Morocco, North Africa. What does that conjure up in your mind? Endless desert dunes, camels, and markets? Yes, but you may be surprised to know that it is also incredibly green and fertile with agricultural regions, forests, oases, mountains, and is just about as diverse as a country could get.
For those who have been and understand, for those yet to come, and for those who need no reason, here are 10 places in Morocco that you need to visit.
Marrakech is the heart of Morocco. The old city bustles with its souks full of artisans, ancient and not-so-old superb monuments, and gardens. Marrakech has great street food, atmosphere, and a soul that speaks to you from old and deep in the earth. It’s a dynamic city, colorful, aromatic, busy, and vibrant. Marrakech is the gateway to the south and the road to go north. It’s the way to the coast and the route for the mountains. A perfect central point to explore Morocco from.
- The High Atlas Mountains
These mountains are majestically stunning and full of hidden secrets for you to discover. South of Marrakech, they are a hiking and trekking paradise for groups and families alike. All year round there is something to experience. Visit villages like Imlil on your way to climb Mount Toubkal, the lakeside village of Lalla Takerkouste with its weekly souk, or the spectacular valley of Aït Bougamez. These mountains are home to many small Amazigh villages with their secluded valleys and hidden gems.
- The Middle Atlas Mountains
These mountains are a nature lover’s playground featuring lakes, forests of huge cedars, volcanic plateaus, waterfalls and Morocco´s ‘Little Switzerland’. Deep snow in the winter makes it an international ski resort that becomes a hikers dream in the late spring and early summer. The great cedar forests in the Ifrane National park are home to the Barbary monkeys. Here women make some of Morocco’s most beautiful carpets, carpenters carve superb furniture and a huge variety of baskets are woven for sale in the souks.
- The Dades Valley
The Dades Valley is home to more than a thousand kasbahs in varying states of splendor. This valley is also famously home to the Damascus rose. You can visit dramatic gorges and wild rock formations.
- The Ounila Valley
The Ounila Valley is the ancient route of the caravans from Tombouktou and is still the salt route of today. Visit the UNESCO heritage site at Ksar Aït Benhaddou where so many famous blockbuster movies were filmed, and the palace of the old warlords of the region.
- The Ourika Valley
Despite being so well-publicized, the Ourika Valley is still on this list because it has much to offer for a day out from Marrakech. It is beautiful all year round, with saffron and organic farms, gardens, fantastic riverside restaurants, waterfalls and traditional Berber houses to visit. You can go on a camel or horse ride, and if you continue to Oukaimeden you can go skiing.
- The Draa Valley
The Draa valley is an extended oasis that carves its way to the desert dunes of Chegaga through Tamnougalt, Agdez, Zagora, and M´hamid. Tamnougalt is a fascinating old Kasbah, once a Jewish settlement and also known for the Haritine people who are black descendants from the region of Mali. Situated on the caravan route, it was once a major caravanserai – a meeting and trading place. Parts of it have been restored and some families still live there. Stop here for an interesting guided tour by one of the locals.
- The Ziz Valley
The Ziz Valley takes you down the eastern side of the country through diverse scenery, to the desert dunes of Erg Chebbi and the towns of Merzouga, Rissani, and Efroud. A Spanish influence is very apparent here as exiles from the Kingdom of Granada in Andalucia came to this region to help populate the area, bringing with them their language and some architectural influences. A staggering amount of fossils, dinosaur bones, semi-precious rocks and crystals can be seen here.
- Fez and Meknes
These cities are the oldest Medinas with a character all of their own and well worth a visit.
- Essaouira and Asilah
These cities are two of the most charming coastal medinas on the Atlantic seaboard. With their vibrant blue doors and street art, their array of fish, seafood, and sandy beaches, these towns provide a great respite from the inland vistas.
Ready to visit Morocco?
Written by Karima Rebecca Powell, originally posted on sistersmagazine.com