Did you know that you can get to Morocco in just an hour or two by ferry from Spain (depending on the route) and several Moroccan cities are well served by budget airlines. So, for Europeans in particular, the country is easily accessible and is a treat for history, architecture and food lovers. Then there is the diversity of landscapes with coastline, snow-capped mountains and dessert, not to mention the incredible cities and great holiday resorts. Question is … if you haven’t been there yet … why not???!!!
During the past 5 years, I’ve been lucky enough to visit Morocco 4 times – 2 road trips and 2 shorter vacations. The following are my favourite suggestions based on those travels. So if you ever get to this beautiful place, try and check as many of these as you can!
1. Get lost in Fez Medina
And get lost you will!! With an estimated 9500 streets, it really is a labyrinth (and therefore may not be the best place to begin your Moroccan trip!). However, this is probably the best preserved medina in the Arab world and offers a more authentic experience than Marrakech. It is home to one of the oldest universities in the world and of course the famous tanneries (above).
2. Enjoy mint tea in Rabat
Ok – you can have mint tea anywhere in Morocco but location is everything. In Rabat, locals and visitors alike head for the Kasbah – the stronghold of the medina – and Cafe Maure. Here you can enjoy your tea and pastries on a terrace offering panoramic views.
3. Stay in a Riad in Marrakech
A riad is a traditional Moroccan house found in city medinas . A single door onto the street hides stunning interiors. Many have a few floors built around a small courtyard or garden and a roof terrace. Of the thousands in Marrakech medina, about 1500 of them operate as guest houses. Some are still family run and offer a great alternative to the large impersonal hotels
4. Explore the Atlas Mountains
Its another world when you get away from the cities. Berber villages, goat herds, canyons, incredible views – this is a haven for hikers but you don’t have to be a serious walker to enjoy the landscape. Its worth renting a car for a few days and exploring on your own but its possible to take a day trip from Marrakech if you don’t have much time.
5. Spend a night at an oasis
You don’t have to sleep under the stars (if you don’t want to), and if you hate sand you don’t have to go all the way to the Sahara. Once past the Atlas mountains the landscape of scrub and rock opens out on occasion to fertile strips of greenery, that in times gone by were important stops on the old caravan routes to the Sudan, Timbuktu and beyond. Here you will still find mud kasbahs and busy villages and many offer accommodation in lovely houses and lodges with great food and facilities.
6. Visit the magnificent Hassan 11 Mosque in Casablanca
Overlooking the Atlantic ocean, this stunning building blends traditional Moorish architecture with 20th century innovation which allows the mosque to withstand earthquakes and boasts a sliding roof and heated floor. There’s plenty to admire outside but if you have time, its worth taking a guided tour of the fabulous interior.
7. Immerse yourself in the ruins and mosaics of Volubilis
If Roman ruins are your thing then you’ll love Volubilis. If mosaics are your thing then you’re really in for a treat! All this history, art and architecture just lying there, with a backdrop of Moroccan countryside – spectacular!
8. Sit and read in the coffee shops of Tangier
To do this right you need a Paul Bowles novel – preferably his first The Sheltering Sky (1949) and preferably second hand. On no account are you to pull out your kindle!!!
9. Soak up the Atlantic air in Essaouira
Despite the fact that you will never get the spelling right – all those vowels!! – you will love this laid back fishing town which must be one of the most popular destinations in Morocco. In the morning, you can watch the fishermen land with their catch. Walk the ramparts and beach before heading back to the medina which is far less manic than those of the bigger cities. Enjoy a mint tea overlooking the ocean before deciding on which great restaurant to pick for dinner. And do it all again the next day!!
10. Discover the charm of Morocco’s ‘Blue Pearl’
Touristy? Yes. Worth a visit? Yes. Everyone knows the images of the blue town of Chefchaouen (another spelling you will never get right!!) but its familiarity and popularity doesn’t detract from the quaintness of its alleys and squares. Even if blue is not your favourite colour, just go for the fresh orange juice!
If you’re thinking of visiting Morocco, have a look at the following: