Morocco is wonderfully overwhelming in every way possible. As a northern country in Africa, the temperatures are often above 40 degrees Celsius and since you are dressing respectfully, it is not uncommon to have a constant feeling of stickiness. The foods and smells are everywhere- brightly colored cones of spices, honey roasted nuts, grilled meat and sugar coated pastries fill the air at all hours of the day. The culture can be a shock, and the medinas are sometimes frightening, but the experiences in Morocco are unique, special and breathtaking. Morocco will quickly grab hold of you; open your mind to all the wonderful possibilities this country has to offer and it is quite easy to see how it has fascinated tourists for generations.
8. Surfing at Essaouira
When people think of Morocco, they generally don’t think of it as a surfing local, but Essaouira has been drawing surfers (including kite surfers) from around the world for years. The Atlantic waves are best during the winter months when the swells are more consistent and the temperatures are not as hot, but you can definitely find some good waves any time of the year. The town of Essaouira is a relaxed, fishing town, less demanding than the larger cities like Marrakesh and Fes, but it is still distinctly Moroccan. The Medina has plenty of local crafts, delicious snacks and many outdoor cafes where you can enjoy a refreshing glass of mint tea after a hard day out on the water!
7. Participate in Traditional Hammam Bathing
For adventurists seeking a bit of Moroccan tradition, the hammam is a public steam bath in Morocco. While not as common anymore since the introduction of modern plumbing, they are still a great cultural experience. Hammams offer women travelers (there are fewer hammams available for men, and they are always bathed in separate quarters) a chance to meet local women; while it may seem strange to be bathed surrounded by women, hammams were traditionally the only place people could come bathe, scrub and socialize! There are both upscale, spa-like hammams, geared towards tourists, that offer more Western style massages and scrubs, or there are the local, more traditional hammams, usually found near the mosques in town. Whichever you choose, it is a unique and eye-opening experience that offers a glimpse into the Moroccan culture.
6. Go on a Camel Trek in the Sahara
Spending the night in the middle of the Sahara desert is one of life’s most incredible experiences. The Sahara is a magical place, and Morocco’s desert is the most popular place to explore the otherworldly landscape. The dunes begin in Merzouga, from where most tours start and finish; from there you will most likely hop on a camel and begin the trek to the Erg Chebbi, the massive and dramatic dunes most often visited. Usually you depart on your trek about an hour before sunset because this allows you time to climb to the top of a dune and watch the sun dip below the sand which is one of the most breathtaking sunsets you will ever see. If you are feeling up to it, you can sleep right on the sand, under a brilliant blanket of stars. This is one of the most unforgettable experiences, and is an absolute must do when visiting Morocco. You will leave with memories to last a lifetime.
5. Visit Ait-Ben-Haddou
The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a fortified city located between the Sahara and Marrakesh. Most of the locals now live in more modern homes nearby, however there are still four families living in the ancient city. An ancient city made almost entirely of earthen clay, it looks as if it has risen from the ground. Glance quickly around and you may look right by it! Many famous films have been shot here, including Gladiator and Prince of Persia and wandering through its streets with a guide really takes you back to a time when this ancient city was thriving. It is very hot and dry here, so make sure to pack lots of water, but there is a restaurant located in the nearby village where you can enjoy a traditionally prepared Moroccan meal after your exploring!
4. Climbing in the High Atlas Mountains
Home to North Africa’s highest peak, the Jebel Toubkal stands 4,167m tall and rises high above the clouds in the High Atlas mountain range. The best time to trek is in April or May, however hiking is available year round. Most treks start from Imlil, a small town about an hour’s drive from Marrakesh; here you can find accommodations and a local guide to take you up the mountains if you don’t want to go on your own. The mountains are dramatic and imposing, and hiking to the top of one should not be taken lightly; however, if you arrive prepared, the views when you reach the top are beyond rewarding.
3. Visit One of the Tanneries in Fes
Fes is famous for its wide variety of leather products, most of them made locally from the tanneries in old Fes. The production of leather is still very similar to how it was made in medieval times – some of the tanneries are still run and operated by distant family members. The leather products are beautiful and obviously handcrafted; it is a fascinating experience to actually witness how the leather product is created! The best way to do this is to head inside one of the leather shops in old Fes; the tour guides and owners will work very hard to sell you a product, but you must insist they take you up to the top of the shop first. It is NOT a requirement to buy first, or even at all! It is from the top that you will get the best views of the tanneries. You can see every necessary step to the tanning process here. Be warned, the animal hides and pigeon poop they are treated in are very smelly though, so make sure you grab a sprig of fresh mint when offered!
2. Take a Walk Through Djemma el Fna in Marrakesh
The Djemma el Fna is the heart of Marrakesh – it is the Morocco of movies and poetry, paintings and photographs. Walking around the square (the central square in the old city) you will come across snake charmers, jugglers, musicians, and rows upon rows of snack stalls. Glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice and expertly marinated meat skewers are available for you at any time of the day. However, wander the square at night and it comes alive; the music is louder, the smells are stronger and the entertainment is intoxicating. Watch your wallet though, and be prepared to be bothered for money should you take photos of entertainers or locals, but Djemma el Fna is a wonderful assault on the senses, leaving you pulsing for days after.
1. Relax and Unwind in the City of Chefchaouen
Situated right in the middle of Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is a city drowned in a brilliant shade of blue. The streets, the buildings, the windows and the steps in the medina (the old part of town) are all painted a mesmerizing blue. The rugged mountains surrounding the city offer a stark contrast to the brightly colored town, lending a magical feel to this Moroccan hideaway. The locals here are very friendly and the medina here is less stressful than the medina’s in the more densely populated Moroccan towns. It is the perfect place to unwind after a whirlwind Moroccan tour – slow down and wander the streets – leave plenty of time for glasses of mint tea!