Morocco: Home of fabulous cuisine, beautiful languages, a unique culture and stunning historical sites. With so much to see and do in Morocco, it can be hard to pick the best experiences. If you’re looking for an interesting mix of adventure, education and culture, here are five Moroccan experiences you absolutely shouldn’t miss:
- Visit Ait Benhaddou. This desert fortress (also known as a kabash) is located in the Draa Valley and was built to protect the locals from outside invaders. The city has a frozen-in-history feel with its building designs dating back to the 11th century. It’s little surprise, then, that Ait Benhaddou has been used as a backdrop for several Hollywood films, including Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile and Gladiator.
- Explore the areas surrounding Marrakesh. As gateway to the High Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh is an adventurer’s delight. The High Atlas Mountains offers unforgettable trekking experiences found in nowhere else in the world. As you hike out of the valley toward the mountains, you’ll enter a lush and verdant forest area; Berber homes sit along the bottom of the mountains while the trails wind up toward the summits. In the winter, visit Oukaimden if you want to boast that you have been skiing in North Africa.
- Enjoy the water. Though the Mediterranean Sea can be rough with the waters rushing over the rocky shores, Morocco’s west coast is ideal for water sports. El Jadida, Agadir, Safi and Essaouria are just a few of the pleasant towns bordered by the Atlantic Ocean that are perfect for swimming, surfing and sunbathing. Essaouira in particular is the region’s mecca for windsurfing, kite boarding and even kayaking.
- Discover the desert. Many people dismiss the Sahara Desert assuming it’s just a bunch of sand, but if you’ve got the time, you should consider visiting the desert for at least one day. Getting down to the desert is possible from both Fez and Marrakesh, but give yourself ample time. Fez to Merzouga (known as the Erg Chebbi region) takes eight hours. If you are venturing here from Marrakesh, break the 14-hour drive up into two (or three) nights. Or, better yet, book a 4×4 guided tour or explore the desert by camel. A camel ride at dusk comes with a stunning desert sunset and the opportunity to watch the stars rise over the Sahara.
- Take a tour of the imperial cities. You can explore hundreds of years of history with visits to some of the country’s oldest, most important and diverse cities. Rabat, Meknes, Fez and Marrakesh overflow with an incredible selection of historic tombs, buildings, architecture, markets, excavation sites and palaces. It would be possible to spend weeks poking through Morocco’s ancient wonders, but even a small taste of what you can find hidden down alleyways and around street corners will whet your appetite for your next visit to what locals call “El Maghreb,” Morocco.
Posted by JoAnna Haugen, managing editor at Journey Beyond Travel and author of Kaleidoscopic Wandering.
Photo by mwanasimba.