Africa’s most accessible country offers it all, from ancient cities and fantastic scenery to art and cuisine, epic road journeys and a thriving community of travelers young and old.
It’s not always easy to defend every facet of Morocco, but over half a dozen visits to this ever-changing country, I’ve yet to grow tired or disappointed. It’s always a thrill to dive into the love-it-or-hate-it buzz and cacophony of the touristic cities like Fes or Marrakech, and I particularly delight in the epic mountains and countryside, which hold their own against even larger and less developed countries in Africa. More than anything it’s been encounters with Moroccans — welcoming, wise and hospitable — that’s kept me coming back for more.
Whether you’re an artist looking for inspiration from Morocco’s great musicians and writers, a photographer looking for dazzling mosaics to spice up your blog, or an adrenaline junkie looking for new peaks to scale, Morocco, in a word, delivers. Expand your mind at the Festival Gnaoua music extravaganza or pass the time on a long bus ride with a novel by Tahar ben Jelloun. Go skiing in Oukaïmden on Monday and sand-boarding in the Sahara on Tuesday. Go trekking through Berber villages with a private guide or climb giant cedar trees around Azrou. The options will only leave you wishing you had more time.
Morocco’s human geography and rainbow of cultures mean it’s impossible to get a real picture of the country in one short visit, and that anyone who thinks he’s seen it all is wrong. Give it a go instead of letting yourself be shuttled complacently from city to city. It’s easier than you think to escape the tourist track (and often necessary to maintain your sanity), since public transport is good even in rural areas and the smaller cities are far quieter and more welcoming than anything you could have imagined after landing in Marrakech. Consider visiting some of the lesser-known launching points for discovery: Tiznit in the south, Taza at the foot of the forests, Azrou waiting patiently for the winter snows to melt.
Historic and Hip
If Orientalist style walled cities and winding markets are what you’re after, stick to the north. Here the cities of Meknes, Fes, and Chefchaouen are the must-sees. From there you can go hiking in the Rif or check out the Roman ruins at Volubilis. If you’re searching for sea breezes and the opportunity for some brilliant landscape photography, head south to Essaouira, Agadir, even remote and rocky Tafraoute. During the time you take off from kite surfing in the Atlantic and hiking in Paradise Valley, you’ll catch a glimpse of Morocco’s less assuming, more modern side and catch up with the thriving backpacker scene.
I’ll admit that touts, harassment and occasional dishonesty — although almost exclusive to the cities — are an unavoidable part of travel to Morocco as a Westerner. But keep on truckin’ to the point where you feel comfortable with the people — insha’allah you’ll see your perseverance pay off as you sit down to a home-cooked tagine at a family’s dinner table.