Morocco is a wondrous, eye-opening taste of the exotic, with snake charmers and magicians, souks piled high with hoards of treasure and endless glasses of mint tea. It’s also an adventure in some of the most beautiful scenery in North Africa, with the desert on your doorstep and the craggy heights of the Atlas Mountains beyond.
Morocco is also a journey to a timeless, tranquil world of cute seaside villages, colorfully painted towns clinging to hillsides and remote outposts defended by fairytale adobe fortresses. A fusion of the African and Arab worlds, this fascinating country is steeped in ancient customs. It’s no wonder that Morocco has been feted by artists and writers for decades and continues to enchant all who visit.
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1 Medina van Marrakech
The effervescent and vibrant buzz of Medina van Marrakech sums up Morocco for many visitors and is a major tourist attraction. The old town emerges from the vast square of Djemma el-fna-plein where it seems like half the town gathers all day and evening to hang out with the stall vendors, traditional musicians, snake charmers and random acrobats. Once in the medina itself, you enter a world of maze-like streets and shopaholics. It’s an experience full of colorful and noisy local life and not to be missed on your Moroccan sightseeing.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Marrakech: Best Areas and Hotels
2 Hassan II Mosque
Casablanca’s main point of interest and landmark building, the Hassan II Mosque is an exuberant symbol not only of the city, but of Morocco itself. This modern mosque (completed in 1993) doesn’t do things in half. The detail of decoration that covered every inch of the mammoth two-acre site took 10,000 artisans to complete. Intricate marble pieces, vibrant mosaics and zellige tile details all pay homage to traditional Islamic architectural ideals and mastery of Moroccan craftsmanship while remaining contemporary.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Casablanca: Best Areas and Hotels
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3 Oudaias Kasbah
Morocco has many beautiful old town areas but Rabat’s The Oudaias Kasbah district has to be one of the most scenic in the country. This is a peaceful and perfectly quaint district that is miles from the city despite being in the core of the city. Within the walls of this ancient fortress, the alleyways of neat white-and-blue houses rimmed by colorful flowerpots and fluttering washes have a lost-time vibe that’s hard to beat. Even better, unlike the old town areas of Fez and Marrakesh, there are hardly any other tourists here, so exploring this pretty corner of the capital feels like you’ve been let in on a well-kept secret.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Rabat
4 Do the Bali
Together with Marrakech, Fes is Morocco’s other great cultural destination. But unlike its sister Imperial City to the south, Fes has not been swallowed up by the tourists. Do the Bali (old town) is an authentic jumble of a place, where it’s easy to get lost. The alleys here, with their chipped plaster and beautiful old doors, mean you can take photos at every corner while you take in the smelly tanneries is one of the most popular things to do in Fes el Bali for those who can handle the smell.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Fes
The most European of all cities in Morocco, Tanger has a fascinating and somewhat debauched role in the literary history of the twentieth century, and this past attracts many tourists here. This is the city that inspired famous works like Paul Bowles’ The shelter heaven en William Burroughs ‘ Naked lunch. Tangiers may have been scrubbed since their day, with the bohemian cafes and seedy bars long gone, but you can still catch a whiff of days gone by.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Tangier
In the beautiful Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is a beautiful labyrinth of blue-on-blue buildings with an incredibly photogenic glow. There isn’t much real sightseeing to do, which is one of the city’s main attractions. It’s just about roaming the medina alleys and patches all that colorful architecture. It’s a peaceful, laid-back city and a great place to recharge if you’ve been in the cities for a while. This is also one of the most important hiking and trekking destinations in Morocco and a departure and organization center for hikes through the Rif Mountains.
7 morning glory
Morocco’s number one Roman ruin is a feast for history lovers, with a combination of remarkable mosaic still buried where they were exhumed. This site is also full of tumbled columns and temple remains, a reminder that even the greatest of empires eventually crumble. The hillside location allows the ruins to dominate the surrounding countryside, adding to the romantic ambiance of lost glory. Proceed through the ruins to the Capitol and Forum to enjoy the view. This tourist attraction can be easily visited as a day trip from Meknes or Fes.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Meknes
8 Bab al-Mansour
This mammoth gate (who guards the entrance Meknes’ Imperial City district of the medina) is known for its beautiful decoration. Intended as a monumental reminder of the sultan’s power, the Bab al-Mansour is a beautiful remnant of the glorious era of Meknes as the capital of Morocco. It is widely regarded as Morocco’s largest and best-preserved gate. Arrive in the late afternoon to photograph the gate in the soft light, then meander through Meknes’ tiny maze of a medina, which is a much more laid-back affair than the medina of nearby Fes.
9 of Ben Haddou
This gold-stoned adobe kasbah (fort) rises dramatically from the earth in the middle of a landscape that all visitors admire. It’s a fairytale place, and it’s not surprising that the orange-hued turrets and curving alleys within have become a favorite Hollywood filming location due to the place’s surreal beauty. You can even sleep in the kasbah if you want the full Ait Ben Haddou experience – although those who like their comforts should be aware that there is no electricity in the fort itself. If you are heading to the interior of Morocco, this one should definitely be on your list. Try to come in the early morning or later afternoon as the tour bus crowds drop from about 10am to 2pm.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Ait Ben Haddou
10 Dades Valley
Hikers, trekkers and general nature lovers should not miss a trip to Morocco’s rugged landscape Dades Valley. With the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas in the distance, the land of the big sky here is the perfect antidote to those who have grown jittery nerves amid the souks of Marrakesh and Fes. Dinky villages abound; exceptional bird watching opportunities; great day hiking options; and views of lush fields and orchards caught between the orange cliffs of the canyon, winding out in front of you.
Morocco’s most charming seaside resort is laid-back Essaouira, an old hippie haunt of the 1970s that has lost none of its authenticity. The colorful fishing boats bobbing on the water, the stately old fort walls along the beach and the winding streets of the old town make Essaouira a joy to discover. There’s a decent eatery here, with seafood a clear mainstay on menus and great cafe life. For those wanting more active sightseeing, there are also great walks along the beach to remote villages and surfing on the beach.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Essaouira
12 Very Chebbi
Inland, in eastern Morocco Sahara region, are the large and rippling sand dunes of the Very Chebbi, where aspiring explorers and adventurers seek out a dose of desert action. This is the prime area for dune surfing, 4WD dune bashing and the (much more authentic) camel ride. For those of a less active nature, just sitting amidst the splendor of the sand dunes is worthy enough for the long journey here. For most travelers who make it this far, the highlight is spending the evening at a desert camp in the middle of the dunes themselves.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Erg Chebbi