A riot of colour, scents and sounds, this distinctly North African country is hugely evocative. Just look at those place names. Marrakech. Casablanca. Tangier. Fez. Cities are alive with atmospheric souks (markets), kasbahs (citadels) and medinas (walled old towns). You’ll fall for their charm as soon as you arrive. Haggling is obligatory in the souks, which can be a lot of fun. In the bigger cities it can be full on, so head to smaller towns if that’s not your scene.
If you want to get away from the hubbub, there are plenty of places to do it. Morocco is rich with mountains, where centuries-old Berber tribes still work at traditional crafts in remote towns and villages.
And then there’s the desert. Most famous is, of course, the Sahara. You can ride out and spend a night under the stars in this ethereal place. This really is one of those proper ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences.
Traditional houses, riads, are built around a central courtyard garden, often with a fountain and pool. Many are now hotels and guesthouses. Take some time out and visit one for a little oasis of tranquillity.
The Moroccan coast has it covered. At 1,835 kilometres long it can’t fail to offer something for everyone. For smooth expanses of golden sands head to Agadir. Chilled out surfer cool can be found at Essaouira, also a centre for high-octane watersports. Legzira is known for its spectacular natural arches. Many cities have their own easily accessible beaches including Rabat, Casa and Tangier.
Morocco’s cities are boisterous and hugely engaging. Bursting with life, dynamic Marrakech will soon have you captivated. Amazing markets, chic rooftop bars, museums and cultural icons are all here in spades. The beautifully preserved old town of Fez is a listed UNESCO world heritage site. Despite its long history, Casablanca is a forward-looking, modern city. While the capital Rabat is a welcoming mix of European and African influences, topped off with a lovely beach.
The Rif mountains in the north, and the High Atlas, Middle Atlas, Anti-Atlas in the south, form a spectacular backdrop to much of the country. The Atlases, home to some of North Africa’s most remote Berber villages and the region’s highest peak, remain rugged and magical. The gentler Rif range offers spectacular hiking among its lush slopes.
Soak it up in the souk
You simply can’t go on holidays to Morocco without experiencing the country’s souks and medinas. All life is here. Most of it would like to sell you something, make you a tasty treat, or sip on a mint tea while chatting about everything and nothing. It’s all part of the fun. The biggest and best melting pot is Djemma El Fna square in Marrakech, where exotic dancers roam and open-air food stands lay the air heavy with spice.
Overnight in the desert
After you’ve spiced up your life in the cities, calm it right back down with a night under the stars in the solitude of the Sahara desert. One of the most atmospheric places in the world, a camel trek is the ideal pace to let it all wash over you. You are also pretty much guaranteed to wake up to one of the most spectacular sunrises you’ll ever see.
Visit a Hamman
Hammans are a cornerstone of Moroccan life. Similar to Turkish baths, locals visit at least once a week to spend a few hours scrubbing, cleansing and chatting. For those who want to experience more of the Moroccan way of life, we think visiting a Hamman is a must-do.
Well, what can we say? Much like the country itself, it’s vibrant, colourful and a little bit spicy. Think slow cooked tagines and vibrant cous cous. Or succulent lamb kefta. You’ll find harira, a chickpea and tomato soup, at the beginning of most menus. Also worth trying is Berber omelet, cooked with tomato, onion and herbs in a clay pot.
The drink of choice is mint tea. More ritual than mere refreshment, you will find this sweet drink everywhere.
From street food in a crowded souk to five-star dining, there isn’t much you can’t find in Morocco. Eating and drinking is a real ritual here, so if you get the chance to dine alongside a local family, grab it.
A country of invigorating extremes, you can find yourself in a crowded market one day, and in complete solitude the next. Crammed with history, culture and Mediterranean, African and Arabic influences, north Morocco is guaranteed to raise your pulse and open your eyes.
The further south you go, the more chilled out it gets. Resorts such as Agadir are mellow and laid-back. Wherever you end up in this enticing country, it’s bound to charm you with its invigorating spirit.
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