Marrakech is great but even true lovers of the city look for other things to do after a few days. The good news is you can use the city as your base while spending time exploring the surrounding areas. Taking a day trip from Marrakech is a great way to escape the crush (and heat!) while experiencing a completely different side of Morocco. When planning your travel to Marrakech, I suggest staying for 2-3 days in the city and then planning at least one day trip.
The Ourika Valley
This is one of our favorite places to go when we want to escape Marrakech. It’s under an hours drive and we love taking guests here. The drive is very scenic, you’ll get to see the Atlas mountains as you drive out and then the winding roads and villages of the mountain communities, until you reach the end of the line in Siti Fatima. Really, the road goes no further! It’s very possible to rent a car and drive (the road is straight forward), join a group going, or hire a private guide and transportation. Be sure to eat lunch at one of the roadside and/or riverside stands. The specialty is a lamb and vegetable tajine and I refuse to order anything else when we go.
These tajines are cooked in the tajine pot (instead of a pressure cooker like many restaurants do) over charcoal and you’ll be able to easily taste the difference. If you wear good shoes you can climb up to the infamous waterfalls. There are (supposedly) seven waterfalls as you ascend the mountain – I’ve only ever made it to the first one. There is a path, it does not have hand rails and in some places may seem a bit risky but plenty of people climb it every day. I’ve seen 2 year olds and 70 year-olds making the climb! In the summer you’ll see lots of kids and young men swimming in the water – I think it’s way too cold for that!
Read More: Visiting the Ourika Valley with Kids
Lake Lalla Takerkoust
This lake (and dam) was artificially built in the 1920’s under the French protectorate to provide Marrakech with hydro-electric power. The lake is fed by water runoff from the Atlas Mountains. It then served as a recreation site for Marrakechi families looking to get away for a day and enjoy the water. There are a few resorts along the lake that have restaurants and swimming pools but they’ve struggled in the last few years. When we went in the late summer we discovered a lot of the lake is dried up. There are some water sports like paddle boating and power boating that take place in the water however it’s best to double check as it will depend on water levels.
The Sahara Desert is a good 8-10 hour drive from Marrakech and takes a minimum of 3 days. Not everyone has this much time but would still like to have the desert experience. For them, the Agafay Desert is the ideal solution. You won’t have to go far and can still sleep in a tent, go for a camel trek and have the desert experience – minus the long drive! There are two companies that I know of who offer camping in the Agafay desert. The Scarabeo Camp and Sahara Experience. Each offers a slightly different experience but trust me this is glamping not camping!
[bctt tweet=”Can’t make it to the Sahara? You can camp in the Agafay Desert outside Marrakech!” username=”@marocmama”]
This little village isn’t on any tourist radar but that makes it a great destination for visitors who want to see a part of Moroccan life that few experience. See traditional salt mines in operation (during spring and summer months) and eat one of the best meals you will experience in Morocco. Not far from the village is the Tinmel Mosque, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of only two mosques in Morocco that non-Muslims can enter. The famous Kotoubia is modeled after this 11th century building.
Imlil, Amezmiz, or Tahanaout (Amazigh/Berber Villages)
Surrounding Marrakech in the High Atlas are many small Berber villages. There are more and more tours being offered to visit these communities and experience local life. While you can go alone, it’s often better to go with a local as you may discover not only do people not speak French, many also have limited Arabic as they use the local Amazigh language to converse. Rural Morocco really is something you should experience!
Read More: Escape to Kasbah du Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountains
Head north instead of south to discover the Ouzoud waterfall. It’s one of the biggest in the country and there are lots of small restaurants overlooking the falls. Barbary monkeys and some hiking trails add to the activities. There isn’t much else nearby but take a drive to see a part of Morocco that’s often not explored.
Book it: Ouzoud Falls Day Trip from Marrakech
One of the biggest surprises people have when learning about Morocco is the variety of climates. Whenever I tell someone that we can go skiing in winter months they automatically assume that I mean sand skiing but no, it’s snow skiing! Oukaimden is under two hours drive from Marrakech and reaches to one of the highest points in the country – Mount Toubkal. When the snow melts this area is a good place to hike and many people challenge themselves to summit this peak.
Read More: Snow Skiing in Morocco? Yes, Really!
[bctt tweet=”Take a day trip from Marrakech to go snow skiing? Why not?” username=”@marocmama”]
We love Essaouira. Love, love, love! This seaside village is 1 1/2 hours from Marrakech and can be visited in one day but I say spend the night and enjoy at least two days. Winter months can be cold and rainy with a constant breeze but in the summer, spring, and fall you’ll really fall in love. There’s no hassle or pressure like you may experience in Marrakech. The food is lovely and people really laid back.
You can also pick up my friend Lynn’s Best of Essaouira e-guide and read more insider thoughts on Heidi’s blog post on her first visit.
Book It: Essaouira Tour with Independent Bus Ride from Marrakech
So, where will your Marrakech adventure lead you?
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