Beautiful architect, getting lost in the souks, refreshing mint tea, cool camels, Morocco offers the most perfect adventure.
My weeklong trip to Marrakech offered the most picture-perfect views and amazing memories with my family that we will treasure forever.
Only a 4-hour flight from London this is a great getaway for short breaks even just for one weekend. It is cheap enough that you can head there without having to break the bank, and it is so culturally different to your average trip that you can feel like you are world’s away from home.
I was particularly interested in exploring the ‘Red City’ of Marrakech to get a taste of the Arabian culture. Visiting Kenya numerous times, I was also curious to see a different side of Africa.
We opted to make this trip over the Christmas holidays. Going away over Christmas had never really been on my plans, but with my sister and myself being older we have valued the opportunity to gain amazing memories far more valuable than any present. Plus, it was a great way to escape the cold English winter. Although, it was also winter in Morocco with highs of 20 degrees I felt perfectly comfortable. The only time it was a bit cooler was in the mornings and nights but carrying a comfy cardigan or jumper did the trick.
Plus, we got to see Father Christmas ride a camel, what’s more fun than that!
Where we stayed
Aqua Fun Club
This hotel was great as it was a reasonable price for an all-inclusive stay. We also enjoyed Christmas dinner with lots of selection of food. Although it was much cooler weather, we did brave the water park, which had a selection of good waterslides, however this would be much more enjoyable in the warmer weather.
The only downside was that it was further away from Marrakech centre, however this was easily overcome by a free shuttle bus provided by the hotel and taxis.
For my next stay in Morocco I would stay in a Riad. A riad is a type of traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. The term is nowadays often used in Morocco to refer to a hotel or guest house-style accommodation with shared common areas and private rooms. This provides a more authentic Moroccan accommodation, and many can be found within walking distance to the centre.
Check out some here: https://www.booking.com/riad/city/ma/marrakech.en-gb.html
Below was our itinerary during Marrakech, I wanted to get a mix between exploring the city and exploring the nearby nature and culture. The days can be carried out in any order; however, it must be noted that when planning a day trip you must allow plenty of travel time and wake up early.
Exploring the city
Our first day was filled with exploring Marrakech town. We opted for a day city tour this allowed us to get our bearings and gave us confidence to go back to the town by ourselves at a later day. Going on a tour also allows you to gain local knowledge about the area.
1. Stroll Through The Menara Gardens
Built in the 12th century and made up of olive, groves, orchards and palm groves this was a beauty place to begin our day. The pool in the centre has a bit of a grizzly past. Legend has it, a sultan seduced his guests over dinner here, before throwing them into the water to drown.
2. Wander around Bahia Palace
Morocco’s most noble artisans built the beautiful La Bahia Palace over 14 years. Although the palace has 150 rooms, only a fraction of it is open to the public. The architecture here was amazing, and it was filled with lots of marble, pretty doorways, tiled walls and mosaics.
3. Jemaa el-Fnaa
A very busy square filled with people, henna artists, tuk tuks, various stalls and lots of other sights. This was not my favourite place and I was particularly saddened by the site of the animals and how they are treated. Try and avoid monkeys and snake charmers here, they are exploited for tourism.
4. Walk through the medina
Even if you have no interest whatsoever in shopping or bargaining, you need to experience the souks in Marrakech. The medina of Marrakech was officially listed in the UNESCO world heritage in 1985.
You can easily spend an hour or two walking around the souks and spice markets. I absolutely loved looking at the different silver products, spices and clothing products. It must be noted that it is very easy to get lost here.
In case you get lost, just follow the signs leading to the Jemaa el Fna square. You can also download CityMapper or Google Maps Offline, where you can track where you are walking and head in the direction of Jemaa el-Fnaa (here you will be able to find taxis)\
5. Head to Koutoubia Mosque for sunset
We passed the Mosque several times when going to the city, however nothing beat gazing at the Mosque whilst the sunset. Get there about 40 minutes before the sun goes down to get the beautiful colours in the sky behind the mosque.
More adventures in the city
After having a tour guide on our first day we decided to venture out in the city ourselves.
1. Jardin Majorelle
Jump in a taxi and head to Jardin Majorelle in New Marrakech. There is a big queue to enter the gardens so make sure you get there early to avoid crowds.
The Jardin Majorelle is one of Morocco’s most visited tourist attractions. The French painter, Jacques Majorelle created the gardens between 1886 to 1962. It took him 40 years to finish the gardens, and it is a cool escape from the hectic life on Marrakech.
In 1980 it became property of the famous designer Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge. YD+SL lived for a long while in Marrakech and here is where he spent most of his time. When he died his ashes were scattered in the garden and a mausoleum was built for him. There is also a museum and YSL boutique but I did not visit this.
The botanical garden is home to more types of cacti than you can imagine. The gardens were absolutely beautiful, With lots of different plants.
Jardin Majorelle is pure Instagram gold.
Here you will be able to see the iconic indigo blue art deco house.
2. Get Henna at the Henna Café
Rather than get henna in Jemaa el-Fnna this is the place to go. They have a modest rooftop café where you can buy different teas whilst waiting for your henna to dry. All profits from the henna is used to offer free education and assistance to those in need in Marrakech. They also had the cutest tortoise roaming around the café.
3. Shopping and Haggling in the vibrant Souks
After having a sneak peek the day before at the wonderful items you can buy in the Medina, we decided to go back to get some souvenirs. Remember to negotiate the price before purchasing. The souks of Marrakech are vibrant; a whirlwind of colour and noise.
We bagged these fabulous matching outfits.
Cascades D’Ouzoud Waterfalls
This was probably my favourite day from the entire trip.
This is a day trip that everyone can enjoy. An escape from the city, there is a charming atmosphere, a welcoming aura and fresh air around the waterfall – simply beautiful.
The trip takes you full circle around the waterfall where you will see the breath-taking waterfall in different angels. We got to enjoy a paddleboat ride to come touching distance to the water.
During this trip I also had the most delicious Moroccan meal
But one of my absolute favourite things was seeing the wild monkeys. Unlike in Jemaa el-Fnaa these monkeys are wild in their natural habitat. You can purchase monkey nuts from locals to feed to the monkeys. They are surprisingly friendly and totally adorable.
Just a short 3-hour ride from the city you can find an old Portuguese fishing village, and now port town – Essaouira
Essaouira is a fishing port town and is much more relaxed than Marrakech.
Here you will find a blend of cultures, architecture, local history and cuisine. You can wander around the whitewashed buildings and old fortress, and wander through the side streets and look at all the craft shops and beautiful old doorways.
My favourite thing about this day trip was stopping to see the tree climbing goats. This was surreal it looked as if they had been photoshopped into a picture. It is so funny how they are able to climb so high into the trees.
Argan Oil Factory and Shop
During our day trips we stopped at local argon oil factories where we were able to see the preparation and methods used to make a variety of argan oil products.
It just absolutely amazes me that the Argan Tree only grows in Morocco. The trees can live from 150 to 200 years and for centuries have been used by the local people of Morocco for its ability to help heal the look of scars and for soothing rheumatic problems, among many other beneficial qualities – argan oil today is one of the hottest beauty products in the market.
Argan oil is available widely in Morrocco in spice shops in the medinas, but the quality varies, as does the price.
When buying argan products you must be sure to look at the colour of the oil, true argan oil should be clear, although somewhat murky, but dull yellow in colour. Anything too golden may indicate that the argan oil has been mixed with other oil varieties to keep costs low.
We purchased a variety of products; I would personally recommend Argan lip balm and hair oil.
Not far from Marrakech we took a half day trip to the Atlas Mountains of Marrakech. During this trip we learnt about the Berber culture in Morocco.
The Berber people refer to themselves by their indigenous name, Amazigh, meaning ‘free people’. They are native to North Africa and it is estimated that there are between 30-40 million Berber speaking people in Africa.
We enjoyed a lovely Moroccan tea, fresh bread and honey at a Berber’s family home, and it was absolutely delicious.
Whilst on this trip we also brought some stationery and sweets and handed it out to some local children.
Chill Time at Aqua Fun Club
After having a few days of adventures, we took the afternoon off to have some much-needed chill time. Staying in a hotel that has its own waterpark sure does have some perks.
Morning Buggy Ride
We opted for a morning buggy ride in Marrakech.
It was a bit cold in the morning, but it was super fun to speed along in a buggy. Our guide was nice and even gave us some mint tea to warm up with afterwards.
The main reason why we wanted a separate experience was to allow us time to freshen up and feel comfortable for the remainder of the day.
Buggies and Quads can be very dusty, and you can end up having sand everywhere. We were definitely in need of a shower afterwards. Make sure you wear clothes you do not mind getting dirty.
Marrakech Desert Experience
Having been on buggy rides earlier that day we opted for a Safari in 4WD, Camel, Dinner and Show experience, which also included transport to our hotel. I must say this was the perfect way to end our stay in Marrakech.
I got to ride a lovely camel named Samil and we enjoyed singing songs with our guide.
The safari in 4WD was not as you would expect, the location is in the desert but not in the really sandy desert you would imagine. However, the drive was still very enjoyable and was memorable by our driver taking us to a watch-point to watch the sunset.
The dinner was delicious, and we enjoyed smoking a shisha whilst watching the show which involved belly dancing and music.
Time to head home
After 6 jam packed days of adventure it’s time to head back.
Be careful with…
They are everywhere and their drives don’t care about pedestrians, so be alert.
From someone offering to give you directions, to a person with a monkey in Jemaa el Fna square, just be careful.
Marrakech is a safe city, but of course, pay attention to your belongings. In case you feel threatened by someone for any reason, just scream “Police”, there is a special tourist police in the city to protect tourists.
If I had more time
As mentioned above, Morocco is only a 4-hour flight away so I hope in the future I can explore more of what Morocco has to offer.
However, if I had more time I would have loved to have visited:
Built in the12th Century with mud and straw it is now a UNESCO world heiratage site! The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou is a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls, it is a traditional pre-saharan habitat.
‘The White City’. Although its older neighbourhoods boast their fair share of picturesque French colonial and traditional Moroccan architecture, Casablanca’s modern identity is all about progress and development.
A more modern resort town, but it looks like an amazing place to relax and spend time in the sun.
The Sahara Desert
Bucket list destination! I did not visit the desert on this try as it was clear that to make the most out of this experience it is best to spend at least 2 nights in the desert.
Check out the Rooftops of Marrakech
With great views of the city, Rooftops are a great place to chill and relax. Check out this blog post for Rooftop suggestions
What to pack
During this trip I lived in my vans, I went for shoes that I did not mind getting dusty and dirty, but also ones which were comfortable and idea for walking long periods of time. I also brought a pair of flip flops for lounging in the hotel, and heels for when I felt like dressing up at dinner.
Sunglasses and sunscreen
Even whilst travelling in the cooler season it is important to use protection from the sun
Always stay hydrated especially in the Moroccan heat.
Morocco’s landscape is the perfect mixture of city, desert, mountain ranges and beaches, so it is important to make sure you pack practical, as well as totally chic.
Think light and airy by day and something a little warmer for evenings. Morocco is largely a Muslim country; you will need to bear in mind that modesty is important when it comes to choosing your outfits. In sacred places like El Badi Palace, you will need to make sure your shoulders are covered as a sign of respect.
A lightweight scarf is the idea accessory to pack for Morocco when you are visiting sacred places. If you do not have one you can buy one, or 2 or maybe 3, at the markets. They are great for covering up, keeping warm and a great souvenir.
Morocco uses an European adaptor despite its geo-location in Africa. This adaptor is also known as type C, which is recognisable by its two round pins.
Essential Travel Documents and Money
Moroccan currency is Moroccan Dirham – I would suggest exchanging money beforehand, however there are ATMs present.
Remember your passport! – Visa for UK passport holders are not required to visit Marrakech for stays less than 3 months.
Be sure to tell me if you have ever been to Marrakech or are planning to!
Until my next adventure,
Don’t forget to check out my YouTube video diary of A Week in Marrakech.
Click on the pic below