Often overlooked for the more famous southern region of the country, the northern part of Morocco is a fascinating and charming region that is slowly starting to build a reputation for itself as the must see place on the Mediterranean.
When you say you’re going to visit Morocco the first place most people think you’ll visit is Marrakesh, closely followed by Agadir. Some also only step foot in Tangier on a quick day trip by ferry from Gibraltar or make it the starting point on their Moroccan adventure by train.
Thankfully however there’s far more to this region than first meets the eye…
Visit Northern Morocco for New Year’s Eve
Well, it’s certainly an unconventional choice. Firstly be aware there’s almost no alcohol (that should put most of you off), however that means thankfully there’ll be no hangover or stupid drunks to deal with.
Secondly, although there aren’t any huge celebrations most people are friendly and will wish you a happy New Year. My advice is not to follow the crowds to the likes of Sydney or New York where you’ll be squashed in waiting around for hours to see a few fireworks, instead choose an area of the world that isn’t usually featured in the must-see lists and see how they welcome in the New Year.
Where to visit in Northern Morocco
Known as the “Blue City” for its wonderful brightly painted blue walls. Chefchaouen’s population grew mainly due to Muslims and Jews escaping persecution from Granada in 1494. We have these people to thank for the quaint whitewash houses, although originally they were painted green, a traditional Muslim colour. It wasn’t until the 1930s when the Jewish refugees opted to use a pale-blue that this small town is now famous for.
This small mountain town is the perfect introduction to Morocco, it’s welcoming, friendly and easy to navigate. However be aware that the surrounding region is well-known for being the largest area for producing marijuana, be very careful what you bring in and out!
Wandering aimlessly is something that comes naturally to me, visiting Chefchaouen gave me the perfect opportunity to meander through the narrow streets of the Medina, explore the prison of the Kasbah and be dazzled by the bright blue walls of this fascinating town.
Quite possibly one of my favourite places I’ve visited, highly recommended.
Often only known as a transport hub, I ventured to Tetouan on my way back to Tangier. Personally I’m not sure I should have bothered, thankfully I didn’t decide to spend a night here and I wouldn’t suggest it either.
After spending three lovely days in Chefchaouen, it was quite a shock to return to a big city and experience touts and people praying on tourists. I really did stand out, I didn’t see any other tourists around and although the Medina looked fascinating I barely had time to see it because of the number of people trying to con me out of money.
One of the main tourist sites here is the Royal Palace where the King lives, sadly this isn’t open to the public but the view from outside is quite spectacular.
This beautiful fortified town is located on the Western side of Morocco next to the Atlantic coast, it should be a key stop on your Moroccan tour as the ramparts are still fully intact and the views of the sea are incredible.
After the disaster of Tetouan, I wasn’t expecting a huge amount from Asilah but to my delight it was pleasant, quiet and a vision of times gone by. I visited on New Year’s Day and most things were closed and thankfully for me it meant that the old fort and medina were relatively quiet.
If I’d planned my trip more thoroughly I think it would’ve been quite nice to stay here for one night and explore the town more. However, it’ll still be here for when I come back.
Often used as a backdrop in spy movies, this city was used as a safe house for European and American spies and its reputation is legendary. This city suffered from a lack of investment by the Moroccan Government, however thankfully they’ve now seen its potential and are investing heavily in a brand new business district, port and airport terminal to try attract wealthy tourists.
Tangier is being re-branded as the Moroccan Riviera, the first high-speed train line in Africa is being built and should be completed in 2016. As the third biggest city in Africa, it’s no surprise this is a rapidly expanding city, but is there much for a tourist to see?
From the Hercules Grotto to Cap Spartel, there’s some stunning tourist sites on the northern tip of Africa. Cap Spartel is the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean, you must see this place it’s a beautiful view where can even see Spain in the distance.
Hecules Grotta, although touristy, is a fascinating cave that has been naturally carved from the waves over the centuries. Beware that guides will try to say its necessary for you to be with them, but it’s not. Also don’t pay an entry fee as it’s free.
Tangier is somewhere I’d recommend staying for a few days, helping you to acclimatise yourself to the madness that is Morocco.
Driving in Morocco
Sadly I don’t drive, but on this trip I was travelling with a friend who offered so it was the perfect opportunity for me to see more of Northern Morocco.
With its close proximity to Europe, the driving style may have been different to the rest of Morocco but I’ve been to far worse places around the world! This experience may have been different had we driven more at night, but I would suggest as long as you feel comfortable driving in a different country then you should be absolutely fine.
Visit Morocco for yourself
I highly recommend a visit, to book your stay go to Booking.com and search for Morocco properties.
If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.