If you’re looking to get away when the temperature plummets and the snow starts falling from above, why not consider spending Christmas in Morocco? While many travelers from the Northern Hemisphere initially consider a European destination for their winter holidays, a multitude of savvy travelers are choosing to spend their holiday in Morocco. With it’s sunny skies, colorful allure, and variety of cultures and landscapes, Morocco is becoming one of the most sought-after destinations for travelers looking for some winter warmth.
If you are considering Morocco for a Christmas trip, don’t just stick to the same old tourist track. And don’t make the mistake of spending all of your time in one bustling city, such as Marrakesh. Instead, opt for one of these three extraordinary (and lesser known) regions that will make your trip both memorable and exciting!
The small coastal town of Mirleft in Morocco is becoming well known for superb year-round surfing conditions and a temperate climate. You won’t find beaches lined with bars or clubs, but you are guaranteed to find solitude and natural beauty. And these, you will find these in abundance! Traveling from Agadir, Mirleft is just about three hours south.
In Mirleft, take a walk on the beach during low tide. It is an idyllic setting just on the edge of town for those looking for some beach time on their winter vacay. If water sports are your cup of tea, Mirleft won’t disappoint. Leghzira Beach is overlooked by an old Spanish fort and makes a picturesque surfing spot. Don’t be surprised if you discover there aren’t many people in the water. This area is not crawling with tourists. You will find them in larger surf cities, like Taghazout beach in Agadir, or the serene, yet often crowded beach in Essaouaira.
From Mirleft, it is easy to include a few day trips to some nearby towns. Sidi Ifni is just 10km down the coast. Here, you have an opportunity to experience Spanish art deco architecture and discover the often overlooked Spanish influence in Morocco. This area was part of the Spanish colonial empire until the mid-20th century and many remnants from this time are still in place. You will also find a number of Spanish speakers, not to mention tapas!
Another day trip worth making is one hour south from Mirleft to Goulmime. Every Saturday a camel market is held here, but you’ll need to arrive for daybreak as trading and selling begins early. The famous Touaregs (or “blue men”) of the Sahara often attend the market. These nomads have made the Sahara their home for centuries! You won’t be expected to purchase anything, but… you will have an amazing opportunity to learn more about the culture and history of this far southern region of Morocco.
You could also consider traveling deeper in the Souss region, into the Anti-Atlas mountains, and to the small city of Tafraoute. With very few tourists, lovely small restaurants, and spectacular places for outdoor adventures, Tafraoute is the ideal destination for those seeking to continue a relaxing getaway or an adventurous few days among nature.
Take a 90km (about 50 mile) jaunt southwest of Marrakesh into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains to discover the region of Ouirgane and Marigha. This area is scattered with Berber villages and can make a good starting (or stop-off point) for mountain treks in the Atlas.
The area surrounding Ouirgane is home to the Tassa Ouirgane National Park. Visiting in December means sunny skies without the intense heat that summer brings. This is the place in Morocco where you’ll still be able to have that Christmas feeling. At a thousand meters (about 3280 ft) above sea level, the often snow-topped peaks will make you forget you’re in North Africa. In fact, a visit to Mount Oukaïmeden, just a short drive away, offers the opportunity to ski on one of the few ski slopes in Africa!
Thursdays are market days and families from all over the area come to visit the local market. Visitors are welcome to attend in order to get a glimpse into what rural, mountain life in Morocco is really like. Ouirgane is also a religious center. The Muslim sanctuary of Moulay Brahim is located just 15km away while the Jewish sanctuary of Rabi Haim ben Diwan is just 2.5km away. For those looking to uncover Jewish Morocco, this can be a great spot to spend a couple of days.
The area of Skoura, now dubbed as the “Valley of One Thousand Kasbahs” is a sure-fire treat. If you are able to spend Christmas in Morocco in any one destination, this is possibly the finest. Not only do Kasbah hotels with lush gardens dot the interior, the Kasbah Amerhidil (whose impressive façade graces the 50 dirham note) and many other ancient fortifications are found here. From Skoura, you are also within striking distance of both of the great sand dune destinations of Morocco — Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga!
If one has the time, Skoura has the treasures. A walk in this oasis valley is a highlight, and the area is the perfect base to explore the UNESCO-protected Ait Ben Haddou. In nearby Ouarzazate, you will find the impressive Glaoui stronghold of Telouet. The two great gorges of Morocco are also nearby: Dades Gorge or Todra Gorge. In December, this region can get rain, but the oasis valley will be in its full splendor giving you an opportunity to experience an area that has more oppressive heat other times of year.
Why spend another Christmas around a fir tree when you could spend it under a palm tree in these off-the-beaten-path locations in Morocco? If you’d like to learn more about what Morocco has to offer, feel free to get in touch with our team for the next holiday season!
Written by Monika Mazinska – Updated by Pauline de Villiers Brettell
Photos by Lucas Peters. Lucas is the principal photographer and author of the Moon Guidebooks: Morocco as well as Marrakesh and Beyond published by Hachette. He edited and contributed to the Our Morocco anthology and helps the travelers of Journey Beyond Travel experience the adventure of a lifetime. He lives in Tangier with his family.