At the foot of the snow-topped Atlas Mountains, Marrakech is a magical universe, a perennial favourite of many travellers. It is difficult to imagine visiting Morocco without experiencing Marrakech: the snake charmers and storytellers at Jemaa el Fna, the endless maze of the Medina, the seething and animated souks. The Red City has never lost its lustre as an exotic destination.
But while it’s worth staying around for a few days just to get into the spirit of the town, venture further afield and you will find many surprises. Take an excursion from Marrakech and you will experience the true spirit of Morocco: laid-back and hospitable towns and villages, fantastic food and memorable places to stay.
From galloping in the High Atlas to sitting out on the deck of a tent in the Sahara, here are some of our favourite outings in Marrakech.
Dotted with luxury hotels and and stunning private villas, the Palmeraie is dubbed the Beverly Hills of Marrakech. This lush and cool palm grove, an oasis of freshness and serenity, is a mere 10 minute drive from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.
Here you can enjoy quiet, lush surroundings resplendent with palms, bougainvilleas and tamarisks. The Palmeraie offers many relaxing activities, from camel-riding through the groves to a fantastic 18-hole golf course.
Lac Lalla Takerkoust
A short drive from Marrakech on the road to Amizmiz is the Lake Takerkoust, locally known as Lalla Takerkoust. This natural lake stores the water that trickles down from the mountains and slowly feeds into the rivers that flow into Marrakech. This is a favourite haunt for Marrakchis as an escape from the hectic city, perfect for a day’s outing or even longer.
Delight in the dramatic views and fantastic fresh mountain air. For the more adventurous, you can jet- and water-ski as well as kayak along the lake’s 7km-long (4 1/3-mile) shoreline
The Atlas, Morocco’s most spectacular mountain retreat, hovers tantalizingly close to Marrakech. An excursion will take you deep into startling mountain-desert scenery and an authentic taste of Berber life, virtually unchanged for centuries.
Trekking is usually the highlight of any visit to Marrakech. You can opt for gentler walks at the foothill of the High Atlas, or head for the heights at Mount Toubkal – the highest mountain in North Africa.
The Ourika Valley is a popular day trip from Marrakech that takes you through spectacular scenery to the foot of the High Atlas Mountains. Indulgence is walked off through reddish-brown mountains, walnut groves and mud-brick villages past waterfalls, canyons, ravines and gorges.
Highlights include the tumbledown Berber village of Setti Fatma at the head of the valley and Oukaimeden, Morocco’s only ski resort.
If you would like to gaze at some sand dunes and desert, the Agafay desert is a good option. Just an hour’s drive south of Marrakech, it is an ideal trip for that Saharan experience without the need for that eight-hour drive to Merzouga or Zagora.
Stretching for miles, this semi-lunar terrain is free for exploration and makes a fantastic camel trekking or hiking destination. You can opt for a luxurious nomadic encampment with stunning views of the desert and the Atlas mountains beyond, or turf-free golf or disc golf using available clubs or Frisbees.