MOROCCO

Evocative, colourful, exotic

At the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle East

An overview

This exotic North African country sits at the crossroads between Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Morocco is famous for its natural beauty and dazzling diversity. There are golden beaches along a coastline that borders both the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Venture far enough inland and you’ll encounter the dramatic, sweeping sands of the Sahara, the largest desert on Earth. Experiencing its nomadic culture, remote oases and stunning dune landscapes is a bucket-list adventure, best done from the back of a camel.

And then there are the dramatic snow-capped Atlas Mountains, which stretch throughout the country and are home to North Africa’s highest peak, Toubkal. It’s located in the High Atlas Mountains, one of three separate ranges in the Atlas Mountains (the Middle Atlas and the Anti Atlas make up the trinity). Morocco’s mountains – including the Rif Mountains in the north of the country – attract outdoor lovers drawn to their extraordinary trekking, adventure and bird-spotting opportunities, and the chance to visit scenic Berber villages.

And then there are Morocco’s cities, some of the most exciting on the entire continent. You’ll see ancient medinas protected by kasbahs in the desert and thick sea walls on the coast. You’ll walk through bustling town squares and vibrant souks, the air heavily scented from open-air spice markets. All around, exquisite architecture will make you want to stream photos to Instagram 24/7: from majestic mosques and towering minarets, to traditional riads and breathtaking palaces. You’ll want to set up separate accounts just for the dreamy mosaic tiles and carved wooden doors that you’ll see everywhere.

Morocco overwhelms with its evocative beauty, colours and fragrances, and its abundant warmth and charm.

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About Morocco

Bordering Algeria and Mauritania, Morocco is located in the very north west of Africa. But it’s also just south of Europe. In fact, the only thing separating it from Spain is the 14-kilometre-wide Strait of Gibraltar. Roughly the size of California, Morocco has a population of more than 36 million people, who speak Modern Standard Arabic and Berber (the official languages), as well as French and other forms of Arabic and, in many cases, English.

With ties to sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the wider Middle East over the centuries, when it comes to culture, architecture, gastronomy, religion, language and, well, just about anything, Morocco is an intriguing, fascinating, compelling mix. The population is made up of both Arabs and Berbers, but the country’s rich traditions and cultural practices have also been influenced by the Spanish, the French, the Portuguese and even the Jews.

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Morocco is divided into distinct regions – coast, mountains and desert – with varying climates across the country. This is a year-round destination, to be sure, but you need to pick the right region at the right time. While the coastal regions can pretty much be visited year-round, in general the best time to visit Morocco is during spring (mid-March to May) or autumn (September to October), when the weather is warm and dry. Spring is also when the country is at its most beautiful, as the landscape is green and lush. If you’re planning to do some mountain hiking, this is the time to go. Summers can be scorching, while in some areas winter can bring cold temperatures and snow.

Be sure to consider Ramadan when you plan your trip, as well. During this holy month local people fast from sunrise to sunset, so restaurants and other businesses are often closed during these hours, especially in more rural areas. At night, however, everything comes alive and you’ll find things opening late, and people staying out until the early hours of the morning.

Morocco travel information

Tourists can visit Morocco for up to three months without a visa. For longer trips, you’ll need one: contact the Embassy of Morocco for details. You’ll need a passport that’s valid for at least six months from the time you enter Morocco. Be sure to get your passport stamped when you enter the country; you may find it difficult to leave if you don’t. The local currency is the Moroccan dirham (Dh), which is divided into 100 centimes. While the euro, US dollar and the British pound are accepted in certain tourist areas, the dirham is required for everyday use. Credit cards are usually accepted in larger towns and tourist areas, but only in certain places, such as top-end accommodation, large tourist-orientated restaurants and shops, and they often incur a surcharge. Keep your credit card in sight during all transactions. ATMs are widely available in cities and most larger towns, but you’ll need to carry cash with you, especially if you’re travelling to out-of-the-way places where there won’t be an ATM. Bargaining or haggling is part of the Moroccan experience, especially for tourist goods and services. No vaccinations are required when travelling to Morocco. There’s a limited risk of malaria in the northern coastal reaches. Consult your GP or a travel doctor at least six weeks before you travel.

For more inspiration about where to go and what to see when you’re visiting this incredible country, click on the buttons on the adjacent map.

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