Most people think of Morocco’s hot deserts with golden dunes, it’s bustling outdoor markets, nighttime street food vendors, and sunny beaches. And while travel to Morocco in Spring and Summer is considered the best time of year, travel to Morocco in winter has its own virtues, not the least of which it’s an easy 7-hour flight from New York to plan an exotic adventure during the holidays. From November through February, everywhere tends to be more tranquil (outside of the Christmas-New Year’s holiday when advance booking is required), where the best boutique accommodations and small villages make for truly private getaways.
Located in the northern hemisphere with the high Atlas Mountains running through it, Morocco is cool and wet from November-February, but not so much so that it prevents you from doing anything you do in spring or summer with the exception of high elevation trekking the mountains. Overall, conditions change widely as you travel throughout Morocco’s variable landscapes and elevations. The coastal lowlands including Casablanca, Rabat, Fez, and Essaouira, may be overcast or rainy but temperatures are moderated by the Mediterranean. Heading over the mountains in winter you will likely encounter freezing temperatures and snow on the side of the road while driving of the high mountain passes, but we typically just pass through on our way south.
Once on the other side of the range in the Sahara Desert and the Valley of the Kasbahs, in winter you can likely expect mostly pleasant sunny days with cold temperatures at night in the 40’s or upper 30’s. Although the desert camp is open year-round, if you’d rather not camp in the Sahara Desert during these colder nights you can stay in a Kasbah accommodation on the edge of the desert and still experience a jeep and camp safari in the dunes of ErgChebbi. And, you can even ski or snowboard down the dunes here in winter or summer!
Heading west down the Valley of the Kasbahs in winter, the beautiful oasis and small villages built around old kasbahs surrounded by date palm plantations are typically under stark blue skies and fresh snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains. There are many day hikes and village walks accessible here year-round except in summer when it’s impossibly hot.
Further on, Quarzazate is the other principal desert gateway to Zagora where valleys of date plantations, extensive river basins, and traditional Berber villages thrive. They invite off-season visitors to discover daily life in the Draa Valley. The is the same area where Lawrence of Arabia and many other movies were made, and in winter when the skies are clear, as they often are, the sun shines brightly for spectacular photography. Winter months are typically very pleasant for hiking in these desert environments on this side of the Atlas Mountains. All of the accommodations throughout this region have cozy fireplaces for cozy warmth and romance.
Although traveling anywhere in Morocco in winter is subject to variable winter storms, particularly on the coastal plains and lowlands north of the Atlas Mountains from Chefchaouen southwest down the coast to Essaouira where clouds and occasional rains are likely. However, coastal lowlands and deserts allow for comfortable winter travel throughout the country at lower elevations below mountainous regions. Even in Chefchaouen in January, it’s close enough to the coast that days are typically sunny (15% chance of rain) and temperatures range from lows in the 50’s to highs in the 60’s F. It’s also possible to do great day hikes amongst Berber villages in the lowland region of Ouirgane outside of Marrakech in winter.
The best part of travel to Morocco in winter is you can enjoy popular cities and markets under much more tranquil circumstances without the hassles of summer crowds. Just be sure to bring a rain coat and/or umbrella and dress in layers!