The area surrounding Essaouira, Morocco is filled with forests – olive, fig, thuya, eucalyptus – and little Berber villages where locals are open to welcoming travellers for a cup of mint tea. With a couple of companies offering guided walks in the region, we highly recommend heading out of the laid-back medina to explore the area. As the treks are unmarked, we suggest booking a local guide not only to lead the way, but to provide greater insight into the flora and fauna of the region, which is rich and diverse. We’ve picked our four favorite treks just a short distance from the laid-back town of Essaouira.
Transport is required to reach the sleepy town of Sidi M’Barek where a small trail leads to the lush waterfalls and the marabout (the home of a saint known for his healing powers). This short walk takes about 30 minutes to reach the waterfalls, and with a picnic prepared it makes for an ideal lunch spot. Because of the waterfalls and streams, the land surrounding the area is lush and green, unlike other parts of the Essaouira region covered with sand dunes. This is a perfect option for families with young children.
This is perhaps the closest walk from Essaouira. Wandering along the Oued Ksob (oued means ‘river’ in local Darija dialect) on the Atlantic Coast from Essaouira, passing the eucalyptus forest and small sand dunes, trekkers can eventually wander to the ruined sultan’s palace in Sidi Ben Abdallah, often rumored to have been the inspiration for Jimi Hendrix’s Castles Made of Sand. As the river is low, it can be crossed by foot (wear shorts for your trek), but it is also a great spot for bird-watching as herons and other local fauna flock here throughout the day. This is an easy walk, with about three hours required to arrive in Diabat, just minutes from Essaouira.
Starting from the central hub of the village of Ain el Hajar – the water fountains where locals fill up their water bottles before returning home by donkey – this walk is a gentle stroll through a palm grove with pomegranate bushes bearing fruit in the autumn months. Fig trees also dot the route while the turning back point may well be the largest argan tree in the area. Upon returning to the car park, wander past the Sidi Ali Ben Rahmoun marabout where the local saint lives. The area is active in olive oil production with the traditional stone wheels still in use and visible while wandering.
Starting at the rolling sand dunes of Cap Sim, 30 minutes from Essaouira, the trail heads past the lighthouse before wandering along the beach to the laid-back village of Sidi Kaouki, a true surfer’s paradise. Admire the marabout overlooking the beach before heading up to the square lined with surf shops and a few basic cafés. Stop for lunch before returning through the countryside to Cap Sim and enjoy views of the sea and dunes while crossing various terrains.