There are the usual Moroccan attractions, such as the “Ochre City” of Marrakesh, the imperial city of Fes, and the Saharan getaway Ouarzazate. Then there are the unique Moroccan towns: Spots loved by locals, yet barely known by foreigners. On this post, I share some of the gems I discovered while studying and living in Morocco for four months.
Catch it while you can–the once-sleepy fishing village on the Moroccan west coast is starting to emerge in more itineraries. Beautiful architecture, an expansive coast, and a 16th-century fortress make this remote UNESCO World Heritage site worth visiting.
Don’t miss: The Essaouira fish market. Once there, select your favorite fish and take it to a nearby restaurant so it can be cooked for you.
Imagine being transported to a blue fairy tale world–this is Chefchaouen.All the walls in this town by the Rif Mountains are blue-washed. While its proximity to Tangier Med Port (only 1.5 hours away by private car) and Spain make it a popular destination, many travelers still don’t know that towns like these can be found in Morocco. Excited now? Plan to visit in the off-season (winter), as European visitors flock in the summer months. Also, avoid Catholic holidays if you can: Spanish tourists love to come down during Semana Santa and Christmas.
Don’t miss: Throw your map away and get lost for a few hours in Chefchaouen’s Old City. Witness how life has carried on, almost unchanged, for centuries.
Located in the valley of the Draa River, Zagora is an oasis in Morocco’s deep south. Also known as Tazagourt, it is a great alternative to touristy Ouarzazate if you wish to go on a Saharan Desert safari and visit genuine kasbahs. An unexpected bonus? It will be easy for you to find a Moroccan guide and outfitter to practice your Spanish with.
Don’t miss: The “Timbuktu, 52 days” sign (estimated travel time on camel), which once directed medieval travelers to that important city in Mali.
We were introduced to the Spanish exclaves in Morocco on a previous AOB post. The least known of the two, though, is Melilla. Due to its rocky cultural and political past, visiting its museums and walking through its Old City is a history buff’s dream. Visit the beautiful harbor, take in some underground history at Las Cuevas del Conventico (caves), and learn more about its Jewish, Berber, and Christian backgrounds via special exhibitions at the Almacenes de las Peñuelas Museum.
Don’t miss: Capilla de Santiago by the city walls, as this chapel is the only true example of Gothic architecture in Africa.
A city in the widely-disputed territory of Western Sahara, Dakhla is located 600 miles south of Marrakesh. It has morphed into a great beach, kitesurfing, windsurfing, and surf casting destination in recent years, with an airport served by the Moroccan airline Royal Air Maroc. Yet, it still remains a well-kept secret in Africa. Additionally, it is a great destination for cultural travelers to discover: Here, you can learn more about the the nomadic Tuareg peoples.
Don’t miss: According to the NY Times, Dakhla it is becoming “one of the world’s greatest wind- and kite-board surfing destinations.” Check out one of the many shops and book your first lesson. Also, make sure you camp in the Saharan desert for a least one night.