On the southern coast of Morocco, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, you’ll find Agadir. Though destroyed by an earthquake in 1960, the city has since been rebuilt and is now the largest seaside resort in the country. Agadir’s mild climate attracts visitors year-round, and it is a popular destination for Europeans looking to escape the winter months. The medina’s souk is the largest in the region, with around 6,000 shops selling food, clothing, decoration, furniture, and handicrafts.
The Atlas Mountain range stretches through Morocco into Algeria and Tunisia, and separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Sahara Desert. Today, the mountains are primarily inhabited by Berber villagers, but they were once home to a number of unique African species that have since gone extinct (the Barbary macaque, the Atlas bear, the Barbary leopard, the North African elephant, to name a few). The mountains are a perfect outdoor day-trip from nearby Marrakech or Agadir.
Of all the cities in all the countries in all the world, we head to Casablanca.
Known because of a certain 1942 movie, this Moroccan city really does live up to its name: the casas (buildings) here are indeed blanca (white). Casablanca features stunning architecture, a blossoming arts and culture scene, wonderful restaurants, and surf-school-lined beaches. Though every scene in the Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman classic was filmed at a studio in Hollywood, that doesn’t seem to stop the tourists who continue to visit in search of Rick’s Cafe Americain. (For those who love the movie, a former American diplomat did open a restaurant called “Rick’s Cafe,” where a pianist plays tunes from the film and familiar Sinatra songs).
This Moroccan city is known for one thing: its color. Various hues and shades of blue paint the town — everything from homes to government buildings to benches. The blue comes from 15th century Jewish refugees who fled the Spanish Inquisition and settled in Morocco. They painted things blue to mirror the sky and remind them of God, and while the city’s Jewish population has dwindled since, the tradition lives on. Chefchaouen is a photographer’s paradise, though all that blue can make it difficult to navigate the city. Use your camera to photograph where you’re staying — that way you know what your building looks like and can show a friendly local a picture if you get truly lost.
The small city of Essaouira sits on the coast of Morocco, glistening in the sun that reflects off the Atlantic. Known for its beaches, harbor, and laid-back atmosphere, Essaouira also is recognizable as a filming location for “Game of Thrones.” Take a stroll along the old Portuguese ramparts, try your hand at Moroccan cooking, explore the spice market, or relax on the beach — since Essaouira is only a few hours from Marrakech, it’s the perfect day-trip for any traveler.
The second-largest city in Morocco beckons from the north. Once the capital city, Fez has been called the “Mecca of the West” and the “Athens of Africa.” Fez is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is believed to be one of the largest car-free urban pedestrian zones in the world, and is home to the oldest continuously functioning university in the world, the University of Al Quaraouiyine.The picturesque streets and maze-like medina are sure to charm any traveler, while the leather tanneries hidden in the city fascinate all who find them.
Marrakech may only be the fourth-largest city in Morocco, but it may be the most well-known. The famous souks and Djemma el Fna square are easily recognized as Moroccan, and the medina features some of the most-photographed spots in the country. Nicknamed the “Red City” for the color of its buildings, its ideal location makes it an easy starting point from which to explore the rest of Morocco — Essaouira is only a few hours west, and other day trips could include the Atlas Mountains, Ourika Valley, Aït Benhaddou, and Imlil.
Morocco’s capital city sits on the northern coast of the Atlantic and is one of the most important cities in the country (due to the presence of foreign embassies and the seat of the royal family). Though once an essential port city, Rabat now relies on its role in the construction, food processing, and textile industries. Not as popular as Fez, Marrakech, or Casablanca with travelers, Rabat nonetheless features beautiful architecture, a twisting medina, and a number of public parks. Visit in May for the world-famous Mawazine music festival, which has featured renowned artists such as Rihanna, Kanye West, Christina Aguilera, Pharrell Williams, and Stevie Wonder in the past.
This northern coastal city is in a period of rapid growth and modernization. Located right across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain, Tangier has a long history of multi-cultural impact — governed at some point by the Romans, Phoenicians, Portuguese, Moors, and English. Beat writers such as William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Bowles, and Jack Kerouac fell in love with Tangier, and Hollywood filmmakers actually used this city as the inspiration for the set design for “Casablanca.”
Header image by Zach Murphy.