Morocco holidays

Experience Morocco

Best Places to Visit

Casablanca is a good place to start a tour of Morocco. This modern city is the largest in the country and the economic capital. Visitors to Casablanca can visit the largest mosque in the country. The Hassan II Mosque is a recently constructed place of worship with room for over 25,000 people and another 80,000 people in its courtyard.

From Casablanca, visitors can head to Tangier, a beautiful Moroccan port city on the north Atlantic coast whose bohemian charm has captivated some of the most famous painters, poets, writers and musicians in the world. Tangier's beautiful beaches and friendly people make the city a worthy stop.

To get a taste of how Morocco combines the old and the new, visitors can head to Marrakesh. Located here is one of the largest traditional open-air markets in the world, the Djemaa el-Fna. Apart from the usual food and wares, attractions here include snake charmers, acrobats, traditional musicians, dancers and story-tellers.

Right beside the Djemaa el-Fna are several souks. The souk is a traditional Moroccan market selling all sorts of wares. Visitors here can bargain for shoes, clothes, traditional Moroccan clay pots called tagines, teapots, lanterns and a whole lot more.

Les Bains de Marrakech, a bath house, or hammam, is yet another place to visit if you want to experience an old Moroccan tradition. Here, tourists can be bathed and massaged by scrubbers following age-old traditions.

For a more relaxed Moroccan holiday experience, a day spent leisurely strolling or picnicking at the Menara Garden is highly recommended. The garden, with its orchards, groves and lake, has the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains as a backdrop. Another beautiful garden in the city is the Majorelle Garden.

Gueliz, Marrakech's Ville Nouvelle (New City), is also worth seeing. Here, visitors will get a taste of modern Morocco with its high-end stores, cafés, restaurants and shopping centres. From Marrakesh, it is easy to access Morocco's highest mountains, the Atlas Mountains.

The historical city of Fes (Fez) is another place worth visiting in Morocco. Here, visitors can get lost in the maze of streets and alleyways in the old quarter, known as the Medina. A must-see here is the centuries-old leather tannery, whose colourful palette-like vats which contain a mixture of ammonia and pigeon excrement are sure to assault anyone's senses.

Those looking to explore the Rif Mountains may want to head to the stunning, postcard-perfect mountain town of Chefchaouen. For a Sahara desert experience complete with majestic sand dunes and camel caravans, visitors can make Ouzina and Merzouga their jump-off points.

Top Landmarks

Morocco has ancient and medieval buildings, lively old cities inhabited since time immemorial, legendary desert towns only seen in epic films and the great outdoors of the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara. Visitors will not run out of landmarks to see in this country.

Travellers can start in Casablanca, taking in Morocco's Islamic heritage at one of the largest mosques in the world, the Hassan II Mosque. Dramatically perched on the Atlantic coast, the mosque complex has room for over 100,000 worshippers.

Being part of North Africa means Morocco has an ancient Roman heritage. Right outside the capital city of Rabat is Chellah, known in the ancient world as Sala Colonia. The ruins here include a Roman forum, avenues and a triumphal arch.

Close to the city of Meknes is another important ancient Roman site. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Volubilis is said to be the best preserved Roman ruins in all of Northern Africa.

Another site recognised by UNESCO for its heritage is the mad chaos of the Jemaa el-Fnaa, one of the biggest open-air markets in the world. Located in the largest plaza of Marrakesh's Medina, the Jemaa el-Fnaa has all sorts of exotic food and entertainers, from snake charmers to dancers, storytellers and more.

Venturing inland from Marrakesh, visitors will find gateways to the Sahara, including the town of Ouarzazate and the ancient fortified city of Ait Benhaddou. The kasbahs, or citadels, found at these sites have been used as settings for epic films such as Lawrence of Arabia, the Jewel of the Nile and Gladiator.

Entertainment

There are a lot of entertainment options for those visiting Morocco. Apart from restaurants, visitors can head to bars and discos, which are abundant in the major cities. These venues often have dancing, especially belly dancing, and live music as part of the entertainment. Visitors are highly encouraged to take part.

Although Morocco is predominantly an Islamic country, alcohol is served at many establishments here. Alcohol can be bought not just in bars, but in liquor stores, supermarkets and hotels. Casablanca Beer, a full-flavoured lager, is the local brew of choice.

In the lively city of Marrakesh, nightlife consists of heading to the Jemaa el-Fnaa, taking in the noise of the crowd and feasting on the assortment of must-eats here. In the same medina as the Jemaa el-Fnaa are dozens of visitor-friendly drinking spots.

When in Casablanca, holidaymakers looking for an exciting night out can head to the neighbourhoods of Maarif and Gironde, where western-style nightclubs and party venues are located.

The touristy beach town of Agadir is popular with European travellers not only because of its beautiful beaches, but the availability of bars here. Nightclubs and all sorts of watering holes can be found in this resort destination.

Shopping is a popular pastime in Morocco. Indeed, it is a way of life in this ancient country. Tourists are encouraged to haggle over Morocco's handicrafts such as lamps, earthenware and, if they have the pockets for it, rugs and carpets, with many items able to be shipped to the buyer's home.

Dining Out

Moroccan cuisine takes influences from the many indigenous cultures as well as those that have penetrated its borders: Arabic, Mediterranean, Berber, West African, French, Spanish, Jewish and Persian.

The level of Moroccan dining experience ranges from the Moroccan feast, or diffa, which is a multi-course meal featuring the best hits of Moroccan cuisine, to a la carte dining at restaurants and finally, roadside meat skewers, or kebabs.

Cafés and tea shops are very common in Morocco and are more often frequented by Moroccan men than women. The staple in these places is mint tea, which is a piping hot glass of green tea with mint leaves and sugar added. Coffee is also a popular drink and is usually served as an espresso, French press or Turkish style.

The tagine is a must-try. It refers to any combination of stewed meats and vegetables as much as it does to the conical clay pot in which these stews are cooked.

Another popular dish is couscous, which is a Berber dish made from semolina, a type of coarse wheat mill run. It is usually steamed and eaten with olives, vegetables and meat. The Moroccan pastilla is yet another dish worth trying.

Beach

The most famous of Morocco's resort cities is Agadir, on the south Atlantic coast. Agadir has a huge beach along with a number of great hotels and restaurants. Another beach destination is Essaouira, also on the south Atlantic coast. Apart from the long and wide stretch of sand here, Essaouira has a long history as an old port city, and its fantastic seafood is worth a visit alone.

Romance

The coastal city of Tangier has long been said to evoke romance. Its exotic charm, friendly people and beautiful beaches have and continue to captivate travellers, poets, painters and writers. Another romantic destination is the mountain town of Chefchaouen. Here, the quaint stone houses pained in white with power-blue accents make visitors feel they are on a peaceful Greek island.

Family

Families on holiday in Morocco will not run out of things to do. A trip through the many markets and medina in each of Morocco's cities will surely get the young ones fired up due to all the colours and curiosities vying for their attention. Marrakesh can be a starting point with its famous Jemaa el-Fna. Once done with the hustle and bustle of shopping, families can take a daytrip to Oasiria Water Park, Marrakesh's large aquatic park. It features a wave pool, toboggan slides and lagoons specifically built for children.

Adventure

Climbers, hikers and trekkers will find challenges and rewarding experiences climbing North Africa's highest peak, Jebel Toubkal. Along the way, they will get to pass by the beautiful Amizmiz and Ourika valleys, as well as old mountain villages. The largest desert in the world, the Sahara, is another place that beckons adventure-seekers. Trips here can include camel caravans, four-wheel drive trips on the sand dunes and desert wilderness camping.

Our best deals in Morocco

Need to know

Language

The primary language spoken in Morocco is Moroccan Arabic, a dialect of Arabic that is very different from Standard Arabic. While Moroccans study and speak Standard Arabic, it's not the preferred language. Berber, while not officially recognised, is spoken by the Berbers, who form the majority of the population. French is widely spoken, with Morocco being a former French protectorate. Spanish is useful on the northern coast. Some English is spoken by locals, especially in the tourist destinations. However, there are certain phrases that will endear visitors to the locals: 'bismillah' is a blessing used when starting something, such as a meal. When the task is finished, the correct phrase is 'alhamdulillah'. Visitors might be well advised to familiarise themselves in advance and carry a phrasebook.

Currency

The official currency is the Moroccan dirham (Dh), which can only be obtained in Morocco. It is best to obtain dirham via ATMs, which are usually found near shopping centres and hotels. Currency exchange is available, but only in banks and other official bureaux. Travellers' cheques are not advisable because exchanging them can be difficult; banks that accept them are few and far between. Major credit cards are widely accepted by hotels, restaurants and occasionally, stalls in the markets.

Visas

Nationals from a number of countries can enter Morocco visa-free and stay for a maximum of 90 days. These countries include Schengen countries. Citizens from most EU countries, the UK, the US, Canada and Australia only need to present a valid passport. This allows for a visa-free visit of up to three months. It is worth ensuring that your passport is stamped on entry, as there have been cases of tourists experiencing difficulty leaving the country, as their passports haven't been officially marked. In addition, the condition of a passport can have some bearing on entry to Morocco, so it's worth checking that any passports to be used are in a good state. Nationals of countries that need a visa to enter will need to pay '18 for a single-entry visa and '27 for a double-entry visa.

Climate

Due to the size of Morocco and its varying terrain, climate can differ significantly in different areas. A visit to the south of the country and the climate is especially dry and humid, however temperatures can drop drastically in the evening. In most areas, holidaymakers will see temperatures reach highs of 35°C and lows of 5°C, with rainfall most prominent in coastal areas around November to March. If blistering heat is something that you want to avoid, try visiting Morocco in the shoulder seasons of April to May, or September to November.

Main Airports

Mohammed V International Airport servicing the city of Casablanca is the busiest airport in Morocco. In 2010, 7.25 million passengers passed through this airport on Morocco's north Atlantic coast. The airport is connected to major flight hubs in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It is also connected to New York and Montreal across the Atlantic. Mohammed V International Airport is the hub of Morocco's national carrier, Royal Air Maroc.

Flight Options

From its hub in Casablanca, Royal Air Maroc flies to London-Heathrow, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt and many other destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. British Airways regularly charters flights to Morocco. Budget airlines Ryanair, easyJet and Thomsonfly also operate flights here. Typical flight time from London to Casablanca is 3 hours.

Travel Advice

Those looking to save money can fly to cities in southern Spain as flights to these cities are usually cheaper than flying direct to Morocco. From Gibraltar and the Spanish ports of Algeciras or Tarifa, there are many ferries servicing ports across the Strait of Gibraltar. The ride takes about 40 minutes to less than 2 hours depending on origin and destination.

Other Transport Options

Arriving by car from southern Spain is also possible. Ferries coming from Algeciras and Tarifa in Spain can take cars to Ceuta or Tangier ports in Morocco. If coming from Tarifa, the ferry ride to Tangier only takes 40 minutes. The land border with Mauritania is open to cars but isn't a popular entry point, while the border with Algeria is closed.

Getting Around

In Morocco, domestic flights are not a popular means of travel due to limited low-cost connections. Trains and buses are therefore the preferred means of getting around. Car rental is also possible but roads in some parts of the country are in poor condition. It is often preferable to use long-distance taxis or to hire a car with a driver.

Bus

Every city in Morocco has a bus station. CTM and Supratours are the major bus lines. Visitors are advised to purchase tickets for air-conditioned buses for long trips.

Car

Hiring a car to travel around Morocco is a good option. The main roads are in relatively good condition. International, as well as local, car rental companies are easy to find in the main airports and cities.

Train

Travelling by rail is perhaps the best mode of getting around in Morocco. The railway network stops at the major cities of Marrakech, Meknes, Fez, Tangier, Rabat and Casablanca.

Air

Royal Air Maroc and its budget carrier, Atlas Blue, regularly fly from their hub in Casablanca to the main cities in Morocco such as Agadir, Tangier, Marrakech, Fes, Ouarzazate, Dakhla and Oujda.

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FACTS

  1. Despite the title of the film, Casablanca was not filmed in Morocco
  2. It is considered impolite to handle food with the left hand, during meal-times, or to refuse the offer of meat
  3. Morocco is the fifty-seventh largest country in the world
  4. Morocco has been visited by numerous celebrities and stars, including Winston Churchill, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Orson Wells.
  5. In 1786, Morocco became the first country to recognise United States of America as a nation
  6. The Berber's are North Africa's indigenous people and the majority of Moroccans are descended from them

FACTS

  1. Despite the title of the film, Casablanca was not filmed in Morocco
  2. It is considered impolite to handle food with the left hand, during meal-times, or to refuse the offer of meat
  3. Morocco is the fifty-seventh largest country in the world
  4. Morocco has been visited by numerous celebrities and stars, including Winston Churchill, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Orson Wells.
  5. In 1786, Morocco became the first country to recognise United States of America as a nation
  6. The Berber's are North Africa's indigenous people and the majority of Moroccans are descended from them

Where to go in Morocco

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