Top 11 most beautiful cities in Morocco
Top 11 most beautiful cities in Morocco: Morocco is a North African country bordered to the west by part of the Atlantic coastline. The nickname for Morocco is “The Land of a Thousand Contrasts.”. It’s aptly named, given the orange hues of the land and desert, ranging from pastel to deep orange-ochre, and the lush green oases covered by centuries-old palm trees. Morocco is a country that was occupied very early by our race, since traces of hominids have been found dating back to around 700,000 BC.
Numerous civilizations have followed in their footsteps, bringing a unique richness to the country thanks to the mix of cultures that have left their mark on history. Today, this country offers visitors sumptuous stretches of desert, but also oases, cedar-forested mountains such as the Atlas and its snow-capped peaks, ksars – villages built from and merging with the local soil – gorges that have dried up over time, and a sumptuous coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. Morocco, too, is dotted with magnificent cities, some of them royal, revealing all the richness of the Orient, making it resemble a land from the tales of a thousand and one nights. For those who want to discover Morocco in winter by motorhome, here are 10 beautiful cities to visit in this authentic country.
1 – Meknes
Meknes is one of the country’s four royal cities. The city is located in the north of the country. Start by passing through Bab Mansour, an incredible arched gateway covered in colorful mosaic tiles. Visit the 17th-century Mausoleum of Sultan Moulay Ismail, with its superb courtyards and extraordinary fountains. Visit the Bou Inania Medersa to discover its exceptional architecture.
The souk or market of Meknes is located around the Great Mosque, which is also not to be missed, with its 11 doors and 143 arcades. The market is very picturesque, as the streets are covered with reeds and the merchants set up underneath are quite noisy to attract customers. You’ll find carpets, local handicrafts and beautiful fabrics. Spend another day visiting palaces such as Dar El Makhzen. The Koubat Al Khayqtine royal stables are also worth a visit, to better understand the life of the warrior sultan-king who ruled the city. Finally, don’t forget to drink mint tea and dine in one of the Medina’s excellent restaurants.
2 – Rabat
Rabat, built on the shores of the Atlantic and the Bouregrag River, is the capital of Morocco. It is rich in Islamic and colonial history and culture, dating back many centuries. In Berber times, the city was a royal fort surrounded by French-style gardens. You can see many masterpieces of the past alongside contemporary ones. Visit the Kasbah des Oudayas and its gardens, followed by the Merinid walls of the Chellah. You’ll also be able to admire some ancient remains.
There are several markets and a huge kilometer-long souk that you shouldn’t miss under any circumstances. Here you can see the city’s artisans and famous carpets, and see how they are made in their workshops. You can visit them all, but the nicest is the one on Rue des Consuls. Here you’ll find an impressive array of bags, belts and other leather handicrafts. This souk is quiet, but at the same time very lively. Therein lies the paradox. You can also find authentic Barca outfits. Next stop is the 44 m-high Tour Hassan. This 12th-century monument was built to become the world’s largest mosque, but was left unfinished.
You won’t be able to visit the interior, but it’s an extraordinary place. The Mausoleum Mohamed V, built in Arabo-Andalusian style, has magnificent architecture. Admission is free. Then on to El Chellah, where you’ll find the Youssef Yacum mosque and a magnificent fountain, surrounded by green spaces and other monuments dating from the 14th century BC. Some have fallen into ruin due to an earthquake, but the place remains as romantic as ever. The new town is not uninteresting, nor is the Zoo, which remains a popular attraction. Also worth a visit are the Botanical Gardens, St. Peter’s Cathedral and the main shopping and nightlife boulevards.
3 – Chefchaouen
This town in Morocco’s Rif mountains is remarkable for its blue-toned houses and buildings. Here you’ll find weaving and leather workshops, as well as many other local crafts. You can visit the red-walled Kasbah, fortress and 15th-century keep from Outa el Hamman square. Take a stroll around Place El Haouta, with its fountain, pretty restaurants and white and blue houses. While you’re here, take the opportunity to visit the Akchour waterfalls, a 30-minute drive and a short walk away. You can also admire the Pont de Dieu (Bridge of God), naturally formed in the rock. You can also visit the Spanish mosque. This 15th-century edifice overlooks the town and offers a remarkable sunset. If you like photography, then head for Callejon El Asri, the city’s most emblematic street.
4 – Fès
In Fès, visit the multi-colored leather tanning district, where hides are bathed in large vats. Stroll through the ancient medina to discover mosques, mausoleums and other spectacular buildings with sculpted walls that give the impression of lace. The Fès market is a centuries-old souk that hasn’t changed a bit. You’ll find magnificent handmade carpets, sublime pottery, jewelry and leather goods. The Fès souk is also home to the open-air dyers who give the leather its future hues. It’s a unique and magnificent sight, but it also smells very strong. At the entrance,
Moroccans hand out mint to put in your nostrils to attenuate the smell of this highly artisanal leatherwork. While you’re here, take a look at the great Karaouiyne Mosque, home to the world’s oldest university, dating back to 859. Admire the Fondouk, a multi-storey caravanserai built around a square courtyard and now home to workshops. Medersas are ancient Koranic schools and are numerous in the city. They are magnificent with their calligraphy, superb mosaics and impressive inlays. The gates of the Medina are also superb. The Royal Palace, the oldest in the country, dates back to the 14th century. Called Dar El Makhzen, it is protected by large bronze and ceramic doors.
5 – Agadir
Top 11 most beautiful cities in Morocco: Agadir is a Moroccan coastal town overlooking the Atlantic in the south of the country. This seaside resort is highly prized for its climate, its immense beach and its magnificent scenery. In the 11-hectare Souk El Had, you’ll find over 3,000 shops and spices of every color and scent. Visit the Kasbah, once a fortress built in 1540, today only the ruins of its remarkable ramparts remain. Stroll through the Polizzi medina, designed by an Italian artist. On the town’s beaches, you can soak up the sunshine while admiring the pretty indigo-blue fishermen’s boats that are brought in on the sand when not in use. Nearby, you can visit the Massa desert, the Tout oasis and the town of Taroudant, nicknamed the little Marrakech.
6 – Essaouira
Top 11 most beautiful cities in Morocco: Located on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, Essaouira was formerly known as Mogador. The medina is encircled by 18th-century ramparts known as the Skala de la Kasbah. They are dotted with copper cannons. Stroll through the medina, sip mint tea and soak up the atmosphere of this splendid town. The fishing port is also a sight to behold, with its indigo blue boats. Known as the port of Timbuktu, it served as a trans-Saharan link to Black Africa.
Today, it’s a sardine port. In the evening, admire the sunset from the city walls. Essaouira’s souks are also very special, with narrow streets criss-crossing the medina. You’ll find a mix of fish and spices alongside jewelry. The Avenue de l’Istiqlal is a must-see. These authentic souks are within easy reach during the day for a shopping spree. There’s also a meat souk and a fish souk in a building with a superb glass roof. Essaouira’s beach stretches for many kilometers, and you can laze on a deckchair or surf the waves if you’re into the sport.
7 – Marrakech
Top 11 most beautiful cities in Morocco: Marrakech and its famous Jemaa el-Fna square is a city teeming with a diverse population. On this 11th-century square, you’ll see snake charmers rubbing shoulders with vendors selling a variety of souvenirs. Lose yourself in the souk to soak up the city’s distinctive atmosphere, and visit its marvellous gardens, some of which date back to the 12th century, such as Ménara and Agdal. One of Morocco’s most famous markets is certainly the Marrakech market. It’s huge, full of exotic products and handicrafts to take home as souvenirs. There are hand-chiseled copper and brass dishes, leather bags and other objects, Berber jewelry and spices in a variety of colors, scents and flavors. This large market is called the souk and is located in the center of town.
8 – Ait Ben Haddou
Ait Ben Haddou (photo) is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Between the superb village with its cool, narrow streets and the ruins on the other side of the river, walkers will be impressed by the splendor of the landscape. These red earthen buildings, encircled by a superb wall of the same color, are a must-see. This ksar is totally typical. The houses are built of mud bricks with drawings on them. The oldest date back to the 17th century. Many prestigious films have been shot in this village. These include Lawrence of Arabia, The Diamond of the Nile, The Mummy, Babel, Game of Thrones and many more.
9 – Ouarzazate
Ouarzazate is a magnificent royal city. A visit to the film museum is a must. Everyone will recognize the set of a film they’ve seen, from Asterix and Cleopatra to Gladiator. The light is harsh and vivid at the same time. A visit to the souk is also a must. Passing through the Kasbah de Taourirt, you can soak up the life of the wealthy of a bygone era. Leaving Ouarzazate, the route continues towards Skoura. You’re drowned in an immense palm grove with impressive trees. In this gigantic palm forest, there are still many inhabited kasbahs.
If you’re traveling by 4X4, you’ll need to take the Dades Gorge, Boumaine and Toudra Valley tracks. These palm groves are irrigated by the Skoura wadi. While admiring this exceptional landscape, you can sample the olives, apples, figs, pomegranates and almonds produced here. The Skoura ksar is also well worth a visit. It’s best to be there on a Monday, when there’s a huge souk that’s not very touristy and where you can do some excellent shopping. Once past Skoura, you can head for the Valley of the Roses, named after the flower that is produced here two or three times a year, but also because of its soil of the same color.
10 – Tan-Tan
Top 11 most beautiful cities in Morocco: Tan-Tan is a town in south-west Morocco, 300 km below Agadir. You’ll pass through marvellous landscapes between desert and ocean. You’ll rub shoulders with over thirty nomadic Saharan tribes and discover Saharan culture. The town’s name comes from the legend that Tuaregs stopped at a local well and founded the town. The name comes from the sound of a bucket rubbing against the walls of the well. If you go between May and June, you can attend the Moussem, a festival of the surrounding tribes with the famous blue men, lords of the desert.
This festival takes place in jaimas or camel-skin tents. You’ll also see horse races and folk groups dancing the Guedra, a desert dance. Continue on to El Ouatia, if you’d like to buy handcrafted leather goods or authentic embroidery. If you want to discover an oasis, head for Ouin Madjkor in the Chbikaz valley. You can then head to the mouth of the Wadi Chbeika river to admire a spectacular landscape of cliffs on the edge of the ocean. You can also see hyenas, cross paths with a jackal or a wildcat and numerous migratory birds. There are also some beautiful oases, caves with cave paintings, etc. in the area.
11 – Volubilis
Top 11 most beautiful cities in Morocco: Not far from Fès and Meknès lies the ancient Roman site of Volubilis. Volubilis was once one of the largest Roman cities in Africa. This city of interesting ruins has left its mark on many civilizations. It was founded in the 3rd century B.C. as the capital of Mauritania. At the time, Mauritania was the territory of the Berbers. It was later controlled by the Romans and had a population of between 10,000 and 20,000. Olive oil was the mainstay of the local trade.
Olive trees still grow in the surrounding plains. In the 3rd century A.D., Volubilis was occupied by Christians and became Muslim with the arrival of Islam in Morocco. It was inhabited until the 11th century. Volubilis was very well preserved until the 18th century, when it suffered a major earthquake, but the Roman site remains well preserved. Here you can admire magnificent mosaics, statues, sculpted columns, oil presses, buildings such as the Arch of Caracalla and the Tingis Gate, the ruins of the city’s lighthouses, the Basilica and the Capitol. Take the time to visit Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, home to the mausoleum of Idriss, founder of the Idrissid kingdom and the city of Fez.