The 15 Best Day Trips from Marrakesh
It's not all souks and snake charmers
Visiting Marrakech can feel a lot like stepping back in time. This chaotic, ancient city may have modernised somewhat in recent years, but that unmistakable feeling of taking a peek into a lost world is still very much alive. Donkeys dragging rickety wooden carts ply the narrow alleyways of time worn souks, while traders entice passers by to their treasure troves of gleaming gold, silk scarves and endless leather goods. The dusty streets and ever present scent of exotic spices is a constant reminder of where you are. Marrakech is a love letter to the Arab world and delights visitors time and again with its vibrant markets, souks, fascinating history and more. But to stay in Marrakech alone is to miss out on all the other remarkable places there are to visit in this part of Morocco, many of which can be reached in just a couple of hours. Here are just some of the best day trips from Marrakech.
This delightful seaside city 3 hours from Marrakech is the place to go to recharge and relax. Perched on the edge of the Atlantic, Essaouira is well known for its excellent surf breaks and surfers flock here to ride the waves that pound its shores. Other less energetic pursuits include a wander through the narrow streets of the medina or a visit to the stunning Moulay El Hassan square where the whole city meets to shoot the breeze and drink coffee. Restaurants served up plates of fresh fish often caught just a few hours before, and watching the fishermen hauling in their catch is a real treat. It's charming and tranquil and the perfect place clear your head and lungs after the traffic choked streets of Marrakech.
This spectacular waterfall wins hands down as the best place to swim on any day trip from Marrakech. The journey of just under 3 hours winds through the stunning Atlas mountains, past pretty Berber villages and finally lands you deep in the dramatic landscape. Plunging for 110m, Ouzoud literally means “the act of grinding grain” and you're likely to spot a few mills around the area. Fragrant olive trees line the path to the base of the falls and there are excellent swimming opportunities here and in the surrounding Al Abid river. Keep your eyes peeled for monkeys and other local wildlife.
You may not know this desert city by name but you're likely to recognise it nonetheless. 4 hours from Marrakech and a world away, Ouarzazate is the gateway to the Sahara Desert and the city and its surrounds have been featured in many Hollywood movies. The journey takes you along the Tizi N'Tichka pass, the highest pass in north Africa, blessed with beautiful, vertigo inducing views. Stop to marvel at the Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah then onwards to the beautiful Taourirt and Tiffoultoute Kasbahs of Ouarzazate. Meaning “no noise” in the local Berber language, Ouarzazate is a peaceful ancient city famous for its looks but loved for its history.
Explore the desert and mountains by 4WD
Marrakech is surrounded by the Atlas mountains, the adventure capital of the region which is also home to Berber communities open to visitors eager to learn more about them and their way of life. Hiring a 4WD or hooking up with a tour gives you the freedom to explore harder to reach areas such as the Agafay Desert and Lalla Takerkoust region. Stop off in Berber villages along the way and fill up with a tasty tagine and chat with the locals. Day trips from Marrakech don't get more varied and rewarding than the High Atlas and the people that live there.
Hike the Three Valleys
The mountain village of Imlil is the start of the Three Valleys trek. A relatively strenuous 2-3 hour trek brings you up to the top of Armed village, the highest in the valley, where you then continue on past the small settlements of Ait Mizan, Targa and Imoula. Stop for a photo at Tamatert and capture the stunning views then hike on towards Taourirt where the hike finishes. For a day trip from Marrakech with hard earned sweat included, this is the one.
Another fantastic day trip from Marrakech is a visit to the seven waterfalls of the Ourika Valley. Located nearby in the High Atlas mountains, the Ourika Valley is nestled between beautiful landscapes and small Berber villages in the heartland of the Atlas Mountains. Enjoy a tasty lunch at one of the restaurants that line the Ourika River and pay a visit to one of the many waterfalls near the village of Setti Fatma.
Agafay Desert by quad bike
This beautiful, barren expanse of desert is often overlooked by visitors on their way to the mountains or further afield. But spend a day here and you'll be rewarded with spectacular views and the chance to quad bike across the plains and well and truly escape the crowds. From the (relative) comfort of your quad bike, discover small Berber villages and bike through Turtle Valley and around Lalla Takerkoust. Zipping around on a quad bike means less time travelling and more time admiring everything this beautiful desert has to offer.
Hot air balloon ride over Marrakech
Marrakech can feel a little overwhelming at times so what better way to fall back in love with the city than by soaring above the crowds and noise and seeing the city and its surrounding countryside from the skies. Just an hour's ride away is the launch point for the hot air balloon rides that give intrepid travellers a birds eye view of both the city and the Palm Grove area which surrounds it. Sunrise is a popular time to head up into the clouds to watch the sun as it casts its first rays of the day.
Palm Grove and the Rock Desert by beach buggy
Get your adrenaline pumping with a thrilling beach buggy ride across the Rock Desert on the outskirts of Marrakech. These sturdy, fast buggies are the perfect vehicle to take you where ever you fancy over the dusty, rocky terrain. Make sure you're properly equipped with the right safety equipment and gear and set out on your very own thrilling adventure. Wild palm groves and peaceful desert hills give way to spectacular views of the Atlas Mountains and beyond.
The pretty city of Agadir, on the shores of the Atlantic ocean, was virtually destroyed by an earthquake back in 1960 but soon rebuilt making it one of the most modern cities in Morocco, which has still retained its historic charm. Hit the beach, relax in a hamman or hike up to the hilltop Kasbah with awe inspiring views across the city.
Ride a horse through the Atlas Mountains
If your legs are weary from pounding the streets of Marrakech then why not hop on a horse and take a fascinating ride through the villages and valleys of the Atlas Mountains. Crossing fields and past idyllic rural farms the relaxed pace of a ride is perfect for taking in the views and wildlife along the way. Ride past the rural farms of Asni town and watch how local communities still use traditional farming tools and techniques long since disappeared from the rest of the Western World. If you're a seasoned rider or just a beginner, there are horses to suit everyone.
Day trips from Marrakech tend to focus on the surrounding countryside and mountains, but if you're after more of that city buzz head to the economic powerhouse and largest city in Morocco. Casablanca is a thriving metropolis hosting the largest mosque in Africa, the Hassan II, as well as a plethora of other religious monuments such as churches and cathedrals. But it's also a heavy hitter with cosmopolitan cred. Chic restaurants and a great shopping scene throng with a diverse mix of locals. Big and brash, Casablanca is a city with soul.
Toubkal National Park
60km south of Marrakech is the epic Toubkal National Park. Known for its hiking trails and scenery, the park is also home to picturesque villages and plenty of opportunities to learn more about Berber culture. Locals are very welcoming and more than willing to talk about their way of life. Arrive on a Saturday and wander around a local food market or why not try out a camel ride through the area and see it all from the elevated position of a camel hump.
Luxury lunch in Imlil village
If you like your lunch with a view, then the beautiful mountain town of Imlil is the place to head. Imlil may be ground zero for hiking but it's also the place to come for excellent food and views. Kasbah Du Toubkal, a luxury hotel on the outskirts of town, has the best restaurant in the area. Day trips from Marrakech don't get much tastier than this.
Mountain biking in the Atlas Mountains
With spectacular mountain terrain and jaw dropping biking tracks, mountain biking through the Atlas is a real rush. Take in the beautiful views and stop at Berber villages along the way to refuel and capture some memorable pictures.