Morocco Family Tourist Guide: Marrakech, Agadir and the Atlas Mountains
Morocco… the dream destination to find sun and warmth while enjoying a moment of change of scenery and relaxation in a setting worthy of the Thousand and One Nights. It is an affordable destination where the climate is ideal for most of the year. The climatic, cultural and historical environment as well as the activities vary according to the region. Marrakech and Agadir, two very different cities, are recommended for family holidays. As for the Atlas, it offers many possibilities for safe family trekking.In Morocco with your family you will love…
- the colours of the soukspices
- walks from ksour (fortified villages) to medinas (ancient parts of a city)
- horse-drawn carriage rides around the ramparts
- architectural wonders
- the splendours of the imperial cities
- girls’ camel riding excursions
- swimming in the Atlantic
- hiking on the slopes of the Atlas Mountains
Reception of the children
Generally speaking, children are very well received in Morocco. Of course, equipment such as booster seats in restaurants or changing mats are rather rare, so it is better to equip yourself with nomadic products. Similarly, the car seats offered by car rental companies are sometimes quite far from French standards.
For the younger ones, it is important to know that cities are very noisy compared to French cities, with loud and incessant noises. If your child is already jumping every time the motorcycle starts up, such a trip could be difficult to manage.
On the food side, there are many dishes suitable for young children. Of course, as in all African countries, strict hygiene rules are necessary with the youngest, the risk of “tourista” being much higher than in Europe. Refuse unopened beverages, ice cubes and raw vegetables for children. Wash their teeth with bottled water, and don’t leave without a proper diarrhea kit. But don’t panic: by respecting these simple rules of hygiene you take few risks! Just to be on the safe side, wait a little while to make this trip if your child has health problems or is a little underweight.
Destination: North West Africa.
Political capital: Rabat.
Economic capital and largest city: Casablanca.
Main cities: Fez, Oujda, Marrakech, Meknes, Tangier, Agadir, Essaouira.
Language: Arabic. The French language is quite widespread.
Geography: Morocco is the most advantaged of the three countries of the “small Maghreb” in the diversity of landscapes. Indeed, on the bathing side, the country is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the north, separated by the Strait of Gibraltar. The Atlantic coast has long white sandy beaches. However, Morocco is primarily a mountainous territory. More than 2/3 of the country is covered by mountains. There are two ranges: the Rif (250km) to the north, and the Atlas (Middle, High and Anti-Atlas). The Atlas is ideal for hikers with its volcanic rocks, deep valleys and canyons. In the extreme south of the Territory are the sand dunes of Western Sahara.
When to leave? From April to June and then from September to November. You will avoid the heat and the rainy season.
How do I get there? By plane, Paris – Marrakech: about 3 hours. Other cities in Morocco are served by airports and there are connections from several provincial French cities. By car, Paris – Marrakech: about 26 hours, Toulouse – Marrakech: about 21 hours, Paris – Agadir: about 28 hours, Toulouse – Agadir: about 23 hours. With a boat crossing of about 1h30 between Spain and Morocco.
Climate: both Mediterranean and Atlantic. Two very distinct seasons: one dry and hot and one cold and wet. The first one ends with the October rains. The Atlantic coastline is milder in all seasons while the temperature differences between seasons are more pronounced in the rest of Morocco.
Temperatures: air temperatures from May to October in Marrakech: average between 15°C and 36°C – air temperatures from May to October in Agadir: average between 15°C and 26°C – water temperatures from May to October in Agadir: average between 19°C and 22°C.
Currency: the Moroccan dirham (1 € = about 11.23 MAD).
Time difference: two hours less in summer and one hour less in winter compared to France. The summer gap begins in April and ends at the beginning of Ramadan (the date of which varies from year to year).
Administrative formalities: be in possession of a national identity card or passport (from birth). If the children are travelling with only one of their parents, it is necessary to have a simple letter on plain paper for proof of authorization from the other parent (inquire before departure). Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended. Namely: outside the major cities, medical infrastructures may be non-existent or poorly equipped.
Things to see / Things to do with the family in Morocco
Must see in Marrakech
Also known as the red city, Marrakech abounds in architectural wealth. This imperial city is perfect to discover the habits and customs of Moroccans, and traditional buildings.
- The Jemaa-El-Fna square, its familiar characters (fakirs, snake trainers…), and Koutoubia, Ben-Youssef, Agadir, Aït-Ben-Haddou, Ouzoud, Moroccan soukl’ambiance,
- El Badi Palace, and the remains of the underground prison,
- The splendid Koutoubia, and the minaret (tower of a mosque) 77 meters high: symbol of Marrakech,
- The Ben Youssef Mosque, the oldest mosque in the city,
- The high walls of the royal residence of Mohammed VI and the historic palace of the Kasbah (citadel),
- The tombs of the Saadians, where the sarcophagi are impressive,
- The Majorelle Botanical Garden, a mysterious blue garden, an open-air botanical museum.
Must see in Agadir
The bay of Agadir, one of the most beautiful in the world, is composed of the most important fishing port in Morocco. Agadir is the ideal place to enjoy the sun and the beach.
- The visit of the souk Al-Had (or Grand Souk), where many Moroccan riches are gathered,
- The old Kasbah where only the ramparts remain after an earthquake in 1960,
- Stroll in the Souss Massa National Park with its diverse flora and fauna,
- Taroudant and its ramparts,
- Mirleft and its lovely little coves,
- The Amazigh Heritage Museum, exhibiting collections of Berber ancestral culture.
A must see in the Atlas
The Moroccan Atlas offers a diversity of landscapes: mountains, green valleys, desert expanses … The opportunity to go hiking, to cross typical villages and make unforgettable encounters.
- The mountainous circus of Tafraoute in the heart of the Anti-Atlas,
- The small villages of the Ammeln valley with their houses planted in the rock,
- The ksar (fortified village) of Aït-ben-Haddou in the province of Ouarzazate,
- The gorges of the Todgha valley, high limestone cliffs, and their freshness,
- Essaouira, and its all white medina classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,
- The Ouzoud waterfall and its fall of more than 100 meters.
Activities to do as a family in Morocco, outdoor activities
In Marrakech – The visit of Majorelle’s garden, imagined by the painter Jacques Majorelle. This wonderful estate has been rehabilitated and maintained. Rare plants, cacti and water lilies can be observed, all of which are matched with Majorelle blue. Children will be delighted to see the orange goldfish and can imagine themselves in a fairy tale.
Jardin de Majorelle, Marrakech
Located in the middle of the largest olive grove in Marrakech, the Pavillon de la Menara is ideal for a family outing. The Pavilion has a pond full of big fish that the children will be happy to feed.
In Agadir – Children will appreciate the visit of the animal park la Vallée des Oiseaux. This park is located in the center of Agadir and extends over 2.5 hectares. The birds are native to South America and Asia. During the visit we also meet some mammals: cuffed sheep and monkeys.
In the Atlas Mountains – Take advantage of the good weather and go hiking in an exotic setting. Explore the villages and valleys of the Middle Atlas and the sublime Cedar Forest in the central Middle Atlas. Go mountain biking or treasure hunting in the nature reserve “Terres d’Amanar” oriented towards sustainable development 30min from Marrakech, at the foot of the High Atlas.
Activities to do with your family in Morocco, aquatic activities
The beaches of the Atlantic Ocean bordering Morocco allow, according to the desires, to stroll along the seaside or to bathe. Three places are recommended: around Rabat and Salé, in Agadir where swimming is supervised, or on the beach of Essaouira at the foot of the superb ramparts. The beaches of Agadir, especially Mirleft, are worth the detour.
As Morocco is a hot country, it is advisable to avoid going to the seaside during the hottest hours (between 11am and 4pm), to protect children from the sun and to make them drink regularly. At the beach, it is recommended for women to wear a one-piece swimsuit with a pareo.
A few minutes from Marrakech – Children will love the idea of going for a giant slide in a wave pool surrounded by gardens at the Aquaparc Oasiria.
In other Moroccan cities – On the shores of the Mediterranean, the Parc Maritimo del Meditteraneo, in Ceuta (Spanish enclave), is ideal for a good day out by several well-shaded and well-equipped seawater pools with restaurants for all tastes and prices. About 35km from Agadir, on the road to Imouzzer, is a beautiful place called “Paradise Valley”, composed of large waterfalls and huge natural pools with turquoise water.
Activities to do as a family in Morocco, on the discovery side
In Marrakech – Visit the princely palace of Bahia, built in the 19th century, near Jemaa El Fna square. Even if it is a very touristic site, it is worth the detour for its splendour. Discover Moroccan craftsmanship by visiting the small museum Dar Si Said. Take a carriage tour of the imperial city of Marrakech. Remember to specify, before you leave, whether or not you wish to take a break from shopping during the walk. A horse-drawn carriage ride is ideal to discover the old town, the outside of the palaces…
In other cities – To relive cult film scenes go to the film studios in Ouarzazate, at the gates of the desert. Younger children will imagine themselves reliving scenes from Asterix and Cleopatra. A large camel market, one of the largest markets in the country is held every Sunday morning in the village of Hade Dra, 25km from Essaouira. Discover one of the most ancient remains in Morocco by visiting the wells of Khettaras near Arfoud and understand the irrigation system used to harvest the infiltration water.
Activities to do as a family in Morocco, traditions side
Have a good time on a camel ride in the dunes, starting from the villages of M’Hamid, or Merzouga.
Get a henna tattoo. Be careful, only accept traditional red henna and never black. Black Henna sometimes contains components that cause allergies, so it is necessary to take precautions.
Morocco is also renowned for its thalasso cures: getting back in shape, health and beauty holidays that invigorate and revitalise. Enjoy the tonic virtues of the ocean. Many hotels have luxurious hammams, spas, and body treatments.
To taste the life of a prince go to a riad, a beautiful traditional residence. It is a Moroccan house entirely closed on the outside, which is organized around a central patio often planted with trees and equipped with a fountain. Riads have been transformed into restaurants and guest houses.
The culture and history of Morocco
Morocco is a land of crossbreeding. There are Berber (a subgroup of indigenous North African ethnic groups), Arab, Jewish and Christian cultures. Three languages are spoken in Morocco. In the first instance, Arabic, which is the mother tongue and language of the Islamic religion. Then, the Berber which is spoken by 40% of Moroccans. And finally, the French used in big cities and by the written press and some books. Thus, many educated Moroccans speak French.
architecture Coupole Imperial cities, such as Marrakech, boast a very rich artistic and cultural heritage. The latter also allow, with their souks, to discover the local crafts. Moroccan craftsmanship continues to develop and includes a diversity both in the creations and in the materials used. In the large markets, you will find babouches, carpets, terracotta tagine dishes and many other products: bring an extra suitcase for your purchases, and get ready to haggle!
Of Hispano-Moorish inspiration, Moroccan architecture is colourful and majestic. The domes, typically Moroccan elements, are very present, and you will be amazed by the delicate elegance of their sculptures. Palaces and mosques will offer you an astonishing variety of artistic variations.
The Moroccan gastronomy is famous, it is a great asset of Morocco. Children should enjoy breakfasts that consist of omelettes, pancakes, pastries and juice. Salads opening meals can surprise with their spices that spice up the taste. The sweet-savoury flavour, quite common in Moroccan cuisine, may not appeal to everyone, such as tajines or pastilla (flaky pancakes stuffed with pine nuts and almonds). Couscous remains a great classic of Moroccan cuisine and is ideal for children. It is possible to have a quick meal in Morocco with the snacks offering grilled skewers, keftas (dumplings), pizzas and briouats (puff pastry turnovers). As for desserts, the most classic are: gazelle horn (“Kaab el-Ghzal”) with almonds and orange blossom, sweet couscous, orange salad.
Each region of the country has its own culinary traditions. In coastal regions such as Agadir, fish is naturally honoured with :
tuna tagines with raisins,
monkfish with lemon confit,
sea bream with fennel and celery,
fish balls with saffron rice.
It is called “gadirie” cuisine when it comes from Agadir. The bay of Agadir also had the opportunity to have Berber contributions in products: argan oil, Taliouine saffron, honey, almonds.
Of course, one does not leave Morocco without having tasted one of its must-tries: olive oil, cumin, spice mixes, mint tea and pastries.
Some parents talk about it
Morocco in family, the trip of Celine and her children: a complete interview of a mother who shares with us the practical essentials about her trip to Morocco.
What to do with your family in Morocco: opinions and advice from the site “avec-mes-enfants.fr” on places and activities to do in Marrakech.
Le Maroc en famille with Caliste, 23 months: Agadir and its surroundings commented by a family of travellers including a 23 months old boy.
In short, 3 hours by plane from France, Morocco is a very welcoming country for French families looking for a change of scenery. Art of living, human warmth, architectural beauties and magical landscapes: its assets are numerous, in a reassuring environment adapted to the youngest.