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Morocco is a top holiday destination with something to offer just about everyone, from relaxing beach stays to activity holidays walking in the Atlas Mountain. Marrakech, the busy, bustling city, dating back to the 11th century, is filled curious sprawling souks, (markets) with an abundance of local traders and craftsmen including jewelers, potters, shoemakers and more. It is the home of haggling and impossible to leave without some small bargain. In the infamous Djemaa el-Fna Square the atmosphere is intoxicating and is the heart of Marrakech. You will be overwhelmed by the smells wafting over from the food stalls, the moving colours of the jugglers and snake charmers that vie for your attention. Marrakech is so hectic, but a wonderful world away from any British city, that you will need a break after visiting. Away from the pushy dominating city, Morocco actually has a lot more to offer.
The Atlas Mountains are only an hour away from Marrakech but you feel you’ve been transported to another time. Tranquil valleys, fertile pasture lands and snow-capped mountains are home to the more traditional Moroccans, the Berbers, and the country villagers. Set between the Sahara and Atlantic coast, the mountains can be walked, or trekked, all year round. In the summer the Atlas provide a cooling breeze as you trek through villages of small flat-roofed Berber houses which blend seamlessly into the mountains. In winter, more serious trekkers head up Mt Toubkal to summit the highest mountain in North Africa, during the harsh, cold and snowy weather.
To summit Toubkal which reaches 4,167m high, is for most trekkers a feather in their cap but it is achievable for experienced mountain climbers and the very fit during the warmer months. There are so many trails and paths to follow that it is advisable to stay up in mountains for at least two days to give you a chance to really explore the area. There are some fantastic cheap gite d’etapes, (village houses with simple dormitory rooms), offering basic but clean accommodation. For those looking for a little extra comfort, you’ll find beautiful mountain retreats, set high in the hills perhaps with a pool. The Atlas Mountains are somewhere to get away from modern, fast-paced life and take a step back.
Away from the mountains heading south, lays the Sahara Desert. The Sahara, the largest hot desert in the world, borders the Atlantic to the west and the Red Sea to the east and the Atlas Mountains to the north in Morocco. Some of its sand dunes can reach up to 18m in height providing the perfect platform to view this vast sand sea. Watching the sunrise over this incredible landscape is breathtaking and something not to be missed on your Morocco holiday.
The Sahara is of course the best place too, to try out camel riding. The camel has been the chosen mode of transport in the desert for centuries and these sturdy, if a little temperamental, animals will take you across the sands as revel in the silence and solitude. Sleeping under the desert skies is also a treat, as the clear skies provide optimum astronomical viewing and the chance to glimpse the Milky Way. For the more active you can sand board down the dunes, take bouncy jeep rides or trek through the desert.
If hiking in the Atlas and camel riding through the desert isn’t enough, you can always head to the Ourika River for a spot of white water rafting or the coastal port of Essaouira to swim in the sea or sunbath on the long sandy beach. Morocco is a destination that has just about everything, it is cheap, has plenty of activities for adults and children, an abundance of history and amazing food. The weather is pleasant most of the year and there are plenty of budget airlines that make daily flights from the UK. Morocco is ideal for activity holidays, beach trips and cultural exploration.
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