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Top 10 Destinations in Morocco

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey
From dunes and beaches to mountains and narrow, walled medinas, Morocco is a country of many splendours. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 enchanting destinations in Morocco. For this list, we're looking at the most unique and rewarding places to visit in this North African country.

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Top 10 Enchanting Destinations in Morocco

From dunes and beaches to mountains and narrow, walled medinas, Morocco is a country of many splendours. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 enchanting destinations in Morocco.

For this list, we're looking at the most unique and rewarding places to visit in this North African country.

#10: Tangier

The storied haunt of beat writers, spies, and diplomats, Europe’s “gateway to Africa” remains a cultural crossroads with a heady air of romance and adventure. Once famed as a freewheeling, hedonistic “international zone”, Tangier has bounced back from decades of neglect with a new port, restored medina, and blossoming cultural scene. The cafe-lined beachfront, labyrinthine old quarter, and historic kasbah, are the perfect introductions to Morocco. Be sure to check out the Kasbah Museum, housed in the palace of the former Sultan, and to relax in the Grand Socco for some good old people-watching.

#9: Asilah

Before it was a peaceful seaside resort, Asilah was the notorious hideout of Barbary pirates. Its strategic position on the Atlantic below the Strait of Gibraltar also drew the hungry eyes of the Spanish and Portuguese. Today, the town’s formidable fortifications remain, but thanks to long, golden beaches and picturesque whitewashed houses, Asilah has become a popular destination for sun-seekers instead. Wander the compact but charming medina, and time your visit for the renowned Cultural Moussem arts festival in summer, when artists cover the walls with vibrant murals.

#8: Toubkal

North Africa’s highest peak, Jebel Toubkal towers over its brethren in the High Atlas mountains. With its scenic, stream-crossed gorges, remote villages, and cultivated groves of walnut, apple, and cherry trees, the area is a hiker’s paradise. In summer, travellers flock to the small road-end town of Imlil to acclimatize and strike out on the two-day trek up the mountain. The last leg up is a tough scramble on loose scree slopes, but the hike is well worth it for the spectacular views.

#7: Meknes

It’s a mini-Marrakesh without the crowds. Formerly the Moroccan capital under Sultan Moulay Ismaïl in the 17th and 18th centuries, Meknes remains an extraordinary city of imperial grandeur, built in a distinctive Spanish-Moorish style, with imposing defensive walls and magnificent, intricately patterned gates. Amble about the lively, spice-scented old city, or take in the glories of the city’s heyday at the Dar Jamai Museum. Meknes is also just a short drive from the captivating Roman ruins of Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 3rd century BC.

#6: Ouarzazate

Nicknamed “the door of the desert”, Ouarzazate was once a crossroads for desert traders. Nowadays, the sandy, palm-fringed city is the gateway to the Draa River Valley and the Sahara for international travelers. It’s also a stepping stone to nearby village Aït-Benhaddou, whose mudbrick architecture and dramatic natural setting have made it a popular location for Hollywood movies. Visitors can explore more of Ouarzazate’s cinematic history at Atlas Studios. Excursions from town include sandboarding trips, camel rides, and expeditions through the breathtaking Todra and Dades Gorges.

#5: Essaouira

This seaside getaway is rightly famed for its breezy beaches, iconic whitewashed medina, and tree-climbing goats, who scramble up slender branches to nibble on argan berries. Known as “the wind city of Africa”, Essaouira is an ideal place for wind- and kitesurfing, and is just a few hours southwest from Marrakesh, making it a convenient side trip for sea- and sun-lovers. The ancient art of thuya wood-carving is still practiced in the maze-like medina, and traditional gnaoua music brings the city to life every June during the Gnaoua Festival of World Music.

#4: Chefchaouen

Some come for the gorgeous blue medina, others for the pure mountain air. Aaaaaand the marijuana plantations might have something to do with it, too. High up in the Rif mountains between Tangier and Fes, Chefchaouen makes an ideal break from the hustle and bustle of Morocco’s larger cities. Its sky blue buildings are said to symbolize spiritual life, and the town has a laid-back, stress-free atmosphere to match. It’s also popular for its cannabis culture - which certainly remains illegal, but is partially, unpredictably tolerated. Hike the rugged mountains, unwind in the medina, and soak in the serenity.

#3: Merzouga

Like driftwood on the shore, Merzouga lies on the edge of a vast desert sea, where dunes can tower up to heights of 500 feet. The village is the stepping-off point for camel safaris into Erg Chebbi, a sand sea where visitors can take in the surreal beauty of the sun-blasted Sahara, and bed down in a Berber camp beneath the dazzling desert stars. If that’s not enough to get your heart racing, it’s also possible to sand-ski or -board down the massive dunes. Radical, dude.

#2: Fez

The “Mecca of the West” . . . the “Athens of Africa”: Fez is the spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco. Founded in the 8th century, it includes the world’s oldest continuously functioning university, the University of Al Quaraouiyine. Without doubt, the highlight of the former imperial capital is the aromatic medina, a chaotic warren of markets and workshops, lanes and squares, with a surprise around every corner. Getting lost in the pandemonium is all part of the experience, so enter through the ancient gates, watch out for donkeys and handcarts, and dive right in.

#1: Marrakesh

Fez or Marrakesh? It’s a question that divides both travelers and locals. If Fez is the outline, raw and authentic, Marrakesh is the color, a bright, exuberant sprawl of souks, madrasas, and sumptuous riads and gardens. The city’s renowned main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa, bustles with snake charmers, storytellers, and dancers. Admire the lofty minaret of Koutoubia Mosque, peruse the collection of jewellery and pottery in Dar Si Saïd Museum, and marvel at magnificent Bahia Palace. Or just wander down the winding laneways, and enjoy a mint tea with a view over the city.

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