I went on a total of 3 daytrips during my stay in Marrakech! If you do your research in advance, the three daytrips I went on are well advertised and are definitely three of the most popular daytrips advertised online with tours. After reading other blogs in regards to daytrips and whether a tour guide is needed, we decided it was best to have a guide for our trips to the Ourika Valley and the Ouzoud Waterfalls to prevent mishaps from getting lost. It is also much better to have someone local who can speak Arabic/Berber/French for that matter which made it a lot more convenient for navigating and understanding the culture and history of these places. Our trip to Essaouria though, did not require a guide as we decided to explore the small seaside city on our own, which I would definitely recommend! It also may be possible to save more money by booking tours online, but we decided to have our riad book it for us which may have had additonal charges, but it worked much better for us having transportation arranged for us.
We went to Essaouria on our second day in Morocco, and it was a relaxing break from the chaos of the Old City of Marrakech. We had a prearranged taxi pick us up from our Riad that dropped us off at the coachstop in the new city. It was about a 20 minute taxi ride to the coachstop which wasn’t bad at all. The coach ended up leaving half an hour later than the stated departure time due to waiting for people who were late that had made a booking! I was quite surprised that they waited because in London or back at home in Vancouver, it would have definitely been the late travellers’ loss! Upon arriving in Essaouira, I immediately felt the difference in how the locals acted toward tourists compared to in Marrakech. There was a lot less calling out in selling things to me and I felt that I wasn’t stared at as much. Perhaps it is because the city is used to having tourists but I think it was more of a smaller city “coolness” and a more relaxed way of living that that the people have mastered. The first thing we ended up doing was getting lost in the big souk but managed to somehow make our way to the portside and chose a touristy restaurant for lunch right by the ocean. Afterwards, we spent some time just relaxing on the beach. I have to admit I found it quite weird at first being fully covered at the beach without bikinis and swimtrunks left and right…but I also felt a certain serenity from people watching and enjoying the ocean breeze. We then went for some cheap gelato and pastries and also walked around the port where people were hauling up fresh seafood and selling it. Overall, Essaouria is definitely do-able in a few hours where you can explore everything by foot and I honestly think this is the only way to do it.
2. Ouzoud Waterfalls
Ouzoud waterfalls was about 2 and half hours away by private car from the riad we were staying at in the old city. I have to admit that I honestly was not too excited for this daytrip because I have seen many waterfalls before, but my friend was really excited for this. Surprisingly, this turned out to be my favourite daytrip because we had a local guide that really made the trip well worth our time. The Ouzoud Waterfalls is located by a Berber Village which I later learned is the indigenous people of North Africa. They have their own language, Berber, and seem to be living a much more simplistic way of life compared to people in Marrakech. The day that I went, it was also during Morocco’s half term break for schools so there were a lot of other travellers from Morocco and school trips that were there as well! Our local guide spoke English really well and literally showed us all the spots to take different angle pictures of the waterfall. He was also quite chatty in sharing about himself and learning about us as well. We started from the carpark and eventually made our way down to the base of the waterfall. The walk was not super easy, so a pair of good trainers would be necessary! On our way up from the bottom of the waterfall, we walked along a lot of shops selling ceramics, local goods of that sort. We also encountered monkeys along the way which were living freely in this region. I also learned from our guide that the monkeys are protected and if anyone tries to take the monkeys away (usually for business purchases), they are fined! I managed to get a picture of a monkey on top of me and I must admit I was a lot more afraid than I appear in the photo haha!
3. Ourika Valley
I was the most excited for this daytrip but it turned out not as I expected. The local guide that we had for this, really only took us up to a small and big waterfall without sharing much about what we were seeing. I honestly would have preferred exploring on our own for this one but the path was quite difficult and often my friend and I would need an extra hand from the guide as we were jumping over fast moving water and going up slippery rocks. I would say it was a mini hike to get to the waterfalls in the Ourika Valley but it was the landscape that I was most excited about. The vegetation and mountains were unlike any others I have seen! Along the way we also stopped at the Berber house where we were served a traditional Moroccan tea which is extremely minty! There were a lot of local people visiting on this hot and sunny day, so it almost seemed more of a local spot to go than a tourist spot. However, once you are back on the main road which is essentially lined by restaurants on both sides of the river, is where I am reminded of how I am back at a tourist place. The scenery from this daytrip is still my favourite but I would recommend perhaps looking for an actual guide to do some hiking through the mountains instead! On our way back, we also went for a short camel ride. I have to say I was extremely excited for this at first but I don’t think I would do it again. The camels looked quite unhappy and although I have done my research on making sure that when I am riding or encountering particular animals that they are treated well, I just didn’t feel happy when I was on the camel. However it did make me think how long it must have taken to travel by camel and the ride was surprisingly less bumpy and scary than I anticipated it to be.
Be sure to look out for my blogs on my trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast coming soon!