(© Aussies In Morocco Tours™)
Perhaps you’ve been to Morocco before and probably hit up all the famous spots. You’ve been dazzled by the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca, trodden through the souks of Marrakech and slept under the Sahara stars, but you’re ready to return. Either Morocco got embedded under your skin or maybe you’ve decided the second time is better with a partner or friends. Whatever your reason for returning you can count on creating a unique experience the second time around.
Chances are you fall into one of two camps: either you want to return and enjoy a similar journey or you’re returning and hoping for new experiences. There’s no right or wrong way, so let’s tuck in and start thinking how to make Morocco 2.0 even better than the first time around and check out the map we have included here of the off-the-beaten-track places referred to in this blog post.
Choose Mirror Cities
It’s a good bet that your first trip to Morocco hit the major cities. For the second trip why not consider their “mirror” cities? For example, if you saw Casablanca, make Rabat your destination the next go around. Choose Essaouira or Tetouan over Chefchaouen if you want to stay in the north. When you’re ready to really get away from the crowds, a visit to Tiznit or Mirleft will give you a glimpse of a different Morocco than you’re used to. Love Marrakech but don’t like the commercial aspect? Try Taroudant which is a reminder of what Marrakech was before it became a tourist hot spot. Also not too far from Taroudant you can visit the ancient storehouses or Agadirs that were restored and opened to the public a few years ago.
Mirleft, a small fishing village between the Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic, seems untouched by time.
These secondary cities aren’t visited as much by tourists and still have a lot to offer. Do be aware they may not have all the amenities or action you’re after, so take into consideration the types of travel experiences you like to have.
Hit the hot spots but do something different
If on your first visit you experienced places you really enjoyed, there’s nothing wrong with going back. Odds are good you didn’t get to see or do everything those places have to offer. You might also consider hands-on activities or classes that you didn’t have time for. (One example might be zouaq painting classes in Marrakech under the tutelage of a Mallam or Master, of that artisanal skill. We have a facts sheet about this in our Client Resources accessible by clients via our website). Your first visit gave you an overview of what to expect, your second visit can be where you dive in and really get to know Morocco.
Use major cities as a base
We suggest that instead of visiting the large cities, use them for their proximity to other areas. Centre yourself and then take shorter trips to nearby cities and experiences around small towns. For example, if based in Fez you can visit Ifrane, Moulay Idriss, Meknes and Azrou very easily. Also Bhalil with its famous cave homes and Seffrou, an artisan locale and formerly largely populated by Moroccan jews, evidence of which remains. From Marrakech head to Ourika, or a mountain village such as Amizmiz, Ouzoud Waterfalls and river community, and even Essaouira, an old portuguese port city. This gives you the best of both worlds; the convenience of a large city and a glimpse into smaller centres of interest.
See the North
Daytrippers from Spain usually make a call on Tangier, but the northern swathes of Morocco typically fall far away from where visitors go. However, they have a lot to offer and you’ll see a very different side of Morocco when you visit. Tangier, Tetouan, and Asilah are all within an easy drive of each other, although each place really deserves to have time spent there to explore.
This is especially true if you’re someone that loves and appreciates the arts – in all shapes and forms.
In Asilah you can enjoy the laid-back roadways painted with street art, in Tangier you can go gallery hopping and find an assortment of art experiences, and in Tetouan a visit to the Royal Art Academy will allow you to see how traditional Moroccan craftsmanship is being kept alive.
From here you can head further east to Al Hoceima and Nador; these are lovely spots on the Mediterranean if you’re an outdoors person that wants to hike or spend time at the beach. This entire area of Morocco has a very heavy Spanish influence and you’ll quickly see this. If you’ve got your passport handy, you can also pop into Ceuta or Melilla; both are Spanish cities that are on the Moroccan mainland and a way to visit Europe while remaining on the African continent!
Stay in the South
Seeing the Sahara desert is on most people’s bucket list for a Morocco visit, however this portion of their trip is often a three-day-max whirlwind. The deserts and valleys in the southern regions of Morocco are fascinating to visit and worth far more time than a quick drive through with an overnight sleep.
On your return to Morocco be sure to make more time for this area. Spend time wandering the oases, enjoy the silence of the desert (perhaps staying with desert nomads overnight), get your fortune read by a desert fortune teller, visit a healer and learn about the medicinal qualities of desert plants, spend a day with a fossil hunter like some geology enthusiasts from Europe sometimes do, have a bath at a local hammam with the locals, eat Friday couscous in a mud-brick dwelling with a desert family and generally get to know how life passes in this part of the country. You might also visit Erfoud known for its prehistoric fossils, the Draa valley which is a veritable garden of Eden (rather than just pass through them as you may have done on your first visit) and the Todra Gorge area, but this time for hiking and rock-climbing. Rissani is home to many ksars (mini dilapidated palaces not too dissimilar to the Alhambra at Granada in Spain), which are open to tourists, but curiously devoid of them!
Head for the Hills
From Marrakech it’s easy to access the High Atlas Mountains. By arriving in Marrakech, you can easily make your way across these areas to have a slower pace in more remote areas. A visit to Taliouine (especially in October/November) for the saffron harvest is amazing to experience. In winter Oukaimden is known for its snow skiing and sledding – just be prepared for the cold!
Hikers can trek to the top of Mount Toubkal, the second highest mountain in Africa. But even if you’re not that experienced, there are countless small walks that can be easily done throughout the mountain areas. Also there are many ancient carvings and rock paintings in the Atlas Mountains, to which local guides can take you.
At Sti Fadma you can visit a cafe where the tables, umbrellas and chairs are actually in a small river (not on the banks), relatively close to waterfalls. There is nothing more lovely on a hot day than to eat your freshly-prepared lunch at a cafe table while your feet are immersed in the cool mountain spring flowing underneath your table.
When you’re ready to book your return trip to Morocco, Aussies in Morocco Tours™ can help make your ideal trip a reality. Get in touch and let’s start planning.
Why us, you may ask? We hope this original blog post demonstrates we know what we are talking about. We have the local contacts in Morocco, and we can appreciate the Australian travellers’ interest in unusual adventures.
Refreshed and updated May 2023