Morocco in December – What to See and Where to Go

December is a great month for a Moroccan adventure if you prefer the comfort of cooler weather and fewer crowds. The northern coastline boasts a Mediterranean climate, so it tends to be pleasant throughout winter, but never too hot. For winter sun seekers, there’ll be plenty of sunshine hours during the day. And whilst conditions aren’t ideal for sunbathing on the beach, it’s the perfect time for exploring Morocco’s magical cities, bustling markets, and traditional Berber villages.

Essaouira

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Morocco in December. Including what to see, where to go, and what to pack in your suitcase.

Weather

Morocco is a land of extremities, so expect a contrast in climate during the winter months. This is when you can expect the peaks of the Atlas Mountains to be blanketed in snow, yet still relatively warm at other altitudes. The contrasting weather means that mountain expeditions may not be suitable for everyone at this time of year. For experienced outdoor enthusiasts though, snow trekking can be a challenging, rewarding activity with some of the most spectacular views.

Despite being in December, the Mediterranean coast will be lovely and warm during the daytime (though it can turn chilly at night). The climate in the Sahara is at its most extreme; hot and dry in the day and close to freezing after sundown. If you’re moving around or going on a Moroccan tour, average temperatures and rainfall can vary somewhat from city to city. So be sure to check the weather forecast for each destination.

Here are some of the averages you can expect, although it can change from year to year.

Marrakech

Low – 8°C

High – 20°C

Rainfall – 6.5 days

Fez

Low – 6°C

High – 17°C

Rainfall – 9 days

Casablanca

Low – 10°C

High – 19°C

Rainfall – 7 days

Essaouira

Low – 13°C

High – 20°C

Rainfall – 4 days 

What to Do

There are so many things you can do in Morocco in the month of December, and the cooler weather makes it easier to travel around. It’s true that rainfall is higher, but still very low compared to winter in other countries, and the pay-off is that you’ll miss the tourist rush. So this is the perfect time to be out and about. Here are a few ideas to inspire your next trip.

Trekking in the Sahara

Winter is a great time of year to go trekking in the Sahara Desert, with December being a favourite amongst travellers. Whilst it can still get hot during the day, it’s much cooler than the summer months. Making it much more comfortable for young children, and anyone who is particularly sensitive to the heat or prone to heatstroke. You can also arrange camel tours at sunrise or sunset, So don’t forget to pack your camera to capture those beautiful hues.

SAHARA

Atlas Hiking

Ait Bougmez Valley in the High Atlas Mountains is wonderful in the summer, proving to be a nice respite away from the heat of the cities. In winter, it can get a little chilly with temps swinging from 3°C to about 15°C. But it’s still a great destination if you’re interested in exploring the great outdoor space in Morocco. Trekkers refer to this area as “The Happy Valley” and this is due to the friendly local people, who are always welcoming of tourists. A guided hiking tour is recommended if you want to get the most out of your time here, and if you want an English speaking host to give you all the insider tips.

City Tours

December is without a doubt one of the top months to go sightseeing. With cooler temperatures and smaller tourist crowds in winter, there’s no better time to explore the imperial cities on foot. From the Art Deco buildings of Casablanca to the colourful tanneries in Fez, every city has its own unique charm.

fez morocco

Stay in a Traditional Riad

Riads are as authentic as it gets in Morocco. These traditional houses or palaces feature stunning architecture with intricate designs, and all have an interior garden or courtyard for guests to use. Book before Christmas and New Year and you’ll be privy to the best off-season discounts too. This is a great idea for a romantic break, or for a relaxing spa weekend.

Go Skiing

One of Morocco’s best-kept secrets is its ski resorts. An unlikely destination for the skiing crowd, you shouldn’t expect the glamour or the high-end facilities of somewhere like Val d’Isère. But instead, a charming place that relies completely on natural conditions. There is no artificial snow production, so the weather controls the seasons each year. Moroccan resort times such as Ifrane, Oukaimeden and Tazaghart are determined by snowfall, so the later in the year you go, the better chance of snow coverage. But generally speaking, the season starts in December and ends in March or early April.

snow morocco

Where to Go

The beaches in December are usually quiet. If you enjoy beach walks with no-one else around, you might find the coastal resorts to be bliss. But most people like to visit the cities during the winter season. With the intense summer heat out the way, this is the perfect time for urban exploration. Here are some of the places to go.

Marrakech

There are fewer places for more exciting than Morocco’s capital. Loud, bustling, and bursting with atmosphere, it’s a fun place for all ages. Go shopping at the markets surrounding Jemaa el-Fnaa, and head back there in the evening for some tasty street food. Visit the spectacular Majorelle Garden, see the Koutoubia Mosque, and go sightseeing at the Saadian Tombs. At night, there are number of restaurants to try, as well as unbeatable nightlife. From the city, it’s possible to book guided tours of the Atlas Mountains too.

Casablanca

Make sure you spend plenty of time on foot when in Casablanca. The beautiful Art Deco buildings are better seen when you’re walking, and this way you won’t miss all the lovely pavement cafes. Be sure to see the 1930s Cathedrale Sacre-Coeur, the Hassan II Mosque, Palace Mohamed V, and the charming medina district. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to boutique hotels, riads, spas and Hammams too, making it a great city for relaxation.

CASABLANCA

Fez

The former capital of Morocco is a must if you’ve never been before. It’s the oldest of the imperial cities, and it remains as the spiritual and cultural heart of the nation. Discover its intricate maze of tiny streets, hidden souks, striking monuments and the old tanneries. Be sure to spend at least a day exploring Fes el Bali, the old medina, and also home to palaces and mosques. Head to Art Naji to watch the making of the region’s distinctive blue pottery, take a walk around Medersa Bou Inania, and soak up the sights at Rue des Mérinides.

Chefchaouen

Any time of year is good to visit this city in the Rif Mountains. But December is best if you’re looking to escape the tourist crowds. It gets quiet here in winter as temperatures drop. But you can still expect highs of around 16°C, which is nice and comfortable for sightseeing. Book a guided tour to learn more about the blue-washed buildings, explore the Old City and go shopping at the traditional souks, or take the Cascades d’Akchour trail for some stunning natural scenery.

Chefchaouen

Taroudant

Get lost in the High Atlas region and spend a week exploring Taroudant. Famed for its pretty pink houses, fortified walls and winding streets, it’s one of the most unique cities in Morocco. Known as the “Grandmother of Marrakesh” for its similarities to the capital, it’s an exhilarating alternative if you’ve already seen all you want to see below. And more traditional than Marrakech, this is one of the rare places you can get a taste of unspoilt Berber life. There’s a bustling Berber market every Thursday and Saturday, and there’s a very relaxed atmosphere here. The pace is much slower and the locals are extremely friendly.

Tangier

The city of Tangier is the perfect off-the-beaten-path destination, and the weather is excellent in winter. Although it can rain in December, temperature highs can be 18°C or higher and the sun is always out. Tangier is relaxed, laid-back and slightly hipster, popular with some of the most renowned writers and artists throughout modern history. It’s an ideal place to stay if you like your cities to have a bit of edge. Don’t miss the Caves of Hercules, the Dar el Makhzen museum, or the breath-taking views from Cap Spartel.

tangier

Essaouira

With its gorgeous coastline, wide sandy beaches and pleasant winter weather, Essaouira is a great destination for December travel. It can get a bit windy for beach sunbathing, but kite flying is a hugely popular activity. The great thing is beaches and resorts are generally quiet around this time of year, so you won’t have to deal with huge tourist traffic and you’ll never struggle to get a table. The port town is excellent for restaurants, so foodies will enjoy discovering new flavours here. The vibe here is laid-back and sleepy, so if you’re looking to wind things down, Essaouira is ideal.

Festivals & Events

Another reason to travel to Morocco in December is because there is always something going on. With it being a Muslim country, Christmas isn’t celebrated in many places but there are plenty of other events to pique your interest. Including a film festival and some fun things to do for New Year’s Eve. Here are some of the events taking place each year in December.

Tan Tan Moussem

The Tan Tan Moussem is an annual gathering of over thirty different tribes from Morocco’s southern region. Taking place in the city of Tan Tan every December, this event is a celebration of traditional Berber culture. The main draw for the tribes is camel trading, but there are also other exciting things taking place throughout the festival. Including weddings, inter-tribal competitions and games, traditional Berber re-enactments, and plenty of music and dancing.

camels

Marrakesh International Film Festival

This international film festival takes place in Marrakech every year and is one of the biggest events in the country. It makes way for film stars and Hollywood actors/actresses, and features a competition and awards for new talent. Created in 2001 by His Majesty King Mohammed VI to promote the arts in Morocco, this festival is now one of the best in the world. Tickets are open to film professionals, press as well as members of the public.

New Year’s Eve

Another great event not to miss in Morocco is New Year’s Eve. Whilst Christmas isn’t widely celebrated, Morocco is a popular destination during the festive period. So expect it to get a little busier later in the month. By New Year’s Eve, some cities could become crowded again. Here, it’s tradition to see in a brand new year sitting under the stars in the desert. So if you’re interested in exploring the sights of the Sahara, December could be the perfect time. Or if you prefer to stay in the cities, you’ll find plenty of rooftop spots to celebrate and enjoy a delicious meal.

What to Wear

December weather is still wonderful in Morocco, with most of its cities and port towns experiencing warm daytime temperatures and hours of glorious sunshine. But it can get cold in the evening, so it’s recommended that you pack light jackets and layers. Rainfall is also at its highest in the winter season, so bringing a lightweight waterproof and an umbrella could also be wise.

A good thing to remember is that the weather can get unpredictably hot some years, so your summer/beach wardrobe will still be useful. Even when it’s not hot, the sun can still be strong so UV protective clothing, sunglasses, hats and sun cream are a must.

For anyone going on a desert adventure, remember that it can be close to freezing at night time. For desert treks or overnight camping, you will need to bring a warm coat and thermal layers.

If you’re planning on visiting Morocco and would like expert advice then please email us or give us a call on +44 (0)208 150 6131. Alternatively, fill out our booking form here

 

Everything You Need to Know About Todra Gorge

Todra Gorge, also called Todgha Gorge, is a natural oasis in the mountains of Morocco. Made of limestone and split by the river bed, it’s one of Morocco’s top attractions for visitors. The walls of the gorge are towering, and the river bed is dried, allowing visitors to walk through the landscape most of the year. The entire area is a paradise for photographers, and hikers and climbers have grown to love it. If you’re planning to visit Todra Gorge, here’s everything that you’ll need to know.

Interesting Facts

 

• The Dades Rivers are responsible for creating the Todra Gorge.

• Many of the canyon walls can reach 400 meters in height.

• The last 600 meters of the gorge is the most beautiful.

• There are more than 150 bolted routes for rock climbers.

• The gorge was featured in the premiere of the T.V show, Expedition Impossible.

• It was featured in a 2012 Cadillac CTS advert.

• Visitors can stay overnight at the mouth of the gorge.

• The surrounding area of the gorge is home to Berber tribes.

 

Where is Todra Gorge

 

The Todra Gorge is located in eastern Morocco, in the High Atlas Mountains. The closest town is Tinerhir, and the Dades Rivers are close by. If you’re traveling between Ouarzazate and Erfoud, you can easily stop off to visit the gorge. However, Tinerhir is an ideal base from which you can explore the gorge.

 

If you’re flying in, Ouarzazate International Airport, is the closest as it’s under three hours away by car. Marrakech International Airport is another, more popular option as there are more flights coming in and out. It’s about 402 kilometers from the town of Tinerhir. If you have a car, you can take the P32 highway from Tinerhir heading towards Er-Rachidia and Erfoud. Drivers will be able to follow the signs towards Todra Gorge, passing the village of Tizgui along the way.

 

When To Visit Todra Gorge

 

The best time of year to visit the gorge is during Spring and Autumn. This is when the weather is the nicest, but also when the most tourists come. You may be better off coming during the summer, when it’s very hot, or the winter, when it’s quite cold, to avoid crowds. March through November is said to be one of the best times to visit. Since there is no snow here, visitors can come from December through February and still enjoy their stay. However, nights tend to get much colder during this time. If you plan on staying in a hotel instead of outside, this might be a great option, especially if you’re trying to avoid the crowds.

 

During July and August, temperatures can get up to 30 degrees celsius. You may also want to avoid visiting during Ramadan which takes place in May and June, and April and May. Many businesses shut down during this time.

 

What To Do in Todra Gorge

 

From hiking and rock climbing to photography and local culture, there is plenty to do while visiting. Here are some options for making your trip to Todra Gorge more interesting.

 

Shop For Carpets: Berber carpets are ornate, beautiful, and make fantastic souvenirs. There’s a kasbah located near the gorge, and local villagers set up shop with their handmade carpets. Before you leave, make sure to take a look, do a little haggling, and snag yourself a great deal on a new item for your home.

 

Hiking: There are hikes for all levels around in the gorge. Most people go with tour groups or guides who show them around. The hikes will take you throughout the valley and up to the top of many of the limestone walls. Some of the trails are more like walks than hikes, but the scenery is beautiful regardless.

 

Have a Picnic: If you want to spend a little time soaking in the scenery, pack a picnic. You’ll probably see other visitors scattered around the gorge having lunch with their friends and family. This is a great way to spend some time here without spending a lot of money at a restaurant.

 

Go Camping: If you love the outdoors and adventure, you may want to camp instead of staying in a hotel. There are a few tour companies who can set this up for you. The warmer months are better for spending the night outside. Stargazers and photographers tend to love this option.

 

Rock Climbing in Todra Gorge: This is one of the best spots in the world for rock climbing. There are more than 100 official routes that allow climbers to experience the gorge safely. There are routes for every level, many of which include multi-pitch routes. Beginners are welcomed here too as the gorge is a great place to learn. The Todra Gorge uses the French Sport Grade, so make sure that you have a grade conversion chart. While there are tons of rock climbing routes, here are a couple of the popular options:

• Saracosta: This route is located on Plage Mansour and starts off on a slab-like face. It ends up on an overhanging corner that has fantastic holds.

• Voie Albert: This one of located in the center of the gorge. Climbers will head up Pilier du Couchant with an 8-9 pitch mixed climb.

• Chibania: Best for well-seasoned climbers, this route goes up the right side of Pilier du Couchant and offers stemming on the crux pitch, as well as face climbing.

• Big Ben: This climb will take you up Jardin D’Hiver. It starts off with a ledge, and follows up with a steep second bulge. The anchors have pockets and there are crimpy holds.

• Docteur Excentrique: This climb is classic, especially for those who like picturesque scenery. Climbers will start with a flake, go up through the overhanging roof, and finish over the bulge.

• Je Abidul: This route is a long classic that offers incredible views of Jardin D’ete. It has a crux right before the anchor, and will require a 70m rope.

 

Todra Palmeraie: This stunning landscape is a must-see if visiting Todra Gorge. It’s lined with palm trees, small villages, olive groves, and vegetable gardens. Give yourself a couple of hours to wander around the area by foot and enjoy the scenery.

 

Ikelane Mosque: Located two kilometers from Tinghir, this mosque is one of the most beautiful in southern Morocco. There’s a prayer hall, a skylight dome, terrace, classroom, and a well. The structure was used as a school for small children, a high school for those studying the Koran, a mosque, and a hostel for students. The mosque was once abandoned but has been under restoration throughout recent years.

 

Amtoudi Village: Home to around 300 families, this Berber village makes a great stop when visiting the gorge. The land is dotted with farms and irrigation systems that help grow figs, olives, apricots, dates, and almonds. Overlooking their village is an ancient grain facility which is partly what sets them apart from other villages. It’s a bit off the beaten track, but local guides are happy to show visitors around.

 

Aït-Boujane: Located in the valley of Todra, this ancient village is a beautiful sight and interesting destination. Visitors will get to see a lineup of mud houses, palm groves, and a lovely mountain backdrop. Tours can be had by foot or via camel.

 

Tinghir Weekly Market: This is one of the largest markets in southern Morocco. If you’re using Tinghir as your base, it’s worth sticking around to explore. The market has been around for centuries and sells local crafts, livestock, dates, olives, fruit, and grain. The big market happens on Mondays, and the cattle market takes place on Saturday. Aside from food and produce, visitors will also find handmade, traditional clothing, sandals, furniture, woven mats, teapots, toys, kitchen items, bikes, craft tools, seeds, plants, spices, mineral salt, henna leaves, eggs, poultry, baskets, scarves, makeup, pottery, and antiques. Don’t forget to stop into one of the makeshift cafes for some mint tea.

 

Dades Gorge:  Alongside Todra Gorge, this is one of the best in Morocco. This gorge can be wide and low, but in some areas, the walls are massive. Take a drive through the area and stop off at villages along the way.

 

Ouarzazate: While a little bit farther away from Todra Gorge, Morocco’s, Little Hollywood, is a great destination to add to your trip. You can visit Ben Haddou, one of the top Game of Thrones movie set destinations. Pop into the Telouet Kasbah, a historically significant building that has since fell to abandonment. Visitors can also check out the film studio, tour the desert on camel, or drive a 4×4 into the dunes. It’s a great stop for an adventurous day while visiting Todra Gorge.

 

Erfoud: This town is another great place to stop on your journey to Todra Gorge. It is known as the Gates of the Sahara, and has plenty to see. Visit the Royal Palace, the bustling souq, the renowned fossil collection, and the Jewish cemetery. Stop off at one of the street cafes, or head into the desert for a 4×4 ride. The town is also well known for its food and drink options so make sure to wander around and have yourself a delicious meal.

 

 

Where To Stay

 

There are quite a few accommodation options around the Todra Gorge. From hotels to guest houses and camping, visitors will have their choice. Here are some of the top options:

• Auberge Le Festival Todra Gorge: Top-rated hotel with outdoor pool, terrace, onsite restaurant, private bathrooms, and a historic decor.

• Kasbah Maison D’hôte Lalla Zahra: Popular with couples, this hotel has private parking, WIFI, some rooms that overlook the mountains, a terrace for dining, and options for biking and windsurfing.

• Berbere De La Montagne: A campsite in the Dades Gorge. It’s quite small but has shot showers, western toilets, a lounge, restaurant, fireplace, and a place to charge cell phones and camera batteries.

• Palmeraie Guest House: Located in Tinerhir, this guest house has a sun terrace and mountain views. There’s a restaurant onsite, gardens, and traditional decor.

• Riad Al Anwar: This Riad is located in Tinerhir and offers free WIFI, private parking, and a restaurant. The area is popular for biking, and they offer rentals so that you can go off and explore.

 

Useful Tips

• Visit with a guide for a better understanding of the gorge.

• Be careful of the local people trying to sell you tours at the gorge.

• Nearby hotels can set you up with rock climbing or hiking tours.

• Not all of the hotels have quality rock climbing equipment so bring your own if you are concerned about that.

• For something different, rent a mountain bike and explore that way.

• You can ask your guide to take you to a local Berber house for tea and a meal.

• Be prepared for tourist crowds. Try to come earlier if you want to beat them.

• Check out the nearby vendors if you want to buy some Berber crafts such as rugs.

• If you explore without a guide, there are usually local villagers around who can help you if you lose your way.

• Pack sunscreen, sturdy walking shoes, and layers if you want to make sure you’re comfortable during your visit.

• Once in the vicinity of the gorge, a car is not necessary.

• It’s OK to haggle on prices when it comes to hotels, car rentals, and restaurants.

• Watch out for fake tour guides and carpet sellers who may try to rip you off.

• Don’t give money to the children who are begging. Many of them will offer to take you to Tinerhir; don’t accept.

• Don’t drink the water from nearby springs or the tap water in hotels.

 

Todra Gorge is a great place to visit when you want to take a break from the bustling cities of Morocco. It’s one of the most spectacular gorges in the world, and should be a must-see on your trip. Whether you rock climb, hike, take photos, or just wander around, the Todra Gorge is bound to impress. Get in touch with us today for more information about planning your trip.

Epic Portugal!

It’s been a long time…… 13 years and counting since Epic Morocco welcomed its first mountain biking group. It was a one-man show back then, just me, my bike, a spirit of adventure and a handful of biking routes through the wilds of backcountry Morocco. I didn’t know it at the time, but as the years would pass, Epic Morocco would grow in different directions.  As time went on I took on staff (once you take on the first one, the writing is on the wall!), found new partners in the travel industry, new directions and new ideas. Without wanting to sound too clichéd, it’s been a wonderful journey – and as I often say, it’s all about the journey – and it’s one that takes us to another new dawn.
Many will know that last year I found a new business partner in crime – the wonderful Carla Petzold-Beck – upped sticks and moved to Portugal after 14 years in Morocco. A fresh adventure for my family, but also a new look at the world outside Morocco. In Portugal I found a less-developed and unhurried Europe, a place that seemed real, authentic, and in many respects, undiscovered.  The Epic brand  (as it is now known!) is about uncovering authenticity in an interesting, engaging and often adventurous way, and Portugal seems like a perfect fit for this remit.  So, an idea was born, and Epic Portugal has become a reality.
The next two months is a period of travel and research by two members of the team, together with me. A journey to uncover the best in hidden, character-full places to stay that are off-beat, interesting, adventurous and, above all, offer unique experiences; and, of course, the best places to discover both on and off the beaten track.
So the Epic family is growing! Please follow our progress on social media and visit our (for the moment) temporary website : www.epicportugal.co.uk
Who knows where the journey will take us in the next 13 years……
Charlie Shepherd, Founder

Epic Morocco supports Fiers et Forts

By Alice Morrison

Epic Morocco has committed to support the fantastic charity, Fiers et Forts (Proud and Strong), which gives a safe haven to at risk children by donating a proportion of the fee from every trip booked by clients to help them continue their work.

The Centre Fiers et Forts is a home and base for underprivileged children in Tamesloht which lies just outside, Marrakech. As of today, the centre welcomes and cares for 105 children. It was set up in 2004 by Madou  (Dorothea Eijkman).

She saw first hand the suffering amongst the very poorest children in the area and could not walk away. Instead, she started working with them, and fourteen years later that work still continues, supported now by her daughter, Dorine.

The village of Tamesloht had suffered a long period of drought,  which resulted in an exodus of those of working age and terrible poverty for those left behind. Poverty, disease and family breakdown resulted, leaving children uncared for, out of school,  and left to their own devices. Many had nowhere to go.

Fiers et Forts offers the children a haven. It has residential facilities for those children who need somewhere to live and it also offers lessons – both academic and practical to equip them for the future. It has a small farm attached where the children can learn about gardening and about animal husbandry. The animals are also used as therapy and the animals from the centre are not used for food because the children love them too much. There are cooking classes in the kitchen and everyone helps with the chores. No child is ever deserted and Fiers et Forts offers protection to those who have been abused.

Its mission is  “to offer the children the best chance to become independent in society.”

Charlie Shepherd, Founder of Epic Morocco, says it is a place that is really close to his heart, “When I was first introduced to Madou, I quickly gathered that I was in the presence of someone special. Her energy and commitment to the project that she later introduced me to convinced me immediately that we had to help in any way we could.”

He decided to support Fiers et Forts through the donation of a proportion of every guest’s fee because, “The welcome centre is a joyous place for children who have experienced very tough starts to their young lives. Madou and Dorine have chosen to devote all of their time to this cause and are loved like family by the children at the centre. Visiting is a humbling, at times sad, but ultimately hugely inspiring and uplifting experience, and it is great to feel that we are helping in their very worthy cause.”

For Dorine and Madou, the donations from Epic Morocco are a godsend. “We need all the help we can get,” says Dorine. “Our work gives these children a real chance for a successful future but it takes time as some of them have been terribly damaged and we must be able to look after them and protect them within a loving environment.”

For more information on Fiers and Forts or to make a donation, click here.

Atlas to Atlantic World First Sponsored by Epic Morocco

Alice and Rachid reach Agadir

Epic Morocco’s team, Alice Morrison from Scotland and Rachid Ait Elmahjoub from the Imlil Valley, have become the first ever people to walk from the Roof of North Africa, Mount Toubkal, 300 kilometres across the Atlas mountains to Agadir on the Atlantic Ocean.

Epic Morocco sponsored and planned the expedition with them as a way to open up new routes across the mountains and also explore the hidden valleys and villages on the way.

The team were entirely self-supported, carrying all their own kit and supplies for the trek. They had to constantly be aware of where they might refill with water and look for places to stay or to camp along the way. They relied on getting food from the tiny villages and farms they passed through.

Charlie Shepherd, CEO of Epic Morocco, explained why he wanted to back the exploration, ” Epic Morocco is a specialist in adventure holidays here in Morocco and we pride ourselves on our knowledge of the country. We wanted to showcase the incredible natural beauty of Morocco and the diversity of its landscapes. No-one had ever crossed the whole way across from the highest point to the lowest, but I had every faith in Rachid and Alice and their ability to do it.”

Alice Morrison added her highlights, “Apart from the extreme physical nature of the expedition, the thing that stood out for me was the wonderful and humbling hospitality we encountered from the Berber people. In every village we passed through, people invited us into their homes to eat or drink tea. We ran out of water at one stage on a really hot, deserted piste, and were getting thirsty and worried until we saw a shepherd in the distance. He came running down over the hills with his flock to share his bottle of water with us. This kind of generosity was displayed over and over again. We would not have made it without the help of the people of the mountains.”

Rachid Ait Elmahjoub, an Amazigh mountain guide, navigated the route across the peaks and through the valleys, exploring places he had never been before. “I want to give a clear picture to visitors to Morocco of my country, my culture and my people. I am proud of them and I want to share them.”

The expedition took 12 days in total from its beginning on the summit of Mount Toubkal (4167m). The team were walking for up to 18 hours a day. The temperatures were extreme: from the snows on Toubkal to 43 degrees as they came across towards Agadir.  The terrain was rough and often treacherous, with sharp boulders, river crossings, tough ascents and long, slippery descents.

So will Epic Morocco be running it as one of its regular hiking trips? “We are looking at doing it perhaps as a hiking/biking trip,” said Charlie Shepherd, ” We would need to tweak the route a bit and it would certainly be a challenge, but if there is an appetite for it, it is a big thing to accomplish .and you get to see a great swathe of the country”

For more information please email escape@epicmorocco.co.uk

For more adventures from Alice Morrison please visit www.alicemorrison.co.uk

27 Unforgettable Things to Do in Fez

Fez is Morocco’s second largest city and is also one of the most historic. It features two large Medina quarters, which have been named World UNESCO Heritage Sites. The whole city is a labyrinth of history and ancient artifacts, with a modern-day edge. If you want to spend some time exploring one of Morocco’s most interesting cities, here are 27 things to do in Fez.

Bou Inania Madersa

This stunning work of architecture is a college dating back to the 14th century. It’s considered one of the best examples of Islamic architecture in all of Fez. Especially for foreigners as non-Muslims can’t enter the mosques, which traditionally have fantastic architecture.

Wander Around Talaa Kebira

You can enter this area through the famous blue gate and come upon one of the most buzzing areas of Fez. It’s full of souks, food stalls, arts and crafts, and locals doing their shopping. It’s definitely a historic place full of old world charm.

Try a Hamman

This spa experience is a great way to enjoy the culture in Morocco. It makes a great treat after you’ve been exploring the city by foot for a couple of days. It’s a traditional bath that is usually shared with others. It’s health benefits are many.

Chouara Tannery

Fez is known for its leather goods which is why the tanneries are such an important part of the landscape. You may want to hire a guide or go on a tour so that finding it is easier. Once you arrive, you’ll get to see the fully working tannery full of colorful pools of dyes and hardworking locals.

Al Attarin Medersa

This historic home was built by a famous sultan back in 1323. The house shows off beautiful tilework, calligraphy, and stunning woodwork. Anyone who is interested in Arabian craftsman ship will appreciate this beauty of a building.

Visit Kairaouine Mosque

This is considered one of the oldest mosques in Africa. It’s also known as one of the oldest universities in the entire world. The prayer sessions here can hold 20,000 people. This mosque was established in 859 but was expanded in the 12th century. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter so you’ll have to view it from the outside only. The libraries are the most notable as they contain significant documents dating back to 780 A.D.

Wander Through Jardin Jnan Sbil

If you’ve had enough of the bustling city streets, this lush garden is a great retreat. Entry is free and the landscape is full of plants, a hidden lake, and secret paths. Find some peace amongst the trees in this beautiful garden.

Experience Culture at Cafe Clock

This resting spot was created by a British man who came to Fez and loved it. It attracts a lot of travelers who relax over a cup of mint tea while viewing the concerts and films that the cafe puts on. Traditional cooking classes are also offered here in case you want to learn more about the cuisine.

Go Antique Shopping in The Jewish Quarter

This is a great sect of Fez to explore, especially if you love antiques. It was once prosperous and considered a high-end area of Fez. It eventually regressed into a European-like ghetto but has recently become a nice place to explore. Stop off by visiting the Ibn Danan Synagogue and work your way over to the Jewish cemetery. Afterwards, you can spend your time shopping in the antique boutiques that line the area.

See The Golden Gates at The Royal Palace

If it has the name, ‘Royal Palace’ it’s sure to be a grand structure worth visiting. This is true for the palace in Fez. The palace isn’t open to the public but the grand, golden gates can be seen and photographed from the outside. They are beautiful and make a great subject for any photo.

Explore The Fez Medina and Fez el Bali

This is one of the oldest areas in Fez and is considered a World UNESCO Heritage Site. It offers a truly Moroccan scene as there are food stalls, beautiful tapestries, and ornate jewelry for sale. Wandering through the medinas is the number one way to really take in the culture of the city and do a little people watching. Plus, your photos will turn out incredibly. And, you can stock up on souvenirs to take back home. Fes el Bali is known as being one of the largest pedestrian areas in the world. The entire place is like a maze of tiny alleys, winding streets, and vendors selling colorful wares. You’ll see donkey carts, vendors in haggling wars with shoppers, and mounds of colorful spices. This is a great place to try the traditional snacks too as you’ll be sure to work up an appetite.

Borj Nord Arms Museum

This museum looks just like a fortress and it has 13 rooms filled with artifacts. Majority of them are weapons; about 775 of them in fact. Most of them are military style and there is a ton of history surrounding these weapons. Make sure to visit the rooftop as the view of the city is fantastic.

See The Bab Boujeloud

Otherwise known as the Blue Gate, this is one of the top sites in Fez. It’s a stunning work of Moroccan architecture and it makes a great addition to your photo. It won’t take long to check out the gate, but it’s certainly something worth visiting. This area, as well as the gate, were constructed around the 20th century and serve as a central meeting point before entering the Medina. While it blends in perfectly with Moroccan architecture and design, the gate was actually French-made.

Visit The Henna Souk

This is one of the oldest and most intriguing souks in the city. Visitors here will find a wide array of pottery, ceramics, and traditional beauty products like henna. The stalls are protected by the shade of the trees so it’s a great place to wander on a hot afternoon.

Get Lost

While this isn’t exactly specific, getting lost in Fez should be something you do at least once. The entire city is full of surprising, history, and interesting scenes. Let loose, forget about your itinerary and just meander around the city. You’ll be sure to find something that you never would have read about in the guide books. Just make sure you have a map or directions back to your hotel. Then, you can just grab a taxi from wherever you end up and easily get back to your home base.

Shop For Carpets

The carpets in Fez are some of the best and most ornate in the world. Plus, you can fetch a pretty decent price for one at the market. Shopping for carpets here is an experience within itself as you’ll get to bargain with the shopkeepers and eventually take home a great souvenir.

Go Trekking in Tazekka National Park

While about an hour from Fez, this national park is well worth a visit. City life is grand but taking some time to experience the natural landscape will make your trip more balanced. There are plenty of trails for every hiking level and the views from most of them are incredible. Spend some extra time in the town of Taza if you want to remain in the countryside longer.

See a Belly Dancing Show

Belly dancing has been a highlight of Moroccan entertainment for centuries. A trip wouldn’t be complete without experiencing one of these shows for yourself. Many places will offer a traditional meal so that you can enjoy a feast while watching the belly dancers perform.

Visit Nejjarine Square and Museum

This museum focuses on woodworking tools and woodwork. It’s surrounded by architecture dating back to the 18th century and has a rooftop with a fantastic view of the city. This is a great place to wander for a while, especially if you enjoy artwork. Visitors will get to see cabinet work and art from various regions around the country. Many of the works are ancient but there are also modern-day pieces too.

Visit Merenid Tombs During Sunset

These tombs are from the 14th century and are brimming with history. While they are more ruins than tombs, they still make a great place to visit, especially for a picnic. The views are pretty fantastic, so watching the sunset here is a must. It’s not the safest place to be after dark so make sure to visit with a group and leave shortly after the sun goes down. You can get a quick and easy taxi ride to the tombs and you can walk back to the Medina in around 12 minutes.

Take a Cooking Class

There are plenty of schools around Fez that offer cooking classes to visitors. This is a great way to learn about the culture, interact with a local, and take home a new skill. You’ll learn to make a few traditional dishes and then get to eat them afterwards (which is often the best part.) It’s a hands-on learning experience that tends to be a whole lot of fun too.

Wander The Seffarine Square

This is one of the oldest areas in Fez and it’s full of local treats, snacks, and souvenirs. If you want to experience some of the local culture, just wander around this public square. It’s a great place for people watching and picking up a few items to take back home with you. If you’re looking for a Riad to spend the night in, this square may be a great place to check out.

Try The Restaurant Scene

While there are plenty of stalls and street food, the Moroccan restaurants in Fez should not be missed. In fact, you may even stumble upon cuisine from other cultures and countries. Try Restaurant 7 for French food, Riad Rcif for upscale Fassi-Moroccan food, and Mezzanine for Spanish-style tapas. And, don’t forget about Kai Tai which serves up sushi and Thai food.

The Sacred Music Festival

You’ll need to be visiting in June if you want to witness one of the largest music festivals in Morocco. The atmosphere is one of high spirits and you’ll get to meet new people, enjoy new tunes, and be part of something truly meaningful. It’s a great experience to have in addition to your trip in Fez. There will be food stalls, locals, and other tourists out and about enjoying the festivities.

Stay in a Riad

You’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to where to stay in Fez. However, a Riad is a traditional experience that everyone should try. It’s a classic, Moroccan home that is similar to a bed and breakfast. It’s truly an experiential stay and many of them have pools in their courtyard so you can cool off in the summer heat. Even if you are staying in a hotel, try to book at least one night in a Riad so that you can experience this tradition first-hand.

Hike Mount Zalagh

For a little fresh air and a fantastic view of the city, take a hike up this mountain. It’s the biggest mountain that overlooks the city and isn’t too difficult to conquer. Aside from a great destination in Fez for hiking, there are mountain biking trails too. If you’re adventurous, this is a great place for you to explore.

Fez has a lot going on and you’ll want to make plenty of time to see it all. It is packed with history and the culture is hard miss. Wander through the medina, grab lunch in a Riad, and watch the sunset over ancient ruins. A trip to Fez is truly a dive into culture, understanding, and Moroccan hospitality.

Eat Shop Pray in Fantastic Fez

I last went to Fez a long, long time ago but it had always stayed in my memory as a particularly beautiful city, nestled into a series of hills and harbouring a fantastical medina full of tiny alleyways, bright carpets and laden donkeys. I arrived off the train from Marrakech at dark. The station was a scrum, but I found a friendly taxi driver who took me to the nearest gate into the Medina to Dar Roumana, where we were staying for two of our three nights. Outraged when he found out I was umarried, he immediately proposed but was not at all downcast when I rejected his suit. A porter was at the gate and rolled me through the golden-lit streets to the door of Dar Roumana.

A small door, led into the most stunning central courtyard. Fabulous mosaics cover every surface, interspersed with lacy stone carving and delicate woodwork. Vanessa, our hostess, was there to meet us and sat us down by a roaring fire with a cup of tea and gave us instructions of where to go for our first night’s dinner. Since, these included the immortal words, “Turn right at the snail seller,” I was amazed when we actually got to Cafe Clock where I had the best pumpkin soup I have ever tasted, drizzled in nutty Argan oil. It set the tone for three days of feasting.

EAT!

Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish are readily available in Morocco and the Moroccan specialities of tagine and couscous are truly delicious. Fes offered us the best food I have had in Morocco and thanks to the recommendations of our hosts at Dar Roumana, some of the best food I have found in any city where I have landed as a bright eyed tourist. Here are some of our highlights:

Grilled octopus on a bed of salsa, followed by wild boar caught in the forest that week, slowly cooked and with a jus of red wine and juniper berries. My tastebuds thought all their Christmases had come at once. Truly delicious.The chef at Dar Roumana is justifiably famous!

Kofta (beef meatballs) in a sizzling tomato sauce, topped with crunchy courgettes and a runny-yolked egg at the Ruined Garden, where Robert, previously of the Ivy in London, presides over lazy lunches. The garden itself is a treasure, full of hidden corners and overgrown roses.

Thai Green Curry with chicken and the most delicate cucumber, with bananas in coconut milk to follow at Moi Anan. The chef and owner, Anan, is also a fashion designer and sat with us explaining the joys and sorrows of trying to start up a new, young fashion scene in Fez.

Half a chicken with rice and salad from the stall at the junction of Talaat Sagheer and Talaat Kabeer , the big and small roads, at the top near Boujoloud. In one huge copper pot, there were whole chickens cooking, and in the other, entire sheep’s heads. We plumped for the chicken and for two of us, a whole one plus rice and bread came to 50Dhs, around £3.50.

PRAY

Fez (Fes or Fas) was the first capital of Morocco and is traditional centre of Islamic practice and learning here. The city is filled with mosques, medersas ( Islamic schools), shrines and holy tombs. For a long time, the city rivalled Mecca and Medina in religious importance. The Kaoraouiyine Mosque is the biggest and finest in the city, dating back to the 12th century and still at the heart of Fes’s religious life. It sets the official prayer times and rings out the end of Ramadan fasting for the whole of the country. As non-Muslims, we weren’t allowed to go in, but when I asked the doorman if he minded if I took a photo, he went one better, took my camera and went inside to take lots of shots for me. Typical of the kindness and good heartedness that you experience so often in this country.

Our next two stops were the Attarin Medersa and the Bou Inania Medersa. Both are worth a visit as they display the finest carving and mosaic work in Fes. The dormitories were closed off when we were there, but just concentrating on the central work areas and offset rooms was enough.
One of my favourite things about historical Fez is the preponderance of mosaic drinking fountains. There is one at almost every corner, some of them still resplendent, but some quietly decaying. They were built by benefactors or local communities so that in the hot, summer months, there would always be somewhere for the poor to drink.

Serena and I are training for the Marrakech half marathon, so we combined our daily run with some history. We were up and running through the Medina at sunrise and out to the Merenid tombs on one of the hillsides overlooking the city. We were only up that early because we wanted to avoid running lycra-clad through the crowds, but if you can bear to get up, the view as the sun comes up and catches the minarets of the city and then circles over to bathe you in gold, is worth it.

Nothing to do with prayer, but my last recommendation for sightseeing is the tanneries where all the leather is cured and coloured using traditional methods. It is quite a sight with men up to their waists in vats of dye, scraping skins with metal blades, and pummelling the carcases. It is a hard and dirty job but a big employer in Fez and the people of Fez (Fassians) are rightly proud of their leather goods.

SHOP

Which brings me to the final part of our Fez experience, and one close to my heart, shopping. Morocco is a shopper’s paradise with handmade carpets, pottery, jewellery, silk tassels, kaftans, wooden boxes, bags, belts and babouches everywhere. I have lived here for just over a year now but still haven’t tired of the craftsmanship that surrounds me. I thought that I would be less impressed with Fassi work, coming from Marrakech, but that wasn’t the case.

My best buys were definitely the distinctive Fez pottery. It is made out of fine, white clay and is like our bone china but decorated in vibrant blues, reds and greens. There is a particularly dark, royal blue which is called Fez blue and that dominates but I also liked the clear reds. There are many, many different designs, including a very typical one of small flowers on a white background. Prices vary greatly according to the design and quality of the piece but there are bargains to be had. I got a lovely soap dish and matching toothbrush holder for 40 dhs each (around £3).

Serena, has a rug problem. All the signs of addiction are there: the relentless search for the next hit, the handing over of cash in squalid surroundings, the ecstatic moment when she gets her fix…. Bargaining for a rug in Morocco is something that everyone should do at least once before they die. Usually it involves plush surroundings and a nice cup of mint tea, but on this occasion, we found ourselves lured up the tiniest, darkest, seediest alleyway and led into a small kiosk crammed with gloriously coloured carpets. We launched  into our best Arabic, mine is more Egyptian/classical whereas Serena is pure Marrakech. We are lucky in that it usually sets us off at a reasonably decent price and then we go down for there. This time, we were going for two smallish berber rugs in the dark Fez blue with brighter colours interwoven. We walked away with both for 500dhs which seemed fair. Every guidebook tells you this, but it is true, pay the price that you think the item is worth and then be happy with that, and make sure you leave the vendor a profit, as well as being sure that you have got a good price and of course, enjoy it!

The second night in Fez, we had put up in Dar El Ma, a lovely, quirky little Riad, wedged in between two thick walls. We had it to ourselves and bought a pile of fresh fruit to make fruit salad for breakfast in the morning. It was fun pretending we owned the place, and lounging in the central courtyard for breakfast chatting to Huda, who is the caretaker, about her thesis on domestic violence in marriage.

On our last night, we went up to the rooftop which gives a 360 view of the city and waited for the evening call to prayer as the last bit of the sun sank below the horizon. You know it is coming, but it is still a magical moment when the first muezzin gives voice to the words, “ Allahu Akbar,” and then all the others join in from minaret to minaret.

This blog was written by Alice Morrison, an adventurer and writer based in Morocco, for more please visit her website www.alicemorrison.co.uk

Useful links:

Dar Roumana  http://www.darroumana.com/Dar_Roumana/Home.html

Dar El Ma http://www.darelma.com/

Ruined Garden http://ruinedgarden.com/

Maison Moi Anan https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maison-Moi-Anan/566013710198369

Café Clock http://cafeclock.com/

Alice Morrison www.alicemorrison.co.uk

 

19 Tips for Visiting Marrakech

It’s historic, colorful, brimming with culture, and probably a lot different from your hometown. Marrakech was once an imperial city, leaving it filled with stunning mosques, gardens, and palaces. It’s a medieval city, protected by an aging wall, and keeping to its roots with bustling souk culture. Marrakech is a dream for those who love art, shopping, photography, and history. If you’re planning a trip, here are 19 tips for visiting Marrakech. Keep these in mind for a holiday that’s all smooth sailing.

Keep Plenty of The Local Currency With You

The local currency is the Moroccan Dirham and it is what you must use when making purchases. While a few places will accept Euros now and then, make the Dirham a priority in your wallet. Before leaving the airport, you can exchange your currency with no fee. The vendors in the souks typically only take cash, and the hotels and medinas are cash heavy too. Plus, many of the locals will ask for tips after providing services, so having cash on hand is useful. And, since ATMs are scarce, make sure to take out large amounts of cash when you do find one.

Try Staying in a Riad Within The Medina Walls

People who have visited Marrakech say that no trip is complete without this authentic experience. Even if you prefer hotels, it’s recommended to try a Riad for a night. A Riad is a traditional Moroccan home with its own interior courtyard. Many of them come with swimming pools, sunny terraces, and a complimentary breakfast.

Marrakech

Dress Modestly

While Morocco can get extremely hot during the summer, do your best to dress modestly, especially if you are a woman. This is part of the country’s culture and religion, and as a guest, you should do your best to respect their customs. Showing off shoulders, cleavage, and knees could be offensive to the locals, so try to keep covered up when possible. This is especially important to keep in mind when visiting religious sites.

See The Tanneries  

The tanneries are some of the most visually stunning, colorful, and interesting sights in the city. You’ll find them in the northeast of the medina, and there are sure to be locals who offer to bring you to them. You can stand on one of the terraces and watch the locals hard at work below as they dip cloths into colorful pools of water. This will give you a chance to see how many of the items in the markets are made. The tanneries are especially a treat for photographers who can easily get amazing shots.

tannery

Be Aware Of Taxi Scams 

Taxi scams are big business in Marrakech and you don’t want to fall prey to one. Make sure to ask someone at the airport for the normal rates. Tourists should expect to pay more, but many of the taxis inflate their prices to preposterous amounts. Some taxis will claim that you won’t find a cheaper option. But, if they don’t come down in price, just be prepared to walk away. And, try to make sure you solidly negotiate a price before getting in. If you can arrange a taxi through the airport, this is much easier than trying to get one on your own.

Get Prepared to be Lost but Learn to be OK With That

Getting lost in Marrakech is to be expected. If you’re the kind of person who gets frustrated and upset when you can’t find your way, try to go into it with an open mind. The narrow streets and busy souks are easy places to lose your way. But, you’ll end up finding some true gems while you try and get back on track. Many tourists say that the signs are hard to read or aren’t correct. however, you’ll usually come across a large tourist attraction that will help you navigate. And, you can easily find a taxi to take you back to your hotel.

marrakech market

Haggle in The Markets

Between the souks and the colorful souvenirs, you’ll probably want to do some shopping in Marrakech. If you do, be prepared to haggle. The vendors will quote you outrageous prices, mostly because you are a tourist. Haggling is also a common practice in the culture, so prices start high as vendors expect you to make counter offers. If you can’t agree on a price, just walk away. It’s highly likely that the vendor will give you what you ask for instead of losing the sale altogether. And don’t forget, keep things polite. You don’t want to insult the locals.

Don’t Drink The Tap Water

The water in Marrakech isn’t all that safe to drink, especially if you aren’t used to it. Avoid tap water and ice made from tap water as much as possible. Buy bottled water and make sure to keep some on hand as you are wandering around the city.

 moroccan man

Try Speaking The Local Language

You can certainly get by on English, but many of the locals speak French and Arabic. If you can learn a few words in the local language, you may get more respect and better prices. If Arabic is too much of a challenge, try to brush up on your French. It will get you a whole lot further.

Watch Out For Pickpockets

Like any bustling city, there are pickpockets lurking in the crowds. Make sure to wear a money belt under your clothes or to keep your backpack on your front. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep a backup credit card and extra cash in your hotel room. Be especially alert while in the markets, wandering around the medina or at busy tourist attractions. As long as you take precautions and pay attention to what’s going on around you, you shouldn’t have any problems.

marrakech medina

Be Careful in The Medina at Night

This is especially true for women, but everyone should take precaution. While the area is not inherently dangerous, it is a place where locals may prey on tourists. There is a lot of poverty going on in Marrakech, which makes tourists with money look like appealing targets. Travel in numbers, stick to crowded areas, and avoid the Medina if you are alone.

Be Careful When Taking Photos

This is probably not that obvious to most visitors, but taking photos is kind of a big deal in Marrakech. It’s considered rude to take photos of the locals without their permission. In Morocco, they believe that photos capture their soul. So, it could be quite devastating to someone to have their photo taken if they aren’t expecting it. Also, avoid taking pictures of animal performers or snake charmers in the main square. The owners of these operations may demand a hefty fee from you for the privilege of taking photos. And, be inconspicuous when taking photos of shops or stores. Many of the owners may ask you to give them money or buy something for using their shop as your photo subject.

 taking photo

Don’t Trust The Advice of The Locals In All Situations

There are plenty of nice, generous, and helpful locals in Marrakech, however, there are some malicious ones too. If someone offers you advice without you asking for it, just be wary. You may encounter men in the street who will tell you that your hotel is closed. Then, they may try to lead you to an alternative, most likely their family’s hotel or Riad. This can happen with restaurants and shops too. Other times, someone will tell you that a street is closed and offer to direct you another way. However, they may aggressively demand a tip for being your guide afterwards.

Try The Food in The Markets/ Night Markets

The food in the markets is generally safe to eat and is much cheaper than in the restaurants. Try the snail soup which has a well-spiced and very flavorful broth. The snails are usually very tender as well. Enjoy a B’stilla, which is savory pie with flaky layers. It usually has some kind of fish or pigeon inside. It also has eggs and almonds, and is a treat that is both savory and sweet. Chebakia is a fried sesame cookie that is shaped like a flower and covered in syrup or honey. Ma’gooda are potato balls that are deep fried and often covered in a spicy harissa sauce. And Harira is a traditional soup that is served throughout the year. It features noodles, lentils, chickpeas, and sometimes has meat.

Marrakech Medina Food

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings at all Times

The streets of Marrakech are busy and crowded, leaving you vulnerable to a lot of danger. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sounds and sights, but stay alert, especially to the traffic. There will be taxis, motorbikes, carts, and donkeys that could easily knock you over if you aren’t paying attention. And, since the city tends to be crowded and busy, make sure that you and your travel partner have a way to contact each other if you get seperated.

Get Ready For Heat If Visiting in The Summer

It’s sunny and hot most of the year, but especially in summer. Make sure to prepare for the high temperatures by bringing a water bottle with you and wearing loose, light clothing. Opting for a Riad with a pool is a great idea if you want to retreat from the heat during your stay. Despite the hot weather, remember that Morocco is a Muslim country so women should not show too much skin, you can find out more about what to wear here.

pool marrakech

Experience The Jemaa el-Fna 

This is one of the most famous public squares in the city. It’s a place that really captures the culture and feel of Marrakech. You’ll stumble upon snake charmers, entertainers, henna tattoo artists, and stalls full of street food. It can be found within the medina and is usually brimming with locals and tourists. This is one of the best spots for people watching and sampling the local cuisine. While a visit during the day is eventful, it’s in the evening when this square truly comes to life. You’ll come across magicians, storytellers, dancers, and even more food stalls offering treats and unusual snacks. It’s a Marrakech experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Visit The Jardin Majorelle

Created by French painter, Jacques Majorelle, this is one of the top attractions in Marrakech. Over 40 years he infused this garden with art and creativity to make it what it is today. There are more than 300 species of plants and a maze of small streams, tiny alleyways, and beautiful trees. It really is a magical place with an intriguing history. The entire place is two and half acres and it has been bringing in visitors since the 1920s. It used to be the home of Majorelle and his wife until they divorced. Then, it was taken over by fashion designers who restored its beauty and continued to allow public entry. There are a few museums on site as well so you can make a day out of it.

Jardin Majorelle

Try a Hammon 

A Hammon is a traditional bathhouse and a great way to experience the local culture. It can be a bit intimidating for visitors as the custom is to strip down with a group of strangers. However, if you can gather up the courage to try one, there are a ton of health benefits. Males and females are separated and before you can enter, there will be someone to wash you. These facilities tend to overcharge tourists so be careful about which one you choose. Locals typically pay 50 to 100 dirhams so try not to pay much more than that.

Marrakech is brimming with colorful sights, sounds, culture, history, and natural beauty. As a travel destination, it really has it all. No matter what you’re looking for, it’s likely that you’ll find it in Marrakech. Travel in Marrakech has its challenges, but so do most places in the world. So, arm yourself with these tips, and enjoy your travels.

17 Places You Have to Visit in Morocco

Morocco is one of the most interesting countries in the world; a melting pot of Berber, Arabian and European cultures. There’s a unique fusion of influences that is evident in the history, architecture and culinary experiences that travellers often encounter. And offering a bold contrast of desert, mountain and urban landscapes, Morocco is a place with so much to offer. Here are 17 places that you just have to visit during your time here!

1. Oudaias Kasbah

For postcard-perfect views, you simply cannot miss the neighbourhood of Oudaias Kasbah in the capital, Rabat. This quaint and peaceful part of the city is defined by its pretty white and blue houses, and cobbled streets decorated with painted front doors and flower pots. You will feel worlds away from the bustling centre and you’ll want to bring your camera to capture it all. Other sights and attractions in Rabat include Hassan Tower, The Chellah museum and gardens, Mausoleum of Mohammed V, Dar al-Makhzen, and Rabat Zoo.

2. The Marrakech Medina

There are fewer places in the world more vibrant and spectacular than the Marrakech Medina and bustling market square. Jemaa el Fnaa is a place for snake charmers, medicine men, hustlers and orange juice vendors by day. But by night, it transforms itself into a magical hub of local life at its most authentic, the best street food in the city, and live entertainment and music.

It’s noisy, full of people and a total assault of the senses. For anyone travelling to Morocco for the first time, this night market a must-visit. The tagines are to die for and you’ll be able to get delicious escargot for a fraction of the price that you would find in French restaurants.

marrakech

3. Toubkal National Park

Toubkal National Park is located in the High Atlas mountain range and is home to North Africa’s highest peak, the snow-capped Jebel Toubkal.  Treks start from Imlil, the principal trailhead village located in the heart of the national park. Not only is this an excellent base for hiking, but the area provides great places for mountain biking. Another great place to visit is  Morocco’s best ski resort, Oukaimeden.

At 8,530 feet, the Oukaimeden resort is the highest in the entire continent. And there are 10km of slopes available during the open season, with ski lifts and a ski school. With lift passes priced at just £7, plus lessons ranging from £3 to £8, it’s a bargain compared to the famous resorts in Europe.

4. Jebel Saghro

Go hiking and spend a few days camping in the wilderness in the Jebel Saghro mountain range. Located between the High Atlas and the Sahara Desert, this unique region offers some of the most spectacular views. It has striking volcanic peaks, table top mountains, and beautiful oases and is also home to the nomadic tribe, Ait Atta. Cultural encounters with the Ait Atta tribe can be arranged, and there are a number of different hikes to be enjoyed.  A full hike of the Jebel Saghro can be anything up to 8 days, but day hikes are also possible.

5. Erg Chebbi Dunes

The Erg Chebbi is one of Morocco’s two Saharan ergs, which are large dunes formed by wind-blown sand. Folklore tells the story that the dunes were a punishment sent by God, and they are one of the country’s biggest attractions. Located right on the edge of the dunes is the desert town of Merzouga, where travellers can camp or find local accommodation. If you wish to explore the dunes, the most authentic way is to do it by camel trek. But if can also choose to hike on foot or book a 4×4 desert tour with knowledgeable drivers and guides.

camel trek

6. Fez el Bali

Together with Marrakech, Fez is one of Morocco’s unmissable cultural destinations. But unlike Marrakech, Fez remains relatively untouched by tourism. For an authentic experience of the city, be sure to head to the Old City (Fez el Bali), where you will find a photo opportunity around every corner.

It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserves buildings and streets from its past as an Imperial city, and the medina is one of the most stunning and complex in the country. Don’t be alarmed if you get lost whilst shopping here – just be sure to bring a camera and take a tour of the tanneries if you can handle the smell.

7. Asilah

Situated on Morocco’s northern tip, just south of Tangier, this coastal town is an interesting mix of cultures, traditions and architecture. The medina and old town area is enclosed with a 15th Century wall that was erected by colonial Portuguese. The proximity to Spain and history of Spanish occupation means that you will find the best paella and rioja around.

Spanish food and drink is served in most of Asilah’s restaurants, and the sleepy seaside town offers a laid-back atmosphere with great beaches for sunbathing. For first timers to Africa, it acts as a good introduction to the continent and a suitable base for exploring the northern region of Morocco. Don’t miss the annual festival, the Moussem Culturel International d’Asilah, and hop on a train to nearby Tangier for a day trip.

8. Chefchaouen

The city of Chefchaouen should be on every traveller’s bucket list. Tucked away in the hidden crags of the Rif Mountains, this remote community is one of Morocco’s most interesting. It’s definitely one of the prettiest towns, recognised instantly for its spectacular blue washed buildings and red tiled rooftops. The streets are a sight to behold and even though the area has attracted much tourism over the years, it still remains very much an untouched hideaway for those in search of an authentic travel experience.

Walk around the beautiful medina, shop for crafts and handmade souvenirs, and visit the stunning Spanish mosque and Kasbah. If you’re after romance and magic to impress a loved one, this is the place to come. Wonderful as a destination all year round and a good selection of accommodation in riads.

9. Roman Ruins of Volubilis

This Mauritanian capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site is an important archaeological gem that dates back to the 3rd Century BC. It became a significant outpost of the Roman Empire, and today many of the ruins are still standing for all to see.

The ruins cover more than 40 hectares, with archaeological vestiges that take you back in time to a number of different civilisations and amazing mosaics that have been preserved in situ. It’s an easy day-trip from Meknes or make your base in nearby Moulay Idriss to ensure that you don’t miss the stunning sunrise photo opportunities.

ruins Volubilis

10. Dades Valley

After a few days of souks and busy night bazaars in Marrakech or Fez, you may feel like you need to head out of the cities. The Dades Valley is the perfect place to come for some peace and quiet, for nature spotting and some soul-searching. It’s known for boasting some of Morocco’s most breath-taking scenery, as well as some of the best luxury hotels.

If you want to relax, the Dades Valley has everything you need. The snow-capped mountains of the High Atlas form a backdrop whilst the lush fields and small Berber villages provide plenty of outdoor space to roam freely. Birding is a popular activity here, and you will also find a number of places to buy traditional Berber carpets and craft items.

11. Majorelle Garden in Marrakech

Another attraction not to miss whilst you’re staying in Marrakech is the famous Marjorelle Garden. It’s one of the most visited sights of the city, and it took more than 40 years of hard work to create and finalise. The garden is the work of French painter Jacques Majorelle between the years of 1886 and 1962, and it represents the artist’s lifelong love for flora and fauna.

The garden was bought by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1980, making it an interesting landmark not only for nature and art lovers, but fashion lovers alike. They spent time restoring the original garden of Jacques Majorelle and even transformed his studio into a museum.

12. Ait Mansour Gorge

The Ait Mansour Gorge is located in the Anti Atlas mountain range, a region that attracts hikers from all over the world. The beautiful gorge is perhaps the main attraction, but many also come here to see traditional Berber villages. The main settlement is Tafraoute, a place where time seems to have stood still. There are no road signs, just a cluster of minarets and traditional houses. It’s a good camping base if you plan to hike the gorges, and you can explore the area on foot or by bike.

13. Hassan II Mosque

Casablanca was made famous perhaps by one of the most romantic movies in the history of Hollywood. There are many sights to explore, but the city’s landmark building has to be the Hassan II Mosque. It features the most outstanding architectural detail and décor that required the hands of more than 10,000 artisans to complete. From intricately carved marble and delicate mosaics to the handmade Moroccan tiles, it’s every bit the symbol of tradition and opulence.

mosque hassan

14. Sidi Ifni

Bigger on atmosphere than sights and attractions, Sidi Ifni is the place to go if you’re looking to get away from it all. This small fishing town and former Spanish territory is good for enjoying a bit of peace and quiet, and gorgeous sea views.

Set along the Atlantic coastline in southwest Morocco, the town is a haven for surfers, beach bums and sun seekers. And because of its mild and balmy weather all year round, you’ll have an awesome time no matter the season. The average temperature is around 22°C throughout the year, so anytime is a good time to visit. If you want to rub shoulders with the locals, be sure to go to the weekly Sunday market or the lively fish market.

15. Meknes

A beautiful gateway guards the entrance into this spectacular imperial city. As one of Morocco’s previous capitals, it is home to a number of important sights. Including the aforementioned preserved gates, Bab Mansour, and the Dar Jamai Museum, which houses some of the country’s most fascinating exhibits.

There’s also the fantastic Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail and not to mention, the famous Meknes Medina. The city itself is small, yet full of charm and you will definitely want to bring your camera. Everywhere you turn, there will be striking mosaics and spellbinding architecture to take you back in time.

16. Agadir Beachfront

Agadir is one of the Morocco’s most famous seaside resorts and the beach promenade is the place to be at night. It comes to life as locals and tourists come out for evening walks, street food and social meetups. And the beachfront is lit up by the writing on the hills, which translate as “God, King and Country”. The seafront area has a number of restaurants and is also a great shopping area for anyone in search of hand crafted items, jewellery, leather goods, souvenirs and gifts.

Walk up the hill to enjoy amazing views of the ocean from the Agadir Kasbah, enjoy surfing or sunbathing in the warm ocean, visit the Valle De Oiseaux to check out local wildlife, or visit one of the three golf course nearby – there really is so much to do.

17. Essaouira

Kick back in the seaside town of Essaouira, one of the favourite hippie haunts of the 1970s. Once you get here, you’ll see why it was such a popular place for the bohemian crowd. The vibe is laid back and you can spend hours just watching the day go by as small fishing boats bob on the water. For activities, you can go shopping in the medina, learn to surf, or enjoy horse riding on the beach. The best thing about this destination is that it hasn’t lost any of its authenticity, so you won’t feel like you’ve entered into a tourist trap.

essaouira

We hope this has inspired you to visit Morocco, and we are sure you’ll love it just as much as we do. If you’d like to discuss your visit, please do get in touch with us today.

Morocco’s Mountain Ranges: The Ultimate Guide

With the dazzling sights of Marrakech, the pretty coastline in Agadir, or the romantic draw of Casablanca, it’s easy to become distracted by all the amazing things that Morocco has to offer. Its cities are magical, each with their own unique charms and they give travellers a sense of the exotic through their colourful souks and bustling night bazaars.

But for those who really want to get off the beaten track, there’s much more to Morocco than its urban settlements. The mountain ranges are home to some of the country’s most isolated communities. It’s a Pandora’s Box of history, tradition and culture waiting to be unlocked. And with mind-blowing views and challenging climbs, the mountains of Morocco can offer you and your group an epic trekking experience. Here is our ultimate guide for anyone in search of their next hiking expedition.

The Rif Mountains

Tucked away in Morocco’s far north, the Rif Mountains are an almost forgotten destination. Despite its beauty and the wonderful views that come with the journey, this mountain range is by far the lesser known of them all, receiving fewer visitors than anywhere else in the country. So if you’re looking for something different that no-one else has accomplished before, this is the place to begin your trek.

Whilst The Rif isn’t quite the challenge of The High Atlas Mountains and the Toubkal National Park, it’s still worth visiting. The views of limestone cliffs and gorges as you ascend will certainly beguile you, and there’s a laidback vibe here suitable for even beginners. A hike to up Jebel al-Kalaa (8,058 ft.), the Rif’s biggest peak, will take a full day.

Interesting Facts:

During your trek, you may come across a number of cannabis fields. These can be avoided if you speak to your guide beforehand. Morocco produces over a third of all hashish sold around the world, and these farms are key to the Berber community’s survival; for many of the villages, it’s their only form of income.

Tips for Trekking:

A popular starting point for most travellers is the city of Chefchaouen, known as the gateway to The Rif. Not only does Chefchaouen give you the easiest access point, but it’s also a fine destination that deserves at least a few days of your time. Known as ‘The Blue City’, Chefchaouen is recognised for its blue-washed stone buildings – it’s a photographer’s dream. Another good base is the port city of Tetouan, best known for its UNESCO listed medina.

Where to Stay:

There are many short half day or full day treks, meaning that you can stay in Chefchaouen or Tetouan without the need to camp. If you want a longer excursion, you can also find plenty of spots to camp just off the trails of Talassemtane National Park or further west in Al-Hoceima National Park.

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High Atlas Mountains

The High Atlas Mountain Range is perhaps the most popular choice for many travellers looking for a physical challenge. There are over 400 summits that have an elevation of up to 10,000 ft. and a number which are over 13,000 ft. So if you want a destination with tall peaks and mind-blowing views from the top, High Atlas is a great option for walkers.

This region is relatively well serviced in terms of guest houses, restaurants and professional tour operators, and a bit of forward planning can ensure a very smooth trip. Whilst the Atlas Mountains have become rather well known in recent years, they still remain relatively untouched. So it will never feel crowded here, even during peak travel periods.

With the region’s high elevations, there are also a number of trails that are still feasible for the average hiker. And many of the routes can be achieved without the need for advanced mountain skills such as rock climbing. Even the highest peak up Mount Toubkal (13,665 ft.) doesn’t require technical skills, so people of all levels and abilities can enjoy trekking within this range.

Additionally, the High Atlas region is a wonderful location for mountain biking or even horse riding. Many mountain biking guides can take you out for a half or full day, whilst horse riding trips can provide a fantastic alternative to exploring on foot.

high atlas

Interesting Facts:

The entire Atlas Mountain Range stretches over 1,600 miles through Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Unlike other mountain ranges, this one is not a series of continuous peaks but a collection of mountains that are separated by large areas of land. Toubkal is the tallest summit, not only in Morocco but also in the whole of North Africa. Oukaimeden, which is near Jebel Toubkal, is also the country’s largest and most popular ski resort!

Tips for Trekking:

For a good base or starting point, head over to the small town of Ouirgane or the village of Imlil. Both of these locations offer a number of different trails. Ouirgane has plenty of variety whilst Imlil is ideal for longer and more linear hikes. There are also a number of convenient day trips leaving from the city of Marrakech.

Where to Stay:

Good guest houses are easy to find in the area of Ouirgane as well as in Imlil Village. Many of these houses come with spacious double rooms, swimming pools and even Hammam spas. Prices tend to be very affordable and service is always excellent. Many of these guest houses will also feature restaurants, serving up traditional Moroccan food made with fresh ingredients sourced from the souks of the surrounding neighbourhoods.

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Middle Atlas Mountains

They call it the ‘Land of Lakes’ and natural beauty just oozes from the Middle Atlas Mountains. This is the place of the untouched, with fewer tourists than the High Atlas or Anti Atlas. And trekkers going through here will get the chance to discover some of Morocco’s most remote villages, as well as the unique wildlife. Within the range lies Ifrane National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty and often referred to as ‘Little Switzerland’.

This park features spectacular rows of cedar trees which give it the Alpine resemblance, and it’s also home to much of the country’s endangered species. The range is also home to Tazzeka National Park, an area created in 1950 to protect the natural resources at the top from Jbel Tazekka. Both parks have a wonderful array of flora and fauna, and walkers will get to experience the magical mountain landscape. With its intricate cave systems and deep valleys, beautiful streams and dramatic waterfalls, volcanic hills and coniferous woods, and dales carpeted with wild flowers and plants.

The vast region covers more than 100,000 km2 in total and the highest peak is Jbel Bou Naceur (11,000 ft.), with a number of different trekking routes to suit varying abilities.

Interesting Facts:

Due to the elevation of the mountain range, the Middle Atlas experiences a cool and pleasant climate in the summer and wonderful snowfall in the winter. This unique climate means that Ifrane National Park features one of the few ski resorts in the whole of Africa! Although the runs are short (and not exactly challenging for skiing pros), there are more than 13km of slopes, with 11 ski lifts for guests. The resort was built during the French protectorate, so don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re in an Alpine village in Europe!

Tips for Trekking:

Day trips are common for people staying in Marrakech or Fes. But for independent trips, you can make your start at Sefrou, a small market town with a Berber population. The town of Azrou is also a popular choice, with fantastic souks and medinas to explore.

Where to Stay:

It can be hard to book as places are limited so planning ahead is recommended. Ifrane is a good resort to stay in, particularly if you are after a bit of Alpine-inspired luxury. However, with the close proximity of nearby towns such as Azrou and Sefrou, looking for a place to stay in the mountains isn’t always necessary.

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Anti-Atlas Mountains

Situated between the High Atlas in the north and the desert in the south, the Anti-Atlas region has a different climate to its sisters. Alpine charm and ski resorts do not exist in this arid part of the range, with temperatures between 12°C and 36°C, with a mostly dry and barren landscape.

The biggest draw for hikers is the otherworldly appearance of the range, and this is what attracts climbers from all across the globe. Imagine a world of contrasts, with rocky boulders and lunar topography. With perhaps the biggest attraction being the Ait Mansour Gorge. This is one of the most beautiful oases in North Africa, cutting through colourful vegetation.

Another attraction not to miss in Anti Atlas is the Jebel Siroua, which is an ancient and isolated volcanic peak. It’s got some of the most spectacular 360 views, a superb cliffside village and dramatic terrain.

mountain

Interesting Facts:

Around Tafraoute is home to some works of modern art. You may spot some blue rocks, which were painted by Belgian artist Jean Verame in 1984. It took more than 18 tonnes of paint to complete the project. Today some of the paint has faded, with some of the rocks featuring modern graffiti art instead.

Tips for Trekking:

The months of September and May are the best times to visit if you are hoping for pleasant weather that isn’t too hot. The summer heat can be very intense, which can make it difficult for those who are not used to trekking in such an extreme climate. A good starting point would be Tafraoute and it’s important to understand that the Anti Atlas only has a very basic infrastructure once you begin your journey. So trips need to be well-planned before you go, especially if you are wanting a multi-day trek.

Where to Stay:

Guest houses are available in the village of Oumesnate or for day trips, the modern Berber village of Tafraoute can make a good base. Alternatively, wilderness camping is also possible for those who want to really experience the outdoors. For campers, it’s important to bring warm layers of clothing for when temperatures drop at night.

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Jebel Saghro Mountains

This is a remote and rugged mountain range, located between the High Atlas and the Sahara Desert, and about a 6 hour drive from Marrakech. It offers a fantastic alternative to High Atlas trekking, especially when the snow can prove to be a challenge.  With a relatively mild climate, this is a great all-weather mountain range that can offer spectacular views no matter which direction you choose. Your climb to the top will feature deep gorges and beautiful almond groves, as well as ravines and apexes carved by volcanic activity.

Interesting Facts:

The Jebel Saghro region is home to the Ait Atta Berber people. The Berber tribes can be found living in the region’s two main villages, N’Kob and Tazzarine, which you may come across during your trek. In some parts of the range, you may also stumble upon the prehistoric cave paintings.

Tips for Trekking:

The best time for visiting the Jebel Saghro is in May or October when temperatures are cooler, yet rainfall isn’t particularly high. The months to avoid are the peak summer months when it can be as hot as 40°C in the day. The two nearby towns of Boumaine du Dades and Kelaa M’Gouna can make good starting points. The famous Sahro Loop will take you around five days.

Where to Stay:

In terms of accommodation, there are only a few good guesthouses, mostly limited to the village of N’Kob. You may also find a small number of village houses across the range. But the best way to truly experience the Saghro is to camp beneath the stars. You will find plenty of wilderness camping spots and you will encounter very few tourists here.

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If you’d like to discuss planning your visit to Morocco’s incredible mountain ranges, do get in touch with our knowledgeable team today.