The 15 best day trips from Marrakech

Are you looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Marrakech? Or eager to explore more of Morocco’s enchanting landscapes? Fortunately, Marrakech is surrounded by an array of delightful destinations, many of which you can visit on a day trip. Having explored Morocco twice, we’ve repeatedly delved into the fascinating sights around the Marrakech region, enabling us to provide you with a comprehensive guide to the most exciting day trips from Marrakech. Alternatively, consider a multi-day road trip, as we did, by stringing together several of these day trip locations!

desert camp Morocco

Marrakech Day Trips Map

#1 The Atlas Mountains

A visit to the Atlas Mountains is an unmissable highlight when in Marrakech. This majestic range, crowned by Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, offers a stunning contrast to the lively city life. As you journey through the Atlas Mountains, the scenery constantly changes, from sprawling valleys to rugged peaks and traditional Berber villages. It’s an ideal escape to experience the natural beauty of Morocco and a break from city life.

Exploring this vast area by rental car is perfect, offering the freedom to stop at breathtaking viewpoints or local markets. Don’t forget to pause in one of the picturesque villages for a traditional Berber meal. For the adventurous, hiking in the Atlas Mountains is a definite highlight of their Moroccan adventure.

For those short on time or preferring an organized tour, there are plenty of options. These tours showcase the best of the Atlas Mountains, often including visits to the Ourika Valley and views of Mount Toubkal.

Atlas Mountains

#2 Cactus THIEMANN

Cactus THIEMANN, a unique day trip from Marrakech, is a haven for nature enthusiasts and those interested in botany and landscape architecture. The garden, boasting over 150 different cactus species primarily from Latin America, is the life’s work of Hans Thiemann, who moved to Marrakech in 1964 and used his agricultural expertise to create this botanical paradise. The family decided to open this extraordinary garden to visitors, where you can admire cacti ranging from delicate species to impressive giants over 80 years old and up to 8 meters tall.

A tip for visitors: check opening times as the garden is not open daily. It is located about 25 minutes from Marrakech’s medina. Nearby is Le Relais de Marrakech, one of Morocco’s best yet affordable campsites, ideal for camper travelers. From here, you can easily visit Cactus THIEMANN on foot.

#3 The Agafay Desert

Merely 30 kilometers and a swift 40-minute journey from the bustling city of Marrakech, the Agafay Desert emerges as an extraordinary and breathtaking alternative to the vast Sahara. This unique desert landscape defies the traditional imagery of rolling sand dunes; Agafay is something entirely different.

Characterized by its stark, rocky expanse, the Agafay Desert resembles a lunar landscape more than a sandy desert. It’s a compelling and rugged terrain that invites you to capture its beauty through the lens of your camera, lose yourself in the vastness of its horizon, and marvel at its stark and raw beauty. An awe-inspiring sight within this terrain is the Atlas Mountains, often adorned with snow-capped peaks in the winter, creating a dramatic and picturesque backdrop.

In this mesmerizing stone desert, a plethora of activities awaits. Whether you’re seeking the thrill of camel treks, the excitement of quad biking, or the tranquility of yoga and meditation, Agafay offers it all against the backdrop of its impressive moon-like landscape. The desert is accessible for a fulfilling day trip from Marrakech. But to truly immerse yourself in its majesty, consider extending your adventure into a two-day excursion with an overnight stay.

We had the pleasure of spending a night at Inara Camp, an enchanting luxury camp with elegantly outfitted glamping tents situated amidst the desert’s vastness. Our experience with Inara Camp in the Agafay Desert was nothing short of magical, seamlessly blending the thrill of adventure with the peacefulness of the expansive landscape, creating a truly unparalleled desert experience.

Inara Camp Agafay Desert

#4 The Tinmel Mosque

Located a 2.5-hour drive from Marrakech, the Tinmel Mosque, a spectacularly beautiful 12th-century mosque south of Marrakech, reflects the historical richness of the Almohad dynasty. The mosque, partly in ruins and partly intact, is recognized as an architectural gem.

This mosque stands out with its unique design, featuring a minaret uniquely positioned around the mihrab, a rarity in mosque architecture. The prayer hall, divided into nine naves, is characterized by horseshoe arches and is beautifully adorned with domes and detailed stonework.

Sadly, the September 2023 earthquake caused significant damage to this historical site. Key parts of the mosque collapsed, resulting in considerable loss of cultural heritage. The Moroccan government has committed to restoration, but it will be a lengthy process. Until then, the Tinmel Mosque can only be admired from the outside.

Tinmel Mosque

#5 Ouarzazate and the Atlas Studios

Ouarzazate, known as the ‘Hollywood of Morocco’, is about a 3.5-hour drive from Marrakech. Famous for the impressive Atlas Studios, one of the world’s largest film studios, it has been a filming location for ‘Gladiator’, ‘The Mummy’, and ‘Game of Thrones’, among others.

Visitors to the Atlas Studios can tour film sets, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the movie industry. The sets, deceptively real from afar, reveal their construction of foam and other materials up close. The studios are a vital part of Ouarzazate’s economy and culture, hosting 20 to 50 foreign film and television productions annually.

In Ouarzazate itself, the historic Kasbah Taourirt, featured in movies like ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Prince of Persia’, is a must-see. However, due to the September 2023 earthquake, it suffered damage and is undergoing restoration.

Kasbah Taourirt Ouarzazate

#6 Aït Ben Haddou

The picturesque town of Aït Ben Haddou, nestled just north of Ouarzazate, has hosted numerous film crews, making it a world-famous destination. Its photogenic streets have attracted tourists from all over, and we too have explored the scenic alleys of this town. The town is beautifully constructed against a hillside, allowing visitors to wander through its narrow streets and reach the top within minutes, where a breathtaking panoramic view of the region awaits.

To visit, park your car along the main road and cross to the other side either via the bridge or by stepping on the stones in the water. From there, you can ascend the hill through streets lined with vendors and souvenir shops. As you reach the summit, the Atlas Mountains, a lush palm grove, and an expansive landscape unfold before you. If you’re visiting with a 4WD, you might opt to drive across the river to the other side.

After touring the tourist-frequented Aït Ben Haddou, if you wish to see a similar but less well-maintained town, drive a few kilometers north to Tamdaght, home to an ancient kasbah ruin.

Ait Ben Haddou

#7 Essaouira

About a 3-hour drive from Marrakech, Essaouira is a popular coastal town known for its laid-back atmosphere and artistic flair. The walled old town houses one of Morocco’s most beautiful medinas, featuring narrow lanes with blue houses, picturesque shops, cozy cafes, and delightful restaurants.

No visit to Essaouira is complete without strolling along the historic ramparts, offering stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. Fans of ‘Game of Thrones’ might recognize these fortifications, as they were used as a filming location for the series. The harbor of Essaouira, with its iconic blue fishing boats, is also a must-visit. You can watch the day’s catch being brought in and savor fresh seafood at local stalls.

Essaouira is also a beloved destination among surfing enthusiasts. Known as the ‘Wind City of Africa’ due to its strong winds, the city is perfect for surfing and windsurfing, with equipment rental and lessons readily available.

Skala de Ville Essaouira

#8 Safi

Safi, a lesser-known yet intriguing coastal city north of Essaouira, is celebrated for its pottery tradition. The Collines des Potiers, or Potters’ Hill, in Safi is a must-visit for anyone interested in traditional Moroccan ceramics. Here, artisans use ancient yet refined techniques to craft exquisite pottery. Although traditional wood-fired kilns have been replaced by gas-fired ones, the craftsmanship remains impressively meticulous.

Another highlight in Safi is the National Ceramics Museum, located in a pedestrian zone near the medina. The museum showcases an extensive collection of ceramics, some of which are considered prime examples of Safi’s pottery. A visit here offers deeper insight into the history and techniques of local ceramic production.

Also noteworthy in Safi is the Kechla fort, a historic Portuguese fortress. While it’s not formally open to visitors, local guides often lead tours here. They assist in navigating to the best vantage points and can enrich your visit with tales of Safi’s past. The views from the top are simply stunning.

#9 Skoura

One of our favorite places in the Marrakech region is the palm oasis of Skoura. Unlike the bustling streets and tourist spots of Marrakech, Skoura offers a tranquil escape into serenity. The silence here, punctuated only by the rustling of countless palm trees, is truly overwhelming.

Skoura, a lush palm grove dotted with small fields where locals cultivate vegetables, narrow irrigation canals, and quaint farmers’ houses, is a sight to behold. Amidst these are grand kasbahs, imposing castle-like forts from centuries past. While many have fallen into disrepair, a few have been salvaged and transformed into charming hotels.

We recommend exploring Skoura by bike to fully immerse yourself in its unique atmosphere and witness the beauty of these kasbahs. As Skoura isn’t overrun with tourists on bikes, we were greeted enthusiastically by locals and chased by children waving at us, a refreshing change from the city’s street vendors!

The crown jewel of Skoura is Kasbah Amridil, once featured on the old 50 dirham note. The kasbah, open to visitors, consists of two competing parts, each claiming to be the original. However, the right side is the oldest.

#10 Imi n’Ifri

Imi n’Ifri, sometimes spelled Iminifri, located in the Atlas Mountains east of Marrakech, was our first stop after picking up our rental car in Marrakech. This natural bridge spanning a gorge is a spectacular sight, formed over centuries.

Local legends suggest the bridge was formed by two lovers holding hands, turned to stone, but more likely, the hollow was carved out by the flowing water beneath. Standing on the bridge is impressive, but the best views are from below. Descend into the gorge and navigate through the valley under the enormous bridge. Bats, stalagmites, and massive rocks create a magical atmosphere.

With a generous tip, a local guide can lead you through tunnels to the best vantage points over the gorge. The path is well-marked, but the tunnels are hidden gems best found with local guidance.

#11 Cascades d’Ouzoud

The Cascades d’Ouzoud in the Atlas Mountains are one of Morocco’s most spectacular natural attractions and popular with both locals and tourists. These waterfalls, cascading over 100 meters, are especially striking when viewed from the paths leading to their base.

Located about 150 kilometers from Marrakech, they’re an ideal addition to a road trip through the Atlas Mountains. While access without private transport is challenging, the journey is well worth it. Many visitors combine a trip to the Cascades d’Ouzoud with other destinations like Imi n’Ifri.

The area around the waterfalls offers various accommodations, restaurants, and paid parking, retaining its charm despite its touristic nature.

#12 Todra Gorge

Todra Gorge, known for its beautiful mountain hikes and an impressive 300-meter-deep canyon, is best visited early in the morning before the arrival of tourist buses. Pay attention to the water in the gorge, as this is where a river originates. Look for bubbles indicating water emerging from the ground. This water is incredibly pure, so don’t forget to fill your water bottle.

The gorge is not only a fantastic walking trail but also popular for rock climbing, with routes for both beginners and advanced climbers.

We chose to hike through the mountains instead. The clearly visible trail at the end of Todra Gorge marks the start of a roughly 3-hour hike. While the path is evident at first, it becomes less so higher up. Follow the trails made by nomads’ donkeys for guidance. The descent can be tricky, but the locals have marked the path with stone piles. The hike is challenging but rewarding with stunning views and the tranquility of the mountains. The trail ends in the village at the start of Todra Gorge, near Les Jardins de Gorges hotel and restaurant, perfect for a post-hike meal or drink.

#13 Kasbah Glaoui in Telouet

Telouet, once home to the powerful Moroccan Glaoui family, is now marked by a stunning castle ruin. We weren’t sure what to expect from Kasbah Glaoui, but its architecture took us by surprise.

We wandered around the ruins, imagining the castle’s grandeur decades ago and its rapid decline since the 1950s. However, more than just ruins awaited us. For a small fee, you can enter the palace and find beautifully restored parts of the castle.

The kasbah, though small, impresses with typical Moroccan mosaics, wood carvings, and detailed ceilings. A niche also offers a beautiful view of the surrounding hilly landscape. If you found the palaces in Marrakech beautiful but too crowded, a visit to this kasbah is a must. It may be smaller, but its architecture rivals the splendor of Marrakech.

#14 Ourika Valley

Just south of Marrakech lies the Ourika Valley, a popular weekend destination for locals. The landscape is stunning, with the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains in the background.

We visited the small town of Setti Fatma, starting point for hikes to seven waterfalls. The town is bustling with Moroccan tourists and plastic tourist restaurants, even in winter, so quickly move beyond it for a short hike to the waterfalls. Beware of men along the way claiming they manage the last parking space and you can’t drive further; they’re just directing you to their paid parking. Trust your navigation to find the hiking trails’ start – is quite accurate – and park at one of the spots nearby.

There are two paths upward, both starting among riverside restaurants. One quickly leads away from the eateries toward the second waterfall, while the other meanders through stalls to the first waterfall. After the first waterfall, the two paths converge, and a climb to the next waterfalls begins. The trail becomes more challenging, offering quieter enjoyment of the beautiful mountain views.

Tip: Go early to share the space with fewer people. By midday, the first waterfall can get crowded, complete with a live music band.

#15 Erg Chebbi in the Sahara Desert

Riding camels through endless sand dunes, witnessing breathtaking sunsets and sunrises, and staying overnight in a nomadic camp are essential Moroccan experiences. While Erg Chebbi is too far from Marrakech for a day trip, it’s offered as two- or three-day excursions from the city by Marrakech tour agencies.

Erg Chebbi was a highlight of our Morocco trip, so if possible, don’t miss it. Traveling in winter, we experienced how hot desert days turn into ice-cold nights, even finding ice on our tent in the morning. However, the tents are surprisingly warm, with well-insulated private tents in most camps at Erg Chebbi, featuring large beds and thick blankets for a comfortable night. We chose a desert experience near Merzouga, but another option is the nomadic camps at Erg Chigaga in the south.

Dagtrips vanuit Marrakech | Marokko | The Orange Backpack

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