The joy of visiting Marrakech is finding yourself somewhere truly exotic. The hustle and bustle of the medina is uncompromising. Dodging donkeys and mopeds while trying to find your way to the next beautiful palace is all part of the fun. Eating kebabs on the Djemma el Fnaa while watching snake charmers and story tellers entertain, is a real “if only they could see me now” experience. But sometimes the quiet haven of a luxury Riad is not quite enough to relax you after several days of sightseeing. So if you find yourself looking for a little peace to recharge your batteries, we recommend a sojourn to the coast, mountains or desert.
Essaouira is a small port on the Atlantic coast, just a two hour drive from Marrakech, but a world away from the hubbub. It’s walled medina offers lovely shopping, spice markets and antiques, in a tranquil setting. There are wonderful Riads to stay in, and excellent restaurants to enjoy. The seafood along the harbour is particularly delicious. French expats have been coming here for decades, and many have second homes here. You can take yoga classes, stroll down the old ramparts, and enjoy some traditional music in the evenings. Our favorite places to stay include the delectable and luxurious palace L’Heure Bleue, and the chic intimate Riad Madada Mogador
The Atlas Mountains
You can see the majestic Atlas Mountains from the rooftops of Marrakech, they’re just a few hours drive from the city and a world away in terms of peace and tranquility. You can hike every day of the year, and explore Berber villages tucked away in beautiful valleys. If you enjoy trekking, Djebel Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak is in reach, as well as a dozen other peaks. If you just like to rest and breathe some clear mountain air while enjoying traditional Berber hospitality, a few nights at either Kasbah du Toubkal or the magnificent Kasbah Tamadot are just the ticket. Taking a donkey ride or a half day hike, followed by a visit to the hammam is how we like to spend our time.
While you can ride a camel in the Palmeraie, just outside of Marrakech, but riding the “ship of the desert” in the Saharan dunes is incomparable. The dunes of the Erg Chebbi in Merzouga are truly awe inspiring and no movie or photo can do justice to the real thing. The color of the sand, the texture and the patterns the wind makes as it blows over, are all utterly mesmerizing. Unfortunately, getting to the dunes from Marrakech requires a long day drive, but it’s a pretty one! We recommend the comfortable Kasbah Tombouctou. Camel rides are optional, but the experience of staying in a Bedouin tent should not be and we like to spend a night under the stars at the luxury camp Erg Chigaga.