Narrowing Morocco's abundance of incredible destinations down to a short list is nothing short of difficult. Packed full of colorful bazaars, breathtaking palaces, and bustling town squares, Morocco is also famous for its natural beauty, of golden beaches to magnificent arid landscapes, making the possibilities for adventure endless. Our Morocco trip was designed to showcase the best of this colorful country's diversity and intruiging sights and regions. The trip is a great example of the type of adventure travel we do, as well as our philosophy of non-touristy and unique travel. Here are seven amazing highlights of our Moroccan adventure.
1. Marrakesh - Situated at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, the imperial city of Marrakesh is noisy, atmospheric and full of history. There's a lot to see and do in Marrakesh. Comprised of beautiful old architecture and courtyards of orange, palm, apricot and olive trees, Marrakech today is still one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations. The best way to sample its charms is to take off walking through the medina: watch a snake charmer, haggle over an old carpet, eat local delicacies such as sheep’s head or have a massage in a public bath. Other possibilities include strolling through the Jardin Majorelle, a botanical garden that blends art deco and Moorish features, and sipping mint tea at a traditional tea house. Once inside the Medina itself, you enter a world of maze-like alleyways and shopkeeper hustle. It's an experience of full of colourful and noisy local life, and not to be missed on your Moroccan sightseeing trails.
2. Casablanca - Casablanca's landmark building, the Hassan II Mosque, is a lavish symbol not only of the city, but also of Morocco itself. This modern mosque (completed in 1993) doesn't do things halfway. The decorative detail covering every square inch of the mammoth site took 10,000 artisans to accomplish. Intricately carved marble pieces, vibrant mosaics, and zellige tile details pay tribute to traditional Islamic architecture, and yet still manage to feel contemporary. It is the largest mosque in Morocco and the 13th largest in the world.
3. Ouarzazate - Have you ever wondered where Hollywood gets some of those perfectly arid desert scenes from? Chances are some of your favorite desert classics have passed through Morocco at some point during their filming. It’s a country that’s been welcoming Hollywood directors since the 1960s, and the town of Ouarzazate has been at the center of it all. From here you can take tours through the sets and locales of famous blockbuster hits, such as Cleopatra, Kingdom of Heaven, Sahara, Lawrence of Arabia, and even the current filming of the HBO series Game of Thrones. If movies aren’t your thing, the villages south of Ouarzazate provide a wealth of other activities from authentic Moroccan ceramics to the history of the ‘Kasbah.’
4. Chefchaouen- Situated in the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is a small town in a big landscape. Chefchaouen might just as well be called the blue city because it’s filled with a charming maze of the town's famous blue-on-blue buildings that radiates an incredibly photogenic glow. This town is simply about wandering the Medina alleys and lapping up all that colorful architecture, giving you a non-touristy travel day. It's a peaceful, easygoing town and a great place to recharge if you've been amid the cities for a while. It’s popular with shoppers who can find Moroccan handicrafts, not found elsewhere in the country. Highlights also include hiking and wild swimming in the surrounding countryside and enjoying a drink amidst the architecture of Outa el Hammam square.
5. Fes - Fes was formerly Morocco's capital for more than 400 years and is still an important religious and cultural center today, as well as being home to University of Al-Karaouine, the world’s oldest university. With a population of about 150,000 inhabitants, the medina is the largest car-free urban area in the world by population. It is filled with elaborate architecture and best explored on foot. The back alleys here with their chipped plaster-work and gorgeous old doors will have you stopping for photos on every corner, while the stinking tanneries (a site not to be missed) are one of Fes el Bali's most popular attractions (for those who can handle the smell). Fes is very famous for their dyed leather goods. The medina is one of world’s most complex mazes with treats and treasures down every little side alley. People do get lost here (often!), but thankfully there is always a friendly local on hand to point the way.
6. Dades Valley - The Dades Valley offers some of Morocco's most spectacular scenery for a more off the beaten path travel day. The deep red cliffs on each side are lined with traditional forts known as kasbahs, many of which have been turned into luxury hotels. The best way to appreciate the valley and its villages is on foot. Hikers, trekkers, and general nature-lovers shouldn't miss a journey into the raw landscapes of Dades Valley. With the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas in the distance, the big-sky country here is the perfect antidote for those who have been getting frazzled nerves amid the souks of some of the more congested tourist spots. There are tiny villages galore, exceptional bird spotting opportunities and lush fields stretching as far as you can see here.
7. Merzouga - Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of this remote Moroccan gem, many haven’t. It’s the gateway village to an overnight experience you’ll never forget, a night in the Sahara Desert: the dune covered, sand in the wind, plantless desert of your mind’s eye. It’s breathtaking and definitely worth the journey to this remote corner of Morocco. Camel treks are the easiest and most authentic way to explore the surrounding landscape, where knife-edged dunes and blazing blue skies create the classic Saharan backdrop. Dinner will be cooked here, perhaps some music played, and visitors can frolic on the sand dunes under zillions of stars.
This fascinating country is a merging of the African and Arab worlds, and is steeped in age-old customs. It's no wonder Morocco continues to enchant all who visit. The breathtaking destinations and sites seem to never end, these above are merely to on your exploration, so don’t stop at just these.