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A Morocco travel guide – a magic carpet ride of kasbahs, maze-like souks and Saharan sands

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Holidays in Morocco are an assault on the senses. One minute you're camel trekking through desert dunes, the next you're bartering in the souks, steaming in a hammam (bathhouse) or eating lamb tagines hot from the burner. Choose a Morocco hotel to discover this land of 1001 experiences.

Get your bearings

Morocco overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and Spain in the north, where vibrant cities like Tangier have a European flavour and hikers are drawn to the Rif Mountains' green spine. Pummelled by the Atlantic, the dramatic western coastline is watched over by the capital Rabat and commercial hub Casablanca. Step inland to labyrinthine Fez and Marrakech's medieval medina at the foot of the snowcapped Atlas Mountains. Slipping south-east brings you to the Saharan skies, mud-brick kasbahs and camels of the desert.

Enticing cities

Looking across the Mediterranean, Spanish-infused Tangiers harbours a lively port and a sultan's palace. The 12th-century kasbah of dynamic capital Rabat and the commercial buzz of Art Deco Casablanca attract visitors west to the Atlantic coast. Even more alluring is arty Essaouira, with its snaking ramparts, blue-white medina and mouth-watering fish souk. Edge south for Agadir's laidback beach life. Inland, Marrakech spins heads with boutique riads (courtyard houses), souk haggling and Jemaa el-Fna square’s snake charmers and acrobats. Perhaps the fairest Moroccan city of all, medieval Fez is a warren of narrow alleyways honeycombed with colourful tanneries and stuck-in-time workshops.

Great outdoors

Shifting sands, sun-baked kasbahs and landscapes that change colour like mood rings have made Morocco a magnet for Hollywood filmmakers. When temperatures soar on Morocco breaks, cool off by the High Atlas' thundering Ouzoud Falls - come at sunset to spy thirsty Barbary apes. Ouarzazate is the gateway to the desert, leading east through the kasbah-dotted, canyon-like Dades Valley to the dramatic 300m-high Todra Gorge. Merzouga's golden dunes ripple further east. Flamingos and rare bald ibises lure bird spotters to Oued Massa Nature Reserve near Agadir. 

Culture gems

Choose Meknès for cultural Morocco holidays and see Volubilis’ strikingly well-preserved Roman ruins. Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator are among the blockbusters shot at the Unesco-listed fortified city of Aït Benhaddou, which blushes with the rising and setting sun. Slip back to an age of tittering courtesans in the opulent Bahia Palace and contemplate Saadian craftsmanship at Ali Ben Youssef Medersa, Marrakech. More than 6,000 craftsmen created Casablanca's mighty Hassan II mosque. Housed in a 17th-century sultan's palace, Tangier's Dar el-Makhzen Museum is an education in Moroccan artistry from Fes pottery to Berber embroidery. 

Active pursuits

Morocco's jagged mountains, desert dunes and Atlantic surf promise outdoor escapades. The 4,167m-high Jebel Toubkal towers above the High Atlas Mountains, which lure hikers to their technicolour peaks, gorges and rural Berber villages. The northern Rif massif's thick forests and rugged heights are prime walking territory. Surferswindsurfers and kitesurfers ride the waves in Essaouira and Taghazout near Agadir. Go south-east for camel trekking through Erg Chebbi's glowing sands. Within an hour of Marrakech, you can be buggy raidinghot-air ballooning or skiing Oukaïmeden's slopes.