Because there is nothing better than to tap into the resources and local knowledge to get to know a country better, we asked our local expert to tell us about the must-see sites not to be missed in Morocco. While some like Marrakech or the Atlas Mountains flow naturally, others like Chefchaouen or the Aït Bouguemez valley allow a real immersion in Moroccan nature and culture.
Marrakech, the unmissable Red City
It is true that this first must-see site is not a secret, but it continues to enchant its visitors over and over again. The Pearl of the South , as it is nicknamed here, has certainly changed enormously in recent years, but it still represents a stopover full of charm and surprise. This is where most travelers land, and you might as well say that the change of scenery is immediately there! The vast Jemaa-el-Fna square and its permanent bustle, the smells, the colors and the noise of the souks, the sumptuous palaces and mosques… Impossible to remain indifferent!
Despite its frequentation, there is a lot of things that we do not know about Marrakech. And it is also on these things that I like to concentrate when I propose to show the city to foreigners. For example, I will take you to visit the Jardin Anima by André Heller , walk around the tanners’ district where you can learn more about the secrets and techniques of leatherwork, and many other surprises that allow you to discover Marrakech in a different way. The best way to do so is with a local.
Essaouira, the Moroccan Saint-Malo
Essaouira takes its nickname of Moroccan Saint-Malo from the ramparts that surround the old city. With its facade open to the Atlantic and its all-white medina classified by Unesco, it simply has nothing to do with Marrakech! And that’s why I find it interesting to visit these two cities during the same trip. Here, in Essaouira, it is rather peace and tranquility that reign supreme. The city attracts artists from all over the world who come to enjoy the very special atmosphere of ancient Mogador.
I often like to say that Essaouira embodies in some ways the soul of Morocco . Impossible not to notice the various historical influences which gradually shaped the city which, after having belonged to the Berbers, passed into the hands of the Phoenicians, Romans and Portuguese. It is a plural city that I invite you to discover here. If the charming white houses with blue shutters you probably will discuss the Greek landscape, the walls surrounding the city since the 18 th century you no doubt recall Brittany. And then, with its alleys lined with riads and its typically oriental architecture, you will not forget for a second that you are visiting one of the most typical cities of Morocco!
The Atlas mountains, eternal snows of Morocco
This is the perfect addition to a first trip to Morocco after visiting Marrakech and Essaouira. In the Atlas Mountains, it is a pure experience of healing that awaits you, a dive into nature to meet the Berber people. This stopover full of colors and emotions, I generally offer it to hiking enthusiasts since the region has dozens and dozens of kilometers of marked trails. In particular, you will be able to discover my favorite trekking spot: the Jebel Toubkal National Park. It is for me one of the most magical places in Morocco, an incredibly varied area made up of cliffs, fertile valleys, plateaus and thick, green forests. Much less known but just as surprising, the region of M’Goun. There too you will have the opportunity to walk along majestic ridges, plains, gorges and snow-capped cirques. The High Atlas is even home to some winter sports resorts where it is possible to ski in the middle of winter!
The Moroccan desert, between kasbahs and dune fields
It would be impossible for me to talk about the must-sees of Morocco without mentioning the Sahara desert. In Morocco, it is divided into two very distinct zones: Zagora, the most arid desert, and Merzouga, known for its impressive dunes (some can reach 150 meters in height!).
Contrary to what you might think, there is actually a lot to see and do in the Moroccan desert. For example, let me show you the Drâa valley where I will take you to meet the Berbers in the kasbahs and small isolated villages. We will also be able to set off to attack the Dades valley, famous for its absolutely splendid gorges and its dwellings which merge with the rock. And then, another favorite that I will be happy to share with you: the Todra gorges. Go there in the early morning, as the rising sun makes the ocher rock redden under a fiery sun. The spectacle of nature at its peak.
Fez, dive into the heart of the medieval Orient
It is on Fez “la Vieille” that I invite all travelers to concentrate. The oldest part of town, classified by Unesco, was erected at the end of the 8 th century. So as much to tell you that it shelters a certain number of historical and architectural treasures ! The medina of Fez is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and authentic in Morocco since it has remained almost intact since its creation. There are also old hammams, bread ovens, several mosques, mausoleums and caravanserais, all hidden in a maze of entirely pedestrian streets.
Fez is one of my favorite places in Morocco and I could easily talk about it for hours. Every day, more than 50,000 artisans come to work here in sectors as different as wood, pottery, food and leather. This is also the reason why in my opinion, Fez is the best place in Morocco to shop and bring back authentic memories of your trip!
Chefchaouen, the peaceful blue city
Chefchaouen is one of my favorite “off the beaten track” destinations. It is, for me, an essential passage if you want to visit the north of Morocco. All dressed in blue, the city sports a truly unique architecture that recalls both the sky and the sea. All the travelers to whom I make discover this incredible city come back delighted. It must be said that we can only be bewitched by the atmosphere that reigns here, both peaceful and authentic.
The visit of Chefchaouen allows you to dive into the heart of a Morocco more traditional and quieter than Marrakech. Its small medina offers great opportunities for strolls, far from the bustle of big cities. I particularly like to observe the scenes of life that take place here, as simple as the women washing their clothes by hand in the Ras el Ma spring or the merchants exhibiting their handmade rugs with patterns as varied as they are colorful. And then, with the city perched at an altitude of nearly 600 meters, you come across incredible panoramas of the region on every street corner. Do not forget your camera !
Meknes, an imperial city on a human scale
Meknes is, with Fez, Marrakech and Rabat, one of the four imperial cities of Morocco. You will therefore understand why it is, in my opinion, one of the country’s must-sees. What is it different from its “rivals”? Its more human size means that it offers a calm and peaceful atmosphere during visits. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Meknes is home to some of the country’s most beautiful monuments , including the monumental Bâb-Jema-en-Nouar and Bâb-Mansour gates and the Dar Jamaï palace. During their visit, I invite travelers to stroll through the heart of a maze of alleys worthy of a fairy tale. Getting lost is for me the best way to unlock all the secrets of this incredible imperial city.
Better to concentrate on two of the three districts of Meknes. The imperial city of course, with its gardens and palaces, but also the medina with its lively souks and its timeless atmosphere. The new town, for its part, is of little interest since it is here that the banks and administrations are located.
The Aït Bouguemez valley in the heart of the High Atlas
To end on a high note, I suggest you move away completely from classic Morocco tours to discover a region dear to my heart: the Aït Bouguemez valley. Nicknamed the “Happy Valley”, this high mountain region is rarely visited, which gives it a lot of charm. After all, how many places in the world do we know where consumerism and mass tourism have not ruined everything? I warn you right away: you will have great difficulty leaving the valley and will have only one idea in mind, to return there as soon as possible to take advantage of the happy local sobriety!
During your stay in the Aït Bouguemez valley, I will suggest that you go and meet the Berber people in small isolated villages. You can also go on a trek, the local sport, to access magnificent panoramas of the region. Over a million years ago, the valley was partly covered with a vast lake and inhabited by dinosaurs. We can still observe their gigantic footprints there today , immortalized in limestone slabs.