Best Cities and Towns to Visit in Morocco as an IES Abroad Student

Mariama Regaignon headshot
Mariama Regaignon
December 28, 2023
A colorful street with pink, green, and blue walls and shutters on older buildings, ivy hanging over a wall, and signs for a hotel and café.

Over the course of the semester, I spent at least an overnight in 10 different cities across Morocco. I loved traveling within Morocco and thought I’d share my impressions of the various places I visited across the semester, and where I’d recommend visiting within each city if you end up traveling there.

Casablanca: Although Casablanca wasn’t at all what I expected, I visited twice and truly enjoyed it. It was the most similar to an American city of any Moroccan city I visited. The second time I went was for L’Boulevard music festival, which I highly recommend; the music was amazing and we met a lot of really cool people. However, I expected a lot of nightlife from Casablanca, and actually found it quite disappointing. I stayed in Hôtel Centrale in the old medina on both visits and highly recommend it; it was affordable and very comfortable. Right around the corner is Al Makane, an artisan collective and a great café. The staff are incredibly friendly and they sometimes have free live music. Make sure to also visit Hassan II Mosque; it’s breathtakingly beautiful and is the only mosque in Morocco non-Muslims can enter.

Essaouira: Of all the cities I visited, Essaouira, a smaller artists’ haven and beach town southwest of Marrakech known for gnawa music and surfing, was probably my favorite. The old medina is delightful and there are a lot of antique and art stores to check out, although some of them can be a little touristy. Surf lessons are available for about 150 MAD for a 2-hour lesson and rental at the beach, which I highly recommend since the waves aren’t too big for beginners. One thing I also loved about Essaouira was that the street cats were generally very clean and well cared-for. I visited twice and stayed in Atlantic Hostel both times. It was affordable and fairly comfortable, although it is a very standard hostel setup with big shared rooms. The staff are incredibly sweet and there’s an amazing restaurant, the Hungry Nomad, on the roof terrace, which I recommend eating at even if you stay elsewhere.

Tanger: While I wasn’t overly fond of Tangier’s ville nouvelle (the newer part of the city built under the French Protectorate), where we stayed with the IES Abroad field trip, its old medina is one of the most beautiful places I visited in Morocco, with lots of trees and flowers as well as Spanish influence in the architecture. I stayed in Hostel Kasbah and recommend it as well as the café in the small plaza just above it (I can’t remember the name, but it’s decorated with lots of beautiful art all over the walls, so you can’t miss it)!

Chefchaouen: I was hesitant about visiting Chefchaouen, the blue city in the Rif mountains, since it’s an infamous tourist destination, but it is truly worth the visit. The IES Abroad overnight trip to Tanger also took us to Chefchaouen and beyond the blue buildings, the dramatic mountain setting is also stunning. The old medina is beautiful, and I recommend hiking up the hill to the mosque for a gorgeous view of the city. What I most highly recommend in Chefchaouen, though, especially in summer, is taking a grand taxi to Akchour, an incredible hike and waterfall about 45 minutes away. Plan a long afternoon for it; there are plenty of small tagine restaurants along the hike, and there are several swimming holes if the weather is warm.

Asilah: After Essaouira, my other favorite city I visited was Asilah, another small artisanal beach town about 30 minutes down the Atlantic coast from Tanger. It has a beautiful beach and a gorgeous old medina with lots of murals, as well as really interesting and unique clothing, jewelry, and art stores. The locals there are also probably the friendliest of everyone I met in Morocco. We stayed in a beautiful AirBnb in the heart of the old medina.

Taghazout: About 30-45 minutes in a grand taxi from Agadir (in the south) is Taghazout, a town largely renowned for its excellent surfing. While the beach was great and the locals were friendly, I wasn’t wowed by the town; it’s quite small, so not a lot to do other than go to the beach. It was also full of European tourists. However, if you’re looking for a relaxing coastal getaway, it’s a nice town with a lot of good restaurants right along the beach.

Those are my recommendations! For tips on how to travel around Morocco, check out my blog post here.

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Mariama Regaignon headshot

Mariama Regaignon

I'm from NYC and attend Bryn Mawr College near Philly! I'm passionate about film, social justice, backpacking, fashion, jewelry-making, reading, and plant-based cooking. When I'm at home I love exploring the city or hanging out with my two cats.

2023 Fall
Home University:
Bryn Mawr College
Religious Studies
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