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One of Africa’s most popular destinations, Morocco is a country rich in diverse cities, fantastic cuisine, and spectacular sites. The two main cities, Casablanca and Fès, have different feels and scenes, but they’re both perfect places for strolling aimlessly and getting lost in sights, sounds, and smells. Want to spoil yourself? Have a massage. Feeling adventurous? Go trekking in the mountains. Many of Hollywood’s biggest movies have been filmed in the desert regions of Morocco, so make sure to check them out, too.
Travel around the country is fast and comfortable, thanks to well-maintained train lines. As Morocco is the premier tourist enclave in North Africa, it’s worth spending as much time there as possible; if you can manage one to two weeks, do so, and pack in as much as you can.
The Top 10: What to Do in Morocco
1. Spa Time:
What’s a better way to pamper yourself than to spend time at the spa? Morocco is famous for its hammams, bathhouses modeled after Turkish or Russian baths. First take a steam bath: an assistant covers you with black soap and exfoliates your skin with a rough glove. Then comes a relaxing oil massage. Finally, you are doused in refreshing water. While a few high-end hotels have their own hammams, many are located throughout Morocco. Ask your hotel staff for their recommendation for a good hammam.
2. Trekking in the Atlas Mountains:
With some of the most magnificent mountains in northern Africa, Morocco is a great place to go hiking or mountain trekking. The best place to depart on your trek is either Marrakech or the village of Imlil. For more-serious climbers, Imlil is the starting point for heading for the summit of Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. A trek through the Atlas Mountains brings hikers into close proximity to old Berber villages and stunning mountain environments. We very highly recommend hiring a guide, no matter the intensity of your hike in the mountains: a guide will be able to educate you about your surroundings as well as ensure your safety in the unfamiliar territory.
3. Sahara Desert:
The world’s largest desert covers approximately one-fourth of Africa and is partly located in Morocco. The landscape is beautiful and dotted with old casbahs, Berber villages, and sand dunes. We recommend visiting Ouarzazate, a desert town where famous desert scenes of many movies have been filmed, as well as the magnificent Drâa Valley. A number of travel companies lead multiday desert tours. Visit a tour agency in any large city, or ask your hotel staff for their recommendation of a reputable tour company.
It is very important that you travel with caution if you enter the western Sahara region, owing to the region’s contentious land claim dispute. This is not an area to tour casually. If you are planning to visit the western Sahara region, please make sure you travel with a reliable organization.
4. Hassan II Mosque:
Located in Casablanca, the Hassan II Mosque is one of the world’s largest mosques. It covers approximately 22 acres, including a section built over the Atlantic Ocean. Designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau, the mosque represents traditional Moroccan architecture but with interesting modern additions, such as heated floors, an earthquake-proof foundation, and a retractable roof. It also has lights that shine from the minaret toward Mecca every night.
5. Fès el-Bali:
Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, Fès el-Bali is the walled, Old Town section of Fès. First inhabited in the ninth century, it has ancient architecture and vehicle-free streets that will have you feeling as if you were living in a different era. Here you will find artisans, the souq (market), hammams, and numerous places to drink tea or have a bite to eat. Because more than 9,000 twisting alleys wind through the town, we recommend hiring a guide to show you through the area. If you are looking for souvenirs, choose a new belt or purse from one of the many leather tanneries that have been in operation since the town’s earliest days.
6. Djemaa el-Fna:
While visiting Marrakech, spend some time in Djemaa el-Fna, a marketplace square located in the Old City. With its many food stalls (try the orange juice), snake charmers, storytellers, and people selling all sorts of items, the square is a great place to take pictures and buy souvenirs. Visit the square once in the morning, and come back again at night to see the changing array of vendors and musicians.
Constructed in the second or third century A.D., Volubilis is the best-preserved Roman town in Morocco. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and make for a magnificent day trip. Among the best sights are the awe-inspiring floor mosaics and the Roman pillars that still stand all over the site. Have your camera ready, as the site is also an ideal place to watch the sun rise and set.
8. The Blue City:
Tucked into the Rif Mountains a few hours away from Fès is Chefchaouen, “the Blue City.” The city is famous for its blue walls and doors, and the architecture is a photographer’s dream come true. Throughout the town, you will see craftsmen weaving blankets and woodsmen carving away. Do not be surprised if someone invites you in for some tea; this city is known for its hospitality. It is a great place to buy souvenirs and support the local craftsmen.
Morocco has numerous golf courses; the Royal Dar es Salaam Golf Club in Rabat is considered one of the finest golf courses in the world. There are beautiful courses in most of the major cities, too, including Casablanca, Fès, Marrakech, and Ouarzazae. We recommend asking your hotel staff for recommendations of nearby golf courses.
10. Aït Benhaddou:
Another one of Morocco’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Aït Benhaddou is Morocco’s best-preserved ksar, a Berber village that consists of connected buildings situated in the side of a hill. To see the fortified city cut out of the hills and made entirely of earthen materials is remarkable. Take the opportunity to walk through the ancient streets and marvel at the skill necessary to build such a massive and beautiful town.
When to Go
The most popular time for tourists to visit Morocco is the summer, July and August, when it is very hot and dry. If you want to avoid the heat and the massive number of tourists, September through October and April through June are your best bets. It can be cold and wet during the winter (November through March), especially along the coast and in the hills, so we don’t recommend going then, unless you like layers and rain gear. The climate varies throughout the country, so be sure to check the weather forecast for the specific regions you are planning to visit.
Be sure to note when Ramadan falls as you plan your trip. Many restaurants and public facilities are closed during the day for the duration of the holiday.
In terms of arts and music events, the TANJazz Festival
takes place in Tangier, the Gnaoua World Music Festival
is held in Essaouira, and Marrakech has its Festival of Popular Arts