Christmas in Morocco: 3 Hidden Destinations

Christmas in Morocco: 3 Hidden Destinations

If you’re looking to get away when the temperature plummets and the snow starts falling from above, why not consider spending Christmas in Morocco? While many travelers from the Northern Hemisphere initially consider a European destination for their winter holidays, a multitude of savvy travelers are choosing to spend their holiday in Morocco. With it’s sunny skies, colorful allure, and variety of cultures and landscapes, Morocco is becoming one of the most sought-after destinations for travelers looking for some winter warmth. (more…)

Who Are The Morocco Berbers?

Who Are The Morocco Berbers?

Traveling in Morocco, you are bound to trip across one of the most defining characteristics of the country – the Berbers. As the original inhabitants of Morocco, they are rightly proud of the contributions they have made in shaping the country. With a unique language and culture, the Berbers stand out as one of last bastions of tradition in an ever-modernizing society; while even the oldest villagers now happily chat on cell phones, they do so in a tongue almost impenetrable to anyone from the outside world.

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Megdaz, Morocco: Hidden in the Mountains

Megdaz, MoroccoMegdaz is a village in the Atlas Mountains known for its high-altitude setting and distinct architecture of Morocco. The High Atlas (as they are also known) are the highest mountain range in North Africa, often called “the roof of Morocco.” They form a natural barrier approximately 750 kilometers (466 miles) long that separates Saharan Morocco from the Atlantic and Mediterranean regions. Located high in the Tessaout Valley, Megdaz lies almost 2000 meters (6500 feet) above sea level. Hiking enthusiasts rave over the lush environment watered by the Tessaout River and fertilized by the river´s mud and silt.

Apart from the scenic natural beauty of the village, visitors might be most interested in the reddish earthen fortified structures built as family homes, barns and defensive forts, referred to as a greniers collectifs in French, or ighrem (ih-RHEM) or agadir (ah-gah-DEER) in Berber. The structures look impossibly tall and strike an impressive silhouette. The architecture features multiple floors and large flat roofs, which are used for drying grain in the fall and for sleeping outdoors during hot summer nights. Thick earthen walls insulate the homes from both the scorching sun in the summer and from the bitter cold in the wintertime, when snow often cuts the village off from the rest of the mountain towns. (more…)

Travel Tips for the Anti-Atlas Mountains

anti atlas mountains moroccoLocated in southwest Morocco, the Anti-Atlas Mountains are far off the beaten path and can deliver an unspoiled experience for travelers willing to make the journey. This range derives its name from its big, better-known northern neighbors, the High Atlas Mountains, where walking and trekking in Morocco was made popular; “Anti-Atlas” means “Lesser Atlas.”

This range is hardly lesser, however, except when it comes to a tourist population. Within the mountains, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the landscape and glimpses of Berber village life without a crush of other visitors. The Anti-Atlas range extends all the way to Ouarzazate, where many choose to begin tours of the Sahara Desert, so many itineraries combine mountain and desert. (more…)

Visiting Beni Mellal and Ouzoud Waterfall in Morocco

beni mellal moroccoThe city of Beni Mellal is one of the fastest growing cities in Morocco. Positioned between the Middle Atlas Mountains and Atlas Mountains, it is a great location for adventures in this region of the country. Beni Mellal is almost exactly between Marrakech and Fez making it a great stop over point if your journey takes you between these two cities, and it is an especially good destination to add to your Morocco itinerary if your plans include a visit to the Ouzoud Waterfall. The city itself is not known as much of a tourist destination but here are five things to experience if your journey takes you there.

Kasbah Bel-Kush and Kasbah Ras al Ain

This Kasbah, built in 1687 by Sultan Moulay Ismail, is one of the oldest remnants intact in Beni Mellal. There are two mosques still in operation. The Kasbah is not in great condition though it still is inhabited, primarily low-income families. The nearby Kasbah Ras al Ain and garden of Ain Asserdoun are in much better condition and worth a visit. Inside this Kasbah is a spring and it is believed the Kasbah was built to protect this vital water source. (more…)

How to Prepare for a Trip to the High Atlas

hiking bootsTrekking in the Mountains of Morocco is, for many, the highlight of a trip to Morocco. The alpine landscape reveals traces of the range’s glacial history (for real!), and is a far cry from the scrub of the plains or the sands of the nearby Sahara Desert. But while any trip requires planning, a jaunt to the High Atlas necessitates a slightly higher degree of preparation. As with any mountain landscape, temperatures and conditions can change quickly, and available resources will vary wildly between villages and outposts. Here, then are a few things to consider as you get ready for a trip to the High Atlas.

Guides – If you are planning to strike out on the trails, you may be curious about hiring a guide to help show you the way. There are a number of guiding/touring businesses in almost every trailhead village, as well as the larger cities. They can provide transport, food, lodging or any combination thereof you like, in addition to leading you through the mountain passes. Make sure you are clear on your price before you go, and establish exactly what is being provided ahead of time. Don’t feel guilty about shopping around for good prices or service! (more…)

Exploring the Dades Valley

Stretching from the High Atlas Mountains in the north to the rugged Jbel Sarho in the south, the Dades Valley is scattered with oases, palm groves and elaborate kasbahs. The valley itself is made lush and green by the Dades River, which rises from the High Atlas Mountains before emptying into Morocco’s largest river, the Draa. The waters of the Dades provide life for a variety of almond, fig, walnut and birch trees on the valley floor offering a spectacular contrast to the earthen-colored rocky formations rising from the valley floor. (more…)

When to Travel to Morocco

man squatting in alleyway in MoroccoThe best time to travel to Morocco depends on the type of experience you want to have. Planning to visit the desert? Hoping to surf? Is skiing more up your alley?

Despite extreme summer heat, the peak tourist season occurs in July and August. Temperatures in Marrakech and Fez can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit during this time, and a day in the Sahara Desert can climb to an arid 120-degree heat.

Expecting to splash in the water?
With long coastlines along the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, water sports are popular among foreign visitors, national tourists and locals alike. Coastal breezes make temperatures in these areas feel more bearable throughout the summer, making it an ideal time for a holiday spent kayaking, surfing or relaxing on the beach. Think Essaouira, Agadir or Tetouan. (more…)

Weather in Morocco

Marrakesh Morocco rainIf you haven’t taken a holiday package to Morocco before, you may have little idea of this country’s varied climate.  The Moroccan climate may differ widely depending on the region or the time of year. You can experience warmer, pleasant temperatures on the coastal regions, both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Further inland, the weather becomes hotter and more arid year round. And during the winter months of December and January, nighttime temperatures drop significantly.

During the height of summer, the heat of daytime temperatures is downright oppressive, especially in cities like Fez, Marrakesh and toward the southwest. In contrast, cities like Essaouira, Rabat and Casablanca are a bit cooler due to their exposure to ocean breezes.

The Atlas Mountains region is far less predictable, and weather depends in large part on the elevation. The winters are quite cold from November through March with plenty of snowfall, but the summers are mild but sunny. Northern Morocco may get light snow showers from time to time in the winter. The form of precipitation is often based on whether you are venturing to the High or the Middle Atlas Mountains. Rainfall is more common in the Middle Atlas between November and February. (more…)

Two Natural Wonders of Morocco

todra gorge moroccoIn addition to the rich cuisine, busy souks and rich history, Morocco has an overabundance of natural beauty as well. With more than 2,300 miles of coast, numerous mountain ranges, deserts and oases, there is plenty of wilderness to explore on your Moroccan holiday.

One of Morocco’s most magnificent natural wonders is Todra Gorge, which is located on the east side of the High Atlas Mountains. It is situated in a remote section of the country making it difficult to see unless you take a trekking tour of Morocco.

Todra Gorge was carved out of the cliffs, which has created a canyon that runs several miles through the Atlas Mountains. Though a road provides access through the Gorge, many people like to explore it by foot. Nearly halfway into the Todra Gorge is a hotel, where hikers stop to eat or rest before continuing on their way. (more…)

Trekking the Jebel Sahro

trekking jebel sahro moroccoNot far from the High Atlas Mountains are the mountains of the Jebel Sahro. The starkness of this range belies the beauty found there. Although this area is not as well traveled by trekkers it is well worth the trip. The landscape is awash in mesas with flat tops, deep gorges and pinnacles that have been twisted from volcanic activity. The view includes expansive almond groves and date palms.

Because of the terrain, planning a trek in this region comes with many options. Regardless of which direction you choose to walk, you’ll be met with satisfying scenery. You can launch your Sahro trek from any one of three points. Two towns in the north make good starting points, Boumaine du Dades and Kelaa M’Gouna. You can also take off from the southern village known as N’Kob. There are several Moroccan tour operators in these three cities that provide services. (more…)

Trek the High Atlas Any Time of the Year

Morocco High Atlas TrekkingIf you are thinking of visiting Morocco for the trekking opportunities in the High Atlas Mountains, there is no bad time to go. Depending on what type of trek you desire and your physical abilities, you will be able to find a trek at any time of the year.

There are a number of easy and moderate day hikes in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains. Some of these hikes will take a good portion of the day but should be manageable by most people. Toubkal Park and the Azaden Valley offer hikes for those with a bit more experience and stamina. If you’d like to enjoy a couple days of hiking in the High Atlas Mountains, there are tours available that allow trekkers to stay with a local family so that they don’t need to shuttle back and forth from the city day after day. (more…)

10 Reasons to Vacation in Morocco

morocco things to doWhen you travel, do you like to poke around palaces, indulge yourself in history at a museum or sip coffee at a local café? Do you prefer to take part in extreme sports or wander through the wilderness?

The beauty of Morocco as a vacation destination is that it’s a country diverse in adventure, culture and heritage, and regardless of your travel style, you’ll find something here that suits you. Whatever your preferences when it comes to travel, here are ten good reasons you’ll want to make Morocco your next holiday destination:

1. Trekking experiences are plentiful. The main mountain ranges in Morocco are the Rif Mountains, Atlas Mountains, Middle Atlas Mountains and Anti Atlas Mountains. The Rif Mountains, located in the northern section of the country, are covered with cascades, forested land and caves. Expert trekkers will find more challenging terrain in the High Atlas Mountains. (more…)

Camping in Morocco

camping moroccoIf you like to pitch a tent and fall asleep beneath the stars in America’s national parks, on the beaches in Asia or in the Australian Outback, there’s no reason you can’t do the same thing in Morocco. The country’s climate makes Morocco an ideal place to camp, whether you’re traveling by car, bike or foot.

Morocco is actually a very camp-friendly country, regardless of where you’d like to wander. Campsites located outside the cities are well-equipped and very popular, but as you move into the mountainous regions, you’ll need to provide all your camping needs because water and toilet facilities are relatively non-existent. (more…)

Touring Morocco’s Diverse Landscape

desert mountain tours morocco
In many ways, travels to Morocco are defined by a trip to the Sahara Desert, which makes up the southern half of the country. But Morocco is also defined by its impressive mountains and rich cultural heritage. To appreciate the beauty, vastness and diversity of the country, consider taking a guided tour that introduces you to some of Morocco’s greatest highlights; a five-day, four-night tour is ample time to satisfy your curiosity. (more…)

Top Three Natural Wonders in Morocco

high atlas mountains moroccoMorocco is home to high mountain ranges, wide expanses of stunning deserts, green oases, national parks filled with wildlife and miles of coastline. The array of natural wonders in the country ensure that there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Though it may be difficult to narrow down the prize attractions on your next trip to Morocco, here are three natural wonders that shouldn’t be missed:

Todra Gorge

Located on the remote, eastern side of the High Atlas Mountains, Todra Gorge can be difficult to explore unless you are on a trekking or climbing tour of Morocco. The gorge was carved out of the earth, and the canyon floor runs several miles through the Atlas Mountains. The imposing canyon walls make the Todra Gorge one of the most stunning rock formations in all of North Africa. (more…)

Rock Climbing in the Todra Gorge

rock climbing moroccoWith extreme elevations ranging from the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts to the High Atlas Mountains, it’s little wonder that Morocco is a hot spot for rock climbers. The Todra Gorge, situated on the remote eastern side of the High Atlas Mountains, is one of the more popular climbing destinations in the country, and many rock climbing tours focus on this region.

If your destination is a rock climbing tour in the Todra Gorge, you will want to arrive in Marrakesh. You’ll depart the city by vehicle, which will wind through the High Atlas Mountains up Tizi-n-Tichka pass and into the Dades Valley. This lush valley—a green oasis in an otherwise red-colored region—is the beginning of the Todra Gorge. Tinerhir is the last village you will encounter. (more…)

Secret River: Rafting in Morocco

white water rafting moroccoSpills, chills and thrills … you’ll find it all on a white water rafting trip in Morocco.

When most people picture Morocco, they envision camels wandering through the desert, colorful souks, mountainous trekking and historic medinas. Water sports abound here too, though, and tours in Morocco is no exception. And while white water rafting is known for the adventurous adrenaline rush that accompanies it, many tour companies offer history lessons, unique views of Morocco’s back country, fabulous food and an opportunity to truly get away from it all as well. (more…)

5 Must-Have Experiences in Morocco

Camel Tour in MoroccoMorocco: 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:

  1. 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. (more…)

Dust and Discovery: Morocco’s Imperial Cities

Meknes MoroccoWhile there is a lot of opportunity to get off the beaten path to visit the lesser-explored regions of Morocco, many travelers want to combine fun and adventure along with a dabbling of history into their holiday. For all three, immerse yourself in Morocco’s imperial cities. Be prepared for some stunning photos while meandering through the historical sites, the coast and deep into ancient medinas that have literally stood the test of time.
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Trekking Through Morocco’s Sahara Desert

Most people do not realize that the Sahara Desert is not just sand and rolling dunes.  Only about twenty-five percent of the Sahara, which is about the size of the United States, is sand. The rest of the Sahara is volcanic hills, gravel plains, rock formations, and some scraggly vegetation.  It is the home, surprisingly enough, of over 300 bird species and animals including mongooses, snakes, jackals, deer, hares, foxes, and baboons.  It is also wonderful to explore on camel and enjoy sleeping beneath the open sky.  (more…)

Treasure Town Of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains: Imlil

The beautiful village of Imlil can be found nestled in the heart of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and the terrain that surrounds this peaceful village is a rich contrast from that of the country’s lowlands. Here, pink houses are spaced unevenly through the village with numerous trees – mostly walnut – interspersed around them.Everyone in Imlil loves the nature of their surroundings and all of them would be willing to take a walk with you into the mountains to show you their lovely land. (more…)

Family Morocco Holidays

Are you in the process of planning a family vacation? Do you want to go to a place that your Mp3 listening, computer game playing teenager and your precocious 5 year old will both be happy? Look no further than Morocco. This North African country offers something for everyone in your family–from the historian to the outdoor adventurer! You can book a Moroccan vacation that the whole family will enjoy. On your holiday to Morocco, you can ride a camel, visit mosques, spy palaces and barter and wander through open-air markets. (more…)

A Note From the High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Here, we present a thoughtful piece from Brian Connery as he ventures on an Atlas trek in Morocco. From Imlil to Armed to Setti Fatma, Brian takes you on a quick, yet in-depth adventure of summitting and hiking around Jebel Toubkal in the High Atlas region.

Sleep was constantly disturbed with fearful visions of us becoming a magic carpet heading back down the valley.

From Imlil to base camp is a five hour trek ascending 1470 meters. Fearing the wrath of the SPCA (society for the prevention of cruelty to Australians), I arranged a mule to carry our heavy backpacks up to base camp. Erecting our tent on a dirty gravel pad in the wind shadow of the massive refuge, we proceeded to secure every anchor point with pegs and boulders.

During the night the alpine gusts strained these anchor points and rattled the tent un-relentlessly. Sleep was constantly disturbed with fearful visions of us becoming a magic carpet heading back down the valley. At day break we were woken up by several teams of trekkers heading for the summit. Pressured by this bee-hive of activity, we got our act together and started for the 960 m ascent as well.

The Japanese group were the first to encounter altitude problems. Their lead guide yelled down to ” leave the struggling lady with some food and continue”. We yelled back ” your a guide and don’t you ever do that”! Reaching the summit of Jebel Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountains (4167 m – the highest point in North Africa), we shared this joyous occasion with one other couple from France for half an hour before the waves of trekkers arrived.

We descended via another col to complete a circuit passing through a boulder field strewn with the wreckage of an old twin engine airplane that crashed many years ago. For the next four days we became the mules as we backpacked eastward into three new valleys.

How much it reminded us of Nepal: primitive terraced villages in the valleys, sleeping in “Gites” (guest house), and facing a high pass each day to change valleys. Trekkers here quickly step aside for loaded mules but none stepped aside for mule Doyle or mule Connery. Has our preconcieved image of Morocco been confirmed? It has been surpassed many times over. Now the english speaking world has to come and discover what the French have known for many years!

Morocco’s High Atlas: Winter Ascent

As the temps begin to plunge closer and closer to that omnipotent zero degrees, the last alternative we fellow hikers want is to stay indoors all winter. No, we will hike and freeze if we must in order to reach that trailblazer or peak! Of course, there are easy ways and hard ways to go about our hikes. With the proper gear, a hike, especially in a foreign country like Morocco, especially up a foreign mountain like Jbel (Mount) Toubkal, can be enjoyable and refreshing rather than painful and unbearable. When hiking in the High Atlas Mountains up Jbel Toubkal in Morocco, it’s imperative to pack gear that will see you to the top. (more…)