12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Morocco
Morocco is a wondrous, eyes-open taste of the exotic, with snake charmers and conjurers, souks piled high with hordes of treasures and endless glasses of mint tea. It's also an adventure into some of North Africa's most stunning scenery with the desert on its doorstep and the craggy heights of the Atlas Mountains beyond.
Morocco is also a journey into a timeless, tranquil world of cute coastal villages, colourful-painted towns that cling to hillsides and remote outposts defended by fairytale adobe forts. This fascinating country is a merging of the African and Arab worlds, and is steeped in age-old customs. It's no wonder Morocco has been feted by artists and writers for decades and continues to enchant all who visit.
1 Marrakesh Medina
The bustling and vibrant buzz of Marrakesh Medina sums up Morocco for many visitors. The old city is entered from the vast plaza of Djemma el-fna Square where, it seems, half of the city converges throughout the day and into the evening to hang out with the stall vendors, traditional musicians, snake charmers and random acrobats. Once inside the Medina itself, you enter a world of maze-like alleyways and shopkeeper hustle. It's an experience of full of colourful and noisy local life, and not to be missed on your Moroccan sightseeing trails.
2 Hassan II Mosque
Casablanca's landmark building, the Hassan II Mosque is a lavish symbol not only of the city, but also of Morocco itself. This modern mosque (finished in 1993) doesn't do things by halves. The decoration detail covering every centimetre of the mammoth 2 ha site took 10,000 artisans to complete. Intricately carved marble pieces, vibrant mosaics and zellige tile details pay tribute to traditional Islamic architecture, and yet still manage to feel contemporary.
3 Oudaias Kasbah
Rabat's Oudaias Kasbah neighbourhood is a peaceful and perfectly quaint district that feels miles away from the city, yet is right in the heart. Inside the walls of this old fortress are lanes of neat white-and-blue houses rimmed by colourful flowerpots and flapping washing. It's the prettiest corner of the capital.
4 Fes el Bali
Along with Marrakesh, Fes is Morocco's other big cultural destination. But unlike its sister Imperial City to the south, Fes hasn't been trussed up for the tourists. Fes el Bali (Old City) is an authentic muddle of a place where it's near impossible to not get lost. The back alleys here with their chipped plaster-work and gorgeous old doors will have you stopping for photos on every corner, while the stinking tanneries are one of Fes el Bali's most popular attractions for those who can handle the smell.
The most European of all Morocco's cities, Tangier has a fascinating and slightly debauched role in 20th century literary history, and this past is what draws many tourists here. This is the city that inspired famous works such as Paul Bowles' "The Sheltering Sky" and William Burroughs' "Naked Lunch". Tangier may have been scrubbed up since their day with the bohemian cafes and louche bars long gone, but you can still catch a whiff of the decadent days gone by.
In the beautiful Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is a gorgeous labyrinth of blue-on-blue buildings that has an incredibly photogenic glow. There isn't much actual sightseeing to be done and that's one of the town's main attractions. It's simply about wandering the Medina alleys and lapping up all that colourful architecture. It's a peaceful, easygoing town and a great place to recharge if you've been amid the cities for a while.
Morocco's number one Roman ruin is a feast for history-lovers with a clutch of remarkable mosaics still interred where they were unearthed. This site is also full of tumbled columns and temple remnants, standing as reminders that even the greatest empires eventually crumble. The hilltop location allows the ruins to lord over the surrounding countryside, adding to the romantic ambiance of lost glory. This tourist attraction can easily be visited as a day trip from either Meknes or Fes.
8 Bab al-Mansour
This mammoth gateway (which guards the entrance to Meknes' Imperial City district from the Medina) is noted for its stunning decoration. Meant as a monumental reminder of the sultan's might, the Bab al-Mansour is a magnificent relic of Meknes' glorious era as capital.
9 Ait Ben Haddou
This golden adobe kasbah (fortress) thrusts dramatically out of the earth amid scenery that wows all who visit. It's a fairytale place, and the orange-hued turrets have become a favourite film location due to the surreal beauty. If you're heading out into Morocco's inland regions, it should definitely be on your must-visit list.
10 Dades Valley
Hikers, trekkers and general nature-lovers shouldn't miss a journey into the raw landscapes of Morocco's Dades Valley. With the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas in the distance, the big-sky country here is the perfect antidote for those who have been getting frazzled nerves amid the souks of Marrakesh and Fes. There are dinky villages galore, exceptional bird spotting opportunities and lush fields stretching as far as you can see.
Morocco's most charming seaside village is laid-back Essaouira, an old hippie haunt of the 1970s that has lost none of its authenticity. The colourful fishing boats bobbing on the water, stately old shore-side fort and twisty lanes of the old town make Essa (as it's affectionately known by frequent visitors) a delight to discover.
12 Erg Chebbi
Inland, in Morocco's eastern Sahara region, are the grand and rippling sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi, where would-be explorers and adventure-seekers head to get a dose of desert action. This is prime territory for dune-surfing, four-wheel-drive dune-bashing and the (much more authentic) camel trekking. For those with less of an active nature, just sitting amid the sand dune splendour is worthy enough of the long journey out here.