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Off the Beaten Path: Morocco’s Coastal Road

July 16, 2013 by

Off the Beaten Path in MoroccoWhen 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.

Stop In: Casablanca
Start in the seaside city of Casablanca at Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in the country and the sixth largest in the world. 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 in Casablanca, which offers iconic views of the city 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.

Stop In: El Jadida
After a day or so in Casablanca, head about an hour south to the small port city of El Jadida. The Portuguese Fortified City is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site with an evocative medina, much smaller than Fez or Marrakech. It boasts some of the best scarves and local clothes in the country.

Spend your nights at Mazagan Beach Resort. Take your days on with sunset walks, camel rides, quad biking on the shore and in the forest, or simply catch a nap on the beach.

Stop In: Oualidia
Continue down the rugged coast to quiet Oualidia, well-known for its oysters. Slow down the pace with a champagne lunch at Hotel La Sultana Oualidia on their pristine, private beach. With the vibrant Caribbean-like waters, it’s easy to see why the area’s referred to as “the St. Tropez of Morocco.”

Stop In: Essaouira
One hundred miles later you’ll find yourself in Essaouira, a picturesque 800-year-old port city with a strong Iberian influence. Once enclosed by fortress walls, it’s now a large open fishing harbor, perfect for kite and wind surfing.

Check in to Heure Bleue Palais. It’s a rich and a multi-sensorial experience with the dusty maze of a medina right outside your door. The boutique hotel’s rooftop pool is pitch-perfect for watching the sunrise or set.

Stop In: Mirleft
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 built in 1935 boasts old world elegance and an inherently French flair, yet maintains a Moroccan ambiance throughout.

There are many decadent directions to head in from trekking in the hills, to checking out the French fort, sipping Moroccan tea while watching the sun set over the sea, or just dipping in the pool framed by the hills. Take a cooking class on-site or head into town where you can surf, paraglide, fish, ride horses on the beach, or (a special treat) visit with local Berbers.

Traveler’s Tip: There are several viewing points along the coastal road, so keep your camera handy.

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