Morocco Delights: The Top 5
For a tantalising first taste of Africa, you can’t beat Morocco. A sprawling expanse of Saharan dunes, lofty peaks, and rugged coastline, Morocco is sure to captivate you with its unique landscapes, ancient souqs, and fascinating Berbers and nomadic “blue men” in turbans. Rent a car in Morocco to discover our favourite attractions, and then go on to create your own perfect Morocco memories. Flying into Fez Saiss airport, you could visit them in the following order:
Your first stop is Fez, home to a breathtakingly enormous medina (the old Arab quarter of a North African town). Measuring an incredible 6.2 square kilometres, this UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the Arab-Muslim world’s best-preserved old cities. Be prepared to get lost in the vast network of tempting alleys and streets, where friendly locals are always ready to guide you back to where you were headed.
Rental cars are not made for the city’s narrow streets, so prepare to walk the labyrinthine streets from one jaw-dropping attraction to another. See Fes el-Bali and the four majestic Gates of Fes, with their unique Moroccan tile work. Don’t let the smell put you off: The leather tannery in Fez is the oldest in the world, dating back to the 11th century. Hold your nose and climb to the balcony for a glimpse of an industry that has not changed in a millennium.
Admire the exceptional craftsmanship displayed in wood and tile at the Bou Inania and Attarin madrasas and take a break in the lush surroundings of the Jardin Jnan Sbil.
Just a 69km drive from Fez you’ll find one of our other favourite Moroccan places. Nestling in the heart of a modern city, the 9th-century medina Meknes is a former capital and home to some fascinating historical sites, including the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, a beautifully preserved gate called Bab Mansour, and the superb Dar Jamai Museum. If you’ve just come from Fez, the medina at Meknes will seem far less daunting, being of a manageable size but offering enough exciting nooks and alleyways to make it truly fascinating.
You can’t miss the well signposted Ryad Bahia, the perfect introduction to Moroccan culture. As soon as you arrive, you will be greeted with mint tea and brought to an outdoor lounge area before taking the guided tour. Arrive at sunrise or sunset to get a wonderful view of the old city of Meknes.
Fly into Marrakech-Menara Airport and pick up your rental car there or drive the 479km south of Meknes and you’re right in the heart of the Morocco at its most intense. Marrakech represents the height of intriguing extremes in Morocco. You may be slightly overwhelmed at first by the scale of the medina, the sites, the museums – and the haggling – but your exhaustion will be banished by the sheer excitement and fascination that is Marrakech.
You will never forget dusk at the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa (meaning “the assembly of trespassers”), a UNESCO site that is without equal for people-watching. Shop here by day (watch out for snakes and monkeys) and eat here by night for completely different experiences. This is the chaotic beating heart of Marrakech, a place of riotous beauty and unrivalled personality.
Outside the main square, Marrakesh’s medina is full of fascinating palaces and luxurious riad guesthouses, but you should venture outside the old city now and again to eat, drink, explore art galleries, and shop in the ville nouvelle (new town).
Fancy a trip to a movie set? Then drive the 200 km from Marrakech to Ouarzazate and discover where Hollywood goes for its classic desert scenes. Sets from films including Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia, Kingdom of Heaven, and Gladiator and the HBO TV series Game of Thrones have been created here in the iconic desert environment.
Just 8km outside Ouarzazate, in the shadow of the Atlas Mountains, a range that stretches across northern Africa, you’ll find the biggest film studio in the world. Extending across more than 29,900 square metres of desert, Atlas Film is a popular tourist destination, partly due to the presence of dozens of old movie sets, gradually succumbing to the sands and arid winds of the surroundings.
You may not have heard of this remote Moroccan gem, but it’s well worth discovering for those in search of new experiences. A 4.5 hour drive from Ouarzazate, Merzouga is the starting point for an overnight adventure you will remember forever.
Several companies organise camel-trekking expeditions to the desert for one more nights. Experience the desert at sunset and sunrise, eat authentic North African food from tagines cooked on the campfire, to the accompaniment of evocative Berber music, and gather memories of Morocco that will never leave you.
Ready for more Moroccan car hire adventures? Places like Essaouira, Rabat, Tangier, Agadir, and Tetouan all have a particular spin on the Moroccan experience, so get out the maps and start planning your itinerary!