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Fez and the Middle Atlas Travel Guide

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  • Photo: Mikadun/Shutterstock

Plan Your Fez and the Middle Atlas Vacation

Designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Fez and Meknès are, respectively, the Arab and Berber capitals of Morocco, ancient centers of learning, culture, and craftsmanship.

Recognized as Morocco's intellectual and spiritual center, Fez has one of the world's oldest universities as well as the largest intact medieval quarters. It is the country's second-largest city (after Casablanca)

with a population of approximately 1 million. Meknès, with nearly 850,000 inhabitants, offers a chance to experience all the sights, sounds, and smells of Fez on a slightly smaller, more manageable scale. Both Fez and Meknès still remain two of Morocco's most authentic and fascinating cities, outstanding for their history and culture, and Fez rivals Marrakesh as a top tourist destination and host of international events and festivals.

In between Fez and Marrakesh, the Middle Atlas is a North African arcadia, where rivers, woodlands, and valley grasslands show off Morocco’s inland beauty. Snowy cedar forests, ski slopes, and trout streams are not images normally associated with the country, yet the Middle Atlas unfolds like an ersatz alpine fantasy less than an hour from medieval Fez. To remind you that this is still North Africa, Barbary apes scurry around the roadsides, and the traditional djellaba (hooded gown) and hijab appear in ski areas.

Most travelers to Morocco can get a glance of the Middle Atlas as they whiz between Fez and Marrakesh, or between Meknès and points south. The central highland's Berber villages, secret valleys, scenic woods, dramatically barren landscapes, and hilly plains blanketed with olive groves lie in stark contrast to the exotic imperial cities. For this reason alone, the region is rewarding to discover for its integrity and authenticity.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Go back in time Fez el-Bali is the world's largest active medieval city and promises a sensorial vacation from modern life.
  2. Indulge your senses in the Meknès food souk On the Place el-Hedime sample famous olives, aromatic spices, and dried fruit, available in a dizzying array of colors and flavors.
  3. Explore an archaeological gem in Volubilis A short trip from Meknès, these well-preserved Roman ruins are considered the most impressive in the country.
  4. Ski the Moroccan Aspen Attracting both royalty and the Moroccan elite, the highest peak of the Michlifen ski resort rises to 6,500 feet.
  5. Take an overland adventure Two of the most stunning sights in the Middle Atlas are the cascading waterfalls of Ouzoud and the Friouato caves near Taza.

When To Go

When to Go

Busloads of tourists and intense heat tend to suppress the romance of just about anything. Try to visit Fez and Meknès between September and...

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Check historic weather for your trip dates:

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