5 Must-have experiences in Morocco

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Step back through the pages of the past into another time, to a place steeped in history, vibrant with culture and colour.

Located at the confluence of three very distinct regions – Africa, Europe, and Arabia – Morocco is a melting pot of sights and sounds, a blend of different cultures and customs.

Whilst the prevailing image of Morocco might be one of desert, sand and camels, of mosques, bustling markets and old-fashioned houses, it is so much more. Diverse landscapes, far-flung places, hidden gems – a trip to Morocco will leave a lasting imprint on you.

At Encounters Travel, we know Morocco inside out. Our wide-ranging adventure tours cover everything from the most famous landmarks to the lesser-known gems of this small North African country. There are some experiences which without a trip to Morocco would be incomplete. Whichever tour you decide is best suited to you, at least one of the following unmissable experiences is waiting for you.

Desert camping

Iconic, legendary, world-famous – the Sahara Desert is renowned worldwide. Incredibly, incomprehensibly, almost impossibly immense, this mammoth landscape spans ten countries and makes up 31% of the entire African continent. The subject of a thousand stories, legends, poems, and novels, the Sahara has captured the imagination of humanity for centuries. Spend a night camping out under the stars in this magical place, surrounded by towering sand dunes and the haunting beauty of the desert.

On our tours, we camp out at a traditional Berber desert camp. The Berbers were the original inhabitants of North Africa, a pre-Arab people whose descendants still reside in the region today.  Get the full desert experience with a camel ride at sunset, before witnessing the sunset from a top of a sand dune. A delicious meal served around a campfire, as you are serenaded by local musicians, completes the magical experience.

Unsullied by the artificial lights of towns and cities, you will be awestruck by the grandeur of the Milky Way spread out above you. Then it’s time to retreat to your comfortable camel-hair tent, the stillness of the desert making it easy to drift off to sleep.

The desert camping experience is available on our Moroccan Mosaics Tour.

Souks

What is a trip to Morocco without visiting a souk (marketplace)? Take in the intoxicating smells and kaleidoscopes of colour as you browse and haggle your way through the stalls. Haggling with souk traders is an art form – the friendly back-and-forth is immensely enjoyable and is a very useful skill to have!

Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech is one of the best souks to visit in Morocco. On many of our tours, you arrive here at around sunset, when the souk truly comes alive. You will see dancers, acrobats, snake-charmers, storytellers, and traditional musicians, all complementing the array of vibrant stalls that peddle everything from fresh produce to handicrafts. You will have no trouble finding souvenirs and gifts!

Some tours that include souk visits are: Imperial Cities Tour, Moroccan Mosaics Tour, and Morocco Uncovered.

Road of a thousand Kasbahs

A “kasbah” is a fortified building or castle. These famous earthen clay or mud buildings of Morocco feature towers, ramparts, and ancient Berber symbols carved into the walls.

They are found in abundance along the “Road of a Thousand Kasbahs”, a part of the ancient caravan route from Ouarzazarte to Goulmima. Travelling along it, you will feel as though you have stepped into the pages of an ancient history book or gone back in time.

It is one of those places that truly resonates with you, and makes returning to modern life rather surreal. You will also stop at Ait Benhaddou, the most famous Kasbah on the road. Stunningly beautiful, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a number of Hollywood movies have been filmed there.

We travel the road of a thousand kasbahs on the Morocco Desert Safari Tour.

Atlas Mountains

Towering snow-capped peaks, dramatic mountain passes, steep canyons, and lush vegetation- these are not exactly features for which Morocco is famous. At 4167 metres at their highest point, the Atlas Mountains can’t really be called a “hidden” gem – but these majestic mountains are certainly less well-known than the country’s desert landscapes.

Simply driving through the region is an experience in itself- you will be treated to breathtaking scenery and stunning views. The Atlas Mountains are home to many Berber villages, where the tranquil mountain atmosphere and traditional lifestyles hark back to a simpler time. Many of our tours include stops at some of these villages – enjoy a glass of Moroccan mint tea as you take in the alpine-like views.

The Atlas Mountains are crossed/visited on the following tours: Moroccan Mosaics, Morocco Desert Safari.

Culture and history

A place of great historical significance, Morocco is home to several ancient cities and towns. Get lost in the narrow streets and winding alleys of the big cities and smaller oasis towns, discovering something new around every corner.

You will find markets, mosques, restaurants, carpet shops… all set against a backdrop of colours and a soundtrack of trader calls, musicians playing in the streets, and the melodic call to prayer. The ancient city of Fez is known as the “cultural capital” of Morocco, and is over 1200 years old.

Marrakech, equally famous, is where you will find the grand Bahia Palace with its beautiful gardens, and the enormous Koutoubia Mosque, its towering minaret an iconic landmark.

Morocco is also known for its beautiful hand-woven carpets and rugs, and, while we can’t guarantee that they’ll be able to fly, you might just find the perfect new carpet for your bedroom or lounge back home. The carpet-buying process can often be an extensive affair, where you’ll be treated to Moroccan mint tea and shown the traditional loom while the various carpets are rolled out for display. It is certainly a memorable experience!

Another must-have cultural experience is a visit to the leather tanneries of Fez – absolutely fascinating places, if you can stand the smell! Great stone vats are filled with dyes of every colour – watch in wonder as the workers stand waist-deep in the dyes, doing their work without the use of modern machinery.

Fez and Marrakech are visited on many of our tours, including: Magical Marrakech, Morocco Explorer, Morocco on a Shoestring, and Imperial Cities Tour.

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