morocco camels beachThe world is filled with fascinating places to visit, and there will be a time when you have to choose which destination is right for you. We’re not afraid to let you know, though, that if you’re looking for a vacation experience that encompasses adventure, culture, history and wilderness, you should look no further than Morocco, a diverse country filled with majestic palaces, interesting museums, mouth-watering cuisine and large expanses of stunning natural landscapes.

Still not convinced? Here are ten great reasons to make Morocco your next vacation destination:

1. Trekking

The Rif Mountains, High Atlas Mountains, Middle Atlas Mountains and Anti-Atlas Mountains all fight for attention from trekking enthusiasts. Located in the northern portion of Morocco, the Rif Mountains’ peaks may not be as high as those in the High Atlas Mountains, but they are covered with forests and caves. The Middle and Anti-Atlas Mountains are not as heavily visited as the High Atlas, so they offer a quieter, more personal experience with nature.

2. Beaches

With beaches lining both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, there is no shortage of seaside relaxation. The Mediterranean coast has rockier beaches; the sea is also rougher and many people choose not to swim from here, but the views are beautiful. Families with children may want to consider visiting the beaches along Agadir or Casablanca.

3. The Imperial Cities

Marrakesh, Fez, Rabat and Meknes have all, at some point in history, been the capital of Morocco. These cities have palaces, churches, mosques and museums that provide a glimpse into Morocco’s history. The medinas in these cities can be crowded and confusing and many people hire a tour guide to ensure they hit the highlights without being overwhelmed by the vendors selling goods.

4. Riads

Riads are traditional houses or palaces that have interior gardens. Today, many riads have been turned into hotels. Even if you have accommodations, make a point to take a look at some of the grander riads, which have splendid architecture.

5. The Desert

South of the Anti-Atlas Mountains is the Sahara Desert where you can also take a camel tour, which is best explored via a 4×4 tour or camel ride. The quad tours quickly take you over the sandy roads through the desert villages while the slower, more leisurely camel ride allows you to appreciate the details of the desert. If you choose to camp in the desert, expect to fall asleep below an expansive starry sky and wake up to a stunning desert sunrise.

6. The Food

You’ll probably be able to smell the herbs and spices baked into the local food before you sit down to eat it. Moroccan dishes include stews and couscous and are prepared with locally raised fish, chicken or lamb. Meals are served with mint tea unless you request otherwise.

7. Shopping

Fez, Casablanca and Tangier are the country’s most popular places to shop. The souks are stacked with ceramics, leather goods, baskets, carpets and jewelry.  Bargaining with the shop owner or artisan is both expected and accepted in Morocco.

8. The History

Morocco’s history encompasses influences from the Berbers, the Roman Empire and the French and Spanish settlers who tried to claim the country as their own. As you move from city to city and region to region, you will be able to see the influences all of these people have had on Morocco.

9. Festivals

Depending on when and where you visit, expect to find music, dance and traditional storytelling. Planning your vacation to coincide with one of Morocco’s festivals is a great way to experience the rich heritage and culture in this North African country.

10. Steam Baths

Morocco’s public steam baths used to be the only places where people could take a bath. Though people bathe in the privacy of their own homes now, visiting a public steam bath is still an interesting way to experience a piece of the country’s history. It is, in many ways, akin to visiting a modern spa.

Posted by JoAnna Haugen, managing editor at Journey Beyond Travel and author of Kaleidoscopic Wandering.

Photo by thephotostrand.