Five Iconic Destinations in Morocco

 

Morocco has some truly iconic scenes, which should surprise no one as Morocco is, after all, the country where the Sahara Desert comes to a halt on the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean and once-nomadic Berber tribes have made their homes in walled-cities high in the Atlas Mountains. Knowing where to find these iconic scenes, however, is another matter. So check out these five destinations to get a glimpse into what makes Morocco special.

Aït Benhaddou

While the medina in nearby Ouarzazate gets most of the attention, the walled city of Aït Benhaddou is perhaps even more impressive. Situated in the Atlas Mountains, the sand-colored buildings of its kasbah blend almost seamlessly into the desert mountains. The town is a popular filming site and in recent years hit films such as The Mummy, Gladiator, Babel and Prince of Persia have all used the town as a set.

Aït Benhaddou is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in light of it being the best-preserved walled-city in the Atlas Mountains.

Aït Benhaddou is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in light of it being the best-preserved walled-city in the Atlas Mountains.

Essaouira

Essaouira is situated a few-hours drive west of Marrakech on the Atlantic Ocean. Its white walls and buildings with blue trimming stand in stark contrast to the more desert-colored themes of other Moroccan cities. The town’s sandy beach is a good place for short camel rides and windsurfing, but the main attraction is the seafood restaurants and small shops in the medina. The city wall stretches along the sea, as if it’s protecting the city from the waves, and is the place to be every day at sunset.

The city walls and fortifications of Essaouira at sunset.

The city walls and fortifications of Essaouira at sunset.

Fez

Fez is in northern Morocco and it has an entirely different feel to it than the cities of the more desert-like southern Morocco, as it’s situated in an area of forested mountains and has a relatively cool climate. Inside its walls lies the world’s largest active medina, which is a literal maze of small lanes packed with bazaars, cafes and shops.

A nighttime view of the ancient city of Fez.

A nighttime view of the ancient city of Fez.

Marrakech

[Also see our travel article "The Sights and Souks of Marrakech"]

Marrakech is the quintessentially Moroccan city, and odds are that the city’s palaces, spice markets and mosques are the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Morocco. Spending a few days in a riad (luxury guest house) inside the medina and shopping at the bazaars and eating at the Jemaa el-Fnaa Square is a must on any trip.

Well, there's definitely no shortage of places to eat at Jemaa el-Fnaa after dark!

Well, there’s definitely no shortage of places to eat at Jemaa el-Fnaa after dark!

Want to get out of the city and off the beaten path a bit? Check out the Atlas Mountains Hotel in the small village of Amizmiz. This village is situated about 60 kilometers south of Marrakech in the rugged and remote High Atlas Mountains.

Tangier

Tangier is at the very northern tip of Morocco, just across from Gibraltar, and is a popular entry point for travelers arriving via ferry from Spain. Once legendary for its bohemian lifestyle, Tangier was a popular stomping ground for Beat-generation poets and authors in the 50s. But while most of the city’s care-free spirit has given way to mass tourism, there’s still a special je nes sais quoi that makes the city exceedingly interesting to visit.

Like all great port cities, Tangier is seedy and full of hole-in-the-wall bars.

Like all great port cities, Tangier is seedy and full of hole-in-the-wall bars.

See all the articles, top ten lists and guides in our Morocco travel section.

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