Laura Crawley - Freelance Writer
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Morocco has been calling foreigners for decades. Few places in the world have captured the hearts of artists, the wealthy, the famous, and the everyday person. Its overwhelming charm lies in how it roots tradition, culture, music, and food deeply into every fiber of modern-day life. The fragrance of middle eastern spice will greet you as you wander the souqs. Incredible tile mosaics in opulent riads will bewitch your eyes, or the allure of a trek across the desert may draw you in. Morocco has something for almost everyone. So let us tempt you, if you aren't already, to experience the magic of Morocco for yourself.
October and November are among the best months to see all of Morocco. The summer heat has broken, and the Sahara has more favorable weather. Since it's the high season, prices will likely be higher for accommodations and flights. Winter can bring frigid temperatures at night but make for pleasant sunny days. If you want to visit the northwest, though, it can be rainy. With the bloom of spring, temperatures remain mild and enjoyable for sightseeing. Unfortunately, though, it may be raining in the north, and it's sandstorm season in the Sahara.
Easter is an enormously popular holiday for Europeans to visit, so you may want to keep this in mind when booking your trip. The summer months are prime season for those who wish to explore the Atlas Mountains. Moroccans flock to the beaches during this time to escape the sweltering interior of the country. Depending on what you want to see, the shoulder seasons may be a better fit for your budget and still have pleasant weather.
As a predominately Muslim country, you will need to keep religious holidays and practices in mind. Modest dress covering the knees and shoulders is recommended, especially in rural areas. While not expected in most situations for foreign women, having a light scarf to cover your head may be advisable in case the occasion arises.
The holy month of Ramadan will affect business hours throughout the country and other Muslim holidays. Also, Casablanca's Hassan II Mosque is the only mosque in the country open to non-Muslims, with regular tours operated by the mosque.
The official languages of Morocco are Moroccan Arabic (Darija) and Amazigh (Berber), although French is widely spoken and remains the primary language of tourism and commerce.
Ninety-day tourist visas are easily accessible to many foreign visitors. Riads are a popular hotel option. These former palatial homes often have beautiful tile work and lush accommodations. Don't forget to check out AirBnB for more choices.
Vibrant, chaotic, and fragrant Marrakech is a must-see for any trip to Morocco. At the heart of this former imperial city lies an ancient walled Medina filled with treasures to see. The scent of cumin, saffron, and turmeric drifts through the air as you meander its maze-like streets. Teaming with amazing sights and activities, we've listed a few of the city's best below.
Jemaa el-Fnaa (the assembly place of nobodies) marketplace could be considered the heart of the historic Medina. This area truly comes to life after dark. Street food vendors, market stalls, spices vendors, artisans, acrobats, snake charmers, fortune tellers, musicians, and spectators fill the square as the sun descends. It is easy to get lost here for hours and never get bored—an essential part of your trip to Marrakech.
Ben Youssef Madrasa, now functionally solely as a historical site, was originally an Islamic college. The Ben Youseff Mosque sits adjacent and was founded by the Almoravid Sultan Ali bin Yusuf (reigned 1106-1142). Islamic schools taught a variety of subjects from history to literature to science. Ben Youssef had one of the most significant religious studies programs in North Africa. Stunning architecture and design are integrated into almost every detail of the building. It's a photographer's dream.
You can find an affordable half-day tour that makes sure to stop at these two must-see spots by clicking on the link below.
The Gardens of Marrakech are nothing short of breathtaking. One of the most iconic ones is the Jardin de Majorelle. The painter Jacque Majorelle initially owned this former home and final resting place of Yves St Laurent. The brilliant blues of the structures throughout the garden set this gorgeous location apart from all the rest. The Jardin Bio-Aromatique d'Ourika (also called the Necratome) is an incredible aromatic garden that you can visit with a day trip from the city center. Housing at least 50 species of Morocco's medicinal, aromatic, and ornamental plants, this unique site offers food, guided tours, and aromatic products. The Jardin Secret on Rue Mouassine is an excellent example of an Islamic garden with classic geometric patterns. Lastly, the visual wonder, Viennese artist Andre Heller's Anima Garden, blends art and beautiful flora. A free shuttle service is available by reservation through their website from central Marrakech Thursday to Sunday. We found a guided tour of the Jardin de Majorelle garden followed by a camel ride to La Palmeraie.
Palacio da Bahia is an extravagant 19th-century palace filled with beautiful tile mosaics and detailed architecture. Began in 1859 and expanded through 1900, this palace is a classic example of the Islamic design of the era. You'll also have a chance to learn more about the grand vizier and his family and explore the grand marble courtyard.
If you are visiting Marrakech for the first time and would be interested in getting a whirlwind tour of the city by an experienced guide, then you can click the link below. This full-day guided tour stops at all of the locations mentioned above for Marrakech and more, all for an affordable price.
Many consider Fes to be the cultural heart of Morocco. This destination is famous for its tanneries and historical Medina. Located in the northwest, its Marinid architecture and old-world feel bring visitors in and seduces them with vibrant colors and an immersive atmosphere. Travel to Fes is simple from most large cities by bus or train. If you're feeling adventurous, there are 3-day desert tours from Marrakech to Fes with a private driver that will guide you along the way and take you for a one-hour camel ride!
Fes al Bali, the city's medina, is the largest and oldest in Northern Africa. Dating back to the 9th century, this area is UNESCO World Heritage Site. As one of the largest urban car-free areas in the world, you can easily get lost inside this labyrinthine city and discover the hidden gems it has to offer. Some gates of the Medina close around 7 pm, so choose a hotel inside its walls to avoid late evening complications.
The tanneries in Fes are world-famous not only for their history but their pungent odor. Large stone vats filled with dyes or softening liquids for skins fill the area. The process is essentially the same as when the city was first founded. Chouara Tannery is the largest in the city and the oldest in the world. As a significant tourist draw, make sure to find a good viewpoint from a rooftop to take in the entire scene.
Kairaouine Mosque is one of the world's oldest universities and the second-largest mosque in Morocco. As with most mosques in the country, it's off-limits to non-Muslims, but you can glimpse the exceptional interior through its many gates.
Al-Attarine Madrasa takes its name from the Souq Al-Attarine spice and perfume market. Recognized as one of the highest achievements in Marinid architecture, its balanced and rich decorations complement the limited space.
For those wanting to get away from the masses, Jardin Jnan Sybil is an oasis. Perhaps not as grand as those in Marrakech, this charming garden has a small lake and allows you to escape the busy medina streets.
The small city has become famous for its blue hue in the last few years. Located in the Rif mountains, the blue city stands out in the countryside. Wandering around every azure nook and cranny while soaking in the local life is the attraction. You're going there to explore and relax. The cost of its beauty and isolation is the time it takes to get there. Three to four hours by bus from Fes or Tangier, we recommend if you make the journey there to stay at least one night. Sunrise and sunset illuminate the city walls giving them dazzling hues.
This historic fortified city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular film set, located along the caravan route from the Sahara to Marrakech. The most recent and famous of which was Game of Thrones. The entire city is made exclusively from wood, clay, and other earthen materials. This can be seen as a full-day trip from Marrakesh but takes 3-4 hours each way.
This beautiful quaint fishing village on the Atlantic Ocean has Arab, African, French, and Roman influences. From its white-washed buildings to its fresh, delicious seafood, this small town can be enjoyed as a day trip or a few nights. Trade winds in the area keep the temperatures cooler than other beaches. Combined with calmer waters, it is an excellent place to try kite surfing or windsurfing. Also, visitors can wander, taste, and shop at their leisure with a small medina. There are many affordable day-trip tours that go from Marrakech to Essaouria.
For those looking to experience the majestic dunes of the Sahara, a trip to Erg Chebbi's dunes at the foot of the desert may be for you. Merzouga, the local tourist center, is where most people come to start their journey into the sand. Camel treks or 4x4 treks into the dunes are available, many with overnight stays where you can eat and rest under the stars. Some camps offer additional entertainment such as Berber drums and singing. If you are lucky enough to come when there has been rainfall, Dayet Sriji Lake may reappear for you. During the bird migration, you may even be able to see pink flamingos in the desert!
There are 3 Atlas mountain ranges in Morocco. The best for hiking and to experience pockets of local culture. With only a 90 minute ride from Marrakech, this area has pristine countryside to explore on foot or four-wheel drive. Hikers can enjoy moderate day hikes to challenging multi-day treks while stopping at small Berber villages along the way. The locals, known to be warm-hearted, may even invite you in for mint tea.
Jebel Toubkal is North Africa's highest peak and Morocco's most popular summit at 4,167 meters. The trek takes two days to complete, and hiring a guide may be advisable to have the safest and most in-depth experience. Dades Valley is another popular hiking destination due to its unusual rock formations and often empty trails. It's best to visit the High Atlas region from April to October, but check the heat before venturing out in the depths of summer.
This 110-meter (about 360 ft) waterfall offers beautiful views and hiking paths on a popular day trip from Marrakech. The three-tiered falls attract visitors and Moroccans alike. However, since it may get crowded when day-trippers arrive, you can opt to stay overnight for a quieter experience.
The playground of writers and artists, Tangier's historical Medina should not be missed. Located near the main ferry port, you can arrive in Tangier or take a ferry trip across the Gibraltar Strait to Spain. Below are a few highlights, but you can also explore many seaside day trips available from Tangier if time permits.
The Kabash in the northern section of Tangier was a defense fortress with an adjoining palace for the sultan. Walk the ramparts and enjoy the beautiful architecture. The Kabash Museum inside the palace boasts excellent Moroccan art and history exhibits that you must see. Intimate cafes surround the Kabash and offer stunning views while you leisurely sip your coffee.
The Atlantic and Mediterranean meet at Cape Spartel just west of Tangier. A popular place for a late afternoon stroll, you can stop for sunset and view the lighthouse. Achakkar Beach lies just below with Hercules's Cave, where he lived according to myth. Enjoy a pleasant afternoon taking in the sea views.
Larache, a seaside town south of Tangier, was a trading center for Romans, Phoenicians, and Carthaginians. Overgrown ruins include an acropolis, theatre, baths, and a temple. It is the closest settlement to the Lixus site where Hercules was thought to have gathered the golden apples.
To the west of Lixus, the small seafront medina in Laroche has remains of Hispano-Moorish architecture. A lovely stopover on your way to Rabat.
Morocco has even more treasures to see, and this by no means is an exhaustive list. With a rich history, culture, and many historical foreign influences, the country is steeped in the magic of tradition. We hope this overview of some top spots has whet your appetite for Morocco. True to its roots, this amazing country should be on everyone's bucket list.
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