A Complete Itinerary of the Morocco Atlantic Coast

A Complete Itinerary of the Morocco Atlantic Coast

Morocco is a beguiling holiday destination and, in most people’s minds, synonymous with the Sahara desert and its red dunes… However, Morocco is a very diverse country and there are many reasons to visit. The Morocco Atlantic Coast is a journey that includes the last remnants of Europe in the North to the entry into the majestic south.

The Morocco Atlantic Coast is a dramatic great drive
Morocco Atlantic Coast – Photo Thierry Mignon

In Morocco, the roads are now a lot better than they were (and I remember them as a child) and driving is not as difficult and dangerous as it was. The motorway runs from Tangier to El Jadida and trains as well as buses will take you to all the places on my Morocco Atlantic Coast itinerary.

I have also listed the distances and times at the end of this post.

Whether you visit one or several of these Morocco coastal cities, they are all representative of Morocco’s cultural identity, history and relationship to the ocean.

The Morocco Atlantic Coast: Tangier

The town of Tangier is not technically on the Morocco Atlantic Coast but some of its landmarks like the Cap Spartel and the Caves of Hercules are on the Atlantic side. You can also start or finish your Morocco Atlantic Coast journey there.

Tangier is a logical starting point of your journey along the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Tangier

The city is a fantastic introduction to Morocco, as it has that Southern European and Mediterranean feel. Once an international city, neither part of French Morocco or Spanish Morocco, it is now a hip and thriving city.

The Morocco Atlantic Coast starts near Tangier
Morocco Atlantic Coast near Tangier

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Spending two days in Tangier is a good amount of time, however, if you have less time, you can easily take a tour to visit the city and its surroundings in a day or so, with hotel pick up. The Caves of Hercules and Cap Spartel are not in the town centre so a tour would be quite convenient to cover everything if you don’t have a vehicle and don’t want to rely on taxis. Check out the additional information and current tour prices.

The Morocco Atlantic Coast: Lixus

Lixus is a Roman town sitting on a hill, overlooking the river Loukkos and the coastal town of Larache. Established by the Phenicians in the 7th Century BC, the town was under Carthaginian domination for a while and then became Roman imperial outpost.

View of the city of Larache from Lixus on the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Lixus & Larache

The site of Lixus is notable though, due to the belief of some Ancient Greek writers that it is the location of the Garden of Hesperidia, a sanctuary of Hercules and the keepers of the golden apples. Lixus is certainly not as well preserved as Volubilis, the other great example of Roman presence in North Africa. Some excavation has been done but there is very little at the moment in terms of tourist infrastructure.

The theatre at Lixus overlooking the Loukkos River, near the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Loukkos River at Lixus

You can wander around freely, or follow a local young man who will offer his services as a guide. It still feels very wild but the views from the hill are beautiful. The excavation done so far has revealed mosaics, a theatre, garum-making facilities, a cistern, a basilica and other ruins.

The Morocco Atlantic Coast: Asilah

With its white-washed walls and Portuguese ramparts, Asilah is not huge on the international tourist scale for Morocco but it is certainly worth a look. Like Essaouira, Asilah was under Portuguese influence for a period of time and more recently part of Spanish Morocco, just like Tetouan. This is reflected in the architecture of the houses and the medina. Due to its proximity to Tangier and its relaxed beach vibe, Asilah attracted artists and authors over the years: Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams, Edith Wharton, Jean Genet, William Burroughs, Jimi Hendrix and Henri Matisse all fell under its spell. 

The Portuguese ramparts at Asilah proudly face the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Asilah Ramparts

The International Cultural Moussem of Asilah, a now world-famous art festival was established in 1978 by local artists in order to revive the town. Nowadays, the town is full of art galleries, studios and exhibition spaces. The festival is also the occasion for artists to create murals on the white walls of the medina. This festival takes place in August to when Asilah is full of tourists visiting from Tangier and Casablanca. 

The beautiful murals are painted each year in Asilah, a charming town on the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Asilah Mural Festival

My recommendation is to visit Asilah in the off-season, so you can enjoy the peace and quiet.

Asilah is not very big and is easily explored on foot. Off-season, the medina is quiet and very photogenic. The ornate doors and mashrabiya, painted blue or green, contrast beautifully against the white walls of the medina. The ramparts were closed when I visited but they are a great sight from the beach. And of course, the murals make for some stunning photography.

In Asilah, the murals of the medina are close to the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Murals on the Asilah Ramparts

Asilah is only 45 mins drive from Tangier so it makes for a great day trip from there. If you are travelling along the Morocco Atlantic Coast, I would recommend spending at least half a day in Asilah.

The Morocco Atlantic Coast: Rabat

Rabat is the capital of Morocco, home to the main Royal Palace and one of Morocco’s imperial cities. The city has a more administrative feel however there are some really good things to see in Rabat. The city lies on the edge of the Bou Regreg river, facing the town of Salé, on the Morocco Atlantic Coast. Most of the things to see in Rabat are in the north of the city, near the river.

Visit the Imperial City of Rabat and its kasbah on the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Rabat Kasbah – Photo Thierry Mignon

Kasbah des Oudaïas

Rabat old town is really interesting with the Kasbah des Oudaïas and the Andalusian Gardens. The kasbah is small, painted blue and white, like the blue town of Chefchaouen.

The Oudayas Kasbah is a charming and secluded spot on the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Oudayas – Photo Thierry Mignon

It is a quiet haven sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the medina and really pleasant to visit. That area is the oldest part of Rabat. There is a café nearby where you can take the beautiful views over Salé.

The Bou Regreg River in Rabat opens onto the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Bou Regreg River – Photo Thierry Mignon

Hassan Tower

The Hassan Tower is the unfinished minaret of a mosque instigated by the Almohad ruler Yacoub El-Mansour, in the 12th Century. When he died in 1150, construction was discontinued and the 45m high minaret is all that remains.

Don't miss the Hassan Tower when you visit Rabat on the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Hassan Tower – Photo Thierry Mignon

Mohammed V Mausoleum

Near the Hassan Tower is the Mohammed V Mausoleum. Mohammed V was the sultan then king of Morocco. He obtained independence from France in 1956. The Mausoleum displays some beautiful Moroccan design and is guarded by four uniformed guards. Non-muslims can view the chamber from above.

The Mohammed V Mausoleum is a very interesting thing to visit in Rabat on the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Mohammed V Mausoleum – Photo Thierry Mignon

Chellah

The Chellah is what remains of a medieval fortified city, pre-islamic, and later abandoned by the Almohads. What remains has been walled since and I recommend wandering through the gardens. In spring, orange blossom scent fills the air and there are a few cats lazing about… The Chellah is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and hosts a jazz festival every year.

You can include the Chellah in your Rabat sightseeing
Chellah – Photo Thierry Mignon

As Rabat is quite spread out, taking a tour with hotel pick up might be a good idea. You would then be able to see the best places to visit in Rabat in half a day and dedicate more times to other places in Morocco. Check out the additional information and current tour prices.

The Imperial City of Rabat is on the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Rabat – Photo Thierry Mignon

Rabat is one of four imperial cities in Morocco, alongside Marrakech, Meknes and Fes. If the history of Morocco is high on your agenda, you can see all four imperial cities in just 4 days on a tour starting in Fès. Check out the additional information and current tour prices.

The Morocco Atlantic Coast: Casablanca

Casablanca is the economic capital of Morocco and a busy, modern city of 4 million people. With its heavy traffic and somewhat lack of typically Moroccan sights, Casablanca can be challenging for visitors and it’s not always high on the list of first time visitors. However, there are some really good sights in Casablanca and visitors to Morocco are likely to arrive or depart through its international airport. 

Casablanca is on the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Casablanca – Photo Thierry Mignon

Hassan II Mosque

Most of the top spots of Casablanca are along the Morocco Atlantic Coast. You can’t miss the spectacular Hassan II mosque, one of the largest and most ornate in the world. The mosque is one of only two open to non-muslims in Morocco, outside of prayer hours and is a must-see sight in Casablanca.

The minaret rises to 210m above sea level and the most beautiful Moroccan crafts are on display everywhere: Moroccan tiles (zelij), woodcarving and stucco.

The Hassan II mosque is on the edge of the Morocco Atlantic Coast in Casablanca
Hassan II Mosque – Photo Thierry Mignon

In order to take one of the guided tours, you need to dress appropriately: no shorts or sleeveless shirts for men. Women must cover their heads, legs and arms.

The Hassan II mosque is one of the best places to visit in Casablanca, on the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Hassan II Mosque – Photo Thierry Mignon

Guided tours happen from Saturday to Thursday (no Friday or religious holidays) at 9am, 10am, 11am and 2 pm, subject to changes due to prayer times.

Markets and Restaurants

The local market Habbous was built by the French and is worth wandering around. The choice is not as plentiful as in Marrakech, however, the prices are a little more realistic and easier to negotiate.

The Habbous market is a good place to visit in Casablanca
Habbous Market in Casablanca

If you have seen the movie Casablanca, you certainly remember Rick’s Café… Although the movie wasn’t actually filmed in Casablanca, you can relive the movie in real life decor… It’s quite busy with tourists these days but worth a visit if you can find a quiet time…

Rick's Cafe is a place to visit in Casablanca on the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Rick’s Café – Photo Thierry Mignon

The sunset along the Corniche (or boardwalk) can be absolutely spectacular and there are plenty of cafes and restaurants along the shore.

The sunset on Morocco Atlantic Coast in Casablanca has some beautiful colours
Sunset on the Morocco Atlantic Coast

It is best to visit Casablanca with a vehicle but the busy traffic doesn’t make things easy. If you don’t want to rely on taxis (petit taxi) and negotiate the price every time, why not take a tour? A half day tour of the city with hotel pick up will show you the main sights in comfort. Check out the additional information and current tour prices.

The Morocco Atlantic Coast: Azemmour

Azemmour is a sleepy little town 75 km south of Casablanca. On the banks of the river Oued Errbia, the Portuguese medina has been restored in part but still feels quite run down. Under Portuguese rule, Azemmour saw the development of a substantial Jewish population, most of which emigrated in the 1960s.

Azemmour is a small town on your Morocco Atlantic Coast itinerary
Azemmour

The ownership of Azemmour was harshly fought in a battle where Magellan was a soldier. Today, you can see the remains of Dar El-Baroud, the gunpowder store.

The gunpowder tower remains in Azemmour, one of the Morocco coastal towns on your itinerary
Gunpowder Tower in Azemmour

Azemmour is also a place of leisure for the bourgeoisie of Casablanca, and has that relaxed feel. The streets of the medina are quiet and clean, and there are some beautiful doors. However, I found the town a little more run down with its damaged murals. 

Azemmour has some blue and white houses, ideal for holidays in Morocco
Houses in Azemmour

The Morocco Atlantic Coast: El Jadida

El Jadida is one of my favourite Morocco coastal cities. Just two hours south of Casablanca, it’s a holiday town and large accommodation developments are sprouting in the area. However, El Jadida also has a very rich history. The Portuguese named the town Mazagan and their influence is still very visible. Today, El Jadida is quite a large city but if you are travelling along the Morocco Coast, you can concentrate on the historic part as you are passing through. 

El Jadida

The Portuguese Fortress (Fortress of Mazagan) sits by the harbour and has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2004. The fortress is in the shape of a star, with slightly inclined walls. The fortress is at the end of the street with all the cafes, souvenir shops and some historic buildings, including the Catholic Church of the Assumption.

In El Jadida, the synagogue has the best view over the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Synagogue in El Jadida

The walkway of the fortress is two meters wide so it makes for a very pleasant promenade. The 15th Century synagogue stands above the city walls and can be seen from afar. El Jadida had an important Jewish community, and interestingly, no mellah, so the population was quite mixed. 

El Jadida is one of the best Morocco coastal towns and you should visit the extraordinary Portuguese cistern
Portuguese Cistern

The Portuguese Cistern is the most extraordinary place to visit in El Jadida. The armoury (or salle d’armes) was converted into a cistern in the 16th Century and has an opening in the roof. The way the light penetrates the cistern and creates a reflection in the puddle of water gives it an eerie look and some beautiful reflections… Understandably, it’s a great photography subject and some scenes of the movie “Othello” were filmed here. Entry is 10 Dhr.

The Morocco Atlantic Coast: Oualidia

On the Morocco Atlantic Coast, Oualidia is a relaxing and peaceful village. Perched on the edge of a crescent-shaped lagoon, Oualidia is ideal for bird-watching and relaxing on the beach. It’s also a paradise for surfers. Whilst most of the Morocco Atlantic Coast has fairly treacherous waters, two promontories protect the Oualidia lagoon, making a perfect location for those wanting to learn to surf, or even for a Morocco beach holiday.

Watch the sunset in Oualidia, a beach holiday town on the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Sunset in Oualidia

Oualidia is also famous for its oysters and has one of the most beautiful sunsets on the Morocco Atlantic Coast.

The Morocco Atlantic Coast: Safi

If you visit Morocco, chances are you will want to buy some pottery… That’s OK, pottery in Morocco is beautiful and plentiful! My Morocco shopping guide will give you some tips on how to shop for pottery in Morocco.

The cliffs near Safi are a wonderful sight of the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Cap Safi

However, if you are interested in the process of making pottery and happen to be travelling along the Morocco Atlantic Coast, Safi is on your map. Once the port of Marrakech under the Almohads and now a significant industrial centre, Safi is not overly touristy. Pottery Hill (Colline des Potiers) is the main attraction in Safi, and a great opportunity to discover this ancient handmade technique. 

Safi is the pottery capital of Morocco and is part of your Morocco Atlantic Coast itinerary
Potters Hill in Safi

Safi designates a particular style of Moroccan pottery, but is also the place where most of the pottery is manufactured in Morocco. 

If Safi, you can take a break from your Morocco Atlantic Coast itinerary to watch some pottery making
Pottery making in Safi

Everything is handmade and you can observe the different stages of the process. Pottery Hill is a bit of a labyrinth and not all workshops welcome tourists and their cameras. Taking a local guide is a good idea, although I recommend negotiating the price first. We paid 100 Dhr for our guide, who was a bit disappointed that we didn’t buy anything, and I thought that was quite a high price.

Whilst the process is on display, there isn’t much to buy in the shops the guide will likely take you to and the prices are high. Don’t worry, the shops at the bottom of the hill are a bit better. Still, Marrakech is the best place to go shopping for pottery. 

There is a field of power lines along the Morocco Atlantic Coast, just before Safi
Power Lines near Safi

The coastal road from Oualidia to Safi is absolutely stunning, with some dramatic cliffs and the more industrial but still romantic sights of the power lines…

The Morocco Atlantic Coast: Essaouira

The “windy city of Africa” or Mogador, as the Portuguese called it, is a good place to start or finish your journey along the Morocco Atlantic Coast. A well-known hippy hangout, Essaouira doesn’t have a large number of historic landmarks but it’s a great place to spend a few days.

The Skala Bastion guards the Morocco Atlantic Coast at Essaouira
Essaouira, Photo Thierry Mignon

If you are retreating from the heat of Marrakech, Essaouira is a great Morocco beach holiday destination. A walk on the ramparts, in the medina, a seafood dinner and some shopping are all great things to do in this lovely city.

Essaouira is on the Morocco Atlantic Coast
Essaouira or Mogador

I enjoyed a couple of days in Essaouira however, you can take a day trip from Marrakech. The road is straightforward and it only takes three hours to drive from Marrakech to Essaouira. Check out the additional information and current tour prices.

Distances

Distances can be deceiving in Morocco and depend greatly on the traffic and grade of the road. Therefore, I am giving you some distances and approximate times, but also some tips on which roads to take along the Morocco Atlantic Coast.

What is the distance from Tangier to Asilah?

The N1 coastal road and the motorway A1 follow about the same path and take the same amount of time (50-60km in 45mns). I recommend taking the coastal road though.

What is the distance from Asilah to Lixus?

The quickest way is via the A1 (55km in 45mns) although you need to backtrack a little through Larache.

What is the distance from Lixus to Rabat?

The A1 will take you to Rabat is about 2 hours (177km).

What is the distance from Asilah to Rabat?

If you are skipping Lixus altogether, the A1 is the most straightforward way to go (210km in just over 2  hours).

What is the distance from Rabat to Casablanca?

The distance is only 90km and should take an hour, however, this is a very busy section of the A1, with lots of trucks, so it could be longer.

What is the distance from Casablanca to Azemmour?

The distance is 90km whichever road you take, but I recommend taking the R320. The coastal road via Sidi Rahal is a secondary road, however, it’s a less busy way of leaving Casablanca.

What is the distance from Azemmour to El Jadida?

That’s a short trip, only 25mns via the N1 (18km).

What is the distance from El Jadida to Oualidia?

For this part of the trip, I really recommend leaving El Jadida via the R301, via Sidi Bouzid and Sidi Abed. It feels as though you are leaving through the suburbs of El Jadida, but the road curls around the coastline and it’s really beautiful. The distance is 80km for 1h30.

What is the distance from Safi to Essaouira?

I continued the R301 along the coast. The scenery is quite dry but again the road is in very good condition and you will be in Essaouira in 2 hours (125km).

Where to Stay along the Morocco Atlantic Coast?

Considering the time spent in each city and the driving distances, it makes sense to overnight in Asilah, Rabat, Casablanca, El Jadida (or Oualidia) and Essaouira.

Taking a road trip along the Morocco Atlantic Coast is a great way to discover the country and certainly a reason for me to visit Morocco again and again. Of course, there are few things to know before you visit Morocco.

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Have you travelled up or down the Morocco Atlantic Coast? What was your experience like?

Driving along the Morocco Atlantic Coast is a great road trip. I followed this route on my last trip and visited all the places in this post. Whether you take a road trip or include these places as part of a tour, this itinerary will inspire you to visit Morocco.
#morocco #moroccotravel #roadtrip #itinerary #travel

10 Comments

  1. ania

    February 2, 2019 at 5:54 am

    great post, we are starting from another side of the coast – right now we are in Imsounae, all the best

    1. Delphine

      February 4, 2019 at 11:27 am

      Hi Ania, thank you for dropping by, have a great trip along the Morocco Atlantic Coast. I hope you enjoy some of the places I listed!

  2. Caroline

    February 9, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    Really useful, I only visited Rabat but now am wanting to visit all the other spots around the atlantic coast. Thanks for the insightful information.

    1. Delphine

      February 10, 2019 at 9:52 am

      Hi Caroline, Rabat is an underrated place in Morocco. Most people skip it because it’s a fairly administrative city, being the capital. But there are some really interesting things to see. I have friends there and I hope to visit them next time I go.

  3. Sarah

    February 9, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    So far, we’ve only explored Morocco inland (from Agadir to Ouarzazate and then on to Marrakech) but this Atlantic Coast itinerary looks just as wonderful. Gorgeous photos! And the Portuguese Cistern in El Jadida looks very impressive!

    1. Delphine

      February 10, 2019 at 9:50 am

      Hi Sarah, it’s true that Morocco is often associated with the Sahara desert, but the coast is equally interesting!

  4. Mercedes Domenech

    February 10, 2019 at 12:41 am

    great post! I’m planning on going to Morocco this year and I’ve found this so inspiring!

    1. Delphine

      February 10, 2019 at 9:49 am

      Hi Mercedes, I am pleased that my post inspires you. Morocco is a very diverse country and the coast is really interesting! I wish you all the best for your trip!

  5. Mahima

    February 18, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    Its just awesome.Very much excited to visit after looking these scenarios.

    1. Delphine

      February 19, 2019 at 5:31 pm

      hi Mahima, thank you very much for your nice compliment. I hope you have a great trip to Morocco, you will make some great memories there!

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