A GUIDE TO THE BEST OF MOROCCO
Updated: Dec 30, 2020
I am often mistaken for a Moroccan. Perhaps it's the fact that I've gotten so used to eating tajines on a regular basis, or maybe it's the looks or the fact that I have a lot of Moroccan friends. Morocco is a place I've visited three times, both alone and with family. What fascinates me is that every area of the country attracts different interests. It's become a country I'm comfortable visiting anytime. You may find below some cities to consider visiting on your next trip to Morocco.
How can I not mention the city that went viral on social media? Known as The Blue Pearl, Chefchaouen is one of the cities to add at the top of your list. It is located in the Northwest of Morocco and home to some of the best spots overlooking the city. If there's one thing I remember the most from my trip there, it would be the scenic drive there. The blue city sits up the Rif mountains, which explains the beautiful landscape. Here are some things you can do while in the area:
• Go for a hike (you can also get a local guide and have them bring you up ‑ the view is worth it!) • Get lost in the Medina: it is an endless maze of alleys that lead you to good restaurants, cafés, cute shops selling all sorts of crafts, souvenirs and more. • Visit the Kasbah Fortress Museum: it is located next to the Grand Mosque. If you decide to climb up the towers, you will be treated to panoramic views of the city. There is also a courtyard with a nice garden when you enter. • Go on a walking tour: this town is so beautiful and is home to many hidden gems, so why not go on a self‑guided tour or find a local guide to take you? You'll surely find some nice spots to take great photos and be sure not to miss the beautiful doors as well. • Visit the Akchour Falls: the hike takes about 2 hours or you can get a taxi driver to take you.
The city where they've filmed a lot of major Hollywood movies, yet a place a lot of people often skip. I get it, I've been told countless times that you don't need more than half a day in Casablanca, since there isn't much to do. But, after spending about 3‑4 days there, I found that this statement was wrong! If your plane lands in Casablanca, consider leaving at least a day or two to explore the city. Here are some things not to miss while you're here:
• Explore Hassan II Mosque: the architecture is incredible. It is also a nice place to hang out, as I see many locals come here to fly their kites, or to sit and enjoy the breeze or to simply walk around. • Visit the Corniche: if you're looking for somewhere to relax, this is it. Being by the water, enjoying the wind, listening to the sounds of the waves is enough for me. If you manage to get a local, ask them to bring you to the Fisherman's Wharf (a hidden gem!). There, you can watch locals at work and enjoy fresh seafood at a low price. • Visit the Old City District: where you may explore the souks, shop and even try some local cuisine. You can also visit the Central Market for shopping ‑ though it attracts more tourists. • Go to Mohammed V Square: home to buildings that dates back to the early 1920s.
Tangier is a place worth visiting if you're nearby or if you're looking for a more laid back city.
This Northern city has long been the gateway to Africa. Below are some things to do:
• Cave of Hercules: this place is a natural and man‑made archeological site and believed that the cave resembled the map of Africa.
• The Corniche: the promenade makes for a great walk in the city with stunning views. You may even spot some camels on the beach.
• Cap Spartel: this place marks the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar.
• Take a ferry to Europe: one thing I never got to do last time I was there, due to time constraint. However, I would love to go back and do this, as the ferry takes you to one of the ports in South Spain. From there, you can easily go to Alhambra and Granada.
• Achakar Beach: the beach has been awarded several blue flags, for its attention to hygiene, great water quality and facilities.
• The Kasbah: here, you may find panoramic views of the Medina and the Mediterranean.
• Explore the Medina: like every other part of Morocco, Tangier also has a Medina, where you may find souvenirs, spices, tajines, lanterns and more.
For me, spending 2-3 in Marrakech, was more than enough. I wanted to experience staying in a riad for my stay, thus I found one within walking distance to Jemaa El-Fnaa (the outdoor market and city centre!). Little did I know that it was also walking distance to a lot of the major sights in the city, which was a bonus.
Here are some things to do in Marrakech:
• Explore the Medina: I would say that Marrakech probably had the liveliest medinas out of all the other places I visited in Morocco to date. I love that there are street performers around, along with a great selection of food vendors and locals selling their crafts.
• Bahia Palace: this place is second on my list, because I still remember my experience of eating at the restaurant next door. The food was one of the best ones I had in Marrakech, along with the overall ambiance of the restaurant, giving you the feel of eating in a palace.
• Koutoubia Mosque: a short walk away from Jemaa El-Fnaa, you will find the Koutoubia Mosque.
• Visit Ben Youssef Madrasa: another notable sight in the city, is the former Islamic school. There, you will find great photography spots (which I'm sure you've previously already seen on Instagram before!) and provides an accurate representation of Moroccan design and architecture.
• Relax at Le Jardin Secret: it is one the most ancient palaces in Marrakech!
We took a day tour from Marrakech to Essaouira with our riad's tour company. Whether you decide to rent a car or opt in for a local guide, I strongly recommend visiting Essaouira. I found this city to be more laid-back and relaxing. I personally would have preferred to stay here a night, though there is not much to do.
As it is a port city, one thing you can guarantee you will find here is great seafood. If you're not much into food, here are some things to consider:
• Check out the Fishing Port: where you can see locals at work, bringing in their fresh catch.
• Go to the beach: overall, a nice place to relax. There are also a lot of places to sit and enjoy the view.
• Shop at the Souk: here, you will find similar things to that which you can get in Marrakech, but at a much better price. Whether you're looking for spices, ceramics, argan oil, leather, etc - they have it. As it is much smaller, it is fairly accessible and easier to navigate than Marrakech (where you may get lost).
Note: The tour also stopped at an argan oil factory along the way, which is a stop I wouldn't have known about if I were to drive. But if you do decide to drive, you can do some research prior, and add it to your list.
A town off-the-coast of the Atlantic, is Asilah. Though it is much less visited by tourists, I enjoyed this stop. It is pretty close to Tangier. If you are passing by, you may stop. For us, it was just a half-day pit stop. But here, you may find a quiet beach and a medina that reminded me a lot of Chefchaouen, with its colors; white and blue.
We so happened to stop here for a pit stop en route to Chefchaouen. Also nicknamed 'The White Dove,' Tetouan is located at the beginning of the Rif Mountain region and is home to one of Morocco's best preserved medinas. What stood out for me is that everything is painted white!
The capital of Morocco is Rabat ! It is also home to a medieval pre-Islamic city; Chellah. Here, you can visit the Roman and Islamic ruins.
Some other sights in the city include:
• Hassan Tower and Tombs: here lies the tomb of King Mohammed V and his two sons. The Hassan Tower, located right across, was originally intended to be a minaret and a mosque. In the courtyard, you will find many people strolling and kids playing.
• King's Palace: King Hassan II's official residence!
• Old Medina: the place to go to get your shopping done. It is less crowded than other cities in Morocco and you may find great souvenirs to take home.
• Kasbah of the Udayas: listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site, the Kasbah is a historical site, offering panoramic views of the Atlantic.
Honestly speaking, I am blown away by the amount of things there is to do in Morocco! I can't wait to go back and explore more. Some of other notable places to consider (I have yet to see myself, but they are definitely on my list!), include: Fes, Ouarzazate, El Jadida (that is if you want an escape, away from the tourists!) and Agadir.