Since the Mushmina Marrakech guide was such a success, we decided that it would be a fab idea to continue the momentum and give our best tips for day and overnight excursions from the famed Red City. Morocco is teeming with unique, diverse spots to see and although we do have a soft spot for Marrakech, we also recommend that you escape from the hustle and bustle of Kech and experience more of mystical Morocco. Read on and discover our recs and insider tips from the Mushmina team for experiencing unique spots to visit from Marrakech…
About an 30 minutes east of Marrakech is the pristine Ourika Valley. With red hues and lush greenery, this is a favorite spot to have a glass of tea, picnic by a trickling stream, or spend the weekend peering at the snowcapped Atlas Mountains while sitting poolside at one of the many stunning accommodations in the valley. Quaryati Eco Lodge is a Mushmina favorite. Vast gardens and an infinity pool are the highlights of this amazing eco-lodge that is a popular spot with yoga groups. Amazing fresh food, friendly staff, located on a long dirt road that winds through a stunning valley. Looking for escape? You may never want to leave.
Kasbah Bab Ourika
We suggest the lovely Kasbah Bab Ourika as perhaps an ending to your Moroccan trip. This is most certainly the place where you can relax and breathe in the fresh mountain area. With its 360-degree panoramic views of the High Atlas Mountains, you will find breathtaking views and stellar service. Kasbah Bab Ourika has a beautiful garden as well as a pristine pool, and of course, the kasbah has a traditional Moroccan hammam (Moroccan bath) as well as a full European spa. This incredible eco-friendly structure is built and inspired by the traditional Berber building technique called ‘pise’, and the staff hails from villages nearby. The restaurant sources its food locally from the organic gardens onsite and local markets nearby, and Berber, Moroccan and international cuisine is proudly on the menu reflecting this phenomenon.
If you are seeking your zen in the mountains, then head to the relatively untouched little treasure of Asni, which is located just over an hour southeast of Marrakech. Winding roads cut through a mountain pass and you end up in the small Berber town of Asni.
Mushmina proudly collaborates with the Eve Branson Foundation and this is where you will find the foundation’s headquarters. Make sure to arrange a visit to the craft centers to see artisans weaving, embroidering, sewing, and woodworking. Insider tip: We hear there is even an ‘Air B and B’ apartment you can rent from the foundation on site with stunning views of the valley.
If you’re considering driving to Asni from Kech, you might want to pop into Terre D’Amanar for a night (or even a day trip), especially if you have a feel for adventure. Terre D’Amanar is located on the road to Asni (at the 23 mile point) at the base of the High Atlas Mountains and nestled next to the Toubkal National Forest. Terre D’Amanar has a massive array of outdoor activities including impressive zip-lines, trekking, archery, hiking bike riding, and more. And the hotel’s mission is one of sustainability and environmental friendliness, using local materials for building and organic food from the onsite farm; making it all the more interesting to stay here.
This is Sir Richard Branson’s Moroccan retreat. Rumor has it that his mother, Eve convinced him to buy this breathtaking property. He agreed under the condition that she take care of the surrounding villages… and that she did! The hotel operates under a sustainable model, employing locals from the region, growing food in the onsite garden, and serving bread baked in a traditional oven. It is no surprise that Kasbah Tamadot is a bucket-list splurge! We are saving up our dirhams for a night here.
The enchantingly relaxed beach town of Essaouira is about 2.5 hours west of Marrakech. Essaouira boasts a bevvy of top-notch restaurants and cafés and the eclectic, diverse art scene is one of the best in the country. And shopping! The beach town, famous for its scenes shot in the early years of Game Of Thrones, is a favorite for colorful, funky shopping in and around the medina.
Kasbah Des Alizés
This gorgeous spot is on our list as one of the best places to stay for a larger group. If you happen to have a lot of family or a group of friends coming to visit Morocco, then this might just be the ideal place for you. Although the Kasbah Des Alizés is not right on the water or in the town, believe us when we say that you will love your visit here! Designed and owned by the lovely couple Bruno and Sylvie from France, this beautifully created structure has the perfect balance of traditional Moroccan architecture and West African flair. It is truly stunning and there is plenty of room for at least nine people. The pool and outdoor seating area has fabulously cozy area (with shade), a grill + bar that’s ideal for family barbeques and also a recently-constructed fabulous Berber tent. This is where you will find your zen! We thoroughly enjoy spending days lazing around the pool and then driving 15 minutes into Essaouria for the afternoon or evening. The kasbah even comes with an (optional) cook who can make Moroccan-inspired meals (you do the local shopping) for an extremely reasonable fee.
Just down the road from Essaouira (inland) is the delightful La Fromagerie; most definitely the place for cheese lovers and enthusiasts. Pop in for lunch to their quaint, rustic restaurant (you have the choice of a lovely courtyard or a flowered pergola for seating) and after enjoying fresh, locally sourced, Moroccan cuisine, you will want to indulge in the delights for which La Fromagerie is so well-known; the magnificent cheeses! Cow, goat and even camel cheese are on the creative menu. Sip on a glass of Moroccan rosé or a Casablanca beer and call it a fabulous day. http://bit.ly/2LoZL0U
Silvestro Italian Restaurant
If you are in need of a bit of a break from Moroccan cuisine, head to Silvestro for some fabulous homemade pasta and wood-brick oven pizza. Silvestro’s menu is fabulous, the prices are super reasonable and the atmosphere is quaint and cozy. Moroccan and Italian wines served, too!
Ranch De Diabat
This super chill spot, about 15 minutes drive outside of Essaouira, is a one-stop-shop for fun activities, including horse and camel rides. Take in the gorgeous sunset on the beach atop a camel for a few hours; this is such a fun outing for people of all ages! Rest assured the camels are very well treated at the ranch; in fact, all of the animals are cared for and loved as part of the family. The restaurant at the ranch, serving simple yet tasty Moroccan fare, is a nice setting for an ice cream or cold drink after a trek over the sandy beach dunes.
If you are coming to Morocco and want a desert experience but don’t have the time to make the nine+ hour drive from Marrakech to Merzouga in the enigmatic Sahara Desert, then the Agafay Desert is the destination for you. Just 40 kilometers southwest of Marrakech, you will find tranquility and a ‘desert feel’ without the cumbersome drive. Terre Des Etoiles is our pick for your easy-peasy day trip or overnight adventure from Kech. This fab hotel offers activities and classes for everyone and anyone, including Moroccan cooking classes, yoga, hiking with a stopover for Berber tea, and even gardening in an oasis setting and plenty more options to peak your interest.
Just under three hours northwest of Marrakech is the tiny hidden gem of Oualidia on the Atlantic Coast. This magical lagoon is home to a bevvy of wildlife and the oysters that come out of the little bay here are world-known. Fresh fish is bountiful. The surfing that is offered is perfect for families as the cove is a perfect balance of protected yet endless waves. Off-season is best, though, as the summer months tend to get very crowded. We love to stay at the Hotel L’Hippocampe; a family-owned hotel that has a friendly feel and a cozy look. The colorful garden of this quaint spot is one of the loveliest we have seen in Morocco. The hotel pool overlooks the gorgeous water and there are plenty of activities and fun for kids. And they have a liquor license, which is nice for winding down a busy, beach-filled day.
Perched amongst 20 acres of picturesque olive and pomegranate groves with the gorgeous backdrop of the High Atlas Mountains, La Ferme Grenadine, which translates to ‘the Pomegranate Farm’ is on our top list of places to relax and wind down your Moroccan getaway. The charming Otmane is the designer and owner of this fabulous eco-friendly spot. This unique organic farm is located near Taroudant (about 2.5 hours from Marrakech), fondly nicknamed ‘The Grandmother of Marrakech’ for its similarities to the Red City, but with a more relaxed vibe. Otmane’s vision is one of respectfully tapping into local resources all the while respecting the beauty and tranquility of the region. The restaurant proudly serves seasonal delights with traditional Moroccan flare and you can even sign up for Moroccan cooking and baking courses on-site.
La Grenadine is one of Heather’s favorite spots in Morocco to unplug and unwind. A great place for young families with space to run around, a pond, a pool, animals, and swing sets.
Asilah/Tangier + Northern Morocco
Asilah, about 45 minutes south of Tangier, is a wonderfully laid-back destination if you are heading north and want to experience a relaxed little fishing town that embraces culture, art and unique style. The town dates back to the Phoenicians as early as the second century BC and even the Portuguese left their mark with the impressive ramparts and fortifications in the early 15th century that still stand today. We also can’t get enough of the small medina, peppered with colorful murals and uniquely colorful old Moroccan doors; perfect for an afternoon stroll.
Berbari Maison D’Hôtes is one of our fave spots to stay in chill Asilah, northwestern Morocco on the majestic Atlantic Coast. Just seven kilometers south of Asilah is the charming oasis of Berbari Maison D’Hôtes, owned and run by the lovely Rachida Youdra. This gorgeous little spot is a mecca for storks, donkeys and other animals. You will most certainly be enchanted by the lovely hotel; its rooms are beautifully decorated and peaceful and the food at the delightful hotel restaurant is delicious. Rachida’s goal is to serve local, organically-sourced food in an eco-friendly environment. Her staff is incredibly helpful and warm; do have them direct you if you are driving yourselves as Berbari is such a secret getaway that it can be a bit difficult to find. And the windswept beaches of Asilah are just a 15-minute or so drive away.
Asilah Eco Village
This unparalleled and certainly unorthodox destination is the brainchild of British-born Linsey Taylor Auad; an eco-tourism oasis in the rolling green hills just outside of Asilah. The mission of the lodge is to create a welcoming, sustainable option for nature lovers and those seeking to get away from the rush of everyday life. Linsey offers custom-made courses in everything from Moroccan cooking to hiking, yoga, and wellness. And the panoramic view of the stunning countryside is enough to help you find your peace along the way. Read more here.
If you are looking for a charming spot in the middle of the peaceful medina of Asilah, check out the cute and funky Dar Tabia. This unique riad sits conveniently in the middle of the medina and is cozy and welcoming with an eclectic flair, which we love. The owners are a lovely young couple who have completely renovated the lovely space; we thoroughly enjoyed our lazily long, delicious breakfast on the gorgeous terrace overlooking Asilah.
While you are enjoying the quiet charm of the medina of Asilah, do venture out to the waterfront (just a 15-20 minute walk from the medina) and pop in to Port XIV, the best spot for creative, beautifully presented farm-to-table cuisine. The restaurant is named in honor of the 14th century Portuguese presence that still stands in the shape of a fort today. Karim Ben-Ali proudly owns Port XIV with a goal of bringing farm-fresh cuisine to his tables from his long-owned family farm. They also serve fresh fish from the water that literally sits in front of this unique spot. It also doesn’t hurt that Port XIV has a full bar that serves unique, divine cocktails!
Moving up the coast, we recommend you spend some time in picturesque Tangier. Once famous for its dingy, cheap feel as tourists would come by the boatload from mainland Europe to ‘spend a day in Morocco’, Tangier has been through a revival of sorts in recent years. Now, this dynamic city has a progressive, hip feel and it’s most certainly worth a day or two. The impressive historic ramparts that dot Tangier’s lovely kasbah are a lovely lookout point to the unique Straight of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. You can even see across the water to Spain on a clear day. Tangier’s hip revitalization includes several cool, funky shopping and eating spots within the kasbah + medina areas, including the whimsical concept store + restaurant, Las Chicas, to the white-washed, beach-feel of the adorable Italian restaurant, Macondo, nestled at the edge of the kasbah. It’s no wonder Tangier has been a mecca for famous artists, writers, musicians, and global wanderers for centuries.
La Tangerina Hotel
Heather and Katie recommend this little gem at the highest peak of the kasbah neighborhood, with lovely views of the Straight across the water. Just a short walk from the shopping and sight-seeing of the medina, La Tangerina also has a beautiful terrace with a lovely overlooking the ocean. There’s also a hammam and spa for those interested in some serious relaxation. Beautiful rooftop views and loungechairs. Yes please!
Le Salon Bleu + Dar Nour
Le Salon Bleu is a tiny café + restaurant (be prepared to climb stairs!) in the enchanting kasbah with spectacular views of the water and medina of Tangier from their lovely rooftop terrace. Stop in for a relaxing Moroccan mint tea and their ‘menu du jour’, which changes daily depending on what is fresh at the local market. Dar Nour is the adjoining riad; you will delight in its cozy, stylish charm. We are also partial to Dar Nour as its name means ‘House of Light’ in Arabic; ‘Nour’ being the name of T’s, daughter Remi Nour. And if you are a fan of Moroccan breakfasts complete with divine fresh breads and pastries, eggs, homemade yogurts and juices, then this is the place for you! There’s even a charming little shop on the premise called ‘Laboutik’ where you can find whimsical, colorful gifts and antiques.
By Tara Fraiture, World traveler and Mushmina blogger
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2 thoughts on “Beyond The Red City-Exploring Mystical Morocco Outside of Marrakech”
So, Heather, you want me to be homesick? This is a lovely addition to your site. Some places that I hadn’t known about. I thought of the beach at sidi Kaouki as a site that I liked while in country. I think it is developed a bit since, I changed clothes behind a rock. I drew a sought after (as a Gicl’ee, I kept the original) graphite drawing of ‘Cappuccino’ who lived on that beach while I was there. He has become quite an item, that saucy ole camel.