Marrakech has many places to discover and enjoy, but to immerse yourself in the life of Morocco and take back from your trip an idea of the nature and landscape of the country is advisable to get out of the city and do some excursions.
1. Walking tour of the Medina with local guide
The Medina of Marrakech is the central area of the city where social, economic and commercial life takes place. It is surrounded by long adobe walls, composed of narrow and bustling alleys and was declared a World Heritage Site. With this description it is easy to guess that a guided tour of this area is a must during the trip to know the main corners of modern Marrakech.
The main value of this guided tour of the Medina in English, is not in the points that you will go through, but in the orientation of the local guide who will accompany the group during the tour. His experiences and knowledge of Marrakech and its way of life are an attraction that you will not have access to doing this same tour on your own. The tour is on foot and lasts about four hours.
Itinerary of the walking tour of the Medina
- The Bahia Palace: it is also known as "The Palace of the Beautiful" and its main characteristic is that every inch of it has been decorated and covered with paintings or precious woods. It was built in the 19th century and is full of labyrinths and squares with fruit trees.
- The Saadian Tombs: are a series of chambers arranged around a small garden. It was the work of the Saadian Sultan Ahmed el-Mansour who built it to bury his relatives and himself. It was walled up by the Alawites and rediscovered in 1917.
- The minaret of the Kutubia: it is that high "tower" that you can see from the center of Marrakech hidden among palm trees and vegetation. From there sounds five times a day the voice of the muezzin, was built in the twelfth century and has a height of over 70 meters.
- The Yamaa el-Fna square: it is the central point of Marrakech and the life that floods it throughout the year is a constant spectacle. Do not forget to climb some of the terraces in the area to see the square from above.
- The souk: the stalls that line the medina are known as the souk area. Here you will find all kinds of handicrafts and spices.
2. Excursion to the Atlas Mountains and the three valleys with camel ride.
The camel ride is one of the must on a trip to Morocco; after all, there are not many countries where you can enjoy a camel ride and you have to take advantage of it. This excursion covers the camel ride experience for part of the tour and also the visit to the Atlas Mountains and the three valleys of the region: Ourika valley (one of the best known), Asni valley and Oukaimeden valley.
What this excursion consists of
The Atlas Mountains are surrounded by Berber villages and offer nature lovers extraordinary arid landscapes dotted with green shoots in some areas. One of the main attractions of this tour is precisely the visual spectacle that is enjoyed during the tour, but it is not the only one.
Throughout the tour you will enjoy the explanations of an expert guide and these, especially when they delve into the Berber way of life, can be just as exciting as the scenery allowing you to return from your trip with a much more realistic view of life in Morocco.
What is included in this excursion
- Transfer in air-conditioned vehicle
- Professional guide
- Water and coffee or tea
- Lunch in a Berber village
- Camel ride
- Advice from a professional guide
- Pick up and drop off at your hotel or riad in Marrakech
3. Historical tour of Marrakech with visit to the secret garden
In this historical tour of Marrakech in English, for about four hours, a local guide will take you to see the historical sites of the city including the Secret Garden (one of my favorite spots). Once you book this tour, you will meet your guide and the rest of the group at the meeting point and from there you will visit not only the main points of the Medina, but also the Jewish quarter of Mellah or the Kutubia viewpoint.
You will like this tour if during your visit to Marrakech you plan to see the Secret Garden (something you should not miss because it is one of the most beautiful places in the city). Throughout the tour, in addition to seeing the points of interest included, you will put in context the city and its customs, something that in a place as multicultural as Morocco you will find very interesting. Don't hesitate to ask your guide for recommendations on where to eat or tips on how to bargain in the souk.
4. Excursion to Ouarzazate and Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou
It is known as "the gateway to the Sahara desert" and is a town 200km from Marrakech that is surrounded by fortified spaces of Berber origin known as kasbahs. If this doesn't tell you anything, surely the names of movies shot in this clay village, Ait Ban Haddou, such as: The Mummy, Star Wars, Laurence of Arabia, Gladiator or Alexander the Great.
The excursion, available in Spanish, English, French, Italian and Arabic, can last about twelve hours (the site is about 4.5 hours away from Marrakech) and you will have the possibility to hire a guide and lunch for a supplement.
5. Gastronomic tour of Marrakech
Food is one of the great attractions of this city, but, although it may seem otherwise, it is not always easy to find good dishes during your visit. So, if you like to try new things and experiment with flavors, I recommend this guided gastronomic tour to get to know the local specialties. Do it at the beginning of your trip, it will be very useful to choose restaurants and dishes in the following days.
The most important thing to know if you are interested in the food of Morocco in general and Marrakech in particular, is that in this culture eating and drinking is not just a formality, but a way of life, a way of sharing customs and relationships. On this tour the guide, in addition to offering you some tastings (keep in mind that you will not sit down to eat, but the idea is that you try different foods and flavors) will teach you the true meaning of Moroccan culinary culture and typical dishes.
Typical dishes of Marrakech
- Moroccan salad
- Tajines (meats and vegetables simmered and spiced)
- Mechoui (lamb cooked in a gentle way)
- Tanjia (lamb stew with spices and candied lemons and cooked for hours)
- Kaab el-ghazal (croissants stuffed with almond paste and flavored with orange blossom water)
6. Reduced excursion to the Atlas Mountains and the three valleys with camel ride.
This other option is a bit shorter (7 hours of excursion instead of nine) but also includes the camel ride, transportation from the hotel and the guide. Besides the time, the main difference is perhaps that it focuses more on the surrounding Berber villages and the route through the surrounding valleys is slightly different.
Lunch on this tour variant is not included (it is an additional six euros), but instead includes a stop at the falls to enjoy the views from above and free time for a short walk around the surrounding Imlil valley. The experience of the traditional lunch and the enjoyment of tea with a Berber family are moments you will remember as vividly as the landscapes you will visit during the day.
Ana's Traveller Tip
If water is not included in your excursion, always bring a bottle. There will not be many opportunities to find drinking water along the way.
7. Excursion to the Atlas Mountains and the Agafay desert with camel ride
Also with a similar route, this excursion has as its main attraction a more in depth visit to the Agafay desert, which is a desert near Marrakech (very popular for camel rides like the ones included in the tour) where the plants that produce Argan oil grow (if you have the opportunity I advise you to buy a bottle as in other countries it is usually more expensive and not always pure).
The price of the tour also includes drinks, guide, transportation from the hotel, camel ride and, for a supplement of 6 euros, lunch.
- Agafay desert
- The Atlas Mountains
- The Atlas waterfalls
- The valley of Imlil
- The valley of Asni
- The valley of Amizmiz
- Berber villages
- Naqab waterfall
8. Private tour of the Medina stalls
This private tour of the stalls of the Medina is mainly focused on the stalls and souk and the handicrafts and objects sold in each of them: pottery, paintings, leather, tea, carpets, clothes, jewelry, spices, etc. However, three hours is plenty of time and you will also visit other less commercial parts of the Medina and, most importantly, you will have time to chat with your local guide about the most interesting aspects of life in the city.
You will meet your guide at the Yamaa el-Fna square (the square is the center of the whole city and it is impossible to miss it). If you are wondering what is the best day to book this tour, let me tell you that it doesn't matter: the center of Marrakech is a constant weekend. The tour lasts about three hours and is a private tour, so the guide will be dedicated only to you and your travel companions.
Why I like this tour
The heart of Marrakech is undoubtedly in the souk and its stalls selling spices, food, leather, handicrafts, cosmetics and a long etc. Strolling around there is to gawk at every corner, not because you are necessarily looking for something; rather because you feel that there are thousands of objects looking for you to tell you their story.
Each spice is used for one thing, each artisan has his technique, each painter has his favorite corner of the city and each color has its meaning. For that reason, among all the tours I took during my visit, my favorite tour of Marrakech was the one that took me "shopping" in the Medina.
A word of advice! Bargaining is an art in Marrakech so don't get carried away by high prices or by the claims of the shopkeepers.
9. Private day tour of Marrakech
Tour enthusiasts will find in this modality the best option. In this private tour of Marrakech, the guide is dedicated exclusively to a traveler and his travel companions rather than to an organized group.
It is the most complete way to know the city of Marrakech because in addition to the personalized attention it is one of the longest tours: from 7 to 9 hours touring the city and its attractions.
What this tour consists of
The duration of the tour allows to address several aspects. There is a part of the tour that will be focused on the more "traditional" tourism; that is, you will visit the most important monuments of the city and you will learn about their history and the reason for their importance (note that the entrance fees to them are not included in the price of the visit).
Afterwards, the guide will take you through the different stalls of the souk where you will be able to talk to the merchants and artisans and learn more about their profession and way of life. Finally, throughout the tour the guide will also talk about the Arab culture and tradition, something that will allow the traveler to get closer to the country and its customs.
- Ben Youssef Mosque
- The Almoravids dome
- The square of Jamaa el-Fna
- The Saadian tombs
- The Jewish quarter
- The Bahia Palace
- The Kutubia Minaret
10. Excursion to the Ourika Valley
The Ourika Valley is one of the most beautiful areas of Morocco both for the attractiveness of its landscape and for the tranquility and calm that permeates the area. If you are looking for an excursion where you can disconnect and go at your own pace and learn a little more about the way of life of the locals, this is one of your best options.
During the visit to the Ourika Valley you will take a group hike through the areas with the best views of the region and then you can walk around the village at your leisure. Lunch is not included and neither is the local guide (although you can count on his services for an additional supplement of three euros); the excursion consists of the transfer from the hotel in Marrakech in a vehicle with capacity for about 15 people equipped with air conditioning.
11. Excursion to the Ouzoud waterfalls
The Ouzoud waterfalls is one of the longest day trips (a total of about 10 hours). This landscape is about a three-hour drive from Marrakech, but the spectacle you will enjoy upon arrival is worth it. Located in a landscape of arid hills, these are the highest waterfalls in North Africa and this excursion will allow you to walk around them, relax on their banks or see the monkeys that inhabit the area.
The Ouzoud waterfalls are one of the main mountain attractions in Morocco and this plan is designed for you to walk them at your own pace. The point of departure and return will be your hotel in Marrakech and you can bring your own lunch (I recommend it) or buy something in the cafes in the area.
12. Excursion to Essaouira
Essaouira is a fishing village far from the mountain scenery and deserts, but it is still one of the most popular excursions from Marrakech. This city known as "The Pearl of the Atlantic" is ideal for a day break from the bustle of Marrakech, taste its excellent fish and, if you go more than a day, do some of the hiking trails that start from there.
If you want to know more about this excursion, you can check this other article about Essaouira Day Trips from Marrakech.
Organize your excursion from Marrakech
How to book
The method to book online any tour around Marrakech is the same. When you book your place you must choose the day you want to do the tour; being full day tours the departure time is always early in the morning (between 7 and 9 depending on the distance of the area to visit.
Once you make the reservation you will be sent an email asking for your contact information and the address of the hotel where you are staying if the excursion has a hotel pick up option. Once you have provided this information you will be sent the pick up time or meeting point information. Please note that many of these tours include a free cancellation, but it must always be at least 24 hours in advance.
The best dates
Excursions usually depart every day of the week, although it will depend on the capacity and available drivers. The weather in Morocco is always the same (hot and without rain); this means that, regardless of the dates of your trip, most tours will be available.
Since the capacity of this type of excursions is always limited to the capacity of the transport vehicle, you will not have to worry about whether it is better to do it on a weekend or on a weekday.
Excursions from Marrakech with children
Most of the places to visit are quite far from Marrakech and for small children the trip can be heavy and also the walks that take place at the destination. In any case, when making the reservation, you can ask if the excursion is adapted or not for the little ones, as some of them, such as Essaouira, may be an exception.
Physical fitness required
You do not need an athletic endurance to do this type of excursions, but most of them include hiking or climbing (in areas such as the Ouzoud waterfalls you will miss important views if you do without them) whether they are group or individual. If you have health problems, back problems or reduced mobility it is better to opt for other more accessible excursions.
What to bring
It is very important that you check when making your reservation whether or not lunch is included in the price (sometimes it is not, but you can get it by paying an additional supplement and I recommend it if the option is to enjoy a typical meal with a Berber family). The excursions last a whole day and you may need to replenish your energy along the way so, even if you have lunch included, I recommend you always bring something to snack on.
Some areas are also ideal for picnics as there are local cafes or restaurants where you can get something to eat, so keep this in mind when making your choice. Water is also important; in Morocco water is not drinkable in much of the territory, so if the tour does not include it, make sure you don't forget to pack a bottle in your backpack.
What to bring
In addition to water and food if necessary, it will not hurt to backpack your camera (you will see breathtaking scenery) with enough battery (the tour lasts a whole day) and some entertainment if the road to the destination is very long.
As for clothes, especially comfortable, including sport shoes and summer clothes (temperatures are high in Morocco, but you will need a cardigan or jacket to cover you during the trip since most vehicles have air conditioning).
Some of these excursions include a camel ride; this can be a very pleasant experience, but some people are afraid to ride or just don't like the idea. Don't miss out on a tour because of this.
The camels travel in a caravan driven in most cases by a Berber guide who makes the journey on foot; you can walk alongside him if you wish. If, on the other hand, what attracts you most about these excursions is precisely the camel ride, you can read more about the options available in this article.
Although not always advertised, many of these routes have several stops along the way; some are to contemplate the scenery, but others are intended for you to visit local stores and, of course, to store.
It is not obligatory to do so or to tip those who show you the ins and outs of the manufacture of local products, but in cases such as the excursion to the Agafay desert where Argan oil is made, it can be worthwhile as you will find slightly lower prices than in the center of Marrakech. In any case, be prepared for these stops because they can be a bit tedious, but they are unavoidable.
Ana's Traveller Tip
These excursions may include hiking and climbing; you don't need to be in good physical shape, but they are not suitable for people with back or health problems.
Practical information about guided tours in Marrakech
Beware of unofficial guides in the Medina
It is common that walking through the souk some locals (often children) will approach you asking to "show you" the city in exchange for a tip. These are not specialized guides and the only thing they will do is to take you for a walk through the souk without explaining anything.
In fact, sometimes it can even be a bit risky because the "tour" is far from the safe tourist area. Keep this in mind and be wary of such propositions (better safe than sorry) and book your tour in advance to avoid disappointment or deception.
Make sure that what you are offered is included in the tour
In relation to this, something less common, although it can also happen, is that during visits to certain souk stalls or restaurants you are offered certain products and you think they are gifts that are included in the visit when in reality they expect you to pay for them at the end.
To avoid confusion and not to be rude in dealing with the locals, but also not to get surprises, it is best to make sure what is included in the tour and if in doubt ask your guide slyly. In any case, after any guided tour of the city you will know how to handle yourself much better in these situations.
Get the most out of your guided tour
Take advantage of the opportunity offered by the guided tour to ask your guide all your doubts; whether or not to accept mint tea if offered, the best way to dress, how to greet the locals, how to behave in sacred places, etc.
In Morocco you may find everything so exotic that it is common to want to take a thousand and one photographs; in monuments there will be no problems, but if you are going to take pictures of people or artisan products , ask for permission beforehand.
Ana's Traveller Tip
Be wary of locals who come out to meet you in the souk to offer you a tour on their own.
If you are interested in tours and excursions in Marrakech, you will also be interested in
The best thing about guided tours of the city, at least for me, is being able to feel like a local for a few hours and not only observe the main points, but have information to understand them and put them in context. If you are looking for a similar feeling, I recommend you to choose a camel ride where you have contact with the Berbers who live in villages in the desert. Here you can read my guide on Camel Rides and Tickets in Marrakech.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best excursion from Marrakech?
If you are visiting Marrakech for a week or two, and want to take some time away from its bustling streets, our recommendation is that you go on the 3 day tour to Merzouga and Erg Chebbi. it gives you the best value for your money, you will enjoy a unique desert experience and pass through an oasis, UNESCO world heritage sites, Berber camps, the Todra Gorges, the Atlas Mountains, and other points of interest in the area.
Why is Ouzoud so famous?
The Ouzoud waterfalls are a popular tourist visit, mainly thanks to its local monkey fauna and the spectacular views of the place. You can also take a dip in the river and that is why many visitors to Marrakech choose a day trip to Ouzoud to get a break from the heat of the city.
What can be seen in Ourika Valley?
The Ourika Valley is one of the favorite places for visitors. The journey up the valley from Marrakech is filled with breathtaking views of the Atlas Mountains and its winding roads and villages, and once there you can experience a quiet day by the river and have authentic lamb and vegetable tajine lunch on one of the river banks you will find. If you are feeling brave, you can also climb up to its famous waterfalls, just be prepared with the right shoes.