Morocco - the road less travelled!
Updated: Feb 12
Picture Morocco and you probably imagine camel rides in the desert; perhaps the chaotic labyrinth of markets in Marrakech filled with vibrant colors, life and pungent spices; or maybe cities filled with history and incredible architecture that has remained unchanged for centuries. There is no doubt that these are all key elements of Morocco, and you absolutely must experience them all. But that is not all that this incredible country has to offer. If you are someone who enjoys stepping out of the traditional tourist route and a 3 day tour of the "highlights" just doesn't cut it for you; if you would prefer to step into a truly authentic cultural experience, then look no further - these tips are for you.
Stay in a traditional Riad in Marrakech
This city is on every Morocco itinerary and for good reason. Get lost in the labyrinth of market laneways, be overwhelmed with the sights, smells and flavors of the famous Jemaa el-Fna, explore the ruins of El Badi palace, and find your way to the Menara gardens. Here you have the beginnings of a good itinerary, but first, you need a place to stay. Skip the fancy western-style hotels and opt instead for a traditional Riad. There are countless options here for any budget, and once you walk through the ancient doorway nestled in one of the tiny cobbled streets, you will not regret it. Riad is the name for a traditional home in Morocco and filled with colors, art and history, this will be your haven from the chaos of the streets outside.
Indulge your senses with a Hammam
This ancient Roman tradition has taken on a spiritual aspect in Morocco and for many is a weekly custom. Comprising of a series of saunas and baths and some VERY vigorous scrubbing, you will need to leave your inhibitions at the door, but you will emerge from this experience with a new sense of calm, with cleansed body, mind and spirit.
Explore the Roman ruins in Lixus
Smaller and lesser known than Volubilis, this is one of the oldest inhabited sites in Morocco on the Atlantic coast within the urban boundaries of Laarache. A home of many legends, this was reportedly a favorite of the mythical Hercules and where he gathered golden apples. A UNESCO heritage site with Roman baths, temples, a mosaic floor, walls dating back to the 4th Century and more, this is a must see for anybody wanting to soak up the history of one of Morocco's hidden gems.
Hike the Atlas Mountain through Kik Plateau
Relatively new to the tourist trail this is a must for any adventurer wanting to get off the beaten track. These mountains are home to traditional Berber villages and one of the highest peaks on the African continent. As far as hiking goes, it is intense with long distances and tough terrain, but with sweeping views that make it all worthwhile. The locals here live life much as they did centuries ago; the measure distances in hours and days instead of kilometers, and still rely on traveling markets to get their supplies. This is a place where you will see a different side of Morocco.
Drink mint tea with a local in Chaouen
This quaint town is a bustling metropolis, but has a totally different feel to Marrakech or Fes. It is calmer here and things move at a slower pace in the cobbled streets of this stunning blue city. It is a breath of fresh air after being in the chaos of the larger cities. After waking at sunrise to the haunting prayers of the city, the tone is set for the day. As you let yourself get lost in the tiny streets, make the time to talk to the stall holders. Of course they want to sell you something (that is their job after all!) but here I noticed something else. There was a genuine desire to meet new people. They want to practice their English with you, find out more about where and how you live, and share with you something of their lives and culture too. If you're lucky, they may invite you in for mint tea and if you take the chance you will find that these beautiful people have so much to offer. In my mind, this is the best that traveling has to offer, this is an experience that money simply cannot buy. Here you are scratching below the surface and getting to understand the true nature of the people that made this incredible place what it is.