Travel Tour Reviews

The 5 Best Day Trips From Marrakech – [2020 Reviews]

Would you like to explore the Atlas Mountains, ride a camel through a palm grove, or haggle for pottery with a Berber tradesman? If you’re on holiday in Morocco and staying in Marrakech, you can do all these things and more.

Marrakech is a superb base from which to explore nearby UNESCO World Heritage Sites, mountainous terrain, and the edge of the Sahara Desert.

However, there are hundreds of tours from Marrakech to choose from, so we’ve identified 5 excellent Marrakech day trips. In my opinion, they are among the best Marrakech excursions you can find.

Read the reviews below of the best trip and tours in Marrakech and see what you think. Also see our Marrakech Travel Guide.

Best Day Trips & Tours In Marrakech

 Marrakech: Day Trip With Camel Ride, Quad Bike, & SpaOuirgane: Day Trip From MarrakechDay Trip To El Jadida From Marrakech
editors choice
Departure PointPick-up from your hotel in Marrakech if accessiblePick up from your hotel in Marrakech where accessibleHotel pick up in Marrakech where accessible
Departure Time9:00 AM, 2:00 PM 9:00 AM 8:00 AM
Duration5 hours4 hours1 day
Includes1-hour camel ride, visit a Berber village, mint tea in a tent, 1½-hour quad ride, all the necessary clothes and equipment for your camel and quad rides, spa experience with hammam and massage Expert local guide, visit to 2 well-known Berber settlements in the High Atlas Mountains, guided walking tour around OuirganeAir-conditioned minibus transportation to El Jadida, an amazing historical city on the Atlantic coast

Quick Answer: The 5 Best-Rated Day Trips & Tours From Marrakech

  1. Marrakech: Day Trip With Camel Ride, Quad Bike, & Spa
  2. Ouirgane: Day Trip From Marrakech
  3. Day Trip To El Jadida From Marrakech
  4. Marrakech: Imlil & Atlas Valley Trip
  5. Ouzoud Waterfalls Full-Day Trip From Marrakech

Day Trips From Marrakech Reviewed

#1. Marrakech: Day Trip With Camel Ride, Quad Bike, & Spa

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Pick-up from your hotel in Marrakech if accessible
  • Departure Time: 9:00 AM, 2:00 PM
  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Includes: 1-hour camel ride, visit a Berber village, mint tea in a tent, 1½-hour quad ride, all the necessary clothes and equipment for your camel and quad rides, spa experience with hammam and massage

If you like to get great value for your money, this 3 in 1 experience is amazing. You’ll ride a camel past orange trees, explore a palm grove on a quad bike, and enjoy a luxurious hammam experience with massage.

Your adventure begins just 20-minutes-drive from the city center in the Palmeraie, a famous palm oasis on the outskirts of Marrakech that covers 54 square miles. There you’ll be given traditional Berber desert clothes to wear so you look the part. Then you’ll enjoy a 1-hour camel ride through the Palmeraie, with the snow-topped Atlas Mountains in the background.

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Next, you’ll be handed goggles and a helmet to use while riding your quad. Enjoy the adrenaline rush as you spend 1½ hours darting around the palm grove.

Before returning to Marrakech, you’ll visit a typical Berber village and discover how the locals live. Enter a Berber tent and enjoy mint tea and a snack with a local family. Your guide will be happy to act as an interpreter so that you can ask any questions you want about their lifestyle.

The highlight of the tour happens upon your return to Marrakech. You’ll be taken to a traditional spa in the heart of the Medina where you’ll experience the hammam (Turkish bath) with black soap and eucalyptus scrub as well as a relaxing massage with argan oil.

Something I’d recommend is that you take a spare set of clothes, including underwear. After your camel ride and quad bike experience, you’ll be grimy.

Then after your cleansing hammam, you really won’t want to slip back into your soiled underwear and grubby clothes!

All in all, this amazing bundle of activities in one tour is one of the best day trips from Marrakech you can join. You deserve to be pampered!

For tour prices, transportation and availability:



#2. Ouirgane: Day Trip From Marrakech

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Pick up from your hotel in Marrakech where accessible
  • Departure Time: 9:00 AM
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Includes: Expert local guide, visit to 2 well-known Berber settlements in the High Atlas Mountains, guided walking tour around Ouirgane

Are you fascinated by the Berber people and their culture? This trip takes you to 2 traditional Berber settlements where you can immerse yourself in the local community.

After being picked up from your accommodation, you’ll head for the mountains. On the way to your main destination, you’ll stop at Asni. This is a small town that has a very busy market where Berbers come to sell their produce.

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Asni is a traditional town, where women wash clothes outside and dry carpets on bushes. The cafés overlooking the river are noted for their traditional tagine cooking.

The drive from Asni will take you through the beautiful landscape of the High Atlas Mountains, including Asni and Tahanouet Gorges.

Upon arrival at Ouirgane, you’ll experience a guided walking tour of the village and its environs. Because the village is in the Toubkal National Park, there’s plenty to see.

Especially note the abundant birdlife that surrounds the reservoir. Make sure you take a good-quality camera to snap the outstanding scenery and wildlife surrounding the village.

If you can, take this tour on a Thursday or a Saturday. Thursday is market day in Ouirgane, but Saturday is market day in Asni.

Market day is when you’ll see the little souks come alive with color and noise. Of all the Berber culture trips from Marrakech, this is my favorite.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:



#3. Day Trip To El Jadida From Marrakech

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Hotel pick up in Marrakech where accessible
  • Departure Time: 8:00 AM
  • Duration: 1 day
  • Includes: Air-conditioned minibus transportation to El Jadida, an amazing historical city on the Atlantic coast

If history appeals to you, you’ll love this tour. From 1502 to 1769, the Portuguese controlled El Jadida and turned the city into a fortress. The fortress of Mazagan is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On this tour, you’ll be driven aboard an air-conditioned vehicle to the Atlantic coast. There you’ll visit a city that is one of the favorite destinations for Moroccan holidaymakers.

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Inside the Portuguese Quarter, you’ll be amazed by the colonial buildings left behind by the fleeing Portuguese, including well-preserved houses and a church.

Most of the defensive walls and towers still stand in pristine condition, complete with their original cannons. For those interested in colonial history, this is definitely one of the best tours from Marrakech.

Perhaps the most interesting Portuguese structure is the underground cistern. Originally built in 1514, it measures 110” square and features 5 rows of 5 stone pillars.

A thin layer of water covers the floor and creates constantly changing reflections. Because of the spectacular aesthetics of this building, it has featured in several movies.

When it comes time to eat, you’ll find the food on offer here is different from Marrakech. This is a great place to try local seafood where you know it hasn’t needed to travel miles from the ocean to the dinner plate.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:



#4. Marrakech: Imlil & Atlas Valley Trip

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Hotel pick up in Marrakech where accessible
  • Departure Time: 9:00 AM
  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Includes: Transportation to Asni and Imlil aboard a modern coach with Wi-Fi

Are you especially interested in mountain scenery? Then this tour will appeal to you. Jebel Toubkal is the tallest peak in Northern Africa, and Imlil is the nearest settlement.

The road from Marrakech into the Atlas Mountains will take you through areas with stunning scenery, where you’ll see mountain streams, colored rock cliffs, and Berber villages.

You’ll stop off at Tahanaout and Asni to visit the traditional rural souks, where Berber farmers come to sell their produce.

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From there, you’ll continue to Imlil village. Imlil is the basecamp for most expeditions wishing to climb Jebel Toubkal, and there are many activities there for people interested in exploring the mountainous terrain.

If you wish, you can hire a mule or a horse in Imlil and go on a trek. Alternatively, you could hike to the Kasbah of Toubkal, a hotel on the side of the mountain that provides sublime views across the valley from its rooftop terraces. You may opt to eat lunch at the kasbah at your own expense.

At an elevation of 5,900 feet, Imlil is over 4,000 feet higher than Marrakech and offers a stark contrast in climate. You could be in a different country!

While in Imlil, you will have the opportunity to enjoy Berber hospitality and drink mint tea with a local family. This is a fantastic cultural excursion from Marrakech.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:



#5. Ouzoud Waterfalls Full-Day Trip From Marrakech

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Pick up from your hotel in Marrakech where accessible
  • Departure Time: 8:00 AM
  • Duration: 9 hours
  • Includes: Hotel pick up and scenic air-conditioned minibus ride to Ouzoud

If you love bubbling mountain streams, cascading water that sparkles in the sunlight, and impressive waterfalls, you’ve found the right tour.

The air-conditioned minibus will transport you from Marrakech into the Middle Atlas Mountains, passing Berber villages, olive groves, and the plains to the north.

Once you’ve arrived in Ouzoud, 90 miles north of Marrakech, you can explore on your own or hire a local guide.

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A network of well-worn paths leads from the village to the green plunge pool beneath the waterfalls. The Cascades d’Ouzoud fall a total of 330 feet in a series of steps. This is North Africa’s tallest cascade waterfall and a very popular day trip destination for Moroccans.

Several cafés offer outside seating with fantastic views of the falls and the plunge pool. These cafés serve Berber tagine cuisine, which means food cooked in an earthenware pot to a traditional recipe.

This is a small group tour, the minibus holding a maximum of 17 passengers. It’s an ideal opportunity to make new friends on the drive through the scenic countryside of the Atlas Mountains foothills.

After examining hundreds of Marrakech day tours, I must say that this one is my favorite. It doesn’t offer the most planned activities, but the beautiful cascade that empties into the El-Abid River Gorge is one of the best natural views in Africa.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


Marrakech Travel Guide

Marrakech has long been a key destination for European royalty, celebrities, and the filthy rich. Now, this outstanding imperial city has come within the reach of more humble travelers who don’t want to spend $1,000 per night on a hotel room.

If you want to experience the exotic culture and wild landscape of Africa but with the luxury of modern amenities, Marrakech is an ideal city for your vacation.

day trips tours marrakech

Here you can haggle with a Berber stall keeper over the price of a hand-woven rug, ride a camel into the Sahara Desert, take a tour into the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, and walk through the courtyards of a palace built for a Grand Vizier, his 4 wives, and 24 concubines.

But before you book your holiday, it’s a good idea to fully research where you’re going to stay, how you’re going to get around, local restaurants, and attractions. That’s the best way to ensure you get the most out of your visit, and I wrote this guide to will help you on your way.

Airports & Entry

Every year, tourists flock to Marrakech, arriving by airplane, train, or bus. Most international visitors opt to fly. If you are based in Casablanca during your vacation, you should note that flying from Casablanca to Marrakech is over 10 times more expensive than a train or bus journey. Inside Morocco, trains and buses are incredibly cheap.

Marrakech Menara International Airport (RAK) is a clean, modern airport that welcomes over 4 million passengers every year. If you’re traveling from the US, you’ll change planes in Casablanca, but there are direct flights from Paris and London.

The flight from Casablanca to Marrakech takes around 50 minutes. RAK is super convenient for tourists because it’s only 2 miles (a 15-minute taxi ride) from Marrakech city center. But if you’re staying in the Old Town, you will have a considerably longer journey.

Inside the 3 air-conditioned terminals at RAK you’ll see the usual facilities you’d expect to find in any modern international airport, including ATMs, a bureau de change, duty-free shops, retail stores, and food outlets. There’s free Wi-Fi for your convenience.

If you’re religious, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s a prayer room where Muslims can retreat to perform their 5 daily prayers. For passengers with mobility problems, loaner wheelchairs are available. An airport clinic provides basic medical aid.

Getting from the airport to the city center is simple. The two recommended methods are by the hotel shuttle bus and taxis.

The shuttle bus runs every 20 to 30 minutes and stops at most of the major hotels in Marrakech. It is super cheap. Taxis take between 15 and 30 minutes to get to the city center, depending upon traffic conditions.

Avoid the taxis that hover immediately outside the terminal doors. It is better to cross the carpark to where more taxis wait. Apparently, the taxis in the prime location are affiliated with local organized crime!

Agree the price of your fare with the taxi driver before jumping inside if you want to avoid being scammed.

It is not recommended that you drive into the city center yourself. However, if you want, you can hire cars at the airport. Several car hire companies operate desks at the airport, including Hertz and Avis.

The train station is even more convenient for the city center. It’s within walking distance. Like the airport, it’s a modern building with exceptional facilities.

There you’ll find a range of stores and food outlets, including a KFC and an Ibis Hotel adjacent to the station.

In the near future, the railway will become an increasingly attractive option for visitors to Marrakech. The new 200-mph high-speed rail Tangiers-Casablanca link is to be extended to reach Marrakech.

However, for now, the train journey from Casablanca to Marrakech takes between 2½ and 3 hours, and there are 8 services every day.

If you prefer, 3 national bus companies run regular air-conditioned bus services from Casablanca to Marrakech: SATAS, CTM, and Supratours.

The road journey takes around 3¾ hours. These services terminate at the long-distance bus station, which is a 20-minute walk from the city center.

Planning Tips

When you arrive in Marrakech, you most certainly aren’t in Kansas anymore. Here are 5 tips to help you enjoy your time in Morocco.

Tip #1: Choose the time you visit carefully

Because of the year-round sunshine and low rainfall, any time of year is a great time to visit Marrakech. However, there are probably specific things you want to see and do, which may be better at certain times of the year.

Winter is when the Atlas Mountains are covered in snow, which makes for great photo opportunities. The weather is also especially cool for Africa, making it a great time to visit if you’re not keen on the heat.

In spring, the melting snow results in amazing waterfalls at the base of the Atlas Mountains and beautiful flower displays in the many parks and gardens around the city.

Summer sees the major local festivals. However, the temperature grows hot, the streets get crowded, and there are a lot of unpleasant smells associated with heat and many people crammed into a small area.

Tip #2: Don’t underestimate how much time you’ll need to see everything in Marrakech

Perhaps you only want to ride a camel through the desert or visit the famous Atlas Mountains, but there’s lots to do and see around Marrakech.

Do your research before you go and don’t miss out on the many interesting and unique attractions. Check the section on Attractions below.

Tip #3: Book Marrakech tours in advance

Marrakech is visited by more and more tourists every year, and the number will increase as the new high-speed train service is opened.

It’s a great idea to avoid possible disappointment by booking tours in advance before you get there. That way you won’t miss out on your once-in-a-lifetime to ride a camel across the Sahara Desert.

Also, reputable tour companies offer free cancellation if you change your mind a reasonable time before the tour begins, so you won’t lose your money if you decide not to go. Check the cancellation policy with the tour operator when you book.

Tip #4: Be very cautious about hygiene

Do not drink tap water. I cannot emphasize this enough. I recommend you use bottled water to brush your teeth. Never take ice in your drinks.

Use antibacterial hand wipes or gel after handling money, handling goods in the souks, or when you are eating out. Be especially discerning about street food.

Watch for the stalls local people frequent because they are likely the safest. Peel fruit before eating it. Washing the fruit’s skin won’t always work because the water might not be clean.

Tip #5: Cover up, especially ladies

Lots of the tourist brochures show men and women lazing around swimming pools in skimpy swimwear. While that may be appropriate within the walls of your raid or hotel, it most certainly will not be accepted out on the streets.

Morocco is an Islamic nation. Yes, it’s a liberal Muslim country, but they still have stricter ideas about exposed flesh than you’re probably accustomed to. If you’re a lady and you step out of your hotel wearing a low-cut T-shirt and very short shorts, you will probably get some dirty looks.

Restaurants & Eating Out

While in Marrakech, you must sample some of the local food. Given its location on the edge of the desert and its key role in the ancient trade routes through this exotic region, you’ll find many unique and interesting dishes on the menu.

However, do note there are three kinds of eating outlet to try the local cuisine: your own hotel, the glamorous restaurants that offer a culinary experience, and the street stalls for the crazy, adventurous tourist. Both options have much to offer.

If you’re staying in a riad, there is a good chance there is a restaurant inside the same building. These small and intimate restaurants are often high quality and inexpensive.

Even if you’re in a budget hotel, you will find the attached restaurant a safe and reliable option. And if you’re lucky enough to be lording it in one of Marrakech’s grand 5-star hotels, you’ll have a French chef and the finest cooks you can find in Morocco…for a price.

In a city frequented by millionaires, celebrities, and royalty, it’s no surprise to find that there are many gourmet restaurants. If you are not frightened by a high tab, Pepe Nero can be found near Jemaa el-Fnaa Square.

For top prices, you will receive high-quality food, both European and Moroccan. But I prefer Le Fondouk near the Marrakech Museum. This atmospheric restaurant is found in the heart of the souks. You can dine on the rooftop terrace and enjoy great views across the Medina or stay out of the sun and eat indoors.

I’m going to suggest you try street food while visiting Marrakech, but please be cautious. Remember again that you’re not in Kansas and heed the warnings given in “tips” above.

You’ll find some of the most authentic Moroccan food served in street stalls. However, avoid those only frequented by large crowds of tourists and head for those where you see locals eat.

Wherever you eat, there are various local dishes you should try. Perhaps the most internationally well-known is couscous.

You’ll find this semolina dish served with meat stews and vegetables garnished with a raisin preserve. A popular snack from the street stalls is b’stilla, which is a pie baked with thin layers of pastry and traditionally stuffed with almonds, eggs, and pigeon.

And for something light, a traditional soup called harira is popular with the locals, especially during Ramadan. It is made from chickpeas, lentils, and tomatoes, with added noodles. It is served in small bowls or cups on the streets.

If you’re feeling especially adventurous and crazy, snail soup is considered a delicacy in Marrakech and is sold around Jemaa el-Fnaa Square.

The locals believe it has restorative and digestive benefits. The distinctive brown snails are served still in the shell and immersed in a flavorsome broth.

Personally, I’d avoid this particular local favorite because snails are difficult to clean and prepare for food use.

For those who, like me, have a sweet tooth, try chebakia. This is a popular sesame cookie, fried and served coated with honey.

And you can wash that down with freshly squeezed orange juice. Orange trees grow everywhere around Marrakech, and they’re the most delicious and juicy oranges you’ve ever tasted.

Nightlife & Entertainment

While it is not only possible but easy to purchase alcohol in Marrakech, please do remember that Morocco is an Islamic nation.

That means that drinking alcohol is a discreet business done in relatively private locations, like inside your hotel room and in certain licensed bars and clubs.

You should never take alcohol out onto the streets. Not only would it be dangerous for you, but it would be deeply disrespectful to the local people.

Also, you will find that alcohol is unexpectedly expensive wherever it’s served. And where it is served, the waiting staff will probably request you sit in an area well away from the windows.

They are not being rude to you; they are concerned about offending passersby.

Having said that, you will find that Marrakech does have a good selection of venues for nighttime entertainment, such as casinos, nightclubs, and cocktail bars.

An area of the city renowned for its lively nightlife is Hivernage. There you will find the Royal Theatre, which stages concerts in an amphitheater.

For a truly Moroccan experience, consider visiting Le Comtoir Darna restaurant. There you can watch live belly dancing, fire-eaters, and other extraordinary acts while you enjoy traditional Moroccan or European food.

If you want something European in flavor, check out the Oh La La Show at the Lotus Club, where there are live dancers and a lineup of club DJs.

Like Le Comtoir Darna, this venue is really a restaurant but with a live show added in. The food offered not only includes Moroccan and European, but they also boast Japanese food on the menu!

But if you want to live the high life, you could head over to the famous La Mamounia Hotel near Jemaa El-Fnaa Square where you will find the sophisticated Le Bar Churchill.

Of course, you probably won’t get in without a lounge suit or cocktail dress. It is strictly smart dress only, and they do turn away would-be customers who arrive wearing sneakers and T-shirts.

At least you don’t need to be a guest at the hotel since it’s pricy for a room.

Inside the bar, you’ll love the ambient jazz music and theme, black velvet chairs, and padded leather walls. However, note that the bar is only open Wednesday through Saturday.

Getting Around

If you’re based in the Medina (the Old City), this isn’t a big problem because you can easily walk to many of the most popular attractions.

However, there will be times you want to go somewhere outside the immediate area, or when you’re in a hurry. The easiest thing then is to hail a taxi. There are 3 kinds of taxi in Marrakech: caleche, grand taxis, and petit taxis.

In Marrakech, a caleche is not a lady’s perfume from Hermes. It is a horse-drawn vehicle and one of the best ways to enjoy the sights around the city. If you hail one, note that there are set prices for popular tourist loops, but you will have to negotiate the price for other locations. Set a price before climbing into the cab to avoid being scammed.

Grand taxis are large old Mercedes cars capable of carrying up to 6 passengers. These keep to specific routes and charge a fixed fare.

They congregate at taxi ranks outside the main Post Office in the New Town, Jemaa el-Fnaa Square, and the Central Bus Station.

Petit taxis are smaller, of course, and charge higher rates. You’ll see them all over the city, they are most often beige, and you can flag them down.

But they’ll go anywhere you want…for a price. Make sure you agree the cost of your fare before climbing in.

The local buses are cheap, and there are lots, but they get crowded. If you climb aboard, you pay the bus driver directly.

The No 1 service links the Medina to the New Town, No 8 goes to the train station, and No 11 and No 19 will transport you to the airport. The Central Bus Station is situated on the northwestern side of the Medina.

A particularly great way to get around Marrakech is by bicycle. These are easy to hire, and you can cycle through parts of the Medina that are blocked to road vehicles.

Accommodations

Because of its many world-famous attractions, Marrakech has a long history of tourism. Today, you will find more than 400 hotels in the city. These may be divided into three kinds: the opulent, the standard, and the traditional.

If you have money to spend and want to stay in the same hotel as Mick Jagger, Prince Charles, and Winston Churchill, you could spend a few nights in La Mamounia Hotel, a 5-star hotel in the heart of the old city.

This luxury hotel and casino was used as a setting for the movie Sex & The City 2. Looking around the establishment, it’s easy to understand how it became so popular.

The interior feels more like a palace than a hotel. There is a selection of other eminent hotels in the same area where you can brush shoulders with celebrities, royalty, and millionaires.

However, if you’re on a tighter budget, there are many standard tourist hotels, with the usual facilities you’d expect to find in any other major city.

For example, you could stay in the Amani Hotel for less than $50 per night. From your room balcony, you could admire the snow-capped (in winter) Atlas Mountains.

Your room would have an attached bathroom, satellite TV, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, minibar, and tea & coffee facilities.

But my personal favorite is the traditional accommodation—a riad in the Medina (the Old City). In Morocco, a riad is a large traditional home built around a central courtyard.

Many of these old courtyard houses have been converted into hotels, like large B&Bs offering between 7 and 15 rooms. But because they were originally local people’s homes, when you stay in a riad, you are steeped in the local culture and traditions of Marrakech.

The courtyards often feature a fountain or pool and may have a restaurant. A few riads boast rooftop terraces where you can admire a view across the city while drinking mint tea.

Riads vary in price from the more luxurious neighboring the key tourist attractions to more basic hostels on the edge of the city. One I think is truly beautiful and rich in culture is Riad Kaiss in the old town.

This tiny riad only offers 8 rooms, but each is an art masterpiece. Inside the carefully restored old house, you can see colorful Islamic tile decorations and abstract carvings on the antique fire surrounds and columns.

Riad Kaiss is one of those within walking distance of the main museums and monuments in the heart of Marrakech.

Weather

Before they visit Marrakech, many assume it is a desert city because of its strong associations with the Sahara Desert and the Berber people. Indeed, Marrakech is a great doorway into the Sahara for those who wish to take a camel ride into the desert.

Actually, Marrakech enjoys a semi-arid climate because of its position just to the north of the Atlas Mountains. This means Marrakech experiences a whole 11” of rain each year, a Biblical flood compared to other cities in the region. Quarzazate only sees 4½” of rain annually and Zagora a minuscule 2½”. Those two cities have hot desert climates.

The average daily temperature in Marrakech ranges from 540F in January up to 830F in July. The sunniest month is July, with an average of 10¾ hours, and the most rain falls during November when the average rainfall is 1½”.

Despite the midsummer heat, many tourists choose to visit Marrakech in summer. This is in part due to the popular festivals held during this time, like the Marrakech Popular Arts Festival held every July.

However, if you’re anything like me, the heat and crowds of the summer will distract you from fully appreciating the beauty of this incredible city. Plus, the city stink hits its peak in July.

If you come during winter, the climate is like spring in many parts of the world. This is also when the Atlas Mountains look their best, capped with snow like a scene from a picture postcard. In fact, if you’re lucky, you can even go skiing in Marrakech in midwinter.

Attractions

There’s so much to do and see in Marrakech that I can’t possibly list all the attractions here. Instead, I’ll mention a few of the highlights to give you a taste of the city.

The main attractions can be divided into cultural attractions, sites of outstanding natural beauty, and major cultural events.

Because Marrakech has served as the capital city of Morocco for much of its long and rich history, there are many interesting buildings to see and visit.

You’ll find palaces, fortresses, and fascinating museums. For me, the most impressive structure of them all is the city wall that gives Marrakech its popular nickname—the red city.

I feel humbled by the orange-red walls that stand 19 feet high and stretch for 12 miles around the city. They were built in the 12th century.

At that time, the largest empire in the world was China. I’ve visited the walls around Xi’an, the ancient capital of China, which were built around the same time. Although Xi’an’s walls are higher, they only stretch for 8¾ miles, which means that Marrakech’s walls in some way surpassed those of the greatest superpower of their time.

When visiting the walls, head for one of the 19 gateways. In my opinion, they are the most interesting part of the structure.

I’d recommend Bab Agnaou gate as it is arguably the most beautiful. Near the palace of its day, it served as the royal entrance to the city.

The horseshoe arch is decorated with alternating sections of stone and brick, and framing the gate are three panels with beautiful inscriptions taken from the Qur’an.

Because each successive ruler has left their own mark upon the city over the passage of centuries, there are 3 palaces and many mansions dotted around the Medina.

You can’t actually enter the current Royal Palace, though you can skulk around the front door and admire the outer wall. But you can visit the much more impressive El Bahia Palace.

The Bahia Palace is an elaborate and extensive complex of buildings set in 2 acres of formal gardens. Built to house the Grand Vizier of Marrakech, his 4 wives, 24 concubines, and all their many kids, this isn’t your average-sized family home.

If you’ve seen photographs of a beautiful courtyard in Marrakech with ornate arches and colorful tile decor, it was probably inside El Bahia. The palace was designed to be the greatest of its age, encapsulating all the best elements of Moroccan and Islamic architecture.

At the heart of the Medina (the Old City) you can find Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. If you want to see the kind of traditional street entertainment you’ve seen in films set in North Africa, like snake-charming and jugglers, then this is where you need to be.

It’s also a great place to find stalls selling the street food mentioned above and freshly squeezed orange juice. The square comes alive every evening. Note that if you pause to take photographs of entertainers in the square then you will be expected to contribute money to their pot.

One of the most interesting cultural experiences you can have in Marrakech is a visit to one of the souks. These colorful markets, with tiny and varied stalls in a maze of alleyways, are the main shopping attraction in the city.

This is where you have the opportunity to haggle with a Berber tradesman to buy a “flying carpet” for the lowest price. You’ll find the souks north of Jemaa el-Fnaa Square.

Outside the city, there are several nearby sites of outstanding natural beauty. The most obvious is the Atlas Mountains since they loom over the city.

Daytrips into the foothills are very popular, and the Ouzoud waterfalls are especially beautiful. A little further off, you can visit the most famous desert in the world. If you ever dreamed of riding a camel across the sand dunes, this is your opportunity.

Every July sees the Marrakech Popular Arts Festival, Marrakech Folklore Festival, and Fantasia Horse-Stunt Event.

These combined events are composed of many separate performances spread throughout the city but focused on Jemaa el-Fnaa Square, the ruined Badi Palace, and the area outside the city walls near Bab Jdid Gate.

Folk singers, dancers, fire-swallowers, and snake charmers perform traditional routines within the walls of the Badi Palace, while horse riders in traditional clothes gallop around in front of the city walls, showing off their equestrian skills.

And for something you’ll probably never see in the 50 States of the Union, sometime around the end of August every year the local Berber people hold the Imilchil Marriage Feast.

This is a huge event where up to 30,000 mountain dwellers gather for a 3-day festival around the tomb of the Oldman in Imilchil, a village in the Atlas Mountains.

During the festival, young women dress up in traditional clothes and silver jewelry then dance to attract a fiancé.

Traditionally, unmarried people form engagements at the festival which are then followed up in their home villages by discussions between the families and arrangements for a later wedding.

The festival is a grand celebration of Berber culture, music, dance, and love.

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Robert Baker

I had the good fortune to be born in a first-world country at a time when fast international travel became possible for average people. Having shared meals with families in huts with no electricity and dirt floors, I appreciate the "little" things that my fellow Englishmen take for granted. Over the years I've worked in many different fields. I've been an archaeologist in the Scottish Hebrides, an accountant in London, and taught English in China. However,I've never enjoyed any other job as much as writing.

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