Arriving in Marrakech is piling headlong into a swirling maelstrom of noise, colour, seething masses of people, honking bikes, overwhelming scents and incredible variety and energy, all packed into a labyrinth of narrow alleyways and disorientating lanes.
It is an incredible place, a feast for the senses. From the rich culture to the exquisite food scene, the beautiful architecture and fascinating history, there’s something to find in every shady alcove, and in every thriving market.
However, it’s totally understandable for some to become a little overwhelmed by this bubbling pot of spice and life. If you’re taking a trip to Marrakech, you might find that a day of escape, a day of tranquil solitude and a chance to get back in touch with nature is exactly what you need to unwind and relax, before throwing yourself back into the madness.
So, here are our three favourite day trips you can take from Marrakech.
Glowing a soft blue, boats shifting and leaning in the bay, a cool breeze blowing through the spice-scented lanes and stairways, Essaouira is an immediate soothing of the senses. Pretty much off the beaten track to most tourists thanks to the winds that make the beach less than ideal for sunbathing, it’s a beautiful slice of laid back life and clean sea air, ready-made to replenish.
An artists paradise, the idyllic little lanes, and atmospheric port make for one of the most pleasant towns to potter around we’ve ever been to. Take a stroll through the beautifully constructed, deliciously laid back medina, or relax in the harbour and watch as the little royal blue fishing boats set out towards the golden sunset on the vast horizon.
2. Ouzoud Falls
Drive in the opposite direction to the coast, and you’ll run smack bang into the towering wall that are the Atlas Mountains. Jaw-droppingly massive, jagged peaks sit heavily above brown dusty valleys and otherworldly rock formations. In amongst this sea of orange-brown dust that gently rises into the pure mountain air are oases of green.
One of them in Ouzoud Falls. The highest waterfalls in Northern Africa, a rush of clear, cool mountain water cascades through this rugged territory, digging out impressive canyons and leaving a carpet of lush green in its wake. A trip out here to hike in the open, surrounded by huge skies, followed by a dip in a cool river to wash off the grime of city life, is a trip worth taking.
3. Ourika Valley
Also nestled within the same dramatic valleys and between twisting mountain passes, you’ll find another ribbon of green spreading across the valley floor. High in the mountains, in the pure air and scattered with tumbling farmhouses and authentic, isolated Berber communities, Ourika Valley offers precious escape from any oppressive summer heat, and offers tremendous hiking opportunities.
Take a dip in the cool Ourika River, crisscrossed with ancient stone and newly fashioned rope bridges, or stop at an authentic cafe for a coffee as you watch the wind fall gently from the high peaks to this stunning strip of fertile land. And, what with being a mere 50km from Marrakech, Ourika Valley probably represents by far the most accessible, instant escape if the sense-pounding city just becomes a bit too much.