Iconic images of Morocco—golden sand dunes, colorful marketplaces—tend to remind us of blazing hot summers. In reality, Morocco’s winters set the stage for fantastic travel experiences. The country’s Mediterranean climate involves mild winters with cool temperatures and more rain than at other times of the year. Without the summer crush of tourists, beach resorts feel like private getaways between November and March. Meanwhile, southern Morocco is perhaps at its best.
The Atlas Mountains experience cold and snowy winters. Except for those looking for traditional winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, the mountain ranges are a more dynamic location during warmer months. Winter, however, gives the mountains’ few visitors a chance to say that they skied in Africa.
If you don’t require snow for your skiing, head to the desert. Believe it—the sand dunes of the Sahara are great for skiing and snowboarding. The vast desert has plenty of points of entry, with Merzouga being perhaps the most loved. Nearby, the Erg Chebbi dunes are a picture-perfect backdrop for camel treks, four-wheel-drive tours and the aforementioned “winter” sports. Berber camps dotting the sparsely-populated expanses give visitors a chance to spend the night under the stars.
After the desert, the other highlights of southern Morocco can add up to make ideal itineraries for the winter months. Beach town Essaouira has so much to offer besides water activities that it can be worth it to trade its more laid-back winter personality for a summer dip in the ocean. This artsy bohemian town has plenty of galleries, museums and rooftop cafés to enjoy during the cooler months.
Nearby Agadir is generally artificial year-round, but gems like a world-renowned ecolodge, the Atlas Kasbah, let visitors enjoy the natural wonders of the area. Winter does not rule out any of the Atlas Kasbah’s activities, which include bird watching, stargazing, cooking and art classes, spa treatments, mountain biking and yoga.
East of these beach towns, the villages of the Souss Valley and the Anti-Atlas (the little-brother mountain range to the High Atlas Mountains) are scenic areas rich with Berber culture and history. Several small cities nestled in these foothills—including Tata, Tafraoute and Taroudant—serve as jumping-off points for exploring the mountain villages throughout the region.
The areas between the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara are dotted with oasis towns and palmeries perfect for soaking in some winter sunlight. The Draa Valley, stretching from Ouarzazate to desert entry points like Zagora, offers wide-open spaces and plenty of chances to experience traditional Berber and Arabic life. Ouarzazate and its surroundings may look familiar, as the sandy landscapes have served as backdrops to many Hollywood films, from Lawrence of Arabia to Gladiator. Film buffs can tour studio lots and keep an eye out for international celebrities hanging out at Ouarzazate cafes.
Farther south, the population thins out even more. Checking out ancient kasbahs, bartering in quiet village markets, and strolling around startling emergences of greenery make this region feel very far from the noise of Tangier or Casablanca. The landscape can be unforgiving, but many villages have resources for outdoorsy types who want to jump on bikes or zoom around in 4x4s across the terrain.
Of course, though the south is in its element between November and March, the temperate climate of the north also allows for comfortable winter travel throughout the country. Visitors can enjoy popular sites in cities like Marrakesh and Casablanca without the hassles of summer crowds. Remember, though, that places with dry climates tend to get very cold at night, regardless of daytime temperature. Don’t forget to pack lots of layers! Be sure to comment below on our Morocco blog to let us know if we forgot other activities worthwhile in the wintertime.
Written by Brinda Gupta.
Photo by t3mujin.
Southern Charm Tour – Hit the highlights of south Morocco with stops in the Draa Valley, Sahara Desert and more.
Eclectic Morocco – Ideal for the first-time visitor to Morocco with stops in most of the major cities.
Morocco Eco Tour – Visit the southern part of the country on your Morocco holiday, but focus on those things that are most eco-friendly.