POSITANO, ITALY - The Famed Destination
I might start out by saying that Positano is the most famous village along the Amalfi coast - particularly for its hotel views and shopping. For these reasons, it is best to discuss first before diving into the unknown. Positano is possibly the most well known beach destination in Italy. The cliffside view is iconic, and exactly as you see in pictures. I will say, there is not much to it other than the view. What most people do not know is that the Sorrento Coast and Amalfi Coast
NORTHERN MOROCCO & CHEFCHAOUEN - The Blue City
The lesser known region of Northern Morocco is home to beachside art and surf towns surrounded by rolling green hills and jungle. It is also easily accessible from Europe. I visited Morocco for the first time while living in Spain, and took a short ferry ride from Tarifa across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, a large coastal city in Morocco.
Tangier is a great starting point in the north, and if you're planning to stay in nicer hotels, it is a good location to keep as a home base. This is not necessarily the best way to go, but how I experienced it in an organized group for the first time.
Note: I am not a proponent for organized travel experiences. I do understand the appeal... It works for those that are too busy to build itineraries and make reservations. It can feel safer, more secure and trusted. It can sometimes appear cheaper (to see less zeros guaranteed as your end total). In reality, it can be just as easy to meet those low travel totals or even lower while traveling independently if you just stick to your plan and stay disciplined with your spending from start to finish. Even more so, travel is so much more rewarding with freedom to choose each of your experiences and mold a destination into your own.
Tangier happens to be fairly close (3 or 4 hours) from the Pinterest-esque location of Chefchaouen - also known as the "Blue City." Chefchaouen is the most charming village in Morocco (at least that I've seen so far.) I can't imagine it gets any better, though, for the avid local village traveler. The village is still as local-feeling as can be despite its famous blue alleyways plastered over every travel platform, which I think is remarkable and incredibly refreshing. I visited about 4 years ago, so things may have changed since and the city may have become more touristy - but I hope not! To see a place with iconic and infamous imagery that is still for the most part untouched and not commercialized does not happen very often. During my tour of Chefchaouen, there were quite literally no other tourists, no westerners, no chain hotels or restaurants and no organized tourist attractions. Women sold crafted goods and trinkets in the streets and quiet men lounged around the entrances of their shops - all without the aggressive coaxing and hustling of larger cities. Chefchaouen is also notably clean, with not much chaos, animals or waste in the streets, despite the poverty of the rural area. The town itself is pretty small and can be accomplished in half a day. I did not stay overnight, and I don't know much about options for staying in town. I would imagine the options are slim and not up to a westerner's standards. If you are more of a comfort traveler (at least when it comes to where you sleep) I would recommend staying in a nearby city such as Tangier that has plenty of 3-5 star hotels.
From Tangier, I also visited the seaside town of Asilah, which was the best surprise. This village is a Moroccan take on the white-washed Cycladic Islands in Greece and a Southwestern Africa artist's village. The village is extremely vibrant and lively. Alone the boardwalk area, which is cliffside above the coastline, were tribal-dressed street performers and drummers making music and showing off traditional dancing. In the center of town, every building was bright white, with pops of green, red, and blue at every doorway, arch, mural and tapestry. Each mural had a message of world peace, which was a moral theme for this town that could be felt. The jewel tone palette against stark white is something I hadn't seen before and have yet to see since. The artistry and positivity of Asilah really did radiate through its streets and made my time in Northern Morocco most memorable.
PREPARING FOR MOROCCO
Morocco has a unique location since it is so close to Southern Europe. This proximity makes it a much easier destination for some, and for others, it can easily be added on to a leg of a longer European tour.
Budgeting for airfare is the most important, and there are a number of affordable options that fly direct to Marrakech from the U.S., or through major cities in Southern Europe such as Barcelona and Rome. Beyond airfare, hotels, villas and riads are moderately priced, with riads and villas being cheapest (and most fun) for larger groups. Daily expenses like food and cabs are quite cheap. Activities such as desert tours, camping experiences, jeep rides and so on are more of a splurge and important to factor into an overall budget. Once you have those numbers in mind, the hard part is making sure you stick to them!
Eat in the modern areas of Marrakech - especially if you'd like to try more than just couscous and tagine. The restaurants near Gueliz have the best international food and upscale dining/lounge experiences.
Opt for the traditional riad in the Old City. It will be most memorable and it is the perfect sanctuary after a day in the streets of Marrakech. Try to get one with a pool if visiting in the summer!
Arguably the most touristy destination in Italy, after Rome; and it's for a reason. The water, style, food, shopping and views are spectacular. Although small villages, there is nothing quaint about it, unless you know where to go.
For those that don't already know, I love to create experiences that set my travels apart from the rest. The Amalfi Coast, located southwest of Rome, is picturesque and stunning - no doubt. It takes a little extra work, however, to look past the immediate views and attractions. Keep reading for more on the best beaches, activities, food and travel tips.