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Where to go on holiday in Morocco, from Marrakech to Fes

Bustling cities, surf-battered coastlines and a riot of colourful medinas await

Natalie Wilson
Tuesday 09 April 2024 07:30 BST
Tangier is a parade of shorelines, souks and riad hotels
Tangier is a parade of shorelines, souks and riad hotels (Getty)

With the Atlas mountains and sections of the sprawling Sahara desert, natural beauty dominates Morocco’s map. Yet it’s also the atmospheric alleys, snake-charmer squares and tiled riads of this north African country’s ports and towns that beg to be explored.

Infused with a blend of tradition and art, cities in this land of coastlines, festivals – religious and musical – and full-flavoured cuisine are both diverse and enchanting. And it’s not just the charms of up-and-coming capital Rabat or the palm and parasol-fringed beaches of Agadir that deserve to draw in tourists.

From the lively Marrakech medina to the medieval mosques of Fes and the Atlantic breeze-swept coastlines of Essaouira and Taghazout, there’s shopping, surfing and ancient crafts to be discovered.

As the country enters another sizzling spring, here are six of the best holiday hotspots and where to stay – all less than a four-hour flight from the UK.

Read more on Morocco travel:


Marrakech is rich in colour, culture and cuisine
Marrakech is rich in colour, culture and cuisine (Getty/iStock)

Marrakech is a vision of dusky terracotta buildings in the shadow of the towering Koutoubia Mosque and the Atlas mountains. A web of alleys, riads and spice-scented souks lie inside the medina walls, and the vibrant atmosphere, which buzzes from dawn to dusk, doesn’t dull until you reach the palm grove oasis and luxury holiday resorts of Palmeraie to the north of the city. Enjoy a charcoal-cooked merguez sausage in the central square Jemaa el Fna, wander around the Bahia Palace, or immerse yourself in Moroccan history at the Maison de la Photographie, before relaxing with a sweet mint tea at one of the rooftop cafes or hidden gardens.

Where to stay

There’s a cool minimalism to Riad UP’s six relaxing rooms amid the medina’s splashes of colour. Complete with a patio, plunge pool and roof terrace studded with sun loungers, it’s an ideal spot to wrap up in a Berber blanket for nights spent overlooking the city.


Fes is known as Morocco’s cultural capital
Fes is known as Morocco’s cultural capital (Getty)

Morocco’s second city is a blend of influences including Arabic, Moorish, Ottoman Turkish and French. From the Mediterranean flair of Fassi cuisine to steamy private hammams and craft workshops, including bookbinding and leather embossing, Fes fascinates with its modern edge to ancient ways of life. The city is home to the world’s largest medieval medina district – with 9,000 alleyways to meander, you’re bound to find a shop or souk to while away the hours.

Where to stay

Hillside on the edge of Ville Nouvelle, the contemporary Hotel Sahrai oozes luxury. Stays in neutral suites accented with stone and wood have access to an infinity pool overlooking the medina, a zen spa, and a French brasserie for seriously suave steak frites.


The shabby-chic surfer town is blessed with strong swells
The shabby-chic surfer town is blessed with strong swells (Getty)

Surf-seekers are in for a treat if they follow the tide to Taghazout on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, just 20 minutes from the fly-and-flop resort city of Agadir. The fishing village in the foothills of the Atlas mountains is blessed with powerful point breaks, staggering swells and barrel waves off a beachfront scattered with blue wooden fishing boats. Think surf-centric hostels within the tangle of pastel houses, Brit-run camps for lessons on the board, and communal meals with your wave comrades complete with authentic plates of tagine and paprika fish.

Where to stay

Dar Surf hostel hugs the swell-battered coastline of Taghazout Beach with a shared kitchen for refuelling after surf sessions and free wifi to document days on the waves. The surf camp offers rooftop yoga, home-cooked Moroccan meals, and beach bonfires for guests.


Tangier’s cafe culture has attracted a legendary list of visitors
Tangier’s cafe culture has attracted a legendary list of visitors (Getty)

Bohemian Tangier is much more than the gateway from Europe to Africa. Though times have changed since Tangier’s louche past lit up writers, hippies and musicians, the cafe culture and people-watching posts remain. With one of the most diverse populations in Morocco, the commercial port attracts domestic weekenders to the city’s fortified kasbah walls, Roman ruins and Sixties-style boutiques. Take your spot at a storied coffeehouse or the legendary Cafe Baba to see Tangier as the Beat writers, Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger did.

Where to stay

For authentic, spacious rooms, a sublime rooftop terrace and delectable breakfasts punctuated with mint tea, visit Riad Al-Qurtubi. Sat less than 2km from Tangier Beach, it is ideally situated for exploring the sands, museums and medinas of northwestern Morocco.


Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city, has a Hollywood twist
Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city, has a Hollywood twist (Getty)

Casablanca is Morocco’s largest city, with a Hollywood heritage, beginner-friendly waves, and bars built for nursing a cocktail. On its coast, Africa’s second-largest mosque, Hassan II Mosque, dominates the waterfront, and inland, the souks of Quartier Habous, stalls of the old medina and central market are mazes of international sweet treats, lamps, ceramics and spices. Keen to experience Casablanca as seen on screen? Head to Rick’s Cafe, inspired by the movie, for a jazzy gin cocktail at the roulette table.

Where to stay

Each of the 25 vibrant suites at Art Palace Suites & Spa is inspired by a celebrity or international icon, including Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin and Cleopatra. The hotel in Gauthier also has a spa pool in the basement and a tiled Moroccan hammam for a scrub-down.


France meets Morocco in the port city of Essaouira
France meets Morocco in the port city of Essaouira (Getty/iStock)

On Morocco’s Atlantic coast, the windswept port city of Essaouira is a hotspot for kitesurfing, French fusion feasts, and walking the walls of the pocket-size medina. Look out for 18th-century ramparts and thuya wood carvings as you weave through the fragrant Unesco-listed grid of boutiques selling argan oil, carpets and leather. Stretch out on the sands of Essaouira Beach with a cup of à la menthe – a sugary mint cocktail – when taking a break from surfing the famed winds known in Berber as taros.

Where to stay

Blanketed in technicolour Moroccan zellige tiles, Salut Maroc is in the heart of the medina, with eccentric bedrooms, freestanding copper tubs and enviable views out to the ocean from the rooftop terrace.

Want to holiday like Mick Jagger? The hedonistic, boho-luxe of 1970s Marrakech is back

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