North Africa’s Morocco has been an increasingly sought after holiday destination for European tourists, in particular the French and Spanish, due to its use of the French language and close proximity with Spain. For the true Moroccan experience most visit the vibrant and exotic capital Marrakech. A market city boasting everything from traditional street foods, to snake charmers, and every colourful material and flavoursome spice you could dream of. Pair these with hot temperatures and luxurious hotels and it is easy to see the call of Marrakech.
However, it’s common knowledge that the streets of Marrakech are not for a holiday-goers after a relaxing getaway. While the bustling markets are a superb place to haggle and explore, they are not ideal for an easygoing stroll. This is where Essaouira comes into its own. A quaint and unconventionally beautiful seaside town located on Morocco’s West coast, it possesses many of the charming qualities that Marrakech has to offer – and more. As soon as you arrive and begin to explore the enchanting medina, beaches and port one thing quickly becomes clear; the beauty of the town is that it hasn’t been entirely engulfed by tourism. While the medina market area bustles vibrantly, exuding an authentic Moroccan vibe, it does not have the same sense of frenzied chaos that the large-scale capital does. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and venturing through the souk and its surrounding lanes is a breeze and utterly enjoyable. Endless beautiful doors and tiny side streets are just waiting to be discovered.
In the medina you can also find a great wealth of traditional and modern restaurants – one to recommend is definitely Le Patio, a restaurant and bar which serves many Moroccan dishes such as couscous, tagine and fresh fish from the nearby ports. The candle-lit, canopied interior provided by luxurious drapes and curtains makes for an unique dining experience.
Another must when visiting Essaouira (especially if you are a GOT fan; some episodes from Season 3 were filmed here) is its Skala du Port, a marvellous seaside fortress-style barricade complete with life-size cannons. Making it the perfect spot to experience breath-taking views of the waves crashing over shallow rocky waters and fortress sea-ruins in the distance. The rustic blue-painted old fishing boats are an unmistakably delightful feature of this small port, with many to be seen bobbing on the soft waves as you explore the quaint local mini fish market.
Finally, a large asset that Essaouira has to offer is its glorious beaches, which seem to be great for just about everything, from water-sports and sunbathing to camel riding. Windsurfer junkies flock to the coastal destination, with the area becoming known for its high quality water sport conditions and facilities. If this isn’t your thing, go for a camel ride but make sure you haggle as they are sure to bring down their prices. With the temperature in Morocco being at least 25 degrees most of the year round it is a sunbathers paradise so don’t forget your towel. If you’re a thrill seeker or want to try something new, why not go on a dune buggy trip and speed through the desert over bumpy sand dunes.
All in all, the best way to describe Essaouira really is ‘Morocco’s hidden gem’ – with so much to offer you’d be crazy not to consider it over Marrakech.
Featured image from www.slow-chic.com.