In the travel pages of our September #NewSeason issue, we explored the colourful and seductive city of Marrakesh. But, when the onslaught of Marrakesh’s energy becomes overwhelming, head to the sleepy coastal hideaway of Essaouira. Read on for our tips on how to make the most of 48 hours in Essaouira.
Although buses run frequently between the two cities, it’s best to hop on early in Marrakesh and arrive early in Essaouira. The most reliable transport option is Supratours, whose buses run every few hours; you’ll pay roughly 75 dirhams (or about R 100). Locally-operated buses are also based in the bus station just outside the medina, which can be significantly cheaper, but ask around before buying a ticket; otherwise, you’re sure to get ripped off.
Now, you’ve arrived in Essaouira- it’s time to find your hotel of choice. Essaouira’s stay options run the gamut from tiny riads to full-blown hotels. If you’re craving pure luxury, Heure Bleue Palais is your best bet, featuring a year-round outdoor pool, a cinema room and an on-site hammam. For a cosier and more affordable experience, check out Hotel Les Matins Bleus, where each room comes with a private patio.
Once you’re settled in, it’s time to explore. The best way to see Essaouira is by walking, so put on a pair of comfy shoes and set out to the port. First, wander through the fish market, tasting the local fare at various food stalls, and take photographs of the charming blue boats loaded with fishing nets and other equipment just outside the city walls.
After the fish market, take a quick coffee at one of the small cafes in Place Moulay Hassan, conveniently located right beside the port.
Then, walk along the old city walls toward the medina. Shop for all the souvenirs you forgot to buy in Marrakesh, like babouches (leather slippers), airy caftans and colourful spices. Everything’s cheaper here, too, than in Marrakesh, so spend (more) freely.
As the sun begins to dip lower in the sky, grab a book and nestle up in the crannies of the Western city walls, originally built by the Portuguese. Unlike Marrakesh, where the constant hustle and bustle can drive you crazy, Essaouira is a place of relaxation. Watch the sun set and enjoy the ecstasy of having absolutely nothing to do.
You’ll be feeling hunger pangs by now; while most Morrocans don’t eat out, Elizir is still a delicious choice. The décor is '70s retro and the food, a mélange of Moroccan and Mediterranean.
Either call it an early night or climb the stairs to Taros, a rooftop resto and bar with live (and local) music, for after-dinner drinks.
In the morning, curl up on the beach with a good book or magazine and then try out surfing, kitesurfing or windsurfing. If it’s too windy, which it often is, or you aren’t feeling brave enough to test out the watersports, a long and leisurely walk is the perfect way to while away the early hours.
After spending time outdoors, unwind at Le Chalet de la Plage, a seafood restaurant with excellent ocean views.
Of course, you’ve already indulged in the hammams of Marrakesh, but the historic bathhouses of Essaouira are not to be missed, either. Relax at Azur Art & Spa, which comes complete with an art gallery, and give in to a few moments of luxury.
Unfortunately, all good things must end, and your Essaouira trip is no exception. Take an afternoon bus back to Marrakesh to make the most of your last day; on the ride back, plug in your headphones and listen to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Castles Made of Sand,’ rumored to have been written about ruins near Essaouira, and reminisce.