Sometimes the exotic sights, sounds and smells of a city like Marrakesh can overwhelm us. When this happens it’s time to get out of the city for a few hours and recharge our batteries.
While you won’t find the fairy tale castles of Europe on these day trips from Marrakesh, you will find deserts and mountains that have a scenic beauty all of their own. You’ll also find picturesque Berber villages with their multi-colored adobe buildings as well as some good fishing and beaches, and even spectacular waterfalls.
Map of day trips from Marrakesh
7. Takerkoust Lake[SEE MAP]
If you want to experience a desert environment, Takerkoust Lake is a good place to visit. The Agafay Desert, where the lake is located, is a lot closer than the Sahara Desert. Takerkoust Lake was built by the French in the 1920s to provide water and electricity to Marrakesh.
The lake is a good place to spend the day outdoors. You can go fishing – perch and black bass are trophy-size, paddle boating or jet skiing. You can take a hike or ride a horse. Couch potatoes can indulge in massage, soak tired traveling feet in an outdoor foot spa, or practice yoga in a room with a view.
Getting to Takerkoust Lake
- Just a 45-minute drive from Marrakesh, Takerkoust Lake is very easy to get to; all you need to do is follow the P2009 which takes you directly there. The lake lies to the southwest of the city, and the views are stunning. There are also lots of magnificent panoramas to be had in the High Atlas Mountains, located just to the south of Takerkoust, if you want to continue your adventure after your visit to the lake.
- Another option for visiting the beautiful Takerkoust Lake is to take a guided tour. These are particularly memorable as they also take you through the four valleys that the region is renowned for – each more beautiful than the last. On top of all this, you’ll get to stop by some local Berber villages and learn more about their rich culture and traditions.
6. Imlil[SEE MAP]
If you like to hike in the mountains, Imfil offers the perfect opportunity for you. Located in a valley in the High Atlas Mountains, it’s a good point to begin your trek to Mt. Toubkal, northern Africa’s highest mountain.
About 60 km (37 miles) south of Marrakesh, Imfil caters to hikers and climbers, but it’s easy enough to find other things to do: wander around a small Berber village with its tiny adobe houses, watch women wash clothes n the river, shop for handicrafts in stores or sip tea atop the Kasbah. In other words, Imfil is a great place to chill out and relax after the busyness of Marrakesh.
Getting to Imlil
- From Marrakesh, it takes about two hours to drive to Imlil which lies to its south. From the city center, take the P2009 to Amzough Chetoui. Here, you can stop off for views of the glimmering Takerkoust Lake before continuing on the P2024 until Asni, where you’ll see signs pointing you to Imlil. With the domineering Mount Toubkal towering over it, you can either park in Imlil and explore its sights, or go on a hike in the surrounding mountains and valleys.
5. Ouarzazate[SEE MAP]
If you’ve seen Lawrence of Arabia, Game of Thrones or Gladiator, then you’ve seen Ouarzazate on the screen. This old Berber town has been featured in many movies and has even stood in for Tibet, half a world away. Visiting the famous movie studios is just one thing you can do here.
Nestled between the desert and the mountains, Ouarzazate projects a stunning profile with adobe buildings that match the color of the mountains. Take some time to wander through the town, once a stop on the camel trade route.
Getting to Ouarzazate
- While it does take just under four hours to drive to Ouarzazate, you certainly won’t get bored on the way, as the scenic Atlas Mountains are so mesmerizing to drive through. From Marrakesh, simply hop on the N9 and follow it southeast all the way. If you have time on the way back, make sure to stop by the spectacular Berber village of Ait Benhaddou, which is located nearby.
- A memorable way to explore this enthralling part of Morocco is to take a guided tour; this includes stops at both Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou. Both are beautiful to behold, and in addition to visiting their main sights, you’ll get to learn about Berber life when you visit a traditional family house.
4. Essaouira[SEE MAP]
Essaouira is an anomaly among coastal towns: It doesn’t get a lot of beachcombers or sunbathers for much of the year. It does, however, get a lot of windsurfers. High winds have earned this former Portuguese fortress town the title of “Wind city of Africa.” But there’s plenty to do away from the Atlantic coast beaches.
You can wander through the old medina, take in the 18th century European architecture for which the city is known, or buy some locally made wood carvings. Take in the annual Gnaoua World Music Festival or watch goats climb the argan trees.
Getting to Essaouira
- Located on Morocco’s western coastline, Essaouira is around a three-hour journey away by bus. From the center of Marrakesh, head to the main train station, which is where buses depart for Essaouira every couple of hours. Once you arrive, it is just a short walk through some lovely parks to the center of the coastal town.
- By car, it is slightly quicker; it only takes two hours and 40 minutes. Head directly west on the N8, and at Chichaoua, continue on the R207 which will bring you all the way to Essaouira.
- One of the best ways to see as much of Essaouira as is possible in one day is to take a guided tour from Marrakesh. In addition to taking you there and back, the day trip also includes a sightseeing tour of its gorgeous harbor and sea fort, as well as free time to explore the bustling souk.
3. Ouzoud Falls[SEE MAP]
Located in the Grand Atlas Mountains about 150 km (90 miles) northeast of Marrakesh, Ouzoud Falls is one of Morocco’s natural wonders. The picturesque falls tumble 110 meters (360 feet) over the cliffs, so be prepared to see pretty rainbows.
Some say Ouzoud means “the art of grinding grain” in Berber so you’ll see old grist mills still in use if you go into the caves. Others say Ouzoud means “olives,” which is reasonable, too, since you walk through olive trees to the falls. It’s possible you’ll see macaque monkeys as you make the hour-long walk to the falls.
Getting to Ouzoud
- Ouzoud Falls is about a two and a half hour drive from Marrakesh. On the way, you’ll pass through some stunning mountain scenery. Head out of the city center and take the N8 northeast until just after Tamallalt, when you turn onto the R208. Stay on it until Ouled Khellouf, after which you take the R304 and continue along it until you see signs pointing you to the falls.
- Many people who want to visit Ouzoud Falls opt instead to take a guided tour. As well as taking you around the falls, your guide will teach you about Berber culture. You can even decide to go on a hike around the magical landscape if you feel like it.
2. Ourika Valley[SEE MAP]
If you need to escape the searing heat of Marrakesh summers, do what the locals do: visit the very scenic Ourika Valley Temperatures are much cooler in this High Atlas Mountains valley. The prettiest time to visit, however, is February through April when the valley is abloom with wildflowers, and cherry and almond blossoms.
Sitti Fatma is a popular weekend resort and close enough to Marrakesh that many visitors ride out on motor scooters where they’ll picnic by scenic waterfalls and streams. The best skiing in Morocco is at Oukaïmeden, which is also known for prehistoric rock carvings.
Getting to Ourika Valley
- From Marrakesh, Ourika Valley is just a 45-minute drive away; in no time at all, you’ll find yourself in a different world surrounded by lush greenery and waterfalls. From the city center, just hop on the P2017 and it will take you directly to the valley. Once there, you can either park and explore the valley on foot or drive around the surrounding hills and valleys taking in the beautiful scenery.
- Another way to visit the scenic valley is to take a guided tour to Ourika. The trip also takes you to explore the Atlas Mountains, stopping off at Berber villages on the way. A stop at Oukaimeden is included, and the popular ski resort offers fantastic views over the countryside surrounding the mountains.
1. Ait Benhaddou[SEE MAP]
With a day trip from Marrakesh to Ait Benhaddou, you can relive the days when caravans of camels carried trade goods between the Sahara and Marrakesh. This ancient city is known for its earthen clay architecture of terraced housing built on a hillside and surrounded by a wall.
Ait Benhaddou is so scenic, it’s been featured in many films, including The Man Who Would be King and Jewel of the Nile. Ait Benhaddou Is the most famous ksar (fortified village) in the Ourila Valley. Words such as “awesome” and “spectacular” are not adequate to describe this very picturesque old city.
Getting to Ait Benhaddou
- Lying almost 200 kilometers to the southeast of Marrakesh, Ait Benhaddou is very simple to drive to; all you need to do is stay on the N9 for most of the journey. While it does take about three and a half hours in total to get there, you do pass through some lovely scenery on the way, with the Atlas Mountains being particularly impressive. From the city center, simply head southeast on the N9 and continue all the way until Tabourahte, where you’ll see signs pointing you to Ait Benhaddou, just ten minutes further on. While in the area, it is worth combining your trip to the village with a stop at the nearby Ouarzazate – another beautiful Berber town.
- If you don’t fancy doing the long drive in a country you haven’t driven in before, you may be better off taking a sightseeing tour to Ait Benhaddou. With an expert guide on hand, you’ll get to see all the fortified village’s main sights as well as visit a traditional Berber house.