Top 5 daytrips from Marrakech

Top 5 daytrips from Marrakech

Marrakech is top of most people’s lists for Morocco. The city overloads the senses with sweet-smelling food, the sounds of market traders and street music, and sightings of some of the most impressive architecture in this part of the world. On top of all that, there are plenty of top daytrip destinations within easy reach, too. From supersized deserts to cities and smaller Berber villages, here are our top five daytrips to help you get more Morocco for your Marrakech city break… 

1. Head into the Atlas Mountains 

The Atlas Mountains are what separate the Sahara Desert and Morocco’s coastline, extending for over 2,000 kilometres. There are three ranges in total but the most popular is the High Atlas, which is about an hour and a half’s drive away and where most people pick for their Atlas Mountain daytrip. There are a number of trails and hikes to do, and you’ll find lots of them in Toubkal National Park. You’ll need a guide to visit but many tours will include return transfers to and from Marrakech to make things easier. The mighty Mount Toubkal dominates views here, as the highest peak in North Africa, but you’ll need more than just one day to summit it. 

From January to March, meanwhile, sand dunes actually go hand in hand with ski slopes in Oukaïmeden, Africa’s highest ski resort. In under two hours you can be over 3,000 metres high, spend a day skiing, and be back in Marrakech in time for dinner. There’s a decent amount of snowfall at this altitude and 10 kilometres of slopes to run down until the lifts stop at around 3pm. The conditions can’t be compared to the Alps, but as you can imagine, the prices are much more affordable than in Europe.   

In the Middle Atlas, more like a two-and-a-half-hour drive away, you’ll find the world-famous Ouzoud Waterfalls. Water cascades from various levels here into a pool in the valley 100 metres below. Daytrips run from the city regularly and local guides can take you into the pool on a boat trip to see Ouzoud up close. On sunny days, you might even catch a rainbow in the mist. 

2. See the sea in Essaouira  

You don’t really get to see the sea in Marrakech, so a daytrip to Essaouira is the answer. It’s about three hours away in the car before you can breathe in that salty air and try surfing this city’s famous beginner breaks.   

The old town’s streets all lead to the medina, with its classic white and blue buildings, colourful boutiques and museums and art galleries earning it UNESCO status. Essaouira literally means ‘little picture’ in Arabic and that it is… There’s a really laidback, boho feel to this place – you can watch the fishing boats come in with the day’s catch to know exactly what you should order for lunch. Walk the ramparts that surround the city, and you can still spot old canons that remain from when it was a Portuguese military fortress. Plus, you get the best ocean views from here. 

3. Explore Ourika Valley 

Ourika Valley is one of the easiest daytrips from Marrakech – just an hour’s drive south of the city. Escape the heat and venture into 68 kilometres of cool shade in sight of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. This area is named after the river Ourika and is dotted with streams, waterfalls and old Berber villages. 

Setti Fatma is a popular village to visit, set on the terraces of the High Atlas foothills, where you can walk to discover nearby waterfalls. Another village, Tafza, is known for its pottery, with a museum where you can learn all about Berber culture. For some more history, Aghmat is one of Morocco’s oldest cities and now an archaeological site, dating back to pre-Islamic times. You can visit ruins, tombs and mausoleums here, and the landscape is luscious with olive groves and cherry orchards. 

4. Discover the Agafay Desert 

Save on the time you’d spend trekking to the Sahara and see the Agafay Desert instead. It’s around 45 minutes’ drive from Marrakech and home to all the classic experiences you’d expect. Try a horseback or camel ride through the dunes, or take a 4×4 or buggy over the sand and set up for a sunset picnic. You can even stay overnight on some tours. The stargazing out here is amazing, and a number of camps offer experiences – Scarabeo Camp is known for them. 

Lake Takerkoust is a great shout if you’re after a rare swim in these parts. It’s a man-made spot to help you cool off but perfectly blends in with the landscape. You can swim in the water and sunbathe on the shores. There are also plenty of restaurants around the lake for a midday snack or a few Berber villages nearby to get a home-cooked meal. 

5. Check out another city – Casablanca  

Casablanca is a much more cosmopolitan and modern-feeling city than Marrakech and there’s an hourly train that will get you there in under three hours. It’s a bit more effort and you’d benefit from an early start to get a full-day tour, but this daytrip helps you tick off two of Morocco’s best city breaks in one.  

Casablanca is the country’s oldest city, home to historic monuments like the Hassan II Mosque – the largest mosque in Africa and fifth largest in the world – as well as modern art galleries and new developments that are popping up all the time. There’s the old medina, Parc de la Ligue Arabe and the king’s palace to see, too.  

The city also has a great foodie scene. The waterfront restaurants on La Corniche plate up dinner with a view and serve some seriously good seafood that’s worth sticking around for. And during the day, that coastline is perfect for catching some waves with the locals.   

Ready to make the most of your Marrakech city break? Check out which First Choice Experiences are available to build out your break.  

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Author: Lily Owen
Last updated: 11/04/2024