Northern Atlantic Coast
This windswept coast is home to Morocco's cultured capital, Rabat, and its economic hub, Casablanca. The refined Mauresque architecture and liberal attitudes on display in both cities are a far cry from the medieval medinas and conservative lifestyles of inland cities such as Fez and Marrakesh. There's more to see than these big cities, though.
Mediterranean Coast & the Rif
Caught between the crashing waves of the Mediterranean and the rough crags of the Rif Mountains, northern Morocco is one of the most charming parts of the country. Tangier, the faded libertine of a port that links Africa and Europe, has shed its shady past to enjoy a rebirth as fashionable Moroccan riviera.
Fez, Meknès & the Middle Atlas
Humble villages and gentle mountain trails offer a charming counterpoint to imperial cities and ancient ruins in this area of Morocco. The fertile plains of the north have acted as Morocco’s breadbasket for centuries. The Romans left remains at Volubilis, followed in turn by Muslim dynasties who created Morocco’s grandest imperial city: Fez.
In its heyday, Fez attracted scholars and philosophers, mathematicians and lawyers, astronomers and theologians. Craftsmen built them houses and palaces, kings endowed mosques and medersas (religious schools), and merchants offered exotic wares from the silk roads and sub-Saharan trade routes.
As you travel along the N10 east of Taroudant you will see frizzy argan trees, beloved of local goats and international chefs, growing near the road. Approaching the mountains, the Tizi n’Test road leads through a lush state-run argan preserve – a dream destination for mountain goats accustomed to slim pickings in the High Atlas.
The Rif is the most northerly of Morocco's mountain chains. There are some good hikes to be had in the region from the most popular town for tourists, Chefchaouen, with its pastel blue medina. An alternative base in the Rif is Tetouan, which has some fine Spanish colonial architecture.
Welcome to North Africa’s highest mountain range, known by local Berbers as ‘Idraren Draren’ (Mountains of Mountains), and a trekker’s paradise from spring through to autumn. The High Atlas runs diagonally across Morocco for almost 1000km, encircling Marrakesh to the south and east from the Atlantic Coast just north of Agadir to Khenifra in the northeast.
With a busy port and beach resort sprawling beneath its kasbah, Agadir was completely rebuilt following a devastating earthquake in 1960. It is now the country’s premier destination for sun, sand, pubs and pizza. Laid out as a large grid of downtown streets, surrounded by spacious residential suburbs, Agadir’s concrete-covered inland quarters are ugly and sterile.
Morocco’s political and administrative capital may be short on top-drawer tourist attractions, but it compensates with plenty of charm. The ville nouvelle's palm-lined boulevards are clean, well kept and relatively free of traffic – a blessed relief for those who have spent time in Casablanca.
Quieter and smaller than its grand neighbour Fez, Meknès feels rather overshadowed and receives fewer visitors than it should. It’s more laid-back with less hassle, yet still has all the winding narrow medina streets and grand buildings that it warrants as an imperial city and one-time home of the Moroccan sultanate.