When planning a road trip through Morocco, the stretch of coastline between Agadir and Essaouira must not be missed. Discover a fascinating mix of Berber and Arabic culture, authentic fishing villages battered by the wild Atlantic and lush valleys hidden in the lower Atlas Mountains. For a journey that usually takes four hours, there are plenty of places that will make you want to stop and linger a little longer.
Although Souk el Had is the biggest souk in Agadir, there are plenty of smaller markets outside the city. Join local shoppers from the surrounding villages at the weekly markets in Anza and Aourir, with merchants selling fresh produce and artisanal products every Wednesday. Follow your nose through the jumble of stalls, with sweet strawberries mixing with the heady aroma of el jaoui, a fragrant tree resin that is burned on charcoal as incense. Stock up on cheap (and healthy) snacks of melt-in-your-mouth dates and fresh fruits before heading north.
Once a sleepy fishing village, Taghazout has become an international surfing hub with world-class waves and the crowds to match, even playing host to the first World Surf League 2020 event in Morocco. With six spots to choose from, there’s a wave for every level of surfer here, from the mellow breakers at Panorama to the board-snapping barrels at Killer Point. Perch on the rocks at Anchor Point and watch talented local surfers pull some radical moves.
For a more laid-back vibe, kick back and relax in Tamraght, where tourism is much less developed than in Taghazout. Start the day with a morning surf at beginner-friendly Banana Point, followed by a hearty brunch at Let’s Be, a Moroccan-Australian run café with an impressive menu of superfoods. The Mexicola pancakes and rose latte are a must-try, while the jaw-dropping Buddha Bowls will take any Instagram feed to the next level. Wind down at the end of the day with rooftop yoga at The Lunar Surf House.
The sun-scorched hills of the Souss-Massa are the only place in the world where argan trees grow, or ‘The Tree of Life’ as Berbers call it for its wealth of health benefits. Local women have gathered together in cooperatives for centuries, passing down their knowledge of extracting argan oil from the fruit. Stop at a fair trade cooperative and watch the women crush, roast and grind the nuts into a paste that produces the wonder oil. When roasted, it’s a staple ingredient in traditional recipes, otherwise it is sworn by for its anti-ageing qualities when used on the skin and hair.
Just a 45-minute drive from the coast lies the hidden palm-lined gorge aptly named Paradise Valley. Cool off from a hike through the mountains in these turquoise waters, where cascades of waterfalls flow into natural freshwater pools, ideal for swimming, sliding and sometimes cliff jumping when the water is deep enough. It’s best to visit during the winter and spring (the valley dries up during the summer) to avoid the crowds.
Surrounded by mountains and ocean, there’s a reason why they call this place ‘Magic Bay’. This small fishing village is the humble home of Africa’s longest wave which can go on for over 600m (1,969ft), guaranteeing the ride of a lifetime. Fresh fish is plucked straight from the ocean onto the grill in the harbour, served with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. Stroll along Cathedral beach, explore the otherworldly rock pools and hike up into the mountains for spectacular views. For a night to remember, head to restaurant Dar Naima, where traditional gnaoua bands perform soulful songs from the desert while hungry locals and tourists tuck into couscous and tagine.
With a vibrant medina and traditional fishing harbour, enchanting Essaouira gives a taste of Morocco without the madness of Marrakech. Meander through the maze of spice-scented streets and rug-lined walls, with the promise of a steaming tagine down each tunneled alleyway. Look for Cafe Berbere, a tiny family restaurant of just three tables, for the best tagine in town, while Cafe Mandala serves an experimental fusion of local ingredients and plant-based recipes. Browse art galleries and boutiques selling handmade raffia shoes, linen clothes and colourful ceramics. After a long day of shopping, indulge in a traditional hammam and massage.