Displaying items by tag: morocco best time to visit

Wednesday, 27 April 2016 00:00

Northern Morocco

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A private tour to discover northern Morocco, best during summer.

This private Morocco tour will take you through Casablanca, Asilah, Tangier, Chefchaouen, Meknes, Volubilis and Rabat. Listen to a local university teacher relate tales of pirates capturing European nobility in Sale. Discover the colorful medina of Tangier with a view on the Atlantic, praised by Delacroix, Matisse and the ‘beat generation’. Become a child again in the fairy- tale azure streets of Chefchaouen. Stroll among Phoenician and Roman ruins at Chellah and Volubilis. Unwind in the dreamy fishing village of Asilah with its prize- winning architecture and unspoiled beaches. We recommend this itinerary all year round but ideally so during summer, to keep you away from the high temperatures further south. Additionally, you may also be interested in our Marrakech, Atlas and the coast tour. Below you will find the detailed itinerary. As with all our tours, this itinerary is a mere example and will be customized to suit your taste and schedule. To enquire about availability and rates, please send us an enquiry. To ensure availability, we recommend booking at least 3-4 months in advance.

DAY 1: CASABLANCA / RABAT – ASSILAH ( 4 – 5 hour drive). We will collect you at the airport or your hotel in Casablanca or Rabat. On our way to Rabat, along the Atlantic coast, we can stop and visit the exotic gardens of Sidi Bouknadel or the bird reserve in Mehdya. There is hardly a better place for lunch than the village of Moulay Bousselham, right on the Atlantic coast where your driver will arrange for freshly caught sea food or fish to be grilled right in front of you and have an impromptu meal along the locals. Follow that with a boat ride into the lagoon. Time allowing, stop in Lixus and visit the Roman ruins or in Msoura to admire the Megalithic stone circle, a sort of Moroccan Stonehenge. Arrive in Asilah in the evening. Dinner and accommodation in Asilah.

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DAY 2: ASILAH. After breakfast on the roof terrace, have a stroll around one of the most beautiful and well- kept medinas of Morocco, dating back to 10th century that owes its present shape to the Portuguese who occupied it for a few decades back in the 15th century. More recently, in 1989 it was awarded the Aga Khan prize for architecture. Much of Asilah’s transformation can be traced to 1978, when two local friends invited artists to paint murals on the medina’s peeling walls. That creative impulse soon gave birth to the International Cultural Moussem of Asilah, a summer festival with concerts, design lectures, poetry readings, and artists who arrived from all over the world to cover the whitewashed city with colorful, elaborate graffiti. The festival takes place every summer ( dates change due to Ramadan) and now draws a crowd of 100,000 people, turning the town into a vibrant open-air museum and creating a street scene that’s picturesque enough to rival Morocco’s famously blue city of Chefchaouen. In the mornings, the sound of waves drifts over the restored  ramparts, mixing with the rhythmic tones of streets being swept and the scent of freshly baked bread. We recommend you to enter the numerous art galleries and then spend some time by the unspoiled beach south of Asilah or try your hand at Arabic calligraphy with a local maalem. Dinner and accommodation in Asilah.

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DAY 3: ASILAH – TANGIER ( 1 hour drive). Our tour of northern Morocco leaves Asilah and follows the Atlantic coast as you soon enter the urban area of Tangier. Penetrate the intricate medina of Tangier and before long, pass the gate of the Kasbah. Drop the luggage in your Riad's room and go out to explore the medina with a local guide. Start perhaps with the Marshan district and its Roman tombs. Before entering the old town, stop for a refreshing break and admire the Moresque interiors of St Andrews church. Follow up with a visit to a local artisan cooperative where the maalems are busy working the looms. Cross the fish market where fresh fish is sold at auction to arrive to the Jewish cemetery, dominating the sea front. Next stop, the American legation, the first American property to ever open outside the United States. Descend onto Petit Socco and have a mint tea at Cafe Tingis, a favorite with the Beat Generation. A few streets further away push the door of the local synagogue ( closed on Saturdays). Make your way up the intricate streets and step back into the Kasbah district. There is no better end to the day then having a drink on a roof terrace dominating the whole medina, at the time when the sun drowns into the Atlantic. Dinner and accommodation in Tangier.

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DAY 4: TANGIER – TETOUAN – CHEFCHAOUEN ( 2 hour drive). On our way to Chefchaouen, we can linger for a while in Tetouan and awe at the Mauresque heritage present in its patios and palaces. Erected on an ancient Roman site, Tetouan was completely destroyed during the 15th century by the Portuguese. The fall of the kingdom of Granada in southern Spain in 1492 marked the renaissance of Tetouan. More than its architecture, the cuisine, the music, the jewelry or the embroidery speak of their Andalusian origin. And where the Moresque heritage can be admired in all its glory is the Ethnographical museum. But perhaps you want to head straight to Chefchaouen so you can spend more time there. Still, you’d be a fool to miss the dramatic gorges of Oued Laou, connecting the Mediterranean beaches to the azure town.

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Quite likely the most charming village in Morocco can’t leave anyone indifferent. We could tell you that the kasbah built in the 15th century is worth a detour or that you should try to track down the still- working watermill or the district farnatchi oven, but Chefchaouen is about loosing yourselves in its streets without any precise goal. Inside the ancient gated medina nearly every building is painted an arresting shade of cerulean or azure, the sky blues juxtaposed with white trim and terra-cotta rooftops. Twisting cobblestone paths lead up and up, around the ocher-colored casbah to a landscape of green hills and mountaintops, uninterrupted sky extending beyond. Great trekking opportunities are also present in the nearby Rif Mountains, for a few hours or a whole day, along the river and up to the waterfalls, or further on, to the Bridge of God. Dinner and accommodation in Chefchaouen.

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DAY 5: CHEFCHAOUEN – MEKNES – RABAT ( 6 hour drive). Our northern Morocco itinerary leaves Chefchaouen and the Rif Mountains behind to then descend onto Moulay Idriss, the holiest village in Morocco, where Moulay Idriss, a 5th generation descendant of Ali, son in law to Prophet Muhamed, arrived in the 8th century escaping the fight for power between the Omeyades and the Abbasydes at the court of Damascus. He was warmly welcomed by the Berber tribes and set out to establish the first Moroccan dynasty. The tomb of Idriss the 1st is still nowadays the object of a massive pilgrimage from all over Morocco. Only 3 miles from there, lays the Roman town of Volubilis, the best preserved Roman site in Morocco, capital of King Juba the Second, who came to marry the daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony. Then, we continue onwards to Meknes, one of Morocco’s 4 Imperial Cities. Meknes became the capital of Morocco with the Sultan Moulay Ismail, who in the 17th century decided to change the capital from Marrakech to Meknes. To this task, he employed 55000 men, workers but also Christian slaves and dismantled the splendid Badi’ Palace in Marrakech to then carry most of it to Meknes on the back of camels. From this age, we were left with the imposing Bab Al Mansour, one of the most original gates in Morocco, the grain silos that, according to a chronicler of the age, could hold enough grains to feed the whole of Morocco, the House of the 10 Norias or the large open air basin where water was stocked so it could supply the whole town and was sometimes used for the army to train. Arrive in Rabat in the evening. Dinner and accommodation in Rabat.

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DAY 6: RABAT. Despite its appearance as a quiet administrative town, Rabat hides quite a few gems, having been included on the UNESCO world site list just a few years back. You should perhaps start your day with the visit of the 12th century Kasbah des Oudayas and its Andalusian Gardens, an important outpost of the Almohad dynasty, back in the 12th century. We can dwell further into the past and visit the Merenid necropolis of Chellah, where Phoenician, Roman and Merinid heritages blend. Sale, the town over the bridge, has a more intriguing story and was known for centuries as a pirates' nest. Canals used to run inside its gates and its pirates were famous for rapidly attacking European ships and taking illustrious nobility as prisoners. Once inside the city, the massive doors would close and the European powers had no other choice than to offer most generous prices for ransom. Some say that it is outside its shores that it inspired Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Our local guide will tell you all about the fearsome pirates and the relations between Muslims, Jews and Christians inside a traditional medina.Downtown in Rabat, opened in 2015, Mohamed 6 museum offers a great insight into the Moroccan modern arts and holds international exhibitions to rival those of European museums. Dinner and accommodation in Rabat.

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DAY 7: RABAT or RABAT – CASABLANCA ( 1h30 drive).
Depending on your flight location and schedule, we will arrange for the drop off accordingly. If flying out from Casablanca, you should seize the opportunity and visit Hassan 2 mosque, the third largest in the world.

We can always take away or add 1 or 2 days to this Moroccan itinerary to suit your schedule. Book or enquire about your private customized tour of Morocco here. 

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WHY SHOULD YOU BOOK WITH US

# We are based in Morocco since 2006 and no, we don’t work from home :). We scout for the most unique sites & local experiences all year round. We present these on our blogFacebook and Instagram  pages. And only a travel agent based in Morocco can keep you up to date with latest travel restrictions within Morocco or how to get the fastest PCR test;

# We anonymously test, hand- pick and continuously update the best boutique and luxury hotels, Riads , eco lodges and Kasbahs across Morocco;

# We strive to bring you most authentic experiences. Some of them are unique: private flight to the Sahara; visit of a medina with a local university teacher; mechoui with a nomad family;

# 1 percent of our receipts go towards local projects, like help educate girls from rural Morocco or restoring the agadirs of southern Morocco;

# we accept payments by credit card, PayPal, bank transfer and, in the near future, alternative coins;

# we are on hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, before and during your tour, by email, phone or Skype/ Zoom.

Ready to create your unique Morocco tour? Get in touch here with our on- the- ground team in Morocco.

Published in Morocco travel blog
Tuesday, 29 October 2013 00:00

Morocco - best time to visit ?

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When to visit Morocco and travel around ?

Update 26.03.2021: Presently, there are no Morocco travel bans in place from the US. Those flying to Morocco are asked to present a printed 72 hour PCR test when embarking and upon arrival at the airport in Morocco together with a travel agency or hotel booking. Children less than 11 are dispensed of the test. You are dispensed of the obligation to quarantine upon arrival.

{Read: Is it safe to visit Morocco in 2021 ?}

In a nutshell: 

I've lived in Morocco since 2006 and believe the country is best visited all year round. Avoid the crowds ? January and February is your best bet, with plenty of sunshine. Best rates all year round ? July and August, but keep to the Atlas mountains and the Atlantic coast, if 40 plus Celsius is not your thing. March, April, May and October/ November ? Great weather, warm enough to sun tan and enjoy a pool, but it's also when Morocco gets most tourists, so you'll have to mingle with the crowds. Naturally, you can avoid them and explore Morocco off the beaten track: the Sahara desert, the Anti Atlas mountains and Morocco's southern regions boast enough open spaces for everyone to feel remote. Travel with the children ? By all means, they will remember it for the rest of their lives. 

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The details: 

You're just coming out of the pandemic blues and you're looking for that special destination, somewhere a milliion miles away from mask wearing and travel bans ? On top of a saffron dune, overlooking Sahara's infinite rolling hillocks, can you picture it ? Can you put yourself there ? Yet, not everyone is afforded the luxury of choosing when to visit Morocco. Is October the best time to visit ? Is Christmas busy ? What about Ramadan ? What are the temperatures in March ? 

The good news is that there isn't really a bad time of year to visit Morocco. What makes me say that ? Well, first of all, sunshine.  Sunshine 300 days a year ? More like 350. And yes, sometimes it can get too hot, but even in July and August choices abound: after all, Morocco is blessed with 2500 km of Atlantic coast and at least that or more of mountain ranges. Stroll around the dreamy or picturesque villages as Essaouira, Oualidia and Chefchaouen or trek up in the High Atlas mountains over 2000 meters high, and you're guaranteed dispensing with air conditioning. 

{ Read: What to experience and see in Morocco in summer }

h4thrNow of course, Morocco has different climate zones and the difference in temperature in some areas is quite important between summer and winter. It is also known to be an incredibly diverse country when it comes to landscapes. From green lush areas where forests and lakes have earned Ifrane, the village in the Middle Atlas close to Fez, the nickname ‘ Switzerland of Morocco’ to the Sahara with its oceans of dunes, from wild Atlantic beaches to lush palm groves, from wine producing regions around the cities of Meknes and Rabat to the resort towns of the Mediterranean and Atlas Mountains with their spectacular gorges and over 4000 meters high peaks. In Chefchaouen, a picturesque village in the northern Morocco, famous for its blue- washed houses and alleys, you may glimpse palm trees and pine trees growing next to each other.  

 { Read: Travel private from Marrakech to the Sahara dunes and back over 3 days }

Some travel agents think that October or perhaps March is best to visit Marrakech or Fez. The reality is somewhat different. Morocco is incredibly diverse in landscapes, altitudes and latitudes. While it may be snowing in Ifrane or Imlil, you are almost guaranteed sun bathing in Laayoune or Dakhla, by the Atlantic. If you want to just tick some boxes in your travel notebook and scrape Morocco off that list, you can hire the services of any tour operator or travel agent. For someone that can customize a once- in- a- lifetime experience and choose the best places to visit and things to do based on the time of year you wish to visitgo for a local specialist. It may be that you'll even need your agent to customize your holidays after you arrived in Morocco. On a few occations, we had to reverse the order of a private tour when snow had blocked the Tizi n Tichka pass, while keeping the same start and end dates and encompassing the same local experiences. 

souk in marrakechOf course, one could argue that temperatures are ideal to visit Morocco in March and October. There are, though, a few downsides with this. It is the peak of the tourist season with most other tourists on all inclusive holidays being taken around by charter buses. This means cues to enter monuments, rubbing shoulders with everyone else visiting smaller venues and the night in a desert luxury camp you'd so long anticipated risking to resemble more an attraction park than the zen- like, unforgettable experience you were hoping for. Peak season time means also peak season rates. Most Riads/ hotels consider these months high season (given the volume of tourists) and raise their rates accordingly.

So instead, why not visit before Christmas ? Or just after NYE ? You get low rates on hotels and other services. Perhaps not quite the temperatures to swim in a pool, but at 20 plus Celsius day- time and constant sunshine, you are far from the rainy and cold winter affecting most of Europe and US. The rain season in Morocco, if such a thing exists, falls late February or March. During a week or so, you may get occasional rain showers. For those interested in the best photography shots, the winter months are ideal - the light is at its best then when air is depleted of any dust. 

{ Read: Morocco on a honeymoon 

With so many things to do and see, in Fes, it isn’t the weather that Yasmina Suitedecides when visitors come. As Vanessa Bonnin, former manager of Dar Roumana guest house, puts it: "The best time to visit Morocco is in June to coincide with the incredibly inspiring Fes Festival of Sacred Music. It showcases an eclectic mix of world music and always has fabulous head-liners too. During the festival the medina is even more alive and buzzing than usual, with the added energy of happy music lovers visiting from all over the world. It shows this magical city at its best!".

In July and August one should consider staying away from the desert and inland cities like Marrakech, Fez or Ouarzazate. But even in Fez and Marrakech, with careful preparation from a knowledgeable local travel agent, one can still enjoy the beauties of these two cities. The best way to do it is to choose to stay just outside the city and come into the city early in the morning to sightsee. You can then return to your guesthouse in the afternoon to relax and enjoy the lush gardens and pool. After all, it is only a 10- 15 minutes drive and if you are on a private Morocco tour, you will have your driver and 4x4 available 24 hours a day. 

essaouira-general viewYou may also choose to spend the night in the Medina and travel to the coast to either Essaouira, Oualidia or Agadir (each within less than 3 hours drive from Marrakech and considerably cooler during the summer). Max Lawrence,  of Lawrence of Morocco  agrees: “Marrakech is wonderful all year round but if the summer heat is too much for you then you should head to the ideally temperate Atlantic coast in July and August. Oualidia, Essaouira and Agadir all provide 28 C whilst in Marrakech it can be 45 C.” Some parts of Morocco like Agadir and Dakhla benefit from all year round mild temperatures. Further north, Essaouira yields more charm and character than a resort as Agadir, but the cold current makes it too cold to swim even in summer.

When it comes to Christmas and NYE, Marrakech is on the top of the list to foreign visitors’ preferences. Marrakech is definitely worth visiting, but if you expect to find the same festive ambiance as in Europe, you are in for a disappointment. Mostly because Morocco’s population being largely Muslim, they do not celebrate winter holidays as Westerners do. 

{ Read: Off the beaten track Morocco }

Maria Joao, a travel adviser who has made Morocco her second home, says: ‘For me the best time to visit Morocco is the whole year. At any time of year there are spectacular places to discover or revisit. Morocco is a very diverse country in terms of landscape and climate, has imperial cities, desert, mountains, snow, Atlantic and Mediterranean beaches.’’ 

camel ride in atlas mountainsMax agrees: ‘Morocco is a country which offers perfect travel conditions all year round as one is able to move geographically to different areas for different periods. The Atlas mountains are wonderful all year but if you are thinking of trekking then avoid the winter months of December, January and February as there can be too much water flowing in many of the rivers to allow walkers to easily pass. During these months, trekking in the Anti Atlas is ideal.

The only place you should avoid in July or August is the desert. Temperatures can soar over 45 degrees Celsius and there is no tent provided with A/C. Not yet anyway. Max says: ‘Southern Morocco and the desert is ideal from September to June (10 months of the year) and should not be missed.’ If you really have to do the Sahara in July or August, think of booking a room in an air conditioned kasbah by the dunes, where early next morning, you can take a short camel ride into the dunes to witness a sunrise as you've never seen before.  But spending a full day in the dunes is not an option, unless you are training for Marathon de Sables. 

 

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Published in Morocco travel blog