Must see attractions in Central Morocco

  • Top ChoiceSights in Draa Valley

    Erg Chigaga

    The area's star attraction is the misnamed Erg Chigaga, not a single dune (erg) but an incredible stretch of golden sand sea some 56km southwest of M'Hamid. It is the largest sand sea in Morocco, snaking along the horizon for 40km and bordered to the north and south by mountain ridges. The best way to get here is in classic movie style: by camel (from Dh500 to Dh600 per day), which takes between five and seven days round-trip. To reach the area in just a few hours, a 4WD costs from Dh1000 to Dh1300 per day with insurance, plus another Dh350 to Dh500 for the camp. This sea of golden crescents, which peak at 300m, hides small, semipermanent camps in its troughs. As a result, the desert experience here is quiet and enveloping, offering spectacular night skies illuminated by the enormous arc of the Milky Way.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Ourika Valley

    Anima Garden

    Nestled in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains, Anima Garden is a space designed by multimedia artist André Heller. Surprising sculptures referencing local and international themes are hidden among the shady pathways and flowerbeds filled with wildflowers, cacti, water features, palm trees and tall grass. The on-site cafe serves light food, sweets and an array of hot beverages. There's a free shuttle service here from just behind Koutoubia Gardens in Marrakesh; seat preference is given to those with online reservations. Check the website for shuttle timings and detailed directions to the pickup point.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Dadès Valley

    Musée des Sources de Lalla Mimouna

    This indoor/outdoor private museum is the passion project of Tinejdad native Zaid Abbou, built around the fizzing, magnesium-rich springs of Lalla Mimouna. Artefacts collected over 40 years – including ceramics, agricultural tools, jewellery and illuminated books – give an insight into oasis life, housed in a series of unfolding spaces across a garden dotted with literary quotations about valuing nature, particularly water. The spring had become a rubbish dump when Zaïd – a multi-talented artist and calligrapher – rescued and restored it, and if he's on site he'll happily show you around, which is undoubtedly the highlight of any visit. He'll demonstrate how some of the ancient time-measuring devices using water and a bowl work, along with primitive locks and keys, and share some of the magic and mystery of this special place. Look for the signs on the left before you get to Tinejdad.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Dadès Valley

    Musée de Oasis

    Inside the Ksar El Khorbat, this award-winning museum traces tribal migrations through 22 rooms of carefully curated artefacts of seminomadic life: saddles worn shiny, contracts inscribed on wooden tablets in Arabic and Hebrew, ceramic urns for water and preserved butter, heavy silver jewellery and inlaid muskets and handcuffs to protect it all from would-be thieves. Interesting multilingual explanations in French, English and Spanish illuminate tribal and family affiliations and explain the vexing architectural differences between a ksar (fortified village) and a kasbah. Useful indeed when you wander around the labyrinthine alley of the ksar in which the museum is housed and which is still home to some 80 families.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Ourika Valley

    Ecomusée Berbère

    Four kilometres past Tnine, a discreet sign points up a dirt path into the Amazigh (Berber) village of Tafza, where the three-storey mud-brick ksar (fortified village) that once housed the local qaid (chief) is now a museum. Enthusiastic guided visits (in English, French or Spanish) cover every detail of household life, from symbols carved in door frames to silver dowry jewellery, and a 1½-hour loop of short documentaries show life in the High Atlas in the 1940s and ’50s. Call ahead to reserve meals on the terrace (Dh70), to arrange visits to Tafza pottery workshops, or for half-day excursions that take in community gardens, pottery workshops and village life.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Draa Valley

    Kasbah des Caids

    Tour the Kasbah's maze of rooms with one of the descendants of the original qaid (chief), including his office and hammam, light-filled courtyards and dark secret passageways. It's attached to the ksar (fortified village) where 300 families once lived, including 35 Jewish families – just 20 remain – along a warren of alleyways lit by skylights. See if you can distinguish between the Moorish, Amazigh (Berber) and Jewish motifs that blend so seamlessly here, or recognise a backdrop from award-winning films like Babel. If Hassan isn't there, local guides hang around the entrance to the Kasbah.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Ouarzazate

    Taourirt Kasbah

    Unlike other Glaoui-era kasbahs, Taourirt escaped ruin by moonlighting as a Hollywood backdrop ( Sheltering Sky, Gladiator, Prince of Persia) and attracting the attention of Unesco, which has carefully restored small sections of the inner sanctum. Follow the maze of stairwells to the top floor, where you’ll find a prayer room through keyhole archways, traces of stucco and an original tataoui (woven reed) ceiling. Afterwards, wander through the old village beyond the kasbah walls, and you might also find deals on local crafts in backstreet shops.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Skoura

    Palmeraie

    Skoura’s beautiful Unesco-protected palmeraie (palm grove) has been dubbed ‘Oasis of 1000 Palms’. Under the green canopy, a 15-mile patchwork of plots are watered by an ingenious, centuries-old khettara (underground irrigation system) of canals, levers and locks. More than 100 bird species flourish here, as well as more than 20 date varieties. Overnight in a pisé (rammed-earth) guesthouse and explore the palmeraie on foot or bicycle. A guide will help make the most of your explorations, and stop you getting lost.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Zagora

    Amezrou

    Zagora’s desert-crossroads culture can be glimpsed in the neighbouring village of Amezrou, where the historic mud-brick mellah (Jewish quarter), once home to around 400 Jewish households, is part crumbling, part restored. Along its labyrinthine alleyways you can peek inside a small rammed-earth synagogue (Dh10), watch builders at work up ramshackle ladders and meet the artisans soldering metal good-luck charms with Amazigh (Berber), African, Jewish and Muslim designs. A local will offer to show you the sights (tip Dh50).

  • Top ChoiceSights in Ijoukak

    Tin Mal Mosque

    This Almohad-era mosque was built in 1156 in honour of the dynasty’s strict spiritual leader, Mohammed Ibn Tumart, and it remains an architectural wonder. The mosque is still used for Friday prayers, but on other days the guardian will usher you through its massive doors and rose-coloured archways into the serene prayer hall. The intricate geometry of the carved cedar ceilings has been preserved through painstaking restoration, and the soaring archways give a sense of solidity and grace.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Zagora

    Musée des Arts et Traditions de la Valleé du Draa

    Follow the signs to this fascinating small museum, where three floors are dedicated to traditional life in the Draa Valley. Look out for tribal jewellery and wedding garb, the intriguing birthing room and tea glasses thought to shatter on contact with poison. All exhibits come with excellent explanations in French and English, or take a tour with a local guide. The people behind the museum also run the recommended guesthouse next door.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Merzouga

    Erg Chebbi

    Shape-shifting over 28km from north to south and reaching heights of 160m, the great sand sea of Erg Chebbi is extraordinarily scenic. The rose-gold dunes rise dramatically above a pancake-flat, grey hamada (hard-packed rocky desert) and turn stunning shades of orange, pink and purple as the sun sets.

  • Top ChoiceSights in High Atlas Mountains

    Ait Sidi Moulay Igherm

    The largest building in Zaouiat Ahansal dominates the surrounding village. Still home to the saint's descendants, the village's oldest building also serves as a hostel to pilgrims who visit the area.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Draa Valley

    Zawiya Nassiriyya

    Non-Muslims cannot visit the green-roofed mausoleum but the remarkable library inside the adjacent Quranic school is open to all – providing the keyholder's around. Among the 4000 ancient manuscripts that remain on the glassed-in shelves – there used to be around 50,000, now lost or in other museums – are maps with precise details, exquisite calligraphy and a Quran written on gazelle hide dating back to 11th-century Cordoba. Find it through an arch in the northwest corner of the main square. No photographs.

  • Sights in Ouarzazate

    Tifoultoute Kasbah

    Built in the 17th century and extended by the Glaoui clan in the 18th, this commanding hilltop kasbah has now been converted into a privately owned restaurant (open to diners till midnight), with tables scattered throughout the building. Though only the smaller 18th-century extension is open to visitors (the rest left to slowly return to the sands), several magnificently tiled rooms inside make it worth the trip. Bus 4 (Dh4) runs here from past the Ouarzazate souq and bus station, ending directly in front of the kasbah. From here it's a 4km walk to Atlas Studios, an easy option to combine visits to the two if it isn't too hot out.

  • Sights in Skoura

    Kasbah Amridil

    One of Morocco’s grandest kasbahs, this 17th-century marvel once appeared on the Dh50 note. Signposted just a few hundred metres from the main road, this living museum showcases traditional kasbah life over the centuries, with hand-carved door locks, an olive oil press, still-functioning bread ovens and stalls where animals were once kept. The kasbah has been split into two, each with its own entrance – the part on the right has retained a more authentic feel and has the higher terrace. The part on the left has been restored and altered to feature a garden in the middle, a design not native to the region but imported from Marrakesh.

  • Sights in High Atlas Mountains

    Cascades d'Ouzoud

    The many-tiered Cascades d’Ouzoud are stunningly beautiful, with several distinct falls, the largest a massive 100m drop. The area is also one of the most popular day trips from Marrakesh, so be prepared to not have this natural idyll to yourself. On summer weekends the cafe-lined paths that lead down to the falls are filled with local families and tourists browsing souvenir stalls and taking pictures. To reach the falls, walk past the signs for Riad Cascades d’Ouzoud towards the precipice, where converging paths wind down towards the largest falls and beyond.

  • Sights in Dadès Valley

    Ksar El Khorbat

    This spectacular example of a mid-19th-century fortified village was crumbling to dust when it underwent a major restoration using traditional techniques and materials, as well as adding a few contemporary comforts. Today, around half of the dwellings are still inhabited, while others have been turned into a 22-room museum, a guesthouse, a restaurant and a women’s craft workshop. The aim is to preserve the history and culture of the ksar (fortified village) through sustainable tourism while benefiting the whole community.

  • Sights in Ourika Valley

    Safranerie de l'Ourika

    Almost anything thrives in Ourika’s rich soil, including saffron, organically grown here from bulbs that are cultivated near Talouine. Saffron is a high-maintenance plant, with flowers harvested before dawn for maximum potency. Guided tours of the several-hectare fruit and saffron orchards are given by staff who reiterate key points on explanatory placards. Tours end with a complimentary tea (a mixture of herbs grown in the garden) and a soft-sell of Safranerie saffron and estate-grown herbal teas (around Dh100). You can also watch the harvest take place during the first three weeks of November, although you'll need to arrange it in advance and get here by around 5am. To get here look for the poorly signed turnoff about 700m west of the bridge, opposite a pharmacy.

  • Sights in Ouarzazate

    Atlas Film Corporation Studios

    The first ‘Ouarzawood’ studio, established by Mohammed Belghimi in 1983, displays sets and props from movies filmed here, including Jewel of the Nile, Kingdom of Heaven and Kundun. Guided tours run every 20 to 40 minutes and take you through some of the stages, sets and workshops incorporated in the 11 hectare site, although you're also welcome to wander around on your own. The studio is 5km west of town on the Marrakesh road and easily accessible on the green city buses 1 and 2 (Dh4) that run along Ave Mohammed V. A further half hour walk into the desert is what appears to be a complete fortress town – this is the Kingdom of Heaven set (combined entry with the studios Dh110).