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MOROCCO TRAVEL GUIDE

Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences. The very mention of the name ‘Morocco’ is enough to fire up the imagination about all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all places exotic and exciting. Morocco has held a fascination for travellers since the days when the olive-skinned hordes of Berber merchants decided to make this country on the northern African coast their home for all time to come.

 

Morocco is a beautiful and diverse country that has something for every traveller – amazing natural beauty, flora and fauna; a colourful history and present; exquisite craftsmanship in its mosques and madrasas; vibrant cities; intriguing folk festivals and traditions; and an ever-ready smile for visitors.

COUNTRY PAGE
  • Capital: Rabat
  • Currency: Moroccan dirham (د.م MAD)
  • Area: 446,550 km²
  • Population: 36,03 million (2018)
  • Language: Arabic and Tamazight (official), French and Spanish are often the languages of business
  • Religion:Muslim 98.5%, Christian 1.3%, Jewish 0.2%
  • Electricity: 220V, 50Hz (European plug)

 

WOMAN TRAVELLERS TO MOROCCO

Prior to marriage, many Moroccan men might have had little opportunity to meet and get to know women outside their family – a major reason why Western women receive so much attention. Frequent unwanted looks and comments can come as something of shock to first-time visitors and the constant attention can be extremely wearing. You will have to develop a thick skin and ignore the hassle and it's worth keeping in mind that low-level harassment rarely goes any further. Don't feel the need to be polite - no Moroccan woman would put up with behaviour like that. Dark sunglasses make it easier to avoid eye contact. If someone won't leave you alone, look for families, a busy shop, or a local woman and don't be afraid to ask for help.

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SEASONS AT A GLANCE

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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Peak Season

Shoulder Season

Off Peak Season

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Climate Chart with avergae monthly temperatues and rainfall

BEST TIME TO VISIT MOROCCO

Morocco has a diverse climate in accordance with its varied geography, ranging from desert conditions to alpine conditions in the highlands. The interior of the country experiences seasonal temperature variations, with average temperatures of 25-30°C in the summer and less than 15°C in the winter. Temperatures in the coastal regions range between 22-25°C in the summer (July-September) and 10-12°C in the winter (January-March). The wet season lasts between November and March, affecting only northern Morocco. Morocco also experiences the sharqi (chergui) winds, which are hot, dusty winds from the Sahara.

 

Spring (around April and May), is perhaps the best overall time, with a summer climate in the south and in the mountains, as well as on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. July and August, the hottest months, can be wonderful on the coast, however, while in the mountains there are no set rules.

 

  • November to March - Marrakesh and the south are popular at Christmas and New Year, but the north of the country can be chilly and wet.
  • April & October - Spring sandstorms in the Sahara and persistent rain in the north; popular elsewhere.
  • May to September - Discounts in accommodation and souks. Domestic tourism keeps prices high on the coast, where this is considered a shoulder season.

 

Winter can offer perfect days in the south, though desert nights can get very cold – a major consideration if you’re staying in cheaper hotels, which rarely have heating. If you’re planning to hike in the mountains, it’s best to keep to the months from April to October unless you have some experience of snow conditions.

 

Weather apart, the Islamic religious calendar and its related festivals will have the most seasonal effect on your travel. The most important factor is Ramadan, the month of daytime fasting; this can be a problem for transport, and especially hiking, though the festive evenings do much to compensate.

BEST TIME FOR:

Morocco has some beautiful beaches, and you can find suitable beach weather all year round. The best beach weather is from May to September, but you can just head South, to places like Dahkla, during the winter months.

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MOROCCO TRAVEL COSTS

It doesn’t cost a lot of money to travel Morocco. Where travellers go wrong is when they eat Western meals, fancy food, and stay in expensive riads. If you avoid doing that, you can enjoy the best of Morocco at an affordable price.

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TRAVEL TIPS FOR MOROCCO

  • Eat from street stalls – It’s extremely easy to eat well cheaply in Morocco as for just a couple of dollars, you can indulge in delicious kebabs, sausages, barbecued corn on the cob, hot roasted chicken, and huge sandwiches, among many other tasty options.
  • Negotiate cab fare – Always negotiate and agree on a price before you get into the taxi. You’ll need to bargain hard at times.
  • Watch out for fake guides – Faux guides will linger in the medinas and offer you tour services. Be forceful in saying no and keep walking away quickly. The best way to avoid Faux guides and touts is to avoid eye contact and ignore them, this will generally discourage them as they will try to invest their time in bothering another more willing tourist.
  • Be careful of thieves – Petty theft, mostly involving wallets, watches, and cameras, is prevalent in the crowded medinas around the country so stay alert and keep your valuables out of sight.
  • Don't drink – Although drinking is frowned upon in the country, you can still find plenty of places that allow you to drink. Just avoid drinking altogether during your visit and save.

In general, do not accept the services of people who approach you. Never be afraid to say no.

 

GETTING AROUND MOROCCO

  • AIR - National carrier Royal Air Maroc is the main domestic airline. All flights are via its hub at Mohammed V International Airport, Casablanca. Flying is relatively expensive but may be worth it if you are pushed for time.
  • BUS - Buses are the cheapest and most efficient way to travel around the country. They are generally safe, although drivers sometimes leave a little to be desired.
  • TRAIN - Morocco’s excellent train network is one of Africa’s best, linking most of the main centres. Trains are reasonably priced and preferable to buses where available. Trains are comfortable, fast and generally run to their timetables. The ONCF (Office National des Chemins de Fer) runs the network.
  • CAR - The main road network is in good condition. Road surfaces are good but roads are very narrow, in most cases only one narrow lane in each direction. Driving safely in Morocco takes practice and patience but can take you to some really beautiful places.

REGIONS & HIGHLIGHTS OF MOROCCO

For many travellers Morocco might be just a short hop by budget airline, or by ferry from Spain, but culturally it’s a much further distance to travel. On arrival, the regular certainties of Europe are swept away by the full technicolour arrival of Africa and Islam. It’s a complete sensory overload.

 

  • Djemaa el-Fna - Witness the endless spectacle of Morocco's most dynamic city, Marrakesh.

  • Fez - Lose yourself in the maze-like charms of this medieval city, replete with sights, sounds and smells.

  • Essaouira - Laze by the sea in Morocco's coolest and most evocative resort.

  • High Atlas - Trek deep into a world of stunning scenery and isolated Berber villages.

If you find yourself in Marrakesh and you're looking for an unforgettable experience reach out to Youssef from Hot Air Balloon Marrakech.

 

MEDITERRANEAN COAST & THE RIF

Caught between the crashing waves of the Mediterranean and the rough crags of the Rif Mountains, northern Morocco is one of the most charming parts of the country.

 

  • Tangier, the faded libertine of a port that links Africa and Europe, has shed its shady past to enjoy a rebirth as fashionable Moroccan Riviera with a cultural life buzzing in a way it hasn't done since the 1950s. Tangier is the starting point for most visitors arriving by ferry from Spain.

  • Beautifully perched beneath the raw peaks of the Rif, the charming pastel blue medina of Chefchaouen deserves its reputation as a magnet for travellers, while Tetouan boasts the food and architecture of the Spanish protectorate era.

 

ATLANTIC COAST

This windswept coast is home to Morocco's cultured capital, Rabat, and its economic hub, Casablanca. The region is bookended by Asilah and Essaouira, famed for their medinas and surrounding beaches.

 

  • Rabat (Morocco’s political and administrative capital), may seem somewhat short on top-drawer tourist attractions, but it compensates with plenty of charm. The ville nouvelle's palm-lined boulevards are clean, well kept and relatively free of traffic – a blessed relief for those who have spent time in Casablanca. There's a clean central beach, an intact and evocative kasbah, and an attractive walled medina that is far less touristy than those in other large cities.

  • Though not as atmospheric as other Moroccan cities, Casablanca is the best representation of the modern nation. This is where money is being made, where young Moroccans come to seek their fortunes and where business and the creative industries prosper. The city's handsome Mauresque buildings, which meld French-colonial design and traditional Moroccan style, are best admired in the downtown area.

 

See the below map for more details and points of interest - or download KML / GPX

WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN MOROCCO

WESTERN SAHARA

After crossing the rocky and forlorn expanses of the hammada (stony desert) south from Tarfaya, the Western Saharan city of Dakhla is an appealingly relaxed destination. A constant feature is the cobalt intensity of the Atlantic Ocean, softened here by palm trees, a pleasant oceanfront esplanade and a shallow island-studded lagoon. It’s a very lonely 500km drive from Laâyoune (more than 1000km from Agadir) through endless hammada, and Dakhla is actually closer to Nouâdhibou (Mauritania) than any Moroccan city. Occasional roadblocks on the fringes of the desert reinforce this is a disputed region, despite what is indicated by the Moroccan flags shifting in tropical breezes.

 

 

IMPERIAL CITIES & THE MIDDLE ATLAS

Several important cities have taken root here, including ancient Fez, Meknès and the Roman city of Volubilis. Heading south, the low-rise Middle Atlas mountains come into play. Oak and cedar forests create refreshing pockets of woodland and easy hiking terrain, connecting the dots between Berber hill towns and villages.

 

  • Fez is a supremely self-confident city with a historical and cultural lineage that beguiles visitors. In the Medina (Fès el-Bali) donkeys cart goods down the warren of alleyways as they have done since medieval times, and ruinous and dilapidated pockets loom around every corner - although a government drive to restore the medina to its former glory is spurring changes. The Chaouwara tanneries are one of the city’s most iconic sights (and smells), offering a unique window into the pungent, natural process of producing world-class leather using methods that have changed little since medieval times.

  • Meknès is quieter and smaller than its grand neighbour Fez, and feels rather overshadowed - receiving far fewer visitors than it should. It’s more laid-back with less hassle, yet still has all the winding narrow medina streets and grand buildings that it warrants as an imperial city and one-time home of the Moroccan sultanate.

 

CENTRAL MOROCCO & THE HIGH ATLAS

Marrakesh is the queen bee of Moroccan tourism but look beyond it and you'll find great trekking in the dramatic High Atlas, and spectacular valleys and gorges that lead to the vast and empty sands of the Saharan dunes.

 

  • Marrakesh’s old heart still beats strongly enough, from the time-worn ramparts that ring the city to the nightly spectacle of the Djemaa el-Fna that leaps from the pages of the 1001 Nights on the edge of the labyrinthine medina. The hoopla and halqa (street theatre) has been nonstop here ever since this plaza was the site of public executions around AD 1050 – hence its name, which means ‘assembly of the dead’.

  • Ksar Aït Benhaddou is a UNESCO-protected red mudbrick ksar (fort) 32km from Ouarzazate. With the help of some Hollywood touch-ups, it seems frozen in time, still resembling its days in the 11th century as an Almoravid caravanserai.

  • Shape-shifting over 28km from north to south and reaching heights of 160m, the majestic Erg Chebbi dune near Merzougamay be modest compared with the great sand seas of Algeria, Libya and Namibia, but it is extraordinarily scenic.

  • Erg Chigaga is not a single dune but an awesome stretch of golden sand sea some 56km southwest of M'Hamid. It is the largest sand sea in Morocco, snaking along the horizon for 40km and bordered to the north and south by mountain ridges.

WHAT TO EAT IN MOROCCO

The food you find in Morocco is likely to be fresh, locally grown and homemade. Consequently, Moroccan cuisine is often reputed to be some of the best in the world, with countless dishes and variations proudly bearing the country's colonial and Arabic influences. Unfortunately as a tourist through Morocco, especially if you're on a budget, you'll be limited to the handful of dishes that seem to have a monopoly on café and restaurant menus throughout the country.

 

LOOK OUT FOR:

  • Tagine (or tajine) - a spicy stew of meat and vegetables that has been simmered for many hours in a conical clay pot (from which the dish derives its name). Restaurants offer dozens of variations including chicken tagine with lemon and olives, honey-sweetened lamb or beef, fish or prawn tagine in a spicy tomato sauce.
  • Kaliya - This popular Berber contribution to Moroccan cuisine is a combination of lamb, tomatoes, bell peppers and onion and served with couscous or bread.
  • Bastella - A dish considered a delicacy is made by layering thin pieces of flaky dough between sweet, spiced meat filling (often lamb or chicken, but most enjoyably pigeon) and layers of almond-paste filling. The dough is wrapped into a plate-sized pastry that is baked and coated with a dusting of powdered sugar.

LGBTQ IN MOROCCO

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WHERE TO STAY IN MOROCCO

Whether you're drawn to the bustling cities, enchanting medinas, or picturesque coastal towns, each region of Morocco has its unique charm and attractions. Choosing where to stay in Morocco depends on your interests, from exploring ancient architecture to relaxing on pristine beaches or immersing yourself in the desert's tranquility.


Types of Accommodation in Morocco

  • Auberges are found in the country or rural small towns and are built in the traditional mud (kasbah) style, many with wood-burning fireplaces and salons or roof terraces for taking meals. Auberge are very comfortable, small and usually family-run and owned. 

  • Riads or Dars - In Marrakech, Essaouira, Fes or anywhere there is a medina (old city), small hotels renovated from old houses are called riads or dars. These are often small (about 6 rooms or less), clean and charming, often with a lovely walled garden where breakfast is served on an inner patio or up on a roof terrace. Dars are usually too small to have a swimming pool, but riads may have what is called a plunge pool to cool off in during summer months. Some are in former merchant houses or palaces and may have large opulent rooms and gardens. These are ideal places to stay in Morocco and can range in price from budget to splurge depending on size and amenities. 

  • Gîtes d'étape is simple country inns and hostel-style places, where mountain trekkers can grab a hot shower, a good meal, and have a roof over their head for one night.

  • The cheapest budget hotels are usually located in the medina. These hotels can be very basic and may often lack hot water and showers, while others will charge you for a hot water shower. Newer, cleaner and slightly more expensive budget and mid-range hotels are sprinkled throughout the ville nouvelles.


Where To Stay In Marrakech:

Marrakech, the cultural heart of Morocco, mesmerizes visitors with its bustling souks, historic monuments, and vibrant atmosphere. Staying in the medina allows you to experience the city's rich heritage, indulge in traditional cuisine, and explore iconic landmarks like Jemaa el-Fnaa square.

  • Budget: Riad Alwachma offers budget-friendly accommodations in a traditional riad setting, with cozy rooms, a central location, and authentic Moroccan hospitality, perfect for budget travelers exploring Marrakech.

  • Mid-range: Riad Palais Sebban provides mid-range accommodations with elegant rooms, a beautiful courtyard, and a rooftop terrace offering panoramic views of the medina, ideal for a comfortable stay with a touch of luxury.

  • Luxury: La Mamounia Marrakech offers luxurious accommodations, lush gardens, and world-class amenities, including a spa, multiple restaurants, and a glamorous ambiance, providing an indulgent experience in the heart of Marrakech.

Tip: Consider visiting Marrakech during the shoulder seasons (spring and autumn) for milder weather, fewer crowds, and better accommodation rates.

Where To Stay In Fes:

Fes, Morocco's cultural and spiritual capital, captivates visitors with its ancient medina, intricate architecture, and vibrant street life. Staying within the medina allows you to immerse yourself in its labyrinthine alleys, visit historic madrasas and mosques, and experience traditional Moroccan culture.

  • Budget: Riad Dar Tamo offers budget-friendly accommodations in a traditional riad, with comfortable rooms, authentic decor, and a peaceful atmosphere, perfect for budget travelers exploring Fes.

  • Mid-range: Riad Fes provides mid-range accommodations with luxurious rooms, exquisite Moroccan design, and attentive service, offering a tranquil retreat amidst the bustling medina.

  • Luxury: Palais Faraj Suites & Spa offers luxurious accommodations, stunning architecture, and panoramic views of the medina, along with gourmet dining options and a spa, providing an opulent experience in Fes.

Tip: Hire a local guide to navigate the medina's maze-like streets and uncover its hidden gems, and don't miss visiting the famous tanneries for a unique cultural experience.


Where To Stay In Essaouira:

Essaouira, a charming coastal town on Morocco's Atlantic coast, entices visitors with its laid-back vibe, windswept beaches, and artistic flair. Staying in Essaouira allows you to relax by the sea, explore the medina's whitewashed buildings, and indulge in fresh seafood.

  • Budget: Riad Chbanate offers budget-friendly accommodations in a traditional riad, with cozy rooms, a rooftop terrace, and a central location near the medina and beach, ideal for budget travelers exploring Essaouira.

  • Mid-range: L'Heure Bleue Palais provides mid-range accommodations with elegant rooms, colonial-style decor, and modern amenities, including a rooftop terrace with panoramic views, offering a comfortable stay with a touch of luxury.

  • Luxury: Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa offers luxurious accommodations, stunning sea views, and world-class facilities, including a golf course, spa, and multiple dining options, providing an upscale retreat in Essaouira.

Tip: Visit Essaouira during the summer months for beach activities and water sports or during the Essaouira Gnaoua World Music Festival for a vibrant cultural experience.


Where To Stay In Chefchaouen:

Chefchaouen, known as the "Blue Pearl" of Morocco, enchants visitors with its picturesque, blue-washed buildings, narrow streets, and mountainous backdrop. Staying in Chefchaouen allows you to explore its charming medina, relax in its tranquil atmosphere, and soak in the stunning views of the Rif Mountains.

  • Budget: Casa Perleta offers budget-friendly accommodations in a traditional riad setting, with simple yet comfortable rooms, a central location within the medina, and a rooftop terrace offering panoramic views of Chefchaouen, ideal for budget travelers.

  • Mid-range: Dar Echchaouen provides mid-range accommodations with cozy rooms, traditional Moroccan decor, and a peaceful courtyard, creating a relaxing retreat amidst the medina's blue-hued streets.

  • Luxury: Lina Ryad & Spa offers luxurious accommodations, elegant design, and upscale amenities, including a spa, rooftop terrace, and gourmet dining options, providing an indulgent experience in the heart of Chefchaouen.

Tip: Explore Chefchaouen's medina early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowds and capture the best photos of its iconic blue buildings against the mountain backdrop.


Where To Stay In Merzouga (Sahara Desert):

Merzouga is renowned for its proximity to the majestic Erg Chebbi dunes, which are among the largest sand dunes in Morocco. This small village, situated on the edge of the Sahara Desert, serves as a gateway for tourists seeking the quintessential desert experience. The dunes of Erg Chebbi, known for their breathtaking beauty, change colors with the daylight, offering an unforgettable spectacle. Merzouga also holds historical significance, with legends dating back to its transformation from a tropical jungle to a desert by divine will. Today, it's a hub for desert adventures, including camel treks and overnight stays in Berber tents, providing visitors with a taste of the nomadic lifestyle.

Budget:

  • Camel House - This budget-friendly option offers basic yet comfortable accommodation in traditional Berber tents or rooms. They often provide desert tours and camel rides at reasonable prices.

  • Sahara Majestic Luxury Camp - Despite being labeled as luxury, Sahara Majestic also offers budget-friendly options, such as shared tents or basic rooms. They provide a genuine desert experience with campfire dinners and camel treks.


Mid-Range:

  • Kasbah Azalay Merzouga - This charming kasbah-style hotel offers comfortable rooms with traditional Moroccan decor. It features a swimming pool, restaurant, and terrace with panoramic views of the desert.

  • Dar Hassan - Located near the dunes, Dar Hassan offers cozy rooms with modern amenities like air conditioning and private bathrooms. Guests can enjoy authentic Moroccan cuisine at the on-site restaurant.


Luxury:

Erg Chebbi Luxury Desert Camp - For a truly luxurious experience, consider staying at Erg Chebbi Luxury Desert Camp. They offer spacious and elegantly decorated tents with plush bedding and private bathrooms. Guests can indulge in gourmet meals and enjoy entertainment such as traditional music and dance performances under the stars.

Merzouga Luxury Desert Camp - This upscale desert camp offers luxurious tents with opulent furnishings and amenities like hot showers and air conditioning. Guests can enjoy gourmet dining and personalized service in the heart of the Sahara Desert.


For hassle-free bookings, use platforms like Booking.com for competitive rates or Holiday Swap for unique homes worldwide. Ensure to book in advance, especially during peak seasons, and align your preferences with nearby activities such as surfing, snorkeling, or cultural exploration.

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Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. These are our favorite flight search engines. They index other travel websites and airlines across the globe to easily find you the best deal.

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Booking.com is our number one resource for researching and booking accommodation. In addition to Booking.com, we have found Agoda.com to consistently returns the cheapest rates in Southeast Asia. For longer stays, find unique homes worldwide on Holiday Swap, the most affordable travel platform that allows you to book homes anytime, anywhere in only a few clicks.

TRANSPORT

DiscoverCars.com is a leader in online car rental bookings; we compare car rental deals from many companies so that you can choose which is best for your trip. 12Go connects the world door-to-door, from transfers to flights, under the same user-friendly ticket.

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