Explore Morocco

Morocco – Family holiday guide

Whether you choose the magnificent coast or travel inland to buzzing Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains, kids will adore Morocco and be loved in return. There are few countries so welcoming for children, and adults often find the strange customs and sights more of a culture shock than kids do.


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Where to go

Morocco’s seaside towns and major cities have a range of family hotels and international brand resorts. But if chlorinated pools and kids’ menus aren’t a deal-breaker, consider staying in a riad – traditional Moroccan homes built around a central courtyard. Most historic medinas incorporate beautifully restored riads as boutique hotels and guesthouses, self-catering apartments or entire family houses. Also worth remembering: the classic elegance of a riad is what most of the best hotels are trying to emulate.

Agadir

Sparkling Agadir is one of Morocco’s famous coastal resorts. It’s considerably less historic than some of its neighbours, but scores well for sheltered, sandy beaches and a well-ordered sense of calm. Broad boulevards and palm-lined promenades are more Cannes than desert fringe here, so adventurers are often pleasantly surprised to discover they’re not far from the wilds of Plage Blanche and the Western Sahara.

Casablanca

Casablanca and Marrakech are Morocco’s great romantics. Like its inland counterpart, Casablanca is a fascinating mix of age-old tradition and contemporary creativity, but it’s completely original, too. This is the city where glossy malls are as much of an attraction as medinas, new restaurants are springing up all the time, and children are as likely to be awed by modern art as ancient mosques and palaces. Casablanca probably isn’t an ideal family-holiday base, but a string of pretty seaside resorts to the west make it a convenient airport choice from the UK and a fantastic day out – especially for teenagers.

Marrakech

The image of Koutoubia Mosque set against the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas Mountains is breathtaking and almost as old as Marrakech itself. Understandably, this mesmerising city has always been a magnet for artists, writers, poets and musicians. Yves Saint Laurent made his home here and the gorgeous Majorelle Garden created a paint colour all by itself – the very intense Majorelle Blue. This city doesn’t need beaches or resorts to make it magical for young children. Take them to Jemaa el-Fnaa in the afternoon to listen to the storytellers, wander round the morning souks or visit just after Ramadan for Eid al-Fitr and you’ll have created Marrakech lovers for life. It’s a captivating city for teenagers, too, and close enough to the mountains for memory-making expeditions – not far from the mighty Sahara or Toubkal, the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains and a national park, either.

Essaouira

It might have a magnificent World Heritage medina and some of the best watersports in North Africa, but that’s probably not the reason spectacular Essaouira seems familiar. Game of Thrones experts will recognise the sea fortifications as the location where Khaleesi marshalled her army of the Unsullied. If you aren’t a fan, it should be enough to know that the show’s creators choose the world’s sunniest and loveliest places to film, and Essaouira is no exception. This breathtaking city also has outstanding beaches.


What to do

  • Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech
    The house and garden which gave the world the colour Majorelle Blue was most recently owned by Yves Saint Laurent and bequeathed to the city after his death. The museum is interesting but the gardens, where Saint Laurent’s ashes were scattered, are the main reason to visit.
  • Marrakech Medina
    The medina is fabulous but Jemaa el-Fnaa square is the showstopper. One of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Intangible Culture, this ancient gathering place of soothsayers, snake charmers, food sellers, musicians and storytellers is not to be missed under any circumstances.
  • Palmeraie Camel Tour, Marrakech
    A gentle, family-friendly half-day tour by camel round the enchanting Palm Grove north of Marrakech.
  • Volubilis, Meknes
    The ancient Roman city of Volubilis near Meknes, between Fez and Rabat, is huge and magnificent. Try to visit later in the afternoon when it’s cooler and less crowded to really appreciate the stunning ruins and – if you’re lucky – see the sunset over them.
  • Historic City of Meknes
    Another beautiful Moroccan World Heritage site, the medieval city of Meknes is entered through the vast Bab el-Mansour, Morocco’s grandest imperial gateway, and contains no fewer than 25 mosques and 10 hammams, along with granaries, inns, palaces and homes. Leave at least a day to explore.
  • Bahia Palace, Marrakech
    This 19th-century palace is new by Moroccan standards but it’s no less spectacular than many of the country’s truly ancient architecture. The tales of intrigue and daring are thrilling, and don’t miss the gardens – they’re said to be Marrakech’s loveliest.
  • Atlantica Parc, Agadir
    In the unlikely event kids get bored with Agadir’s gorgeous beaches, this waterpark is the place for chutes, slides and rides. While not in the same league as the monsters in Asia and UAE, this is still a splash-tastically fun way to cool off.
  • Medina of Essaouira
    Essaouira’s 18th-century medina may not have the medieval heritage of others, but the Atlantic coast more than makes up for relative youth. It’s also very much alive, so sandarac carvers, faith healers, fish sellers and mystics are just a few of the locals you’ll see plying their trade here.
  • Ouarzazate
    A drive through the Atlas Mountains from Marrakech to Ouarzazate is an unforgettable experience with older kids and teenagers. This ancient desert settlement is one of the most captivating (and filmed) in Morocco. It’s also gateway to the Sahara for trekking and guided tours.
  • Toubkal National Park
    Morocco’s oldest national park covers 380 km², 80km south of Marrakech. Local communities, eco-initiatives, wildlife, wilderness landscape and the country’s highest mountain at 4,167m, Jebel Toubkal, are all reasons to hike, walk, drive or stay here with older children.


Educational value for kids

  • Morocco is one of the world’s greatest natural-history lessons and has traces of the past wherever you look.
  • The oral tradition is still strong in Morocco, and language isn’t a barrier to younger kids getting caught up in marketplace storytelling.
  • There are traditional villages and craft workshops to visit in the Atlas Mountains.
  • Picking up a few words in French or Arabic goes a long way for children in Morocco.
  • Visit Jemaa el-Fnaa in the evening for the street-food stalls – snack heaven for kids and a wonderful learning experience.
  • Customs of the country are another eye-opener for children, and mostly delightful.
  • The country’s glorious mosques are a sight to behold – the same mysterious symbols in Koutoubia are found in the Alhambra palace in Granada.

 

Getting around with kids in Morocco

City centres are hectic to drive around, but hiring a car is the best way to explore this intricate country. Dozens of operators offer excellent tours to most of the historic sites and even a day in the Atlas Mountain foothills is memorable. Walking is the only way to travel around the medinas.



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