Rugged coastline stretching along the Atlantic ocean, jagged mountain peaks over the Atlas Mountains, and waves of dunes stretching across the Sahara for as far as the eyes can see, the mid-south of Morocco is where you want to be. It’s hard to cover the whole country in one visit, so we’ve narrowed it down a bit for you. These are 6 of the best places to visit in Morocco that you’ll never forget.
The one and only. It’s massive and isolated, but its easily accessible from these two towns: Merzouga, and Zagora. You could book your tour ahead of time from one of the bigger cities, or wait until you’re closer to the desert, which will probably save you money. Merzouga is the gateway to see Morocco’s most impressive sand dunes, Erg Chebbi. And Zagora is the jumping off point to see the almost equally impressive Erg Chigaga. The spectacular dunes in Erg Chebbi reach an astounding 150 meters in some areas, while Erg Chigaga’s reach around 60m.
While Erg Chebbi’s dunes are higher, stretching out towards the Algerian border, Erg Chigaga is more difficult to get to, which can be more rewarding. Visitors must travel 60 very long kilometres over arid desert to reach Erg Chigaga. After climbing up the massive beasts, you’ll be rewarded with a view of a sea of dunes for as far as you can see. Sleeping under the Milky Way, surrounded by giant dunes in North Africa will make you feel pretty small, and it is a feeling you won’t soon forget. Waking up to a Saharan sunset isn’t far behind on the list of best things ever. A typical tour offers a couple hours on camelback, Moroccan meals, and a stay in a traditional Berber camp. Be prepared, it’s scorching!
You’ve probably seen it on different movies and TV shows many times but just didn’t know it. Ait Benhaddou has been featured in famed movies such as Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator, but it’s necessary to see it in person to fully appreciate its beauty. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it sees piles of visitors every year, who flock to get the picturesque photo of the earth-colored, clay-red Ksar.
Walking through the Ksar allows a glimpse into what life might have been like hundreds of years ago, basically taking a step back in time. To this day, a few families still live inside the fortress. The age of Ait Benhaddou is unknown, but researchers suggest some buildings date to the 11th century. Climbing to the top of the fortified village will provide killer views of the surrounding desert valley. The Ksar is a striking example of architecture in Southern Morocco, and one that won’t disappoint.
Formerly referred to as Morocco City, Marrakech is a melting pot of culture, a mix of new and old, where ancient meets modern. The heart of the city is home to one of the most amazing squares in the world: Jemaa El Fna. Dancers, food hawkers, henna artists, comedians, snake charmers and storytellers all fill the square as it transforms into a carnival under the setting sun.
The city is filled with other attractions, including many architectural masterpieces, stunning mosques, and ruins. Don’t miss a tour (or a long stay, if you get lost) through the seemingly endless souks (markets), as Marrakech has one of the finest Medinas and one of the best places to visit in Morocco. From jewellery, textiles and clothing, traditional medicine, olives, art, shoes, handicrafts, metal work, and any weird trinket you can think of, there are no shortage of things to see and buy in the souks. Each time you enter the maze-like narrow alleyways you’re sure to find yourself being approached by new and enthusiastic hawkers. Try your bargaining skills – who knows what goods you could be leaving with!
Situated along a beautiful strip of pristine beach on the Atlantic coast, Essaouira is a breath of fresh air from Morocco’s larger, more chaotic, less liberal cities. It’s been somewhat of a hippy hideout since the 1970’s, and while it still has that charm, it now caters to a more upmarket, resort crowd. Don’t get me wrong, though, it’s still a backpacker haven that’s not to be missed.
The medina – where most backpackers stay – is located right on the seafront so you’re never far from a fresh Atlantic breeze. Getting around inside the narrow lanes of the walled city can be a bit difficult but it’s all part of the fun. You’ll find no shortage of art galleries in town, as Essaouira is an ideal home for artisans of all types and trades. Make sure you check out the castles in the sand, way up the beach for a picturesque photo op.
Rad Tip: Driving anywhere in Morocco is easy and amazing. Nearly all the roads, especially any main or secondary highways, are in pristine condition. The drive to and from Essaouira along the Atlantic coast is the best drive, filled with endless natural sights, I’ve ever been on.
If you didn’t know you were meant to be there it would almost be easy to keep on driving right past Tafraoute. However, upon a closer look, this little gem of a town has a lot to offer. Laid-back Tafraoute operates on a much more relaxed pace than mostly everywhere else in Morocco. Located around the Amlen Valley, it’s a perfect home for rock climbers. If you’re not keen on climbing the rocks, it’s still a great spot to explore the nearby valleys and rock formations, including the aptly named Napoleon’s Hat, as well as the blue rocks, which were painted by a Belgian artist.
Getting to and from Tafraoute is one of the best things about it. The driving takes you across scenic valleys, along the super-narrow winding roads of the Anti-Atlas mountains, and through scorching desert in whichever direction you head. Driving on from Tafraoute farther into the Sahara will be one of the best road trips of your life.
Rad Tip: fill up on gas every chance you get.
The Atlas Mountains (high, middle and anti), the greatest range in North Africa, stretch from nearly the bottom of Morocco, through its core, up towards the Mediterranean. The Anti-Atlas mountains will take you through valleys where life seems have kept the same pace for centuries, around heart-stopping bends and around deep gorges, and into the heart of the country not seen by many travellers. Heading south from the Anti-Atlas will put you in ‘oasis’ territory. No, they’re not some sort of myth, and they’re not mirages. Picture it: driving along, and bam, in the middle of nowhere is a completely isolated, magical, palm fringed oasis, ready to help you achieve all your laid-back dreams. Make sure you eat some fresh dates.
The High-Atlas mountains have quite a bit more going on. The drives are steeper, the valley’s deeper, and there are more hairpin turns than you can imagine. You could spend days driving through the mountains and exploring nearby areas, such as the route of 1,000 kasbahs. The High Atlas is also home to Morocco’s oldest inhabitants, the Berber people. It’s an area of the world that had been isolated for centuries, and is one of the best places to visit in Morocco to witness Berber people, lifestyles and traditions.
Morocco’s mid-south offers a chance to unwind and take a step back from everything. Jagged mountain peaks, endless desert roads, camel caravans, Berber people, bright green oases, endless kasbahs, manic markets, the vast Saharan sand dunes – there’s enough here to keep your dreams alive and keep you going for a long time.