Morocco... Where to go?
Few countries possess as potent a mixture of urban bustle, colourful cultural attractions and spectacular scenery as Morocco. Providing countless opportunities for fascinating little cultural discoveries and encounters with scenery splendid enough to leave you utterly awestruck, Morocco is an endlessly exciting place to explore.
Today, we will introduce you to some of the very finest places to discover the country's intriguing cultural and natural attractions.
Marrakech is one of the most marvellous destinations for delving into quintessential Moroccan culture, being home to bustling souks, chaotic squares and grand architecture. What's more, it also manages to have some beautiful green spaces that provide welcome oases of calm between the throngs of locals and travellers on the streets.
Without doubt, the ultimate place to commence your adventures in Marrakech is Djemaa el Fna – the city's main square whose name translates, somewhat unnervingly, to 'assembly of the dead'. This is because, centuries ago, it was the site of public executions - but today it is hard to imagine any place more alive. Indeed, this square is a veritable open-air theatre, home to snake charmers, chefs and everything in between. Come here to people-watch and soak up the atmosphere.
From Djemaa el Fna, venture into the souks, which are spread through the streets to the north of the square and trade between 9am and 7pm each day, with the exceptions of Fridays, when they are closed in the mornings. Everything from spices to carpets are sold in these souks – drink in the colours, the smells, and the sounds of bargaining on the wind.
And if you would like to escape the hubbub for a moment, Jardin Majorelle is the place to do it. Gifted to the city by Yves Saint Laurent in the 1960s, this stunning garden is a riot of colour.
It is also worth bearing in mind that there are wonderful cultural attractions to be discovered when travelling to and from Marrakech, as well as on day trips. Should you be journeying between Fez and Marrakech, for example, you could visit traditional Berber villages en route. Alternatively, embark on a day trip to the small village of Tin Mal in the Atlas mountains - one of the country's most important historical sites.
A spectacular Unesco World Heritage Site, Volubilis is an ancient Roman city – and the finest archaeological site in Morocco. An immensely fascinating place, Volubilis is just a short distance from the city of Meknes. It is particularly scenic at dusk, though endlessly impressive at any time of day. Should you be visiting during the day, remember to bring plenty of water and sun protection, as the sun here is typically very strong.
Founded in the 3rd century BC, Volubilis was the Mauritanian capital and an important outpost of the Roman Empire. As it has not been occupied for almost 1,000 years and has remained quite isolated, it offers visitors an impressively untainted experience of Romanisation at the Empire's frontiers. What's more, there are still wonderful artistic treasures to be seen here, including glorious mosaics that are a joy to behold.
The Atlas Mountains
When it comes to discovering Morocco, natural wonders are as important as cultural ones. Reaching a staggering 4,000 metres in height, the Atlas Mountains are a natural marvel. This stunning part of Morocco simply must be explored, and with the High Atlas region located just an hour's drive from Marrakech, it is easy to fit into your itinerary. As well as being beautiful, these mountains are home to traditional Berber villages, which you can visit to soak up a little more Moroccan culture, as we outlined above.
Another important feature of Morocco's landscape is its desert. For the most memorable experience, travel to the 800ft high sand dunes at Erg Chebbi, which is near the town of Merzouga in central Morocco. This remarkable site is an incomparable spot to watch the sunset, with the waning daylight casting captivating shades of pink, orange and purple across the sky and landscape.