Lonely Planet Morocco by Lonely Planet, Jessica Lee, and Brett Atkinson by Lonely Planet, Jessica Lee, and Brett Atkinson - Read Online

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Morocco

Contents

Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Morocco

Morocco's Top 17

Need to Know

If You Like

Month by Month

Itineraries

Morocco Outdoors

Trekking in Morocco

Travel with Children

Regions at a Glance

On The Road

Marrakesh & Central Morocco

Marrakesh & Central Morocco Highlights

Marrakesh

Around Marrakesh

The High Atlas

The Southern Oases

Draa Valley

Dades Valley & The Gorges

Ziz Valley & The Tafilalt

Rissani to Zagora

Atlantic Coast

Atlantic Coast Highlights

Casablanca (Dar el-Baida)

City Walk

Rabat

Sale

Around Rabat & Sale

Moulay Bousselham

Larache

Lixus

Asilah

El Jadida

Azemmour

Oualidia

Safi

Essaouira

Around Essaouira

Diabat

Sidi Kaouki

Mediterranean Coast & the Rif

Mediterranean Coast & the Rif Highlights

West Mediterranean Coast

Tangier

Cap Spartel

Road to Ceuta

Ceuta (Sebta)

The Rif Mountains

Tetouan

Around Tetouan

Chefchaouen

Trekking in the Rif Mountains: Talassemtane National Park

Oued Laou

Targa to El-Jebha

Al-Hoceima

Al-Hoceima National Park

Cala Iris & Torres de Alcala

East Mediterranean Coast

Melilla

Nador

East of Nador

Saidia

Berkane

Oujda

Fez, Meknes and the Middle Atlas

Fez, Meknes & Middle Atlas Highlights

Imperial Cities

Fez

City Walk

Sefrou

Bhalil

Meknes

Volubilis (Oualili)

Moulay Idriss

Middle Atlas

Ifrane

Azrou

Midelt

Around Midelt

Taza

Southern Morocco & Western Sahara

Agadir

Souss-Massa National Park

North of Agadir

Taroudannt

Taliouine

Tafraoute

Around Tafraoute

Ameln Valley & Jebel LKest

Tata

Trekking around Tafraoute

Tiznit

Aglou Plage

Mirleft

Sidi Ifni

Around Sidi Ifni

Goulimime

Tan Tan & Tan Tan Plage

Tarfaya

Laayoune (Al-'Uyun)

Dakhla (Ad-Dakhla)

Understand

Understand Morocco

Morocco Today

History

A Day in the Life of Morocco

Moroccan Cuisine

Music

Literature & Cinema

Arts & Crafts

Architecture

Natural Wonders

Survive

Directory AZ

Accommodation

Customs Regulations

Electricity

Embassies & Consulates

Gay & Lesbian Travellers

Insurance

Internet Access

Language Courses

Legal Matters

Maps

Money

Opening Hours

Photography

Post

Public Holidays

Safe Travel

Smoking

Telephone

Time

Toilets

Tourist Information

Travellers with Disabilities

Visas

Volunteering

Women Travellers

Work

Transport

Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Health

Before You Go

In Morocco

Language

Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Special Features

Winding Lanes

Natural Landscapes

Welcome to Morocco

Morocco is a gateway to Africa, and a country of dizzying diversity. Here you'll find epic mountain ranges, ancient cities, sweeping deserts – and warm hospitality.

Mountains & Desert

From Saharan dunes to the peaks of the High Atlas, Morocco could have been tailor-made for travellers. Lyrical landscapes carpet this slice of North Africa like the richly coloured and patterned rugs you’ll lust after in local cooperatives. The mountains – not just the famous High Atlas but also the Rif and suntanned ranges leading to Saharan oases – offer simple, breathtaking pleasures: night skies glistening in the thin air, and views over a fluffy cloudbank from the Tizi n’Test pass. On lower ground, there are rugged coastlines, waterfalls and caves in forested hills, and the mighty desert.

Ancient Medinas

Morocco's cities are some of the most exciting on the continent. Join the centuries-old trail of nomads and traders to their ancient hearts, from the winding medina maze of Fez to the carnivalesque street-theatre of the Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakesh. In the rocky deserts medinas are protected by kasbahs, on the coast by thick sea walls. But it's not just a heritage trip, as Morocco's cities are forward-facing too, with glitzy new urban design in Casablanca, Rabat and Tangier looking to the future as well as paying homage to their roots.

Moroccan Activities

Enjoying Morocco starts with nothing more strenuous than its national pastime – people-watching in a street cafe with a coffee or a mint tea. Use the opportunity to plan your next moves – hiking up North Africa’s highest peak, learning to roll couscous, camel trekking in the desert, shopping in the souqs or getting lost in the medina. Between the activities, you can sleep in boutique riads, relax on panoramic terraces and grand squares, and mop up delicately flavoured tajines – before sweating it all out in a restorative hammam.

Traditional Life

Morocco is a storied country, that has, over the centuries, woven its ties to Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the wider Middle East into whole cloth. Its mixed Arab and Berber population forms a strong national identity, but an increasingly youthful one, taking the best of its traditions and weaving the pattern anew – from the countryside to the city, from the call to prayer from the mosque to the beat of local hip hop. Morocco has a hundred faces and sounds, all ready to welcome the traveller looking for spice and adventure.

Erg Chebbi | WESTEND61/GETTY IMAGES ©

Why I Love Morocco

By Paul Clammer, Writer

In the 20-something years that I've been visiting Morocco – from travelling as a student backpacker through leading tour groups and writing travel guides to having my own front door key to a medina house – it's always the first mint tea that grounds me in the place. The ceremonial pouring and re-pouring from silver teapots. The tall glasses stuffed with viridescent leaves that scald to the touch. The impossible sweetness that would be cloying anywhere else in the world. At first, mint tea was the taste of somewhere new. Now, it's the reassurance that I'm back in a country I love. For me, there's nothing more Moroccan.

Morocco's Top 17

Djemaa el-Fna Street Theatre

Circuses can’t compare to the madcap, Unesco-acclaimed halqa (street theatre) in Marrakesh’s main square. By day, ‘La Place’ draws crowds with astrologers, snake-charmers, acrobats and dentists with jars of pulled teeth. Around sunset, 100 restaurant stalls kick off the world’s most raucous grilling competition. ‘I teach Jamie Oliver everything he knows!’ brags a chef. ‘We’re number one…literally!’ jokes the cook at stall No 1. After dinner, Djemaa music jam sessions get under way – audience participation is always encouraged, and spare change ensures encores.

Gnaoua musicians | TIM GERARD BARKER/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Fez Medina

The Fez medina is the maze to end all mazes. The only way to experience it is to plunge in head first, and don’t be afraid of getting lost – follow the flow of people to take you back to the main thoroughfare, or pay a small boy to show you the way. It’s an adventure into a medieval world of hidden squares, enormous studded doors and colourful souqs. Remember to look up and see intricate plasterwork, magnificent carved cedarwood and curly Arabic calligraphy, while at your feet are jewel-like mosaics.

View to the Medina from Medersa Bou Inania | SABINO PARENTE/500PX ©

Top Experiences

The High Atlas

Zaouiat Ahansal is the Chamonix of the eastern Atlas. Hemmed in by the cracked and fissured summit of Aroudane (3359m), the valley is characterised by kilometres of cliffs, soaring buttresses and dramatic slot canyons. With the arrival of a paved road in 2013, this awesome natural canvas is just beginning to attract attention. For rafters and kayakers the valley is a green jewel where rafts whip between 8ft-wide limestone walls; for climbers and trekkers the extreme topography and huge routes offer ridiculous views and a thrilling sense of wilderness.

PHOTOGRAPHIE HG MEUNIER/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Chefchaouen Medina

Steep and cobbled, the Chefchaouen medina tumbles down the mountainside in a shower of red roofs, wrought-iron balconies and geraniums. The blue-washed lanes enchant, making the town a photographer's dream-come-true. You could be content for hours just people-watching over a mint tea in the cafe-packed main square, lorded over by a grand red-hued kasbah. Or amble down the riverside walk, stroll to the Spanish mosque on the hill and even venture into the surrounding Talassemtane National Park to explore the Rif Mountains.

ZZVET/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Life in the Palmeraies

Until you see the vast palmeraies (palm groves) that carpet the Dadès and Ziz Valleys, you can’t fully appreciate the amazing feat of Morocco’s existence. Thick with palms and networked by communal wells and khettara (irrigation channels) the palm groves of Figuig, Ziz Valley, Tinejdad, Tinerhir and Skoura are the historical lifeblood of the Moroccan south. Even today they continue to play a vital role in oasis life, with plots beneath the shaded canopy providing a surprising bounty of barley, tomatoes, mint, pomegranates, apricots, figs and almonds sustaining generation after generation.

Skoura palmeraie | MARKO RAZPOTNIK SEST/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Drâa Valley Kasbah Trail

Roads now allow safe, speedy passage through the final stretches of ancient caravan routes from Mali to Marrakesh, but beyond the rocky gorges glimpsed through car windows lies the Drâa Valley of desert-traders’ dreams. The palms and cool mud-brick castles of Tamegroute, Zagora, Timidarte and Agdz must once have seemed like mirages after two months in the Sahara. Fortifications that housed gold-laden caravans are now open to overnight guests, who wake to fresh boufeggou dates, bread baked in rooftop ovens, and this realisation: speed is overrated.

Agdz | PSYNOVEC/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Tafraoute

The Anti Atlas main town, Tafraoute has a jumble of pink houses and market streets with extraordinary surroundings. The Ameln Valley is dotted with palmeraies and Berber villages, and the looming mountains stage a twice-daily, ochre-and-amber light show. With a relatively undeveloped tourist industry, despite the region’s many charms, it’s a wonderful base for activities including mountain biking and seeking out prehistoric rock carvings. As if the granite cliffs and oases weren’t scenic enough, a Belgian artist applied his paint brush to some local boulders – with surreal results.

MIKADUN/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Surfing

You can surf all along Morocco’s Atlantic coast, but the best place to catch waves is Taghazout. It’s clear what floats the village’s board as soon as you arrive: the usual cafes and téléboutiques are joined by surf shops, where locals and incomers wax boards and wax lyrical about the nearby beaches. On the same stretch of coast between Agadir and Essaouira, Tamraght and Sidi Kaouki are also set up for surfing; further south, Mirleft is Morocco’s newest surf destination, with an annual longboard championship.

PATRICE SCHWARZ/500PX ©

Top Experiences

Anti Atlas Trekking

A sunburned granite range leading to the Sahara, the Anti Atlas remains unexplored compared with the High Atlas. The star attraction for trekkers is the quartz massif of Jebel L’Kest, the ‘amethyst mountain’, which you can walk to through the lush Ameln Valley. More farming villages and crumbling kasbahs are found around Jebel Aklim, another of the excellent trekking possibilities in this area of blue skies and Berber shepherds. The landscape has enough variety, from palm-filled gorges to brooding, volcanic Jebel Siroua, to justify multiple treks.

ALDO PAVAN/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Sidi Ifni

Shhh! Don’t tell your travelling friends, but this formerly Spanish seaside town, a camel ride from the Sahara, is every bit as dilapidated, breezy and magical as well-trodden Essaouira. You can walk out along the sweep of Legzira Plage, or just explore the blue-and-white backstreets of one of southern Morocco’s most alluring hang-outs. The best time to appreciate the art-deco relics – more reminiscent of Cuba than Casa – is sunset, when the Atlantic winds bend the palms and fill the air with a cooling sea mist.

IVOHA/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Essaouira

Freshened by the endless Atlantic breeze, the old sea walls and gleaming white medina of Essaouira help make one of Morocco's most charming and laid-back destinations. There are swish riads, the freshest seafood unloaded from the small port, and a vibe that seamlessly blends an old visual arts tradition with the active sea sports that the coast here is increasingly known for. As any resident will tell you, Jimi Hendrix was a fan – and you soon will be too.

FEDERICA GENTILE/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Fès Festival of World Sacred Music

With intimate concerts in mosaic-studded riads, harmonic afternoons at the Batha Museum, mesmerising Sufi Nights in a Pasha's garden and grand performances in the magnificent crenellated Bab al Makina, this festival still charms and impresses after 20 years. A love of music that engenders harmony between civilisations and religions is the cornerstone here, and you'll experience sacred music from every corner of the world: it could be Mongolian fiddles or whirling dervishes, Sufi qawwali or Persian maqām, Irish laments or African drums.

Qawwals from the Faiz Ali Faiz ensemble | SUSANNA WYATT/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Moulay Idriss

Named for Morocco’s most revered saint, this little town contains his mausoleum and is one of the most important pilgrimage spots in the country. It straddles two hills and, whichever side of town you're on, the views across the green roofs and out to the rolling countryside beyond are arrestingly pretty, especially in the evening light. At the very top is Morocco’s only cylindrical minaret, which is well worth the climb, while spread at its feet are olive groves that produce a fragrantly tasty oil.

OLUFEMI ONIPINLA/EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Volubilis

Berber king Juba II, whose wife was the daughter of Antony and Cleopatra, was installed at Volubilis by the Romans. The town became a thriving farming community producing olive oil, wheat and wine for the Roman army. Stand on the basilica steps today, look out over the same fertile fields and survey his kingdom. This World Heritage site has few rules about where you can walk, little signage and lots of storks nesting on column-tops. It has some dazzling mosaics and a brand-new museum.

ZODEBALA/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Taroudannt

With views of both the High Atlas and the Anti Atlas, this Souss Valley trading centre is known as Little Marrakesh, offering a medina and souqs without the big-city hustlers. Day trippers from Agadir will certainly find it charming. The town’s red-mud ramparts are unique, changing colour according to the time of day. Circle the 7.5km perimeter by foot, bike or horse-drawn calèche, then return to the medina through one of the gates. After the sunset glow fades from the walls, the town is a relaxing, everyday place with some good restaurants.

MADZIA71/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Camel Trekking in the Sahara

When you pictured dashing into the sunset on your trusty steed, you probably didn’t imagine there’d be quite so much lurching involved. Don’t worry: no one is exactly graceful clambering onto a saddled hump. But even if your dromedary leaves you knock-kneed, you’ll instinctively find your way to the summit of the dunes at nightfall. Stars have never seemed clearer, and with good reason: at Erg Chigaga, you’re not only off the grid, but several days' camel trek from the nearest streetlights.

VIXIT/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Meknès

Morocco has four old imperial cities. Rabat is the go-ahead capital, Marrakesh has the tourist bling, Fez its epic medina, and Meknès...well, Meknès is unfairly overlooked by far too many visitors. It has a wealth of grand architecture, from the incredible grain stores of Heri es-Souani to the imposing gate of Bab Mansour and the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail (currently under restoration). Place el-Hedim is a mini Djemaa el Fna but without the tourist focus, and it's only a hop and skip away to the Roman ruins at Volubilis.

Zellij on the Bab el-Mansour | JOHN COPLAND/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Need to Know

Currency

Dirham (Dh)

Language

Moroccan Arabic (Darija), Berber (Amazigh), French

Visas

Visas are not generally required for stays of up 90 days.

Money

ATMS are widely available. Credit cards are accepted in most midrange hotels and above, and at top-end restaurants.

Mobile Phones

GSM phones work on roaming. For unlocked phones, local mobile SIM cards are a cheaper option.

Time

GMT/UTC

When to Go

High Season (Nov–Mar)

A Spring and autumn are the most popular times to visit.

A Accommodation prices are highest.

A Marrakesh and the south are popular at Christmas and New Year, but the north of the country can be chilly and wet.

Shoulder (Apr & Oct)

A Spring sandstorms in the Sahara and persistent rain in the north; popular elsewhere.

A Accommodation prices and demand jump around Easter.

Low Season (May–Sep)

A Discounts in accommodation and souqs.

A Domestic tourism keeps prices high on the coast, where this is shoulder season

A From 2017 to 2020, Ramadan will commence between the end of April and late May. Eid al-Adha will fall around August.

Useful Websites

The View from Fez (http://riadzany.blogspot.com) News and opinions.

Visit Morocco (www.visitmorocco.com) Moroccan National Tourist Office website.

Maroc Mama (http://marocmama.com) Morocco-themed food and travel blog.

Al-Bab (www.al-bab.com/maroc) Handy links.

Morocco World News (www.moroccoworldnews.com) Moroccan news portal.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/morocco) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

Important Numbers

Always dial the local four-digit area code even if you are dialling from the same town or code area.

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than Dh500

A Basic double (shared bathroom): from Dh50

A Soup or sandwich: Dh4–30

A Four-hour local bus trip: Dh60

Midrange: Dh500–1400

A Admission to sights: Dh10–50

A Hotel room: Dh400–800

A Dinner main: Dh70–150

Top end: More than Dh1400

A Hire a car: Dh300

A Day tour: Dh300

A Double in a city riad: from Dh1000

Opening Hours

Morocco keeps the Western working week, but some businesses may close early/completely on the Muslim prayer day or Friday. Exact opening hours may vary.

Banks 8.30am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday

Bars 4pm till late

Government offices 8.30am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday

Post offices 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday

Restaurants noon to 3pm and 7pm to 10pm (cafes generally open earlier and close later)

Shops 9am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 8pm Monday to Saturday (often closed longer at noon for prayer)

Work hours may be severely truncated during Ramadan.

Arriving in Morocco

Mohammed V International Airport (Casablanca) Trains run to Casa Voyageurs station (Dh43, 35 minutes) hourly from 6am to 10pm, and again at 11.45pm; taxis to central Casablanca cost Dh300 to Dh350 (45 minutes).

Tanger Med ferry terminal Shuttle buses run hourly to central Tangier (Dh25, 45 minutes).

Menara Airport (Marrakesh) Buses to central Marrakesh (Dh30) run every 20 minutes; taxis to central Marrakesh cost Dh70/100 petit taxi/grand taxi (50% more at night); private hotel transfer to the city costs around Dh200.

Fes–Saïss Airport (Fez) Taxis to central Fez/medina cost Dh200.

Getting Around

Transport in Morocco is reasonably priced, and mostly quick and efficient.

Train Reasonably priced, with good coverage and frequent departures between the major cities, but no lines in the south or along the Mediterranean coast.

Car Useful for travelling at your own pace, or for visiting regions with minimal public transport. Cars can be hired in every town or city. Drive on the right, but beware erratic Moroccan drivers.

Bus Cheaper and slower than trains, ranging from modern coaches to rickety local affairs. Useful for destinations not serviced by trains.

Taxi Mercedes ‘grands taxis’ run set routes between nearby towns and cities. Cheap but cramped.

If You Like…

Medinas

If you pause for a moment in the medina, stepping out of the stream of shoppers, you can watch Morocco’s very essence flash by. These ancient, crowded quarters – with winding lanes, dead ends, riad hotels, piles of spices, traders, tea drinkers, and a sensory assault around every corner – offer a strong dose of Morocco’s famous Maghrebi mystique.

Fez The world's largest living Islamic medieval city, with goods still carried by donkey and mule.

Marrakesh Exuberant Marrakshis course between souqs, palaces and the Djemaa el-Fna within the medina’s ramparts.

Tangier Hop off the ferry for a fitting introduction to North Africa in this compact medina.

Chefchaouen Medinas aren’t always like diving from the top board; smaller examples include this blue-washed treat.

Craft & Culture

Whether you want to catch some Gnaoua (bluesy music developed by freed slaves), see the Maghreb’s hottest contemporary art or forever transform your mantel with quality craftwork, Morocco will inundate you with options.

Taroudannt Pick up Chleuh silver jewellery, influenced by Saharan tribes and Jewish silversmiths, in the souqs.

Fès Festival of World Sacred Music In June, Morocco’s premier music festival features international names and intimate concerts by tariqas (Sufi orders).

Marrakesh Shop beyond the souqs, alongside design fanatics in Quartier Industriel Sidi Ghanem, and collectors in the hip art galleries of Guèliz.

Carpets Towns such as Ouarzazate and Tafraoute are low-pressure spots to bag a tasselled souvenir.

Tangier The American Legation Museum is devoted to Paul Bowles, William Burroughs and the Beat writers.

Off the Beaten Track

Morocco’s small towns and picturesque villages are ideal for unwinding and meeting the locals over mint tea.

Afella-Ighir The road to these oasis villages is little visited; in Tiwadou, stay in an auberge (inn) with a local museum.

Agdz Enjoy the Drâa Valley from the palm groves and mudbrick kasbahs of Agdz.

Imilchil The Middle Atlas village is famous for its marriage moussem (festival), but the journey there is stunning year-round.

Tarfaya Clean up in a tented pool hall near a shipwrecked ferry, and watch the Saharawi world go by.

Around Essaouira Leave the crowds in the medina and follow the surf trail south to Sidi Kaouki and Taghazout.

Bhalil A friendly hillside village dating back to the 4th century, unusual for its troglodyte cave dwellings.

Food Adventures

Morocco offers culinary adventures from couscous rolling to eating camel tajine.

Fez Take a street-food tour, roll your own couscous and visit the communal bread ovens.

M'hamid Learn Saharawi recipes or the secrets of elaborate traditional couscous at M’Hamid’s Saharan retreats.

Marrakesh Buy your ingredients at the souq, and feast on the results in a riad kitchen.

Seafood Buy your dinner fresh off the boat in the ports of Al Hoceima and Essaouira.

Taliouine Tour saffron and argan producers and learn how to make a saffron-tinted tajine.

Demnate Try local almonds, olive oil and wildflower honey in this Berber foodie hub near Marrakesh.

Architecture

Morocco’s buildings, whether being reinvented as a boutique medina retreat or crumbling into a hillside, reflect the country’s long history as a cultural melting pot.

Ali ben Youssef Medersa Inside this splendid 14th-century theological seminary in Marrakesh are five-colour zellij (tilework) walls and stucco archways.

Art deco The Atlantic Coast has wonderful art-deco architecture, in Casablanca and Sidi Ifni.

Kairaouine Mosque & University One of Africa’s largest mosques and the world’s oldest university, founded in Fez 1200 years ago.

Rabat Morocco's capital looks to its past with its Almohad Tour de Hassan minaret, and to the future with the Zaha Hadid designed Grand Theatre of Rabat.

Rissani Tour a zawiya (shrine), a ruined Saharan trading post, and multiple desert ksour (castle).

Entrance to Rissani | JOSE IGNACIO SOTO/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Berber Culture

Morocco’s proud indigenous people are a memorable part of many travellers’ journeys here. Their Amazigh colour and character are a big part of special spots such as Marrakesh and the Atlas.

Regional costumes From Riffian hats to colourful dresses, women display their local cultural roots.

Demnate Immersion in indigenous culture awaits, with fine olive oil and a Berber Romeo and Juliet.

Imilchil Berbers look for marriage material at the annual moussem in the Middle Atlas village.

Maison Tiskiwin Understand how the Berbers fit into the rest of North Africa in Marrakesh’s museum of trans-Saharan culture.

Al-Hoceima The seaside town is the unofficial capital of Morocco’s northern Berbers.

A woman in Berber costume | LOTTIE DAVIES/LONELY PLANET ©

Beaches

Its coastline stretching from the Mediterranean to the Sahara, Morocco packs in beaches for every taste between its coves, cliffs, boardwalks and ports. Some are fit for family fun, others wait and will development to happen, and many are untrodden, apart from the odd surfer and migratory bird.

Marabout’s Beach Lined with savage rocks, this is the most dramatic of Mirleft’s Atlantic beaches.

Agadir ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; deckchair & umbrella DH30) Agadir's long, curving (and clean) beach has families scrambling for buckets and spades.

Yellich This Mediterranean village has a fine beach with an island you can walk out to.

Tangier Head for Plage Robinson, at the northwestern extremity of Africa’s Atlantic Coast.

Deserts

Morocco’s Saharan expanses are some of Africa’s safest and most evocative places to experience the great desert. Not only can you see curvy dunes and harsher hammada (stony desert), you can also meet blue-robed Berbers and try the nomadic lifestyle.

Erg Chebbi This classic Saharan sandscape can be explored by camel, 4WD or sandboard.

Figuig It’s worth trekking east to Morocco’s oasis par excellence, with palmeraies, ksour and Algerian views.

Erg Chigaga Enlist a ‘Blue Man’ in M’Hamid, to explore these mountainous sand dunes.

Drâa Valley Timbuktu-bound caravans once passed through this valley; now you can explore its oases by camel.

Mountains

With Berber villages nestling beneath snowy peaks, the High Atlas is one of the world’s most awe-inspiring mountain ranges. Whether you want to climb, trek, experience rural life or just escape the rat race far below, Morocco’s other mountains are also worth exploring.

Jebel Toubkal Trek to the top of North Africa for thin air and views across the High Atlas.

Ameln Valley Stay in a traditional village house among palmeraies and the gold-pink Anti Atlas.

Middle Atlas The mellower northern Atlas range is ideal for day hikes through hills and forests.

Jebel el-Kelaâ This Rif mountain is walkable in a day from the blue-washed town of Chefchaouen.

Eastern Atlas Barren, Martian-red mountains overlook the Ziz Gorges and the wedding-festival village of Imilchil

Month by Month

Top Events

Fès Festival of World Sacred Music, June

Festival of Popular Arts, July

Marriage Moussem, September

Marathon des Sables, March

Riffian Trekking, April

January

Moroccan winter: the north is wet and snow makes many mountains impassable for trekkers and even motorists. Marrakesh and the south receive the most tourists, especially around New Year.

2 Marrakesh Marathon

The year-round Djemaa el-Fna carnival acquires a sporty dimension with this annual road race, when 5000 marathoners cross the finish line on the grand square. The route follows the city ramparts and alleys of palms, orange and olive trees.

February

Winter continues: the weather is generally poor, although drier, balmier spots, such as Marrakesh and Agadir, are bearable. Apart from overlanders and city-breakers, few visitors are spotted.

z Moussem of Sidi ben Aïssa

One of Morocco’s largest moussems (festivals) takes place at the Sufi saint’s mausoleum, outside Meknès medina walls. Public displays of glass-eating, snake bites and ritual body piercing are no longer allowed, but fantasias (musket-firing cavalry charges), fairs and the usual singing and dancing are.

z Marrakech Biennale

Held on even-numbered years, the Marrakech Biennale is the city's foray into both high and popular artistic culture, with everything from public art displays to chin-scratching conceptual installations.

March

The country wakes up with the beginning of spring, when the mountains thaw and wildflowers and almond and cherry trees blossom. Winds begin to disturb the desert and Souss Valley, continuing through April.

z Almond Blossom Festival

A very pretty festival held in the Anti Atlas in spring, when the Tafraoute area is awash with blossoms. Traditionally about celebrating the harvest in Morocco’s almond capital, the festival is now also about local folklore, with singing, dancing, theatre and storytelling.

z Marathon des Sables

Starting and finishing in Morocco’s movie town, Ouarzazate, the Saharan ultramarathon is as epic as films made in ‘Ouallywood’. The gruelling six-day challenge, held in March or April, crosses 243km of desert. Water is provided.

April

Spring continues: the country is lush and green and temperatures are now reliably hot nationwide. Tourist numbers are high, particularly around Easter, when prices jump.

z Festival of Sufi Culture

This Fez festival hosts events including films and lectures, and concerts with Sufi musicians from around the world. The setting is the Andalucian-style garden of the Batha Museum, which is housed in a 19th-century summer palace.

z Jazzablanca

Casablanca's popular jazz festival has been taking over the city for more than a decade now, and is currently held in April. Expect the best local and international names to hit the stage.

2 Riffian Trekking

Between the wet northern winter and fierce summer, spring is perfect for trekking trails in the Rif Mountains. The best scenery is found in Talassemtane National Park, including the God’s Bridge rock formation and, closer to the Mediterranean, the Al-Hoceima National Park.

May

Prices drop in hotels and souqs as the tourist season ends, although the heaviest summer heat is yet to come; the average daily temperature in Marrakesh is about 28°C. Ideal for mountain trekking.

z Festival Mawazine

This popular and free music festival in Rabat grows every year, and attracts big names from the Arabic, African and Western spheres. Expect anything from Elton John to Afrobeat and Lebanese divas.

z Rural Festivals

During the Festival du Desert Er-Rachidia hosts performers from across the Sahara, including local Gnaoua band Les Pigeons du Sable. Down the Dadès Valley, garlands come out for Kelaâ M’Gouna’s festival to celebrate the rose harvest.

June

Summer is hotting up, although High Atlas peaks are still snowy. Northern Morocco and the coast are good places to be. During the Fès Festival of World Sacred Music there is major demand for local accommodation.

z Cherry Festival

Sleepy Sefrou awakes for Morocco’s longest-running town festival, held in mid-June. Folk music, artists’ displays, parades, fantasias and sports events celebrate the cherry harvest – culminating in the picturesque crowning of the Cherry Queen.

z Fès Festival of World Sacred Music

Fez’s successful world-music festival has hosted everyone from Youssou N’Dour to Bjork. Equally impressive are the concerts by Moroccan tariqas (Sufi orders); fringe events include exhibitions, films and talks. May be held in May depending on Ramadan dates.

z Gnaoua & World Music Festival

A passionate celebration held in Essaouira in late June, with concerts featuring international, national and local performers, and art exhibitions. A great chance to hear some bluesy Gnaoua, developed here by freed slaves.

July

Snow melts from the mountains, the High Atlas is scorching and Ramadan adds intensity to the temperatures, hovering around 30°C. The beaches are breezy, but busy with domestic and European tourists in the north.

z Asilah Festival

Asilah confirms its arty leanings with this cultural jamboree, which attracts some 200,000 spectators to three weeks of public art demonstrations, workshops, concerts and exhibitions. A concurrent three-day horse festival features a fantasia.

z Festival of Popular Arts

This street-theatre festival is a typically colourful Marrakshi event, highlighting the best of Moroccan traditional and popular culture. Djemaa el-Fna is even more anarchic than usual during the opening-night parade, featuring 500-plus performers.

August

This month is a scorcher with an average of 40°C in Marrakesh, and it can easily exceed that in the interior. Head to southern Atlantic beaches to avoid the crowds.

z Moussems

During Morocco’s largest moussem, picturesque whitewashed Moulay Idriss fills with fantasias, markets and music. Five pilgrimages to this moussem are said to equal one to Mecca. Moussems also take place in Setti Fatma, southeast of Marrakesh, and Ouarzazate.

September

With autumn, Morocco is once again prime territory for foreign travellers. Beaches empty of local holidaymakers and even the desert is pleasant with the scent of dates and gentle breezes. Eid al-Adha interrupts transport and business in August/September.

z Marriage Moussem

At this famous three-day festival in the Middle Atlas village of Imilchil, local Berbers search for a partner. Everyone looks their best, sporting woollen cloaks, white jellabas (flowing garments) and elaborate jewellery.

z Religous Moussems

Hamdouchi Moussem is a dance-off between religious fraternities outside Demnate’s two zawiyas (shrines); Fez’ Moussem of Moulay Idriss sees a musical, rosewater-showered procession through the medina; thousands of pilgrims head east to the moussem at Sidi Yahia Ben Younes, which includes a fantasia.

z TANJAzz

Attracting an ever-growing roster of international as well as local musicians, Tangier's annual jazz festival is a great way to take in the cosmopolitan side of Morocco's music scene.

October

Another popular month to visit, although, rain is beginning to set in north of the Middle Atlas.

z Nuits Sonores Tanger

Tangier shows as the city that always moves with times, with its new cutting-edge electronic music festival.

z Rallye Toulouse Saint-Louis

In late September/early October, this event in Tarfaya remembers the colonial French airmail service that stopped here, and its most famous pilot, the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Planes pass through en route from Toulouse in France to Saint Louis in Senegal.

November

A busy time in Marrakesh and further south, with more people heading to the desert or trekking nearby. Birdwatchers stake out wetlands and Mauritania-bound overlanders roll through.

z Harvests

Around the Immouzzer des Ida Outanane waterfalls in the High Atlas foothills, villagers climb into the trees to shake olives from the branches. In Taliouine, a festival celebrates the saffron harvest, and you can see locals picking the flowers.

December

The country is busy at the end of the month with Christmas holidaymakers. Snow closes High Atlas passes, but the white blanket is good news for skiers.

z Marrakesh International Film Festival

The Marrakesh event lives up to its name, with stars from Hollywood to Bollywood jetting in to walk the red carpet. The week culminates in wildly eclectic awards shows – with honours going to everything from art-house dramas to Bollywood spectaculars.

Itineraries

Essential Morocco

2 Weeks

Morocco is a big country, but in two weeks you can still comfortably cover a lot of ground and explore the best of what it has to offer, from imperial cities to mountains and desert.

Touch down in Casablanca, the commercial capital, and start with a tour of the stupendous Hassan II Mosque. Head by train to venerable Fez, with its ancient yet thriving medina.

Next, cross the Middle Atlas via Midelt for your first startling taste of Moroccan kasbah architecture, and the abandoned mining town of Aouli, dropped into the crevasse of a pretty gorge. Continue all the way to Merzouga, Morocco’s gateway to the Sahara. Saddle up your camel and sleep under the stars amid the perfectly sculpted Erg Chebbi.

Shadowing the High Atlas as you head west brings you to the Todra Gorge for a day's hiking amid the canyons and palmeraies (palm groves). From here, head past Ouarzazate to Aït Benhaddou, with its fairy-tale-like 11th-century kasbah.

En route to the Atlantic, check into a riad in Marrakesh, and spend as many sunsets as possible on the theatrical Djemaa el-Fna, then don’t stop until you reach artsy seaside medina and fishing port Essaouira.

Itineraries

Circling the South

3 Weeks

This itinerary takes you deep into the south for wild mountain and desert landscapes, far from clicking cameras, and with plenty of activities to stimulate the mind and body.

Agadir is a handy entry point, but adventurers will want to leave quickly. Head to tiny but vibey Tafraoute, surrounded by beautiful Anti Atlas scenery such as the Ameln Valley, with its lush palmeraies and pink-hued houses. Spend a few days trekking through the valley and up Jebel L’Kest, bike past rock formations and engravings to the surreal Pierres Bleues, known as the Painted Rocks, and continue south through the Aït Mansour Gorges. At the far end of the gorges, where the beautiful scenery belies the ancient slave routes that passed this way, stay in the Afella-Ighir oasis. Use Tiwadou as a base for more trekking or discovering the rock carvings at Ukas.

By now you’ll have developed a taste for Morocco’s secluded southern corners. Once back in Tafraoute, wind east through the Anti Atlas and descend to the equally silent and epic Sahara. The last stop before Jebel Bani and a whole lot of hammada (stony desert), Tata makes a convenient base for exploring the oases, kasbahs, agadirs (fortified granaries) and magnificent rock engravings in spots such as Akka. A dusty journey to the east, the yellow-gold dunes of Erg Chigaga are more remote and less visited than Merzouga. In nearby M’Hamid, find yourself a camel to lead you north into the kasbah-littered Drâa Valley.

At the top of valley, head back towards the mountains. Commandeer a bike (mountain or motor), horse, mule or dromedary in film favourite Ouarzazate, where the stony desert landscape has been a celluloid stand-in for Tibet, Rome, Somalia and Egypt. Return to the coast via Taliouine, where you can buy the world’s most expensive spice in Africa’s saffron capital. Pause here, or in Taroudannt, for a trekking reprise in a mountainous area such as the Tichka Plateau. With its red walls and backdrop of snowcapped peaks, Taroudannt has hassle-free echoes of Marrakesh. Its souqs and squares are pleasant places to relax, and it’s handy for Agadir’s Al-Massira Airport.

Itineraries

The Med & the Mountains

3 Weeks

In the north the Mediterranean littoral and the Rif Mountains have seen huge investment from the government. Domestic tourism has boomed as a result, but travellers are yet to discover the region in numbers.

Start in Tangier, ideally arriving by ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to feel the thrill of crossing from Europe to Africa. In the mid-20th century, characters from gunrunners to beatnik literati mixed in this legendary port city. After a few days taking in the history, nightlife and restaurants, skip inland to Tetouan, the old capital of Spanish Morocco, with its charming blend of Arab medina and Andalucian architecture. The Spanish left a lighter imprint on nearby Chefchaouen, nestled in the Rif Mountains with its gorgeous blue-painted medina. It’s tempting to spend a string of sunsets listening to the minarets chorus each other’s call to prayer, but this is also a good trekking spot. You can head deep into the mountains on a five-day trek via riverside Akchour to Bou Ahmed, a fishing village in the Oued Bouchia valley.

Continue east along the coast to the proud, modern seaside resort of Al-Hoceima, gateway to the dry canyons and limestone cliffs of the Al-Hoceima National Park. Walk to the park along the coast, or book a memorable tour including hiking or mountain biking and a homestay with a Berber family. En route to the Algerian border, there’s more fine scenery in the Beni-Snassen Mountains, which you can enjoy in a swimming pool with mountain views, or a 300-year-old rural lodge. With its gorges, caves, mesa and Barbary sheep, this verdant area is far removed from classic images of Morocco. In the Zegzel Gorge, pluck a cumquat and see why the Romans remarked on this small citrus fruit.

From here, head to Oujda to refresh yourself with some city comforts, before taking the train to that grandest of imperial cities, Fez. Dive into the medina and relax in a riad, but if you find yourself missing the countryside, you can make an easy day (or several-day) trip into the cedar-clad Middle Atlas around the Berber market town of Azrou.

Itineraries

Highlights & Hidden Gems

6 Weeks

Given six weeks you can really dive deep into Morocco: explore its big-ticket destinations while still having plenty of time to discover its more hidden corners – getting off the beaten track or just taking more time to soak the country in.

Climb off a ferry in famously decadent Tangier, with its Europe-facing medina, and head into the Rif Mountains. European influence continues in Chefchaouen, with its bright blue, Andalucian-tiled medina. Further south, the imperial cities of Fez and Meknès are more quintessentially Moroccan in their ancient medinas.

After a few days of labyrinthine lanes and dye pits, you’ll be ready for more mountains. Wind through the Middle Atlas and on through the Martian landscape of the Ziz Gorges. It’s now just a few dusty hours to Erg Chebbi, the achingly beautiful expanse of rolling dunes, which you can explore on a camel or sandboard.

Brush off the Sahara and return to the High Atlas at Todra Gorge. Hike between the enclosing rock walls, then jump in a market-bound truck through tiny villages and deeper into the mountains. Imilchil, surrounded by red rock and turquoise lakes, is the site of a wedding moussem (festival) in September.

Descend through the High Atlas and turn southwest, pausing to refuel in Berber foodie and cultural hub Demnate. The next stop is Marrakesh, with its famous riad hotels, medina shopping and Djemaa el-Fna. Hit the wild west coast at hippie-turned-boutique hang-out Essaouira, then head south to vibrant Taghazout, Morocco’s premier surf spot. Then take the N10 to Taroudannt, the Souss Valley’s prettiest market town with its mud-walled medina and kasbah.

Travel barren mountains and empty roads to Tata, a Saharan gateway where blue-robed guides can show you the desert. The road back to the Atlantic passes oases, palmeraies, kasbahs, agadirs and rock carvings. Near the coast, detour north to the Tiznit jewellery souq, particularly if it’s a Thursday (market day).

Arcing west and south, you come to Mirleft, with its pink-and-blue arches, and Sidi Ifni, a jumble of wind-whipped art-deco relics surrounded by coastal walks. End your journey on the edge of the Western Sahara in sandy, gloriously isolated Tarfaya.

Itineraries

Atlantic Adventure

3 Weeks

Morocco’s Atlantic seaboard takes you from the clamour of the north to the quieter coastline of the south. It's a landscape where cities give way to dramatic sea cliffs, long sandy beaches and picturesque fishing ports.

Take the ferry from Spain to Tangier, at once a quintessentially Moroccan mosaic and a decadent outpost of Europe. Catch the train south, first to chilled-out Asilah, with its whitewashed charms, and then to Rabat, with its colonial architecture and palm-lined boulevards. Follow Casablanca's suburbanites taking the spectacular ocean road to Oualidia, the St Tropez lookalike with a perfect crescent lagoon.

Further south, the hippies once gravitated to Essaouira, and its white-walled ramparts, bohemian beat and renovated riads still make travellers linger. When you’ve eaten your fill at the outdoor fish grills, follow Jimi Hendrix and today’s surfers to the peaceful beaches at Diabat and Sidi Kaouki.

Past more surf spots, Agadir is a modern family-friendly seaside resort, but the beaches and boutique accommodation of Mirleft may be more appealing for other travellers, along with the Spanish art-deco treasures of Sidi Ifni.

Itineraries

Empire & Atlas

10 Days

This short route gives a fast-paced introduction into the best that Morocco has to offer – its ancient storied cities and medinas, and the mighty Atlas mountains that ripple in waves down the length of the country.

This itinerary begins in two cities once ruled by enlightened dynasties. Throw back a shot of Maghrebi exoticism in Fez, where modern Morocco and its rich past crowd for space in the extraordinary medina. Next, catch your breath in nearby Meknès, bypassed by many travellers despite its echoes of Sultan Moulay Ismail’s glory days.

A detour north takes you to Volubilis, Morocco’s best-preserved ancient city, and testament to the Roman Empire’s astonishing breadth. Nearby Moulay Idriss, with the mausoleum of the founder of Morocco’s first imperial dynasty, is another wonderful antidote to urban clamour.

Head south into the Middle Atlas, stopping at the Berber town Sefrou, with its charming medina. From here, take the cross-country route via Beni Mellal, skirting the edge of the High Atlas to the icon of contemporary Morocco: Marrakesh. The city’s souqs, street performers and imperial architecture form an intoxicating mix.

Plan Your Trip

Morocco Outdoors

Morocco’s diverse terrain means there are many outdoor activities on offer besides trekking. Birdwatching enthusiasts, cyclists, climbers and horse riders will all find options to challenge and excite. Another bonus: whether you’re skiing, surfing or camel trekking, between activities you can enjoy the Moroccan culture and hospitality.

Top Activity Spots

Mountains

Hoist yourself up here for rock climbing, from bouldering to mountaineering; downhill skiing and ski trekking; wildlife spotting, including apes, sheep and leopards, all of the Barbary variety; trekking; mountain biking; and white-water rafting.

Desert

Hotfoot it to the Sahara to take part in camel treks, moonlight dune hikes and sandboarding, and to watch wildlife – including desert warblers and the bat-eared fennec fox – and sleep in a Berber tent.

Coast

Hit the beach for surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking and canoeing; and for marine mammals and birdlife such as the endangered bald ibis.

Birdwatching

Morocco is a birdwatcher’s paradise. A startling array of species inhabits the country’s diverse ecosystems and environments, especially the coastal wetlands.

Around 460 species have been recorded in the country, many of them migrants passing through in spring and autumn, when Morocco becomes a way station between sub-Saharan Africa and breeding grounds in Scandinavia, Greenland and northern Russia. Other birds fly to Morocco to avoid the harsh northern European winters. The lagoon at Merja Zerga National Park, near Moulay Bousselham, is the best site in the country for migratory birds.

A pleasant time for birdwatching is March through May, when the weather is comfortable and a wide variety of species is usually present. The winter is also a particularly active time in the wetlands and lagoons.

Guides & Tours

In addition to local birdwatching guides, the following UK-based companies offer Moroccan tours:

Birdfinders (www.birdfinders.co.uk)

Naturetrek (www.naturetrek.co.uk)

Wild Insights (www.wildinsights.co.uk)

Camel Treks

Exploring the Sahara by camel – whether on an overnight excursion or a longer desert safari – is one of Morocco’s signature activities and most rewarding wilderness experiences.

Morocco’s most evocative stretches of Saharan sand are Erg Chebbi, near Merzouga, and Erg Chigaga, near M’Hamid and Zagora, and past the more accessible Tinfou Dunes.

Only consider doing your camel trek in autumn (September and October) or winter (November to early March). Outside these months, the desert experiences gruelling extremes of heat, plus sandstorms in the spring.

Prices start at around Dh300 per person per day, but vary depending on the number of people, the length of the trek and your negotiating skills.

The agency will organise the bivouac (temporary camp), which may be a permanent camp for shorter trips, and may offer Berber music and mechoui (whole roast).

Organising a Camel Trek

Travellers with lots of time can organise a guide and provisions in situ. This benefits the local community and counters the trend towards young guides leaving home to look for work in the more popular tourist centres.

M’Hamid is probably the most hassle-free of the main desert gateways, although the choice is wider at Zagora and Merzouga. Try to get recommendations from other travellers.

It’s quicker and easier, involving less negotiations and waiting, to organise a trip in advance – either through an international tour operator or a company based in Ouarzazate or Marrakesh.

Horse Riding

Southern Morocco is popular for horse riding, from beaches such as Diabat to hills, mountains, valleys, gorges and the desert.

Specialist travel companies offer guided horse-riding tours:

Club Farah (www.clubfarah.com) Based near Mèknes.

Unicorn Trails (www.unicorntrails.com)

Mountain Biking

Ordinary cycling is possible in Morocco, but mountain biking opens up the options considerably.

For the very fit, the vast networks of pistes (dirt tracks) and footpaths in the High Atlas offer the most rewarding biking. The Anti Atlas, the Jebel Saghro plateau and the Drâa Valley also offer excellent trails.

Travel agencies, hotels and shops hire out mountain bikes, for example in Tafraoute, but the quality isn’t really high enough for an extended trip. Adventure-tour companies cater to serious cyclists.

The following operators offer mountain-bike tours in Morocco:

Biking Morocco (www.mountain-bike-morocco.com)

Freeride Morocco (www.freeridemorocco.com)

Saddle Skedaddle (www.skedaddle.co.uk)

Rock Climbing

There is a growing climbing scene in Morocco, with some sublime routes. Anyone contemplating climbing should have plenty of experience and be prepared to bring all their own equipment.

The Anti Atlas and High Atlas offer everything from bouldering to very demanding mountaineering routes that shouldn’t be attempted unless you have a great deal of experience.

The Dadès and Todra Gorges are prime climbing territory.

Des Clark’s guidebook Mountaineering in the Moroccan High Atlas (2011), subtitled ‘walks, climbs and scrambles over 3000m’, is destined to become a classic. It covers some 50 routes and 30 peaks in handy pocket-sized, plastic-covered form, with plenty of maps, photos and practical information. Another excellent guide is Morocco Rock (www.moroccorock.com), which is particularly good on the Anti Atlas. The authors run an active Facebook community.

The Royal Moroccan Ski & Mountaineering Federation (www.frmsm.ma) has lists of climbing routes. A good local climbing tour operator is Climb Morocco (http://climbmorocco.com).

Skiing

Skiing is viable from November to April, although Morocco’s ski stations are somewhat ramshackle. For more information, including local ski clubs, contact the Royal Moroccan Ski & Mountaineering Federation (www.frmsm.ma).

Downhill Skiing

Popular resort Oukaïmeden, about 70km south of Marrakesh, has North Africa’s highest ski lift, and equipment for hire. There are other spots dotted around the Middle Atlas, most notably Mischliffen, near Fez, although some seasons the snow is thin on the ground. There's ad hoc equipment hire, but no ski-lift.

Ski Trekking

Ski randonnée is increasingly popular, especially from late December to February, when the Aït Bougomez Valley has prime routes.

Surfing, Windsurfing & Kitesurfing

With thousands of kilometres of coastline, the Moroccan Atlantic is a fine, if underrated, destination for surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. Lessons, equipment hire and surf holidays are available.

Northern & Central Morocco

North of Rabat, Mehdiya Plage has strong currents, but reliable year-round breaks. Moving south, Plage des Nations and Temara Plage, both within 20km of Rabat, are also good for surfing. Sidi Bouzid and the beaches around El-Jadida also attract surfers.

Oualidia is known for surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. En route to Safi, the Lalla Fatna area has some of Morocco’s best breaks: one of the world’s longest tubular right-handers has drawn some of the biggest names in surfing.

Southern Morocco

Essaouira has been singled out by some surfers, although the ‘Windy City of Africa’ is a better windsurfing and kitesurfing destination year-round. Nearby Sidi Kaouki is an upcoming destination for all three sports.

Near Agadir, the Taghazout area has some of Morocco’s best surfing beaches and numerous businesses catering to surfers.

Other destinations to consider in southern Morocco are Agadir, Aglou Plage, Mirleft and Sidi Ifni.

White-Water Rafting & Kayaking

Although white-water rafting and kayaking are underdeveloped in Morocco, the rivers in the High Atlas near Bin el-Ouidane have stunning scenery. Water By Nature (www.waterbynature.com) is a specialist rafting operator running tours in Morocco.

Plan Your Trip

Trekking in Morocco

Morocco is blessed with some of the world’s most beautiful mountains, and is a year-round trekking destination. In summer, head to Jebel Toubkal (North Africa’s highest peak). In winter, when snow closes the High Atlas, there’s Jebel Saghro to explore, while the Rif Mountains are ideal for the seasons in between.

Trekking Regions

High Atlas

Tackle North Africa’s highest peak, Jebel Toubkal, and meet the Berbers on the longer Toubkal Circuit.

Escape the crowds and be inspired by the remote M’Goun Massif’s spectacular valleys and beautiful villages.

Jebel Saghro

Head southeast to some of Morocco’s most rugged and stunning scenery, perfect for winter walking.

The Rif

Take a gentler path through little-visited cedar forests in the Talassemtane National Park, near Chefchaouen.

Anti Atlas

Visit a few of the Ameln Valley’s 26 villages, en route to an ascent of the ‘amethyst mountain’, Jebel L’Kest.

Enjoy serious trekking and stark beauty among the remote villages and tremendous gorges beneath volcanic Jebel Siroua.

Getting Started

Where to Trek

Toubkal Summit & Circuit

An ascent of Jebel Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak (4167m), is Morocco’s most iconic trek. The two-day hike starts at Imlil near Marrakesh; those wanting more can hire mules to make a Toubkal Circuit trek of up to 10 days.

M'Goun Traverse

Despite the sometime fearsome reputation of the M’Goun Massif, this four-day trek is suitable for most levels of fitness. The landscape is both varied and spectacular, from dry gorges to lush valleys, but be prepared to get your feet wet hopping or wading across shallow rivers.

Rif Mountains

Morocco’s lowest mountain range is ideal for springtime trekking, when the Rif’s oak forests are in their greenest leaf and the slopes carpeted with wildflowers. Trek through the Talassemtane National Park, past Berber villages to arrive at the audacious natural rock formation of God’s Bridge.

Jebel Sarhro

This trek of five to six days threads a path between the High Atlas and the Dadès Valley. The traverse of Jebel Saghro is arid but starkly beautiful, and is a prime winter trek when other mountain trails are closed due to snow.

Anti Atlas

The Anti Atlas is where Morocco's ripple of mountains finally peter out into the Sahara. In these much-overlooked mountains hardcore trekkers can take a week to tackle the volcanic peak of Jebel Siroua, or hike for five days through the villages of the Ameln Valley to Jebel L'Kest.

Maps

Morocco is covered by a 1:100,000 and also a 1:50,000 topographical map series.

Some of the 1:50,000 series are unavailable to the public; travellers exploring wide areas are advised to stick to the 1:100,000 series.

Although marked in Cyrillic script, 1:100,000 maps of Morocco made by the Soviet military are as topographically accurate as any available.

The best place in Morocco to buy maps is Direction de la Cartographie %0660 10 26 83; www.ancfcc.gov.ma; cnr Aves My Youssef & My Hassan I) in Rabat, which lists the maps it sells online.

Maps and photocopies are also available at other bookshops around Morocco, as well as at stalls around the Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakesh and, as a last resort, on the approaches to the Atlas trekking routes.

Websites, including Amazon (www.amazon.com), sell maps such as West Col Productions maps of the Toubkal and M’Goun Massifs.

INTERNATIONAL SPECIALIST TRAVEL MAP & BOOKSHOPS

Australia

Melbourne Map Centre http://www.melbmap.com.au Australia’s largest map shop stocks half-a-dozen Morocco maps.

France

Au Vieux Campeur (www.au-vieux-campeur.fr) French stockist of specialist travel maps.

UK

Stanford's ( tLeicester Sq, Covent Garden) Sells maps including Editorial Piolet’s 1:40,000 map of the Jebel Toubkal area; and West Col’s series of 1:160,000 maps of the Atlas, based on the Soviet military survey maps.

USA

Omnimap (www.omnimap.com) Sells an excellent range of maps, including the West Col and Soviet military survey maps, some available digitally.

Books

Trailblazer's Moroccan Atlas – the Trekking Guide, by Alan Palmer, is an indispensable guide for serious trekkers to the High Atlas, Jebel Sahro and M'goun Massif.

The Mountains Look on Marrakech is Hamish Brown’s atmospheric account of a 96-day trek across the mountains.

If you can find it in Morocco, the old booklet Morocco: Mountain and Desert Tourism (2005), published by Office National Marocain du Tourisme (ONMT), is still a good introduction to trekking in Morocco, though some contact details in its listings sections are now out of date. You should be able to pick it up in ONMT offices overseas and in Marrakesh and other major cities, or at Imlil’s bureau des guides.

TREKKING GUIDEBOOKS

A Great Atlas Traverse by Michael Peyron. The two-volume work by the Morocco-based British writer is the definitive text for the great traverse. Less useful for the casual trekker.

A The Atlas Mountains: A Walking and Trekking Guide by Karl Smith. Published by the walking specialist Cicerone, this has route descriptions and information on subjects such as ski-touring, although it gets mixed reviews.

A Mountaineering in the Moroccan High Atlas by Des Clark. Also published by Cicerone, this guide – subtitled ‘walks, climbs and scrambles over 3000m’ – is destined to become a classic. It covers some 50 routes and 30 peaks in handy pocket-sized, plastic-covered form, with plenty of maps, photos and practical information.

A Trekking in the Moroccan Atlas by Richard Knight. Has 43 maps and information ranging from green hiking tips to language advice, although it also has both fans and detractors. Likely to be the most useful book for inexperienced trekkers, but also the bulkiest.

Clothing & Equipment

All year round you will need to pack strong, well-broken-in walking boots. You will also need a waterproof and windproof outer layer. It’s amazing how quickly the weather can change, so you'll also need a sunhat, sunglasses and high-factor sunscreen.

In summer (June to August) light, baggy cotton trousers and long-sleeved shirts are musts, and because nights can still get cold even at lowish altitudes, you should also bring a fleece or jumper.

When trekking during winter (November to March) always pack warm clothing, including a woollen hat and gloves for High Atlas trekking. You should be prepared for very cold weather wherever you trek in the country.

Sleeping Bags

Whether you are camping or staying in houses, a four-season sleeping bag is essential for the High Atlas and Jebel Saghro from September to early April, when temperatures as low as –10°C are not unknown.

In lower ranges, even in high summer, a bag comfortable at 0°C is recommended. A thick sleeping mat or thin foam mattress is a good idea since the ground is extremely rocky. Guides can usually supply these.

Stoves

Many gîtes (hostels) have cooking facilities, but you may want to bring a stove if you are camping. Multifuel stoves that burn anything from aviation fuel to diesel are ideal.

Methylated spirits is hard to get hold of, but