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Full of exotic sights and sounds, Morocco is the gateway to Northern Africa and is known for its spice souks, mosaic-covered buildings and access to the Sahara Desert and Atlas Mountains. It lures history and architecture enthusiasts in with its cobbled passageways, ornate courtyards, coastal villages and blue-painted cities. From adobe forts to medieval quarters, here are the best things to do in Morocco.
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An absolute must when visiting Morocco, getting lost in the bustling maze of tiny streets in the Marrakech Medina offers a taste of the local culture. Soak up the vibrant atmosphere as you browse the array of vendors, then stop to watch traditional musicians perform and snake charmers put on a show. Meander through the maze-like alleyways and pick up colorful souvenirs such as lamps and fabrics, then sit down at a cafe and drink glasses of mint tea.
While Morocco is full of beautiful mosques, its the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca that is a must-see. It’s the largest mosque in Morocco and the most impressive, serving as a lavish symbol of the city with ornate details that took 10,000 artisan craftsmen over seven years to build. The structure sits on a platform that extends over the Atlantic Ocean and features Moorish influences with vibrant mosaics and tiles that tie into traditional Islamic architecture.
No trip to Morocco would be complete without visiting the Sahara Desert. It’s a great place to go on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, where you can ride camels at sunset, go on a 4X4 adventure and camp underneath the stars in a traditional Bedouin village. You’ll want to see the spectacular sunrise in the desert, where its dunes are reflected in red and orange and make for a beautiful photograph souvenir.
Made famous for its picturesque blue architecture, Chefchaouen sits in Morocco’s Rif Mountains and provides a tranquil atmosphere away from the bustle of the bigger cities. The small city remains unchanged since the Middle Ages and is home to winding passages that are adorned with bright blue walls, where you can shop for unique handicrafts in craft markets, stay in a traditional guest house and visit side-street cafes.
One of Morocco’s most famous cultural destinations is Fes, known for its leather products that come from the leather bazaar in the old medina. Make sure to visit the tanneries, if you can handle the strong pungent smell, to admire the historic practice in action. Head to the shops in the galleries above Chaouwara Tannery to see the vats filled with colorful dyes and the skins laid out to dry in the sun or browse the shops for handbags.
Stretching over 1,500 miles, the Atlas Mountains is home to North Africa’s highest peak, Jebel Toubkal. It’s a great place for those seeking an adventurous hike, as it sits 13,671-feet-high and its trails start just an hour outside of Marrakesh in a mountain village. Trek with a guide to the top for spectacular surrounding views, while non-hikers can also enjoy visiting Berber villages and spotting diverse wildlife.
If you’re a movie buff, make sure to visit Ait Ben Haddou, a golden-stoned adobe kasbah fortress. It’s beautiful scenery and dramatic landscapes make for a spectacular sight, where its orange-hued turrets and twisting lanes have been the setting for various famous films in Hollywood. The UNESCO-listed landmark resembles its days in the 11th century and has been featured in “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Gladiator”.
Moroccan is known for their hammams, or public steam baths, that help relax and alleviate pains. Many of the hotels and guesthouses have on-site hammams, while luxurious spas also offer you a chance to experience this Moroccan rite of passage with high-quality products. It offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about their cultural traditions and exfoliate at the same time, particularly females who can mingle with local women.
Don’t just spend all your time in the city, head to the coast to explore cities like Essaouira, which sits on the Atlantic. Known as a serious surfing spot, the laid-back town offers a landscape of colorful fishing boats bobbing on the water and local restaurants serving up fresh seafood. The waves here cater to surfers of all skill levels, while those who prefer to stay on land can take a walk along the beach or visit an ocean-side cafe.
Spend an afternoon exploring the tranquil atmosphere of Majorelle Gardens, which was established by French artist Jacque Majorelle. You’ll find peace and quiet in the colorful gardens, where a serene oasis is dotted with swaying palms, exotic trees, vibrant flower displays and beautiful streams and reflective pools. You can browse the small museum showcasing Islamic art, spot different bird species soaring above or pack a picnic and soak up the scent of the seasonal foliage.
Instead of staying at a boring hotel, experience a dose of Moroccan culture by staying overnight in a traditional riad. Riads are Moroccan homes that have been converted into hotels, offering a luxurious opportunity to experience life like a local. You’ll find these riads nestled within the old walled cities of Fez and Marrakech, where their interiors feature a photo-worthy central courtyard with a water feature and boast intricate tiled floors, mosaics and a rooftop terrace.
If you’re into delving deep in to the rich history of Morocco, visit the Saadian Tombs in Marrakech. Commissioned in the 16th century by the founder of the Saadi Dynasty, Ahmad al Mansour. Visit the tombs to see intricate Arabic craftsmanship and where many of the Saadian sultans were buried. It was rediscovered in 1917, and now visitors can meander through the complex to see its tile and lattice-work in the mausoleums and rose garden.