When people think of adventures in Morocco, they usually think of an intoxicating, exotic landscape. They think of camels ambling through the desert under a blanket of stars, or mesmerizing souks filled with things to see, taste, and touch. They also think of old cobbled streets with homes that contain infinite secrets like fantastic architecture and hidden courtyards.
As soon as you step off the plane at the airport and become enveloped by the heat that is common to this country, you will know that there are adventures in Morocco waiting to unfold. For me, the starting point of all of this is the city of Marrakech.
Marrakech, contrary to popular belief, is not the capital of Morocco. That’s the city of Casablanca. (Remember that old-timey movie?) Yet this is the place that people flock to, thanks to the number of vibrant souks (markets), and its winding medina (walled city) that offers you a glimpse into the history of this place.
I was able to visit Marrakech with Victor a couple of months ago. We took our time exploring the city and its surrounding areas, as it had so much to offer. Here are some of the experiences I thought was worth writing home about. If you’re thinking of visiting Marrakech, consider including these in your itinerary. It’s hard to find a person who hasn’t fallen in love with this city, and I am happy we took some time to plan out a trip that included everything we wanted to try out.
Dine under the stars at Dar Yacout.
Dar Yacout is one of the gastronomic experiences I am sure to remember for the rest of my life. The outside of this place is nondescript; you just see a big wooden door. But when you go into the main dining area, you will be floored by the lovely ambience of it all. The main floor is incredibly elegant, with romantic lighting. To top it all off, it’s open to the stars. While you enjoy your traditional Moroccan five-course dinner, your other senses are soothed, from the traditional live music playing at the restaurant, to the excellent view of the medina. I would recommend this restaurant highly to anyone visiting the city. Just come hungry, because the portions are filling.
Have Sunday brunch at La Mamounia Hotel.
At the heart of the old city is this palatial hotel that is definitely a must-visit, even just for a day. The La Mamounia Hotel is so beautiful. Literally everything is beautiful here, from the gardens, to the rooms, to the interiors. We decided to have Sunday brunch here, and it’s one of the best in Marrakech. The food is excellent, a mix of traditional Moroccan cuisine and some continental dishes. You enjoy your meal by the open swimming pool, with a great view of the gardens.
Take a day trip to Essaouria.
Getting to this coastal town requires a bit of travel time from Marrakech, but it’s definitely worth going to. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, visiting this place is a dream come true.
Imagine the formidable medina by the coast, buffeted by stunning blue waters. There is much to explore here, though you will likely be happy with their seafood, which is what they are famous for. Have a meal by the waterfront, or walk along the streets that look straight out of a fairytale
Hike the seven falls at Ourika Valley.
You will need another day to be able to do this, but this is another experience that shouldn’t be missed. Morocco is more than just deserts; this place is home to wonderful marvels of nature, such as those in Ourika Valley, which is home to seven waterfalls. As you go higher up the mountain, the falls are more beautiful and more breathtaking. Have lunch by the river; it’s one of the most peaceful things to do here.
Visit the Old Medina.
This is where you’ll find scenes from all those movies and travel shows you’ve watched about Marrakech. The Old Medina is where you’ll truly be intoxicated by the sights, sounds, and tastes in the city, thanks to the sheer number of souks. Tip: Fly to Marrakech with an empty suitcase. Trust me, you’ll want to buy everything in the souk. You’ll find spices, bags, shoes, textiles, blankets, clothes, handicrafts and more. I know I picked up several things from here to remind me of my vacation once I got home.
Get your Argan oil fix.
Morocco is synonymous to Argan oil. It really makes wonderful pasalubong as everyone I know is in love with this miracle product Visit a natural pharmacist in the city so that you can get this and other remedies at good prices. I also got to discover these natural menthol black seeds, also known as Vicks. It’s used as a natural inhaler. Really cool stuff. Another tip: Cactus Oil is becoming really popular; it’s new thing now in Morocco. Bring home some and try it out for yourself.
Drink all the fresh orange and pomegranate juice.
Trust me on this one. Especially when you’re tired from a day of going around various shops in the summer heat, fresh juice will really cool you down and make you feel revitalized. Tip: try cactus fruit if it’s in season.
Watch the sunrise in a hot air balloon.
There’s something about sunrises in this part of the world that is just magical. Morocco has some of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen.
Stay in a place that’s authentic.
During our time in Morocco, we wanted to experience the best of what it had to offer. We stayed at La Mamounia, which was an excellent choice. Victor and I also stayed at The Capaldi near the Atlas Mountains, which has the most sophisticated ambience yet retains the touches of Moroccan architecture.
We also stayed at La Source du Desert, located 45 minutes outside the city center. It was equally stunning, but more intimate compared to the other two.
Visit the garden of Yves Saint Laurent.
More popularly known as the Majorelle garden, it was created by French painter Jacques Majorelle. This oasis in the heart of the city is filled with beauty as far as the eye can see, with exotic plants and peaceful streams and small lakes.
If I have one tip to share about my adventures in Morocco, it’s this: Always hire a tour guide. He can help you navigate the labyrinth that is the medina and negotiate when shopping to get you the best deals. Search online for leads on reputable ones, since doing so will ensure you a more hassle-free vacation. Other than that, I was happy to experience this gem of a country in such a different way this time around! I’m hoping I’ll be able to visit again soon, because I’m sure there are a lot more things in those souks that I want to bring home!