Marrakech day trips: Top five excursions from the city

Marrakech is a city that excels in the coexistence of the modern and the traditional, the local and cosmopolitan. You'll be mesmerised by snake charmers, seduced by smooth-talking leather salesmen, and impressed by the upscale shops in the ville nouvelle. Even with all of the city's charms, however, the motorbikes zipping past and the haggling in the souk can get a little overwhelming.

Marrakech street © Aitor García Viñas - Flickr Creative Commons

Marrakech day trips: top five places to visit

Luckily, Marrakech is a great place to base yourself if you want to see more of the country. From UNESCO World Heritage sites to experiencing nature, these five Marrakech day trips will help you re-energise during a break from the city's beautiful chaos.

Ouarzazate & Ait Benhaddou

Thanks to Game of Thrones and Gladiator, a visit to Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou is quickly becoming one of the most popular Marrakech day trips. The kasbah of Ait Benhaddou dates back to the 17th century, and is one of the best and most well-preserved examples of Morocco's traditional earthen constructions. The village, now under UNESCO protection, is famed for being used in films like Jesus of Nazareth and Lawrence of Arabia.

Ait Benhaddou, UNESCO World Heritage site © trofotodesign - Fotolia.com

Ouarzazate is just under 20 miles from Ait Benhaddou, and is remarked for having one of the largest film studios in the world. While the Taourirt kasbah in Ouarzazarte is overshadowed by Ait Benhaddou, it's still worth exploring, if only for the views over the Draa and Dades valleys.

On the way you'll drive through Morocco's highest major pass, Tizi n'Tichka, which reaches its highest elevation at 2,260 metres and connects Marrakech with the oases on the edge of the Sahara. Once at the top you'll see the stunning landscape of the Anti-Atlas.

Ourika Valley

Within a short drive from medina, you'll be able to visit one of Morocco's most dramatic valleys that runs down from the High Atlas mountains. At the height of summer, the cool water makes a great respite from the sweltering sun.

Ourika Valley, just 25 miles from Marrakech © maximus shoots - Flickr Creative Commons

Marrakech day trips to the Ourika Valley with companies like Viator offer more than just a trip to lakes and waterfalls - you can also see traditional Berber villages and have the opportunity to enjoy a tagine with a local family. The Ourika Valley lies just east of Jebel Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa, past acres of almond, peach, and walnut trees.

Taroudant

This small fortified town a few hours away from Marrakech is known as 'Little Marrakech' thanks to its imposing adobe ramparts and history as a market town. What makes Taroudant special is its location in the Souss Valley among the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas. The city served as the capital of Morocco under the Saadians in the 16th century, giving it a distinct history from other small towns in the south.

You'll head south through the Tizi n'Test road - one of the most beautiful (and daunting) drives in Morocco. As you reach the top you'll see breathtaking views over the Atlas and all the way down to the Souss plain. Taroudant itself is a bustling market town surrounded entirely by red mud walls. It takes a couple hours to get around but exploring the Berber market and Arab souks along the way makes for in an interesting Marrakech day trip.

Cascades d'Ouzoud

The Ouzoud Falls © danmir12 - Fotolia.com

Just two and a half hours northeast of Marrakech is one of Morocco's most spectacular waterfalls. Standing more than 100 metres high, falling amongst dense greenery, Ouzoud Falls is a place of wonder. Here you can explore the rocky pathways to look for exotic birds and Barbary apes while stopping in fresh water pools to cool down. Standing at the bottom of the falls is spectacular: the mist from the falling water results in a nearly permanent rainbow over the area.

If you're looking for a little more activity, tours can take you downstream to visit the Berber village of Tanaghmeilt, or to the caves of Oued el Abid in about two hours.

Imlil & High Atlas villages

Imlil is the highest point you can drive to in North Africa; it's where the paved road up Jebel Toubkal ends, nearly 1,740 metres above sea level. You'll find groves of walnut, apple, and almond trees just a couple hours' drive away from Marrakech. There isn't much to see besides the panoramic views over the mountains, cascading waterfalls, and lush greenery, but you'll be intrigued by how different the way of life is up in the mountains.

Berber village, High Atlas Mountains © Elena Moiseeva - Fotolia.com

It's the perfect way to see typical Berber villages and experience the hospitality they are known for. You will arrive a stranger but, after a mint tea and traditional lunch, you'll leave as friends.

Tempted to try one (or more) of these Marrakech day trips for yourself? Viator is a great place to start, with numerous tours that you can book online. Don't forget to check out our full collection of holidays to Morocco as well as our extensive range of travel deals and discounts to see if you could get a flight or holiday there for less as well.

Alyssa James

Alyssa James
Posted on Monday 11th May 2015 in: Africa City Excursions

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