Places to visit in Morocco
Morocco provides the perfect destination for a family adventure involving culture, the outdoors and time at the coast. The cities are fascinating and fun for both parents and children with their exquisite architecture and entertainingly chaotic souks (markets). The desert and mountains provide that ‘explorer’ experience whether it is riding camels through the sand dunes or following goat tracks between remote Berber villages. And the coast has endless beaches and huge Atlantic rollers where jumping the waves has never been so much fun.
Here are a few of the top spots we feel should form part of any family holiday to Morocco. However there are many more fabulous places so do please contact us to discuss further possibilities.
Marrakech! Even the name is wonderfully exotic. Now a regular destination for national and budget airlines alike, this intoxicating city attracts people wanting a quick city break, honeymooners heading to the delights of its many sumptuous riads (traditional houses-turned-hotels) and families looking to experience a glimpse of a different culture in a colourful setting.
The narrow winding lanes are straight out of scenes from the Arabian nights with street sellers lining the alleyways, their stalls overladen with colourful spices and intriguing crafts. There are beautifully converted mansions, crumbling mosques, boutique galleries and steaming hammams (saunas). All roads lead to the great square, Djemaa al Fna, and no place can be more entertaining at night, when it becomes the centre of activity with food stalls and street performers galore.
The children will be agog at the seeming chaos of it all – grab a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, get a henna tattoo from one of the many Berber women, watch cobras writhe to the music of the snake charmers and then sit on a roof terrace and enjoy a delicious meal of calamari, kebabs, Moroccan salad and freshly cooked flatbread.
If you get too exhausted walking the streets in the heat then hop on a caleche (horse and buggy) for a ride around the old city. Visit the beautiful Jardin Majorelle, wander around the El Badi Palace then watch your children hone their haggling skills in the markets. Marrakech is a city that is full of fun and fascination and a true highlight of any family holiday in Morocco.
The Agafay Desert lies just outside Marrakech but seems a world away. The barren desert landscape stretches away into the distance, backed by the High Atlas Mountains that remain snow capped for much of the year. Although the desert here doesn’t have the vast sand dunes of the Sahara, its proximity to Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains mean that it can fit neatly into an itinerary without long driving times. Spend the night in a desert camp and take a sunset ride on a camel before sitting around the camp fire under a blanket of stars.
Fes (or Fez) is the country’s cultural and spiritual centre and perhaps the best preserved medieval city of the Arab world. One of Morocco’s great Imperial cities, it is an utterly charming place and the children will be wide-eyed taking it all in. Even those usually averse to sightseeing will love exploring the labyrinthine streets of the old city, which have changed little since they were built in the 8th century. The centre is blissfully car-free as the streets are too narrow so you can wander safely around with the little ones. The only thing to watch out for are the heavily-laden donkeys that are used to transport everything and which will occasionally bump you out the way!
This is not a city that requires a map. Rather, head deep into the medina following small alleyways as they wind past hawkers, mosques, traditional houses and souks. The evocative and heady aroma of spices competes with the incredible whiff of the tanneries and a visit to one will no doubt produce some pertinent comments from younger voices. This is truly a magical place within whose high walls all manner of enchanting and exotic sights are on display – enjoy!
Meknes and Volubilis
One of the four great Imperial cities of Morocco, Meknes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its historic centre is a wonderful place to explore with huge city walls, imposing gates, impressive imperial buildings and an enticing souk. Less than an hour away lies the impressive hilltop Roman city of Volubilis. The ruins are quite extensive and a great place to let the children have a run around, weaving between the stone columns and clambering over the ancient stones.
Todra and Dades Gorges
The Todra and Dades gorges are magnificent canyons dramatically carved through the mountains. The best way to explore these gorges is to follow the small paths through the palm groves and terraced fields, marvelling at the sheer rocky walls rising above you. The local Berber people, who herd their goats and camels in the area, are extremely friendly and you will be welcomed at the traditional villages dotted throughout – what a spectacular background for some mint tea…
The Sahara Desert
Any avid explorer will be eager to head into the magical Sahara Desert and what better way than atop a camel. From the small town of Merzouga you can ride into this vast sand sea with its giant dunes rising above you. All ages will love clambering up the slopes to enjoy breath-taking views over the Sahara – and tiny ones will simply see it as the world’s largest sand pit. From your enchanting desert camp you can watch as the setting sun turns the sand dunes ochre, apricot and amber as darkness falls and the glittering night sky emerges.
From your spot around the campfire the toughest decision is whether to sleep under canvas or a blanket of stars. In the morning, even the tardiest of teens will want to rise early to watch the sun lift above the horizon for a truly memorable family moment.
The Atlas Mountains
The High Atlas Mountains stretch across the south of the country, offering a magnificent but incredibly varied landscape of high barren desert, rocky outcrops and dramatic peaks towering above green, fertile valleys. Terraced hillsides of lush date and palm plantations surround traditional villages where friendly Berber people will greet you with open arms. Enjoy meals of flatbread, soup and hot sweet mint tea in local village houses whilst drinking in the views of the stunning mountain scenery.
A word of caution for those who suffer from travel sickness – the winding mountain roads are not for the faint-hearted and although an easy way to experience the dramatic landscape, precautions should be taken. Or else explore the mountains on foot.
High Atlas Hiking
Morocco offers some truly spectacular hiking that can be tailored to almost any ability. Small tracks wend their way through Berber villages that offer a glimpse of a traditional way of life – mule trains carrying goods into remote valleys and herds of goats that eke out an existence on the rocky slopes. Children will be greeted enthusiastically by the locals and instant football matches form daily entertainment.
Hiking in the Atlas is more of a meander than a trek so please do not be put off if your offspring is a reluctant walker. Children can either go by foot or ride on the back of a mule – a useful back-up when little legs tire and you can choose from gentle day walks to multi-day treks which climb high passes. Active families might also want to consider an ascent of Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s highest mountain at 4,167m.
There are a number of different accommodation options in the mountains, from simple village homestays to lovely boutique mountain resorts. Hiking in the High Atlas really does allow you to experience local life from a bygone age and spending time with the Berber people is a wonderfully rewarding part of any family holiday to Morocco.
Situated on a vast bay on the Atlantic coast, Essaouira is a beautiful seaside town of whitewashed buildings encircled by thick stone battlements. Children will love the fact that it used to be a pirate’s hideout and it still retains that spirit today. But it is also now home to a thriving community of artists, the white buildings and characteristic blue doors opening into numerous small galleries and attractive cafes. The lively harbour is always a hive of activity with fishing boats bringing in the day’s catch, some of which are sent straight to the sizzling grills of the many stalls offering delicious barbequed fish. Honestly, sardines have never looked so good!
The beach goes on for miles, and although not really a sun-bathing kind of beach, it is a superb place to watch the world go by. Camel trains trundle past, an impromptu football match may crop up or the kids can simply burn off some energy racing around on the sand. Essaouira provides the perfect contrast to mountain life and city culture and, being only a few hours from Marrakech, can usually be included in even week-long itineraries.
Casablanca has a wonderfully evocative name that conjures up the classic elegance of the 40s. The reality, on the other hand, is slightly different! It is now a modern city, the economic and commercial heart of Morocco that has little in common with towns elsewhere in the country. However this is also one of the main entry points into Morocco, and if you do need to pass through you should visit the graceful Hassan II mosque, the third largest in the world and very beautifully decorated.
Agadir is Morocco’s premier seaside destination, a 10km long beach that stretches along the Atlantic Coast. It is very different to the rest of Morocco and does not offer a very ‘Moroccan experience’. Those searching for interesting souks, traditional restaurants or atmospheric medinas will be disappointed. However it does offer a good range of resorts, with a wide selection of water sports.
Call us and we will be happy to provide you with a free-of-charge no obligation itinerary and quotation designed for you.
Morocco in pictures
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