Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman may have given the world of Casablanca, but there is a lot more more to see in Morocco than its largest city.
This Atlantic coastal country offers visitors the opportunity to experience life in one Arab culture, sunbathing on the beach or skiing in the mountains. Whether wandering through ancient meditation, tasting food at a local market or relaxing under the sun in a white coastal town, the past is in abundance and colorful country. Here are the best places to visit in Morocco.
Located south of Agadir, Legzira Beach is considered Morocco’s most unique beach due to the gigantic sea arches that dot the beach. They are so big that a person standing underneath one at low tide will seem like a small doll. The arches glow red at sunset, making a very picturesque scene. The beach is popular with hang gliders and parasailers, but it’s also a good place to sit and enjoy the spectacular sea arches.
Everyone knows the city of Casablanca as the colonial setting of the 1942 romantic film, but the city of today doesn’t quite reflect that dreamy, enchanting feeling. Instead, modern-day Casablanca is a trading powerhouse. The importance of the port city means it is Morocco’s economic hub. You can still take a walk around Casablanca’s curious old downtown to discover its past. Ornate Moorish architecture is infused with European shapes and styles. If you really want to hark back to black-and-white films, have drinks at Rick’s Cafe – the famous bar from the film. It’s a reconstruction, but we can all pretend right?
Meknes is one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco and its name and fame are closely linked to that of Sultan Moulay Ismail. The sultan turned Meknes into an impressive city in Spanish-Moorish style, surrounded by high walls with great gates. While Meknes is an imperial city with a lot of historical monuments and natural sites it is also the nearest city to the Roman ruins of Volubilis.
Chefchaouen might just as well be called the blue city because it’s filled with – what else?– buildings in various shades of blue. Located in northwest Morocco, Chefchaouen is close to Tangier, making it a popular touristdestination. Surrounded by breathtaking mountains, the city’s narrow labyrinth of lanes hide plazas and ancient kasbahs, with plenty of photo opportunities around every corner. It’s popular with shoppers who can find Moroccan handicrafts, such as woven blankets, not found elsewhere in the country.
Now a popular seaside resort town, Asilah has a glorious history that dates back to when it was a trade center for the Phoenicians in 1500 BC. In the 19th and 20th centuries, pirates used it as a base of operations. Fortifications from these bygone eras remain, surrounding the restored medina. Whitewashed buildings complete the picturesque scene. It has a good selection of budget hotels and restaurants, and a growing art scene. About 1.5 miles south of Asilah lies Paradise beach, a wonderful wide stretch of sand, popular with locals and tourists.
Essaouira boasts pretty, sandy beaches, but the strong winds make sunbathing out of the question. Water-sports fans know the benefit of the wind, however, and meet up on Essaouira’s beaches in the summer months to practice their windsurfing skills. The harbor and old city walls add a depth to the city’s history and, with its small lanes and interesting streets, make for the perfect place to get lost and discover new and interesting secrets hidden among the walls.
Once the capital of Morocco, Fes exudes culture and history. It’s emblematic medina is a huge pedestrianized sprawl that oozes ambience and history. It can seem completely overwhelming to many visitors, whilst others fall in love with the ebullient atmosphere. Those who are brave enough to wander down the narrow alleys can discover the city’s two Islamic schools. Dating back to the 14 Century, both madrasa have intricate faces carved from cedar as well as elaborate tiles. The 11th Century Chou ara Tannery is one of the oldest in the world and has been makinglea thers for traders for many generations – make sure to look out for it in the bustlingmarket place.
The High Atlas is a mountain range that runs from the coast of Morocco towards Algeria. The tallest mountain range in North Africa, the High Atlas offers outdoor recreation opportunities year round, from snow sports in the winter to hiking in the summer. One of the best place to visit is the Todra Gorge in the eastern part of the High Atlas. Both the To dra and neighboring Dades rivers have carved out steep cliff-sided can yonsthrough the mountains. On the edge of the High Atlas Mountains is Aït-Benhaddou, a traditional Mud Brick city that has appeared in many movies including Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator.
Merzouga is a small village in southeastern Morocco not too far from the border with Algeria. It’s on the tourist route because of its proximity to Erg Chebbi, sand dunes created by winds that reach up to 500 feet high. Travelers looking for a unique experience might want to take an overnight camel ride through the wavy, deep reddish-orange dunes. Most group tours end up at a pre-setup camp at the base of some very large dunes, where the various tour operators have their Berber tents set up. Dinner will be cooked here, perhaps some music played, and visitors can frolic on the sanddunes under zillions of stars.
Formerly one of the country’s imperial cities, Marrakech is sometimes referred to as the Red City because of its sandstone buildings. During the 1960s, Marrakech was known as a “hippie mecca,” attracting famous celebritiessuch as The Beatles, Yves Saint Laurent and the Rolling Stones. 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.