A gorgeous seaside town on the northern coast of the country, Asilah has a rich and varied history. With roots as far back as the 16th century, when it was on the main trade route used by the Phoenicians, it was later captured by the Portuguese before coming under Moroccan rule in the 17th century. Each successive culture and society has left its mark on the town, making modern day Asilah a fascinating display of Morocco’s unique heritage. A Portuguese fortress leans precariously over the cliffs, while charming blue and white Moroccan houses line the streets.
Located in the dramatic Rif mountains in the north of Morocco, Chefchaouen is known for its striking blue houses nestled against the rough green and brown of the mountain scenery. The city cascades down the mountainside, each new level revealing more unique buildings, colorful plants, and charming cafes. The old quarter of the town is heavily influenced by Islamic and Andalusian architecture, from the blue-painted walls and red-tiled roofs, to iconic keyhole-shaped doorways and tiled passages winding through the city. Despite its recent increasing popularity and tourist trade, Chefchaouen remains an ideal place to experience an unspoiled and unique Morocco.
Situated on the west coast of Morocco, along the dazzling sea and soft sandy beaches, Essaouira is one of Morocco’s best kept secrets, largely warding off crowds of sun-seeking tourists due to its windy conditions. Aside from the stunning natural beauty which surrounds the town, Essaouira itself is notable for striking buildings, charming souks and a bustling harbor, filled with colorful boats. From the harbor rise the city walls, drawing around colorful market places, white-washed houses, and winding alleyways. The city walls also boast a beautiful view of the surroundings, from the clustered buildings of the town to the Iles Purpuraires in the distance.
As Morocco’s second largest city, Fes nevertheless still possesses all the unique charm and character of a much smaller town. The city features two ancient medinas, one of which—Fes el Bali—has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its intricate winding architecture of alleys, souks, courtyards, as well as for featuring the world’s oldest university. The city, as a whole, features many outstanding examples of Islamic architecture, from ancient madrasas to monumental mosques, all beautifully decorated with tiling and arabesque patterns, making the city akin to an open-air museum.
Ifrane is one of Morocco’s most surprising cities, resembling a Swiss mountain village more than it does its own country’s desert villages and Moorish architecture. The town’s modern aesthetic is largely due to French colonial settlers, who built the town as a place to escape to during the hot summer months, Ifrane being located high in the Atlas Mountains with snowfalls during the winter. As well as charming clusters of European-inspired chalets, the town is striking for its large numbers of gardens and parks, creating an oasis of lushness and tranquility within the hustle and bustle of Moroccan life.
One of Morocco’s most popular cities, Marrakech has become an unmissable destination in recent years for those wishing to experience the beauty of Moroccan history and culture. The old city is famed for its abundant markets, with a maze of alleys and souks revealing new treasures at every turn, including aromatic spices, colorful textiles, sparkling lamps, and jewelry. The surrounding landscape around the city is equally breathtaking, as the shifting sands of the desert spread out from the town, meeting the snow-capped Atlas Mountains in the distance.
The historic city of Meknes is one of Morocco’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, gaining a place on the list for its distinctive blend of architectural styles, breathtaking monuments and well-preserved heritage. The city is surrounded by fortified walls, with nine gates providing entry to the city, each intricately decorated with tile work and arabesque patterns. The town itself is filled with beauty, from the regal Dar El Makhzen palace, to the numerous mosques, hammams and gardens which decorate the streets, Spanish-Moorish styles vying for attention with Islamic and European-inspired architecture.
Located in the Sahara Desert in southeastern Morocco, Merzouga, is dramatically beautiful in its isolation. Long stretches of soft sand and towering sand dunes stretch in all directions, the horizon only broken by locals or lines of camels. The town itself is charmingly tiny, and can easily be explored on foot, with red sandstone buildings blending easily into the warmth of the desert. Merzouga is particularly extraordinary during sunrise and sunset, when the blazing sun turns the town and sand dunes into a kaleidoscope of golds, bronzes, pinks, and oranges.
Ouarzazate may look familiar to many, having featured in numerous Hollywood films such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Gladiator (2000) and The Mummy (1999). It’s not hard to see why. The town and its surroundings are incredibly scenic, sprawling over a dramatic natural plateau, and bordered by the Atlas Mountains and the desert. The town itself is notable for its numerous examples of beautiful Berber kasbahs, including the Ait Benhaddou, Atlas Studios, where Morocco is transformed into a mini-Egypt with the sets and props from many of the area’s most famous films.
A traditional Berber city in the Sous Valley of southern Morocco, Taroudant is a fascinating place to visit. The town flourished in the 16th century, becoming a center for trade and culture, with spices, rice, and cotton goods highly sought after in its markets, and important buildings such as the great mosque and city walls being built. Today, Taroudant’s magnificent heritage is still clearly visible, the original walls still dramatically encompass the town, while the souks proudly display local handicrafts and richly embroidered carpets, and remain one of the most popular markets in the entire country.