CCamel rides, maze-like souks and epic trekking in the Atlas mountains make Morocco an exceptional destination for travellers seeking culture and adventure…
1: Be Fascinated by Ancient Fes
Tannery in Fez – Image by TinasDreamworld
About the only city left in the world that still has a medieval economy, Fes is an endlessly fascinating place. It is, for example, the largest pedestrian urban area in the world, where you’ll be dodging donkey carts rather than motorbikes.
The 9000 lanes reveal umpteen treasures, including souks piled with colourful slippers, robes and ceramics, odorous and dramatic tanneries where animal skins are doused and beaten into fine leather, and glorious tiled mosques and madrasas (Islamic colleges), as well as cafes and restaurants filled with local treats, including sticky honey pastries.
2: Feel the trade winds at Kasbah Telouet
Kasbah Telouet Morocco – Image buy Francesco de Marco
This glorious crumbling Kasbah in the High Atlas was the seat of the Glaoui family on the trade route between the Sahara and Marrakech. Created by over 300 artisans, this was a complex so maze-like that apparently no single person could navigate it, and even in its ruined state, the zellij tiles and stucco, as well as the scale, are incredible to behold.
There has been some attempt at restoration, but it makes sense to see the Kasbah before it returns to the red earth from which it came.
3: Search for the soul of Jimi Hendrix in Essaouira
Essaouira on the Morocco Coast – Image by Christian Volmert
With its whitewashed walls, high ramparts and weather-beaten blue shutters, this 18th century port town is one of the most attractive stops in Morocco. Jimi Hendrix wandered along the watchtower, and the streets here, and Orson Welles filmed his version of Othello in town.
It’s since become a major centre for windsurfing and kitesurfing. It’s a lovely little resort to take some unspoiled Atlantic sea air.
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4: Get lost in the Maze of Marrakech’s Souks
Djamaa el Fna market square and Medina in Marrakech – Image by Matej Kastelic
Marrakech’s old town is comprised of souks, narrow lanes each dedicated to a particular product or craft, from spices, perfumes and oils to babouche leather slippers, musical instruments, ceramics and silverware. You could spend a day or more walking here, just looking or, if you’re prepared to barter, shopping for something to take home.
All lanes eventually lead to the Djemaa el Fna, a wide open space that at night kicks into shambolic and spellbinding life. You’ll see storytellers surrounded by enthralled crowds, as well as musicians twirling their fez tassles and playing battered amplified guitars, though there is also a less pleasant side, with snakes and monkeys forced to perform for tourists’ entertainment.
5: Ascend the Atlas Mountains
Kasbah du Toubkal, Imlil in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco
You may prefer to get someone else to drive you into the Atlas Mountains, but drivers with nerves of steel can attempt the Tizi n’Test pass, blasted out of the rock by the French in the 1920s, and even higher Tizi n’Tichka with its notorious tightly wound hairpin bends. Passing other drivers can be a nail-biting experience, but you’re rewarded with sweeping views of the mountains.
Another option for exploring the region is to hike between Berber villages with a guide, as well as a mule to help with your load. A multi-day trek in the Atlas mountains is a chance to engage with local cultures as well as the timeless landscapes.
6: Step back in time at the Roman Ruins at Volubilis
Volubilis Roman Ruins – Image by Saiko3p
The most southerly point of Roman imperial expansion, Volubilis still stands as a monument to the invaders’ artistry and ambition. Its tall columns and wonderful mosaics lie in green fields, exposed to the elements.
One of the pleasures of a trip here is the gentle countryside, cleared and cultivated for wheat and olives by the Romans 2000 years ago. It’s a sad footnote that the lions slaughtered in gladiatorial combat in the Colosseum in Rome were shipped from, and made extinct, here.
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7: Soak up the Southern Oasis Towns
Date Palms in Draa Valley, Morocco – image by Bruno Tepfenhart
On the southern side of the Atlas mountains, you come to the pre-Sahara, a scrubby landscape known to the Berber people as hammada. In this context, river valleys such as Drâa appear like visions, with their terraces of date palms, carefully irrigated fields and rose-pink kasbahs. October is the season of the date harvest, a fine time to visit.
8: Explore Spanish Morocco at Sidi Ifni
Red arches of Legzira beach, Sidi Ifni – Image by Ruslan Kalnitsky
South of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast, little Sidi Ifni is a reminder of Morocco’s Spanish colonial period, which only ended here in 1969, when Spain relinquished its hold on the town. The legacy of their rule is some wonderful wind-battered Art Deco military buildings and a local obsession with Spanish football teams.
There’s an eerie quality to this former slaving port out of season, but the setting, architecture and surfing are sublime.
9: Gaze up at the Cascades d’Ouzoud
Cascades d’Ouzoud, Morocco – Image by Alberto Loyo
These mighty waterfalls are one of the great sights of the country, falling from a natural rock amphitheatre for 110 metres and creating an almighty spray with heavenly rainbows.
You can take a raft across the pool to get as close as possible to the waterfall. Look out for small huts containing water wheels to mill wheat.
An overnight stay will allow you to explore the falls at dawn or dusk when you are more likely to spot a Barbary ape hanging in a pomegranate tree.
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10: Feel the Blues in Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen Blue City of Morocco – Image by Kanuman
If you believe that blue is beautiful, then Chefchaouen is the place for you. This ancient pilgrimage town surrounded by olive groves in the craggy Rif mountains has a medina painted in luminous shades of blue, which makes a lovely backdrop for displays of local crafts: carpets, jewellery, baskets and tagine pots. Once you’ve explored the shopping opportunities, you can use the town as a base for hikes into the surrounding hills and gorges.
If you are curious about things to do in Morocco do contact us for more information.
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