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11 Best Morocco Experiences

Think of Morocco, and you probably picture yourself getting lost amid the twists and turns of ancient souks, riding a camel in the desert and relaxing in a traditional hammam (steam bath). But while the country's most famous attractions are well worth visiting -- Casablanca's Hassan II Mosque with its colorful mosaics, teeming Jemaa el-Fna Square in Marrakesh with its snake charmers and henna artists -- there are numerous surprises to discover here.

For instance, did you know that Morocco is home to a rare, critically endangered species of ibis? Or that there are a handful of vineyards quietly producing some very drinkable wines? Or that you can spend a few days herding sheep and picking almonds in a Berber village?

Click through our slideshow to learn about these experiences and more -- and don't miss our tips for where to stay and how to get around.

--written by Sarah Schlichter

Learn More About Morocco


Sleep in the Desert

The fascinating medinas (historic quarters) of the imperial cities are a must-see on any Moroccan itinerary, but your trip wouldn't be complete without experiencing a completely different facet of the country: its stark, silent deserts. For full immersion, we recommend spending a night there under the stars.

One memorable and accessible place to do it is the Scarabeo Camp in Agafay, just an hour outside of Marrakesh. Here you can stay in a comfortable nomadic tent (including a full bed) in the midst of a barren stone desert with views of the Atlas Mountains in the distance. During the day you can ride a camel or dune buggy, fly a kite, or have a massage; after dinner, served by candlelight in the communal dining tent, you can go stargazing with a professor of astronomy.

A more remote option is the Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp, a nine-hour drive from Marrakesh by 4WD vehicle or a three-hour trip from Zagora. In the sand dunes surrounding the camp you can watch the sun rise or set, go sandboarding (it's like snowboarding but without the frigid temperatures!), or take a camel ride. Evenings feature drumming and singing around a fire before you turn in for the night in your luxury tent.

Advice from a Traveler Who's Been There

My Trip in Morocco by TravelExplored
Visiting the sand dunes is so beautiful! Climbing one of the dunes and sitting there atop and watching the sun go down is stunning. You see the different colors of the sand changing. Then the night sets in and the sky is full (I mean really full) of stars. You have the local Berbers sitting with us around the fire and singing and playing their drums. It was such a romantic night out. Read more!
Marrakesh Hotels Recommended for You

*Prices above are provided by partners for one room, double occupancy and do not include all taxes and fees. Please see our partners for full details.

Find Foodie Heaven

From sweet, buttery ktefa (a pastry dessert) to heaping dishes of couscous with stewed meat and vegetables, the local cuisine is likely to be one of your best memories of your time in Morocco. And if you find yourself in Fez, a company called Plan-it Fez can help you not just eat but also experience Moroccan food.

The five-hour Traditional Cooking with a Moroccan Family experience gives you the chance to make bread, tagine, seasonal salads and mint tea in the home of a local family; naturally, you all get to share a meal at the end of the tour. If you have a sweet tooth, you might prefer the three-hour Moroccan Patisserie Class, which starts with a visit to a souk for ingredients and includes hands-on instruction in the preparation of Moroccan pastries. Other Plan-it Fez excursions let you work with women in a mountain village to make traditional hand-rolled couscous or visit an artisan fromagerie to taste delicious organic cheeses.

Advice from a Traveler Who's Been There

Magical Morocco, Part II: Fes by soliteyah
We wandered our way back toward our guesthouse through the narrow streets of the medina. It was an overwhelming feast for the senses; my eyes were actually tired at the end of the night from trying to take it all in. In the souks were wares and handicrafts of all kinds -- pottery, metalwork, leather handbags and belts, a dizzying array of shoes and slippers, cell phones, spices, pastries, candy, mirrors, ancient-looking televisions ... you name it. Interesting smells wafted from the food stalls and side streets, and traffic streamed in both directions -- women in headscarves, men in jeans, camera-toting tourists, stray cats, and sad-eyed donkeys laden down with soda cases. Read more!
Fez Hotels Recommended for You

*Prices above are provided by partners for one room, double occupancy and do not include all taxes and fees. Please see our partners for full details.

Explore Less Crowded Ruins

If you've ever fought your way through hordes of sweaty fellow tourists on a summer afternoon at Pompeii or the Roman Colosseum, you know that the presence or absence of other people can make a big difference in how you experience a famous historical landmark.

That's why it feels so refreshing to arrive at Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the third century B.C., located less than an hour from Meknes. While this well-preserved Roman town does see some tour groups, you'll find that if you arrive early or late in the day you'll be able to explore its ruined columns and mosaics in a relaxed, peaceful way. Come on a quiet winter morning, and you might even have the place to yourself.

You can get to Volubilis by rental car or grand taxi; private guides can be hired on arrival if you want to learn more about the ruins' history. (There's little posted information on site.) Alternatively, day trips from Fez are available via tour operators such as Naturally Morocco and Rough Tours.

Advice from a Traveler Who's Been There

Magical Morocco, Part III: Meknes, Casablanca and Home by soliteyah
Volubilis is a large site with an impressive basilica and triumphal arch. There were also many well-preserved mosaics. ... The setting was lovely, a green plain surrounded by olive trees and farmland. Several donkeys roamed freely among the stones, eating the orange and yellow flowers that grew there. Read more!
Meknes Hotels Recommended for You

*Prices above are provided by partners for one room, double occupancy and do not include all taxes and fees. Please see our partners for full details.

Relax in Little Marrakesh

The Berber market town of Taroudant (also spelled Taroudannt) offers a respite for travelers who need a break from the tourist crowds and pushy shopkeepers in some of the country's busiest medinas. Located in the Souss Valley not far from Agadir, this laid-back spot has been dubbed "Little Marrakesh" for its well-preserved city walls and colorful markets. You might even spot a few musicians and snake charmers plying their trade in the historic square known as Place Assarag.

Because Taroudant sees fewer tourists than other Moroccan cities, you'll encounter less hassle as a foreigner wandering through the souks -- making it a great place for people watching and admiring the local crafts. We also recommend biking, walking or taking a horse and carriage ride around the historic ramparts.
Taroudant Hotels Recommended for You

*Prices above are provided by partners for one room, double occupancy and do not include all taxes and fees. Please see our partners for full details.

Get the Best Shot

Morocco is an endless feast for the eyes. One day you might find yourself snapping photos of the sun rising slowly over pink-tinged sand dunes; the next, bumping shoulders with the locals as you angle for a shot of delicate lanterns for sale at a souk.

To make sure your photos fully capture these vivid moments, consider taking a photography workshop during your trip (preferably near the beginning so you can put your skills to good use the rest of the way!). In the Atlantic coastal town of Essaouira, you can enroll in photography courses of one to six days with Naturally Morocco; daylong programs focus on camera fundamentals, Berber life or "light, shade, texture and angles."

Professional photographer Rosa Frei offers full-day workshops in Marrakesh, while Plan-it Fez runs a three-hour Capturing the Medina tour in Fez.

Advice from a Traveler Who's Been There

Marrakesh, Essaouira and the Atlas Mountains by metravellongtime
Essaouira was well worth the drive. The town framed the Atlantic Ocean with magnificent 16th century Portuguese fortresses, which towered above thousands of jagged black rocks that cut through sprays of ocean foam. Behind the impenetrable rocks and ramparts was a maze of bleached white houses tucked along alleys too small for cars. The houses had tiny, delicate doorframes, built centuries ago for when people were smaller. ... Essaouira felt like another century, as if the battlements that once kept out violent invaders now guarded against the incursion of progress and time. Read more!
Essaouira Hotels Recommended for You

*Prices above are provided by partners for one room, double occupancy and do not include all taxes and fees. Please see our partners for full details.

See Rare Birds

While Morocco doesn't rank highly on too many wildlife hot spot lists, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the wide range of birds you can discover there. This is because the country is located in the migratory path of numerous species that head south into Africa from Europe during the colder months. Bird watchers should plan to visit in spring or autumn to see the widest variety.

One key spot is Oualidia, on the Atlantic coast, where you might spot flamingos, spoonbills and egrets wading through the lagoon. Farther south, near Agadir, Souss-Massa National Park shelters dozens of bird species, including the critically endangered northern bald ibis. In the Atlas Mountains you can keep an eye out for the colorful Levaillant's woodpecker, while the Erg Chebbi sand dunes are home to an intriguing collection of larks, falcons and more.

Gayuin Birding Tours offers four- to 13-night birding itineraries around Morocco, as well as day trips in the deserts surrounding Rissani and Merzouga. Rockjumper Birding Tours, which leads hundreds of bird watching trips around the world, has several options in Morocco.

In Your Face: 9 Up-Close Animal Encounters
Oualidia Hotels Recommended for You

*Prices above are provided by partners for one room, double occupancy and do not include all taxes and fees. Please see our partners for full details.

Experience Berber Life

With a history dating back some 4,000 years, the Berber people were already living in Morocco well before the Arabs' arrival at the end of the seventh century. They maintained their culture and language in the face of foreign invasion, and today live mostly in the mountains outside the main cities.

One fascinating way to immerse yourself in the life of Morocco's Berbers is to stay with them for a few nights. Fes Cooking & Cultural Tours offers overnights at a guesthouse in the Berber village of Amellago, where you can join the locals' daily life in a variety of ways -- picking almonds or olives, herding sheep, baking bread in a mud oven or learning to make artisan rugs.

With Berber Travel Adventures, you can visit the region's largest Berber souk and feast your eyes on the colorful goods for sale there, from vegetables and livestock to spices and pottery. This tour operator also runs day trips from Marrakesh to a Berber village for scenic mountain hikes and lunch with a local family.

Advice from a Traveler Who's Been There

Marrakesh, Essaouira and the Atlas Mountains by metravellongtime
There were a number of tiny Berber towns in the mountains, where villagers harvested their own food, raised chickens and cows and washed their clothes in the fresh mountain streams that seemed to pour from the clouds. The villagers were friendly and welcoming. We visited an underdeveloped town nestled into the side of the mountain base and were served green tea by an old woman who did not speak any English, but graciously posed for pictures -- no charge! Read more!
Marrakesh Hotels Recommended for You

*Prices above are provided by partners for one room, double occupancy and do not include all taxes and fees. Please see our partners for full details.

Taste Moroccan Wines

As an Islamic country, Morocco is better known for its deliciously sweet mint tea than for any alcoholic beverage, but what many visitors don't know is that there is a small but burgeoning wine industry here -- you just have to know where to look.

You'll find a few wineries near Meknes, including Les Celliers de Meknes, where you can sample merlot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon vintages. Visits to Les Celliers de Meknes are by appointment only, requiring at least two weeks' notice. Plan-it Fez offers a six-hour boutique winery tour at another vineyard in the area; you'll get to taste not only wines but also the farm's acclaimed olive oil.

9 Unique Drink Experiences Around the World
Meknes Hotels Recommended for You

*Prices above are provided by partners for one room, double occupancy and do not include all taxes and fees. Please see our partners for full details.

Learn Traditional Crafts

Morocco's souks are full of the work of the country's skilled artists and artisans: brightly colored pottery, ornate Berber rugs, intricately designed jewelry. Travelers with their own creative side can take a deeper look at this part of Moroccan culture by meeting the artists or even learning a new skill themselves.

With Amazigh Cultural Tours Morocco you can choose from a variety of itineraries (most about two weeks in length) focused on different arts such as jewelry or textiles. If you're looking for something shorter, you can take a five-hour Artisanal FootSteps tour with Morocco Off the Beaten Track, which involves meeting artisans in their Marrakesh workshops to learn about their art and way of life. And in Fez, you can learn to make a traditional drum with Plan-it Fez.

Advice from a Traveler Who's Been There

Marrakesh, Essaouira and the Atlas Mountains by metravellongtime
Marrakesh offers a variety of unique and interesting items for the shopping enthusiast. Spices abound and saffron, the most sought-after of Moroccan seasonings, is for sale everywhere from authentic Moroccan spice boutiques to hotel gift shops and the airport. Silver is a major Moroccan export. You will find many jewelry shops in Marrakesh selling beautifully-designed rings, necklaces and earrings. Wooden carvings are another popular product in Marrakesh. Read more!
Fez Hotels Recommended for You

*Prices above are provided by partners for one room, double occupancy and do not include all taxes and fees. Please see our partners for full details.

Experience a Moussem

Morocco's annual calendar is peppered with moussems, or religious festivals, which honor saints, mark a successful harvest or celebrate some other cultural tradition. Most commonly held in areas outside the big cities, moussems involve music, dance and plenty of food -- and sometimes even spectacles such as horse races and camel fairs. For a visitor, a moussem can offer a unique perspective on the local culture.

In the town of Argana, near Agadir, a Honey Festival is held each May to celebrate the delicious product of what's said to be the largest beehive in the world. Or you can check out the Camel Festival in the small town of Goulimine, where people from dozens of Saharan tribes gather for trade, horse and camel contests, and plenty of poetry and music. (This moussem has been recognized by UNESCO as part of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.) Another interesting option: the Imilchil Marriage Festival, held in September in the Middle Atlas Mountains to allow women from the area's villages to find and choose a mate.

Naturally Morocco offers a list of a dozen popular moussems, but there are countless others; do a Google search for the towns you're visiting to see if any might be taking place during your trip.

Photo used and shared under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. Original photo copyright Flickr user Fr Maxim Massalitin.
Marrakesh Hotels Recommended for You

*Prices above are provided by partners for one room, double occupancy and do not include all taxes and fees. Please see our partners for full details.

Take a Mountain Hike

Many active travelers head straight to the Atlas Mountains for hiking, but be sure not to overlook the Rif range in the northeastern part of the country, with its waterfalls, Mediterranean climate and serene cedar forests. Base yourself in the town of Chefchaouen, taking the time to explore its stunning blue medina; from there you can take day hikes or go on longer, multi-day treks with stops in some of the small villages sprinkled throughout the mountains. As you walk, keep an eye out for golden eagles and Barbary macaques.

While some shorter day hikes can be done independently, you may want to hire a guide and even a mule for longer treks. Ask your hotel front desk for assistance. You may also want to consider a longer trip through HiddenMoroccoTours.com, which offers a five-night Rif Mountains walking vacation that mixes forest hikes with sightseeing in Chefchaouen.

9 Easy Hikes That Will Take Your Breath Away
Chefchaouen Hotels Recommended for You

*Prices above are provided by partners for one room, double occupancy and do not include all taxes and fees. Please see our partners for full details.

More Travel Inspiration

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Best Time to Go to Morocco
Morocco's summer heat can be stifling, so if you're planning on visiting the desert or the big imperial cities, schedule your trip for the spring or fall. One exception: The summer is the best time to go beach bumming in coastal cities like Essaouira and Agadir, as the Atlantic Ocean is a bit too nippy to swim the rest of the year. Speaking of nippy, the Atlas Mountains are cold and snowy throughout the winter; trekking is best done in late spring.

Morocco on a Budget
Morocco is easy on the wallet. The cost of living is low, and you don't need to restrict yourself to hostels in order to find inexpensive lodging (though those are plentiful). We love riads, traditional Moroccan homes designed around a central courtyard; many of these have been restored into beautiful and often affordable boutique hotels. Buses and trains offer inexpensive transportation around the country (travel in second-class trains for lower fares). Cheap eats are plentiful at food stalls in the medinas or at Jemaa el-Fna Square, the famous open-air market in Marrakesh.

Learn More About Morocco


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11 Best Morocco Experiences (Courtesy of danm12/Shutterstock.com)erg chigaga desert campcooking lesson moroccovolubilis roman ruinstaroudant moroccophotographer essaouiranorthern bald ibis moroccoberber villagersvineyard moroccodrum making lessontan tan moussemrif mountains hikeSign Up: Tips for Your Next Adventure (Courtesy of Everything/Shutterstock.com)

Best of Morocco

Sleep in the Desert

Find Foodie Heaven

Explore Roman Ruins

Relax in Taroudant

Get the Best Shot

See Rare Birds

Meet the Berbers

Taste Moroccan Wines

Learn Local Crafts

Experience a Moussem

Take a Hike

More Travel Inspiration

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