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Things to Do in Morocco

Perched on the tip of northern Africa, Morocco weaves together European, African, and Middle Eastern traditions and cultures into one seamless fabric. Whether travelers find themselves drawn to the bustling streets and souks in the capital of Marrakech, a Moroccan cooking class, camel treks into windswept desert, or a hot-air balloon flight over the craggy peaks of the Atlas Mountains, Morocco does not disappoint. Popular day trip destinations outside of the capital include the port cities of Casablanca, Essaouira, and Tangier, as well as Fes, a city famed for its walled medina, medieval architecture, and old-world atmosphere.
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Atlas Film Studios
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On the edge of the Sahara Desert in Ouarzazate, Atlas Film Studios is not only the center of Morocco’s film industry, but the largest film studio in the world. Founded in the early 1980s, the studios boast an impressive pedigree, having hosted iconic film sets such asGladiator andStar Wars, as well as scenes fromGame of Thrones.

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Hassan II Mosque
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With its regal cliff-top perch overlooking the ocean and a soaring 210-meter high minaret (the world’s highest) that shines a beam toward Mecca during the evening hours, everything about the Hassan II Mosque is grandiose. The magnificent mosque is among the largest in the world, with space for up to 100,000 worshippers.

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Essaouira Beach (Plage d'Essaouira)
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Lined with bars, restaurants, and surf shops, Essaouira Beach (Plage d'Essaouira) is a Moroccan hot spot for surfers, windsurfers, and kitesurfers, thanks to its steady, year-round winds. The town has a charming hippie atmosphere, and travelers who are not indulging in water sports enjoy horse, camel, or quad rides along the broad sandy beach.

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Agadir Beach (Plage d’Agadir)
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Agadir Beach (Plage d'Agadir), for all its fame, doesn’t really feel like Morocco. Depending on what you’re looking for this can either be good or bad, and if it’s a break from Moroccan food and tea the Western influence is welcome. If, on the other hand, you’re lusting for authentic experiences and rich doses of culture— you might want to just give Agadir a pass or accept it for what it is. As Morocco’s largest and most popular beach resort, Agadir caters to pre-packaged tourists much more than the independent traveler. Resorts and restaurants line the sand that stretches for nearly six miles, and cabanas, cocktails, and crashing surf round out the coastal scene.

The temperature here is surprisingly mild during every month of the year, where the sun continues to shine through winter but stays relatively cool through summer. Though Agadir was rocked in 1960 by a hugely destructive earthquake, the old Casbah on the hill above town has walls dating back to the 1500s and inscriptions in Arabic and Dutch. More importantly, the view looking out over Agadir Bay is arguably the best in the city, with a Casbah sunset offering a view you’re sure to never forget.

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Merzouga
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Few places in Morocco offer the epic sunrises and beautiful sunsets found amid the towering sand dunes of the tiny village of Merzouga. Located in the unforgiving Sahara Desert near Erg Chebbi, this quiet destination is known for its iconic views, camel safaris and Berber culture.

Intrepid (and fit) travelers can attempt to climb the massive dunes that surround Merzouga, while less the adventurous embark on a 4x4, motorbike or camel trekking tour. While spotting wildlife in the barren desert landscapes can be a challenge, birders will find plenty of opportunities in spring months when a nearby lake fills with water and attracts rare winged wonders.

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Todra Gorge (Todgha Gorge)
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A hike through the picturesque Todra Gorge (sometimes written Todgha Gorge) offers travelers spectacular valley views of the sheer red rock faces Morocco is famous for. Visitors can navigate the picturesque canyon where the final 600 meters offer intrepid trekkers a narrow pass between towering stone walls that is truly awe inspiring.

In addition to easy hiking trails options ranging from the mostly dry riverbed to the easy paved road, travelers will find more than 150 well-marked rock climbing routes bolted into the mountain side, making Todra Gorge one of the nation’s premier destinations for those looking for a scramble that’s strictly vertical.

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Atlas Mountains
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Capped with snow throughout the winter months and cloaked with wildflowers through the summer, the rocky plateaus and lush valleys of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains provide a striking backdrop for hiking and mountain biking treks, as well as cultural visits to Morocco’s remaining Berber tribes. Sprawling along the frontier of the Sahara, the range runs from the Atlantic coast to the northern Rif Mountains.

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Kasbah of Aït Ben Haddou (Ksar of Ait Benhaddou)
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The UNESCO-listed Kasbah of Aït Ben Haddou (Ksar of Ait Benhaddou) is one of Morocco’s most impressive historic landmarks and a popular film location for Hollywood movies. Sculpted from traditional mud bricks and fortified by walls of dark red pisé, this kasbah lies on the old trans-Saharan trade route, at the border of the High Atlas Mountains and Sahara Desert.

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Caves of Hercules
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Located 7 miles (14 kilometers) west of Tangier, near Cape Spartel, the Caves of Hercules is one of the area’s top attractions. Discovered in 1906, the cave extends for 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) and is both natural and man-made. It features two openings, one to land and one to sea, with the latter known as the “Map of Africa” for its distinctive shape.

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Medina of Fez (Fes el-Bali)
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The historic core of Fez and the seat of the Moroccan government until 1912, the Medina of Fez (Fes el-Bali) remains the city’s biggest draw – a sprawling district of jumbled souks and snaking alleyways, dotted with grand mosques, palace and madrassas. The old medina is now a protected UNESCO World Heritage site, still surrounded by its 13th-century city walls and reached via a series of monumental gates, most notably the 20th-century Bab Boujeloud, celebrated for its striking blue tilework.

With the medina largely pedestrianized, the best way to explore Fez Medina is on foot and there’s plenty to see, starting with the rambling souks, home to the famous Tanner’s Quarters, the soul of the city’s leather trade, where animal hides are soaked in gigantic pots of natural dye. Additional highlights of Fes el-Bali include the Kairaouine Mosque University, known as the world’s oldest university and dating back to 859; the exquisite Madrassa Bou Inania and Al-Attarine Madrasa; the Talaa Kebira water clock; and the Mellah Jewish Quarter.

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More Things to Do in Morocco

Kasbah of the Udayas (Casbah des Oudaïas)

Kasbah of the Udayas (Casbah des Oudaïas)

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On your visit to Rabat’s medina, take a few steps farther north to explore the 12th-century Kasbah of the Udayas (Casbah des Oudaïas or Kasbah les Oudaias), the city’s oldest quarter, which was built during the Almohad dynasty. The tightly packed neighborhood has evolved through the centuries, with many of its signature, whitewashed and blue-based houses built by Moroccan refugees from Spain during the 16th century.

Today, there are many highlights to behold during a visit to Rabat’s wall- and tower-surrounded Kasbah. Entrance through the grand 12th-century Almohad gate of Bab Oudaia hints at the discoveries to come, including a walk down the neighborhood’s main street Rua Jamaa and past the city’s oldest mosque, El Atiqa; a visit to the palace-located Museum of Oudayas; and especially the unparalleled views of the river and sea (and inviting shoreline), best taken in from the various terraces.

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Hassan Tower (Tour Hassan)

Hassan Tower (Tour Hassan)

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Rising above the northeastern corner of Rabat, Hassan Tower(Tour Hassan) stands as a visual promise of what the city’s historic residents hoped it to be: a grand city, even a capital city (which it now is). Its construction began in 1195 during the Almohad Dynasty, and it was built as part of a larger mosque, which was meant to be the largest in the world.

But alas, when the sultan passed away, work on the project came to an end, leaving the mosque unfinished, and its minaret – the tower – standing only 44 meters high (some say half as high as it would have been). Then, come an earthquake in 1755, the incomplete mosque was further destroyed. Today, though, you can still see the surviving, sandstone Hassan Tower, along with the mosque’s remains, such as the columns and walls. Other highlights while here include impressive city and sea views, as well as a visit to the nearby, free-to-enter Mausoleum of Mohammed V.

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Cape Spartel

Cape Spartel

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Located west of Tangier, Cape Spartel is the northwesternmost point of Africa, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. Rising 1,000 feet (305 meters) above sea level, Cape Spartel is known for its stunning views and dramatic coastal roads, and includes a lighthouse dating from 1864.

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Gibraltar

Gibraltar

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There’s really nowhere quite like Gibraltar: a little piece of England looking out from Spain to the coast of Africa with a rock fabled in ancient mythology and the only wild monkey population in Europe. Gibraltar was handed over to the British by Spain in the 18th century, and British it has remained ever since, despite Spain's best efforts to get it to accept its sovereignty. The famous Rock of Gibraltar is a chunk of limestone rearing up over the city and overrun by Barbary macaques—legend says that if these monkeys leave the rock, so will the British leave Gibraltar.

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Old Medina of Casablanca (Ancienne Medina)

Old Medina of Casablanca (Ancienne Medina)

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In the north of the city between the port and the seafront Hassan II Mosque, the Old Medina of Casablanca contains the last vestiges of pre-20th century Casablanca. Though the modern city sprawls in every direction, the historic quarter remains a maze of alleyways and a vast souk, tucked in by the remnants of ancient walls.

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Agadir Kasbah Ruins (Agadir Oufella)

Agadir Kasbah Ruins (Agadir Oufella)

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Though today’s Agadir is concentrated along its long beach dotted byumbrellas, ancient Agadir once used to be an altogether different place — and located in a different place, too. Situated on a hilltop, above giant, hard-to-miss Arabic lettering (which translates as "God, Country, King"), sits that former town - the Agadir Kasbah - or, at least, what remains of it.

Also called Agadir Oufella, this historic area was constructed in the 1500s, but much of it was ultimately destroyed during the region’s great earthquake in 1960. What now exists is its still-intact and very visible-from-afar wall, which once protected the old town and its some 300 residents, and that now surrounds unmaintained ruins and rubble. What most people come for, though? Unparalleled views that stretch along the entire city and coastline, making the journey an impressive one whether you’re keen to see a historic site or to simply gape at the Moroccan landscape before you.

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Souk el Had

Souk el Had

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With around 6,000 shops and stalls crammed into a walled compound in the old medina, Agadir’s rambling market is one of the biggest in all of northern Africa. Visiting Souk el Had is an experience in itself, with a maze of colorful goods on sale, from Moroccan lamps to handcarved bowls.

Join the crowds of locals and tourists to haggle over handicrafts and authentic souvenirs; watch local craftsmen at work; or browse the rows of bargain clothing, cosmetics and household goods. The market is also the best place to shop for fresh foods, with huge piles of vegetables, flowers and exotic fruits, plus a rainbow of pungent spices, dried fruits and candies. Don’t forget to sample the argan oil!

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Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts (Musée Nejjarine)

Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts (Musée Nejjarine)

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This well-restored former fondouk – a place where traders took lodgings and stored and sold their goods during the 18th century – is now home to the Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts (Musée Nejjarine). Opened in 1998, the museum allows visitors to marvel at such artefacts as craftsmen’s tools, prayer beads, ancient chests, and musical instruments.

Much care has been taken with regards to the presentation of the displays, and the Nejjarine fondouk is almost an attraction in itself, although photography is now allowed. Displays are presented within an attractive inner courtyard, in rooms through intricately-carved wooden archways, and beneath cedar ceilings.

The Nejjarine Museum of Wood Arts and Crafts is located in the picturesque setting of Nejjarine Square. Here you’ll find one of the medina’s best-known mosaic fountains, plus small alleys that lead off to the Nejjarine Souk, where carpenters still chisel, carve, and sell their cedar wood items.

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Taghazout Beach

Taghazout Beach

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With a prime location on Morocco’s windswept Atlantic coast, just north of Agadir, Taghazout beach has made a name for itself as one of the country’s top surfing destinations. Running for just under four miles (six kilometers), the sandy beach south of Taghazout town is lined with hotels, restaurants, bars and surf shops, with ample opportunities to rent boards, learn to surf or join a beachside yoga class. Numerous surfing outfitters dot the sand, teaching visitors a thing or two about hanging ten.

The best time to catch a wave is between October and April, but surfing and windsurfing are possible all year-round. There are surf spots for all levels, including gentle waves for beginners and some more challenging breaks for seasoned surfers; Hash Point, Panorama, Anchor Point and Killer Point are among the most popular. When you’re ready to spend some time on land, head into the fishing village for a bite at a makeshift cafe on a warm summer night.

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Jemaa el-Fna (Djemaa el-Fna)

Jemaa el-Fna (Djemaa el-Fna)

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An outdoor market by day and packed to bursting with diners, shoppers, storytellers, and singers by night, Jemaa el-Fna (also written Djemaa el-Fna or Jemaa el-Fnaa) is the epicenter of Marrakech life, where locals and tourists come night after night to see the clash of colors, sounds, smells, and sights that make up this memorable location.

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Bab Bou Jeloud (Bab Boujeloud)

Bab Bou Jeloud (Bab Boujeloud)

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Bab Bou Jeloud (also written Bab Boujeloud and Bab Boujloud) was built by the French during their occupation of Morocco in 1913. The word Bab means "Gate" in Arabic and it serves as the gateway into the heart of the bustling streets of the Fez medina. Right next to it stands the original 12th­-century gate, built with an indirect entrance on a slant to block battering rams from entering.

Bab Bou Jeloud is Mauresque­-Andalusian in style. Its grand horseshoe arches are decorated with Fassi mosaic blue tiles on the outside and green ones within. From the main archway, two minarets are revealed in the distance: one is part of the crumbling 20th-­century Sidi Lazzaz mosque, while the smaller one, topped by two golden orbs, belongs to the recently restored 14th­-century Bou Inania Medersa.

Throughout the day, the area around Bab Bou Jeloud bustles with local life, and as such this is one of the best spots in the city to observe everyday life in Morocco, with mules, and mopeds filling the streets as much as the locals. There are several cafes and restaurants on both sides of the gate, providing a relaxed setting from which to soak up the local atmosphere.

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Volubilis

Volubilis

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Stretching atop the Jebel Zerhoun plateau in northern Morocco, the Roman ruins of Volubilis are a striking sight, especially in summer when its abloom with wildflower Some of the best-preserved ruins in Northern Africa, this UNESCO World Heritage site offers a glimpse into ancient Morocco—and makes for a nice day trip from Fez or Meknes.

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Kairaouine Mosque (Mosque of al-Qarawiyyin)

Kairaouine Mosque (Mosque of al-Qarawiyyin)

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As Morocco’s second-largest mosque and the oldest Islamic building in Fez, it’s hardly surprising that the Kairaouine Mosque (Mosque of al-Qarawiyyin) is one of the city’s most admired monuments. Founded in 857, the mosque adjoins the historic university of the same name, and is considered Morocco’s holiest mosque, making it an important spiritual center for Muslims.

Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the mosque, which can hold up to 20,000 people at prayer, but it’s still worth a visit to admire its exquisite façade, with its striking green roof and ornate minaret.

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Koutoubia Mosque (Mosquée Koutoubia)

Koutoubia Mosque (Mosquée Koutoubia)

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The largest and most famous of Marrakech’s many mosques, Koutoubia Mosque (Mosquée Koutoubia) is also the city’s most prominent navigational landmark. Just a short stroll from Djemaa el Fna square, the mosque’s soaring minaret stands proud at the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed medina.

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