Morocco made easy- savvy travel beyond Marrakesh

Sahara Desert

If you have not yet booked your vacation… it’s time to consider doing it sooner than later. And if you happened to look at Morocco, you have plenty of good reasons to. Fortunately, Morocco is much more than the desert dunes. It offers spotless beaches and to- die- for seafood, imperial cities filled with secret palaces and timeless Islamic architecture or the majestic Atlas Mountains, a trekker’s paradise and home to the unique Berber culture.

  Marrakech

Marrakech is not only a wonderful romantic getaway – it’s a fascinating foodie destination as well. It has become a popular destination for those seeking a long weekend exploring a different culture.

In Marrakesh, with its huge souk chic shops nestle cheek by jowl with centuries-old stalls making wrought iron goods, brassware and musical instruments out on the street itself. The souk is a shoppers paradise (particularly if you like Berber carpets), but there is a mix of high-quality produce and low-quality mass-produced tat out there. 

Marrakech

Be led by your eyes, nose, hands and instincts. Take your time, block out the smooth-tongued patter of the salesmen and decide for yourself if you are happy with the price. All this shopping will work up an appetite, and while you are in town I do recommend sampling the vast array of street food on the Djemaa el Fna, the huge market square in the heart of Marrakesh. Late afternoon, you would perhaps care to have a cocktail or coffee on the terrace of the legendary La Mamounia hotel. Marrakech offers some of the best Moroccan restaurants in the country but also some of the best French restaurants this side of Nice. 

Essaouira camels

Atlas Mountains

Far above the narrow pathways and frantic city markets lies a world of vast and spectacular landscapes. A world we know as the Atlas Mountains. For fresh air, stunning hikes and a closer look at Berber living, these peaks are the place to be. The Atlas Mountains thrive with unique experiences that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in Morocco. Up in the Atlas Mountains, you can trek or hike around Spend the night in a Berber village, take a hike accompanied by camels, or camp in the wilderness for total seclusion.

If you are more serious about your trekking, arrange the services of a local guide and mule(s), which will adapt to your level and carry you and/ or your luggage. Furthermore, you can choose to spend a night in a cottage at over 3000 meters altitude and descend the next morning back to the village.

Atlas Mountains

Fez

Enter Fes and you’ll experience a pedestrian city that represents 1200 years of dynasties, monuments and ancient tales. One of the most important cities in the Arab world, and the capital of Morocco until 1925, Fez has an authenticity that’s sometimes lost in Marrakesh. The town boasts with the same vibrant buzz of Marrakech, yet is slightly less frequented by holidaymakers, Fes is ideal for discovering authentic Moroccan culture. Streets get narrower and the noise of traffic is replaced with the clopping of hooves and the cries of vendors selling babouche shoes, spices and all manner of food.

Chefchaouen large

Roam through the medina where brilliant craftsmen settle down to work in a maze of enchanting alleyways that lead you from one hidden gem to another. It’s a trove of cultural wonders and one that definitely shouldn’t be left off your itinerary. Joining a local family for a cookery lesson is a great introduction to Morocco’s distinctive cuisine and life in Fez. You’ll make a tagine, share mint tea and visit a local bakery, where families take their dough to be cooked in a communal oven.

Fez

Tangier

This port city is another one of Morocco’s coastal delights. Situated at the northern tip, Tangier is the gateway to Morocco and boasts a distinctly continental feel. Since the 1960’s it has been a creative hub, once acting as a hotspot for artistic Europeans and Americans. Combining both beach and medina, Tangier is great for those of us who enjoy a slower pace of life with a slice of culture. Sipping a fresh mint tea and gazing out across the ocean is just one way to take it all in.

Tangier

Essaouira

A windswept seaside town on Morocco’s Atlantic west coast, Essaouira’s laid-back atmosphere, historic fishing port and long-established art scene appeal to people looking to escape the heat and the crowds of Marrakesh and enjoy a few days of relaxation. Essaouira is your best bet if you want bohemian ambience, a Medina full of character and camel ride or quad bike riding in the nearby dunes

 The fresher temperatures make it comfortable to stroll around the medina, which is far easier to navigate than those of Fez and Marrakesh. Moving through the streets, you’ll pass whitewashed buildings with brightly decorated doorways, art galleries displaying paintings of local scenes and shops selling hippy-style clothing, thuya wood trinkets and patterned rugs.

The Road of 1000 Kasbahs

The Road of 1,000 Kasbahs

On a section of land between Marrakesh and the desert, the rocky mountains and green valleys of the High Atlas are gradually changing to dusty hills and gravelled desert plains. Cutting through this land, the route known as ‘the Road of 1,000 Kasbahs’ gives you a view into Morocco’s past. 

It was here where sultans once built fortifications to maintain their dominance over the region. Even though most of it has crumbled away, you’ll still find a few well-preserved forts and fortified towns rising like giant sandcastles from the rock

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these family dwellings built within the defensive walls, was made from the local area’s reddish rock and soil and dates back to the 11th century.

Camel trek

The Sahara Desert

A definite must-do activity is a visit to the desert as it will add another dimension to your Morocco trip with the peace and seclusion offering a stark contrast to Marrakesh’s chaos. Venturing to the dunes, on the edge of the Sahara, is a journey of several hours from whichever direction you approach. But riding a camel through golden dunes at sunset, gazing up at an uninterrupted night sky from your camp and rising early to watch the sun bring colour to the shifting sands are opportunities that don’t often come your way.

During the day, a visit to a nomadic family who lives in this harsh environment as their ancestors would have for centuries is a definite highlight. The nomads will welcome you into their simple but homely tents, made of camel skin or bamboo. Ask your guide to act as a translator of these folks’ life stories about. Perhaps you can even try weaving on their traditional loom, which the women use to make rugs for sale in the towns and cities.

Cassablanca 2

Casablanca

Casablanca rates always high on the list of those that want to take on a Morocco private tour. In spite of its myth, created by the spectacularly successful Hollywood film bearing the same name that came out in 1942, Casablanca nowadays appears to be but a large congested city with not much in the way of interesting sites. But is that all there is to it?

Casablanca

For almost a century Casablanca has been Morocco’s most important city- on a global stage, as one of the birthplaces of modern architecture. In the late 1800s, Spanish artisans and fishermen came, followed by French traders, land speculators, and industrialists. Fleeing drought in the hinterland or “bled,” Muslims and Jews pitched up to trade and to work in sugar and cement factories. All shared the dream of acquiring new kinds of freedom. When you walk along the city’s streets and boulevards, you are strolling through an open-air museum of the twentieth-century architecture.

Adventuring in Morocco needs for an open-mind

The Sahara’s dunes stretch for miles on end and with some of the best surf waves in the world, Morocco is rapidly becoming one of the most popular destinations for thrill-seekers. The diverse terrains and climates across the country offer a plethora of activities for any kind of traveller; whether you prefer a 2-week cycling trek or one-off kite surf there is something for everyone. 

Quad bike in Sahara

Quad bike through the Sahara

Quad biking in the Sahara is an adventure not to be missed and is one of the most common activities undertaken by thrill-seeking holidaymakers. Taking up only half a day of your itinerary and suitable all year round, quad biking is an incredible way to experience the vast landscape of the Moroccan Sahara Desert. Opt for the full training at a reasonable fee and take time to familiarise yourself with the bikes before trekking across the dunes. A great activity if you are looking for a slightly more adventurous challenge in Morocco.

windsurf

Kitesurf in Essaouira

Known as the wind capital of Africa, Essaouira is world-renowned for kite surfing and even hosts the annual Kiteboard World Cup. A 4km beach creates gentle waves, great for inexperienced surfers. Further down towards the bay, waves can reach 2.5 metres, the perfect wave for the more experienced thrill-seekers. Combining paragliding and windsurfing, kitesurfing is rapidly becoming a more popular watersport and is incredibly easy to learn. Various courses are offered for all levels in the town of Essaouira, which is situated right at the beach, making for an exhilarating and thrilling water experience.

Rock climb the Todgha Gorge

A canyon, situated in the Eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains, Todgha Gorge boasts vertical walls up to 160 metres high with a 10-metre gap creating a perfect rock-climbing location. The gorge offers hundreds of climbing routes on solid limestone spreading across varying difficulties. Although intimidating at first sight, Todgha Gorge is a great location for beginners with stunning views and blue skies throughout the year. Don’t be fooled though; the French Sport Grade is used to define different levels with some climbs on the gorge seeing highs of Grade 8s. Before you undertake any of the climbing routes, you should be aware of your climbing ability and use a conversion chart to determine your grade before undertaking the vast faces of Todgha Gorge.

Muntain bike in Atlas mountains

Mountain bike through the High Atlas Mountains

The infrastructure is ideal and the jaw-dropping views make the High Atlas Mountains make a perfect biking location. A mere one-hour trip from the city, you will enter this lush kingdom of forests, lakes and waterfalls

Although a physically challenging and mentally exhilarating experience is guaranteed on any trekking tour, the breath-taking views across the Atlas are breath-taking. Most routes will lead to the rugged flat-topped peaks home to the nomadic Berber villages on less strenuous rides through winding valleys towards the coast. Even though selected treks have varying difficulties you can go for a package cycling tour that is definitely not for the faint-hearted and a good level of biking fitness is advisable. However, 4x4s will always accompany trips should you want to take a breather and enjoy the view.

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