Morocco Travel Guide
Morocco is a beautiful, adventurous, diverse, and mysterious country. This welcoming holiday destination easily draws visitors from all over the world. From the colorful markets filled with all sorts of spices to the blue city of Chefchaouen, the offbeat towns, and the vibrant Atlas Mountains, this North African country is incredible.
However, as it’s a large country, you may not know where to start if you’re a tourist. Here is a travel guide to Morocco that will help you know where to go and what to do.
Best Things to Do in Morocco
Marrakesh is one of the best Moroccan cities to explore and should be on your Morocco traveling itinerary. It’s known as the Red City because of the huge reddish clay ramparts or Medina walls. This is the city where you will see colorful architecture, snake charmers, and medieval souks.
One of the first places you should check out is Jardin Majorelle Garden. Jacques Majorelle, a French painter, created this beautiful garden almost 40 years. Here you will find different types of exotic plants originating from five continents.
Next, check out the Saadian Tombs. This burial ground has about 200 tombs of the Saadian dynasty members. What makes these tombs so appealing is the décor. The place is decorated in Italian Carrara marble, pure gold, intricate plasterwork, and colorful mosaics.
Another place to visit is the Maison de la Photographie. It’s a photographic museum with a stunning collection of historical photos where you can learn about the history of Morocco.
Of course, we don’t expect you to visit this Muslim country without doing some shopping. Check out the Jemaa el-Fna Square located in the medina. Initially, the square was a trading center where Berber tribes would exchange leather, slaves, ivory, and gold. Now, it’s full of musicians, snake charmers, fortune tellers, medicine men, and market stalls.
Jemaa el-Fna Square can be very busy and crowded. If you want to avoid all that haggling, try out the new town of Gueliz for your shopping needs.
Visit the Blue Streets of Chefchaouen
As you create your Morocco Itinerary, ensure you include Chefchaouen, a Northern Morocco city. This blue city is a photographer’s paradise. It’s located in the Rif Mountains and is painted in different shades of blue hence, the name. It’s possibly one of the prettiest Moroccan cities, and sort of resembles Mykonos, a Mediterranean town in Greece.
Stroll the beautiful streets as you take photos of the stunning doorways, cute kittens, and blue and white houses. This is also a great place to shop and enjoy the national drink, mint tea.
Sunrise and sunset are quite magical in this blue city. This is the one thing you should strive to experience while in Chefchaouen. If you wake up early and climb to your riad’s rooftop, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking sunrise. Alternatively, why not climb the Rif mountains and enjoy this moment from a higher altitude?
While still in Chefchaouen, visit the Spanish Mosque. It was built around the 1920s but was never used. It’s now abandoned and sits on a hill from the city. The hike to the top is easy and takes about 30 minutes. Not only do you get to explore this beautiful mosque, but you also get incredible views of the city.
Another highlight of the blue city is the Kasbah Museum. It’s an old Moroccan fort that has served many roles, including being a prison. Now it’s an art gallery and an ethnographic museum. Inside you’ll find Spanish-style gardens, ancient artifacts, and traditional decorations, all telling the history of this small city.
Wander Around Fez El-Bali
Fez, a remarkable city in Morocco, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also home to the oldest medina in North Africa (Fez medina). This old city was once Morocco’s capital city and is still considered a major cultural epicenter. Please include it in your Morocco itinerary to explore one of the stimulating places in this country.
One of the places to visit in Fez is the Jnan Sbil Gardens. It’s a public garden with fantastic water features, flowers, plants, birds, and palm tree-lined sidewalks.
Another point of interest is the Bou Inania Madrasa. This iconic building is located at the center of Fez Medina. Built in the 14th century, this structure features intricate wood carvings, mosaic tilework, and a marble courtyard. It’s one of the few religious structures around Fez that allows non-muslims to enter.
While in Fez, you have to explore the famous tanneries. Here you will find many earthen pits filled with colored dye. These tanneries are a significant and unique part of Moroccan culture. Note that the smell can be quite strong. Carry a face mask, scarf, or mint to protect your nose.
For your shopping needs, check out the maze-like souks. Souks are the heart and soul of Moroccan cities. So much goes on in these markets. There are also plenty of stalls that sell food. Although the street food scene in this country isn’t that huge, some meals like pastillas are worth a try.
Hike the Atlas Mountains
The Atlas Mountain range, also called the Grand Atlas range, can be found in Central Morocco. It spreads from the Atlantic Ocean to Algeria’s border. The High Atlas Mountains are great for climbing, hiking, and trekking.
Mount Toubkal is located in the Atlas Mountains and is the highest in North Africa. Other interesting features in these mountain ranges include river basins, valleys, and Berber villages. The mountains were a common trading route between the Sahara desert and the Atlantic coast.
One of the most common activities in the high atlas mountains is trekking. These mountain ranges aren’t spoiled due to the lack of human activity. Another popular activity here is skiing. Not most people think of Morocco as a skiing destination, yet it is. The Atlas Mountains are covered in snow from January to early April, making it perfect for skiing.
Close to the Atlas Mountains is the Todra Gorge, also located in the High Atlas region. It’s recognized globally as a popular site for hiking. Getting to the top is quite challenging and will take about four hours. But if you’re looking for a challenging outdoor activity, you may want to include this in your Morocco itinerary.
Explore the Essaouira
Located on the Atlantic coast, Essaouira is a common beach destination. It has a relaxed atmosphere compared to many cities in Morocco. Here you won’t encounter pushy touts or busy markets that can easily overwhelm anyone visiting Morocco for the first time.
The town has interesting markets, nice restaurants and several beaches where you can enjoy the wonderful sea breeze. If you’re backpacking in Morocco, you’ll find some great hostels in this town where you’ll feel right at home.
One of the must-go-to places is the fish market. Fishermen gather here every day and sell fresh fish. You can buy the fish and ask one of the restaurants to prepare it for you. Indulge in mint tea as you wait for your meal. This is a national drink you have to take. There are also plenty of fish stalls in the main square where you can eat grilled seafood, and the food costs are affordable.
Essaouira town is a great place to shop for souvenirs. That’s because the salespeople aren’t as intense as those in Fez or Marrakech. Still, you may have to do a little haggling to get reasonable prices.
Whether you’re a couple, retired, a solo traveler, or a family, this is a great place to visit. And because the town is relatively safe, you can allow your teens to wander a little on their own.
Make a Stop in Casablanca
Casablanca is more of a business and economic center but is also worth visiting. It has a few gems that make it worth stopping by for a night or two. As Morocco’s largest city, you’ll find an airport with flights to major Moroccan cities and other destinations in the Middle East.
The major attraction in Casablanca is the Hassan II Mosque. It’s the largest mosque in Africa and the 7th largest worldwide. The prayer hall fits 25,000 people, and the courtyard can accommodate another 80,000.
This is one of the few mosques in Casablanca that isn’t off-limits to non-Muslims. Everything about this mosque is astonishing. From its location, close to the ocean, to the intricate decorations covering every surface, the mosque is dramatic in all ways. You can take a group tour of the mosque to enjoy the beauty of this structure.
Stop by Casablanca’s central market for some shopping. Located in the city center, people come here to buy and sell household supplies and fresh produce. Several street stalls sell local spices and crafts. You can shop for a few things to take back home. In the courtyard, you’ll find several restaurants serving traditional Moroccan dishes.
Don’t forget to visit the museum of Moroccan Judaism. It’s over 2000 years old and is dedicated to the history of the Jewish community in this country. Here, you’ll find religious objects, photographs, dioramas, and traditional costumes exhibited.
Explore the Sahara Desert
Everyone creating a Morocco itinerary must try to include a visit to the Sahara desert. Located along the eastern border of the country, this is the largest hot desert in the world. A fun fact you may not know is that the Sahara Desert is roughly as big as the United States.
Because the desert is far from major towns, we suggest allocating not less than two days for a Sahara desert excursion. The main bodies of sand people go to visit are the Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga. Erg Chebbi sand dunes are the most sought-after and accessible destination. There are some great hotels at the foot of the dunes where you can take a camel ride to the dunes.
The Erg Chigaga is perfect for an adventurous experience. If you want to take the less-beaten path, these are the dunes to visit. However, the journey is long because the dunes are located about 60 km from the nearest town. On a 4 by 4, you’ll take about two hours to get there and half a day on a camel ride. One of the best ways to explore these dunes is through a tour company where you get guides and a car to take you.
Take a Trip to Meknes
We shouldn’t fail to include Meknes in this Morocco travel guide. It’s one of the large cities in this country.
The major tourist attraction here is the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis. It’s famous and for good reason. Located on top of a hill, the temple fragments and the surviving columns are a sight to behold. Make this a day trip, as there’s a lot to explore.
Another point of interest is the holy city of Moulay Idris. It was built in AD 788 and is named after the great-great-grandson of Prophet Muhammed. As it’s a major pilgrimage center, the city hosts religious festivals every August, which attract thousands of people. Non-Muslims aren’t allowed inside the shrines, but you can wander the town and take photos.
You might also want to stop by the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, built to house Sultan Moulay Ismail’s tomb. It has been decorated with intricate tilework, carved stonework, and stucco decoration. Although the actual mosque is off-limits to non-Muslims, you can explore the outer parts of the complex and enter the tomb, which are the major highlights of the site.
Lastly, stop by the Heri es-Souani, which served as horse stables and storage granaries for the city. The beauty lies in the vaults and arched doorways, giving this place a unique look. If you’re looking for a place where you encounter hundreds of other tourists, this is the place to go.
Where to stay in Morocco
Hotels in this country are cheap, easy to find, and good value. For as low as $17.50/£13.50/€15, you can get a double room in an okay hotel. Even a high-end accommodation facility with features like a spa and golf course is still inexpensive.
You might encounter a shortage in major cities like Fez, Tangier, and Marrakesh, especially in August. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead. But other than that, you should be able to find accommodation easily during your Morocco trip. Here are some of the best places to stay in Morocco.
- Salaam Alaikum (peace be with you) – Hello
- La shokran – No thank you. This will come in handy when you counter multiple street vendors insisting you buy their items.
- Shokran – Thank you
- Balak – Watch out. You’re not likely to use this term, but you will hear it a lot when exploring the outdoor markets. Locals are likely to shout the term when approaching with a motorcycle, mule, or cart as a warning to move aside.
How to Get Around in Morocco
There are many ways to get around, as we will explain in this Morocco travel guide. If you’re a road trip kind of person, you’ll find rental cars in major cities across the country.
If you don’t like this alternative, try grand taxis, which run throughout Morocco. Inform the taxi driver if you want a private taxi as you may find you’re four people in one taxi.
Another way to get through the country is through public transportation. You can either choose the Royal Air Maroc airline (RAM) or the train. There are other low-cost carriers, although RAM is also affordable. Flights and airlines will get you to major cities in Morocco, such as Rabat, Marrakech, Fez, Tangier, and Casablanca.
The other common alternative is via bus. You can’t miss a bus station, even in the smaller cities. Buses are cheap, efficient, comfortable, and reliable. You can buy your ticket online or just go to the bus station and get a ticket.
Travel Tips Morocco
Although Morocco is a magical country, it can also be a challenging place to get around if you aren’t equipped with the right information. If you don’t understand or respect the culture, you’ll attract unwanted attention and bad looks.
The last thing you want is trouble in a foreign country. We have compiled a Morocco travel guide to help you easily get around. Take a look at these tips.
One of the major things to keep in mind when you visit Morocco is in regards to dressing. This country is primarily a Muslim country and fairly conservative.
As such, most Moroccans are sensitive in regard to most things. Thus, is Morocco safe? As long as you stay with other travelers and respect local traditions, you’ll be fine.
If you’re a woman, cover your shoulders and don’t wear shorts and tank tops to reduce unwanted attention, especially from men. This is an important Morocco travel tip to keep in mind.
There have been occasions of female travelers being harassed for how they dress. In crowded places, some people will go as far as groping you. Blonde hair also attracts too much attention. Try and cover it, especially when not in the big cities.
When swimming at a hotel pool, you can wear whatever you want, including a bikini. You can still dress in whatever swimwear you please on a public beach, but remember that the less you wear, the more attention you attract.
Lastly, carry your toilet paper and some sanitizer, especially when taking a less beaten path. It’s not uncommon for Morocco washrooms to lack toilet paper. Although more washrooms are stocking, others are yet to do so. To be safe, carry yours. If you’re using a public restroom, most likely, you’ll pay a small fee to the attendant.
Scams and Hassling Are a Huge Issue
Is Morocco safe? Most people ask this question before traveling. Scams, petty crimes, and hassling are an issue in any major city. This is especially common when you’re alone. Try to be in the company of other travelers and stay within the city center.
If you look confused, someone may approach you and point you in the wrong direction. Once you’re completely lost, another one will approach you to help you get back to a familiar place, only to ask for payment afterward.
It’s like a game of cat and mouse that requires a lot of patience. You need to appear confident when wandering along the ancient medinas. However, we also suggest going with a tour guide as these places are like a maze.
Know the Language to Use
Moroccans speak multiple languages. This includes Berber, Arabic, and English. English is common in major towns. Most hostel and hotel staff and tour guides speak English.
Many people know French, which is like a second language in this country. If you speak French, you’re in luck as you’ll be able to communicate with most people.
Locals will appreciate it if you can speak a few words in their language. However, keep in mind that different people speak different languages. For instance, saying ‘salaam’ to a Berber won’t earn you a lot of points as it is a greeting in Arabic. Still, it’s better because you’re using the language used in that country.
Some basic words you should know when you visit Morocco include the following:
Salaam Alaikum (peace be with you) – Hello
La shokran – No thank you. This will come in handy when you counter multiple street vendors insisting you buy their items.
Shokran – Thank you
Balak – Watch out. You’re not likely to use this term, but you will hear it a lot when exploring the outdoor markets. Locals are likely to shout the term when approaching with a motorcycle, mule, or cart as a warning to move aside.
Finding Alcohol Isn’t Easy
As this is a Muslim country, it’s not easy to find alcohol like in other countries. That’s not to say you won’t get it. But since it’s not part of their culture, finding alcohol will take time. Don’t expect to enjoy a nice cold glass of whisky on a restaurant patio when you visit Morocco. Most locals see alcohol as a western drug and don’t indulge in it.
Although most bars don’t serve alcohol, some sell it. You can also get alcohol in large supermarkets. Once you get your beer, don’t drink it in public. This is one of the major Morocco travel tips to keep in mind. It’s against the law.
Don’t forget to remain hydrated, especially when drinking. Tap water is generally safe unless you’re in Western Sahara. However, most tourists prefer carrying bottled mineral water.
Exchange Enough Money When You Can
Another important tip when traveling to Morocco is to exchange your money whenever possible. You want to ensure you have Moroccan currency at all times. ATMs can disappoint you at times. If many people have tried to exchange money at one location, the ATM can run out of cash.
You will also find currency exchanges at the airport. However, we suggest only exchanging a small amount there (for a meal or taxi fare). Airport exchanges usually charge a high fee. To save money, exchange money outside the airport.
Learn to Bargain
Our last Morocco travel tip is learning how to bargain. When shopping in the local market, know how to negotiate. We know some people are passionate about paying the full price to help these sellers. But keep in mind that bargaining is an integral part of Moroccan culture.
Even if you bargain, they’re likely to still get the better deal. If you’re willing to haggle, you’ll get items for 25 to 50% less than the original price. It’s okay to walk away if you can’t seem to agree with the seller. Most of the time, they will call you back to continue negotiating.
Aside from market stalls, you may also need to bargain with the taxi driver before getting into the cab. At times they tend to overcharge tourists. If the driver demands more money, wait for another taxi. When planning to buy high-priced items such as carpets, research to know the real cost of these items.