Sand, Sun, and the Sahara
April and its infamous showers are right around the corner, and while many destinations are wet and gloomy, I always find myself daydreaming about warm sunshine. Some popular places include destinations where their signature flowers begin to bloom — particularly tulips and cherry blossoms. While these are undeniably beautiful, for April 2023 I really want to highlight a unique destination that you may not have thought of as the perfect place for your spring travels.
If you’re planning a trip for the month of April, you’ve probably sifted through endless places that would be right in the middle of their wet and rainy season. That may be your cup of tea, but as a Canadian who is happy to have made it through another winter, I have the perfect, warm, and dry destination for anyone looking to travel in April.
Drum roll (or should I say Darbouka roll) please, the Destination of the Month for April 2023 is:
(& a journey to the Sahara desert)
This red city is home to bustling markets (known as souks), delicious tagine, charming riads, and enchanting gardens. Marrakech is a vibrant city located in western Morocco, known for its rich culture and stunning architecture. Founded in the 11th century, Marrakech has a long and colorful history that has left its mark on the city’s architecture and traditions.
Surrounded by a vast palm grove, the medina in Marrakech is called the “red city”because of its buildings and ramparts of beaten clay, which were built during the residence of the Almohads. The heart of the medina is Jamaa el-Fna square, a lively marketplace with endless vendors.
One of the city’s most iconic landmarks is the Koutoubia Mosque, which dates back to the 12th century and is the largest mosque in Marrakech. Its towering minaret can be seen from many parts of the city and serves as a focal point for both locals and tourists.
Another must-see attraction in Marrakech is the Bahia Palace, a stunning 19th-century palace that features intricate tilework, gardens, and courtyards. As a traveler you can explore the palace’s many rooms and learn about its history and significance.
For those like myself who are interested in shopping, the souks of Marrakech offer a unique and exciting experience. These bustling markets are filled with vendors selling everything from textiles and spices to jewelry and traditional Moroccan crafts. Bargaining is a common practice, so be prepared to haggle for the best prices (something I am TERRIBLE at — and pay the price for, literally).
Moreover, April is part of peak tourist season at this breathtaking destination, which means there will be no shortage of things to do with fellow travelers!
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let me run you through some quick facts about our April 2023 Destination of the Month:
Quick Facts about Marrakech, Morocco:
- Language:The official languages areArabicandBerber; theMoroccan dialect of ArabicandFrenchare also widely spoken
- Average Weather in April:25°C high, 12°C low (& only 1-2 days of rain in this notoriously dry destination!)
- Currency:Moroccan Dirham(MAD) د.م.
- Timezone:Morocco observes year round daylight saving time UTC+01:00 (CET) except during the month of Ramadan.
- Main Airport(s):Marrakech MenaraAirport(RAK)
Marrakech to the Merzouga Desert: An Unforgettable Journey
I used this tour provider and I highly recommend them: https://www.marrakech-desert-trips.com/tours/group-3-days-desert-tour-from-marrakech/
The Marrakech-Desert-Tours Shared 3 day tour is a popular tour package that offers a unique and immersive experience of the Moroccan desert.
The tour begins in Marrakech, where participants are picked up from their accommodation and driven to the Atlas Mountains. After a quick stop at these stunning peaks, travelers then arrive in Ait Ben Haddou in the mid afternoon. Upon arrival, you are taken on a tour through this incredible UNESCO world heritage site where you will see unique architecture, visit a traditional Mosque, and drink Moroccan tea.
After lunch at one of the local restaurants, participants hop back on the bus and continue to Dades Valley while driving past some unbelievably stunning Moroccan villages. Upon arrival in the Dades region, visitors will marvel at the canyons and check into their hotel for the evening.
The next morning, after breakfast, the tour through the canyons with plenty of stops for viewing moments before continuing to Ouarzazate. Upon arrival in this village, travelers will embark on another unforgettable tour through some unique landscapes and architecture of this region. After lunch, participants will get back on the bus and start driving towards one of the most anticipated part of the trip: the Sahara Desert.
Upon arrival in the desert, visitors can enjoy a camel ride through the stunning dunes of Erg Chebbi, with opportunities to take in panoramic views of the surrounding landscape while the sun sets over the sand dunes. The tour also includes an overnight stay in a desert camp, where visitors can relax in traditional Bedouin-style tents, enjoy a traditional Moroccan dinner, and take in the breathtaking starry sky at night.
The following day, travelers will embark on a sunrise camel trek through the Erg Chebbi dunes to meet back up with the tour bus. The begins the lengthy journey back to Marrakech, but don’t worry — there’s plenty of stops!
Overall, the Marrakech-Desert-Tours Shared 3 day tour is a unique and unforgettable experience that offers a glimpse into the rich culture and stunning natural beauty of the Moroccan desert. This is truly something I will remember for the rest of my life!
Top 5 Journey Highlights
1. Camping in the Sahara Desert & Riding Camels
Riding camels and camping in the Merzouga Desert is an unforgettable experience and one of the highlights of my trip to Morocco and my life. Merzouga is a small village located on the edge of the Sahara Desert. It is known for its towering sand dunes, stunning sunsets, and unique cultural experiences. Travelers visiting Merzouga can take camel rides into the desert, exploring the towering dunes and taking in the breathtaking views of the desert landscape.
After a day of camel riding and exploring the desert, visitors can spend the night camping under the stars. Bedouin-style tents are set up in the heart of the desert, offering a unique and unforgettable experience. The night sky in the Merzouga Desert is unlike anything else, with millions of stars visible in the clear sky. Look forward to relaxing around a campfire and enjoying traditional Moroccan music. Moreover, indulge in some Moroccan cuisine, and take in the peaceful and otherworldly atmosphere of the desert at night.
April is a great time for this incredible destination as you’re guaranteed good sunlight, but it’s not unpleasantly hot during the day!
Overall, riding camels and camping in the Merzouga Desert is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a must-do for anyone traveling to Morocco. The unique and stunning landscape of the desert, combined with the rich culture and history of the region, make it a truly unforgettable experience.
2. Medina in Marrakech
The medina in Marrakech is a historic and cultural hub. It’s made up of narrow alleyways, bustling souks, and stunning architecture that has remained largely unchanged for centuries. The medina is the old town of Marrakech and is a maze of streets and alleyways that wind through the city. Visitors to the medina can explore the ancient walls and gates, which date back to the 12th century. Make sure to also visit the many historic buildings and landmarks scattered throughout the area.
One of the most iconic landmarks in the medina is the Koutoubia Mosque. It is a stunning example of Moroccan architecture that dates back to the 12th century. The mosque’s towering minaret is visible from all over the city making it a popular spot for taking in panoramic views of Marrakech. As previously mentioned, also be sure to also explore the historic Bahia Palace, a stunning 19th-century palace with intricate mosaics and lush gardens. It’s stunning architecture also reflects the unique blend of Islamic and Moroccan design.
The souks in the medina are another highlight, with vendors selling everything from spices and textiles to handmade pottery and leather goods. Visitors can haggle with the vendors and immerse themselves in the vibrant and lively atmosphere of the souks. The medina in Marrakech is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Morocco, offering a glimpse into the rich history and culture of this ancient city.
As more and more tourists visit this jaw-dropping destination in April, you may be surprised by chaotic crowds! My advice: enjoy the bustling nature and try to get overwhelmed! It’s an amazing and culturally-immersive experience!
3. Ait Ben Haddou
Ait Ben Haddou is a fortified village located in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. It is one of the most iconic and well-preserved examples of traditional earthen architecture in the country. The village, which is made entirely out of clay and straw, has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has also become a popular destination for tourists and filmmakers alike. Fun fact: Ait Ben Haddou has been used as a filming location for numerous Hollywood movies and TV shows, including Gladiator, Game of Thrones, and The Mummy.
The village is a stunning example of Moroccan architecture and engineering, with intricate towers, earthen walls, and narrow alleyways that wind through the village. The kasbahs (fortified houses) that make up the village are adorned with stunning details, including elaborate carvings and intricate designs. Ait Ben Haddou is walking-friendly, and visitors can marvel at the intricate craftsmanship of the buildings. Moreover, travelers are encouraged to learn about the history of the village from local guides. This is easily one of the best tours I have ever been on! I learned so much about the culture and history and drank some of the best Moroccan tea. The village also offers stunning views of the surrounding Atlas Mountains, another unbelievable view.
4. Atlas Mountains
The Atlas Mountains are a majestic range that stretch across Morocco. They offer breathtaking views and a chance to experience the natural beauty of the country. The mountains are a popular destination for tourists, hikers, and adventurers, with several peaks reaching over 4,000 meters. The High Atlas Mountains are particularly stunning, with snow-capped peaks, deep valleys, and traditional Berber villages scattered throughout the rugged landscape.
The Atlas Mountains are a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. Visitors can take guided treks through the mountains and explore Berber villages to learn about the local culture. If that sounds overwhelming, travelers can also simply relax and take in the stunning scenery. The Toubkal National Park, located in the High Atlas Mountains, is a popular destination for hikers and offers a chance to climb the highest peak in North Africa, Mount Toubkal. With its stunning vistas, rugged terrain, and unique culture, the Atlas Mountains are a must-visit destination for avid hikers traveling to Morocco.
5. Dades Valley and Todra Gorge
The Dades Valley and Todra Gorge are two natural wonders located in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The Dades Valley is a stunningly beautiful area with dramatic landscapes, including towering cliffs, deep gorges, and winding rivers. The valley is dotted with small villages, and the locals still maintain traditional ways of life, including farming and herding. Visitors to the Dades Valley can explore the area on foot, hiking through the stunning landscapes and taking in the breathtaking views.
The Todra Gorge is another natural wonder in the Atlas Mountains, known for its towering canyon walls and crystal-clear waters. The gorge is a popular destination for rock climbing, with numerous climbing routes that cater to climbers of all skill levels. Visitors can also explore the gorge on foot, hiking through the winding canyon and taking in the stunning scenery. The Todra Gorge is particularly impressive at sunrise and sunset, when the canyon walls are bathed in golden light.
Together, the Dades Valley and Todra Gorge offer a unique and unforgettable experience for visitors to Morocco. From hiking through dramatic landscapes to exploring traditional Berber villages, there is tons of adventure in this stunning region.
Morocco is a food lover’s paradise, with a rich culinary tradition. Moroccan cuisine is a unique and delicious blend of Berber, Arabic, and Mediterranean influences, with a wide variety of spices, herbs, and ingredients that make it a must-try for any food lover. Here are some must-try foods to try when visiting Morocco:
- Tagine: A signature Moroccan dish, tagine is a slow-cooked stew. It’s typically made with meat or vegetables, spiced with aromatic herbs, and served with fluffy couscous.
- Tajine Kefta: A type of tagine made with meatballs, tomatoes, and eggs. It’s often served with crusty bread for dipping in the delicious sauce.
- Couscous: A staple dish in Morocco, couscous is a type of semolina grain. It’s steamed and served with vegetables, meat, or fish.
- Zaalouk: A delicious and healthy Moroccan salad made with roasted eggplant, tomatoes, and spices, and served with crusty bread.
- Harira: A hearty soup made with lentils, chickpeas, and spices. Harira is a popular dish during Ramadan and is often served as a starter to break the fast.
- Pastilla: A savory pastry filled with chicken, almonds, and spices, and topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Pastilla is a popular dish for special occasions and celebrations.
- B’stilla: A sweet and savory pastry made with chicken or pigeon, almonds, and spices. It’s wrapped in phyllo dough, and dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
- Moroccan mint tea: A refreshing and traditional drink in Morocco. Moroccan mint tea is a combination of green tea, mint leaves, and sugar. To my sweet tooth’s adoration, it’s often served with pastries or sweets.
Places to stay:
Morocco offers a diverse range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. April is high season at this destination, so be sure to book your accommodation as soon as possible! From luxurious riads to cozy guesthouses, here are some types of accommodations you can find in Morocco:
Riads are traditional Moroccan houses with beautiful interior courtyards and gardens, often located in the heart of the medina. Many riads have been converted into guesthouses, offering a unique and luxurious accommodation experience that blends modern amenities with traditional Moroccan architecture and design. Staying in a riad is a popular option for travelers who want to immerse themselves in Moroccan culture and experience the country’s unique hospitality. Many riads offer spacious and beautifully decorated rooms, with ornate tiling, carved woodwork, and traditional Moroccan textiles. Some riads also feature rooftop terraces, where guests can relax and take in stunning views of the city.
This is one of my personal favourite types of accommodations in Morocco! I love that it allowed me to be more immersed in the culture and they are truly stunning.
Morocco has a wide range of hotels, from budget-friendly options to luxury resorts. Many hotels are located in popular tourist areas and offer amenities such as swimming pools, restaurants, and spa facilities.
Hostels are another popular accommodation option in Morocco, especially among budget-conscious travelers. They typically offer shared dormitory-style rooms as well as private rooms, making them a great option for solo travelers, backpackers, and groups of friends. Many hostels in Morocco are located in the medina, providing easy access to the city’s attractions, restaurants, and nightlife. Hostels often offer a communal kitchen and common area, providing a social and relaxed atmosphere where travelers can meet and connect with others from around the world.
These traditional Moroccan fortresses are often converted into guesthouses or hotels, offering a unique and rustic accommodation experience. Many kasbahs are located in rural areas and offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Camping in Morocco is a popular option for those who want to experience the country’s natural beauty up close. Desert camps are a popular option in the Sahara, offering traditional Bedouin-style tents and the opportunity to stargaze in the clear desert sky.
This was another one of my favourites! I will never forget looking up at the stars whilst laying on the Sahara Desert sand next to my campsite.
Truly a perfect destination for April (& of course other times of the year as well), Marrakech is a captivating city that offers a unique cultural experience that you won’t find anywhere else. From the bustling souks to the intricate architecture of the ancient medina, this city has a lot to offer. One of the main attractions of Marrakech is the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, which comes alive at night with a vibrant mix of street performers, food vendors, and local musicians. It’s a truly mesmerizing experience that will leave you in awe. You can also visit the Bahia Palace, a stunning 19th-century palace with intricate mosaics and lush gardens. The Saadian Tombs, which date back to the 16th century, are another must-visit attraction, with stunning marble carvings and intricate details.
The food in Marrakech is another reason to visit. The city is known for its delicious tagines and couscous dishes, which are a blend of spices and flavors unique to the region. The street food is also a must-try, with vendors selling everything from grilled meat skewers to sweet pastries. Marrakech is a city that will awaken your senses, from the colorful sights and sounds to the delicious aromas of the food. It’s a place that you’ll never forget and a cultural experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Marrakech and the Sahara desert is the perfect destination for your April travel experience!
This month’s runner-up April destinations:
- Amsterdam, Netherlands: April is the start of tulip season in the Netherlands, and the Keukenhof Gardens in Amsterdam are one of the best places to see these colorful flowers in full bloom. With over seven million tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths on display, the gardens are a true feast for the eyes.
- Kyoto, Japan: April is the time of year when Japan’s famous cherry blossom trees bloom, and Kyoto is one of the best places to witness this beautiful natural phenomenon. The city’s many temples and parks, such as the Philosopher’s Path and Maruyama Park, become covered in delicate pink blossoms, creating a stunning backdrop for a springtime stroll.
- Barcelona, Spain: With the arrival of spring, Barcelona comes alive with outdoor events and festivals. April is the month of the Barcelona Open tennis tournament, as well as the Sant Jordi festival, which celebrates Catalonia’s patron saint with book and rose stalls lining the streets. Visitors can also enjoy the city’s beaches, museums, and delicious Catalan cuisine.
- Istanbul, Turkey: April marks the start of Istanbul’s busy tourist season, with mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine. Visitors can explore the city’s historic landmarks, such as the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, or wander through the bustling markets and bazaars. The Istanbul Tulip Festival also takes place in April, with millions of tulips blooming throughout the city.
- Washington D.C., USA: Every year in April, the National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place in the U.S. capital, with thousands of cherry trees in full bloom around the Tidal Basin. Visitors can take part in cultural events, food and drink tastings, and special exhibits celebrating Japanese culture, as well as enjoying the stunning scenery.
This blog post was about the Destination of the Month for April 2023: Morocco