Morocco is a fascinating country in North Africa. An Islamic nation with a population made up of Arabs and Berbers who coexist happily side by side, Morocco offers a blend of culture, historical sites, lovely beaches, soaring mountains, arid deserts, terrific bartering in colourful markets, delicious cuisine, and more. Whilst many visitors head to the well-known tourist hotspots like Marrakech, Essaouira, Agadir, Casablanca, Tangiers, and Fes, there are lots of cool spots that lie just a little bit beyond the typical tried-and-trodden tourist track. Most are easy to reach by public transport so, if you have the time, venture somewhere different to the masses when exploring Morocco. Here are five great places to inspire you:
1. El Jadida
El Jadida is located along Morocco’s Atlantic Coast. It is well connected by bus and minivan from nearby towns and cities; a bus ride from Casablanca takes around one hour, and the journey from Marrakech is about three hours. It’s a very popular summer destination for Moroccans. Boasting long stretches of sandy beaches, head out of the main centre for some of the quietest spots.
An old Portuguese settlement, take time to explore the UNESCO-listed remains of the Mazagan Fortress. The architecture makes you feel as though you are in Europe as opposed to Africa, and the coastal views from high up on the walls are fantastic. Exploring the walls will take around an hour. You can descend into the old water cisterns too, open each day from 9 am to 1 pm, and again from 3 pm to 5 pm. Admission is just 10 MAD (approximately 1 USD). Plan to spend about 30 minutes inside.
2. El Jebha
El Jebha is in the north of Morocco, along the Mediterranean Coast. A small port town at the bottom of the Rif Mountains, the easiest way to get to El Jebha is along the coast road. Buses and minivans serve the town; Chefchaouen is around an hour away by bus. Stroll around the lively working harbour and watch people mending fishing nets and small boats and carting the day’s haul from the boats. Seafood is, unsurprisingly, common in the local restaurants. Take a boat trip around the curved bay, go hiking in the mountains, relax on quiet beaches, and immerse yourself in local life.
Demnate is located in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. You can reach the city in around an hour by bus or minivan from Marrakech. Traditionally a Berber community, the small medina (walled heart of the old city) is a good place to start to see the local way of life.
Demnate is one of southern Morocco’s oldest cities and is also surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery. The nearby mountains offer terrific hiking opportunities and a highlight is a visit to Imi n'Ifri, a natural stone arch in a scenic gorge. Admission is free and you can walk down and through the small cave, passing under the arch to come out at the other side. It is a conservation area for birds too. You can also visit prehistoric dinosaur tracks at Iwaridene, an otherwise unremarkable area in the mountains.
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4. Moulay Idriss
Named after a former Moroccan king and the first Arab to arrive in Morocco, Moulay Idriss is an important place of pilgrimage for Moroccans. The remains of the late king are entombed in the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss I. Although non-Muslims are not allowed in the mosque, you can admire the building from the outside. It is rather unusual as it is the only mosque in the whole country to have a circular minaret. The maze-like streets of the old medina are worth a short stroll. Moulay Idriss is close to Fes and Meknes; it’s around 20 minutes by bus from Meknes and about an hour from Fes.
Larache is around an hour by bus from Tangiers. Located south of Tangiers on the Atlantic Coast, it is a former Spanish city and fairly popular with holiday-making Moroccans. The white medina makes for a pleasant stroll, the peaceful Jardin de Lions is a nice park to sit and relax for a while, and the beach is just a short walk from the city centre. The highlight of Larache is, however, the long painted wall that runs through the heart of the city. Colourful scenes of forests, inviting doorways, flowers, and buildings line the street. There are also paintings that seek to teach social and moral messages, such as not littering, avoiding excess alcohol, and not smoking.
Other lesser-visited spots to enjoy in Morocco
Although especially popular with Spanish tourists, few other international tourists visit Azila, a charming coastal city with a nice beach, an old medina, and attractive street art. Safi is known for sardines and ceramics and is home to an old Portuguese fortress, Settat has a particularly good golf course and race track, and Ifrane, nicknamed the Switzerland of Morocco, has alpine-esque homes and a colder climate than other parts of the country. Step off the beaten track in Morocco; a world of wonder awaits!
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