Morocco things to see and do

Tourist offices

Moroccan National Tourist Office in the UK

205 Regent Street, London, W1B 4HB, United Kingdom
Tel: (020) 7437 0073 / 74.
www.visitmorocco.org

Moroccan National Tourist Office in the USA

104 West, 40th Street, Suite 1820, New York, NY, 10018, United States
Tel: (212) 221 1583.
www.visitmorocco.com

Things to see and do

Aït Benhaddou

This fortified ksar (city) and UNESCO World Heritage Site lies on the former caravan route between Marrakech and the Sahara. It is most famous as the setting for various high-profile Hollywood films, including Gladiator, The Mummy, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Sheltering Sky, Kingdom of Heaven and Prince of Persia.

Atlantic Coast

Whether it’s a stay in Asilah, the little whitewashed town near the beaches popular with Moroccans, Agadir for the huge stretch of sand replete with western comforts, or the beautiful and wild deserted shores reaching through the Oued Massa, Souss Massa and El Houceima National Parks, Morocco’s Atlantic coast is a beach-lovers dream.

Casablanca

Inside the urban sprawl lies a charming whitewashed Old Town, where faded art deco glories from the city’s day as a French protectorate sit alongside intricate Moorish architecture (including the largest mosque outside Mecca). Casablanca’s citizens generally tend to be among the most westernized and culturally progressive in the country.

Cascades D’Ouzoud

What could be more of an attraction in an arid, semi-desert country than roaring waterfalls plunging through a burst of greenery? The Cascades d'Ouzoud in the Central Atlas do just that, making them a popular stopping point between Marrakech and Fez. Try the spring water here, so cold and refreshing you won’t want to leave.

Chefchaouen

This breathtaking old town, with a medina comprising painted blue houses scattered down a slope in the heart of the Rif Mountains, is one of Morocco’s prettiest. Having been claimed by Spain as part of Spanish Morocco in the 1920s, the architecture through its steep and winding cobbled streets is a unique blend of traditional Arabic and Andalusian.

Chellah, Sala Colonia

An ancient necropolis at the heart of the old Roman city of Sala Colonia, the Chellah is one of the most magical sights in Morocco. Perhaps the most important tomb here belongs to el Hassan, a legendary Merenid ruler and empire builder known to history as the Black Sultan.

Djemaa El Fna

Djemaa el Fna is the hub of life in Marrakech, and locals and tourists alike flock here to watch the daily spectacle unfold. As night falls, the vast square comes alive as a thronging, open-air stage filled with acrobats, storytellers, snake-charmers and musicians, all perfumed with the smoke from a hundred food stalls. Unchanged for centuries this is surely one of the world’s ‘must see’ cultural wonders.

Draa Valley

The Draa Valley is a ribbon of fertile green, scattered with Berber villages and impressive kasbahs, some built into the valleys rock walls. The valley is a wonderful place to explore, and never more spectacular than in the evenings, as the dipping sun sets fire to the red earth.

Essaouira

With its picture-postcard medina and fortress ramparts jutting into the sea, not to mention great seafood restaurants, boutique hotels and a charming souk, this historic, romantic, artistic seaside town on the coast west of Marrakech is a perennial favourite. The broad, blustery beach, perfect for world-class windsurfing, seals the deal.

Fez

Unravel the mystery of Fes, the refined ancient centre of sacred learning and imperial power. Labyrinthine streets are anchored by the soaring minarets of the Al-Qarawiyin and Al-Andalus mosques (not open to visitors) and centuries of history are captured at the Dar Batha Museum. Fez’s medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the largest, continuously populated medieval city in the Islamic world.

High Atlas Mountains

Explore the spectacular mountain range running nearly the full length of eastern Morocco, and challenge yourself with a trek to the summit of its highest peak, Jebel Toubkal, standing at 4,167m (13,667 ft). As your breath returns you’ll be rewarded by breathtaking views. The trip can be made in a day, but most trekkers take a leisurely three.

Jardin Majorelle

The antithesis of the Djemaa is the hidden oasis of Jardin Majorelle. These immaculately presented gardens were created in the 1920s by French artist Jacques Majorelle. Purchased and restored to former glory sixty years later by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, today this colourful haven blossoms with rare botanical specimens – palms, cacti and bamboo, surrounding limpid ornamental pools heavy with water lilies.

Meknes and Volubilis

Although smaller and more relaxed than Marrakech and Fez, Morocco’s third imperial city is equal in charm. Improved in the 17th century by Sultan Moulay Ismail, the city is easily navigated without a guide, and a showcase of Islamic architecture. Outside the town are the ruins of Volubilis, the largest site of Roman remains in North Africa, illustrating once again the cultural diversity and richness of Morocco’s history.

Merja Zerga National Park

This biological preserve is famous among twitchers for its spectacular array of birdlife. Ask a local guide to take you out on the Blue Lagoon - a shallow salt lake that attracts vast flocks of migrant wildfowl, waders and flamingos. December and January are the best months for bird watching.

Rif Mountains

The fascinating and scenic range in the country’s north is the stronghold of the Berber people. Wonderful trekking opportunities avail, including through the fir forests in the Talassemtane National Park.

Sahara Desert

Witness the vast empty majesty of the Sahara from its western edges at Ouzina and Merzouga. Venture out across the shifting ocean of sand, trekking by camel to visit nomad settlements, oasis, and the mighty dunes of Erg Chebbi.

Tangier

Head back to the decadent bohemian days of Tangier in the Grand Socco and Petit Socco, where some of the 20th century's greatest writers, Beat poets, and rock stars like the Rolling Stones found inspiration while rubbing shoulders with tax-exiled aristocrats and international spies. Even today, this port town’s raffish ‘ask no questions’ vibe still thrills.

The Souk, Marrakech

This legendary, bustling and chaotic bazaar is the city’s pulse, and entering its shadowy, vast canopy-covered labyrinth north of the Djemma el Fna always elicits a thrill. Everything from carpets to cardamom can be found in these twisting lanes - and remember, the haggling’s all part of the fun.

Tinerhir

Clustered around a verdant palmerie in the shadow of the High Atlas, this sun-bleached city is still just a small blip on the tourist radar. Explore the crumbling old Jewish Quarter, pick up a bargain in the bustling town souk or escape the heat with a wander through the fragrant oasis that runs for miles through the centre of the city.

Todra and Dades Gorges

These stunning, red-cliffed sister canyons arguably offer some of Morocco’s most beautiful scenery and are at their best in late spring and early summer when roses carpet the canyon floor. There’s also rock-climbing and white-water rafting activities available here, but most people simply come to loose themselves in the sublime surroundings.

Edited by Jane Duru
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