These Are the Best Times to Visit Morocco
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Each year, millions of people from around the world visit Morocco to experience its unique sights, tastes and sounds. This number has increased steadily over the last 20 years, with a record-breaking 12.3 million visiting in 2018. With direct air service from Boston to Casablanca by Royal Air Maroc set to begin on June 22, traveling to Morocco from the US is easier than ever.
Visit Morocco and the reasons for its increasing popularity become clear. The smells of chicken tagine and Moroccan spices waft through ancient open-air souks in Marrakech, while hikers and climbers escape to the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas mountains. Men gather on street corners each afternoon, sipping sweet green tea as the daily call to prayer beckons, a reminder of their deeply rooted culture and traditions.
Spanning 172,000 square miles of the Maghreb region of Northern Africa, Morocco’s ecological diversity is almost as expansive as its endless deserts. Because of this, there are a wide variety of activities to choose from. The best time to visit depends on what you’d like to do.
When to Find the Best Weather in Morocco
The seasons in Morocco are similar to other countries in the Northern Hemisphere, with winter from December through February and summer from June through August. As you head south toward the Sahara desert, the climate becomes hotter and drier; the north and northwest are cooler because of the influence of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. In the High Atlas Mountains, where higher elevations bring cooler temperatures and more precipitation, snow is not uncommon.
When to Visit the Mountains
The Atlas mountains create a geological barrier between the coastal climate of the north and the dry climate of the south, resulting in a wetter climate by Moroccan standards. Summer in the valleys can be quite hot, but temperatures at higher elevations can dip below freezing at night year-round.
Although it is possible to visit the mountains throughout the year, spring and fall are the most popular. In the winter, advanced mountaineering skills and equipment are required to climb the snow-covered peaks. In the summer, temperatures at lower elevations can reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more and afternoon thunderstorms are common.
If you plan on climbing Mount Toubkal — Northern Africa’s highest and most popular peak — during the busier seasons (spring and fall), it is best to book a night at one of the refuges along the way in advance.
The Best Time to See the Sahara Desert
If the sandy dunes of the Sahara are what you’re after, it is best to visit during the fall, winter and spring. The desert is generally hot and dry year-round, but winter temperatures can drop to freezing at night. In March and April, it is easy to avoid the sweltering heat of midsummer and the freezing lows of winter, but you may have to deal with the occasional sandstorm.
When to Visit Morocco’s Beaches
Morocco’s coast is lined with sandy coves, dramatic cliffs and unique Spanish-influenced beach towns. Like most coastal destinations in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is a great time to go. In the summer, the ocean breeze keeps the climate reasonably cool and it tends to be dry and sunny.
Between October and April, daytime temperatures average around 63 degrees Fahrenheit and it rains about six days per month. It hardly rains at all from May through September and the temperature often reaches into the 70s.
The Best Time to Visit Morocco for Festivals
Along with the country’s strong sense of tradition and culture comes myriad holidays and festivals.
Whether it’s a traditional Muslim celebration like Ramadan or a Moroccan-specific one like the Gnaoua Music Festival, you can expect food, dancing and an insight into a unique culture.
The Gnaoua World Music Festival, which draws nearly 500,000 people, takes place in the beach town of Essaouira each June. This four-day festival celebrates Gnaoua heritage with art exhibitions and musical fusion.
Gnaoua musicians and jazz artists from Northern Africa perform at 10 different concert sites in the town. The regional musical style, which often includes dancing, is influenced by Arabic, African and Berber songs.
The Imilchil Marriage Festival, which takes place every September in the small village of Imilchil, draws Berber tribal clans looking to carry on tradition during a search for love.
According to the legend on which the festival is based, two young people from rival tribes fell in love but were kept from marrying. After days of crying, their tears created the two lakes on the outskirts of town, in which they both drowned.
The Imilchil Marriage Festival ends the sadness by allowing neighboring tribes to marry whomever they choose. In a mountain town of less than 2,000 people, almost 30,000 gather to dance, eat, listen to music and take part in this celebration of love.
The annual International Film Festival has been held in Marrakech since 2001 and is the country’s largest film event. Hundreds of films are shown at the festival, which attracts producers, filmmakers, actors and journalists from around the world.
In addition to promoting the country’s developing film and travel industries and international cinema, the festival helps educate the public on current events in Morocco through the films shown.
During the first week of May, the Rose Festival takes place in the town of El-Kelaa M’Gouna. Famous for its landscapes of pink Persian roses, the town produces a variety of rose-based products like soaps and perfumes. For three days, the festival — originally intended for farmers to celebrate the year’s crops and nature’s beauty — takes place in the souk.
The tradition started shortly after the town’s first rosewater distillery was opened more than 80 years ago. During the festival, the streets are filled with the scent of roses, Berber tribes singing and playing traditional instruments, a parade and, of course, food.
When to Go to Beat the Crowds
The most- and least-crowded seasons vary across Morocco. In the mountains, spring and fall tend to be busiest. So if you can handle the heat or a bit of snow, visiting in the summer or winter would be the best bet.
Beach towns like Essouira are most crowded in the summer, but there is no shortage of dry and sunny days between April and June, before the crowds arrive.
The Sahara is least crowded in November, January and February. While daytime temperatures can be warm, be sure to pack a jacket for the near-freezing lows that occur at night.
The Best Times to Visit Morocco’s Cities
While there is plenty of nature and smaller towns to visit in Morocco, many come for the shopping, spice markets and food that can be found in the bigger cities.
If you’re looking to visit Marrakech, Fes, Rabat, Chefchaouen or any of the other popular cities in the central or northern part of the country, it is best to avoid midsummer. During the shoulder seasons (April through May and September through October) you can often find cheaper travel and lodging deals, the crowds are thin and the weather is still relatively warm and dry.
The Cheapest Time to Visit Morocco
Hotel prices in Morocco are cheapest during each region’s slow season. According to kayak.com, hotel prices in Marrakech tend to drop in February. The cheapest accommodations in Essaouira can usually be found in October; prices around the Sahara are lowest in May.
Airfare prices from the US to Morocco are dependent on your place of origin. According to data based on annual price trends provided by Skyscanner.com, flights to Marrakech from New York, Los Angeles and Washington D.C., are cheapest in September and October. If flying from Atlanta, November tends to be a bit cheaper, while the cheapest airfare from Chicago can be found in April.
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