Morocco – close to Europe but a world apart

With its sparking coast, exotic cities and desert dunes, Morocco is a diverse and exciting country that feels a world away from Europe. Low cost airlines have transformed it into an easily accessible destination and the journey to Marrakech takes only three and a half hours. Morocco is consequently one of the best holiday destinations outside of Europe, providing a far-from-home feeling and plenty of adventure without breaking the bank.

The Markets of Marrakech Photo: Tom Volpe

The Markets of Marrakech

One of Morocco’s most appealing qualities is its magical city life, horses and carts still common in the streets, minarets and domes decorating the skyline. Most flights arrive in Marrakech, where visitors should stay at least a couple of days to experience this enchanting city, parts of which have changed little over hundreds of years. Exploring the markets is a treat not to be missed. Mountains of multi-coloured spices are sold between silversmiths and treasure-trove antique stalls.

Chefchaouen in Morocco Photo: Fulvio's photos on Flickr

White houses in Chefchaouen in Morocco

Leather goods, jewellery and handmade musical instruments are also abundant, and haggling for souvenirs is a fun part of the Moroccan shopping experience. At night, the main square is filled with snake charmers, story tellers and acrobats. Moroccan dining is world class, tagines of couscous, steaming vegetables and fresh fish served in lantern-lit restaurants around the square. Restaurant interiors add to the magic, terracotta, tile work and silver upholding traditional Arabic design. The Medieval city of Fes is also a highlight, as is the charming city of Chefchaouen, where the traditional hillside houses are all painted white.

A trip to the Sahara is an experience of a lifetime and guided tours on camel back are offered throughout the capital. On a two day trip, groups are led into the desert where large tents and a campfire are set up for the night. No matter what you are told about the clearness of the night sky in the Sahara, you will still be humbled and astounded when the stars come out, so many and so bright that they light up the desert. Sleeping on the sand is magical, guides pointing out constellations and shooting stars after supper. The stars are rivalled only by the morning sun, rising like a golden orb over the rolling dunes.

Camel guided tours in Sahara Photo: Tom Volpe

Camel guided tours in the Sahara

Morocco’s coastal destinations are the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun. Bohemian Essaouira is a famed location amongst musicians and artists, past residents including Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. Cobbled streets are alive with colour, North African rhythms and art pouring from cavernous shops. Surfing is a popular pursuit and the town has a laid-back vibe to match. For a classic beach experience Agadir is the destination of choice. A sun-seekers paradise, pristine sandy beaches hem the turquoise waters of the Atlantic. Resorts offer first class accommodation and family friendly activities including water sports and sightseeing.

Essaouira in Morocco Photo: Primeroz on Flickr

Essaouira in Morocco

With breath-taking hiking trails in the high Atlas Mountains and world class skiing to boot, Morocco has all the components to make it one of the best holiday destinations in the world.

Many thanks for this guest post from Tom Volpe from Heading There, a guide written by travellers, for travellers

More holiday ideas in North Africa

Seagulls and salt spray in Essaouira – Morocco
Travelling in Egypt – Alexandria, Marsa Matrouh and Siwa
6 misconceptions I had about Alexandria – in Egypt

Photo credits: Essaouira by Primeroz,  Chefchaouen by Fulvio’s photos. Other photos by Tom Volpe.

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  • Reply
    January 12, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    I go to Israel every second year, which I love, and have visited Jordan and Egypt, which I also loved. But my dream would be to visit Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. I suppose since the uprisings, the fear is that tourists might get caught up in random or specific violence. Did you feel safe at all times?

    The desert and the camels are stark and stunning, but I would most enjoy the mosques, markets, restaurants and houses of Marrakech, Fes, Chefchaouen etc. The colours are stunning, even the white.

    By the way, is alcohol officially tolerated in Morocco?

    • Reply
      January 14, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      @Hels I’m not sure about Morocco & alcohol – I imagine that it’s not a big problem in the cities if you want a drink but as I’m not a great drinker I’d not be seeking it out. On the safety issue I can tell you that when I was in Egypt only a few months afte rthe January revolution, I felt completely safe. There were protests, but as they’re generally on certain days of the week and in certain particular spots it’s always easy to avoid them. The benefit of travelling to Egypt now is the lack of crowds.

  • Reply
    Barbara Weibel
    January 13, 2012 at 1:50 am

    I’ve took the ferry from Spain to Tangiers once for a day trip to Morocco and wished I’d had time for more. I really mist get back someday soon. It sounds like a fabulous destination, and I hear that Tangiers is the least interesting city.
    Barbara Weibel´s last blog post ..PHOTO: Milla Milla Falls in the Atherton Tablelands of Northeast Australia

    • Reply
      January 14, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      I must admit that I’m tempted by the western coast – I hear the surfing is great south of Agadir if I can ever persuade my teenage kids to come with me

  • Reply
    Vagabond Zach
    January 15, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Very interesting article. I never have really had a desire to go to North Africa, but I have a friend from Morocco and she always has great stories about it. This article makes me think twice before writing it off. Even though unrelated, it reminds me of when I was in the Middle East a little bit.

  • Reply
    January 15, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    @ Zach thanks for the comment – I do think that Morocco has a lot to offer from the buzz of the cities to the quiet of the desert to great surfing and scenery in the Atlas

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