I was reluctant to go to Essaouira, Morocco. This laid back beach town is a popular hot spot for tourists, but I tend to avoid the usual, trendy destinations when I travel and seek out the more interesting places that only locals know. I take pride in exploring beyond the typical, more famous cities, but after a few exciting but chaotic weeks in Marrakech, I decided to check out the sleepy, much quieter, fishing village, and I’m thrilled that I ended up going.
I strongly recommend you skip the Supra Tours bus and get a driver if you’re interested in a day trip to Essaouira. I decided to have Said from Morocco Daily Tours escort me on the three hour drive and I’m really glad I did.
I often travel alone and usually I feel pretty safe, but I do recommend that female solo travelers consider spending a bit extra to hire a driver and/ or guide if they’re exploring the country. While I’ve felt safe each time I’ve visited Morocco (I’m a New Yorker and it’s pretty difficult to intimidate me), sometimes the catcalling here can be annoying so having a man like Said to “protect” helped me to feel more comfortable and less annoyed.
But hey, I’m pretty damn cute, so can you really blame Moroccan men for drooling? Anyway…
For anyone who has been to Marrakech, you know that most riads (especially the more luxurious ones) are located deep within the medina, and trying to navigate your way in and around the thousands of alleys and side streets is nearly impossible. Google Maps pretty much sucks and has not been reliable when I’ve tried to use it to navigate around the medina. Having Said pick me up from my stunning, five-star riad Palais Blanc was a relief. I don’t know much about cars, but the one Said drove was pretty impressive. I have to admit that it was kinda’ nice having everyone in the medina stare at us like I was a celebrity being chauffeured in such a sweet ride, but Said told me he just bought an even fancier, brand new Huyundai minivan for upcoming tours.
The drive from Marrakech to Essaouira is lovely and Said is fun so it didn’t really feel like a three hour journey. Having a personal driver meant that I was able to stop anywhere along the way to take pictures of the beautiful architecture and scenic views.
I enjoyed seeing the beautiful Argan oil farms along the way but chose to not stop at the Argan oil cooperatives because we got a late start. I suggest you do if you have time, particularly at one of the coop’s that hire local women and help the community. You will get to see how the famous, miracle oil is made, you’ll most likely get an amazing price compared to what you would pay in the US or Europe, and, you’ll get to see goats climbing trees.
I’m telling you, it’s one of the strangest sights you’ll see while you’re in Morocco; tree-climbing goats. They love eating the berries and spitting out the seeds used to make Argan oil. There are also carpet cooperatives where you can see traditional rugs with exquisite colors and patterns.
But if you’re a shopaholic like me, you’ll be thrilled to find that the souks are just as vibrant and exciting as Jemaa Al Fna in Marrakech (where you also can, (and should) get a guide for the day through Morocco Daily Tours). But unlike Jemaa al Fna, I didn’t really feel the pressure or harassment to buy in Essaouira.
You’ll find plenty of beautiful leather bags, sparkly traditional sandals, colorful Moroccan candle holders, and a variety of exotic spices (including saffron) for far less than you’ll pay anywhere else.
I recommend shopping first, and when you’re exhausted and hungry Said will take you to one of the fish stalls along the seaside wall where you can dine on freshly caught giant lobsters, crabs, shrimp, or a mixture of different types of fish.
I chose to head over to the main square for creme brulee and nous nous (traditional Moroccan espresso) after dinner because I wanted to watch the incredible street performers sing and play guitar.
Said surprised me by taking me to the end of the pier, past the docked ships and local fisherman’s boats to the perfect spot to watch the sunset as you look out at the spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve seen some amazing sunsets around the world, but this was one of my top favorites. The 16th century walls are incredibly beautiful, and at times I felt as if I’d been transported back in time. It’s no surprise that this is the setting for some of the most famous scenes in the Game of Thrones series. The smell of the salty ocean (once you get past the strong smell of fish by the stalls), she sound of the seagulls, and the sight of adorable kittens playing will probably convince you to want to spend the night, rather than to rush back to the fast paced, bustling city.
I should add that if you’re only doing a day trip and you decide to take the bus, you’ll have to miss this spectacular sight because the buses leaves around 4:00 pm. I actually decided to spend the night in this quaint village because I fell in love with it, and luckily Said agreed to allow me to extend my trip.
If you do decide to stay, there are plenty of other things to do besides shopping at the bazaar, or people (or seagull) watching at the outdoor cafes and seafood stalls. There’s the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah Museum, Instagram worthy posing at the old city gates and the Sqalas, cooking classes, horseback riding, watersports, and tons of art galleries to check out.
Included in Tour
- Transportation in a luxury, air-conditioned Hyundai, Ford or Mercedes minivan, or your choice of a Mitsubishi, Prado or Toyota 4 by 4
- Hotel pickup and drop-off
- Free Wifi on board
- UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can wander &/ or shop at your leisure
- Time to explore the ocean, waterfront and historic city center
- Food and drinks
- Local Guide (recommended in Marrakech, but not really necessary for Essaouira)
For more information on how to take a day trip from Marrakech to Essaouira, contact Morocco Daily Toursat (+212) 677 192 212.
Have you ever taken a day trip to Essaouira, or do you plan to? What were your favorite places to see there? Please leave a comment below!