1. Relax at a hammam
Seriously indulgent hammams and spas include those at La Mamounia and Selman Hotels. For those counting the coins, head to Les Bains de Marrakech (2 derb Sedra, Bab Agnaou, Kasbah, +212 524 38 14 28) where the luxurious ambience belies the price of the hammams and massages.
For total authenticity and a thorough scrubdown, head to Hammam El-Bacha (20 rue Fatima Zohra, Dar El-Bacha (no phone).
New spa on the block is Hammam de la Rose (130 rue Dar El-Bacha, +212 524 44 47 69) gaining kudos among customers with its friendly and professional outlook, affordable prices and effective spa products.
2. Overnight in the Sahara Desert
Morocco’s Sahara desert is a magical place to spend a few nights. The most popular area to explore is the breathtaking Saharan sandscape in little place called Merzouga, just south of Erfoud. The Erg Chebbi dunes may look familiar if you’ve seen SATC2, The Mummy, or Sahara. The Erg Chebbi is about 450 miles from Marrakech. There’s a small airport about 80 miles from Erfoud, with twice weekly flights from Casablanca. The best way to get around and explore is by camel, although 4×4’s are popular if you fancy yourself a rally driver.
You can opt for a Morocco camel trekking and overnight in bedouin tent in the dunes, or a luxury tent at Morocco Excursions Company. Time your trip for spring and you may even see flamingos in a large seasonal lake close to Merzouga.
3. Surfing in Morocco
Morocco has long attracted surfers to its Atlantic breakers. A popular time to surf is during the winter months when swells are consistently good and the water and air temperatures are still quite mild.Taghazoute is the most popular surfing town, just north of Agadir. There are numerous spots to serve close to town and several surf shops and hotels to choose from. Check out: Surf Berbere and Moroccan Surf Adventures. The town appears to be getting rundown, so check current trip reports.
Surfers and kite-surfers also head to the beaches around the lovely town of Essaouira, but the waves are not as consistent. This may be the place to check out if you just want to try it out. Dakhla is also popular with kite-surfers.
4. Have a belly (dance)
Marrakchi socialites will tell you that Comptoir is sooo over, but on the right night it’s still the best party in town. From the outside it’s a well-behaved little villa on a quiet residential street, but inside the place buzzes with dressed-up diners on the ground floor, while upstairs is a sizeable lounge filled each weekend night to within a whisper of a health and safety crisis. The crowd is a mix of good-looking locals, sharper expats and wide-eyed tourists delighted to have stumbled on the Marrakech they’d always heard about. Drinks are pricey but the nightly belly-dancers are hilarious.
Avenue Echouhada, Hivernage +212 524 43 77 02. Open 4pm-1am Mon-Thur, Sun; noon-1am Fri, Sat.
5. Explore Morocco through its museums
The Dar Si Said Museum (Riad Zitoun El-Jedid, +212 524 38 95 64. Open 9am-6.45pm Wed-Mon. Admission 10dh. Children 3dh), former home of the brother of Ba Ahmed, builder of the Bahia Palace, now houses a ragtag collection of crafts and woodwork. Among all the ceramics, leather and weapons are beautiful examples of carved cedar, rescued from the city’s lost dwellings.
More engaging is the new Maison de la Photographie (46 Ahal Fés, +212 524 38 57 21. Open 9.30am-7pm daily, Admission 40dh. Children under 12, free) which displays exhibits from a collection of 8,000 photographs spanning the period from 1870-1950. The museum’s top terrace is perfect for a post-picture visit drink or light lunch.
The new Douiria Mouassine (5 Derb El Hammam, Mouassine, Medina, +212 524 38 57 21. Open 10am-6pm Sat-Thur, Admission 30dhs) showcases a restored, petite 17th-century reception apartment detailed with exquisite decorative plaster and wood work.
The Marrakech Museum of Photography and Visual Arts (MMPVA) has a temporary home inside the Badii Palace with a changing roster of exhibitions until the new Sir David Chipperfield-designed building is unveiled next to the Menara Gardens in 2016.
6. Trek the High Atlas
The Atlas Mountains stretch over 1500 miles, from Morocco’s West Coast to Tunisia. The High Atlas in Morocco is home to North Africa’s highest peak, Jebel Toubkal (4,167 m). Most treks start from Imlil, an hour drive from Marrakech. You can trek year round, but the best time to go is April-May. There are simple accommodations available and you don’t have to go with a guide, but it is recommended.
The Ourika Valley offers the perfect day tour from Marrakesh. The Ourika Valley slopes gently alongside the Ourika river, resulting in beautiful views from small Berber villages. The Ourika Valley ends in Setti Fatma, home of the Seven Waterfalls. It’s also possible to combine this trek with a visit to the magnificent Ksar Ait Ben Haddou.
7. Stay in a Riad
Riads are traditional homes converted into hotels, and I would never stay anywhere else when visiting Morocco. Most are situated in the walled cities of Fes and Marrakech, so you are right in the heart of the bustle. Inside, Riad’s are simply beautiful, tiled masterpieces of architecture. Most will have a fountain in the center of a courtyard, with the rooms built on two levels or so above. Check into the option of a rooftop terrace for breakfast, a lovely way to start the day, overlooking the alleys and minarets. If you’re visiting Morocco in the summer, opt for a Riad with a pool or plunge pool to cool off in the heat of the mid-afternoon.