“Le Jardin Secret (The Secret Garden) is a hidden palace made of small, linked gardens, and it is here you will find a brief reprieve from the hectic medina streets.”
A country steeped in a rich, diverse history, with a thriving creative community and unrivalled cuisine, Morocco is a dynamic mix of old and new, set against a sunglazed landscape. As the country transforms before our eyes, there’s never been a better time to visit Morocco.
Or ‘Kech, as it’s known to trendy locals – concept shops, luxurious riads, grand, palatial hotels, the sun setting slowly over the rosy red buildings – is there anything Marrakech doesn’t offer? Shop Berber carpets, handmade in the Atlas Mountains, or intricately designed local jewelry. Le Jardin Secret (The Secret Garden) is a hidden palace made of small, linked gardens, and it is here you will find a brief reprieve from the hectic medina streets. Koutoubia Mosque and Ben Youssef Madrasa rise up around the legendary city, while a visit to the shadowy Saadian Tombs allow you to explore its exotic past. Dive deeper into the wonders of the Red City here.
Reminiscent of Marrakech before it exploded onto the international travel scene, Fez is beloved for its medieval medina. As the first imperial city in the country, Fez is the original medina, harking back to the 8th century. Get lost in the tiny streets that walk you into the country’s storied past, and enjoy the ambience of Bab El Mahrouk, a striking point of entry at the western side of the medina. Beloved Café Clock kicked off the city’s rejuvenation in the early aughts, but it has plenty of foodie competition now, from upscale eateries like Nur Restaurant, Palais Amani and Ruined Garden.
MARRAKECH / @MOHAMMED IAK, UNSPLASH.COM
FEZ / MOHAMMED IAK, UNSPLASH.COM
Morocco’s most populous city is a surprisingly modern town, especially for hopeless romantics expecting it to resemble an Ingrid Bergman film (which, incidentally, was filmed on a soundstage in Hollywood). The city’s diverse Art Deco architecture simply enhances its modern appeal. Wander along the Boulevard Mohammed V, the palm-lined street that runs straight through the city’s heart. Take in the towering Mosque of Hassan II, which required a staggering 10,000 craftsmen to complete. Sample local almond and honey loaded briouats and Kaab razal at the iconic Bennis patisserie in the Habous quarter, and savor the most decadent couscous at La Scala, as you watch the sun dip beneath the Atlantic Ocean. For more on this divine city, check out our top tips here
Over the hustle and bustle of the busy city souks? Decamp to this gorgeous seaside town on the Atlantic Coast. Originally named Mogador, the Portuguese fortress built in the 16th century features a wall-enclosed medina, offering a feast of spices, fresh juices and leather goods. End the day with a stroll through the ports, taking in the fishing boats and gorgeous kites sailing above the azure sea. More recently, the city has become a hotspot for music lovers, especially fans of Gnaoui and World Fusion.
An amalgamation of French, Spanish and British influences make Tangier one of Morocco’s most international cities. Wander into this intoxicating bohemia that has charmed literary sensations from William S Burroughs to Tennessee Williams, seduced by the city’s language and culture. Lose yourself in endless artisanal marketplaces and Art Deco architecture, and enjoy the photo-ops at the entranceway to the Strait of Gibraltar.
TANGIER / @LEVI AVI PRONK, UNSPLASH.COM
"Moroccan food typically involves Arab, Andalusian and Mediterranean flavors."
CASABLANCA / @OHPHOTO.CZ, INSTAGRAM
ESSAOURIA / @CLEMENT BERGEY, UNSPLASH.COM
“Home to one of the highest peaks in Africa, the Atlas Mountains could also be considered the artisanal heart of Morocco.”
Budding photographers; this one’s for you. Chefchaouen, Morocco’s famed Blue City is located in the Northwest of the country. Filled with lovely riads and a traditional marketplace, the city is tucked into a majestic hillside with plenty of nearby hiking options (Cascades d’Akchour is a 30 minute drive via taxi). The traditional marketplace is far less crowded than its sister in Marrakech, so you can enjoy a more laid back ambiance as you browse the stalls and savour the street food – a mix of Spanish and Arab influence. Don’t forget to visit Ras el-Ma, where the fresh mountain water cascades into the town; a popular local spot.
Home to one of the highest peaks in Africa, the Atlas Mountains could also be considered one of the main artisanal hearts of Morocco. The local Berber population is responsible for much of the souks’ finest offerings, from hand woven rugs to intricate, wood-carved homewares. Visitors can sample the local bread (“khobz”), baked in clay ovens, or even try their hands at the loom. A natural barrier between the Sahara Desert and the northern plains, the Atlas Mountains are ideal for outdoorsy explorers who want to trek, bike, ski and enjoy the beauty of the natural landscape and nearby villages. Make a pilgrimage to nearby Ouzoud falls, a picturesque waterfall located near the town of Tanaghmeilt.
ATLAS MOUNTAINS/ @ALEXANDRA BOROVOVA, UNSPLASH.COM
Look familiar? Of course it does; Hollywood loves this south-central Moroccan town, also known as the door to the desert. Game of Thrones, Lawrence of Arabia and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, among other films, have made Ouarzazate a cinematic icon. At sun-up, visit Ait Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to watch the fun graze the rosy clay fortress. Midway between the Sahara Desert and Marrakech, Ouarzazate is a great place to relax and sample the local cuisine. An hour drive down a dusty desert road leads you to the incredible Fint Oasis, a palm-covered village surrounded by dunes.
Averaging a ten-hour drive from Marrakech, the Sahara stretches out as far as the eye can see (and is about the same size as the USA). There are plenty of luxury tour providers that will take you into the dunes. Glamping is the ideal nomadic off-the-beaten-path option. Get comfortable in style under a sky full of stars. Hiking starts at sunrise, while camel rides and sand-boarding are other popular options. We advise skipping the sweltering midsummer if you’re desert bound.
CHEFCHAOUEN / @MOHHAMED IAK, UNSPLASH.COM
SAHARA DESERT / @BUCKETLISTBUMS, INSTAGRAM
OURZAZATE / @JANITA TOP, UNSPLASH.COM
ZAGORA / @MARVIN MEYER, UNSPLASH.COM
This famed desert outpost is many travelers’ final stop before reaching the Sahara. Home to various festivals, Zagora is located in the Southwestern Draa Valley. Every Wednesday and Sunday the town hosts a traditional souk, divided into four sections, where fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and live animals are sold alongside clothing and local crafts. Morocco’s longest river, the Draa River, is often full of swimmers during the summer. Vast palm groves stretch for miles between the city and river, and offer 30+ varieties of sweet, sticky dates, harvested every fall.
Ten destinations. Drastically different Moroccos. Infinite memories to make.
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