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Three of the best adventure itineraries in Morocco

Whether you hug the coast and tour its eclectic cities or set off into the country’s heartland to discover ancient, UNESCO-listed wonders, Morocco promises plenty for the intrepid traveller.

The town of Asilah is a favourite summer retreat for urbanites from Casablanca and Spain.

Photograph by Getty Images
Published 20 Apr 2022, 09:44 BST

1. Explore the Atlantic coast

The first stage of Morocco’s Al Boraq high-speed railway, inaugurated by King Mohammed VI in late 2018, makes city-hopping along the northern Atlantic coast a breeze. Travelling at up to 200mph, these are the fastest trains in Africa: handy for a three-city tour that combines Tangier — within glancing distance of southern Spain — and modern-minded capital Rabat and art deco Casablanca. 

To include some of the coast’s more bohemian haunts in your trip, continue by car, motorbike, grand taxi (inter-city car share) or bus. The town of Asilah, a favourite summer retreat for urbanites from Casablanca and Spain, deserves wider acclaim: it’s compact and atmospheric, with historic stone ramparts, a well-kept, whitewashed centre and a blossoming street art scene. Essaouira, Taghazout and busy, beachy Agadir, further south, are better known, but just as appealing: here, you can hang out with artisan fishermen and local musicians or just fall in with the European windsurfers, surfers and sun-worshippers who return year after year.

2. Discover the UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Teeming with tradition, every Moroccan medina (historical quarter) is intriguing, but those in Fez, Marrakech, Tétouan and Essaouira are particularly remarkable, and are UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed. The Medina of Fez is perhaps the jewel in Morocco’s crown: a complex tangle of streets founded in the ninth century, and home to the eminent University of al-Qarawiyyin, held by many to be the world’s oldest. It’s also packed with madrasas (Islamic schools), fondouks (artisans’ workshops), palaces, mosques and fountains. Marrakech, meanwhile, has a thousand-year history and Morocco’s largest place of worship, the Koutoubia Mosque; Tétouan's Andalucian-style medina is notable for its number of intact buildings; and Essaouira’s walled city has grand battlements and an innovative, 18th-century grid layout — a stark contrast to the tighter-knit plans of earlier medinas.

For a satisfying cultural tour, link this quartet of historic cities with Morocco’s other five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the remarkable Portuguese fortifications of El Jadida; the romantic 17th-century ksar (fortified village) of Aït Benhaddou, home to a delightful community cafe and an artist’s studio; Volubilis with its elegant Roman columns; the imperial city of Meknes; and Rabat, whose unique blend of architecture is newly crowned by the futuristic, Zaha Hadid-designed Grand Théâtre.

3. Roam through the wild south

South east of Agadir, adventure awaits. Picturesque roads wind their way through Souss-Massa into the Anti-Atlas mountains, a dramatic, arid landscape of rough-hewn, coral-pink granite, thinly scattered with Tashelhit-speaking villages where animated weekly markets draw gaggles of Amazigh traders in woollen djellabas. The easy-going town of Tafraoute makes an excellent destination, given its enviable location in hiking and mountain biking country, amid impressive rock formations, weather-worn kasbahs (fortresses) and unexpected oases. The pretty hamlets of the Ameln Valley and the towering date palms of the Aït Mansour Gorge add flashes of colour to the ochre scenes.

Continuing east into Drâa-Tafilalet via the saffron-growing region around Taliouine, visitors can catch their breath at the crossroads town of Ouarzazate before diving southeast through the Drâa Valley to Erg Chigaga on the Sahara’s northern fringes. This, at last, is the North African desert of the imagination: an almost untouched dunescape where camels plod gently across the sand and, after dark, the silence is absolute.

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