If you’re planning your first trip to Morocco, chances are you’ll be tempted to visit the country’s best known sites: the busy souks of Marrakech, the historic mosques of Fez, the infinite sea of golden dunes in the Sahara Desert, the windy coastline in Essaouira, or the dramatic mountain landscapes of the High Atlas. While these will all be worthwhile destinations during your trip in Morocco, don’t forget to include Moroccan villages! There’s a case to be made for wandering off the beaten path and exploring some of the country’s lesser visited towns and villages. It’s here that you’ll get to taste a slice of real Morocco, away from the tourist crowds and at your own comfortable pace.
On your next trip to Morocco, consider taking a couple of days from your itinerary and explore one of these charming Moroccan villages found off the typical tourist track.
A beautiful seaside town on the northern coast of Morocco, Asilah exudes a Mediterranean-style charm due to its rich and varied heritage. A main trading port for centuries, Asilah was first occupied by the Phoenicians and later by the Portuguese before coming under Moroccan rule in the 17th century. Today, walking around the town reveals unique remnants of these different cultures that have transformed Asilah into a fascinating display of Morocco’s diverse heritage. Get lost in the town’s 15th century medina, enjoy the views from the Portuguese fortress perched over the cliffs, or wander aimlessly through Asilah’s charming streets lined with traditional blue and white Moroccan houses as well as some great street art.
One of Morocco’s most surprising villages, Ifrane is a town like no other in Morocco. Designed during the country’s French occupation as a mountain resort, Ifrane resembles a Swiss mountain village more than it does its own country’s desert towns and Moorish architecture. Located in the Atlas Mountains, Ifrane is the perfect escape to have fun on the snowy slopes in the winter, unwind in European-inspired chalets or simply enjoy the peaceful natural landscape in the summer months.
For the sun-seekers looking for a seaside destination with a peaceful atmosphere, look no further than Mirleft. While the crowds all flock to ex-hippie-hangout Essaouira, an hourly public bus can take you from Marrakech to this tiny town. It’s here, in this Berber village perched between sea and desert, that you’ll find five untouched and undeveloped beaches perfect for sunbathing and even surfing. When you’re fully relaxed, climb up the hill to explore the old Spanish fort, paraglide on the beach, enjoy a relaxing horseback ride at sunset or head out for a trek to explore the area.
Drive just 30km outside of Fez and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Leaving behind the bustling souks and vast medina of the Imperial City, the sleepy town of Bhalil will be refreshing with its slower pace of life. With less than 1,000 inhabitants, Bhalil is a true hidden gem in Morocco with ancient cave dwellings that date back to the 4th century and a religious population that has maintained its century-old traditions. Spend the day here getting lost in the town’s narrow streets and enjoy the friendliness of the locals – you’ll likely have the entire town all to yourself.
The most popular base for trekkers and mountain climbers looking to explore Jebel Toubkal, Imlil is the perfect natural oasis in the heart of the High Atlas Mountains. At 1740 meters above sea level, the air here is fresh and crisp and the natural scenery is stunning. Spend your days exploring the surrounding area on day trips or multi-day treks and unwind at night with starlit skies and only the sounds of nature to keep you company.
Set against a backdrop of incredible rock formations, Tafraoute is a trekker’s dream. Difficult to reach and with immediate access to the raw wilderness dotted with Berber tribe villages make this the perfect base from which to explore the Anti-Atlas region. Mountain biking and trekking expeditions can take you through the red-granite mountains that surround the town. Back in town, relax in the local hammam, shop around at the market on Wednesdays or try some local treats like amlou made from the prized argan nut.
One of Morocco’s holiest places (non-Muslims were not allowed to enter the small town until the mid-20th century), Moulay Idriss is the perfect place to visit when you feel like taking a vacation from your Moroccan vacation. When the touting shopkeepers of busy medinas start leaving you overwhelmed, head to this tiny town to discover whitewashed houses that sparkle with sunlight, relax in a traditional hammam or simply enjoy the slower pace of life here. Best of all? The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Volubilis is just a gentle 5km bike ride away.
Morocco’s best ski resort, Oukaimeden offers snowy slopes in the winter and pleasant trekking trails in the summer. Sitting at over 2,500km above sea-level, the highest ski chairlift reaches up to 3,200km at the peak of Jebel Attar where five runs offer you different challenge levels to make your way down the slopes. There are also shorter lifts if this hill is too intimidating! In the summer, Oukaimeden is the perfect base to trek the High Atlas region.
One of the most authentic desert settlements in the scenic Draa Valley, Amezrou is a little-known town often overshadowed by its big sister Zagora located across the Oued Draa. Although often only used as an overnight stop on the way to or from the Erg Chigaga dunes, Amezrou has a unique heritage worth exploring. Located on the ancient caravan route up from sub-Saharan Africa, this is where camels would once carry goods from the Jewish enclave at Timbuktu to the port of Essaouira (Mogador). Today, the Jewish Berber history is present in the town’s local handicrafts and traditions.
Located in what is now known as the “Valley of One Thousand Kasbahs”, Skoura is a paradise of palm groves dotted with ancient kasbahs and smaller towns. In this peaceful oasis, nothing will feel better than to simply unwind and enjoy the abundance of nature. Once you’ve relaxed, head out to discover Kasbah Amridil – a 17th century kasbah that stands out from the rest and offers incredible insight into the ancient traditions of Kasbah life. If you’re looking for day trip options, Skoura is also the perfect base to explore the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait Ben Abou.
If you want to have a unique, off the beaten path experience when you come to Morocco, you’re in the right place. We pride ourselves on taking our guests beyond the “usual suspects,” to see a different side of Morocco. Call or email our team today to start planning your adventure!