Originally published on www.JourneyBeyondTravel.com
Christmas may be the last thing on your mind, but if you’re looking to get away when the temperature plummets and the snow starts to drop, the time is now to start considering where to go. While many travelers initially consider Europe, a multitude of savvy travelers are choosing Morocco as their destination of choice. It’s one sure-fire destination that will coax even the most reluctant snowbird from hiding. With it’s sunny skies, colorful allure, and variety of cultures and landscapes, Morocco is becoming one of the most sought-after destinations at Christmas and New Year’s time for travelers from cold-weather countries.
If you are considering Morocco for a Christmas trip, don’t just stick to the plain-old tourist track or make the mistake of spending all of your time in one bustling city, such as Marrakesh. Instead, opt for one of three extraordinary (and lesser known) regions that will make your trip both memorable and exciting.
Mirleft on the Coast
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; only solitude and natural beauty are in abundance. From Agadir, Mirleft is just about three hours south. Here, you can take a walk on the beach during low tide to see huge sandstone arches carved by water and wind on ‘wild beach’ – an idyllic setting just on the edge of town.
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 as in larger surf cities like Taghazout beach in Agadir or the serene, yet possibly crowded beach in Essaouaira.
From Mirleft it’s easy to visit nearby towns; Sidi Ifni is just 10km down the coast and provides an opportunity to experience Spanish art deco architecture. The area was part of the Spanish colonial empire until the mid-20th century and many remnants from this time are still in place.
Another day trip worth making is one hour south from Mirleft to Goulimine. Every Saturday a camel market is held, but you’ll need to arrive for daybreak as trading and selling begins early. The famous “blue men” of the Sahara, the nomads who have made the Sahara their home for centuries, often attend the market. You won’t be expected to purchase anything but will have an amazing opportunity to learn more about the culture and history of this far southern region of Morocco.
Ouirgane in the Mountains
Take a 90-km 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 surroundings of Ouirgane are also home to the Tassa Ouirgane National Park and visiting in December means sunny skies without the intense heat that summer brings. It’s here in Morocco where you’ll still be able to have that Christmas feeling – at 1000 meters above sea level, the often snow-topped peaks will make you forget you’re in North Africa. In fact, a visit to Mount Toubkal not far away offers the opportunity to ski on one of the few ski hills in Africa!
Thursdays are market days and families from all over the area come to visit the local market, known as a souk. 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.
Skoura in an Oasis
The area of Skoura now dubbed the “Valley of Kasbahs” is a sure-fire treat if you are able to spend Christmas in Morocco. 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.
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, the impressive Glaoui stronghold of Telouet, the Dades Valley 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 explore an area that has more oppressive heat other times of year.