Just a short flight from Europe and arguably at its best in spring, Morocco is one of the most popular destinations at this time of year. Think spring flowers, billowing robes, still-coolish souqs to wander around, relatively tourist-free. We spoke to Charlie Hopkinson, Managing Director of Imaginative Traveller and creator of our brand-new 21 day Moroccon Explorer, who lists this beautiful, evocative country as one of his favourite destinations, to give us the ‘Insider’s Guide’.
What’s Morocco’s best kept secret?
The Kasbah Bab Ourika. Perched on top of a hilltop and nestled alongside a rural village, it’s an amazing getaway with panoramic, 360 degree views. It looks down to the river, olive groves, orange and lemon trees and up to the snowy peaks of the nearby Atlas mountains. I visited whilst it was being built, and Uma Thurman camped here as one if its first guests. There’s a swimming pool for guests, too.
Best place in Morocco for adventure?
The Sahara Desert. Our new 21 day trip includes an overnight camel trek into the desert at Erg Chebbi, one of the country’s most beautiful and genuine desert areas. Vast sand dunes tumble across the floor blown by gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) breezes forming a massive sea of sand and I defy anyone not to be seized by a sudden compulsion to run (or surf) down them. We stay in Berber tents, surrounded by swathes of date palms and camel enclosures, dwarfed by the dunes and where you get one of the best star-gazing opportunities in the world.
What’s Morocco’s best restaurant?
It may not serve the most sophisticated food – it’s simple, traditional Moroccan fare, but the terrace restaurant at the Kasbar du Toubkal has the most stunning views of the Atlas mountains.
Best piece of advice for someone travelling to Morocco?
Bring your thermals! Everyone thinks of Morocco as a hot, dry destination but the temperatures at night-time, with no cloud cover, can plummet, particularly in the desert. They’ll also come in handy in the Atlas mountains or when climbing Mt Toubkal.
What’s your favourite thing about the country?
Apart from the fact it’s just a few short hours away, the best thing about Morocco is its diversity. There’s the Atlas mountains, ancient walled cities, gorgeous beaches, oases, deserts, medinas, need I go on?
Any other little known facts?
Morocco’s film industry earns over US$70 million a year and as a location, Ait Benhaddou has been used in at least 20 films including ‘Gladiator’.
The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is the fifth largest mosque in the world and has the world’s tallest minaret.
Fez is the home of the oldest and largest medieval walled city in the world and remains virtually unchanged. It’s also considered the world’s largest car-free city in the world.