Nowhere is more culturally exciting and vibrant than the kingdom of Morocco! Just 4 hours by air from Europe, it is considered the Gateway to Africa. Visitors will find a plethora of things to do in Morocco that you simply can’t find anywhere else. You can visit the Sahara Desert, ride a camel, hike the High Atlas Mountains, see Roman ruins and red kasbah fortresses, haggle for souvenirs in the souk, and even savor delicious mint tea and Moroccan food.
Stretching south from Tangier and Tetouan on the Mediterranean coast, Morocco’s cities are mainly located down the northwest Atlantic coast of Africa as far as the Western Sahara. Rabat, Morocco’s capital city, has much to offer tourists. However, the cities Marrakech and Casablanca (Morocco’s largest city) are better known by tourists.
Morocco cities are noisy and lively, filled with tradesmen and street vendors offering everything from snake charming to leather belts. You’ll hear locals chatter in the local Arabid or Berber language. However, French and English are also widely spoken.
Tourists to Morocco should expect a dry Mediterranean climate with warm sunny days in summer. However, the best months to visit are from March to May and September through November. This is to avoid the summer heat in Morocco cities. Also, the coastal plains are lush and fertile, producing olives, almonds, citrus fruits, grapes, dates, tobacco, and more. However, the Rif and the Atlas Mountain Ranges offer cooler temperatures in contrast to the searing heat and arid sand dunes of the Sahara Desert.
Are you ready to see what Morocco has in store for you? Here are 10 top places to visit and things to do in Morocco that will provide you with unique experiences and unforgettable memories. Enjoy!
Marrakech is nicknamed the “Red City” due to its pink sandstone buildings and is a fantastic introduction to Morocco. Nestled in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, it has an old fortified Medina (Old City); a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marrakech is a place to explore on foot. Also, tourists should opt to stay in a riad; a small family-run hotel with rooms arranged around a courtyard and fountain, hidden behind windowless walls. Often these riads are located on shady streets that are just wide enough for a donkey and cart. They can’t be accessed by taxi, but the hotel porter or owner will transport your luggage by handcart to and from the taxi drop-off point.
The Medina in Marrakech is the hub of local life. It is made up of a labyrinth of narrow passageways near the main square, Jemaa el-Fna. Take a visit here and watch snake charmers and acrobats performing for tips, market vendors, and money lenders doing business on the street.
Also, the souk is the place for shopping for bargaining. Items to buy include handmade rugs, leather goods, metalwork, pottery, and other items. The traders can be persistent at times and will often court customers with a ritual of mint tea while they browse. A local guide is useful to help with directions and will keep pestering traders at bay.
Other must-see attractions and things to do in Marrakech within the old city walls include the Koutoubia Mosque, 19th century Bahia Palace, Majorelle Gardens and the City Gate.
Morocco’s second-largest city is Fès. Located inland in the northwest of the country, it sits at the crossroads of the Trans-Saharan Trade Route on the banks of the River Fez. It has two old quarters; Fès el Bali and Fès Jdid. However, it also does have a modern urban area constructed during French colonial rule. The heart of the Old City is said to be one of the largest car-free zones in the world, mainly due to its narrow streets. Fès is also home to the oldest continuously operating university in the world, University Al-Karaouine.
It’s wise to employ a guide to take you into the Medina to avoid getting hopelessly lost. For a small fee, the guide will show you the highlights of Fès. The tour includes visiting the Medersa Bou Inania; a former Koran School with amazing Arabic architecture.
Things to do in Fès, Morocco include the huge Chouara Tannery which dates back almost 1000 years. The process is still done entirely by hand using traditional processes with no machinery. Still operating in Fès el Bali, the tannery cures hides from cows, sheep, camels, and goats to be made into leather goods. It’s one of the most interesting things to do for tourists visiting Morocco. See the round earthenware jars filled with colored dyes and chemicals which are used to produce some of the finest leather, which is exported around the world. Why not treat yourself to a pair of soft leather slippers from Morocco with pointed toes, known as babouches?
Other things to do while visiting Fès include visiting the Grande Porte Bab Boujeloud (Blue Gate) with its colorful mosaic tiles and the Merenid Tombs; a crumbling necropolis overlooking the city. There’s a stunning view from the hilltop location.
Royal City of Meknès
Just 60km from Fès, the Imperial City of Meknès is the former home of the Sultan Moulay Ismail. During his reign (1672-1727) the city was the capital of Morocco. It has magnificent buildings around the central L’Hedim square which are decorated with many colorful mosaics.
The Medina is entered through a huge gateway known as Bab Mansour. The Dar Jamai was once a family home and now houses the Museum of Moroccan Art. The souk is a good place to buy sweet pastries and spices while local restaurants serve Moroccan couscous, tajines and other specialty dishes.
Also, one of the most famous sites in Meknès is the Roman site of Volubilis. See the mosaic floors in the Roman villa.
Arguably Morocco’s best-known and largest city is Casablanca which is situated on the Atlantic coast. Famous for the romantic movie of the same name, Casablanca is an important port and financial center.
The top things to do in Casablanca include visiting the impressive Hassan II Mosque; completed in 1993. The 210-meter-high minaret is the tallest in the world. Also, the mosque is the largest in North Africa. It has space inside for 25,000 worshippers and a further 80,000 in the courtyard.
The Habous (New Medina) was built in Art Deco style by the French in 1916. Also, the main sights for tourists visiting Morocco are the administrative building at Mankamat-al-Pasha, the Royal Palace, the Olive Souk, and the Moulay Youssef Mosque. Also, after the Old Medina was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake, it now has a landmark clock tower worth photographing.
The Arab League Park is a pleasant green park to visit in Casablanca. Situated inside is the former Roman Catholic Casablanca Cathedral. Though it’s no longer used for worship, tourists can visit art exhibitions and attend musical events.
The Sahara Desert, Morocco
Some of the most exciting things to do in Morocco can be found on a trip to the Sahara Desert. The unique landscape with its orange wind-sculpted dunes is eerily quiet and vast. Also, book a tour that includes an overnight stay in a Berber tent and marvel at the starry sky in the unpolluted atmosphere. Be warned, temperatures drop quickly in the desert at sunset, so bring warm clothes.
Go camel trekking at sunset in the Erg Chebbi dunes. Here, you can have a fun ride through the desert on a lurching camel. You’ll feel like a timeless nomad as you experience the reality of life in the desert. Day trips include visiting the red Telouet Kasbah; an important stop for merchant caravans since the 18th century. It’s a breathtaking site to tour with a guide.
Some Sahara Desert Tours in Morocco include 4×4 dune-bashing and dune surfing. You can also visit the Draa Valley, the red town of Zagora, and see the 11 million palm trees in the desert oasis palmeraie.
Most visitors to Morocco bypass the capital city of Rabat. However, this cosmopolitan city has plenty of things to do and see. It was ranked as one of the Top Travel Destinations of 2013 by CNN. Also, the Medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Landmarks include the towering 12th century Hassan Tower, an ancient unfinished mosque, and the Berber Royal Fort with its desert gardens and ocean views.
Look for the Bab Oudaia Gate; the Kasbah of the Udayas and the old Necropolis of Chellah which has scenic gardens and Roman ruins. In contrast, the Riad District and Pietri Square have modern high-rise architecture. Here, there are plenty of modern hotels in and around Rabat Medina.
Agadir is on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco. It was virtually destroyed in an earthquake in 1960 and consequently is more modern and spacious than other Moroccan cities. It still retains a sense of the past and offers plenty of things to do during your visit. High on the hill is the Kasbah, which survived the quake. It’s worth the hike to see the amazing views of the city and bay.
Visit the sandy beach or go to a local hammam; an important part of Moroccan culture. As well as being a place of cleansing, it is also a social hub. Men and women either have separate areas or visit on different days. Also, the Argan Palace offers a pampering hammam experience for tourists and locals with a top-to-toe scrub after a detoxifying sauna.
For dining in Agadir, Les Blancs at the Marina d’Agadir offers a delicious menu of seafood with a Spanish influence and prices are very reasonable. Souk El Had is a colorful market where locals buy and sell their produce. You may also want to visit The Memoire d’Agadir, a small museum with a cactus garden.
Tangier is the most European-influenced city in Morocco as it is a Mediterranean port within sight of Gibraltar. It offers a pleasant climate and is a favorite haven for artists, writers, and musicians. There are plenty of things to do in Tangier. For example, you can visit the beach for a swim or stroll along the Grand Socco promenade.
Also, the Caves of Hercules are steeped in legends. This includes the myth that Hercules slept in the caves after stealing three golden apples from the Garden of Hesperides. They are located close to the Cap Spartel Lighthouse which marks the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar.
The coastal resort of Essaouira is an off-the-beaten-path place to visit in Morocco for those looking for a quieter place to stay. Fly into Marrakech or Casablanca and take the local bus to Essaouira, about 2.5 hours. You’ll see plenty of countrysides and local life while enjoying the ride. Stay at a local guesthouse or Airbnb in Essaouira, but you need to book in advance to be sure of a room.
This seaside city still has a traditional walled Medina and souk. It offers guided eco-tours, surfing and watersports from the sandy beach. Stroll along the ramparts of the old fort, rent a scooter to explore the local area and perhaps attend a music festival.
The port in Essaouira is the place to buy freshly caught fish straight from the boat and have it cooked in a local restaurant for a few local Moroccan dirhams. As with many places in Morocco, the cuisine is tasty and delicious. Slow-cooked meats and tajines are flavored with sweet spices and fruits and served with couscous. Roasted ears of corn, escargots (snails), spicy sausages and camel burgers all make a cheap and tasty meal for tourists to enjoy on a budget. Try Hut Mqalli, a fish stew flavored with saffron and ginger, or dujaj kadra toumiya (chicken with almonds) during your stay.
The High Atlas Mountains
The Atlas Mountains is located in the center and south of Morocco, also known as the backbone of the country. They stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Algerian border and are snow-capped for much of the year. This may surprise you because this is a hot desert country. Situated in the Toubkal National Park, its highest peak is Toubkal at 4,167m. The area has several seasonal rivers and wadis (dry river beds).
Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains are ideal for trekking, 4×4 tours, caving, climbing, and other activities. However, it should be done with a local guide. Your tour may include a visit to a local Berber village to see how these semi-nomadic people live today. You will also see animals and endemic plants, many of which are in danger of extinction.
Also, visitors to Morocco should remember that this North African country. While being welcoming and hospitable, it is a Muslim country with an Arab/Berber heritage. Its culture and religious rules should be respected. This is inclusive of women covering their arms and heads with a scarf when visiting a mosque. Also, they should wear modest clothing to avoid offense.
Whatever you choose to do in Morocco, your trip is sure to be full of unforgettable experiences.