When you think of Morocco, Marrakesh, medinas, and magic carpets come to mind. But, after you've seen the city and explored The Atlas Mountains, head south on Morocco's coastal road to grab yet another slice of the seductive North African lifestyle. Here's where to stop and what to see in each city.
Start in the seaside city of Casablanca at Hassan II Mosque, the largest functioning mosque in Africa. Built on reclaimed land, half the surface of the mosque lies above the sea, over the Atlantic. Head to the panoramic bar, Sky 28, at the Kenzi Tower Hotel, which offers iconic city views and a stunning picture of the mosque below.
Soak in a sexier ambiance with a seafood lunch and a crisp glass of Moroccan wine at a restaurant on the water's edge. For a bit of kitsch, hit Rick's Café, a dead ringer for Bogart's bar.
After a day or so in Casablanca, head about an hour south to the small port city of El Jadida, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site with an evocative medina. Here, you'll also find some of the country's best scarves and local clothes. Post-shopping, retreat to your room at the Mazagan Beach Resort. Guests here can enjoy sunset walks, camel rides, quad biking on the shore and in the forest, or a relaxing nap on the beach.
Continue down the rugged coast to quiet Oualidia, well-known for its oysters. Slow down with a champagne lunch at La Sultana Oualidia, which boasts a private beach. With the vibrant Caribbean-like waters, it's easy to see why the area is often called "the St. Tropez of Morocco."
Essaouira, a picturesque 800-year-old port city with a strong Iberian influence, lies 100 miles away. Once enclosed by fortress walls, it's now a large open fishing harbor, perfect for kitesurfing and windsurfing. Reserve a room at the boutique Heure Bleue Palais, a rich and a multi-sensorial experience with the dusty maze of a medina right outside your door. The rooftop pool is a bonus.
We came close to opting out of a night in Mirleft in exchange for a longer stay in another town. Perhaps it was travel trust or wanderlust, but something drew us to the unknown allure of Mirleft, about 87 miles south.
From the 1960s onward, Mirleft has been a go-to destination for seasoned surfers and artists, including Jimi Hendrix. Today, the seaside village remains a favored place for those who prefer an artsy culture, a laid-back atmosphere, and luxury amenities.
Up a dusty dirt road, you'll reach travel nirvana as you enter the rustic chic retreat of Les 3 Chameaux. The former French fort boasts a distinct Old World elegance and inherently French flair, though it also maintains a Moroccan ambiance.
There are many decadent directions to head in, from checking out the French fort, sipping Moroccan tea while watching the sunset over the sea, or enjoying a dip in the pool framed by the hills. You can also take a cooking class on-site before heading into town to surf, paraglide, fish, ride horses on the beach, or visit with local Berbers.
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