10 Things Not to Miss in Morocco
Morocco offers an incredibly diverse and heady mix of cultures and scenery. With stunning mountains, buzzing cities and endless deserts, the country has so much to offer and seems to change with every visit. A fascinating melting pot of cultures and religion, you’ll be immersed in cultural influences from around the world, architectural marvels and tons of historical intrigue. Magical, mysterious and utterly captivating. This is the ultimate destination if you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience and memories to treasure for years ahead.
1. Sahara Desert
The world’s largest hot desert, the Sahara Desert, maybe one of the most inhospitable places to live but it’s a pretty magical place to visit. From sunset camel rides across the huge rolling sand dunes, to dinner under the stars before star gazing around the campfire. An experience that will live with you forever!
2. Local Cuisine
Morocco is filled with flavour, in every sense of the word but no more so than their cuisine. The array of spices will awaken your taste buds with local dishes such as tagine’s accompanied by fluffy couscous or sweet pastry pastillas and of course, the obligatory mint tea which is to be consumed at any time of the day in Morocco! If you’re really into your food then why not take a cooking class so you can literally bring a taste of Morocco back home with you.
On your first visit to Marrakesh it feels like a different world. At its heart is the Jemaa el Fna, the home of Marrakesh’s street food and live entertainment from acrobats, dancers, musicians creating an unforgettable atmosphere in the evening. Spend your days getting lost in the chaotic souks and barter with the local stall-keepers. Add to this the ancient and ornate palaces and there is plenty to marvel at. For those looking for nightlife a little closer to home then visit Gueliz, the French Quarter, just outside the medina where you’ll find an array of lively bars and restaurants.
4. Atlas Mountains
The High Atlas Mountains loom large over Marrakesh creating a gateway into the south of the country and the Sahara Desert. It offers some fantastic hiking, including Mount Toubkal which stands at 4,165m – a challenging ascent even for experienced trekkers! For those who like the unusual, how about skiing at Morocco’s only ski resort at Oukaïmeden, a truly surreal experience!
Fez is arguably what Marrakesh was years ago, it’s more authentic, less touristy and the world’s largest car-free urban area. The usual donkeys’ carts, bikes make their way down the warren of alleyways, and in parts, you’ll find the somewhat charming ruins of the city’s medieval past. Given the size of the medina, a guide is recommended and be sure to visit famed leather tanneries. Finish your days of exploration enjoying the soothing sounds of the call to prayer, our favourite in Morocco.
No trip to Morocco would be complete without indulging in a traditional Moroccan hammam. And you’ll probably need it after all the dust and drama haggling in the souks and exploring. Luckily enough, Morocco does pampering extremely well and a good hammam, or Turkish bath, will revive your senses and melt away any stresses, aches and pains leaving you feeling light, refreshed and your skin rose-petal soft so you can face another day of mayhem. One tip, if you’re planning to work on your tan then a Hammam at the beginning of your trip is recommended!
The coastal town of Essaouira is far more chilled than the like of Marrakesh and Fez with its hippy vibe. Often referred to as the windy city of Africa it consistently provides just that so be prepared but for this very reason, it’s also popular with wind and kite surfers. Essaouira offers a far more European feel with its white and blue buildings combined with the usual souks, art galleries and some fabulous boutique hotels and raids. Unsurprisingly there is also some delicious, fresh seafood on offer so be sure to take advantage.
Although most of us struggle to pronounce Chefchaouen (chef-chow-en), most of you will recognise the shades of blue of Morocco’s most eye-catching city from social media. The Blue Pearl, as it’s known, offers more than just the perfect Instagram shot though. Set high up in the mountains, making the town a pleasure to explore many bars and restaurants offering fabulous views. Don’t miss the beautifully restored kasbah off the Plaza Uta El Hammam.
9. Ait Ben Haddou
From whichever entrance you approach this mud-brick Kasbah from you’re bound to feel as though you’ve seen it before somewhere and you’re absolutely right. Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile, Living Daylights, Indiana Jones, Gladiator and most recently Game of Thrones have all featured this UNESCO world heritage site as Ait Ben Haddou and there are many more! Enjoy a wander through the red clay mudbrick streets of the town winding your way up to the viewpoint above the ancient town.
Accommodation is probably what sets Morocco apart from almost anywhere else in the world as it’s so unique filled with the character of the country. It’s easy to be tempted by the seemingly fabulous deals from the bigger, more standard hotels that surround the big cities but you really will be missing out of the magical experience of staying in a Riad. Riad’s are ornately decorated old private homes that have been converted into guesthouses, typically they are 3-4 stories high and have 4-8 rooms surrounding a central courtyard with a dipping pool and a terrace on the top floor creating the perfect zen environment away from the chaos of the souks. In the more rural areas, you’ll likely encounter Kasbahs which resemble fortified castles and although more spacious they are just as charming. Then, of course, let us not forget the Bedouin tents of the Sahara Desert!
Written by James Chisnall