There’s something magical about Morocco, it’s a treasure trove for travellers to explore. Here’s our pick of the best places to visit whilst traversing the gateway of Africa.
The country has a rich cultural tapestry, as traditional Berber, Arabic and European cultures are intricately woven together. A journey through the exotic North African gem promises plenty of diverse and evocative experiences – from winding your way through the bustling souks of ancient cities, immersing yourself in rural Berber village life, soaking up bohemian beachside vibes of coastal towns, climbing the snow-capped High Atlas mountains or traversing through the Sahara Desert on the back of a camel. Travellers who seek to uncover what this unique region has to offer are enchanted by imperial cities, ancient treasures and breathtaking scenery.
Marrakech has long held a romantic allure for foreign visitors intrigued by the mesmerising metropolis. Marrakech will delight bohemians, artistic types and aesthetes who flock to Morocco’s ‘capital of cool’. The exotic, ochre-coloured city has plenty of attractions such as the chaotic main square Jamaa el Fna, the majestic Koutoubia Mosque, the tranquil haven of Jardin Majorelle ( YSL gardens) and the Old Medina with it’s maze of Medieval alleyways, vibrant souks and trendy rooftop cafes.
The breezy, beachside town of Essaouira is the go-to place to escape Morocco’s scorching summer heat. The fortified medina has a characteristically relaxed, bohemian vibe. It’s shabby-chic aesthetic, spice-scented lanes, art-galleries and trendy boutiques attract everyone from local Moroccans, free-spirited travellers to well-heeled jetsetters – all of whom are swept up in the charms of Essaouira. One of the simplest pleasures is taking a seat at an open-air seafood shack in the port side market – where the freshly caught ‘fish of the day’ is grilled right in front of you and served with a wedge of lemon.
Drive twenty minutes south of Marrakech and the scenery changes dramatically. The Ourika Valley is a lush, fertile region in the shadow of the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains. The fresh-air and beautiful scenery make it a popular retreat from the heat of the Marrakech’s medina. All year round visitors enjoy the outdoors – hiking through the glorious landscape, a visit to a local Berber village, cooling off at the waterfall of Setti Fatma or relaxing at the luxury eco retreat, Kasbah Bab Ourika.
Crumbling old Kasbahs and lush oases lined with palm-tree groves are Skoura’s main attractions. Whilst you are there – pick fresh dates off the trees, wander the heat-cracked earth tracks and meet the friendly locals harvesting olives and riding donkeys laden with produce. One of the primary reasons to visit Skoura is to indulge in the idyllic experience of Dar Ahlam, a restored 19th Century Kasbah known as the ‘house of dreams’.
This picturesque part of Southern Morocco is poetically referred to as the ‘land of a thousand kasbahs’. It is home to some of the most spectacular natural landscape – from the towering red rock formation Todra Gorge, to epic zig-zig mountain passes and fertile oases. Imagine palm trees sweeping against a backdrop of rustic Berber villages and dusty red earth. Due to its striking environment, this part of Morocco is popular with photographers, hiking-enthusiasts and rock climbers.
Ait Ben Haddou
The centuries-old mud brick city on the edge of the High Atlas Mountains was a former caravan route between Marrakech and the Sahara Desert. You may recognise the fantastical backdrop from films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator or more recently HBO’s Game of Thrones. Although the UNSECO World Heritage listed site is somewhat off-the-beaten-track, it’s an absolute must-see when visiting Morocco.
The Sahara Desert
One of the dreamiest experiences you can have in Morocco is riding a camel along the golden-hued dunes as the sun sets over the Sahara Desert. Merzouga Luxury Desert Camp is regarded as one of the most luxurious camping experiences in the world. Drink Moroccan mint tea at the secluded campsite, swap stories with Berber nomads over a crackling campfire and sleep under the bright starry sky in the great expanse of the Sahara Desert.
This Northern imperial city is Morocco’s cultural capital and sometimes referred to the ‘Athens of Africa’. Wandering around the labyrinth of the ancient medina Fes El Bali is like stepping back in time. Explore the winding alleyways, medieval architecture and bustling souks. One of the city’s most iconic sights is the tannery, where leather has been worked since medieval times. Be sure to take a sprig of mint that’s offered to you, as the fragrance helps mask the pungent odours.
Standing majestically over a fertile valley of wheat fields and surrounded by twisted olive trees are Morocco’s best-preserved Roman ruins -the remains of the ancient capital of Mauretania. The once major outpost for the Roman Empire is now a UNESO Heritage listed archaeological site.
The ancient town is an Islamic pilgrimage site that sweeps across the foothills of Mount Zerhoun. Moulay Idriss is the holiest place in Morocco, where Moulay Idris Al Akbar is buried. It’s a hidden gem on the tourist map having only recently been fully opened up to non-Muslim visitors.
High up in the Rif Mountains in Northern Morocco the striking blue-washed village of Chefchaouen cascades down the rugged mountainside. The walls of the old town are bedecked with a palette of powdery-blue hues, a tradition that originated over five-hundred years ago by Jewish exiles from Spain. The resulting effect is one of the prettiest medinas in Morocco and a dream for photographers.
For centuries Tangier has been the gateway of Africa due to its unique position as a trade route between Europe and North Africa. The whitewashed, seaside city has a slightly seedy past – in the mid-1920s it was an international zone that was hotspot for eccentric foreigners, artists and beat-generation writers. After years of neglect it’s now undergoing some form of renaissance and gradually enticing travellers back to its crumbling and character-filled medina.
For more information:
My opinion is, and will always be, my own. The Portmanteau Press only includes content that aligns with the aesthetic, standard and values of the brand.