About Morocco Travel
Casablanca & Essaouira: Modern Casablanca has evolved through generations of outsiders. Settled by Berbers in at least the seventh century BCE, it was used as a port by the Phoenicians and later the Romans. It has also seen the likes of the Merenids, Portuguese, Spanish and French before gaining independence in 1956. Once a Carthaginian stronghold, it is the second largest city in Africa after Cairo, and the most liberal and progressive of the country’s cities. Here, Morocco’s eclectic personality mixes with European influences. Protected by the trade winds, and awash with flowers, Essaouira is a charming town with a very special character due to its blue-shuttered houses. It enjoys a micro-climate that attracts summer visitors from the inland towns such as Marrakech. In addition, many artists, painters and musicians have settled there; and it hosts renowned music festivals in April and June.
Fes, Rabat, Meknes and Volubilis: Three of Morocco’s four “imperial cities” (along with Marrakech), are quintessential Morocco. Fes is divided into three sections: the old walled city, new Fes, and the newest section, Ville Nouvelle, created by the French. Within new Fes is a mellah, a Jewish quarter, where the Jewish population was confined beginning in the 15th century, and especially in the early 19th century. The Medina of Fes el Bali is believed to be the largest contiguous car-free urban area in the world. The University of Al-Karaouine was founded in 859 CE, making it the world’s oldest continuously operating university. A center of religious learning, Fes has many Islamic schools. The souks, tanneries and Merinid Tombs have a mood evocative of Jerusalem 1,000 years ago. Rabat began with a settlement on the banks of the Oued Bou Regreg in the third century BCE. Its history as a capital city dates from the 12th century. The medina is small but nonetheless interesting. The imposing royal palace is in the heart of the city and across from the king’s personal mosque. The elegant Hassan Tower was begun in the late 12th century. Other sites include the mausoleum of King Mohammed V, Kasbah of the Oudaias and Chellah Necropolis. In northern Morocco. Meknes was the capital of Morocco from 1672 to 1727. It was first settled by a Berber tribe called the Miknasa from the Tunisian south in the 9th century. Moulay Ismail made Meknes Morocco’s hub at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries, and his mausoleum is one of the city’s main attractions. The Museum of Moroccan Art and Bab Mansour, the largest and most stunning of the city’s gates, are worth exploring. Volubilis is an ancient partly excavated Roman city near Meknes between Fes and Rabat. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was developed from the third century BCE onwards as a Phoenician, and later, Carthaginian settlement.
Marrakech: Marrakech is the third largest city in Morocco, and rests near the foothills of the snow-topped Atlas Mountains. An entire day can be dedicated just to wandering the markets, seeking the best bargains on almost anything from spices to kaftans. Long a crossroads of cultures, it is home to medieval craft guilds that continue to operate by the old ways. Djmaâ El Fnaâ Square is jammed with the street theater of acrobats, fire-eaters and snake charmers. The palaces of El Badii and El Bahia are also of interest. The new European district of Gueliz plays host to fine restaurants and shops. The city also has a number of museums and historic architecture, including the 14th-century Ben Youssef Meders, one of the most beautiful buildings in Marrakech. The royal Saadian Tombs of the Saadi Dynasty (1578-1603) were only rediscovered in 1917. The ornate Bahia Palace offers a glimpse of life for a 19th-century nobleman in Morocco.
Middle & High Atlas Mountains: The Atlas Mountain Range stretches across a northwestern stretch of Africa extending about 2,500 kilometers/1,600 miles through Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. The area is well known to hikers, skiers and those interested in culture. The Berbers have played a role on the north coast of Africa for at least 5,000 years. The Arab invasion in the seventh century forced them to assimilate or take refuge in the nearby mountains. The villages are strongholds of Berber culture, preserving their music, lifestyle, spirituality and art. Aït-Benhaddou is a traditional mud brick ksar, a type of fortified village. The ruins of this UNESCO World Heritage Site have a unique geometric arrangement of the bricks.
Rif Mountains & Mediterranean: Surrounded by the jagged escarpments of the Rif Mountains, Tetouan was founded in the third century BC. Artifacts from both the Roman and the Phoenician eras have been discovered. The medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is home to craftsmen such as weavers, jewelers, carpet makers and leather workers. Shop, sail, fish, swim and golf are options. Tetuan is one of the two major ports of Morocco. Charming Chefchaouen has distinctive blue-washed houses nestled on winding roads in the mountains. The city was founded in 1471 as a small fortress. The Mediterranean coast of Morocco is famous for natural harbors, ancient villages and pristine beaches.
Sahara Desert: The Sahara is the world’s largest desert, and only a small part of it is fertile, fed by underground rivers and oases. The desert can be a magical experience. At night, the air is so clear that the stars seem close enough to reach out and touch. Among the desert’s tapestry of small settlements and villages, Erfoud is a French Foreign Legion outpost that retains its roots as a trade center. The main souk sells olives, henna, mint and other produce. But the jewels of the oases are the date palm trees that stretch far into the haze of the desert. Skoura is a fertile oasis lined with immense palm groves and one of the few groves in Morocco still inhabited and cultivated by local people. Here the Kasbah of Amerhidil dates from the 17th century and has a lively Monday market.Near here are the scenic Dadès and Drâa valleys. Merzouga village is the gateway to Erg Chebbi, known for giant sand dunes nearly 152 meters/492 feet tall. Kasbah Taourirt is a captivating preserved old-world market.
South Morocco: Taroudannt, “Grandmother of Marrakech,” features a medina, souqs and the culture of the Cheleuh Berbers. It is also an important argan oil producing region. Tafraout is laid out on a dramatic jagged landscape of parched pink granite, pale earth, red canyons and lush green oases. Fortified villages alternate with almond groves and fields edged by daunting prickly pear. Goats climb trees here. Souss- Massa National Park on the Atlantic Coast is great for bird watching.
Suggested Morocco Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Marrakech, Morocco
Founded in 1070, Marrakesh was long a political, economic and cultural center with influence from North Africa to Andalusia.
Days 2/3: Marrakech
Marrakech is noted for its old walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, medieval souks, Djmaa El Fnaa Square and ancient monuments.
Day 4: Marrakech / Atlas Mountains
Views of the Atlas Mountains and lake contrast with the desert landscape of southern Morocco.
Day 5: Atlas Mountains
Mountain, desert and lake provide opportunities for guided walks, picnics, and horseback or quad bikes.
Day 6: Atlas Mountains / Agafay Desert
The small stone desert of Agafay is home to a distinctive luxury glamping site.
Day 7: Agafay Desert / Skoura
A renovated 19th-century Kasbah, Skoura is set dramatically in the Sahara Desert.
Days 8/9: Skoura
Camel treks, desert picnics, quad biking, a visit to Glaoui Kasbah with its old Jewish district, are just some of the options. This oasis is lined with palm groves still cultivated by local people.
Day 10: Skoura / Casablanca
Casablanca recalls the romance of a bygone era and reflects a mixture of European influences.
Day 11: Casablanca / Depart
Custom Travel Options
Casablanca (2 days)
Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city, merges past and present, traditional mosques and superb new resorts, old world culture and new world arts.
Fes, Rabat, Meknes and Volubilis (4 days)
Three of Morocco’s four “imperial cities” present the quintessential Morocco of the Berbers, while Volubilis dates back to the third century.
High Atlas Mountains (1-7 days)
Amateur trekkers and experienced climbers are drawn to off-the-beaten-path Berber villages and North Africa’s highest mountain, Jebel Toubkal, 4,167 meters/13,671 feet.
Rif Mountains and Mediterranean (2-3 days)
This region features Morocco’s “White Dove of Culture,” the blue-washed houses of Chefchaouen; and the Andalusian-style village of Assila with its outstanding beaches and wealth of history.
Sahara Desert (1-2 days)
The sensational Sahara is the world’s largest desert; and only a fraction of it is fertile, fed by underground rivers and oases.
Southern Morocco (5 days)
The region is home to independent Berber tribes as well as Souss-Massa National Park, known for premier birding opportunities and unspoiled beaches.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$400 per person per day