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  • Writer's pictureJuliet Weller

Let's Go To...Morocco!

Updated: May 7

A camel silhouetted against a desert sunset

There’s so much more to this mystical country than souks and camel rides.

With its bustling markets (souks), Sahara dunes, and intricate Islamic architecture, Morocco instantly captivates – but the country’s appeal goes way beyond its photogenic facades. So, let's go to Morocco.

Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlas Mountains, Morocco experiences both warm coastal temperatures and cool high-altitude weather, offering a pleasant climate for year-round travel. Its current multicultural landscape was significantly shaped by its rich history, from the Phoenician colonization of the coast around the eighth century (though the Indigenous Amazigh people had been living there for at least 2,000 years beforehand) to a revolving door of ruling kingdoms (Wattasid dynasty, Saadian dynasty) since.

In Morocco, travelers can barter for jewelry in Marrakech’s Souk Semmarine or ride a camel in the Sahara, but they can also hike in the Atlas Mountains or soak in a traditional thermal bath. Here are five unexpected experiences in this vibrant country. 

1. Hike in the High Atlas Mountains

Morocco is one of Africa’s most mountainous countries, and at 13,671 feet tall, the Atlas Mountains’ Toubkal is North Africa’s highest peak. The majestic range is the country’s backbone – stretching 1,600 miles through Morocco – and one of the best places for trekking while taking in views of the surrounding snowcapped peaks. One great day-trip idea: the 3.9-mile Atlas Mountains Berber Villages Trail near the village of Asni, an hour's drive from Marrakech, which snakes through the High Atlas foothills and past Amazigh villages.

Active and adventurous travelers will fall in love with the Todgha Gorge in the eastern Atlas Mountains, a popular rock-climbing spot for its limestone walls that reach nearly 5,000 feet. Or head north to the Rif Mountains, 75 miles from Tangier, where lush forests reward hikers with wildflower-filled valleys along trails such as the 7.5-mile Akchour Falls in Talassemtane National Park.

Many of Morocco’s longer, multiday treks require local guides; as a Virtuoso travel advisor, I work with on-site tour connections and tour operators to create bespoke itinerary arrangements that pair Sahara jaunts with these lesser-known treks.

In September 2023, a powerful earthquake impacted many rural villages in the High Atlas Mountains; while tours to the area have resumed and the best way to support the country is to visit, some villages may still be recovering, so I'll check to make sure the area you are visiting is open.

2. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth on the Honey Road 

In southern Morocco, the Agadir-Ida-Ou Tanane province is home to the hillside village of Imouzzer, also known as the “Valley of Paradise” for its picturesque white houses, waterfalls, and abundance of honey. The Honey Road, an unofficial beekeeping route in the region, begins here, taking travelers on a journey through palm groves, past terraced fields, and beside undulating plateaus of fruit trees.

Take a dip in the nearby natural pools of the Asif Tamraght Gorge before heading eight miles east to the town of Argana, where nearly 3,000 beehives house honeybees that produce different highly refined varieties of honey, including thyme, lavender, cactus, and orange blossom.

3. Dive Into the Country’s Cultural Capitals (you might even go shopping!)

A young girl outside a blue-washed building exterior in Morocco covering her smiling mouth. A boy is climbing into the window opening next to her

Morocco’s diversity is rich – its art and architecture are heavily influenced by Andalusian, Amazigh, and Islamic traditions. One of the country’s beating hearts is undoubtedly Jemaa el-Fna, the open-air market in the historic “Ochre City” of Marrakech. Amid the snake charmers and soup sellers, vendors hawk all kinds of traditional goods, entertainment, and snacks. Other Marrakech must-sees: the medina (the old part of a town or city), founded in AD 1070; the intricately tiled nineteenth-century Bahia Palace; and the sumptuous Jardin Majorelle.

In the northwest, Chefchaouen and its swirl of blue-washed buildings sit tucked in the foothills of the Rif Mountains. Inside those structures, travelers find leather and weaving workshops where they can pick up woven blankets, jewelry, and pottery. In Rabat, Morocco’s capital, Berber-era royal forts, French-designed gardens, and twelfth-century minarets showcase the city’s complex history. From Rabat, head five hours down the coast to Essaouira, a laid-back seaside town with a long history of mysticism that’s popular for surfing.

4. Sign Up for a Moroccan Cooking Lesson

Moroccan cuisine is a mix of Arab, Amazigh, Mediterranean, and Andalusian fare, with a sprinkle of European and sub-Saharan influence. Dishes vary depending on the region: Coastal areas serve lots of fish, while beef, lamb, goat, and mutton can be found inland. In either region, expect plenty of olive oil, dried fruit, preserved lemon, and herbs and spices such as cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika, coriander, and saffron.

In addition to sampling these flavors at restaurants, travelers can learn how to make popular Moroccan dishes – such as couscous, hearty stews prepared in a tagine, and b'stilla (a layered phyllo pigeon pie) – at Hakima’s Moroccan Cooking School in Marrakech. The school employs local women from disadvantaged backgrounds, who teach traditional, homestyle cooking. 

5. Soak Up the Moroccan Hammam Lifestyle

In Islam, Morocco’s official religion, cleanliness is considered sacred, and it’s common for people to wash before each of their five daily prayers. The hammam, a traditional bathhouse, is an integral part of Moroccan culture. The process of steaming, scrubbing, bathing, and massaging is an ancient art form, and hammams have served as social centers throughout the country’s history. Travelers will find hammams, with separate bathing areas for men and women, throughout the country. In Marrakech, try Hammam Rosa Bonheur or Les Bains d'Orient – both spaces promise relaxing breaks in ornate spaces with fantastic domed ceilings and intricate antique tile arrangements.

On your luxury Morocco vacation you can experience all or none of these. Your visit, however, will feature scenic drives that will lead you to the golden dunes of the Sahara with several panoramic vistas, a camel ride to a camp for lunch; a warm Moroccan dinner under the stars followed by a campfire and live tribal music; sunrise over the dunes; visits to monuments, medinas, souks, lush gardens, vineyards, museums, artisans and an immersive and fun cooking class experience. I'm ready if you are.

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