Sometimes sightseeing can overwhelm your holiday. Sometimes you don’t want to get out of bed just to see a different iteration of the same building you saw the day before. That’s ok. And that’s also where the landmarks in Morocco are a little different.
There’s so much exciting stuff to see and do in Morocco that you’ll be begging your friends to wake up for an early breakfast, just to cram it all in!
What makes the landmarks in Morocco really special is their versatility and interactivity. There’s something here for everyone.
I don’t want to spoil too many surprises, though. There’s plenty to come.
So, let’s get into my list of 10 incredible landmarks to experience during your time in Morocco.
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1. Djeema el-Fna
Marrakesh’s main square comes storming in as the very first contender on this list, not least because of the incessant attention it demands.
Djemaa el-Fna buzzes with the smell of spices, the whistle of snake charmers and the colour of an Arabian-Berber kaleidoscope. Step under the patchwork of canvass roofs and you’ll instantly understand why this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place of high cultural significance.
Head down in the morning a quieter experience. Grab a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and have a wander. You might spot a henna artist setting up under a spot of shade, or a dentist offering ointments and other small concoctions. Throughout the day a whisper of storytellers (hikayat) and fortune tellers underscore the dusty atmosphere.
After 2pm the party really starts to stir. Past this point no cars are allowed into the square, and you’ll start seeing pedestrians feeling a little more rambunctious.
Hang around and you’ll begin to notice a trickle of local musicians tuning up their instruments. Gnaoua dancers will step past you and into their troupes while gymnasts lay out to stretch.
And, of course, stay for the show. It lasts till at least 1 in the morning.
There are a few good tips for when it comes to visiting the Djemaa el-Fna, one of the most iconic landmarks in Morocco.
Firstly, if you’re a little shy about the hustle and bustle of the square, there are a bunch of cafes and building which surround the market. Grab a drink or some food and watch the hive of activity from above.
If you do venture in, take a stock of Dirhams in hand. It doesn’t have to be much at all, but it’s custom to tip the performers at the end of their show, particularly if you took photos.
Hot Tip: get a guided tour of Djemaa el-Fna. That way you won’t miss a beat, plus there’s more safety in numbers! Win-win.
2. Koutoubia Mosque
Looming a great 250 feet above Djeema el-Fna is the 12th-century minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque.
The mosque’s cultural significance and striking visual make it among the most recognisable landmarks in Morocco, and definitely the most recognisable in Marrakesh.
You’ll find so many typical examples of Moorish architecture in the make-up of this wonderful building that it almost seems like a blueprint. You’ll easily notice scalloped keystone arches amongst a mathematically exacting design, topped by sandy pointed battlements.
Unfortunately, non-Muslims won’t be able to get inside either the main part of the Mosque or the minaret. However, if you head on Friday (during prayer) you’ll probably be able to get a glimpse inside while the doors are open.
See if you can notice the lack of stairs in the minaret! There’s just a slope that spirals up the inside. It’s designed like this because the muezzin used to ride on horseback all the way to the top to call Muslims to prayer.
If you can’t get inside, the next best way to experience the mosque is with a walk through its luscious green gardens. It’s actually one of Marrakesh’s best gardens, and a meander through the palm trees is a nice way to cool off from the excitement of the medina, which sits right next door.
There’s plenty more to known and learn about the Koutoubia Mosque. So much so that I simply don’t have enough time or space to divulge that privilege right here right now.
I do know the best way to get that delicious knowledge, though! Book a full-day guided tour which includes the Koutoubia Mosque! Your guide will show you the best spots, plus give you all the best tips, tricks and interesting tidbits which make this site completely unmissable.
3. Bahia Palace
We’re sticking to Marrakesh once again. Don’t worry, I’ll get to some landmarks in Morocco from some other locations, too!
This time it’s arguably the most eye-popping places in the city: Bahia Palace.
My advice would be to combine a ticket with a guided tour of other sites in Marrakesh. If that’s not really your cup of tea, the entrance fee is 70 Dirham, which translates to around £13.50.
Although you could almost mistake this glorious building as something which is instilled with great age and wisdom – it’s really not even that old! In the 1860s Si Moussa, the Grand Vizer under sultan Hassan I, had the intention of building the greatest palace of all time. So he began.
But it wasn’t until his son, Ahmed ben Moussa, took control in 1894 that Bahia Palace began to look as it does today. He brought in some of the highest skilled craftsman and architects to expand the palace in size and ornation.
This is in part (and perhaps quite a large part) to do with the fact that he has 4 wives and 24 concubines. I mean, he had to find somewhere to house them all, right?!
The most recognisable image from inside the palace has to be the central courtyard. You’ll be treated to a splendid display of Moorish mosaics across the floor, which you can admire under the shade of a wonderfully embellished promenade. In the middle splashes a comparatively humble set of fountains.
Have a walk around and drink in the detail! Among the courtyards, salons and gardens you’ll find exquisite stained-glass windows, precise plasterwork, and intricate carved wooden awnings, to name just a few highlights.
There are over 20 acres of gardens, courtyards and over 150 rooms, so enjoy getting lost in the maze!
4. Ait Ben Haddou
Alright, time to move out of Marrakesh and onto some other famous landmarks in Morocco.
Now, this next one isn’t your standard pop-in pop-out landmark. This is a whole village for you to explore.
Well, technically it’s a ksar, which translates to ‘fortified village’ and gives you a much better impression of what Ait Ben Haddou is.
Visually, it’s like something out of a movie set. High, sandy-orange walls collected together in a seemingly cluttered tangle of paths and stairs. There’s a distinct lack of variation in the colour scheme, and definition is given only by small, carved out windows that dot the walls, and a labyrinth of shadows that are thrown like projectiles from one corner to another.
In fact, this really is a place from a movie set – several, for that matter! You might recognise it from films like Lawrence of Arabia, Jewel of the Nile, Gladiator or maybe Games of Thrones. As you can probably tell, Ait Ben Haddou is an absolute goldmine for movie-makers.
The kasbah was actually largely retouched for the 1977 series Jesus of Nazareth, meaning the site is in great condition for its age. If you’re looking for a kasbah that hasn’t felt the hands of Hollywood, head 6km north and you’ll find Tamdaght kasbah. Warning though, the difference is pretty big – Tamdaght kasbah is practically in ruin.
You shouldn’t dismiss the remedial attention as such a bad thing, though! Thanks to the refurbishments it still resembles its humble origins as an 11th-century caravanserai (a roadside inn or stop for weary travellers) today!
5. Erg Chebbi
You can’t really visit Morocco without a trip to the desert! It simply wouldn’t be right.
The best way to see this glorious terrain is through a trip to Erg Chebbi, the most famous and most popular section of the desert within Morocco’s borders.
What makes this one of the most incredible landmarks in Morocco is the dunes. If you didn’t already know, not all desert terrains are made equal! The majority is a flat, pretty desolate land home to nasty critters and spikey plants.
Erg Chebbi has all the glorious rolling sandbanks that you’re after. 28 kilometres of them.
To get there you’ll have to travel either 8 hours from Fes or a whopping 2 days from Marrakesh, but that’s not all bad news. If you come from Marrakesh, you’ll be weaving your way through the incredible scenery of the Atlas Mountains. Later, these same mountains will provide a remarkable backdrop for your desert experience.
And there’s plenty to do once you get there! There are plenty of desert tour options, which can include camel rides, quad biking, camping out in the desert and/ or a dinner under the stars. Really, have a look around and take your pick!
If you’re a bit apprehensive about how to travel in the desert, we’ve got plenty of pointers (just follow that link).
Oh, and if you’re thinking about hopping on top of a camel, you should research how to dress for a camel ride before you get there. Luckily, I’ve put all that information together for you.
From dunes to depths, we’re heading away from inland Morocco and out to the north-westerly shores of Essaouira.
Once again, this isn’t one of your typical landmarks in Morocco. Essaouira is a small city so magical that the entire place has to be counted as something truly remarkable.
In fact, the Berber name for the city gives us a much better impression of why Essaouira is so special. They call it Tassort, which translates to ‘the small fortress’. Of course, this naturally lends itself to the walls which surround the city, but the fortress’ protection in modern times has come from somewhere a little more unusual: the wind.
You see, most holidaymakers dream of a still and peaceful beach. Essaouira, however, is a city that directly faces the Atlantic Ocean, and so gets heavy winds pretty much year-round. It’s helped to keep too many tourists from flocking to its shores, which has meant that the idyllic setting has been preserved in a very attractive and traditional past.
The city is famed for a few things. Of course, the beach, which is particularly popular for windsurfers, kite surfers and regular board surfers alike. It’s also renowned as a skilled producer of artisanal products like jewellery, local oils and lotions, and exquisite inlaid cabinet work.
One of the most iconic images hailing from this beautiful coastal city is the blue boats, which nestle themselves in the impressive walled harbour. You’ll definitely want to get a snap of these beauties, if only to prove you’ve been!
If you need more reasons to visit or information about how to get there or what to do, check out why I believe Essaouira is Morocco’s best kept hidden gem.
7. Ouzoud Falls
If you thought the only natural landmarks in Morocco were towering swathes of sand and stone, you’d be wrong. It’s also home to some pretty spectacular waterfalls.
Roughly 100 miles northeast of Marrakesh and high in the Atlas Mountains you’ll find the Ouzoud Falls, arguably the most incredible waterfalls in the country.
And yes, that was waterfalls – with an s!
You see, the Ouzoud Falls is actually the collective name for several separated waterfalls which all fall in tandem. They each start from slightly different points in the rock face but plunge into the same 600m deep gorge below. It’s really quite breathtaking.
They all pour into the El-Abid River gorge, which is actually a very attractive landmark in and of itself. While you’re visiting, definitely consider a short stay to drink in all the scenery on offer.
The great thing about natural landmarks in Morocco is that they’re largely free! There’s a £2 charge for parking and a small fee for a boat at the bottom (if you dare!), but beyond that this is super budget friendly.
Oh, and I haven’t even gotten to the best part!
A population of Barbary Macaque Monkeys will be your hosts during this visit – how cute!
Be sure to bring your camera, but be careful what you’re waving around out there. These monkeys can get very mischievous, and they’ll definitely try and snatch anything you might not be holding onto tightly enough. I’d advise against wearing your sunglasses too close to these cheeky devils, too.
8. Hassan II Mosque
The Hassan II Mosque is possibly my favourite of all the incredible landmarks in Morocco, not just for its gargantuan size, but its breathtaking beauty.
Found in the popular tourist destination of Casablanca, the Hassan II Mosque boasts the tallest minaret (tower) in the world. It stands at a mammoth 700 feet and the summit’s spotlight shines east over the Atlantic Ocean, directly towards Mecca.
And when I say over the Atlantic Ocean, I really mean it. The plot which the mosque sits on juts straight out over the ocean and gives the whole building a very ethereal and spiritual feel. The French architect, Michel Pinseau, designed this to reflect a particular verse in the Qur’an: “the throne of Allah was built on water”.
It took 2,500 men working around the clock for 6 years to finally complete the build in 1993. Among its architecture, you’ll find all of the delightful intricacies Moroccan construction is famed for: carved stone and wood, gilded ceilings, detailed marble flooring, and exquisite mosaic tile work. It’s a stunning commemoration of the building’s namesake and former King of Morocco.
Good news! Unlike the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh, non-Muslims are able to enter. Not just willy-nilly, though. Prayer times are still restricted to Muslim visitors, but respectfully dressed individuals can get inside by booking a multilanguage guided tour.
There’s also a small museum for you to get a closer insight into some of the incredible craftwork that went into the mosque.
9. Chouara Tannery
Many ‘must see’ lists will point you in the direction of Fes el Bali, which is the walled medina in Fes. Now, while this is a great place to visit as a whole, what they’re really going to talk about is the Chouara Tannery.
Why is this one of the best landmarks in Morocco? I’ll make my case quite simple.
Google image search ‘Morocco’. I guarantee that on the first page (probably within the first 10 hits) you’ll come across a picture of Chouara Tannery. You’ll probably recognise the cluster of round basins holding an assortment of differently coloured liquids carved into a typically Moroccan roof. It’s really just quite iconic, and extremely photogenic.
Chouara Tannery isn’t the only tannery in Fes, but it’s the largest and one of the oldest. And it’s very stinky too.
Don’t let the smell put you off though because this pristine example of an 11th-century manufacturing process really captures the imagination.
The smell has a number of garish sources. One of the earliest processes when creating the leather is to soften it in a big pile of pigeon poop.
Then, the tanners pound the animal skins for hours, further softening the hide. After that, they immerse the skins in plant dye (the colours you see in the pots, which can also give off a nasty whiff), before drying.
There’s a bunch of balconies and shops surrounding the tannery where you can get a nice aerial view. If I were you, though, I would refrain from buying leather from these shops. The owners hike the prices massively and apparently can be a little pushy.
Given how many tourists come their way, it’s understandable, I guess.
We’re coming to the last of our unmissable landmarks in Morocco, and I don’t want to say I’ve saved the best for last but… well, I’ll let you be the judge.
High up in the Rif mountains you might come across a rocky constellation that sort of resembles a pair of goat horns. Underneath them, you’ll find a city (quite aptly) famed for its creamy native goat’s cheese.
Its name is Chefchaouen. Oh, I’m not really here to talk about their goat’s cheese (but I’m sure it’s delicious!).
What I’m really here to talk about it the wonderful scene of cobalt and sapphire houses which make this city so famous. It feels like they’ve been plucked right from the pages of a fairytale.
Now, I think I know what you’ll be thinking: “is Chefchaouen really as blue as it looks?”.
I am very pleased to tell you that yes, Chefchaouen is the real deal. The whole city is wonderfully chockablock with blue-washed buildings and alleyways – even the streets themselves are blue!
This sits in contrast to some other ‘blue cities’ which I’ve visited. Jodhpur in India springs to mind. The houses in Jodhpur are only blue if they’re right next to the Mehrangarh Fort, because blue houses displayed your wealth and social standing.
Here though, everything is blue! It’s your picture-perfect picture-taking paradise!
There are differing opinions as to why exactly Chefchaouen is blue. Some say Jewish settlers painted the town after fleeing from Hitler, others insist it’s to keep mosquitos at bay, and some reckon it simply represents the sea.
This is really a place to relax. You’re in the mountains, so it’s also a great place to hike from, but Chefchaouen is best enjoyed slowly. Grab your camera and take a wander.
Thank you from easyGuide
We hope you found our guide to landmarks in Morocco useful. Don’t forget you can find tickets to the top attractions, activities, experiences and tours in Marrakesh here.
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