Experience the rich history and stunning beauty of Volubilis, Morocco. This ancient Roman city offers a majestic glimpse into the country’s past.
Nestled in a fertile valley near the holy city of Moulay, about 30 minutes from Meknes, lies one of the most beautiful Roman ruins in Africa.
If you’re anything like us, the thought that there are Roman ruins in Africa might be a little surprising. However, the Roman empire spread across the tip of northern Africa from Morocco all the way across to Egypt.
Standing amidst the green valley and surrounding foothills of the Atlas mountains, it’s easy to see why the Romans chose Volubilis, Morocco as one of their regional capitals. The lush surroundings feel like they would be right at home as a suburb of Rome, Italy.
The Volubilis ruins in Morocco were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, cementing its position on the list of the best places to visit in Morocco. It’s incredibly unique, and the combination of brilliantly colored mosaics and jaw-dropping pillars has made it a popular day trip from cities as far away as Fes.
How to Get To Volubilis, Morocco
The ruins of Volubilis are located just 5 km away from Moulay Idriss. This town is where Islam was introduced to the local population in CE It’s also where much of the stones were brought to after being pillaged from Volubilis after an earthquake in the 18th Century.
Most visitors to Volubilis arrive by an organized tour such as this one from Fes that includes both Meknes and Volubilis. Organized tours usually include a stop in Meknes and the holy city of Moulay Idriss. But if you’re looking to travel to Volubilis, Morocco yourself, it’s straightforward to get to. The ruins are located off HWY N13 on RTE de Volubilis.
From Fes, you can travel to Meknes via Train and then take a short taxi trip to Volubilis. This route is less expensive than taking a taxi directly from Fes. It takes about 30 minutes longer than going directly.
The Roman ruins at Volubilis are daily from sunrise to sunset. There is a small entrance fee that includes access to a small museum on site.
Hiring a Guide in Volubilis
If you want to make the most of your visit to Volubilis, I highly recommend hiring a guide. There are great information boards that offer breakdowns of some of the ruins and point visitors in the direction of the best things to see in Volubilis, but it’s a poor substitution for the expertise of local historians.
Tours are offered in English, French, and Arabic and cost about 250 dirhams. The guides are full of excellent insider information and can go in-depth on some of the fascinating stories to come out of this ancient roman city.
History of Volubilis Ruins
The Roman occupation of Volubilis began after the fall of Carthage in 146 BC. During this time the kingdom of Mauretania, which covered much of northern Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia came under Roman rule.
The city of Volubilis was declared the capital of this region and the small city quickly became one of the wealthiest cities in all of Mauretania. This success did not last long, however. By 280 CE, local slaves and villagers revolted against their oppressors and the Roman occupation was completely overthrown.
The ruins of Volubilis remained relatively intact and steadily occupied by locals until the mid-18th century when a devastating earthquake leveled much of what remained of the city. The city was largely forgotten until the 19th century when it the city was excavated and identified as the lost city of Volubilis.
What To See In Volubilis
Visiting Volubilis was one of the first items on our ten-day Morocco itinerary. It still remains one of the most beautiful places that we experienced on our tour of the country. And Volubilis is an amazing destination for travel to Morocco with kids. The wide-open fields, lush scenery, and bright skies make for a wonderful place for children to explore.
If you’re touring around Volubilis, here are a few things that you won’t want to miss.
The Capitol Basilica
The Basilica is the stunning centerpiece of the Volubilis ruins. This majestic building is among the most thoroughly restored in the city and was where the city was governed from. You won’t be able to miss the towering arches lining an intricately designed central mosaic.
If you’re looking for the most epic views over the city of Volubilis, look no further than the Capitoline ruins. This part of the ancient city can be identified by the towering pillars sitting on a platform atop 13 steps near the Basilica.
The platform offers 360-degree views over the city and throughout the surrounding fields and orchards that simply can’t be beaten. It was first restored in 1955 and work continued until 1962.
The House of Hercules
My kids have been brushing up on their Greek and Roman mythology thanks to their obsession with the Percy Jackson book series, so when they saw the House of Hercules, they were incredibly excited.
While there isn’t much left of the building itself, the tile mosaic floor is in excellent condition and offers a beautiful glimpse into the adventures of this ancient hero.
Offering the perfect frame for the green mountains and orchards of the valley of Khoumane, the Triumphal Arch is one of the coolest things to see in Volubilis. This, nearly complete, stone arch at the western end of the main road (Decumanus Maximus) was first constructed in 217 CE to honor emperor Caracalla and his mother Julia Domna. Tragically, both of the honorees were killed before the Triumphal arch could be completed.
The House of Venus
Sitting alongside the Decumanus Maximus is the House of Venus. This was once among the most distinguished villas in Volubilis and would have been owned by one of the city’s wealthiest occupants. At the center of the house was the dramatic mosaic of Venus. The mosaic now lies in a museum in Tangier, but there are two other beautiful Roman mosaics located in the house that are worth visiting.
House of the Columns
Named for the dramatic columns circling the interior court, the House of the Columns is one of the coolest houses in the city. The columns all have their own unique style, which runs contrary to traditional Roman design where many of the columns were matching.
Are You Ready To Visit Volubilis, Morocco For Yourself?
My entire family absolutely loved our time in Volubilis. The bright skies and beautiful surroundings only added to the experience. As a photographer, I simply couldn’t get enough of the bright building, scenic backdrops, and relaxed atmosphere.
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