[Updated 25 June 2019]
Morocco has always been misinterpreted as a jewel in the Middle East, but this vibrant, culture-centric country is actually located in North Africa! From the snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains to the majestic Saharan dunes, a Moroccan trip is definitely an adventure of a lifetime that you shouldn’t miss 😍 When you have a beautiful country rich with Islamic history, halal food options and picturesque landscapes, your heart will definitely be set to go. But the question you’d have on your mind will: where and how do I start planning for the trip?
Don’t you worry! With this ultimate first timer’s guide to Morocco, you’ll be introduced to some of the best activities, accommodation and the food in the country 🤗
[Haven’t decided if Morocco will be your next travel destination? Here are 7 reasons why it should be]
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Getting around Morocco
Morocco has a network of trains which serves major cities including Fez, Marrakesh, Casablanca, Rabat and Meknes. Recently added high-speed service has decreased the travel time between Casablanca and Fez to 3 hours and 20 minutes, down from 4 and a half hours. There are also Supratours buses that provide onward links to cities that are not served by trains.
Credit: Mouhamadou Barro on Facebook
Trains are easy to navigate and run reasonably on time, but unexpected service disruptions and delays do happen — so do prepare some buffer time in between! Most intercity routes are served by air-conditioned Train Rapide Climatise (TRC) trains, though you might occasionally find yourself on a less comfortable Train Navette Rapide (TNR) route if you’re travelling locally or late at night. TRC trains have two classes of service; the first class has fewer seats per compartment than second class, and your ticket includes a reserved seat. In the second class, you can choose any seat that’s available.
Activities in Morocco
Saunter through the blue houses of Chefchaouen
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Chefchaouen or most commonly known as Chaouen by the locals, is a little gem located in Morocco’s Rif mountains. The town is filled with inexpensive food and accommodation too. The houses and the streets are painted with vivid, azure blue that makes it the best place to snap some Instagram-worthy shots with your friends or your partner 😉 This might possibly be the best place in Morocco to sip a cup of mint tea or trek through quaint landscapes. Multi-day and half-day treks are available, all of which will begin in Chefchaouen. With different routes to take, you might either encounter the village of Jevel El Kelaa or gorgeous views of the Mediterranean Sea!
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Immerse yourself in traditional Moroccan culture by visiting Djemma El Fna
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Located at the heart of Marrakech, Djemma El Fna is a large central marketplace that transcends to a an entertainer’s paradise by dawn. With snake charmers armed with their flutes and henna artists preparing their freshly made henna paste into cones, there is PLENTY to excite you in this heritage rich market! The marketplace also has cafes and restaurants grilling so if you’re a fan of people watching from afar, you’re able to grab a seat and just relax. Do be wary of pickpockets around this area too.
#HHWT Tip: Please spare some change if you want to take get a picture taken with the performers! 😊
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Seek solace in the Hassan II mosque
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Casablanca is often a quick pit stop for travellers in Morocco. But a quick pit stop should be enough for you to visit the majestic Hassan II mosque in Casablanca. Listed as one of the biggest mosques in the world, Hassan II mosque is able to accommodate up to 25,000 congregants. It took over 6,000 artisans and five years to build this stunning mosque. With its intricate interior and vast courtyard, the Hassan II mosque is definitely another place for travellers to seek solace away from the bustling towns of Marrakech, Chefchaouen and Fez. The ablution basements were entirely made of local marble.
[Looking for more things to do in Morocco? Experience the best of Morocco with these 5 activities]
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Now that we’ve covered some of the interesting activities to do in Morocco, let’s talk about the most exciting of any trip, food (mine at least!). Food allows people from different communities to bond, whether you like it spicy or sweet. Moroccan cuisine consists of meat such as chicken, lamb, seafood and extensive use of spices (yes!). Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best restaurants in Morocco.
Recommended restaurants in Morocco
Al Fassia Restaurant
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Al Fassia Restaurant is operated by a group of sisters in Marrakech. (Yes, women empowerment!) This restaurant is known for its extensive décor in its restaurant and the traditional Moroccan food served there. As reflected in the name of the restaurant, the cuisine served is more specifically from Fez, Morocco.
The menu is easy to comprehend, with an assortment of couscous and tagine dishes. One of the popular dishes is pigeon b’stilla (layered pie) for its crunchy pastry and moist meat. Any tagine dish is a must-have while you’re in Morocco! Special dishes such as lamb shoulder need to be ordered 24 hours in advance.
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The restaurant also has 2 locations. One restaurant is located in the chic neighbourhood of Gueliz, a modern hep district in Marrakech and the other is located in Aguedal, which is set in a beautiful orange tree lined garden.
Address: 55, Boulevard Zerktouni, 40 000 Marrakech OR 9 Bis, Zone Touristique de L’Aguedal, Km 2 route de L’Ourika, 40 000 Marrakech
Contact no: +212 524 43 40 60 OR +212 524 38 11 38
Website | Faceboo | Instagram
The Ruined Garden
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You can count on The Ruined Garden to not ruin any of your expectations while you are in Fez. An obscured gem of Fez, this is a peaceful little Mediterranean/Moroccan restaurant with a beautiful garden and terrace. Whether you opt for a seat in the captivating living room or outside in the picturesque garden accompanied by the sounds of birds and a water fountain, you can indulge in healthy but delicious food in a relaxed atmosphere. The dishes range from traditional Moroccan tagine to Mediterranean salad. Both are incredibly good as well! It gets busy, so make sure you book a table in advance.
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Address: Siaj, Sidi Ahmed Chaoui, Fez Medina, Fez, Fes-Boulemane, Fes El Bali, Morocco
Contact no: +212 649 191410
Credit: Auberge Dardara on Facebook
While you’re out admiring the beautifully painted walls of Chefchaouen, please spare some time to have lunch at Auberge Dardara. The owner uses the freshest ingredients from his garden, bakes his own bread and makes his own olive oil and goat’s cheese. (YES, THE INGREDIENTS ARE THAT FRESH) With high-quality ingredients, the exotic flavours of the Mediterranean dishes exude at the first bite. Dardara is also famous with its locals for top-notch Moroccan cuisine and great service. From lamb tajine to bissara (dried beans cream with olive oil, garlic and cumin, this restaurant has you covered.
Credit: Vilostrada on Facebook
Address: 2 N2, Derdara, Morocco
Contact: +212 661-150503
Places to stay in Morocco
One’s adventure in Morocco will not be complete without a stay in a Riad!
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A riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. With that, there are plenty of Riads for you to stay in and be treated like complete royalty during your stay.
Le Riad Yasmine
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With a traditional patio this cool, you might be spending most of your days in Marrakech lounging by the pool and sipping mint tea. (Seriously, we’re not kidding!) Le Riad Yasmine is located at the heart of the Medina in Marrakech. Though the streets are bustling with activities, rest assured that the staff and ambience of Le Riad Yasmine will provide you the peaceful Moroccan escapade that you have always desired. Breakfast is also served at the rooftop and you can witness the Atlas Mountains in all its glory.
Credits: @leriadyasmine on Instagram
Riad Fes Maya Suite & Spa
When your hotel used to be a real palace, expect beautiful, intricate patterns on the courtyard of the hotel as well as the corridors leading up to your rooms. Every corner is perfect for an Instagram shot. 🤗
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Riad Fes Maya Suite & Spa is also located in Fes El Bali, a district in Fez popular for street markets and shopping. Every room in the hotel includes a terrace that provides a city view. Do take note that the hotel only has 9 rooms so be sure to book at least 3-4 months in advanced. You will not want to miss the hotel experience of a lifetime!
Credit: @riadfesmaya on Instagram
Credit: Marruecos, el reino de los sentidos on Facebook
Dar Echchaouen provides you with glorious views of the mountains and the town right in front of hotel. The hotel is brilliantly located for the medina with its beautiful blue houses and the other points of interest in close proximity. Service was also impeccable during the stay of the travellers who has visited this hotel. Do note that there are a lot of steps to navigate so pack light when you are planning to travel to Chefchaouen from other states.
Now that we’ve listed some of the key highlights of your upcoming trip to Morocco, all that is left to do is to pack your luggage and prepare for that trip of a lifetime. Of course, there are 1001 things to do and see in Morocco but we’ll leave it to you to explore. If you’re all set to go, do check out other amazing articles to guide you along for your trip!