Morocco Travel Guide: Essential Facts and Information

Morocco Travel Guide Essential Facts and Information
••• Camels in the Desert, Morocco. Gallo Images - Herman du Plessis/ Getty Images

Rich in history and famous for its spell-binding Sahara Desert landscapes, Morocco is a must-visit destination for those interested in just about anything - from culture and cuisine to nature and adventure sports. The imperial cities of Marrakesh, Fez, Meknes and Rabat are filled with fragrant food, bustling souks and magnificent medieval architecture. Coastal towns like Asilah and Essaouira provide an escape from the North African heat in summer; while the Atlas Mountains offer opportunities for skiing and snowboarding in winter.

 

Location:

Morocco is located on the northwest corner of the African continent. Its north and west coastlines are washed by the Mediterranean and the North Altantic respectively, and it shares land borders with Algeria, Spain and Western Sahara.

Geography:

Morocco covers a total area of 172,410 square miles/ 446,550 square kilometers, making it slightly larger than the U.S. state of California. 

Capital City: 

The capital of Morocco is Rabat

Population:

In July 2016, the CIA World Factbook estimated Morocco's population at just over 33.6 million people. The average life expectancy for Moroccans is 76.9 years of age - one of the highest in Africa. 

Languages:

There are two official languages in Morocco - Modern Standard Arabic and Amazigh, or Berber. French acts as a second language for many educated Moroccans. 

Religion:

Islam is by far the most widely practised religion in Morocco, accounting for 99% of the population.

Almost all Moroccans are Sunni Muslims. 

Currency:

Morocco's currency is the Moroccan dirham. For accurate exchange rates, use this online currency converter

Climate:

Although Morocco's climate is generally hot and dry, weather can vary dramatically depending on where you are. In the south of the country (nearer the Sahara), rainfall is limited; but in the north, light rains are common between November and March.

On the coast, offshore breezes provide relief from soaring summer temperatures, while the mountain regions remain cool all year round. In winter, snow falls heavily in the Atlas Mountains. Temperatures in the Sahara Desert can be both scorching during the day and freezing at night. 

When to Go:

The best time to visit Morocco depends on what you want to do. Summer (June to August) is best for beach breaks, while spring and fall offer more pleasant temperatures for visits to Marrakesh. The Sahara is also best during fall (September to November), when the weather is neither too hot nor too cold and the Sirocco winds have yet to start. Winter is the only time for skiing trips to the Atlas Mountains. 

Key Attractions:

Marrakesh

Marrakesh is not Morocco's capital, nor its largest city. However, it is the most beloved by overseas visitors - for its wonderfully chaotic atmosphere, the incredible shopping opportunities offered by its labyrinthine souk, and its fascinating architecture. Highlights include the al fresco food stalls in Djemaa el Fna square, and historic landmarks like the Saadian Tombs and El Badi Palace

Fez

Founded in the 8th century, Fez is steeped in history and protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is also the world's largest car-free area, and the winding streets look much as they have done for over a thousand years. Discover the colorful dye vats of the Chaouwara Tanneries, get lost while exploring the ancient medina or stand in awe before the Moorish-style Bab Bou Jeloud gate.  

Essaouira

Centrally located on Morocco's Atlantic coast, Essaouira is a favorite summer destination for Moroccans and travelers in the know. At this time of year, cool breezes keep temperatures bearable and create the perfect conditions for windsurfing and kiteboarding. The atmosphere is relaxed, the seafood fresh and the town itself full of bohemian art galleries and boutiques.

Merzouga

Situated on the edge of the Sahara Desert, the tiny town of Merzouga is most famous as the gateway to Morocco's breathtaking Erg Chebbi dunes.

It's the ideal jumping-off point for desert adventures, including camel-back safaris, 4x4 camping trips, sand-boarding and quad biking. Above all, visitors are attracted by the chance to experience Berber culture at its most authentic. 

Getting There

Morocco has several international airports, including Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca, and Marrakesh Menara Airport. It is also possible to travel to Tangier by ferry, from European ports like Tarifa, Algeciras and Gibraltar. Citizens of countries including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States do not need a visa to visit Morocco for vacations of 90 days or less. Some nationalities do need a visa, however - check Moroccan government guidelines to find out more. 

Medical Requirements

Before traveling to Morocco, you should ensure that your routine vaccines are up to date, and also consider being vaccinated for Typhoid and Hepatitis A. The mosquito-borne diseases commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. Malaria, Yellow Fever and Zika Virus) are not a problem in Morocco. For comprehensive advice about vaccinations, visit the CDC website regarding Moroccan travel.