From the bustling markets of the Medina to the rolling sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, Morocco is a unique oasis of stunning landscapes and lively atmospheres.
It’s a wonderland that tingles each of your senses, whether you’re inhaling the aroma of grilled lamb or feasting your eyes on the colorful rugs that hang out the windows.
But in reality, Morocco is a giant country. I mean, it’s absolutely HUGE.
And there’s more to it than Marrakech. So if you’re looking to book a trip down to Northern Africa, look no further. Here is everything you need to know about Morocco.
Best Cities to Visit in Morocco
This 1,000-year-old metropolis is the chaotic center and beating heart of Morocco. Compared to most other cities in the country, Marrakech is the most international, attracting tourists from all over the world.
Marrakech is primarily known for it’s old city, or medina, which is a winding labyrinth of homes, shops, and restaurants. It’s easy to get lost here, which is good to know because well, you definitely will get lost. But it’s a great way to discover the hidden gems and alleys that make Marrakech’s Medina so incredibly unique.
And if you need a break from the hectic life of the old city, simply walk outside the city walls to the new city of Marrakech. Lined with fancy resorts, lush gardens, and international restaurants and shops, the new city is a welcomed breath of fresh air.
Accommodation: Family run inns, or riads, are commonly found throughout Marrakech. Starting at just $20 USD a night, you can rent yourself a private room in a riad and wake up to home-cooked (and often complimentary) breakfast. If you’re looking to stick to a smaller budget, then consider renting a dorm room in a hostel, many of which start at $10 USD a night.
Food: Morocco is known for some of the best food markets in the country, and Marrakech is no exception. You can eat cheaply by sampling different culinary snacks such as kebabs, tangine, and b’stilla, a sweet and savory pasty stuffed with ground chicken and dusted with powdered sugar. But Marrakech is also home to top notch restaurants, with gourmet dishes starting around $10 USD.
Although not as busy as it’s older brother Marrakech, Fez continues to wow visitors with it’s equally chaotic and bustling medina. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is littered with shops and markets that will ignite your senses around every corner.
Everywhere you turn, you’ll find stunning tiled fountains, thousand year old churches, and arched city gates. In some ways, Fez feels more authentic than other cities in Morocco, as if everything here has simply frozen in time.
But you’ll still find the occasional tourist who comes to purchase their weight in leather. Hidden high on the rooftops of Fez buildings are leather tanneries. Here, you’ll find tiny pools of stinky, vibrant dyes used to color hides of leathers before they’re turned into purses, wallets, and pretty much everything else under the sun.
Accommodation: Fez is a great place to visit if you’re on a budget. You don’t have to search hard to find a hostel dorm room for under $10 USD a night. And even private rooms aren’t that much more expensive, usually starting at $30 USD a night.
Food: Similar to Marrakech, Fez has a variety of cheap eats, restaurants, and food stalls to keep your hunger satiated throughout your visit. Although you’ll find a few places, international restaurants are not as common here. So come prepared with an open mind and an empty stomach!
Is it just me, or did you not realize that Casablanca was in Morocco? Okay maybe it was just me…
Either way, this bustling, metropolitan city is completely different than other places in Morocco. Here, you’ll find international restaurants, big hotel chains, and an overall urban atmosphere. Sure, it’s city center is not as pretty as other parts of the country, but what it lacks in beauty Casablanca makes up for in the architecture.
As you walk around the city, you’ll notice the art deco buildings seem dusty and somewhat dated. But this adds to the classic, mid-century charm of the city. You’ll find 60s style lounges, glittering mosques, and old cinemas unlike anything else in Morocco.
My favorite part of Casablanca are the plethora of bars! After coming from Fez and Marrakech where alochol was strictly regulated, it was a breath of fresh air to find drinks and even happy hour specials at most places!
So if you’re looking to escape the ancient medinas and donkey-led carts, Casablanca is for you.
Accommodation: Although it may be pricer compared to other cities, Casablanca can still be affordable for a few nights. Hostel dorm rooms start around $15 USD, while private rooms in large hotels are around $50 USD a night.
Food: As an international city, Casablanca has a variety of restaurants and cafes to choose from. It’s also a huge port town, so seafood here is king. Again, most dishes are pricer than most places, but it’s still relatively affordable compared to the US or Europe.
You may have seen this vibrant blue city plastered all over Instagram, and for a good reason! Chefchaoun is one of the most visually stunning cities I’ve ever seen in my life! I’m not exaggerating when I say that everything is a bright shade of blue – the walls, the stairs, and even the ground!
Besides a few shops and markets, visitors mainly flock to this Northern Moroccan city to see the unique buildings. It’s quieter and more remote than other cities, but that’s relaxing and welcoming after a chaotic stay in the south.
As long as you come with your camera and a good pair of walking shoes, you’ll have a wonderful time in Chefchaoun!
Accommodation: Your best bet for finding accommodation in Chefchauon is at a family run hotel or riad. There are only a handful of western style hotels, and I wouldn’t recommend staying there because you’ll miss out the charming culture of the riads! They start around $20 USD a night and can increase to $200 USD depending on the star rating.
Food: Options for restaurants are slightly limited in Chefchaoun (except I did manage to spot a pizza and Chinese restaurant). And to top it off, they close quite early, so be prepared to eat at the time of your grandparents here.
Top 5 Things to Do and See in Morocco
1. Head into the Sahara Desert
Although Morocco is filled with unique cities to visit, being in close proximity to the Sahara Desert without stopping by to visit would be a shame. Rent a 4×4 or take a tour and make your way into the center of the country.
And yes – the Sahara is exactly how you imagine it. Cascading sand dunes, spit-shooting camels, and miles and miles of nothingness await you.
Except to spend at least 2-3 days here. Don’t make the mistake of doing a day trip to Merzouga from Marrakech. Sure, Merzouga is close by and technically in the Sahara, but the sand quality and landscapes are sure to leave you disappointed.
2. Visit the Jamaa el Fna in Marrakech
If you’re in Marrakech, chances are you couldn’t miss the famous Jamma el Fna Square if you tried. But this sprawling plaza of street vendors, snake charmers, and food markets make it one of the best things to do in Morocco.
Definitely visit at night if you can. When the sun goes down, Jamma el Fna fills with locals, tourists, and even more chaotic-ness than you can imagine. Street food stalls turn into street food restaurants, with diners chewing away on grilled meats and fresh produce on small plastic stools.
Just keep your purses and wallets close by. With so many people, you won’t be able to tell if that shoulder graze was actually a stealthy pickpocket.
3. Escape to the Essaouira Beachside
A short two-hour drive from Marrakech drops you off on the coast of Western Africa, at the charming town of Essaouira. Perfect for a day trip or weekend getaway, Essaouria is a relaxing, almost-fairytale-like town where you can escape the hustle of the big city.
Enjoy world-class dining and boutique shopping where you can pick up a variety of handmade ceramics, leather ware, and other souvenirs to take back home. And when it’s time for lunch, stop by one of the port market stalls, where you can indulge on freshly caught seafood.
4. Admire the grand Hassan II Mosque
This ocean-side mosque is the largest in all of Africa, and it’s turquoise colored minaret and glittering facade is sure to leave you breathless. Located in Casablanca, the Hassan II Mosque is a jaw-dropping work of art, starkly contrasted to the art deco style buildings surrounding it.
Take the guided tour or simply admire the amazing structure from the outside. Either way, you can’t beat the stunning beachside view as the lapping waves crash against the pier behind the mosque.
5. Shop at the Market (Souks)
Selling every sort of spice, teapot, lamp, and jewelry piece under the sun, Morocco’s markets are an energetic and eclectic mess that will leave a lasting impression in your memory. Every city should have their version of a souk, whether it’s thousands of stalls or just covering a few blocks.
As you walk through the stalls, soak in the raw smells, vibrant colors, and loud noises that souks are oh-so-famous for. They are worth visiting even if you don’t intend to buy anything.
Oh, and be prepare to bargain for your life.
Safety in Morocco
Despite what you may think, traveling to Morocco is actually quite safe. Although they can always happen anywhere in the world, serious crimes against tourists are rare.
Petty theft is probably the biggest threat to tourists visiting Morocco. It’s always best to keep your wallet, purse, and personal belongings hidden or close by you at all times. It’s not uncommon for bags to be snatched in crowded market, or by groups of children running by you in an alley.
As a female traveler, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Since Morocco is a muslim country, it’s expected for women to dress modestly and appropriately at all times. This might be hard, especially in the middle of Summer, but you’ll feel more comfortable respecting local cultures by not wearing short skirts or sleeveless tops.
When I traveled to Morrocco, the heat and humidity was almost unbearable, and I decided to wear short dress out of my hotel. Although I covered up with a jacket, I could still feel the eyes on my as I walked around. Of course, no one made any lewd comments, but it still made me feel uncomfortable enough to run back to the hotel to change.
As long as you use our best judgement and keep aware of all times, you should have no problem staying safe in Morocco.
Tips for Traveling in Morocco
I had an amazing time traveling through the country in the two weeks I was there. However, I did pick up a few tips that will make your trip more relaxed and enjoyable!
English isn’t commonly spoken! Besides Arabic, the second biggest language is French. And if you’re a foreigner, most locals will speak French to you. Brush up on your high-school vocabulary to make things a little easier!
Be wary of scams. Yes, not everyone is out to get your money, but just be careful of deals that are too good to be true. If something feels sketchy, ask for more information or don’t be afraid to say no.
Mosques are off-limits for non-Muslims. Don’t expect to just waltz into any mosque right off the street. Unlike other Muslim countries, most mosques do not allow visitors unless you are Muslim.
Don’t expect alcohol everywhere you go. As much as it pains me to type this out, you shouldn’t expect restaurants to serve booze or bars to be available on every corner. In Chefchauen, there was only one restaurant that served alcohol, and it was in a shitty hotel dining room. Respect the local customs and eat your calories instead!
Leave your Dirhams in Morocco. The country is closed currency, which means it’s illegal to bring Moroccan Dirhams back to your home country. Also, don’t expect to exchange money before arriving in Morocco – you won’t be able to!