12 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Morocco
Located to the south of Algeria and Algeria lies the beautiful country of Morocco, which covers an area of over 1,000,000 square miles and has an estimated population of over 35 million.
It is also the least known of all the Arab countries, with a rich culture and history of its own. The Berber tribes, who once controlled the land, are now largely gone from Morocco, with many regions still strongly influenced by the Berber traditions.
Morocco is home to some of the world's most spectacular sights, whether it be the beautiful Atlantic coastline and the unspoilt medieval mountain city of Marrakesh, the breathtaking city of Chefchaouen, the impenetrable Rif Mountains and the Sahara Desert, or the lonely Atlas Mountains.
Our list of the top attractions in Morocco gives you a taster of the most notable sights in the country.
Advertised as the city of "wind, sand and sun," Essaouira has been described as the "Granada of the Atlantic." Its location on the Atlantic Coast of Africa, with a backdrop of lush, green mountains and salt marshes that provide the perfect natural setting for the city to flourish, makes this location a bit of a novelty in a country where most cities are built on the coast. It all started in the 16th century when the Portuguese discovered this area as an important trading port. Its merchants then expanded their businesses by establishing luxurious sea-side resorts for their European clients, which resulted in Essaouira's economic growth. Essaouira is Morocco's most cosmopolitan city with one of the largest gay populations in the world, thanks to the Spanish beach resorts. Travel in Essaouira is mostly based on the superb sights it has to offer, including a string of beaches along the Atlantic coastline, and attractions such as the Malwa Club, an exclusive resort with a casino. A trip to this resort and the lagoon that surrounds it is more like a European seaside holiday. It's easy to find Essaouira on the map as it's on the most northwestern tip of Morocco. There are direct flights from Marrakesh, Casablanca and Algiers, and direct and connecting flights from other major European and North American cities.
Escape the mass tourism of Marrakesh and visit a very different city, the capital of the Northwest region of Morocco. Its narrow streets and old mosques were the backdrop to many a Hollywood thriller and the streets are still the local meeting place. Built around two hills, the city is divided by a main thoroughfare, Djemâa el Fna (the Grand Place) that winds around a pair of old city gates (at places, is split in two and enclosed by two massive gates) located near the Ibn Battuta Hotel. At its center are the Sidi Kacem and Sidi Yahya mosques. You can find a range of things to do in Fez, including visits to local craft boutiques, restaurants and cafés, as well as a visit to the lovely Pghefkhan, a large natural cistern or water basin carved out of the natural rock face and decorated with stunning geometric patterns, typical of the artisanal artisans.
Morocco has long been a popular holiday destination for Europeans. Casablanca is now the most cosmopolitan of Morocco's coastal cities, and the official port of entry into the country. The old city is laid out along the banks of the mouth of the Hassan II canal, and is the city's largest area of public green space. The western edge of the city borders the sea, and the picturesque setting of the Corniche promenade is popular with tourists and residents alike, with fishing boats, restaurants and cafes offering a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Casablanca has a fascinating history, starting with its foundation by the Phoenicians and Romans, and the Arabs, who took control in 711, and had grown into an important regional trade center during the Middle Ages. Following Moroccan independence, Casablanca became the home of Morocco's first republic, the country's first parliament, and a part of the national resistance during WWII. Today, Casablanca is Morocco's economic, political, and cultural center. Apart from tourism, there is also significant industrial activity, including oil and gas extraction, shipping, and a number of important banks. Morocco's capital, Rabat, lies nearly 200 km to the west, and has retained more traditional aspects of Moroccan life.
Read more 👉 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Casablanca
Marrakesh, or Marrakech as it is sometimes spelled, is a city in the center of the kingdom of Morocco with an incredibly rich history. Marrakesh was founded in the 7th century as a small fishing village, but was later settled by the military and religious rulers of Morocco. It was at Marrakesh that the first kingdom was established by a man named Idris I, and the kingdom thrived for several centuries. By the 11th century the Fatimids (Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah) had taken control of Marrakesh. The huge Golden Age of Marrakesh came during this period, which was marked by the creation of some of the world's most beautiful buildings in the country. Although Marrakesh retains many of its Islamic architectural treasures, it is now one of the most visited cities in Morocco and boasts some of the world's finest gardens, such as the famous labyrinth at the Koutoubia and the Jardin Majorelle. It is still possible to experience some of the ancient splendor of Marrakesh today. The Jemaa el-Fnaa, a square that is popular for its snake charmers, will definitely remind you of the city's ancient heritage. The city of Marrakesh is accessible by car, train, and bus. A train link exists between Marrakesh and Casablanca. It is also accessible by air, and connections are available to several cities in the country, as well as European destinations, such as Spain and France.
Read more 👉 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Marrakesh
Rabat is the new capital of Morocco and it is built on the site of the old city, which was sacked and burned by the Almoravids in 1236. The whole of the old city, together with its ramparts and minarets, is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city of Rabat contains many areas of interest, including Hassan II Mosque, the Royal Palace, and the city's southern area, called the Medina. Most visitors only visit the Medina on a bus tour, which includes a trip to the central bazaar area. The building next to the bazaar, the Batna, has recently been restored, so now many souvenir shops have popped up on this restored street.
There are about 50 smaller rock-hewn sites in Morocco's Rif Mountains and Ait Benhaddou is the largest and one of the most spectacular. Originally built as a shrine for the nomadic Arabic tribe of the Benhaddou, it developed into a city with streets, markets, public buildings, and more. For those visitors who wish to see the museum in the site, it is often possible to book a guided tour in advance, but for those not interested in such a visit, the site can be toured on a bus from Marrakesh. Guides will show you the rock-carved niches and passages that house ancient rock paintings. Guides will also take you to the Almohad garden, a peaceful square with rows of olive trees which, along with the remains of Moorish houses, form the largest square in Africa. The garden was built by the Almohad dynasty, and it is surrounded by the remains of their famous palaces and of the Roman walls from Volubilis.
Chefchaouen, in the center of Morocco, is a small town with a unique cultural and historic heritage, particularly because of its gray-colored, sometimes stucco, buildings. Tourists will find it more picturesque than Tangier, the Moroccan "tourist-destination" capital, but will feel far more genuine than the latter. There are several good hotels, and restaurants in the old town of Chefchaouen, as well as many small shops. Two nearby towns worth visiting are the town of Fes, which has a spectacular central square that is one of the Arab world's finest (despite its tourist image as a traditional center of the region), and nearby Agdal, which has a number of historic ruins that are fairly easy to visit. Chefchaouen also has a number of old medersas (schools), which teach Islam and Arabic, although the best-preserved is the Dzalala medersa, which dates back to 1422. Despite its name, this is a Koran school, not a religious seminary. There is also the school for Buddhist monks, which is not very large, although of note is a carved stone bell tower that looks like the real thing. If you are looking for something more active, you can take a guided tour to the Berber villages around the hills to the east and south. To visit Chefchaouen from outside the country, the port of Tangier is the most convenient place to arrive. The main road from Morocco to Spain is not yet open, although the road to Marrakech and Fes is.
Situated on the Atlantic Ocean in southwestern Morocco, Agadir is a major beach resort and seaside resort on the Atlantic coast with many hotels, shops and nightclubs. It has an attractive beach lined with beach cafes. With shops selling foreign goods and, in particular, European clothing, it is frequented by European tourists and there are many Moroccan and Asian tourists. The entire area is steeped in history, with the Piskeroun, an area of the old fortified city, still in existence today and an important heritage site which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Other notable heritage sites include the pre-Islamic ruins of Zagora and the Moroccan Parliament in Meknes. While in Agadir, see nearby Tagenfall, the pre-Islamic ruins of the ancient kingdom, which you can reach via an easy 4 kilometer hike.
Located in the heart of Morocco, Meknes is a world away from the ultra-modern centers of Marrakech or Casablanca. With its impressive, red-tile roofs, red-and-white walls and wonderful street life, Meknes feels like an oasis of peace in a crowded region. Its past is steeped in history, and several times a week an interesting (and frequently entertaining) local market is held in the town center. Interesting sights to see include the 15th century, red-domed palace of Ahmed el-Makhzan, in the old medina. He was king of a district known as Medina el-Amir (the Golden City), after a name for the city on the east bank of the Moulay Rachid, which he began to rebuild. It was during the reign of Ahmed that Meknes was chosen as Morocco's capital city.
Nador is a picturesque coastal city with many pleasant boulevards lined with gardens and popular cafés and restaurants. In fact, Nador has long been renowned for its nightlife, which centers on the R'ded Essalam, a beautiful four-sided market hall with an enormous covered area which hosts numerous restaurants and cafes and is one of the best places in town to see a Moroccan meal. The city is known for its historic mosques and other traditional buildings as well as its flourishing ceramic and soap industries, which form the base for a more prosperous economy. The city is home to a number of interesting museums, including the Musée Municipal d'Art et d'Histoire (Ethnographic Museum), which offers a taste of Nador's history and culture as well as showcasing a large collection of beautiful handcrafted pottery, as well as the Museum of Fine Arts. Transport into and out of Nador is easy. The airport is just 20 kilometers away and has daily flights to Casablanca. Nador is also well connected to other cities, including Agadir, Marrakech, Rabat, Tangier, and Tanger Med, and to Spain via Tangier.
High Atlas Mountains
A blend of arid landscape and rugged mountain peaks gives the Moroccan mountain range a special appearance. The peaks, higher than 4,000 meters, and including the snowcapped Guettar, lie within Morocco's remote northwest. The High Atlas Mountains cover an area of over 2,300 square miles and are home to a variety of wildlife, including such rare species as black eagles, marabou storks, ibexes, and leopards. Travelers enter the mountains through the Dades Valley, a part of the ancient trade route running from Spain to the Maghreb. Here, Berber villages and forts line the narrow road. The main settlement is at the edge of the deep ravine of the Douz River, a tributary of the Drâa River. The best-known village of the area is Ouirgane, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the summit of the mountains lies the medina (small town) of Imouzzerin, where visitors will find a market and many Berber villages. The region is renowned for its Berber handicrafts and traditional folk music.
Tired of using the word 'beautiful' and wanting to find a more specific word? Tangier, Morocco is the perfect place to make this happen. Stroll the white washed streets and take in the sleepy town atmosphere and you'll find a city of stunning contrasts. Tangier is a'moors and marshlands' amalgamation of old and new, of clean and dirty. It seems to move in different directions at once, a city where the past and the present seem more unified than apart. Tangier today is a fabulous holiday destination that invites exploration and creativity. Travel here by ferry from Marseille, a trip that lasts nearly 24 hours. Travel here by rail, taking in the wild landscape of the north Moroccan coast en route. Travel here by coach, where you'll see Morocco and the Atlas mountains from a different perspective.