When people think of Morocco, their minds usually cloud with idyllic images of snake charmers, spice markets, maze-like medinas and brilliant textiles.

An exaggerated view, perhaps? Think again.

The cultural hub of Marrakech is a veritable feast of colours, sounds and smells, tantalising its visitors with exotic surprises at every turn. Venture from the city’s energetic streets, and you’ll find the rolling red sand dunes of the Sahara, the hulking beauty of the Atlas mountain ranges, the wide sandy beaches of Essaouira, and the winding valley of Ourika.

And that’s just the beginning.

Home to unparalleled beauty, nature and history, Morocco is a destination that is sure to impress. Ready to delve in? Explorers, assemble.

1. Marrakech & the old medina

When mentioning Morocco, most travellers think of Marrakech. Naturally. After all, it is the fourth largest city in Morocco and home to the the popular Jemaa el-Fnaa square and vibrant medina. Marrakech isn’t for the faint-hearted – the cultural hub is beautifully intoxicating, manic and certainly tourist-focused, with vendors hawking everything from orange juice to henna. When you can steal a moment away from the madness, lose yourself in the labyrinth of winding alleys, where one wrong turn could lead you to a wonderful adventure.

Marrakech Medina

2. The Roman ruins of Volubilis

A surprise treat when visiting Morocco, the Roman ruins of Volubilis will have you thinking you’ve made a wrong turn and somehow ended up in Italy. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Volubilis was founded in the 3rd century B.C. and went on to become a prominent outpost for the Roman Empire. Think: Cyprus trees swaying in the wind and well-preserved ruins that stand tall over valleys that stretch as far as the eye can see. Simply breathtaking.


3. Lunch in Moulay Idriss Zerhoun

Close to the ruins of Volubilis is the small town of Moulay Idris Zerhoun, where colourful homes are carved into cliffsides and incredible mountain views are aplenty. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village, Moulay Idris Zerhoun is certainly worth a stop to indulge in a traditional Moroccan lunch and take holiday snaps of the picturesque scenery that is reminiscent of Cinque Terre in Italy.

Moulay Idriss

4. A Night in the Sahara Desert

Renowned for being the highlight of every Moroccan adventure, spending a night in the Sahara Desert at a local Berber camp is an absolute must-do. Head to Merzouga, a small town on the edge of the Sahara made up of low-lying clay homes to combat the heat. Once in Merzouga, set out on camelback into the desert where you can marvel at the stars as you slowly drift off to sleep at a local Berber camp. BYO: campfire stories and appetite for a traditional feast.

Sahara Desert

5. Fes and the tanneries

Venture down the twisted paths of the medina in Fes and you’ll be led to the famous tanneries. Expect to be handed some mint leaves (to mask the pungent smells of cow urine) and taken to see the leather tanneries, where tanners use their bare hands and feet to dye the leather Fes is so famous for. Known for its crafts and leather, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better quality products elsewhere (especially in many of the tourist-trap stalls in Marrakech). In Fes, you can watch as a bowl is shaped from a mound of clay, fired in an oven and then hand painted by artisans – a unique and traditional process that results in gorgeous mosaics, delicately painted tagines and carefully crafted leather.

Fes artisans

6. Driving through the High Atlas mountains

The High Atlas mountains extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Morocco-Algeria border, and offer up impressive views and quaint villages – some beside snow-tipped peaks and others nestled in the lush valleys. Along the way, drive through lush cedar forests where monkeys can be found languidly hanging from trees and snatching bananas from passing tourists.

High Atlas Mountains 2

7. The Dades Gorge

The Dades Gorge is a gorge of the Dades river that cuts through the Atlas mountains in a dramatic display of rising sandstone dipping into lush, green valleys and winding rivers. The Dades Gorge is a testament to the dramatic landscape Morocco offers, and the variety of nature it holds within its borders. Definitely one for the Instagram album. #Breathtaking

Dades Gorge

8. Aït Benhaddou

When a destination is used as a backdrop to Game of Thrones, you just know it’s going to be good. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Aït Benhaddou is a fortified city that is a former caravan route between Marrakech and the Sahara Desert. Today, Aït Benhaddou is a stunning sight to behold with its preserved buildings, rising mountains and deep valleys.

Aït Benhaddou 2

9. The Kasbah les Oudaias in Rabat

Reminiscent of Santorini with its white washed walls and bright blue paint (to ward off mosquitos), this former military fort was once home to soldiers tasked with protecting the city. Wander its tranquil and picturesque grounds, and peer down at the river of half-dressed locals boating, fishing and cooling down.

Rabat Kasbah

10. Casablanca & the Hassan II Mosque

The Hassan II Mosque is the largest mosque in Africa and is the 7th largest mosque in the world. It stands by the sea in Casablanca and is absolutely stunning with its intricate designs, marble, chandeliers, archways and mosaics. Take a tour of this marvellous building, walk away with a better understanding of Islam and the pillars on which the religion is founded. You’ll be glad you did.
Casablanca Hassan II

Nikki is a travel journalist with stories in VICE, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, FOOD & WINE, The Daily Meal, Matador Network and more; and is the blogger behind The Pin the Map Project, which has been featured on the Zero to Travel podcast, Buzzfeed Life & other travel sites. The Pin the Map Project is part of the Mode Media Network, which reaches 406 million readers worldwide and is ranked #7 out of the top 100 web properties in the world; and speaks to solo traveling, destination guides and more.