Ancient cities, traditional and exotic. Delicious teas, yummy foods and scent of spices. Stunning mountainous landscapes and wonders of nature. Welcome to Morocco! This incredibly diversified, the colorful country is beloved by travelers. As soon as you enter this unique world, you’ll most likely become one of its fans as well. Here’s a list of places to visit during a vacation in Morocco. They’re all cities or to be found within the cities: monuments, plazas, mosques and other urban treasures, but in the case of Morocco, the word “urban” gains a new meaning, and you’ll find out why.
The fascinating culture of Morocco
Modernity has arrived to Morocco, together with motorways and luxurious resorts, but it hasn’t pushed out the tradition. Moroccans are still cultivating their old customs with pride and authenticity. They’re gladly sharing their culture and welcome visitors with lots of enthusiasm. Handicraft plays a significant role in Moroccan culture. Locals have mastered the art of creating marvelous wood works, carpets, pottery and clothes. They love dance, music and theatre as well. Fantastic performances can be seen both in decorative halls and on the streets. The Alliance Franco-Marocaine Theater and Gran Teatro Cervantes are widely famous and considered to be among the country’s best theatres, so if you fancy seeing an exotic play on a real stage, you might visit one of them. Even if you miss it though, you’ll surely have a chance to see Moroccan mastery elsewhere. Locals can turn the most usual, daily activities into real performances. Even drinking tea, preparing a meal or trading is done in a theatrical manner.
Djemaa el Fna
The beating heart of Marrakech, Djemaa el Fna is the central square, always full of people, colors, and music. Regularly action-packed, never boring. Dancers make their moves while snake charmers convince the animals to do the same, story-tellers speak, and musicians hit the drums. You can get a henna tattoo, picture with a monkey or tasty dinner. The drama never ends on Djemaa el Fna. A plaza, open-air theater, circus and meeting point, it plays as many roles just as the actors who perform there. You can spend hours in Djemaa el Fna without even noticing so much time has passed. Just be careful, because the crowds attract pickpockets. Take a few dirhams to motivate the artists, keep applauding and enjoy the show.
Located at the mouth of the Bou Regreg River, the Kasbah of the Udayas offers scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean and opposite Salé. It was built in 12th century, during the reign of the Almohads. The Kasbah is mostly residential, lovely whitewashed houses with blue doors and window shutters stand by the narrow streets. The historic Kasbah Mosque is dating back to the mid-eleventh century and beautiful Bab Oudaia Gate. The whole area is a charm, perfect for peaceful walks.
Fes el Bali
Fes el Bali is a historical treasure, known as the largest living medieval city in the world, featuring the oldest university (University of Al-Qarawiyyin) and a great collection of important monuments. Thousands of delightful alleys, lots of shops, restaurants (some of them have rooftop terraces) and mosques, plus people and donkeys, that’s what makes Fes el Bali such a bustling town. No cars, though. The whole place is car-free, which is very unusual, considering it’s an urban area with over 150 000 residents. Motorbikes, carriages and animals are used to transport the goods. The time stopped in Fes el Bali. For a truly unique experience, you should definitely include it on the list of places to visit during your vacation in Morocco.
This fortified city used to be a part of the caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. Now there are barely any residents left, most of them moved to a little village nearby. It’s incredibly exotic and historically priceless. The massive fortification consists of six Kasbahs and dozens of ksars, most of them well-preserved. Several famous films were shot there, including such hits as The Jewel of the Nile, The Last Temptation of Christ, Gladiator or Prince of Persia. Recently the team producing the famous TV series Game of Thrones has also used it as a setting for some scenes.
Hassan II Mosque
Located in Casablanca, Hassan II is one of the largest mosques in the world. The minaret it features is tallest than any other, reaching up to 210 meters. Standing on a promontory, the mosque faces the Atlantic Ocean and thus offers some gorgeous views. It’s an incredible piece of art and architecture: walls of hand-crafted marble, white granite columns, glass chandeliers, abundant mosaics, stone and marble floors, carved and painted wood ceilings. A vacation in Morocco won’t be complete without a visit to the Hassan II Mosque. Just keep in mind that to get inside, you need to join or order a guided tour.
Chefchaouen is a real explosion of blueness and a town as pretty as you can imagine. It’s a little heaven on earth, not only because of the blue color present everywhere (blue walls, blue doors, blue stairs, shutters, and decorations) but also the charming atmosphere. The old medina, with lovely buildings, narrow lanes and the mountain tops in the background is a picturesque scenery. Plaza Uta el-Hammam is the medina’s center. It’s a perfect place to relax and have a coffee or dinner in one of the restaurants standing on the cobbled ground. Don’t miss the restored Kasbah, also located within the medina.
Chefchaouen is famous for its gorgeous houses and the unique vibe, but also great shopping opportunities. If you want to buy some original handicrafts, that’s the place to go. However, it should be mentioned that many people decide to visit Chefchaouen to buy something else than the blankets, garments or great goat cheese. Chefchaouen is known for the availability of marijuana, and so many travelers head there for this reason as well.
High Atlas, Rif Mountains, Middle Atlas Mountains and Anti-Atlas Mountains – Morocco has many mountain ranges, all of them amazingly beautiful. The most popular among visitors, High Atlas Mountains are a paradise for trekkers and nature-lovers. On High Atlas’ peaks and in its valleys, there’s a large community of Berbers living in a traditional way. This indigenous group has inhabited parts of northern Africa for about 5,000 years. They have adopted Islam and changed throughout time, yet some of them still cultivate old traditions, speak their own language and practice characteristic forms of art. While High Atlas reaches up to the Moroccan skies, Rif Mountains aren’t equally high, but they’re green and adorned with numerous caves. Anti-Atlas and Middle-Atlas are lovely as well, but not very popular, so you can enjoy both the views and the vibe of solitude.
Insanely colorful street markets
If you enjoy shopping, you’ll also enjoy Morocco. With their myriad stands, booths, and stores, Moroccan cities are full of treasures. Exotic spices, handwoven carpets, traditional clothes, cooking dishes, natural cosmetics – there’re lots to choose from. Don’t forget to bargain; it’s not only typical but also expected. As you walk around the markets, pay attention to all the surrounding details: the brightness of colors, the quality of textiles, the scent of spices and oils, the sound of people chatting.
Foodies all around the world are obsessed with Moroccan cuisine. If you try it once, you’ll most likely share their passion. Moorish, African, Mediterranean and Arab influences meet on Moroccan plates to create some heavenly foods. Some of the most traditional dishes include couscous (semolina grains, often serves with a stew or a mixture of meat and veggies), kaliya (Berben dish consisting of lamb and vegetables) and tajine (hot stew). Make sure to try some of them when you visit Morocco. Just be careful: restaurants in touristy areas tend to serve international cuisine instead of Moroccan foods.
Gorgeous beaches with high waves
Having both the Mediterranean and Atlantic coast, Morocco can boast with some picturesque beaches. While the Mediterranean is rocky and rather rough, the Atlantic coast is more peaceful and mellow. Although different, both are equally spectacular. Most tourists visit the South Atlantic Coast, especially Essaouira, Agadir and surrounding areas. North Atlantic Coast has some lovely spots too, such as Asilah, a tiny beach town. As for the Mediterranean Coast, it has some important ports, but incredible views as well. It’s worth mentioning that Moroccan beaches are not only beautiful, they also offer a variety of activities. In addition to such basics as swimming and sunbathing, you can also try surfing and other water sports.
Magic of the desert
Imagine falling asleep in a desert tent, with myriad stars above your head, and waking up surrounded by dunes of golden sand brightened by the red raising Sun. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Morocco is one of the places where it can come true. You can take a tour to the Sahara Desert and choose between quad or camel rides. It may be a day-trip or an overnight stay, during which you’ll remain in a nomadic carpeted tent with pillows, mattresses, and blankets.
Traditional steam baths
Hammams, traditional steam baths, are one of Morocco’s most typical and fun attractions. Some of the hammams are nowadays designed specifically for tourists. They hire professional stuff and remind of modern spa centres. They’re pleasant and comfy, but not as traditional as the popular baths. Now people have baths in their own homes, but they still willingly visit hammams, as it’s an important part of the local culture. If you go to a great steam bath, you’ll meet lots of Moroccan men and women (there are separate baths or time sessions for males and females). Visiting hammams is beautiful and relaxing, but also interesting in a whole different way – as a valuable cultural experience.
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