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Road-tripping in Morocco

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Road-tripping in Morocco

Hiring a car is the perfect way to see this amazing country!

Morocco is a big country and with heaps to see and do, it can be a challenge to know just where to start. As our intrepid travel video bloggers demonstrate, one of the most flexible and enjoyable ways to explore the sights is by hiring a car at any major city or airport – and creating your own itinerary.

Budget Direct, in association with some of world’s most experienced travel bloggers, brings you the best travel tips for destinations all over the planet – and all the activities and places shown in our videos are covered by Budget Direct Travel Insurance.

Morocco – full of surprises

If all you know about travelling through Morocco is what you’ve heard on the Crosby, Stills and Nash song ‘Marrakesh Express’, you’re in for a surprise. Morocco has plenty to offer the intrepid traveller.

You can hike through the Atlas Mountains, shop in lively local marketplaces, ride a camel in the Sahara desert, surf the beach rollers and even go skiing here.

Here are some facts about Morocco you may not know:

  • Morocco is famous for the diversity of its cuisine (couscous, anyone?) and one of the more interesting things to do in this country is to take a cooking course and learn more about the local food traditions.
  • The weather is ‘subtropical Mediterranean’, so Morocco is pleasant to visit at any time of year.
  • A popular drink in Morocco is atai, a type of green tea flavoured with mint and sugar. The preparation and serving of atai is culturally significant, so if you’re offered atai you should accept it. It’s important to understand your role in the host-guest relationship here, so read up before you go!
  • The same goes if you’re offered meat in this part of the world – refusing is considered rude. You won’t find pork in Morocco (it’s forbidden), but you’ll find chicken everywhere.[i]
  • The 1942 movie Casablanca was not actually filmed here. The majority of the shoot took place on a studio lot in Los Angeles.

Things to do and places to visit in Morocco

Everyone who has been to Morocco has their favourite little spots and preferred activities, but you can hardly go wrong with the following suggestions:

Visit the blue town of Chefchaouen

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This relaxed, stunningly beautiful town (sometimes also called Chaouen) is nestled in the heart of the Rif Mountains. Surrounded by rugged and majestic peaks, the town’s most unique feature is that in the old part of town, both the streets and the buildings are painted a bright sky blue. Making your way through these narrow blue streets has a calming effect as you linger around the shops or take a break for a traditional glass of mint tea.

Chefchaouen is a favourite locale for backpackers and tourists of all nationalities (especially the Spanish) so you won’t have the place to yourself, but once you find your own special little corner, you’ll be in heaven. [ii]

Visit a Hammam (public steam bath)

A hammam is a public steam bath that’s quite popular in both Morocco and Tunisia. In days gone by when many Moroccans couldn’t afford the luxury of private bathrooms in homes or apartments, public bathing was how everyone got clean. Hammams aren’t as common these days, but are still an important part of the culture.

Hammams are often found near mosques in keeping with the Muslim custom of bathing before prayer. Some of the more impressive hammams are found in the old parts of Fez, Marrakesh and Tunis in Tunisia. Female travellers will find that hammams provide an excellent opportunity to interact with local women – and have a good scrub in the process.[iii]

Shop ‘til you drop at the Marrakesh Medina

The Marrakesh medina is reputedly a bit calmer than the one at Fez, but expect noise, minimal room to move and lots of vendors vying for your undivided attention.

The term ‘medina’ in Morocco refers to the older, non-European part of a city, often separated by walls from surrounding areas. Narrow, maze-like streets are the norm and if you don’t like crowds or become claustrophobic easily, medinas may not be your thing. You are guaranteed to see products you’ve never seen before, however, and exploring a medina can be an eye-opening experience.

You enter it at the Djema El-Ffna Square where you’ll make your way past an array of snake charmers, acrobats and musicians on your way into the shopping labyrinth.

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A foreign tourist is mighty popular in these skinny streets and you may find yourself yelled at, followed or even grabbed, so polite firmness is the order of the day. If a local offers to ‘show you around’, expect that they’ll ask for money when the tour is finished. If anyone hassles you more than usual, a loud mention of the police will usually send them on their way.[iv]

Lose yourself in Tangier

Tangier is Morocco’s most European city, situated on the Strait of Gibraltar about 20 miles from the Spanish coast. You will find more French, British, Portuguese and Spanish visitors here than in other parts of Morocco. Tangier is divided into three distinct zones: the New City, the Medina and the Kasbah.

The Kasbah is the most elevated part of the city and offers sweeping views across the sea and the rest of the city. You can explore most of the Kasbah on foot in an hour or so. It will take much longer to wander the expanse of the medina (old city), but this fascinating area of cobblestone streets offers a mind-boggling mishmash of architectural styles and enough quirky shops to keep you interested.

Make sure you visit the Grand Socco, Tangier’s main square. The covered food market here is something to behold: fish, produce and meat all crudely displayed in a manner sure to astonish your eyes and overwhelm your nose – it’s most certainly an authentic experience![v]

Trek the high country in Morocco’s mountains

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Morocco is nothing less than a trekker’s paradise with several valleys, desert areas and mountain regions to choose from.

The Rif Mountains are the lowest of the southern Moroccan ranges and offer hikers cedar, fir and cork oak forests, rugged gorges and green hills awash with wildflowers in spring. The High Atlas, Western High Atlas and Central High Atlas provide remote, wild and harsh landscapes. These are serious mountains, with many areas still unexplored. Some of the summits are above 4000 metres.[vi]

The diversity of trekking options in Morocco is truly staggering: Rough Guides has listed seven of the best here.

Don’t forget Travel Insurance

Unexpected things can happen anywhere, so be prepared. If you’re after Travel Insurance for Morocco, check with Budget Direct first – don’t let your dream overseas holiday turn into a nightmare!