Southern Morocco is an enticing world of local traditions and energetic tourist haunts; of atmospheric souks and superb scenery. Here are our top experiences in Southern Morocco.

Southern Morocco holds an enduring fascination that few other regions can compete with. It’s an area that, while only a few hours from Europe, appears rooted in its medieval existence.

Bustling night markets and colourful souks give the cities an unmistakable energy. Outside the towns, the landscape comes alive with golden orange hues cut by swathes of fertile green. Crumbling kasbahs along ancient caravan routes and sleepy villages tucked into imposing mountains, provide an insight into Morocco’s past and present.

From lunch with locals to dinner with the masses; along isolated hiking trails and Hollywood film sets – here are our favourite things to do in Southern Morocco

OUARZAZATE

Dusty sunset at Aït Ben Haddou

Aït Benhaddou is a magnificent fortified town sitting over the banks of the Ounila River, built from local mud bricks.

In the late afternoon, as the crowds start to thin and the stallholders disbanding, it’s not uncommon to have the place completely to yourself. At this time of day, Aït Ben Haddou shimmers in soft golden light. From the top of one of the surrounding hills, beautiful desolate mountain scenery stretches on for miles.

Taking in the view from the summit of the town was one of our favourite things to do in Southern Morocco.


OUIRGANE

Home cooked lunch in a Berber Village

The Berber villages along the Ouirgane valley are still relatively untouched by tourism. The area is rich in foods that have become staples for its inhabitants.

On a walk in the valley, our guide took us through the hilltop town of Tikhfist. Here we sat in a small mud hut with incredible views over the valley and met 105-year-old Mohammed. His daughter made us a delicious tagine while we cracked fresh walnuts and discussed Berber life – thanks to the help of our translator and guide – another Mohammed.

Appreciating the simple life in Ouirgane was a thoroughly rewarding way to experience Southern Morocco hospitality.


MARRAKECH

The souks and fondouks of the medina

Life in Marrakech is lived on the street. Narrow alleyways are lined with endless rows of stallholders selling handmade lanterns, colourful embroidered fabric and tacky tourist souvenirs.

Just strolling around the central souks in the heart of the media was one of our top experiences in Southern Morocco. We found edgy jewellery in Souk des Bijoutiers, craftsmen hammering out metal pots in Souk Haddadine, wool dying in Souk des Teinturiers and leather in Souk Cherratine.

The souks and fondouks in Marrakech are an assault on the senses, but an experience not to be missed.


TODRA & DADES

Road tripping through red rock canyons

The R704 from Skoura to Dades, twists and turns up the valley. The views are excellent; red rock canyons sliced by the occasional green oasis. At Monkey Fingers, little streams of water have cut rivulets and slot canyons in the rock.

Further along the R704, a tight set of zig-zags twist and turn as the valley floor rises dramatically. Most people stop at Café Timzziliite for a classic shot of the tight winding road..

But, a little further on, incredible views of the valley disappearing into the distance created one of our favourite things to do in Morocco.


MERZOUGA

Night under the stars in a Bedouin Camp

After an uncomfortable hour on a camel, a small collection of tents set into the dunes slowly come in to focus. An underground BBQ gently simmers; the aromas waft through the desert.

After a delicious meal of local cuisine and Berber singing, tales of life in the desert are relived. The soft light of the campfire mesmerises the group. It’s a popular but thoroughly enchanting way to connect with the Moroccan landscape.

But the highlight of visiting the Bedouin Camp in Merzouga is the stars. Under the wide-open desert sky with no unnatural light in sight, the stars glisten like nowhere else.


AÏT BOUGUEMEZ

Stunning hikes in the High Atlas

Shepherds and goatherders usher their flocks from one green patch to the next. Women hurry across fields, scything crops and carrying the day’s work on their backs. In the villages, the scent of Berber tagines – a recipe unchanged for centuries – wafts from clay ovens.

Hiking through the villages in the Ait Bouguemez valley in southern Morocco is a fantastic way to experience rural Moroccan life, a far cry from the bustling cities frequented by most tourists. Out here, the relaxed, slow pace of life entices visitors with sublime scenery, encounters with cheeky kids and some excellent hiking trails.


ESSAOUIRA

Game of Thrones drama in Essaouira

The medina of Essaouira oozes charm and buzzes with energy. Local markets favour a traditional way of life and the now famous port sings to the hubbub of fishermen hauling in the morning’s catch.

And yet beneath the energy, a chilled vibe spreads throughout the small town. Art galleries hide down narrow side streets and cafes line shaded pavements.

After the craziness of Marrakech, strolling around the streets of Essaouira, stopping for sundowner drinks by the port and discovering fresh regional food was one of our favourite things to do in Southern Morocco.


FEZ

Getting lost in Fez Medina

The Fez medina is a maze of alleyways bursting with sensory overload. An exotic labyrinth where ancient traditions captivate modern tourists. Where the call to prayer floats over the clatter of metalworkers bashing pots, tanners beating leather, and donkeys trotting down cobbled lanes. Where intricately carved mosques and medersas gleam against the dust and grit of a well-used city.

Exploring Fez is a unique experience and getting lost in the tightly packed labyrinth is all par for the course and one of our favourite things to do in Southern Morocco.


TELOUET

Road trip through ancient caravan routes

For centuries, the Ounila Valley was the main passageway between Marrakech and the caravan routes of the Sahara. The remnants of their power can still be discovered in the magnificent decaying homes of Telouet Kasbah and Tamdaght Kasbah or the fortified towns of Anmiter and Ait Ben Haddou.

And, the scenery is stunning. Carving its way from the high Atlas Mountains to the barren plains just north of the Sahara Desert, the Ounila river has transformed the landscape. A rich variety of green crops line the valley floor, contrasting with the rusty red rock of the canyon-like walls. For a classic road trip in Southern Morocco, this is the place.


JEMAA EL FNA

Sunset and dinner in Jemaa el-Fna

As the sun sets on Jemaa el-Fna it’s transformed into a mix of Berber and Arab fantasy. Chefs fire up their grills. The square fills with intoxicating smoke. Gas lanterns cast patchy light across rows of stalls. A hubbub rises from tourists enchanted with live music, fortune tellers and snake charmers.

Eating at Jemaa el-Fna is not about the food, it’s about soaking up the atmosphere at one of the most exciting venues in the world. It’s about avoiding the more aggressive stallholders, gravitating to the most entertaining and enjoying a unique experience in Southern Morocco.


Our favourite snapshots in Southern Morocco

We’ve been to Southern Morocco 3 times, each one providing interesting and exotic travel experiences. From crazy weather to beautiful sunsets in local villages, here are some of our favourite snapshots.

STORMS / As we stood on Le Grande Balcon du Café Glacier – which offers some of the best views of Jemaa el-Fna – an amazing storm blew in. Once it cleared, the sky was nothing short of spectacular.

 

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CALM / After the craziness of Marrakech, it was nice to arrive in chilled out Essaouira. The sunset over the sea walls – famous for their starting role in Game of Thrones – provided great light for this favourite film location.

 

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SOLITUDE / Although a paved road has wound its way to Aït Bouguemez for almost two decades, we still had the local villages all to ourselves. Plenty of time capture the local mud-brick architecture.

 

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WORK / It’s a tough life working the leather tanneries in Fez – the methods used that haven’t changed since medieval times. For tourists, it’s a smelly, hassle-filled experience. But very worthwhile.

 

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Paul Healy

Paul was born in Australia and moved to London in 2008 where he worked as a change manager specialising in organisational design. Now a full-time travel blogger, Paul writes destination guides and articles for Anywhere We Roam.

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Paul Healy

Paul was born in Australia and moved to London in 2008 where he worked as a change manager specialising in organisational design. Now a full-time travel blogger, Paul writes destination guides and articles for Anywhere We Roam.

All articles

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