Tag Archives: africa

Winter Trip to Morocco: Essaouira & Ouzoud

Our vacation in Morocco included two day trips from Marrakech: it was hard to choose where to go as there are loads of possible excursions available but, in the end, we ended up picking a breezy visit to the seaside town of Essaouira and a trip to the famous waterfalls in Ouzoud.

essaouira 1

Essaouira is about a three hour drive away from Marrakech. We had booked a tour that picked us up in the morning and dropped us off around noon. On the way we stopped to ogle the ridiculous goats that hang out on trees. We were also taken to see how they make argan oil, which is what Morocco is known for.

Once we arrived to Essaouira, we right away headed for lunch at Restaurant du Coeur, which we had googled beforehand. We didn’t expect too much since we based our decision on online reviews but it turned out to be a wonderful place for lunch. We had fresh fish (literally fresh from the ocean, they picked it up from the harbor while we waited and even showed it to us before cooking it) and some wonderful desserts.

Essaouira boasts a wide, sandy beach, which is great place for walking around but it was way too cold to even think about swimming. After a little food and some beach views, we walked around the harbor that was just bustling with action.

essaouira 2

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones like me, you might recognize Essaouira as the city of Astapor where Daenerys becomes the leader of Unsullied. Some King’s Landing scenes were also filmed there. In fact, Skala du Port, which offers picturesque and completely Instagram-worthy views over the harbor and the Île de Mogador, was used for the walk of punishment (Shame! Shame!). You have to pay to go up to the walkway and the tower but I would say the views are worth it.

essaouira 3

Essaouira’s large port is filled with noise and bustle, which is hugely hugely atmospheric. You can sometimes see traditional wooden boats being made in addition to the usual comings and goings of the bight blue boats.

essaouira 4

The city’s walled medina was added to Unesco’s World Heritage list in 2001. The narrow streets, souqs, and picturesque houses with gorgeous ornate doors make it a perfect getaway from the hectic Marrakech. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants to smell the fresh seaside air on their trip to Morocco.

ouzoud 1

In addition to Essaouira, we wanted to explore Ouzoud and its famous waterfalls. We had heard that there you could see monkeys in the wild (we were horrified to see the monkeys in chains for the entertainment of tourists at Jamaa El Fna). The waterfalls are located near the Grand Atlas village of Tanaghmeilt in the province of Azilal. We were picked up early morning from our riad and had a lovely drive through the country.

ouzoud 2

Once we arrived to Ouzoud, our guide led us around the olive groves and through some little buildings where they were making argan oil (this is something that seems to be included in almost every tour and excursion in Morocco). We then walked down the mountainside to the falls and after enjoying a short boat ride there was time for a relaxing lunch overlooking the waterfalls.

ouzoud 3

After lunch we hauled our full stomachs back up to see the monkeys who were eager to get their paws on whatever snacks tourists would bring them. I didn’t really appreciate seeing how readily they would go for chips and other unhealthy junk food but I still went all gaga over the baby monkeys that were running around.

ouzoud 4

Now this post is embarrassingly late as I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus due to an extremely stressful spring (with work and family stuff). However – if you’re still around – thank you for waiting! And I have tons of posts lined up so I’m gonna try to keep up with a more regular posting schedule now.

Winter Trip to Morocco: Marrakech

Morocco seems to be one of the most Instagrammable travel destinations, which is why I was incredibly excited as I booked flights to Marrakech last summer. I promptly checked out accommodations as well, since we wanted to go over Christmas holidays (peak tourist season) and places get booked early. I guess I’m not the only one who wants to escape the cold.

marrakech 1

We settled on the very affordable Riad Espagne right by the biggest market, Jemaa el-Fna. The location of the riad is brilliant but, of course since we went with the budget friendly option, the rooms were small and hot water for showering not always available. Speaking of hot, if you go to Morocco during the winter, wear warm clothes because the temperature changes between +27 in the sun during the day and +7 during the night. You’ll definitely need a set of winter clothes for the night and summer clothes for the day. Hence, layering is key!

marrakech 2

Here is a rundown of days one, two and five of our trip during which we explored Marrakech. My next post will give you a tour of the seaside town of Essaouira and the magnificent waterfalls of Ouzoud.

The first night we only had a few hours (due to our delayed flight) so we accepted our host’s recommendation to check out a restaurant called Zeitoun right by the market. It quickly became our favorite – I especially recommend the lamb tajine with dried fruits and virgin mojitos (Morocco seems like the promised land of virgin mojitos – though all the mocktails tasted yummy).

On day two, we managed much more exploration, which started by locating the nearest supermarket. We found it outside of the medina and picked up some snacks on the way to Jardin Majorelle, Majorelle Gardens.

marrakech 3

The gardens are absolutely gorgeous and also the perfect relief from the scorching sun. Roam around and admire the trees, flowers and the massive cacti that have been collected from all over the world. Pop by to have a cup of tea at the cafe. We didn’t go into the Berber Museum or the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, which has a display of hundreds of garments from his career, but I’ve heard they are very interesting as well. You can buy combo tickets from the gate for any combination you desire. Just pay attention to the prices – locals get in a lot cheaper than tourists, so don’t be fooled (this applies to other sights as well).

The following two days were spent on day trips, but on our last (fifth) day, we decided to check out two famous palaces in Marrakech. Our first stop was the El Badi palace, which costs 70 dirhams (and is worth it). It is an old palace that is now in ruins but still looks hugely impressive.

marrakech 4

El Badi used to be grand palace: it has large pools that sit at the centre of the site and it still boasts a few towers where you can get a panoramic view of Medina. The walls that tower over you are incredible and there’s surprisingly many places you can check out, such as the prison cells and art displays.

marrakech 5

The second palace on our agenda was the El Bahia palace, which also cost 70 dirhams to get in. This palace is a much more modern construct that boasts gorgeous blue and white architecture as well as a lush garden. The various rooms can actually make you feel a bit lost, but you can take a minute to orient yourself once you reach the vast courtyard in the middle. Remember to also look up: the ceilings have stunning art work.

marrakech 6

Marrakech is also famous for its souks (a massive marketplace). You can find basically anything there: gorgeous rugs, cheap trinkets and crockery for making your own tajine. I do recommend a GPS if you’re prone to get lost because it’s very hard to keep track of your whereabouts in this maze. Unfortunately this is also the reason I don’t have any pictures of the souks: I was too busy trying to figure out where I was going as well as looking at possible souvenir options.

Have you been to Morocco? I’d love to compare travel experiences! And be sure to check out my next post about Essaouira and Ouzoud.