Morocco proudly stands as one of the most sought-after exotic getaway destinations in the world, thanks to its year-round warm weather, family-friendly coastlines, colourful traditions and diverse panoramas.
Boasting warm temperatures even through our autumn and winter and just a short flight from the UK, it’s no wonder Morocco is a popular weekend break for our colder months.
Whilst Marrakech or Casablanca tend to draw many of Morocco’s tourists, there are some other key destinations within the country that win the hearts of visitors with their incredible history and landscapes. From the cinematically impressive Ouarzazte to the museums in Fez here’s how to make the most of an adventure in Morocco.
Known as the Door of the Desert, Ouarzazate makes an ideal base for exploring the surrounding area, as it’s the location and excursions that really make this a unique destination.
If you only do one day trip from Ouarzazate, then head to Ait Benhaddou. Lying on the old caravan route between Marrakech and the Sahara, this traditional Mud Brick city is a certified UNESCO World Heritage Site with one of the best preserved kasbahs. It even featured in season 3 of Game of Thrones. There will be a lot of steps to climb when you visit, but the reward is well worth the effort, offering incredible views across the Sahara. You’ll find the most enchanting views in the evening at the sunset call to prayer.
There are two movie studios around Ouarzazate which you can visit – CLA Studios and Atlas Studios, which boast such titles as Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, Gladiator, Babel, Kingdon of Heaven and The Mummy Returns. With a long list of directors shooting on location here, visitors can see the impressive abandoned sets and props from the films, eerily wasting in the desert sun.
The beach resort and port of Agadir has been popular with northern Europeans seeking for winter sun since the introduction of the Moroccan Grand Prix in the 1950s. The beaches here are clean, sheltered and safe, thanks to regular friendly police patrols.
Watersports and activity fans will have plenty to keep themselves entertained, thanks to the many options from camel rides to dune buggies on offer here and the long sandy beach is perfect for a seaside stroll.
This vibrant city has so much to offer visitors with interests of all kinds, but particularly for foodies. Marrakech is one of Virtual Tourist’s Top Ten Cities for Street Food and the best place to experience Moroccan’s culinary delights is the Djemaa el Fna market. The street food stalls are chaotic yet exciting, filled with a myriad smells and exotic spices. There’s so much to learn about Moroccan cuisine and ingredients that walking tours of the street food stalls are available. Guides will talk you through traditional Moroccan cooking methods and ingredients and even show you delicacies such as cow’s hoof and snail soup.
If you’re not prepared to be so experimental food-wise, there are plenty of gentler ways to introduce yourself to Moroccan cuisine. Try an authentic tagine or a hot plate of grilled sausages at Stall 32, one of the most highly recommended food stalls from recent visitors.
Fez was the principal city of Morocco in medieval times and is home to the world’s oldest university. It’s the largest car-free urban area in the world and a visit here, with donkeys, mules and handcarts filling the streets, will be like opening the door to the past. Much less developed for tourists than other parts of Morocco (don’t expect many English speakers), the untouched beauty of Fez is bound to catch your attention.
For a cultural day in Fez visit the Dar-el-Batha museum. It boasts verdant gardens within its grounds, complete with a tiled Moroccan courtyard and fountain, and displays 11th century gold embossed books, Andalusian manuscripts and elegant examples of historical calligraphy. There are also works of Moroccan craftsmanship on display with jewellery, ceramics, candelabras and woodwork exhibitions. The Fondouk el-Nejjarine, close to the Henna Souk area is another great place to see spectacular Moroccan wood carvings; the arches of the building itself display exceptional craftsmanship, as does the pretty outdoor fountain.
Where to stay
The iconic Amarjena hotel was used as a film location for Sex and the City 2 and is nothing short of glamorous. On the outskirts of Marrakech the walled resort is beautifully styled to echo its Moorish heritage and includes luxury pavilions, a golf course, stunning courtyards, fountains and decadent suites.
For a more off-the-beaten -track experience of Morocco, stay at the Dar Arbala villa, overlooking the Atlas Mountains. The views of the mountains are incredible all year around, whether they’re frosted with winter snow or wreathed in a summer heat haze. The property includes a private pool, cook service, shared tennis court and fitness room and lush courtyards. Available through CV Villas, the villa is wonderfully located between the convenience of Marrakech and the exciting destinations surrounding Ouarzazate.