The Best Cities to Visit in Morocco
Sitting across the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Morocco is a one-of-a-kind country with attractive landscapes, welcoming people, and home to some of the best cities. Morocco is a mountainous country located in the western portion of North Africa. As a traveler, you can enjoy the fine beaches, go snow skiing in the Atlas Mountains, taste the delicious cuisine or take delight in seeing the beautiful medinas. Let us take a look at the best cities to visit in Morocco.
I. Best Cities to Visit in Morocco
1. Marrakech, Morocco
Topping the list of the best cities to visit in Morocco, Marrakech bursts with captivating energy as it comprises both the old and new city. Known for its all year round hot climate, Marrakech is often described as the red city with a blend of cosmopolitan appeal, on one hand, and of an authentic Arabic flavor—giving tourists the best of both worlds.
Marrakech is home to topnotch hotels—from the luxurious King-owned Royal Mansour hotel, which has played hosts to diplomats, dignitaries and a large number of international celebrities, to hotel Mamounia, which boasts of its beautiful gardens and numerous designer boutiques for the shopaholic. For the budget-conscious, there is the Medina which has an array of Riads and hotels that provide a mix of comfort and culture. Found in the heart of the souks, it has endless winding cobbled streets where persistent yet friendly traders abound. If that is not your thing, you can go to Route de Luxor to shop at its wonderful boutiques and stalls in a far more relaxed setting.
A trip to Morocco wouldn’t be complete without a Camel ride. The ideal go-to place for a camel ride is in the Sahara. But you can also head down to Club Med in Palmerie, where you can have your camel-ride selfie in their luscious gardens or in their man-made dunes.
2. Ouarzazate, Morocco
Hold onto your camel ride and journey down south of the Atlas Mountains, where a cozy Moroccan town called Ouarzazate lies in between. Also known as the “Door of the Desert,” this magnificent city has indeed a picturesque view—fresh oases, sandy desert, high mountains and the vibrant blue sky. Other than that, Ouarzazate is a renowned filming location. The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), Legionnaire (1998), and the leading TV series Game of Thrones were only some of the international films shot on this site. You can even go for a studio tour to check out some behind the scenes bits from these movies.
Ouarzazate is ideal for a chill and relaxed shopping, since there are usually less tourists in this area. You can visit the Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou as well, which was proclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its aesthetic architectural landscape. If you’re looking for night entertainment shows, the Oasis of Fint is one of the finest places to go. It is a literal oasis with a lovely garden.
Travel back in time between the Middle Ages and the modern time in Morocco’s Imperial City—Fez. In fact, this 1,200-year-old gem has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage City. Strolling down along the labyrinth streets of Fes el Bali, an old part of Fez, certainly gives the Walt Disney’s Aladdin vibe. In every corner, shops selling vegetables, meat, pottery and leather goods are in sight. Don’t miss out the grand Bab Boujeloud, too, which is an ancient landmark gate entering Fes el Bali and Bou Inania Medersa.
4. Chefchaouen, Morocco
Chefchaouen is known for its blue-and-white painted houses that seem to mirror the bright blue sky above, complementing the greeneries of the mountains surrounding it. Apart from the sights, the city also resonates with a booming call to prayer that evokes a meditative, tranquil mood.
Aside from its breathtaking nature, such as the Ras el Maa waterfall and the Rif mountains, Chefchaouen is also an artisan hub, with excellent places to shop, especially for leather goods, rugs and blankets.
One of the good places to stay there is at Hotel Atlas. It has a fine view of the city and an infinity pool that sits on top of the mountain, making it the perfect spot to relax and unwind.
5. Essaouira, Morocco
Of course, I’m saving the best (among the best) for last: Essaouira! Rich for its eye-catching harbor and calming seaside view, this city is what most tourists have as a top item in their Morocco bucket list. Another UNESCO World Heritage site, Essaouira resembles an 18th century city bordered by ancient walls with a touch of French design. Locals often call this town the “Wind City of Africa,” for it is renowned for thrilling water-sport activities such as wind-surfing and kite-surfing. Not a type for those activities? No worries, you can always hang out by the shore for sunbathing or go swimming at the beach!
II. Best Time to Visit Morocco
Don’t fret, you can definitely visit Morocco at any time of the year! Depending on which part of the country you are planning to visit, just be sure to take note of the different climate suitable for each region so you won’t make any mistakes upon visiting.
A trek to the Sahara desert, for instance, is best visited during the winter months (November to February), as the nights could get chilly. Hiking through the Atlas Mountains works well during the autumn and winter season (make sure you have the best trekking poles you can find). Like a typical Mediterranean climate, Morocco is hottest during its summer months (June to September). But as for spring (March to May), it is no longer cold enough nor hot enough. Coasts are warmer and beaches are swarmed with people. The country blooms at its peak with fine greenery across its beautiful landscape—sounds perfect, isn’t it?
III. Is Morocco Safe?
Morocco is named as the most visited country in Africa with over 10 million tourists in the previous year. Is it safe to travel in Morocco? Considering the huge number of tourists, yes!
But! Take note of the big but here—that does not mean that you can roam around carelessly. Just like in any part of the world, there can be people with bad intentions, such as pickpockets or fake tour guides. Thus, it is important to keep a sharp eye and to be vigilant of your surroundings at all times.
Nonetheless, let me give you a few things to watch out for in order for you to secure your safety during your stay in Morocco:
Theft. I believe that most travellers can get away with theft if they are taking extreme precautions and are highly aware of their belongings. Pulling out your wallet to pay or withdrawing money from an ATM are what commonly attract thieves, because of the mere sight of money being extracted. The key is to carry valuables to a minimum. If you cannot avoid having a large bag, simply hold it close to you at all times. Also, when a random person talks to you, beware! It might be a distraction to you, which would pave a way for another thief to take advantage.
Protests. Protests occur occasionally due to the country’s political instability. Even though most protests are held peacefully most of the time, there are instances of violence and crime as well. If you happen to come across a protest on your way to your destination, it is better to avoid them as much as possible, and to still exercise caution.
Fake tour guides. Aside from those who booked tours from official travel agencies, exploring Morocco independently could sometimes be tricky when it comes to asking for directions. A distinction between an official guide and an unofficial guide would be the price offerings. Official guides can be found in offices and usually charge a pricey fee, while unofficial guides linger around city entrances and offer a cheaper price. I would really recommend acquiring the former, but if you are on a tight budget, don’t worry! Not all unofficial guides out there are complete imposters. Rather, there are some who are experienced and offer a decent service. On a brighter note, these fake guides (faux guides, the imposter kind) are, in fact, subject to a huge fine and are now strictly under the tourist police’s watch. Phew!
IV. Moroccan People
A vast majority of Moroccans are of Berber origin. Albeit it consists of a mix of Arab-Berbers as a result of Arabization and of Berber occupation from around 5,000 years ago. Hence, the country’s two official languages are Berber and Modern Standard Arabic (or simply, Arabic). Meanwhile, Moroccan Arabic (Darija), Tamazight (Riffian, Tamazight, Tashelhit), Hassaniya Arabic (only in the far south), and Berber languages are the languages spoken in everyday life. To my surprise though, French is inevitably an official language used in business settings. English, on the other hand, is slowly being learned by Moroccans as another foreign language and is being taught to children as early as in elementary school.
As of October 2020, there are 37,039,001 Moroccans (Worldometer, 2020). Islam is Morocco’s state religion covering over 99% of its population. This is an important thing to remember so that you could pay respect to their laws, customs, and beliefs. In general, (particularly if you do not disrespect or treat them unkindly) the Moroccan people are known to be very hospitable and kind.
V. Things to See in Morocco
You have already learned about the best cities in Morocco and a brief background on their culture—hooray! But aside from all that, let me leave you just a few more places for you to not miss when in Morocco. Bonus, right?
The Atlas Mountains
Stretching over 1,500 miles, from the west coast of Morocco to Tunisia, the great Atlas region houses Jebel Toubkal, known as North Africa’s highest peak. With a summit of 13,671 feet/ 4,167 meters high, it is an ultimate hiking spot for hikers. For beginners, though, it is best recommended to be accompanied by a tour guide. But if you don’t want to climb, there are more available hikes around the area.
Casablanca’s Hassan II mosque
Among a lot of fascinating Moroccan mosques, Casablanca’s Hassan II mosque is one of a kind. At 689 feet, it is the country’s largest mosque and it holds the world’s tallest minaret—wow! Back in 1993, King Hassan II had the intention of creating a city landmark that would be known across the world. Hence, he ordered the construction of the mosque. Up to this day, even non-Muslims are able to tour the said building and admire its beauty.
Marrakesh’s Saadian Tombs
Discover what is left of the Saadi Dynasty and the intriguing history of Morocco’s sultans in Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh. It comprises of two main mausoleums, containing 66 tombs each. Built by Sultan Ahmad el Mansour, these 16th century buildings that are designed intricately with marble and wood are now a tourist attraction.
VI. Main Takeaways
Thanks for taking the time to read through this brief post. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the best cities to visit in Morocco, during your next vacation. To wrap it up, here is a list for your next Morocco trip!
I. The Best Cities to Visit in Morocco
II. Best Time to Visit
- Any time of the year!
- Be sure to check out the suitable climate for the region/s you’ll visit
III. Is Morocco safe?
- Yes! But, it is always best to be vigilant.
- Keep an eye out for:
- Fake tour guides
- Keep an eye out for:
IV. Moroccan People
- Population: 37,039,001 as of October 2020 (Worldometer, 2020).
- Official languages: Arabic and Berber
- Religion: Muslim (99%)
- Notable Traits: Kind and hospitable.
V. Things to See in Morocco
- The Atlas Mountains
- Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque
Marrakesh’s Saadian Tombs