Visiting Morocco is like stepping inside a kaleidoscope. It’s a dizzying blend of colours, and cultures and boasts an impressively diverse landscape that caters to both backpackers and luxury travelers – I’ve been twice now and loved it both times. A lot of people think Marrakech is one of the best places in Morocco – and although they aren’t wrong – there’s so much more to see than the capital city
From the maze-like medinas hidden within ancient cities, to the formidable dunes of the Sahara and the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains, Morocco is a dazzling destination with a difference.
Here’s what to check out in Morocco if you want an authentic experience that extends beyond Marrakech…
The Sahara Desert
Picture this: rolling, orange dunes of sand stretch out before you as far as the eye can see. Gusts of wind mould and shape the hills into swirling, undiluted patterns and the air is dry and hot. Your own camel lets out a brief snort before gently ploughing across the burning hot earth. Welcome to the Sahara.
Perhaps the most epic aspect of my Morocco tour with Topdeck travel last year, was the desert experience encompassed riding a camel into the Sahara, camping with Berber people (the indigenous ethnic group of North Africa) in glamorous tents under the stars and, tucking into traditional Moroccan cuisine (tagine, cous-cous etc), before catching the sunrise splitting the sand during a morning camel ride back to our hotel the next morning. It was really beyond epic.
Morocco’s capital city has an unforgettable blue segment known as Kasbah les Oudaias, which gets its name from an old fortress-monastery that’s still visible there today. The residential area attracts plenty of tourists eager for a Insta-worthy photos within the city’s narrow streets which are lined with blue and white houses and edged with towering palm trees.
Also don’t miss the panoramic views over the river and ocean from the highest points!
Hassan II Mosque
Located in Casablanca, this giant mosque was completed in 1993, can hold 25,000 worshippers and took a team of over 6000 people to craft (it’s big!). If you’re not utterly blown away by the elaborate detail inside the mosque, the huge pillars in the courtyard and mosaic displays outside will give you profile picture inspiration. Definitely one of the best places in Morocco, whether you’re into religious buildings or not.
A walk through one of Morocco’s most traditional cities, Fez, is like being inside a vivid dream; it holds some of the best places in Morocco, which is maybe why it’s my favourite part of the country.
Our tour encompassed a trip to the gold-plated doors of the King’s Palace as well as a trip inside the largest medina in the world there. Fez was the capital of Morocco until 1912 — and you can still feel the city pulsating with an unshakeable energy as you walk around.
Dripping in color, the medina is a labyrinth of mind-bending activities and stop-and-stare moments; donkeys and carts share the winding alley ways with people and bikes and the vibrant souks (markets) sell everything from live chickens to hand-crafted shoes and jewelry. We also had a stop at the spectacularly ornate old Koranic school, Madrasah Bou Inania.
Usually, when I hear the words “ancient Roman ruins” I’m not that excited? But this site just outside the city of Meknes was a really interesting stop on the tour.
A local guide told us that Volubilis is around 100 acres large and contains a number of buildings from the 2nd century such as a basilica, temple and large houses – walking around in the heat was totally worth it.
Take a stroll through the blazing red canyon, the Todgha Gorge and marvel at the sheer vastness of nature as the sunlight illuminates the jagged rock face. Located in the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, the canyon has been crafted by rivers and reaches neck-cranking heights of 300 meters. Utterly amazing.
My tour actually started in what’s arguably the most famous city of Morocco. And don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to see in magical Marrakech as it blends both traditional and modern cultures at every turn, from snake charmers to super-fancy clubs.
Our knowledgeable guide also showed us the stunningly serene Bahia Palace and gardens, as well as the Saadian Tombs which are a series of mosaic and unmarked graves, built under the reign of Saadian sultan Ahmed El-Mansour.
But it’s the medina (the walled and most traditional part of the city) which is really worth checking out. Beating in the shadows of the High Atlas Mountains, the heart of Marrakech — its medina- is a hotbed of activity where you can sample sweet pastries, buy pungent spices, sweet-smelling argan oil and, take a tour of the impressive tanneries, where animal hides are dyed and cleaned in huge vats of colourful liquids and turned into handbags and shoes.
Just like the rest of the country, Marrakech is fast-paced, frenetic and fascinating so be sure to explore it in depth along with the lesser-known spots, and take a tour with Topdeck to ensure you see it all.