A short-haul destination that serves up exotic scenery at every stop, Morocco is easily accessible from the UK yet a world away in culture and character. Morocco welcomed a record number of visitors in the first quarter of 2023. And when you look closer at the country’s vastly varied landscapes, it’s easy to understand why the country is trending with travellers. Lofty peaks, dune-filled deserts and ancient cities all vie for attention, while national parks and blissful beaches ensure there’s something to entice every type of holidaymaker – from hiker to honeymooner. Without further ado, here’s our pick of unmissable landscapes in Morocco. Idyllic itinerary incoming…
- High Atlas Mountains: Adventure Awaits
- Erg Chebbi: Desert Delights
- Meknes: Hilltop Hidden Gem
- Oualidia: For Scenic Surfing
- Talassemtane National Park: Hike Happy
The High Atlas Mountains are home to Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa and a tourist hotspot for keen trekkers; the two-day ascent has become a crowded affair, with a queue of peak-chasers snaking towards the summit. However, there are less-travelled trails waiting to be discovered in Morocco’s mountains. Many of these routes are centuries-old and retrace the steps of ancient shepherds, connecting remote villages via picturesque mountain pastures and passes. And if you do want to tick off Toubkal (and have more time to spare), avoid the direct summit path and embark on a seven-day circuit around the Toubkal Massif, culminating in that must-see summit. In the capable hands of your local guide, you can explore more of this pastoral paradise (think walnut orchards, pretty lakes for lunch stops and panoramic ridges). Along the way, enjoy the legendary hospitality of the Berber people, whose invitations to tea are a trip highlight. It’s one of Morocco’s finest multi-day treks and an expedition through some of the most memorable landscapes in Morocco.
Seeing the splendour of the Saharan desert is an extra-special experience, while a trip to Erg Chebbi makes that extra-special experience even more memorable. An erg is a shape-shifting expanse of dunes formed by windswept sands and, stretching more than 17 miles from north to south, the rose-hued humps of Erg Chebbi rise from the Earth like waves on a sandy sea. Erg Chebbi is around a ten-hour drive from Fez and Marrakech, so this remote landscape lends itself to a longer visit. Stay a few nights in a desert camp complete with some of the most mind-blowing stars you’ve ever seen (weather permitting you can sleep out under them too). But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before the stars appear, there’s a sunrise and sunset to savour, when the colour of the land changes subtly by the second; a fluctuating palette of pinks, golds and reds.
Think Moroccan cities and you probably picture Marrakech, maybe Fez or the capital Rabat. Yet with UNESCO World Heritage status, an ancient medina and its scenic hilltop setting, Meknes has one of the most charming urban landscapes in Morocco. It’s also unfairly underrated and often overlooked by tourists, making it a more laid-back alternative to Morocco’s busier cities. The medina is the ancient heart of Meknes. Here, you can shop for souvenirs in the souqs or stop for refreshment at a traditional teahouse. Although non-Muslims aren’t able to enter the 12th-century Grand Mosque, visitors can admire the sun glinting off the green-tiled minaret which towers above the town. Perhaps the best-known city landmark is Bab El Mansour, a grand gateway of marble columns, intricate mosaics and Arabic inscriptions that has become a symbol of Meknes. Stroll the streets of this hidden gem to see its soul in the authentic architecture and sun-kissed scenery.
Once the site of a summer palace used by royalty, today Oualidia is an under-the-radar surf town where the surroundings are as sweet as the waves. It remains a high-end holiday destination for wealthy families, where the beach snack of choice is straight-from-the-sea oysters paired with a glass of local white wine. But atop a surfboard in the sheltered crescent of the lagoon, where the water is clear as glass, it’s the landscape that makes Oualidia special. Whitewashed houses line the shore, while honey-coloured cliffs peak from beyond sandy dunes. So, whether you’re surfing, swimming or simply enjoying the view, Oualidia is a royally good choice for a beach break. It’s also a great place for birdwatching, as migrating birds stop to rest during their journey between Spain and southern Africa. Look out for the fuchsia flamingos who inevitably steal the show.
Hands up if your holiday is incomplete without a hike or two? If so, we recommend putting Talassemtane National Park to the top of your must-see list. Dramatic gorges and craggy cliffs, cascading waterfalls and babbling wadis (streams), fir forests and undulating peaks; the well-marked hiking trails weave their way through all of this and more. We recommend staying in nearby Chefchaouen, so you have the outdoors on your doorstep. Nicknamed the ‘Blue Pearl’, this mountain village is known for its blue-washed buildings and widely considered one of the prettiest places in the country. Hike among some of the most naturally beautiful landscapes in Morocco, then return to blue-hued Chefchaouen to rest your tired legs before another dreamy day on the trails.