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Morocco Travel Guide | North Africa

Glimpses of Morocco's attractions Link to Images of Morocco - attractions, customs and festivals
This kaleidoscope of Morocco's attractions includes kasbahs, architecture, Moroccan markets (souks) and local traditions.
 

      Touring Morocco

Morocco at a Glance

Skip to: Quick Start Guide to Morocco | Touring Morocco menu | Accommodation
Attribution: photos by VisitMorocco.com

Glorious beaches – Who said you had to go to an island for idyllic beaches. Morocco has just over two thousand miles of sandy bliss

Culture and tradition – Morocco is drenched in the arts, including outdoor festivals in Casablanca and Marrakech, museums such as The Museum of Antiquities and the timeless theatrical productions of ancient traditions and folklore. 

Adventure and adrenaline – Adventure goes hand in hand with this North African country. Anything from hiking the Atlas Mountains, to trekking the Sahara on camel back, snow skiing or rock climbing, dune buggie excursions or river rafting. The list is just endless.

Mountains, deserts and national parks – The country is divided various geographical regions. The pristine coastline for the sun loving traveler. The golden desert dunes that hold a handful of possibilities for adventure and romance, and the Atlas and Rif mountain ranges that dominate the geography of Morocco.

Calendar of events Link to event calendar
Tours to this country
Mount Kilimanjaro

Historic Morocco

The Roman Basilica of Volubilis, the splendid mosques and many kasbahs are legacy of Morocco's rich history.
The Sahara Desert, Morocco

Moroccan Sahara

North Africa's Sahara Desert extends west to Morocco. Explore the desert landscapes by camel or take a 4x4 adventure tour.
Traditions and Cuture of the Berbers of Morocco The Berbers of Morocco
The Berbers of Morocco's Atlas Mountain region take pride in holding on to 4,000 years of culture and traditions.

Morocco  map in Africa

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Cruise to Morocco
Local Culture
Trekking

Special Interest Tours and Activities

 

 

 

 

Quick Start Guide to Morocco Travel

Morocco is located in northwest Africa on the beautiful North Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. It shares its eastern border with Algeria and Western Sahara to the south. It has a long rich history. Perhaps long is a good word for Morocco. Its beaches stretch for 2,170 long gorgeous miles (3,500 km) along its coast.

A large portion of Morocco is covered by mountains. The Atlas Mountains are located in the center and southern regions while the Rif Mountains are found in the north. The Sahara desert occupies most of the south eastern section of the country.

Left: Morocco map by CIA - The World Factbook

Travel Safety and Advisories for Morocco

Please always check the latest Travel Safety advisories before and during your travels to countries in Africa. For Morocco:
Link indicator UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Travel Advisory; and
Link indicator US Department of State Country Specific Information on Morocco.

Climate

Morocco enjoys a Mediterranean subtropical climate west of the Atlas Mountains but the climate gets considerably drier east of the range. In the Atlas Mountains weather can reach the extreme and drop below zero. The peaks are covered in snow year round.

The northern regions of the country have wet winters but in the south adjacent to the Sahara it is dry and can get extremely cold. The rainy season runs between April and May and October and November.

The summers can reach the opposite extreme with cities such as Marrakesh averaging summer temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Some of the best months to visit are between April and June when the weather is warmer and drier.

It is as important to understand what weather to expect at your time of travel as it is booking the right hotel. It would be awful to go to the beach in the rainy season for instance.

Morocco’s seasons:
Spring
There is still a bit of snow on the mountains in spring but temperatures during the day can reach a pleasant 26 degrees Celsius (78 degrees Fahrenheit) in cities such as Marrakech and Agadir.
Summer
Although temperatures can reach as high as 38 degrees Celsius in the summer, one can find milder weather on the mountains. Along the coast the sea breezes will keep the temperatures to a more bearable range.

Morocco's Beaches and Surfing

Morocco's attractions include surfing and endless beaches [attribution: VisitMorocco.com]

Fall
This is the season just before the rains start and while the temperatures tend to drop inland, it is still pleasant on the coast.
Winter
Winter in the higher elevations can be cold and wet, with snowfall. The coast however is quite pleasant even warm enough to go swimming. Winter is typically the rainy season.

Skiing in Morocco

Winter sports [attribution: VisitMorocco.com]

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Getting There and Getting Around

There are a number of ways to enter the country with air and water transportation leading the choices. There are several airports in Morocco. It is very accessible from Europe, as an example a flight from Madrid, Spain to Casablanca will only take an hour or a mere 3 hours and 20 minutes from London to Casablanca.

Casablanca, Morocco - photo collage

Scenes of Casablanca [attribution: VisitMorocco.com]

By Air:
Mohammed V International Airport (airport code CMD) in Nouasseur is the main international airport but Agadir and Tangier have international airports too. It lies about 25km (15 miles) from Casablanca.  Royal Air Maroc is Morocco’s national carrier however many European airlines and some American airlines fly into the country regularly. Some companies from Europe include Air France, Easy Jet and Ryanair and from America Continental airlines currently offer flights.

There are around 60 regional airports in Morocco making it very easy to fly as close to one’s destination as possible. Regional Airlines seems to be the common choice for travel domestically and some chartered airlines will fly to more remote locations.

By Water:
Cruise lines such as Norwegian and Royal Caribbean offer cruises with stops in Casablanca. Daily ferry trips, run by Transmediterranea, travel between Spain and Morocco. Alternatively two further companies offer similar trips – Euro Ferrys and FRS.

By Rail:
Rail travel in Morocco is currently going through some upgrades with many high speed trains planned for the future.

Currency

The Dirham is the Moroccan currency. It can not be converted outside the Moroccan border. So don’t forget to change Dirham back into your home currency (or typically UK Pound or US Dollar) when you leave Morocco. By the way, you may not take home more than 50% of the forex amount you brought into the country for your vacation or business trip.

The airports provide Bureau de Change kiosks and hotels and banks offer currency changing services. Some credit card companies will allow travelers to withdraw cash from selected ATM’s. This is a detail you should check on before leaving on vacation.  To get the best exchange rate travelers should check if their bank is in the Moroccan banking network.

A point to remember is that some Forex exchange centers may ask for proof of identity such as a passport when exchanging foreign currencies.

Telephone and internet services

The best advice is to take prepaid telephone cards along on your trip. Hotels often charge high telephone rates. Stores offering private coin operated telephone booths are very popular and available in many cities. Many major cell phone companies will have a network in Morocco but it is best to check before departing.

Internet cafes and Cyber cafes are a dime a dozen in Morocco especially in the larger cities. Prices are not too bad and connectivity is good.

Languages

Arabic is the official language for Morocco but French and Spanish are widely spoken as well.

Exotic spices at a Morocco Souk (market)

Exotic spices for sale at a Morocco Souk or Market [attribution: VisitMorocco.com]

Health

It is probably a good idea to stick to bottled water and when ordering water at a restaurant. Do not consume water that has not been opened in front of you. Ice cubes should be avoided. This US Department of State link offers up to date information on Morocco’s medical facilities.

Religious holidays

There are 5 religious holidays in Morocco. They will follow the Lunar calendar and will therefore be on different dates annually.

  1. Muharram (New Year)
  2. Mouloud (Birth of the prophet Mohammed)
  3. The start of Ramadan
  4. Aïd es-Seghir (end of Ramadan)
  5. Aïd el-Kébir (sacrifice of the prophet Abraham)

Ramadan is in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It will last for 29 to 30 days and is a month of fasting for the Muslim community. It celebrates the month in which the first verses of the Koran were revealed to the prophet Mohammed. Participating Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset and the evenings therefore become a time of feasting and gathering.

Travelers however do not need to partake in the feasting and will be served during the day and will not have restrictions on bathing or any other normal activity. It is advisable to find out when these holidays occur when planning a trip to Morocco.

Golf and Leisure Activities [attribution: VisitMorocco.com]

Read our Sidebar Links for: 10 More Exciting Things to Do in Morocco

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Attractions | Places to Visit in Morocco

Kasbah Glaoui, Telouet

This is an amazing building and very popular with visitors to Morocco. It was the home of T’hami el Glaoui, the governor of Marrakesh in the early 20th century. Some of the rooms such as the Harem and reception hall give visitors a good idea of the wealth and luxury that the family enjoyed in this home.

Kasbah Glaoui, Telouet

Kasbah Glaoui, Telouet

Djemaa el Fna, Marrakesh

This is a must if you are looking to see real Moroccan culture. It is a city square with a festival feel. Anything goes here, from acrobats, snake charmers (who will pose for photos), food stalls, to having your name written in Arabic. The evenings are the most festive. A variety of food vendors offer delicious meals and entertainment including dancing and music. There are some ‘attractions’ that perhaps we don’t want to see, such as chained Barbary apes being paraded by young people.

The square is found on the edge of the Marrakesh souk.

Mosques

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca

 

The Hassan II Mosque (left) is the fifth largest mosque in the world and is located in Casablanca.

The ancient and historic Karaouine Mosque is located in Fez. It can be dated back 859 AD. It is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘oldest existing educational institution in the world’. The mosque in part of the University of Al-Karaouine. It is also large and can accommodate up to 2,000 worshippers at a time.

The Koutoubia Mosque is found in Marrakech. It dates back to the year 1199 when it was built.

 

 

Palaces

Khalifa Palace is located in Tetouan Medina and dates back to the 17th century.

The Raissouni Palace in Asilah in the north. It was actually built by a pirate called Pasha Raissouni.

El Bahia Palace located Marrakech, was built in the late 19th century. The name means brilliance.

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Historical Sites

With a history as rich as Morocco’s it is impossible not to visit a historical site or two and there are many. Two notable sites are:

The old city of Asilah is located in the far northern regions of Morocco about 19 miles (31 km) from Tangier. It dates back to 1471 when the Portuguese conquered the city.

The Grottoes of Hercules near the city of Tangier. This is where Greek mythology tells the story of Hercules. He slept in the caves before attempting 12 tasks set out for him by King Eurystheus.

Museums

The Museum of Antiquities located in the village of Chefchaouen, in Tangier
The Ethnographic Museum in Tetouan
Museum of Moroccan Art in Medina of Tangier. It used to be a palace built in the 17th century.

Souks (Arabian - North African markets)

These are everywhere, all across Morocco. The souks can be overwhelming as merchants advertise their wares in loud voices. The sights and smells are intoxicating and prices are good. If visitors are looking for authentic items to take home then a souk is the place to look. Shopping a souk is an education in itself, with a lot of haggling going on.

A great idea for any visitor is to hire a ‘personal shopper’. This would be a local person who is able to guide visitors through the maze of alleyways and who can be invaluable in the haggling process. They are also useful to make sure that the item being purchased is authentic. Many tour operators offer this service as an add on to an itinerary. Highly recommended!

Morocco Souk

A Souk in Marrakech [attribution: VisitMorocco.com]

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Adventure activities

There are many adventure activities in Morocco. So many in fact, that it is impossible to do them all in one trip. They vary from light adventures such as art festivals to heavy adrenalin filled activities such as skiing or mountain climbing. Your choice of activity will depend on where you are in Morocco but all adrenalin seekers will be spoiled for choice.

Adventure Activities in Morocco

Adventure Activities [attribution: VisitMorocco.com]

Windsurfing
The best places to go for this activity would be Agadir and Essaouira.

Snow Skiing
Skiing season stretches from February through April.

Visit to Rock carvings
A great outdoor activity near Ouka’meden features historic rock carvings of animals.

Trekking in the Atlas Mountains

A great activity for hikers and mountain climbers

Camel trekking
Riding a camel is an authentic experience but it is not one of the most comfortable animals to travel on. It could leave you sore and stiff, so consider whether you want a few hours or a few days on camel back.

White water rafting in the N’fiss, Ahansal and Ourika Rivers

River boarding is available on many rivers.

Hot air ballooning definitely changes the way we see the desert. Flights take off September through June typically but will depend on the location.

Canyoning in the Ourika Valley near Marrakech. This activity is available all year round and includes some abseiling, light gorge swinging and rock climbing.

Also:
Abseiling
Dune buggy trips
Quad biking
River tubing
4x4 treks

Trekking and Local Culture

Discover the Culture of Morocco [attribution: VisitMorocco.com]

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10 More Exciting Things to do
in Morocco

 1 Take a tour of the birds of Zaër Forest located near Rabat and Casablanca. A day trip is possible from either city.
 2 Visit the city of Asilah in the month of August and witness an explosion of color during the International Arts Festival. Enjoy shopping and art to your heart’s content. 
 3 Visit Tafraoute which is surrounded by mountains and the Ameln Valley in February or early March for the almond harvest. You will enjoy local Berber village music, singing, dancing and experience a real Moroccan festival.
 4 If you find yourself in the Souss Valley near Agadir, look out for the tree climbing goats. They climb the Argan trees to eat the leaves at the top of the trees, but it is all legs to get to the top. A very funny sight indeed.
 5 Take a multi day camel back trip across the Sahara desert. A perfect way to experience the colors of the desert.
 6 Take in the sights of the High Atlas mountains on a mountain bike trail.
 7 Cooking classes with an local family could be arranged. You will do it all from shopping/haggling at the souk to cooking up a storm. Then of course the best part comes when you sit down to relax and eat a true North African meal.
 8 If you are in Marrakesh in June you may want to find out about the Festival of Folk Art.
 9 The Festival of Casablanca is the place to be in June when music, dance and theatre are celebrated. 
10 Anyone interested in Kite surfing must make their way to Essaouira in November for the Kite Surf Wave Stage.

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