With an exotic mix of imperial cities, bustling souks and striking landscapes, Morocco casts a spell that is difficult to resist. The heady aromas and colourful wares of Djemaa El Fna will leave your head spinning, while pretty Chefchaouen captivates with its quaint blue rooftops. Those in search of adventure will find it in the hiking trails of the Atlas Mountains and the massive sand dunes of the Sahara. Film buffs can explore the fortified city of Ait Benhaddou, famous for its starring role in a number of international films, while lovers of sand and sea can find respite in charming Essaouira.
Here is our pick of the top ten must-do experiences in Morocco.
1. Camp out in the Sahara
Camel trekking in the Sahara Desert is a truly unique experience, as wave upon wave of orange dunes roll out into the distance creating the most spectacular panoramic vistas. Take an epic camel ride across the Erg Chebbi sand dunes of the Sahara and then spend a memorable night under the stars in a remote Berber camp. If you can only do one thing in Morocco, this is it.
2. Go trekking in the Atlas Mountains
The rugged beauty of the Atlas Mountains offers hikers a huge range of trekking opportunities, from an easy-paced walk in the foothills to a strenuous climb to the summit of Mount Toubkal. With stunning scenery and charming mountain villages, the Atlas Mountains are a great way to experience Morocco away from the hustle and bustle of the city, even if just for a day.
3. Experience Djemaa El Fna at night
Set in the heart of Marrakech, Djemaa el Fna is best seen in the evening hours when it’s overflowing with food stalls, dancers, acrobats, fortune tellers, musicians and henna artists. The souks have a variety of traditional Moroccan items for sale and bargaining is expected. Top picks include colourful lanterns, leather handbag sand shoes, musical instruments and exotic spices, dried fruits and nuts.
4. Wander around the old medina in Fes
Step back in time with a visit to the Imperial City of Fes, the largest and oldest medieval city in the world. The ancient medina is a bustling hive of activity, which remains worlds apart from the 21st century. It is very easy to get lost in the labyrinth of winding alleys, scattered with beautiful mosques and minarets, stunning synagogues, market stalls and pungent-smelling tanneries.
5. Explore the ancient Ait Benaddou
Situated in the foothills of the southern slopes of the High Atlas Mountains, between the Sahara and Marrakech, the 17th century fortified city of Ait Benhaddou is well worth exploring. Set on a hill along the Ouarzazate River, the UNESCO-listed site boasts some of Morocco’s most beautiful kasbahs and has featured in a number of international films, most notably as the backdrop of Gladiator.
6. Go rock climbing in Todra Gorge
Test your skills at rock climbing or horse riding at Todra Gorge, Morocco’s spectacular rose red canyon. One of the most dramatic sights in the country, the gorge snakes its way through the rugged mountain range. With such spectacular scenery, ever changing colours of the rock face and the hubbub of locals passing through herding camels, it’s the perfect place to stop for a while.
7. Chill out in Essaouira
Relatively untouched by tourism, the medieval coastal town of Essaouira retains much of its original charm. Small enough to explore on foot, it is the perfect place to unwind on the beach, enjoy the many cafes lining the waterfront, browse artisan shops and try your hand at a range of water sports. The perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of Morocco’s imperial cities.
8. Take in the blue city of Chefchaouen
Set in the shadow of the rugged Rif Mountains, the pretty mountain city of Chefchaouen is filled with quaint white-washed homes accented with power-blue and red-tiled roofs. Narrow, winding lanes converge on a charming medina at the heart of the town, which is easy to explore with all the usual on offer – carpets, leather wares and spices.
9. Learn to surf in Taghazoute
Ride world-class swells in the laid back fishing village of Taghazoute on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast. Whether you are a pro or it is your first time on a board this surfer’s paradise caters to all levels. By day tackle the waves and in the evening chill out at the surf camp and take in spectacular views overlooking the ocean.
10. Eat an authentic Moroccan Tagine
It is not just the bustling souks, ancient medinas and spectacular landscapes that tempt travellers to Morocco; the cuisine is a draw in itself and there is nothing quite like an authentic Moroccan tagine. Named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked, the tagine is a tasty North African concoction of lamb, cous cous, saffron, turmeric, paprika, coriander, lemon and honey.