Morocco is firmly established as one of the great adventure havens of North Africa. Between the dusty heights of the Atlas Mountains, the shifting dunes of the vast Sahara Desert, the wave-washed Atlantic coast, and the immersive bazaars of downtown Marrakesh, there’s so much to get through. But what are the most dangerous places in Morocco?
That’s what this guide is all about. It will outline just a few of the places that you might want to be careful of when you come to travel this sun-splashed land of tagines and mint tea. We’ve focused on spots that we think it’s likely that travelers will be looking to add to the itinerary, along with some lesser-known spots that might not figure in your planning (and probably shouldn’t!).
We should caveat here that, generally speaking, this corner of North Africa is considered a pretty safe place to visit. The majority of travelers who come here will leave without a single complaint. Even the most dangerous places in Morocco listed below make for some fascinating globetrotting, but probably demand a little more pre-thought and consideration. Here goes…
Of all the cities in Morocco, Casablanca is probably the one that we’d note as the most dangerous of all. A lot of that is down to its history as a big port town and then a major center for espionage and spying during WWII – you’ve surely seen the namesake film, right? It’s all bred a bit of a gritty city, which offers sunny promenades on the Atlantic next to sprawling districts that don’t make for the best of reading when it comes to crime stats.
Talking of crime stats, let’s dig a little deeper into those…Casablanca comes in with an overall Moderate level of crime according to travel stat collator Numbeo. Dragging that up are poor ratings for the risk of being mugged or robbed, high ratings for drug use and drug crime, and a significant level of corruption (which, to be fair, is something you’re likely to encounter all throughout Morocco).
As with most big towns that have crime issues, you’ll probably find that a lot of the bad stuff is limited to certain areas. The good news is that they tend to be quite distant from the happening coastal boulevards and the atmospheric medina area and bazaars that cluster along the seafront. We’re talking districts like run-down Bernoussi, the blocks and blocks of residential flats in Derb Milan, and some other areas south of the train station.
We’re sorry to say this, but that amazing Atlas Mountain adventure you’ve been dreaming of does come with certain risks. Most travelers looking to hike the sometimes-snow-capped peaks of Morocco – the ones that separate the rolling dunes of the Sahara Desert to the south from the dusty Maghreb region and the coast to the north – will likely need to do some thinking and pre-planning before they arrive.
Most will look to the small mountain town of Imlil as a base. And it really is the perfect base. It’s 1,800 meters up, with the soaring summit of Mount Toubkal, the country’s highest, gazing down from the end of the valley to the north. In town, you’ll find plenty of traditional highland lodges to stay in, some even with rooftop restaurants where you can settle in for a spicy lamb tagine and mint tea while watching the sunset over the Atlas. Perfect. Well…maybe.
Let’s begin with the human side of things. Imlil was infamously the site of a particularly brutal terrorist attack back in 2018. It involved the murders of two young Scandinavian hikers in the backcountry around the town, perpetrated by an extremist jihadi cell.
Many of those guilty of the awful crime have since been captured and sentenced, but it’s left a dark question mark over the nature of traveling to the Moroccan mountains and Imlil in particular. That said, there have been recent changes to the way hiking is done here to try to mitigate the risks. For example, every trekker heading to Toubkal must now hire an official guide to take them to the summit and back.
Then there’s the natural risk. Mountains have highly changeable climates and conditions can alter quickly when over 2,000 meters above sea level. That’s the case whether you’re in the Alps or the Atlas, but the paths that weave between the peaks around Imlil make things just a touch worse because they aren’t all that well maintained. Some – like the routes to Aourirt n’Quassif and Tizi Oussem – are positively sketchy, with long sections of loose scree above nearly sheer drops.
Fez (or Fes)
The second city to make it onto our list of the most dangerous places in Morocco is amazing Fez. This is deep in the eastern half of the country and is considered the center of the most traditional and conservative region around. It’s certainly an unforgettable place, with a maze-like medina (old town) that rolls down a hillside to meet medieval tannery workshops that are still operating the same way that they did over 1,000 years ago!
A part of the problem here is that that aforementioned medina area is just so labyrinthine. It’s super easy to get lost in (trust us, we did about 15-20 times in a two-day stay!) and that can bring you into contact with some, shall we say, more opportunistic locals than you might like…
You’ll notice that there are often groups of youths hanging around certain corners that will offer to lead you back to the main road. Don’t take them up on their offer. There’s a good chance you’re going the right way and they simply want to confuse things. Oh, and they don’t work for free, of course!
Fez is a very spread out city, with modern areas that sprawl to the south and to the north. The historic core – and pretty much the only part of the town that’s of interest to travelers really – is sat plum between the Royal Palace and the big arched stone gate at Bab Guissa. No cars can get in there, so it’s all walking. Be sure to download Maps.me and mark your hotel as soon as you check in. Beware of the usual travel scams, too, from the extortionate taxi rates to the pickpocketing. Sadly, that old part of Fez has the lot.
Ask any local about the most dangerous places in Morocco and they’ll likely make a mention of the mid-sized city of Salé. This town is certainly among those with the highest official crime stats in the country, with a pretty daunting overall rating from Numbeo of 73.08 – nearly a third worse off than Auckland and 15% worse even than the whole metropolitan city of London!
Thing is, Salé isn’t much visited by tourists. It’s not got oodles going for it, though it does now host the modern Rabat Airport and the boat-bobbing Bouregreg Marina, along with some more ancient castle walls and a few sparkling beaches.
If you are tempted to come Salé way to hit the sands of the Plage de Salé Ville and wander between the madrasahs of the old town, then the best way to go about it is to hop straight over from next-door Rabat. It’s all very much day-trip territory and means you shouldn’t have to navigate any of the worse neighborhoods. When you’re there, pay special attention to your valuables. Past visitors have reported high levels of petty theft and pickpocketing in these parts.
We’ll just say this: We love Taghazout. This is the premier surf town in the country and it’s got loads up its sleeve. Even the place is a gorgeous one – think a series of charming adobe homes that spill off a ridge under the Mini Atlas mountains to meet the frothing Atlantic Ocean, paint-peeling fishing skiffs and groups of camels clustering on the coast below. Photogenic doesn’t half do it justice!
Add to that access to some of the best waves in the whole of Africa, with Anchor Point on one side and beginner-friendly Tamraght on the other. The result is a place of bumping bars and cool surf hostels that’s beloved of gap yearers and all levels of wave hunter alike. So, what’s the problem?
To be honest, we’re being a bit picky here putting Taghazout up there with the most dangerous places in Morocco. It’s not all that bad. However, there have been some serious complaints about poor infrastructure in recent years, to the point that the surrounding sea water was so highly polluted that many travelers left with a bout of Bali belly that they’d never forget. Then there’s the fact that Taghazout is rife with petty theft, so keep your valuables secure, particularly when you head out surfing.
The most dangerous places in Morocco – our conclusion
This guide to the most dangerous places in Morocco hops from the summits of the Atlas Mountains to the energetic cities of the country, offering insights on where suffers from the highest crime rates and where might be susceptible to natural risks. It’s got a varied mix of spots, some of which – such as the hiking hub of Imlil and the surf center of Taghazout – are also among the most popular destinations for travelers.