Essaouira should be on any traveller’s agenda when it comes to Morocco. The lovely port city is just a few hours from Marrakesh and has a liberal, laid-back feel foreign to most other parts of the country.
This makes it a great place to begin exploring Morocco. The picturesque Medina (old town) is easily walkable, there’s tons of fab food options and, of course, beaches in abundance.
Disclaimer: the beaches are for windsurfing not sunbathing. Essaouira is VERY windy!
And that’s not to mention the shopping… if you’re mentally prepared to haggle til your heart’s content.
What are you waiting for? Before the hordes of tourists arrive use these 5 tips to make the most out of your stay!
Riad Baladin is, quite simply, stunning. The reviews don’t lie. Tastefully done up in the traditional Moroccan style, the atmosphere is calm and the decor minimalist. Manager Nicole is very knowledgeable and the rest of the staff are equally eager to please.
It’s centrally located, offers a substantial breakfast and even has a jacuzzi.
What more could you want?
The 18th century seafront ramparts that surround Essaouira’s old town lend a charming, distinctive feel to the area. Though walled towns are hardly a rarity in this part of the world, the crashing of the windswept waves makes for an incredibly therapeutic rampart stroll.
It’s likely that, at some point, either the incessant wind or souvenir sellers will test your patience. So, if you need a break, the height of relaxation can be found at Dar Caravane. The hotel/ restaurant/ pool/ garden complex is well worth the approx 15 dirham (£1) taxi journey.
All beautifully designed and so restful, you don’t have to be a hotel guest to take advantage of the pool. But their restaurant is definitely worth a try; the food is exquisite both there and in the sister business in town, Caravane Cafe.
If you’re in Essaouira longer than two nights (I think three is optimal), then a day trip with Berberlands truly is a necessity. There are a range of activities available, from cooking classes to hikes, and they’re all done in a unique, well-explained way. Though not the cheapest, the company founder, Claudia, really makes the experience worthwhile, as she’s excellent with both people and languages.
The day trip I tried started by taking us to a local market in the village of Ida Ogourd. From the ‘donkey parking lot’ (pictured above) to the array of different stalls, the tour was sensitively done and fascinating. It gave an insight into rural Moroccan life that was valuable, and, to be completely honest, a little scary. (Perhaps, as tourists, we’re so used to things being geared up for us that it’s a shock to the system when they’re not at all?)
The afternoon was spent at the most stunning vineyard, pool and restaurant (pictured above). It was a blissful way to pass the time, particularly as each of the meal’s three courses came with a different Moroccan wine to sample…
It goes without saying that nowhere in Morocco is going to win awards for best nightlife ever, though if you’re looking for a chilled out beach bar, head over to imaginatively-titled Beach and Friends.
For somewhere a little closer to the city centre and livelier in atmosphere, you can’t go wrong with Taros. According to TripAdvisor, the food is of a fairly standard nature (don’t go there for food, go to Elizir); but the attraction is in the LIVE MUSIC and rosé.
Overlooking Essaouira’s main square, the atmosphere manages to be both chilled and buzzing. Oh, and they give out adorable ponchos to wear when chilly. Bonus points for Essaouira!
[For more attractive pics of Morocco, check out this link.]