7 places to get off the tourist trail in Morocco

Keith Drew

written by
Keith Drew

updated 20.05.2024

Marrakesh? Check. The souks of Fez? Been there, bought that. Jebel Toubkal? Climbed it, twice. So what else does Morocco have in store once you’ve ticked off its most popular sights? Plenty, according to Keith Drew, who's selected 7 places to get off the tourist trail in Morocco, far from the madding crowds.

1. Uncover the Roman ruins of Lixus

Think of Roman sites in Morocco and you'll probably picture the mosaic-floored houses of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Volubilis. Everybody does. 

Which is why you should do something different and head to the ruins at Lixus, 5km up the coast from Larache, instead.

This is one of the oldest inhabited sites in Morocco, at one time occupied by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians – and, as legend would have it, Hercules. He's said to have stolen the Golden Apples for his last-but-one labour here.

The site is not as visitor-friendly as Volubilis – there’s no signage, for example – but that’s half the attraction. 

With no modern-day markings marring the landscape and barely any other people, it's much easier to picture Lixus’ Roman inhabitants packing salt at its crumbling factories, worshipping in its deserted temple sanctuaries, or baying for blood at the Upper Town’s amphitheatre.

Planning a trip to Morocco? Browse our Morocco itineraries to create a fully personalised trip, planned by a local expert.


The Roman ruins at Lixus © BasiliAdvertiser/Shutterstock

2. Trek across the Jebel Saghro

The majority of organised trekking in Morocco is concentrated on the Toubkal Massif, a hiking honeypot in the High Atlas mountains south of Marrakesh. 

So, if you want to (literally) get off the beaten track, you'll need to venture east to the Jebel Saghro.

This is very different terrain – think dry river valleys and stark volcanic spires rather than snow-capped peaks – and a very different set-up. 

While guides can be hired in several of the trailhead towns, the Saghro region is much less geared up for tourism.

The recommended three-day traverse will have you hiking past eroded rock formations, across a barren landscape dotted with the black nets of local nomad tribes.

Want to be better prepared for your trip to Morocco? Read our useful travel tips for travelling to Morocco.


The eerie rock formations of the Jebel Saghro © Streetflash/Shutterstock

3. Explore the holy town of Moulay Idriss

Esteemed as one of the holiest places in Morocco, foreign tourists to Moulay Idriss are still few and far between.

Perched on the scrubby slopes of Jebel Zerhoune near Meknes, Moulay Idriss is like an Arabic version of an Andalusian White Town, with its sugar-cube houses seemingly stacked on top of each other.

For views over the mausoleum of Moulay Idriss himself (founder of the city and a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad), make a beeline for Khiber. This hillside neighbourhood was named after the ruler of Morocco’s first independent kingdom. 

Once you've seen the mausoleum, let yourself wander – this is a sleepy place for aimless strolling rather than ticking off specific sights.


Moulay Idriss is still undiscovered by tourists © Maurizio De Mattei/Shutterstock

4. Take an epic road trip along the N2

Morocco’s forgotten mountains, the Rif range, see a fraction of the visitors who hike around the High Atlas

This is partly due to its location – the range is more remote, and lacks the accessibility provided by a big-town base like Marrakesh. And partly because the region – historically existing just outside government control with an economy driven by the cultivation of cannabis, or kif – is altogether edgier.

That aside, it's also beautiful. And, with a bit of common sense, perfectly fine to explore by car. Drive the scenic N2 between Chefchaouen and Al Hoceima, and you'll dip in and out of olive farms, cork oaks and cedar forests, travelling along the ridge of the mountains as they trace the Mediterranean for over 200km. 

Offering spectacular views down towards the coast, the route peaks at 1600m-high Bab Besen and leads through a couple of low-key kif towns before descending to the inviting waters of the Med.

Fancy exploring Chefchaouen? Check out our customisable Moroccan Cities and Ultimate Sahara trip.

A view of the blue city of Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains, Morocco © Marko Razpotnik Sest/Shutterstock

The blue-walled town of Chefchaouen © Marko Razpotnik Sest/Shutterstock

5. Admire Art Deco architecture in Sidi Ifni

Heading to Morocco’s far reaches is usually a sure way to escape the crowds. The former Spanish enclave of Sidi Ifni — closer to the Canary Islands than Marrakesh — is a case in point.

Characterised, like Casablanca, by its Art Deco architecture, Sidi Ifni’s location in the deep south means far fewer visitors clap eyes on its charming colonial buildings. Bleached pale cream by the sun, and decorated in pastel-blue stripes and with floral motifs, they're nothing but striking.

After admiring the eclectic ensemble – even the mosque is Art Deco –  grab some fried squid at the hole-in-the-wall fish stands down by the market.

Next, head 10km up the coast to Legzira Beach. Boasting a dramatic rock arch the colour of burnt oranges, it's absolutely stunning.

Sidi Ifni, Morocco © Roserunn/Shutterstock

Pastel colours rule at Sidi Ifni in southern Morocco © Roserunn/Shutterstock

6. Go back in time in Figuig

You'd be hard pushed to find anywhere further off the tourist trail than Figuig. This isolated oasis town is more than 380km from the nearest jumping-off points of Er Rachidia and Oujda.

If you make the eight-hour journey through an unforgiving, bleakly beautiful landscape of red mountains and rocky desert, you'll find a place where time has seemingly stood still.

Wander the parched, mud-brick alleyways, take shade under swaying palms, and enjoy feeling like you've dropped off the radar completely.


The town of Figuig seems to have been frozen in time © LovPhotography/Shutterstock

7. Meet Berbers in the village of Bhalil

Most foreign visitors see the Middle Atlas through the window of a bus, on the day-long drive down from Fez to Marrakesh. This means you'll probably have the overlooked village of Bhalil pretty much to yourself.

In amongst the jumble of cockeyed pink and yellow buildings that stagger up its hillside are a number of dinky cave houses — the home of local Berber families for as long as anyone can remember.

Berber hospitality is legendary, and anyone visiting these troglodyte dwellings will soon be sat in the “lounge”, wrapped in blankets while tucking into hot mint tea with msammen pancakes.

Love your grub? Read up on eating and drinking in Morocco and find food for thought in our customisable Luxury Morocco trip (it has a focus on food experiences).


Bhalil woman making traditional buttons © Emily Marie Wilson/Shutterstock

For more Moroccan inspiration, read our guide to the best things to do in Morocco.

And, to kickstart your perfect trip, browse our customisable Morocco itineraries, or talk to our local experts.

Top image: Chefchaouen street view © Olga Kot Photo/Shutterstock

Keith Drew

written by
Keith Drew

updated 20.05.2024

A former Rough Guides Managing Editor, Keith Drew has written or updated over a dozen Rough Guides, including Costa Rica, Japan and Morocco. As well as writing for The Telegraph, The Guardian and BRITAIN Magazine, among others, he also runs family-travel website Lijoma.com. Follow him @keithdrewtravel on Twitter and @BigTrips4LittleTravellers on Instagram.

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