A port city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, Essaouira has been a popular tourist destination since the 1960s when it began to attract laid-back bohemian types. In the decades that followed, Essaouria’s popularity continued to grow as more people discovered its stunning beaches, UNESCO-protected medina, fresh seafood, and vibrant arts scene. Ask today’s travelers, and most will tell you that Essaouira is now a Moroccan must. If you plan on visiting, make sure to cross these five experiences off your bucket list.
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Stay in a beautiful riad.
Riads are traditional Moroccan houses that have been converted into guesthouses, often with an interior courtyard or garden. These houses typically feature ornate architecture and design elements, such as intricate tilework, carved woodwork, and decorative plasterwork. In Essaouira, as with most of Morocco, riads are a popular accommodation option. They range in size and style, from small family-run guesthouses to larger properties with multiple rooms and suites. Many offer modern amenities such as air conditioning, free WiFi, and satellite TV while still retaining their traditional charm and character.
Riad Baladin is one highly rated riad in Essaouira that’s centrally located in the old medina. One of the highlights is the rooftop terrace, which offers stunning views of the historic medina and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Depending on the size of room you book, which range from single rooms to triple rooms with various amenities, the cost per night ranges from about $90 to $105.
Wander the medina.
A walled city dating back to the 18th century, Essaouira’s medina was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. Like most Moroccan medinas, it’s known for its beautiful architecture, narrow streets, bustling markets, and vibrant arts and crafts scene. For travelers, all those crafts also mean souvenirs. The medina is home to numerous shops and stalls selling a wide range of handmade goods, including textiles to wood carvings. Some products to look out for as you peruse Essaouira’s medina are argan oil, which is used in both cooking and cosmetics; carpets and rugs; ceramics; jewelry incorporating precious stones like turquoise and coral; and leather goods. But even if you’re not looking to buy, keep an eye out for artisans at work as you wander.
Take a surfing lesson.
If you a thing or two about surfing, Morocco probably lands on your list of underrated surfing destinations. Surfing is a popular activity in Essaouira, and the city has developed a thriving surfing culture over the years. The region is known for its consistent waves and beautiful beaches, making it an ideal destination for surfers of all levels. There are numerous surf schools and rental shops throughout the city that cater to both beginners and experienced surfers. These schools offer lessons, equipment rentals, and guided tours to some of the best surfing spots in the area. In addition to surfing itself, there are many events and festivals in Essaouira that celebrate the sport. The annual Essaouira Gnaoua Festival in June, for example, features live music by local and international artists, as well as various cultural activities including surfing competitions.
Have a drink at Salut Maroc.
Alcohol consumption is strictly regulated in Morocco, but licensed establishments such as hotels, restaurants, and bars are permitted to serve alcohol (although it may be more expensive than you’d expect due to taxes and import duties). Keeping in mind that you should always drink responsibly in Morocco and respect the local customs, there’s one watering hole in Essaouira that definitely merits a stop while you’re in town. Salut Maroc is a boutique hotel near Plage d’Essaouira (which simply means Essaouira Beach in French) with a rooftop bar that offers stunning views of the city and the ocean. The bar serves a variety of drinks, as well as non-alcoholic options if you’re looking to relax without imbibing.
See a sunset atop the city walls.
If you’re a sucker for sunsets, beeling for the top of the city walls at the end of every day to catch a glimpse of the sun appearing to sink into the Atlantic Ocean. Essaouira’s city walls are located along the coast and offer panoramic views of the ocean and surrounding landscapes. Visitors can climb up to the top of the walls and find a comfortable spot to sit and enjoy the view. Locals and tourists alike gather here at dusk to watch as the sun dips below the horizon, casting a golden glow across Essaouira. It’s truly a magical experience that should not be missed if you’re visiting this beautiful Moroccan coastal town.