From winding medieval market streets and snow-capped mountains to wind-swept coastlines and sun-drenched deserts, Morocco is a country located in Northern Africa that is full of incredible variety and beauty.
Having recently returned from Morocco, on a tour all around the country in our vintage camper, we've selected what we think are the 10 best cities to visit in Morocco that are not to be missed!
Located on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, an easy short hop from Marrakesh, sits the beautiful city of Essaouira. An important fishing port for centuries, the city’s visual appeal has seen it often used as a backdrop for the big screen.
Sunshine and Atlantic trade winds have acted as a magnet for water sports enthusiasts, with art galleries and beach bars completing the bohemian vibe. It’s Morocco in a nutshell and a great place to hang out for a few days.
Eat… At the far end of the beach from the old town, ‘Ocean Vagabond’ is a great spot to relax at sunset after a long day walking and exploring the city. They have a great drinks menu (including all types of alcohol), decent pizzas as well as a full food menu, and a good range of seats and loungers that look out onto the beach.
Stay… Palazzo Desdemona is wonderfully located in the heart of the medina. This guesthouse occupies a beautiful historic building full of antique charm and has a panoramic roof terrace with city and sea views.
Don’t Miss… Just outside Essaouira, on the main road to Marrakech, is the ‘goat tree’. Known for naturally climbing Argan trees to graze on the fruits, these goats have been pushed a step further by an enterprising local farmer who has placed them as a group in a tree at the roadside. It makes for an amusing distraction and an excellent photo opportunity, especially as the goats all seem happy enough.
For more from our family trip to Essaouira, check out the Top 5 Things to do with Children in Essaouira.
At the centre of Morocco’s desert tourism industry, Merzouga sits tucked in at the base of the mountainous red dunes of the Sahara Desert. It boasts a range of traditionally constructed, yet also luxurious, hotels and desert camps. The abundance of camels, the desert backdrop and night skies filled with endless stars make this a beautiful place to visit in Morocco like no other.
Eat… L’entrecôte Merzouga has a great varied menu; the food is all freshly cooked and delicious, the staff are some of the nicest people you’ll meet and, best of all, the prices are incredibly reasonable.
Don’t Miss… A short drive from Merzouga, it is possible to visit the ‘Pigeons du Sable’ (or Pigeons of the Desert); a musical group based within the Gnaoua community that descended from South-Sudanese slaves. Once reserved only for ceremonial celebrations, they now play their traditional (and loud!) music to people visiting their village. It’s something you won’t forget in a hurry.
For more from our time in the desert, check out Merzouga, a Moroccan Desert Adventure.
Think mountains in Morocco and most people will think of the High-Atlas. While these are beautiful and worthy of a visit, if you want to escape the waves of Marrakesh day-trippers, head south to their little brother, the Anti-Atlas Mountains.
In a valley at the centre of the Anti-Atlas Mountains is the town of Tafroute, which is surrounded by dramatic red granite landscapes and other-worldly scenery. Strategically sited on ancient trade routes, the town now makes the perfect base for those looking for some outdoor adventure.
Eat, Stay... The stunning Auberge Kasbah Chez Amaliya is a delightful hotel and restaurant laid out around a central swimming pool, set right under the watchful eye of the so-called 'lion's head' rock in the mountains above.
Don't Miss… The 'Painted Rocks' - A popular short drive or bike ride outside Tafraoute brings you to the 'Blue' or 'Painted' Rocks. Originally created by a Belgian artist, an enormous area of wilderness granite boulders have been painted in bright colours of predominantly blue, but with some also in radiant shades of red, yellow and orange. Love it or hate it as an idea, it really is unlike anything else you'll ever see. You have to see it to believe it.
For more from our trip to Tafraoute, check out our epic road trip across southern Morocco, Morocco: From the Atlantic to the Sahara.
Morocco’s surf capital, Taghazout, is now a big player on the international surf scene. From humble beginnings, a blossoming surf and yoga industry has emerged to engulf this former fishing village on Morocco’s southern Atlantic coast.
The town boasts a beautiful, long sandy bay, and a good selection of accommodation and restaurants to match. Whether expert, beginner or only a beach towel spectator, if you’re interested in surfing in Morocco, this is definitely the place to come.
Eat… Enjoy tasty and freshly-cooked burgers at the family-friendly Chez Titrite Restaurant.
Stay… The original surf and yoga guesthouse operator, and still arguably the best, is Surf Maroc. It has highly-rated rooms for hire and specialises in organised and bespoke surf and yoga holidays.
Don’t Miss… Every year, the World Surf League comes to town, with the hosting of the Pro Taghazout Bay event. Expect pro surfers, an atmosphere of excitement and impromptu parties in the guesthouses and surf lodges around town.
To see more from our trip to this beach, check out Sun, Sand, Surf & Camels in Taghazout.
A backpacker favourite, Chefchaoun in Morocco’s northern Rif Mountains, has long been famed for being at the epicentre of Morocco’s cannabis production industry (rumoured to produce half of the world’s hashish in the farms around the town). Whether or not you view that as positive, it shouldn’t put you off visiting.
The town is also undoubtedly Morocco’s prettiest, with narrow, winding streets and alleyways lined with buildings all painted in blue. It’s a picture-perfect, friendly and laid-back place to visit, far removed from the stresses of everyday life.
Eat… Centrally located and serving up excellent Moroccan food is the lovely Sofia Restaurant. It is a cut above the rest of the other average, generic offerings that surround it.
Stay… Located just outside of town, but with connecting shuttle service, is the relaxing rural retreat of Dar Wadada. It is complete with beautiful rooms and mountain views.
Don’t Miss… The ‘Spanish Mosque’ - Never actually used as a mosque, it is located high up on the hillside on the other side of the valley from the town, with an easy walking trail leading up to it. It’s great to visit at sunset for unforgettable views back across the striking blue town below.
Marrakesh (or Marrakech) is Morocco’s number 1 tourist destination, popular as a year-round spot for a city break. The energy of the city with its extravagant sights, sounds and smells is a pretty unique feast for the senses. It’s everything you’d expect from a trip to Morocco.
However, in some ways, the city has become a victim of its own success, with ever-increasing crowds bringing associated problems with them. Far from my favourite place in the country, I’d still recommend anyone to experience it at least once.
Eat… For a break from the usual Moroccan offerings, try out some delicious Lebanese cuisine at the excellent Naranj restaurant.
Stay… Riad Azra Marrakech offers well furnished, great value rooms right in the heart of the medina and only a short walk from the Jemaa el-Fnaa Square.
Don’t Miss… The 19th Century Bahia Palace is a beautiful former Royal Palace that is open to visitors. It’s full of ornate, geometric decorations and is easily accessible from the main medina area for an alternative experience of the city.
For a round-up of our experience in the city, check out The Best and Worst of Marrakesh.
The majestic, snow-capped High-Atlas Mountain range runs through the centre of Morocco and forms a beautiful backdrop to the Marrakesh city skyline. The incredible, varied scenery includes traditional Berber villages, waterfalls, epic gorges and even (limited) skiing in winter.
Eat… At the Todra Gorge, the Dar Al Manadir Todra Gorge comes with a great roof terrace offering up views of the gorge and the surrounding mountainous countryside. The restaurant serves set menus that come recommended.
Stay… Also at the Todra Gorge, the Hotel Les Roches is located within easy reach of the gorge and is well placed to service the climbing crowd. The restaurant also caters to coach trip groups at lunchtimes.
Don’t Miss… Descending from the mountains on the southern side, coming on the main road from Marrakesh, brings you past the traditional mud-brick town of Aït Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Aït Benhaddou was used as a backdrop for Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ movie. This has ensured it has been immaculately maintained and makes for a lovely place to stop and wander around, even if it is a bit of a tourist magnet for the tour parties passing through.
One of the four imperial cities of Morocco, Meknes was the capital of the country and the greater Moorish empire under the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismail in the 17th and 18th centuries. The city boasts an impressive, though crumbling, architectural legacy from this era, with grand city walls and palaces built in a Spanish-Moorish style.
Eat… Restaurant Baraka is located inside a family house and serves up traditional and delicious Moroccan food in a beautiful environment.
Stay… Riad El Ma has good sized rooms with private bathrooms, set in a historic building. The guesthouse has the bonus of an outdoor swimming pool for use during the summer months.
Don’t Miss… Located 30km north of Meknes are the archeological remains of the once important Berber and Roman city of Volubilis. Flattened by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, sections of the town have since been expertly reconstructed. There are some well-preserved and impressive floor mosaics, including some noteworthy ones that incorporate elements of both Roman and Berber design in their patterns.
On the Atlantic coast in Morocco’s deep south sits Sidi Ifni. With a long colonial history of Spanish occupation and control only coming to an end in the 1950s, the small city displays this legacy with an architectural style quite different to other places surrounding it.
Striking Art Deco buildings are slowly crumbling, but still retain a lot of their grandeur. The area around Sidi Ifni is also home to some great Atlantic, sandy beaches.
Eat… The pick of places to eat is Le Nomad restaurant. Inspired by French cuisine and consistently busy, this is a lovely little spot serving up tasty and fresh local food.
Stay… Logis La Marine is positioned right on the seafront with unbeatable ocean views. It offers smart rooms with private bathrooms.
Don’t Miss… Each summer (usually in June), Sidi Ifni hosts its own summer festival featuring music, food and Saharan activities.
Fes (or Fez) is Morocco’s second-largest city. It is home to an ancient old town and medina. The medina sits in a natural bowl and its cramped, winding and slightly claustrophobic lanes make for a very atmospheric place to explore. Grand boulevards and gardens surround the city centre.
Eat… In the heart of the medina sits the Ruined Garden. Its beautiful walled garden is truly an oasis of calm and a great place to escape the business of the surrounding city. It serves tasty, fresh food with an emphasis on vegetarian dishes.
Stay… Hotel Dar Anne has a great location and offers modern and artistic rooms within a historic building. A beautiful roof terrace provides the perfect place to relax and enjoy the sunshine while taking a break from exploring the city.
Don’t Miss… Close to the Blue Gate, just outside the old city, is the Garden of Jnan Sbil. The extensive garden offers a pleasant place to walk around or relax in the shade if needing a break from the heat of the city.
Morocco is a friendly and welcoming country full of endless colour and diversity, just waiting to be explored. Whatever type of holiday you're after, be it a city break, beach, mountain or desert adventure, Morocco has it all. I hope I've been able to give you some inspiration for some of the very best cities to visit in Morocco.
This article was edited by Loredana Elena and was first published on May 5, 2020 11:04 UTC.
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