Essaouira (‘essa-weera’) lies located on the Western coast of Morocco, encircled by a fortress hugging the Atlantic Ocean. The town presents a more laid-back side of Morocco and in the heat of the summer you can find respite from the inland temperatures; during my visit in July where Marrakech was reaching up to 45C, Essaouira was a full fifteen to twenty degrees cooler. The breeze from the Atlantic blows strong here making the windswept beach a watersport haven (more on that later), whilst the medina is filled with whitewashed buildings and vibrant blue shuttered windows.Getting there: Flights only run to Essaouira airport from France so the if you’re travelling from elsewhere then it is easiest to travel via Marrakech. Buses come and go from an office located just outside of the medina and take three hours with a short stop halfway. Once a day there’s a “comfort plus” bus (100dh one way) that lives up to its name, but for the reasonably short journey the standard ones (70dh) also tend to be in good condition and not over-crowded.Top tip: You will need buy a separate luggage ticket when travelling on the Suprabus. It is only 5 dirhams but you have to ask for it. If travelling from Marrakech to Essaouira, it can be bought from the office next door to the main station.Where to stay: The medina has a host of accommodation options and is the perfect location being filled with cafés and restaurants and easy access to the bus station. Traditional Moroccan riads, a house with a courtyard garden and often a rooftop pool or terrace, stay cool in their interior making them an ideal option if you want something with an authentic feel in the heart of town. I stayed in Caverne d’Ali Baba and would highly recommend it for its beautiful decor, friendly owner and breakfast served on the rooftop with views over the medina.
Ways to Explore Essaouira
Walk the WaterfrontPassing through the souks in the medina, you can reach the old fortress walls. Atop the walls is a wide promenade to stroll along, lined with canons and with views out across the rocks to the ocean. Just along the waterfront from the medina walls is Essaouira’s port and fish market. The mass of blue boats and stunning views looking back on the old town make it a gorgeous spot, but be warned: the smell is something to be reckoned with.A few minutes walk further along the coast is Essaouira’s beach, frequented by both locals and tourists alike. There are a couple of areas with sunbeds to rent or if the wind isn’t too high you can take a towel to the sand. If you are feeling fresh on your feet, you can walk the length of the beach to the sand dunes where there is plentiful opportunity to take a camel ride.
Shop the SouksBursting with treasures waiting to be discovered – and haggled for – the souks are a maze of pedestrianised lanes. The edges are lined with small shops selling pottery, clothing, rugs, artisan wooden crafts and paintings to name a small section of what is on offer. The main streets have a bustling market that runs during the day, a mainstay for the local population.There are also plenty of stores selling argan oil – many of these sell oil produced by women’s collectives set up in rural villages to provide fair incomes and livelihoods. As well as cosmetic argan oil, creams and other products, you can also buy Moroccan oil for food use. The deliciously nutty flavour makes it perfect for salad dressings (expect a recipe one day soon!)Top tip: If you are only travelling with hand luggage on your flight, make sure any oils you buy are within the 100ml limit.
Hit the Waves
Reliable winds and ideal water conditions make Essaouira a top watersports destination with surfing, kitesurfing and windsurfing possible all year round. Right through from beginners courses at the beach to more challenging conditions for pros outside of town, there are options for all levels.Instruction is available in English and various other languages through many of the watersports centres. Always check any equipment beforehand and that instructors are fully qualified. Based in Essaouira, Explora is a kitesurf, windsurf and surf centre who are partnered with VDWS, IKO and the Moroccan Surf Federation to make sure that their staff are fully trained and safety standards are high. They offer surfing trips to six destinations in and around Essaouira, including to La Grotte which boasts the biggest waves in the area if you’re feeling confident.
Keep an eye out for more photos and foodie tips that I’ll be sharing in upcoming installments of my Morocco Diary. How do you like to explore a new place?