Morocco is a North African country known for its rich culture, diverse landscape, and fascinating cities. I visited Morocco with my friend Debbie. It has been on our wanderlust list to visit for years. I would dream about photographing the vibrant colours and local people. After all my dreaming you will see most of my photos for Morocco are in black and white. In Morocco the black and white showed so much more richness and detail.
Debbie and I did so many things in Morocco that it seems the best way to discuss this adventure is to make a list. Some of the highlights include camping overnight in the Sahara Desert, visiting Marrakech’s chaotic medina, and staying in an iconic riad. Keep reading for some of our most favorite highly recommended experiences in Morocco.
General Morocco travel tips
One of the most common questions people asked us is if we were afraid of visiting Morocco as two female travellers. The answer is absolutely not. Our experience was amazing and we found that every local we interacted with was respectful. We didn’t feel unsafe or at risk, but we also always dressed appropriately and did not draw attention to ourselves.
The most important thing to remember when visiting Morocco is to bring your patience with you. Morocco – especially restaurants – function on Moroccan time.
Speaking of restaurants, you have to eat tagine in Morocco! It is a very important part of Moroccan cuisine. We could not get enough of it. Tagine can refer to the actual clay or ceramic cookware that is typically wide at the bottom with a rounded dome or cone for a cover. It can also refer to the stew like dish that is made in the cookware with some kind of meat or fish or poultry and vegetable combined with all the amazing Moroccan spices.
Since we have been back Debbie has made tagine in the pottery she had shipped back. It was amazing.
This is our list of incredible things to do in Morocco
1. Stay at a tent camp in the Sahara Desert
Debbie and I both agree that one of the highlights of our trip to Morocco was visiting the Sahara Desert. The best way to experience the desert if you have the time is by staying overnight in a tented camp. There are many Sahara Desert camp options to choose from, but we personally stayed at Erg Chicago Luxury Desert Camp. As the name suggests, this is a more luxurious option but it was well worth the investment.
The adventure begins by driving across the Sahara Desert in a 4WD to reach the camp. Once we arrived at the camp, which is surrounded by beautiful sand dunes, we enjoyed a stunning desert sunset, a sunrise camel trek, and music and drumming around the campfire at night. There’s nothing quite like the night time silence of the Sahara Desert. The Sahara Desert is a photographer’s dream with all the shifting sand dunes and changing light. I could not get enough of it.
We also had an amazing conversation with Beshear, the young man in charge of the camp. He couldn’t read or write but spoke five languages. Beshear grew up surrounded by and loving animals. He got his passion from his mother. The camp’s goats followed him everywhere like he was their human.
2. Walk in Yves Saint Laurent’s footsteps
One of the most fantastic (I thought it would be strange and boring) things to do in Marrakech is to visit Yves Saint Laurent’s Villa Oasis in Majorelle Gardens, even if you’re like Debbie and me and not fashion aficionados. Villa Oasis is Yves Saint Laurent’s former home, which he bought with his partner Pierre Berge in 1980. Stunningly rich in colour and design, Villa Oasis is today run by a foundation and open to the public. The gardens are breathtakingly beautiful.
We would also recommend visiting the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, which is entirely devoted to the legendary fashion designer.
3. Visit Fes’ Jewish Quarter
Although Islam is the state religion, locals are very proud of the fact that Muslims and Jews peacefully coexist in Morocco. The country has a very rich Jewish history and you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the country’s multi-religious history. Morocco’s first Jewish mellah (a walled Jewish quarter of a city) was established in Fes in 1438. A mellah is very different from the Jewish ghettos of Europe. Quite the opposite in fact. Mellahas were set up to protect the Jewish people and keep them close to the palace as its inhabitants played such a vital role in the government and economy.
Take a stroll back in time and visit Fes’ Jewish Quarter today. Points of interest include the 17th-century Ibn Danan Synagogue, daily markets, and the Jewish Cemetery, which is home to thousands of blindingly white tombs that were freshly painted in 2019.
4. See the Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat
There are many mausoleums, synagogues, and palaces to visit in Morocco. It can be totally overwhelming. However, one of the most architecturally-significant is the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, which is located opposite the Hassan Tower in Rabat’s Yacoub al-Mansour Square. It contains the tombs of the Moroccan king and his two sons – King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. The marble mausoleum and mosque are visually stunning, with geometric mosaic tiles, granite floors, and spectacular chandeliers. Make sure that you dress appropriately (knees and shoulders covered) so you are able to look down into the tombs from the gallery. That is the best view.
5. Hike in the Todra Gorges
The Todra Gorges are a series of deep limestone river canyons, located in the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains. Rock climbing is the most popular activity here as there are over 400 different climbing routes. For those of us who are not rock climbers (Debbie and myself included) we recommend hiking in the Todra Gorges. A good hike that takes you through the mountains above the gorge is the Todra Loop Hike. Even if you are not a hiker or rock climber, definitely worth driving to and seeing the Todra Gorges.
If you’re looking for a memorable and different kind of place to stay, Riad Caravane Ait Ben Haddou is located truly in the middle of nowhere approximately three hours from the Todra Gorges. It features eight suites, as well as an onsite restaurant serving Moroccan cuisine and a rooftop terrace. Riad Caravane also organizes excursions to Todra Gorges and other nearby attractions.
6. Cross over the Atlas Mountains
The Atlas Mountains span across Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia and are home to diverse terrain, remote valleys, mud-thatched Berber villages, and deep river canyons. There are multiple tours that take you across the Atlas Mountains from either Fes or Marrakech. Popular activities include trekking, mountain biking, and visiting the traditional Berber villages. At the very highest point of crossing there are vendors selling crystals that come from nearby.
7. Get refreshed at a hammam
Debbie and I were so excited to check out the hammams (public bathhouses) in Morocco. We had a lot of road miles on us and couldn’t wait to have mud scrubbed all over us, get cold water thrown on us and then for the grand finale a great massage. We were not disappointed!
Cleanliness is an important part of life in Islamic societies, so this is a weekly ritual for many locals. With steam rooms and full body scrubs involved, we emerged as new people (or at least individuals with new skin cells). There are hammams located across Morocco with varying prices. Don’t forget to bring a change of underwear! Modesty is protected and part of the culture so there is no reason to feel uncomfortable.
8. Fes is for shopping for yourself and souvenirs
If you haven’t already noticed, we wholeheartedly recommend visiting Fes while on vacation in Morocco. There are 9600 streets, lanes, and alleys in Fes, so prepare to get lost. We did on numerous occasions. Debbie and I both picked up the perfect souvenir in the form of a leather jacket, but you can purchase all sorts of genuine leather and other products in Fes. The jacket I wanted was not available in my size. The man said they would make one in my size at no extra charge and deliver to the hotel that evening. It was perfect.
You can also visit a leather tannery to see how the products are made. Another great place to take photographs where they dye the leather in large vats. We found there was no pressure to make a purchase at the tannery. But if someone offers to guide you to a tannery, politely decline as they will want to receive a big tip for their service.
9. Get lost in the Marrakech medina
One of the most popular things to do in Morocco is to get lost in the Marrakech medina. Seriously!!! Start in the center at Jemaa el-Fna Square, which is filled with entertainers and food stalls. Our top tips are to watch out for motorcycles, be prepared with good walking shoes and dirhams as credit cards aren’t accepted, and for women to cover their knees and shoulders. It’s also worth noting that Marrakech medina is less busy later in the day.
And yes, I did let the snake charmer put the snake around my neck…conquer your fears!
10. Visit the House of Photography
A great place to visit in the Marrakech medina is the House of Photography (Maison de la Photographie in French). The private museum has a large collection of photographs and artifacts from 1870 to 1960, which showcase every aspect of life in Morocco during this time. Besides photos, the museum also displays glass plates, postcards, journals, prints, and more. It is an extraordinary walk through history. You don’t need to be a photographer to appreciate it. The museum is quite small and you can spend as much or as little time there as you want too.
11. Stay in a real riad in Marrakech or in Fes
If you only stay in regular hotels you will miss a significant part of being on an adventure in Morocco. Ditch the hotel and stay in a real riad inside the medina, which is at the heart of the Old City. We stayed at Riad Emberiza, in Marrakech which had traditional components like an inner courtyard with gardens and a fountain. Even if you only stay for one night, make sure you head up to the rooftop to watch the sunset and to see the walls surrounding Marrakech turn pink in golden hour. We spent New Year’s Eve on the rooftop. The owner had lovely music, fire and appetizers. It was perfect.
In Fes we stayed at Riad-Laaroussa in the red room. It was beautiful.
This riad is an old 17th century palace. Another photographers dream from the roof top.
12. Check out a Berber pharmacy
If you have any interest at all in homeopathic or natural medicine head to a Berber Pharmacy. Traditional Berber pharmacies are stocked with homeopathic remedies for everything you could possibly need (head to toe), which are each created with Moroccan spices, herbs, and oils you’d usually reserve for cooking. The Berber pharmacies are also an impressive sight to see, with large colorful containers of spice and jars filled with everything from dried plants to powders. Beware…on a good note, the pharmacists and their assistants really know their product and are great salespeople. Debbie and I bought items that we just “had to have.”
13. Take a guided tour of Salé
Salé is located on the right bank of the Bou Regreg River and lies opposite the capital city of Rabat. Visiting Salé was absolutely a highlight of our trip to Morocco. We recommend joining a guided tour, otherwise you will miss out on learning all about Salé’s rich Jewish and Muslim history, as well as interesting facts like how it was once home to pirates. Top attractions in Salé include visiting the 13th-century medina, Belghazi Museum, and the Great Mosque of Salé. Definitely worth the time…maybe half a day?
Debbie and I hope that you enjoyed hearing about these things to do in Morocco. We have already made a “go back to list” of parts of the country that we missed.
From Marrakech to Fes and Rabat, these 13 things to do in Morocco will undoubtedly keep you busy on your upcoming vacation. We hope you enjoy visiting Morocco’s enticing mix of natural and historic attractions as much as we did.