Medinas

If you pause for a moment in the medina, stepping out of the stream of shoppers, you can watch Morocco’s very essence flash by. These ancient, crowded quarters – with winding lanes, dead ends, riad hotels, piles of spices, traders, tea drinkers, and a sensory assault around every corner – offer a strong dose of Morocco’s famous Maghrebi mystique.

Fez The world's largest living Islamic medieval city, with goods still carried by donkey and mule.

Marrakesh Exuberant Marrakshis course between souqs, palaces and the Djemaa el-Fna within the medina’s ramparts.

Tangier Hop off the ferry for a fitting introduction to North Africa in this compact medina.

Chefchaouen Medinas aren’t always like diving from the top board; smaller examples include this blue-washed treat.

Craft & Culture

Whether you want to catch some Gnaoua (bluesy music developed by freed slaves), see the Maghreb’s hottest contemporary art or forever transform your mantel with quality craftwork, Morocco will inundate you with options.

Taroudannt Pick up Chleuh silver jewellery, influenced by Saharan tribes and Jewish silversmiths, in the souqs.

Fès Festival of World Sacred Music In June, Morocco’s premier music festival features international names and intimate concerts by tariqas (Sufi orders).

Marrakesh Shop beyond the souqs, alongside collectors in the hip art galleries of Guèliz.

Carpets Towns such as Ouarzazate and Tafraoute are low-pressure spots to bag a tasselled souvenir.

Tangier The American Legation Museum is devoted to Paul Bowles, William Burroughs and the Beat writers.

Off the Beaten Track

Morocco’s small towns and picturesque villages are ideal for unwinding and meeting the locals over mint tea.

Afella-Ighir The road to these oasis villages is little visited; in Tiwadou, stay in an auberge (inn) with a local museum.

Agdz Enjoy the Drâa Valley from the palm groves and mudbrick kasbahs of Agdz.

Imilchil The Middle Atlas village is famous for its marriage moussem (festival), but the journey there is stunning year-round.

Tarfaya Clean up in a tented pool hall near a shipwrecked ferry, and watch the Saharawi world go by.

Around Essaouira Leave the crowds in the medina and follow the surf trail south to Sidi Kaouki and Taghazout.

Bhalil A friendly hillside village dating back to the 4th century, unusual for its troglodyte cave dwellings.

Food Adventures

Morocco offers culinary adventures from couscous rolling to eating camel tajine.

Fez Take a street-food tour, roll your own couscous and visit the communal bread ovens.

M'hamid Learn Saharawi recipes or the secrets of elaborate traditional couscous at M’Hamid’s Saharan retreats.

Marrakesh Buy your ingredients at the souq, and feast on the results in a riad kitchen.

Seafood Buy your dinner fresh off the boat in the ports of Al Hoceima and Essaouira.

Taliouine Tour saffron and argan producers and learn how to make a saffron-tinted tajine.

Demnate Try local almonds, olive oil and wildflower honey in this Berber foodie hub near Marrakesh.

Architecture

Morocco’s buildings, whether being reinvented as a boutique medina retreat or crumbling into a hillside, reflect the country’s long history as a cultural melting pot.

Ali ben Youssef Medersa Inside this splendid 14th-century theological seminary in Marrakesh are five-colour zellij (tilework) walls and stucco archways.

Art deco The Atlantic Coast has wonderful art-deco architecture, in Casablanca and Sidi Ifni.

Kairaouine Mosque & University One of Africa’s largest mosques and the world’s oldest university, founded in Fez 1200 years ago.

Rabat Morocco's capital looks to its past with its Almohad Tour de Hassan minaret, and to the future with the Zaha Hadid designed Grand Theatre of Rabat.

Rissani Tour a zawiya (shrine), a ruined Saharan trading post, and multiple desert ksour (castle).

Berber Culture

Morocco’s proud indigenous people are a memorable part of many travellers’ journeys here. Their Amazigh colour and character are a big part of special spots such as Marrakesh and the Atlas.

Regional costumes From Riffian hats to colourful dresses, women display their local cultural roots.

Demnate Immersion in indigenous culture awaits, with fine olive oil and a Berber Romeo and Juliet.

Imilchil Berbers look for marriage material at the annual moussem in the Middle Atlas village.

Maison Tiskiwin Understand how the Berbers fit into the rest of North Africa in Marrakesh’s museum of trans-Saharan culture.

Al-Hoceima The seaside town is the unofficial capital of Morocco’s northern Berbers.

Beaches

Its coastline stretching from the Mediterranean to the Sahara, Morocco packs in beaches for every taste between its coves, cliffs, boardwalks and ports. Some are fit for family fun, others wait and will development to happen, and many are untrodden, apart from the odd surfer and migratory bird.

Marabout’s Beach Lined with savage rocks, this is the most dramatic of Mirleft’s Atlantic beaches.

Agadir Agadir's long, curving (and clean) beach has families scrambling for buckets and spades.

Yellich This Mediterranean village has a fine beach with an island you can walk out to.

Tangier Head for Plage Robinson, at the northwestern extremity of Africa’s Atlantic Coast.

Deserts

Morocco’s Saharan expanses are some of Africa’s safest and most evocative places to experience the great desert. Not only can you see curvy dunes and harsher hammada (stony desert), you can also meet blue-robed Berbers and try the nomadic lifestyle.

Erg Chebbi This classic Saharan sandscape can be explored by camel, 4WD or sandboard.

Figuig It’s worth trekking east to Morocco’s oasis par excellence, with palmeraies, ksour and Algerian views.

Erg Chigaga Enlist a ‘Blue Man’ in M’Hamid, to explore these mountainous sand dunes.

Drâa Valley Timbuktu-bound caravans once passed through this valley; now you can explore its oases by camel.

Mountains

With Berber villages nestling beneath snowy peaks, the High Atlas is one of the world’s most awe-inspiring mountain ranges. Whether you want to climb, trek, experience rural life or just escape the rat race far below, Morocco’s other mountains are also worth exploring.

Jebel Toubkal Trek to the top of North Africa for thin air and views across the High Atlas.

Ameln Valley Stay in a traditional village house among palmeraies and the gold-pink Anti Atlas.

Middle Atlas The mellower northern Atlas range is ideal for day hikes through hills and forests.

Jebel el-Kelaâ This Rif mountain is walkable in a day from the blue-washed town of Chefchaouen.

Eastern Atlas Barren, Martian-red mountains overlook the Ziz Gorges and the wedding-festival village of Imilchil