Now that a sizeable percentage of the world has reopened for tourism restriction-free, you may be eager to get out there, make up for lost time, and explore different cultures. If an overpriced Europe and crowded Riviera Maya no longer make your heart beat faster, we may have just the thing for you:
How about Africa? More specifically, a beautiful North African country not that many Americans visit, where the culture is truly foreign, Western etiquette (or whatever that means) does not apply, and whose natural beauty and unexpected diversity will take your breath away?
These are only a few of the reasons why the Kingdom of Morocco should be on your bucket list for 2023:
Where Even Is Morocco?
Morocco is Africa’s Northwesternmost state, and it forms part of a wider region called ‘The Maghreb’, a term that’s been historically used to describe the continent’s Arab microcosm. Out of the five Maghrebi countries, however, Morocco is arguably the one boasting the most varied topography:
Its extensive coastline straddles not only the wild Atlantic but also the Mediterranean, while the rugged hinterland is traversed by the snow-capped Atlas mountain range, the natural divide between the Mediterranean region itself and the Sahara Desert, which occupies roughly 40% of the national territory.
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Whether it’s luxurious beachfront villas with sweeping views of the ocean, alpine retreats, or off-path desert glamping you’re after, Morocco has got you covered: it’s no wonder it’s been growing at a record pace in the post-pandemic scene, along with fellow North African partners Tunisia and Egypt.
Despite the inevitable surge in popularity – no hidden gem stays ‘hidden’ for long – the country is not yet awash with tourists, even though it shares the same hot climate and laid-back, cozy atmosphere of Europe’s Mediterranean South. Last year, close to 11 million foreigners arrived in the Kingdom.
In other words, Morocco has recovered 84% of its pre-crisis tourism, exceeding the global recovery rate of 20%, but it is yet to be spoiled by mass tourism. A majority of visitors are either Moroccans residing abroad or vacationers from France, owing to the European nation’s close historical ties to North Africa.
According to Statistica, only 1.8% would hail from the United States, proving Morocco is not yet on America’s radar, much like other competing gems both North and South of the Sahara, but it won’t remain anonymous among the American demographic for long.
Bloom Consulting confirmed Morocco is already the 3rd most attractive country for foreigners in Africa and the 43rd most powerful tourist destination worldwide.
Why Is Morocco So Trendy All Of A Sudden?
Morocco’s prestige in the travel industry is not only attributed to its natural wealth: with an enviable list of world-class cities to its name, UNESCO-protected villages and archaeological sites, and a colorful cuisine with Mediterranean, Arab, and Berber influences, it’s been wooing Westerners who dare go off the beaten path for years, though its recent reopening has certainly helped the promotional campaign.
Ancient Cities And Instagram-ready Small Towns
In Fes, one of the country’s four ancient imperial cities, you will find the largest walled medina (or Old Town) and car-free zone in the world, and a complex ecosystem of narrow closes crammed with tens of thousands of street vendors, locals going about their daily lives, and curious onlookers.
Marrakesh, on the other hand, is best known for its bustling trade and a flaming terracota-colored medina. Yet another imperial city, it is often used as a starting point for newcomers landing in Morocco and avid explorers venturing into the Moroccan Sahara.
Lining the Atlantic Coast, Morocco’s financial and administrative centers of Casablanca and Rabat are Morocco’s gateway to the Western World. The former is a chaotic metropolis with a more liberal approach to life, while the latter is the often overlooked yet History-packed capital.
Other highly sought-after Atlantic ports include Agadir and Essaouira, two of Morocco’s most developed resort strips, and Tangier, on the Northern coast facing Spain, located at one of the closest points between Africa and Europe and a cultural melting pot of the sorts, with a transitional architecture combining Iberian colonial and habitual Moorish.
Outside the hustle and bustle of the big cities, our top picks are Ait Benhaddou, a fortified Berber village built constructed almost entirely from mud, and a jet-setting destination for film and television aficionados – Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Prince of Persia, and some scenes of Game of Thrones were all filmed here – and the dreamy mountain town that is Chefchaoeun.
Chefchaoeun is easily recognized for its striking blue cityscape set against the dramatic backdrop of the Rif Mountains. Here, every navy blue-splashed cobblestone street is Instagram-ready, and there seems to be an endless supply of photogenic corners.
Morocco Fits Your Budget
And It Is Relatively Safe
Morocco is hugely affordable, too: although it has certainly got pricier in recent years, as a result of the increase in tourism, this low to middle-income country will hardly hurt your wallet if you’re wise enough to avoid scammers who will relentlessly try to rip you off as you stroll the medinas, and if staying in a reasonably-priced two-star dar as opposed to a luxurious riad is a sacrifice you’re willing to make.
A three-course meal at an inexpensive restaurant in a tourist area, such as Marrakesh’s ever-busy Jemaa el Fna square, costs on average USD $25, and entry to most tourist attractions is priced at between USD $5 and USD $10 only, with a few exceptions.
If safety is the one thing keeping you from booking those flights right away, you’ll be glad to know Morocco is one of the safest destinations for Western tourists in all of Africa, being ranked a Level 2 destination by U.S. authorities. It is certainly no Iceland, but your main concern here is avoiding non-touristy suburban areas, particularly at night, and steering clear of the scammers and pickpockets, who will come in all ages.
How To Reach Morocco From America?
Nonstop flights to Mohammed V International, the international hub serving Casablanca, are offered from the following U.S. and Canada departure points:
- Montreal-Trudeau (Air Canada)
- New York-JFK (Royal Air Maroc)
- Washington-Dulles (Royal Air Maroc)
From the airport in Casablanca, arriving passengers can reach numerous other destinations within Morocco by rail, including Tangier, via a frequent high-speed TGV train. First-class tickets can cost, on average, USD $30 when booked in advance, and infrastructure is at par, if not better than Europe’s.
No COVID Entry Requirements For American Tourists
At present, there are no COVID entry requirements applying to travelers seeking entry to Morocco:
- Vaccination requirements were lifted
- No pre-departure testing applies
- The Health Declaration Form has been removed
In sum, entry is a breeze, and upon arrival, Americans are normally granted a three-month stay.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com