The Best Cheap Day Trips from Marrakech, Morocco
Marrakech, a former imperial city in western Morocco, is a major economic center whose heady sights and sounds are sure to enchant. Marrakech is full of sights and attractions such as the Bahia Palace and the Dar Si Said, with their tilework and intricate floral painted-wood ceilings, the Saadian Tombs, which are enriched by a bounty of marble, while the Musee de Mouassine and Musee de Marrakech are a showcase of swirling stucco and carved-wood design. Marrakech is a city steeped in ancient artistry that continues to thrive, kept alive by the modern craftspeople of the souks and the contemporary art and design scene of the ville nouvelle.
As an old imperial capital, Marrakech is home to some beautiful examples of Islamic architecture, most impressively the Ali ben Youssef Medersa and the Koutoubia minaret. The medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city dating to the Berber Empire, with mazelike alleys where thriving souks (marketplaces) sell traditional textiles, pottery and jewelry. Think of the medina's souks as a shopping mall, but laid out according to a labyrinthine medieval-era plan. The main artery into this maze-like muddle is the vast square of Djemaa el-Fna, where it's carnival night every night. Stroll between snail-vendors, soothsayers, acrobats and conjurers, musicians and slapstick acting troupes to discover the old city's frenetic pulse. The party doesn't end until the lights go out. The cuisine of Morocco is a mix of Arab, Berber, Moorish, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, African and French influences. The cooks refined Moroccan cuisine over the centuries and created the basis for what is known as Moroccan cuisine today, which is a big part of the culture and overall feels of the city. With so much to see, do, and taste, Marrakech is a great place to experience and it also makes a great base for exploring nearby areas, and there are several options for day trips from Marrakech to help you make the most of your time here.
Begin your experience with a pickup from your Marrakech hotel or from central Marrakech. Settle aboard your air-conditioned coach with your guide and travel south toward the Ourika Valley beneath the Atlas Mountains. After roughly 45 minutes on the road, enter the foothills of the rocky range and soak up the views as you make your way along the steep-sided Oued Ourika gorge. Breathe in the cool mountain air and pass rushing rivers, lush terraces, and groves of apples, almonds, and olives tended by Berber villagers. If you're here between February and May, enjoy the added sight of green pastures awash with wild flowers and hillside cherry orchards wreathed in pink blossom. Glimpse mud-and-stone Berber hamlets where donkeys drink from mountain springs, and as you travel, hear fascinating tales about the age-old Berber culture and customs. Stop at a village and learn how the locals cultivate their crops in the rich valley soils. Head inside a rustic Berber house and discover more about the slower pace of mountain life as you chat to the friendly locals over a glass of mint tea. Afterward, admire more beautiful scenery as you return through the hills to Marrakech, where your trip concludes at the original start point.
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Begin your full-day tour with a pickup from your Marrakech hotel and climb aboard a comfortable, air-conditioned 4x4 for your journey into the Atlas Mountains. Sit back and enjoy the views as your guide drives you out of Marrakech into rural Morocco. Glimpse the rustic villages that sprinkle the rugged landscapes, and soak up the sight of the Atlas Mountains as you venture into the foothills. Follow the winding roads through the hills, where the valley slopes are coated with snow in winter and pastures grazed by sheep in summer. Trace the ancient trails of the Berbers along the palm-dotted Ourika, Asni, Imlil and Tahanaout valleys, passing rivers, fruit orchards and timeless Berber villages that cling to the hillsides. On route, see villagers at work in their smallholdings, and learn about their slower, age-old way of life far from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. Pull up in the village of Tahanaout and experience the simple traditions that characterize the Berber lands. Visit the wooden mills that are still used to grind grain, and chat to some of the hospitable, smiling locals over a refreshing glass of mint tea. Continue into the Ourika Valley, passing rushing streams, olive groves and mud and stone Berber settlements. Stop at the village of Imlil and visit a local restaurant for a delicious lunch of Berber staples such as couscous with chicken. Lastly, hop back in your 4x4 and return to Marrakech where your Berber trails tour finishes at the original starting point.
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Depart from Marrakech in a small-group tour to the Atlas Mountains in the company of an experienced, English-speaking guide, head to the Ourika Valley, which is about a 1-hour drive from Marrakech and famous for its waterfalls. Visit the waterfalls after a 1.5-hour walk with a mountain guide and spectacular views of different landscapes as far as the eye can see. Visit Berber women extracting Argon oil, which is unique to Morocco. Continue through the Oukaimden Valley, taking a secluded mountain road and passing through traditional Berber villages built from adobe and stones. Discover the authentic life of Berber people and enjoy a delicious lunch in a typical Berber house. After that, visit the Asni valley, famous for its apple, walnut, almond, and peach trees and enjoy the sight of the snowy summits of the Atlas Mountains. The thrilling tour concludes with a drive back to Marrakech, arriving at approximately 5:00pm.
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