The port city Essaouira is one of the most beautiful places in Morocco and not as far away from Marrakech as you might think. Day trips are offered by various travel agencies, but can also organize them on your own.
A visit to Essaouira is a must for every trip to Morocco. The Portuguese-influenced port city at the Atlantic Ocean stands out with its relaxed atmosphere and eye-charming maritime blue and white contrasts. Unlike lively and hectic Marrakech, Essaouira is a very laid-back town. There are neither motorcycles nor exhaust fumes, the vendors are more reserved, and you don’t have to be wary of faux guides. Since 2001 the entire medina of the city is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Famous photo motif: View from the Scala du Port to the medina of Essaouira
A view from the port to the city walls of Essaouira is one of the most popular photo motifs of Morocco, and can be found in numerous travel guides. Time seems to have stopped in the city, anyway. On a walk through the medina, you can easily feel taken back some hundred years. It’s therefore not surprising that the city served as filming location for the Fantasy TV Series “Game of Thrones”. Read more
The Sahara, desert of seemingly endless vastness, ocean of sand, invites you to spend romantic nights under the most impressive starry sky, only a stone’s throw from Marrakech. But is this really what an excursion to the desert is like?
Most people believe so and put an excursion to the desert on their bucket list when travelling to Marrakesh. However, the truth looks a bit different, unfortunately, since getting from Marrakesh to the two big dune areas Erg Chebbi and Erg Chegaga will take you about 8-10 hours by car. Doing this non-stop is exhausting, even though the tour across the High Atlas and the fertile valleys of Draa and Dades which are lined with thousands of palm trees is definitely a visual feast with beautiful panoramic views.
(map: Google Maps, photos: Travelguide Marrakech, Wikimedia)
Sand dunes, dromedaries, Berber tents, starry skies and campfires
You will find uncountable travel agencies offering shorter and longer tours to the desert. If you have only little time and still want to go to the dunes, you may choose a short overnight (sleep in a Berber tent) trip in two days. This means leaving Marrakesh very early in the morning, a short break at Unesco World Cultural Heritage site Ait Benhaddou and reaching your camp in the dunes in the early evening. After a short night you will return to Marrakesh. It is more worthwile to go on a longer trip which also allows you to see some more sights on the way, like, for example, impressive Todra Gorge or Kasbah Taourirt near Ouarzazate.
In Morocco, there are two popular dune areas: “Erg Chebbi” near Merzouga in the southeast of Erfoud and “Erg Chegaga” near M’hamid south of Zagora. Yet before you reach these extensive seas of dunes you need to cross the similarily extensive hamada, a largely barren, rocky plateau, via an unpaved road. The question of which of the two dune areas is the most beautiful is a difficult one. Some love Erg Chegaga for its remoteness which may give you a more authentic Sahara-feeling, others prefer Erg Chebbi, especially, if you can stay overnight in a hotel close to the dunes in Merzouga. Driving to Erg Chegaga also gives you the opportunity to see the valleys of Dades and Draa River. For travellers with only very little time, there finally is a third option: Agafay desert, close to Marrakech. Read more
Marrakech is a perfect base for day trips beyond the suqs of the medina. Experience the various Moroccan landscapes in the lush and fertile Ourika-Valley, the Portuguese-style coastal town of Essaouira, the Toubkal National Park or at the Ouzoud Waterfalls — Morocco presents itself in many different shapes and breathtaking beauty.
Daytrips and longer excursions can be booked via the many travel agencies and tour operators that you’ll find in Marrakech’s medina. However, if you are not in need of supplies and an off-road vehicle or 4×4 to go to the Sahara, a lot of daytrips can be organised without renting a car by simply using public transport.
Not even an hour from Marrakech, you will find Ourika Valley. This fertile valley is supplied with water by a river fed by springs in the High Atlas. A popular day trip destination is the little village of Setti Fatma, the last settlement that can be reached by car on this side of the mountains. From here, you can start little hikes in the Atlas — the short walk to the waterfalls of Setti Fatma is a classic.