Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the Sahara Desert

Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the Sahara Desert

There are very few places on Earth that compare to the incredible landscapes you’ll see visiting the Sahara Desert. Running roughly north-south along Morocco’s eastern border with neighboring Algeria, the Sahara Desert is the world’s largest hot desert. In fact, the Sahara covers an area roughly the size of the entire United States. Many travelers visit Morocco specifically with the intention of venturing off into the desert and spending a night under the stars. And we can’t blame them! A desert adventure is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you shouldn’t miss out on. (more…)

The Sultan Moulay Ismail: Morocco’s Much-Feared, Long-Lived Ruler

The Sultan Moulay Ismail: Morocco’s Much-Feared, Long-Lived Ruler

The long history of Morocco is filled with characters that seem to leap off the page. Perhaps none more so than the Sultan Moulay Ismail. At once feared and respected, villainized and lionized, this Moroccan sultan literally stood head and shoulders above other world leaders. His tall, lithe figure cut bright through his palaces—particularly on beheading days when his flowing saffron-yellow robes reflected the high noon sun of the Middle Atlas, framing his dark features. The sultan’s wrath, his justice, inevitable, like the fire-rimmed eclipse of the moon gliding over the sun. (more…)

Day Trips from Ouarzazate, Morocco

camel tour sahara desertOuarzazate often considered the last big outpost before the Sahara Desert. Filmmakers and crews alike have flocked here in recent years to film blockbusters such as Game of Thrones, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Body of Lies, The Mummy, Babel, Spy Game and many other movies in and around this desert city. If visiting this locale is on your to-do list during any Morocco holidays you might plan, don’t confine yourself to the city alone. There are many day trips from Ouarzazate that are worth the time.

Merzouga

This city is located 50 kilometers from the Algerian border and about 300 kilometers from Ouarzazate. While this is a bit of a drive, this small city is located near the famous sand dunes of Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga. Erg Chebbi reaches 150 meters tall and spans 22 kilometers from north to south and 5-10 kilometers east to west. Many camel treks ranging from a few hours to several days depart from this city. If you’re interested in “seeing” the Sahara, but perhaps not for more than a few hours, visiting Merzouga is a great way to do so. (more…)

Exploring Sala Colonia (Chellah) in Morocco

chellah moroccoVisitors flock to Morocco to experience Morocco’s imperial cities, scenic mountain ranges and seemingly endless waves of sand dunes. What you might not realize is that Morocco also has ancient sites where you can meander through Roman ruins. If you are visiting Rabat, the nation’s capital, you can visit the Roman town of Sala Colonia, which is also known as Chellah, just by taking a few steps beyond Rabat’s city walls.

The Roman town is surrounded by its own set of walls, made of the red stone common for that area. The few entrances to the premises possess the form of the region’s characteristic arch, with the main entrance marked by majestic pillars near the northern end of the west wall. Once inside the walls, you see ruins of buildings built before 1100 AD, including seemingly isolated pillars and rocks with readable ancient carvings. (more…)

The Fint Oasis, Morocco

morocco donkeyIf the Moroccan town of Ouarzazate is the “Door of the Desert,” then the Fint Oasis, located 10 kilometers south, might well be the desert’s garden.

It is nearly impossible to imagine, departing from Ouarzazate and traversing the dry, desolate terrain of the Anti-Atlas Mountains, that any place so green, lush and full of life can be on the horizon. But suddenly you spot it: a massive, verdant palm grove, teeming with plant, animal and village life.

Composed of four traditional villages which blend Sub-Saharan, Moroccan and Berber culture, the Fint Oasis is a laid-back place where donkeys and other beasts of burden still roam the streets and women still wash clothes in the river. Though largely unknown outside of Morocco, the Fint Oasis has served as the setting for a number of Hollywood films, including Babel, Prince of Persia and Kingdom of Heaven. (more…)

Things to Do in Tamdaght, Morocco

tamdaght moroccoBetween Marrakech and Ouarzazate is the small village of Tamdaght, a tranquil spot for relaxation and laid-back explorations. With the Atlas Mountains as a backdrop, this area, filled with almond tree groves, has pretty vistas that can be enjoyed on hikes. Camel treks and 4×4 tours allow visitors to more fully experience the landscape, but even easy strolls around a the palm trees let visitors enjoy the setting.

Tamdaght’s main attraction is its kasbah ruins, which are still unspoiled from mass tourism. Self-guided visits to the old kasbah give insight into the region’s history. Bird watchers will be especially interested in the huge storks’ nests that perch on the kasbah walls. Cliffs around Tamdaght reveal even more historical information, as cave dwellings still dot their sides. (more…)

Lalla Takerkoust Lake, Morocco

afagay desert morocco lakeOn the outskirts of Marrakech lies the Agafay Desert of Morocco. In the 18th century the area was settled by Saharan nomads who planted crops and flowers, changing the arid landscape into blooming fields during the harvest months. In the months when the plants are dormant, the Agafay Desert returns to a parched wilderness, giving travelers an idea of the great Sahara Desert. The Atlas Mountains sit behind the desert and provide water to the enormous manmade Lake Takerkoust, sometimes referred to as Lalla Takerkoust Lake.

At 5,000 hectares and seven kilometers long, the lake was built by the French in the late 1920s as part of a dam and irrigation project to provide electricity and water to Marrakech. The French, of course, insisted that the lake would enhance the area and add to its natural beauty. Today Lalla Takerkoust Lake is an ideal day trip from Marrakech for those who want to get out of the city and admire views of the lake, mountains, and desert, especially for those who don’t have the time or ambition to journey to the Great Sahara. (more…)

The Can’t-Miss Marrakesh Holiday

Some travelers have only a few days for their holiday to Morocco, yet want to experience the rich history of an imperial city, a taste of luxurious modernity and the serenity of the Sahara and nearby mountains. For these travelers, Marrakesh brings good news … you can experience it all.

The highlight of Marrakesh is its main square, Place Djemaa el-Fna, which hosts clamoring crowds by day and a flurry of festivities by night. To survey the evening’s bustle before joining it, opt for a traditional tajine dinner at a terrace cafe. The elevated view will help you inventory the maze of chefs offering local fare, rows of booths selling freshly squeezed orange juice and the circles of storytellers, musicians, artists and more. (more…)

Day Trips from Tangier, Morocco

The short ferry ride from Europe to Tangier has made this port city a popular entry point to the country and a convenient base for exploring northern Morocco. During a day trip from Tangier you can drive along the Mediterranean coast or the Atlantic coast.

Tétouan

Located about an hour’s drive from Tangier via CTM bus or grand taxi, Tétouan is an excellent place to learn more about Morocco’s colonial history. Having served as capital of the Spanish Protectorate from 1912 to 1956, the city’s architecture features a blend of Moroccan and Andalusian influences. Its medina has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unique display of craftsmanship, and it is regarded as one of the best-maintained historical sites in Morocco. After strolling around the three-mile long walls of the old city, you can head to the National Institute of Fine Arts or dine in a Spanish-era cafe. (more…)

Exploring Oued Laou, Morocco

Fishing village MoroccoLocated in Northern Morocco along the Mediterranean Coast, Oued Laou is a charming fishing village, and you’ll have little to do but relax on the beach and watch the fisherman cast their nets. Oued Laou’s remoteness and long empty beaches draw backpackers and budget travelers looking for some peace and a break from the more populated areas of Morocco. The beach around Oued Laou stretches for many kilometers so visitors can always find a place all to themselves even during the busier summer months. (more…)

Day Trips from Essaouira

Diabat coast MoroccoEssaouira, on the rocky southwestern coast of Morocco, is a favorite among visitors and locals alike. The constant sea breezes cool the small city in summer and warm it in the winter, providing a pleasant atmosphere year round. The winds also attract wind and kite surfers from around the globe; the beaches in and around Essaouira are considered some of the best kite surfing waters in the world. What really draws the crowds, however, is the beautiful architecture, lovely sea views and easy going atmosphere. (more…)

Day Trips from Agadir

Man on motorcycle moroccoThe harsh truth: Agadir has a reputation of being a tourist trap. If you’re looking for the true Moroccan experience, most say this city will disappoint. But we’ve got good news—the traditional Morocco you may be searching for is just a short day trip away from Agadir.

Marrakech is a must-see destination if you plan on spending time exploring other cities in Morocco. History buffs, you’re in for a treat. This city is packed with culture. Explore the Medina and other souks sprinkled throughout the city. Prep your bartering skills and dive into the adventures of haggling down the typically high tourist prices. Pack a decent pair of walking shoes as well as an attitude ready for the commotion of Marrakech. A circle drive surrounds the souks, with taxis continuously picking up and dropping off customers. When you enter into the souk area you will see dancing Cobra snakes and monkeys on chains. Several wildlife organizations warn tourists to stay away because of the inhumane treatment of these animals.

In case the hubbub of busy city life isn’t what you had in mind for the day, there are plenty of relaxing getaways near Agadir as well. (more…)

Day Trips from Casablanca





Tile art at Volubilis - day trips from CasablancaSay the name “Casablanca,” and, for most people, it will conjure to mind all the romance and swagger of the 1942 classic movie. Hollywood may know glamor, but the allure of Morocco’s largest city is not fixed in its history. Instead, it is the epicenter of Morocco’s 21st century economy. The Casablanca (see our Casablanca city guide on our Morocco blog and travel guide) of today isn’t the sleepy expat town of film fame (which was actually shot entirely on a studio lot in Los Angeles), and travelers should expect the bustle one would associate with North Africa’s largest port and an industrialized city of 3 million people.

It is home to two international airports, so many travelers will find that Casablanca is their first taste of Morocco. Explore the can’t-miss sites of the city, such as the impressive Hassan II mosque and the art deco architecture of New Town, and then consider visiting some other nearby attractions that make for an easy day trip from Casablanca. The Roman ruins of Volubilis, the medieval Portugese fort at El Jadida and the capital city of Rabat are all within an easy train ride, and the cities of Marrakesh, Fez and Tangiers are accessible within a day’s travel from Casablanca. Even if your time in Morocco is limited to only a few days, Casablanca makes an excellent modern hub for day trippers looking to whet their appetite for traditional Moroccan culture. (more…)

Day Trips from Rabat

While Rabat, Morocco, has not necessarily established itself as a major tourist destination, this pleasant metropolitan city is a great home base for exploring Morocco’s more modern sites. Morocco’s capital city lacks the hustle and bustle of other Moroccan cities, making it a great place to stay for families traveling with children. Rabat’s medina is rather quiet yet authentic so you take your young ones shopping in the souks without too much worry about losing them in the crowds

There are plenty of sites to see in Rabat like the ancient city of Sale Colonia and Rabat’s most famous landmark, Le Tour Hassan, plus there are many popular historical sites within an easy traveling distance from Rabat. (more…)

Exploring Ceuta: A Piece of Spain in Morocco

Fuerte de Aranguren Ceuta SpainIf you find yourself in northern Morocco, consider stepping over the land border into Ceuta, Spain. Located about an hour east of Tangier by taxi, this autonomous Spanish city is an easy day trip for travelers and a tranquil home to both Arabs and Spaniards.

The lush growth of palm trees so common throughout Morocco continues into Ceuta, decorating the city’s major streets and coastline. The main promenade that overlooks the coast is spacious and clean, and offers numerous fountains, statues and benches.

Though windy at times, the promenade makes for a scenic stroll by day and animated people watching after sunset. As evening falls, a cheery ambiance settles on the well-lit area as families, couples, clusters of teenagers and joggers meander by. The contrast of western attire and traditional Muslim dress highlights the city’s diversity. (more…)