ancient archeological site
volubilis morocco roman ruins ancient archeological site
volubilis morocco roman ruins ancient archeological site

How to get to Volubilis, morocco?

Volubilis is located about 30 km north of Meknes city, and around 60 km from Fez. The nearest village Moulay Idriss is 5 km away from the site. Volubilis is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and farmer fields.

If you stay in Fez, Volubilis can be a fantastic day trip. As it’s enough to spend 2 hours in Volubilis, on the same day you can visit the nearby Moulay Idriss Zerhoun village and have a short tour of the imperial city of Meknes.

1. step: From Fez to Meknes

To get from Fez to Volubilis on your own, catch the train from Fez to Meknes. For train schedules, check the official Moroccan Railway website Oncf-voyages.ma.  Train to Meknes leaves every 30 minutes; the journey takes 35 min and costs 25 Dh (around 2 euros).

In Meknes,  you can have some free time exploring the imperial city or head directly to the grand taxi parking spot for the Moulay Idriss village.  Grand taxis are located next to the d’Amour garden (across the road from the Institut Français entrance), the coordinates are here. The grand taxi to Moulay Idriss costs around 10 Dh/a seat.

volubilis morocco roman ruins ancient archeological site

2. Step: FROM Moulay Idriss to Volubilis

From Moulay Idriss village, you can take another taxi to Volubilis, which costs around 30 Dh/one way for the whole taxi. You can agree with the taxi driver to wait for you. However, some taxis always wait at Volubilis, or you can walk back to Moulay Idriss. I did walk myself and enjoyed it.

Can you get a grand taxi from Meknes directly to Volubilis? Yes, if you pay for the whole taxi and the driver agrees to wait for you until you explore Volubilis. It can cost around 300 Dh.


volubilis morocco roman ruins ancient archeological site
After driving from the Volubilis, you can choose either to turn left to Chefchaouen-Ceuta direction or right back to Moulay Idriss/Meknes/Fez

If you are going to Volubilis in a rented car, you can continue through a local scenic towards Chefchouen city after the visit.

I drove myself once from Marrakech to Chefchouen, stopping at Moylay Idriss for lunch and visiting Volubilis, Morocco. We started early morning and were in Chefchoeun around 8 pm. Or, opposite, you can drive from Chefchouen directly to Volubilis, not taking another road to Fez.

Information for visitors

Trip with donkeys

If you want more off-beaten paths experience, book a donkey trip from Moulay Idriss to Volubilis. The trip can be booked through the Dar Zerhoune guest house in Moulay Idriss. 

You would take a donkey from Moulay Idriss, through the main square, past the town park, and on the mountain road, past olive groves to Volubilis. On the way, you will enjoy panoramic views of Moulay Idriss, the Zerhoune mountain range and the valley surrounding Volubilis. More info here.

When you book a donkey tour with Dar Zerhoune guest house, you also support their donkey project. It brings vet care to the town, does vaccination and educates locals on how to take care of their own donkeys.


Funny fact about my picture below. This “stork nest holding pose” was offered by the guardian who also took the pic. After, I saw he was suggesting to take a picture of the same posture for more tourists. Of course, tips were appreciated. I was laughing imagining an Instagram full of photos with tourists holding the same stork nest.

volubilis morocco roman ruins ancient archeological site

To conclude

Volubilis is definitely worth to drive off the main road for a visit.  This place reminds me again about the rich history of Morocco and a beautiful glimpse into the complex past of Northwest Africa.

volubilis morocco roman ruins ancient archeological site

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