Marrakech is surrounded by dramatic desert, towering mountains and rugged coastline that’s dotted with rushing waterfalls, idyllic Berber villages and even ski resorts. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore them.
Marrakech is a great place to visit. But when the hustle and bustle gets too much, it’s time to head out and explore the surrounding countryside. With the Atlas Mountains just an hour from Marrakech, the coast only two hours away and the edge of the desert within five hours of the city, the range of day trips is numerous. This is our pick of the best.
When the heat of Marrakech gets to be too much, locals tend to head to the Ourika Valley, where temperatures are cooler and lunch by the river awaits. Climb up to the Setti Fatma waterfalls to enjoy some of the cooler air (young men and boys may try to guide you, but just insist that you know the way) before finding a rock to perch on and enjoy the views and sounds of the rushing waterfalls.
This delightful valley feels slightly off the tourist path with its gentle rolling hills dotted with olive trees and the nearby Atlas Mountains towering in the background. The pace here is slow, with Berber villages dotting the mountainside. On Saturdays, stop at the weekly market in Asni en route, where locals gather from the surrounding villages to purchase everything from fruits and vegetables to meats, household goods, clothing and more.
Another 40km (25mi) south of Ouirgane is Tin Mal Mosque. Built in 1153, it was partially restored in the 1990s and is one of only two mosques in Morocco open to non-Muslims, except on Fridays, when it is used for prayers. Set against the stunning backdrop of the valley, the mosque is an opportunity to admire the architecture of the Almohad empire, which began in these mountains and came to rule Morocco and much of Spain.
Nestled in the High Atlas Mountains, Ouzoud Waterfalls never fails to impress. Start your walk at the top of the falls, where you can peer over the edge and view the many sources that make up these spectacular falls. Then follow the path down for views of the powerful water until you reach the basin below, where the scenery is both refreshing and breathtaking. Get even closer to the waterfalls by taking a boat trip around the pool.
Known geologically speaking as a stone desert, the Agafay Desert, just 40 minutes from Marrakech, is a must-see. With nothing but stones for miles, suddenly the landscape changes to include valleys and oases, palm trees and the High Atlas Mountains in the background. A day trip here is a perfect option for those who don’t have time to head to the Sahara Desert.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Mandy Sinclair.
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