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Day Trips and Excursions from Marrakech

Marrakech has a lot to offer, but don't make the mistake of forgetting its surroundings: I'll tell you which excursions are worthwhile

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

16 min read

Day Trips and Excursions from Marrakech

Bahia Palace | ©Niel Taelman

Marrakech has many places to discover and enjoy, but immersing yourself in the life of Morocco and experience how life is out of the city will be the highlight of your trip. Take a look at these amazing day trips from Marrakech.

1. Walking tour of the Medina with local guide

Sunset over Medina
Sunset over Medina

The Medina of Marrakech is the central area of the city where the social, economic, and commercial life takes place. It is surrounded by long adobe walls, composed of narrow and bustling streets and was declared Heritage of Humanity. 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 advantage of this guided tour of the Medina in English, is not in the points you are going to visit, 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 by 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 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 mazes 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 Koutoubia 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 200 feet.
  • The Yamaa el-Fna square 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, where you will find stalls that run through the medina. Here you will find all kinds of handicrafts and spices.

2. Excursion to the Atlas Mountains and the three valleys with camel ride

Walking in the desert
Walking in the desert

The camel ride is one of the musts on a trip to Morocco; after all, there are not many countries where you can enjoy a camel ride and you have to make the most 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 most famous), Asni valley and Oukaimeden valley.

What is this excursion about?

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 to be 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 tour

  • 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 a visit to a secret garden

The Secret Garden | ©Mike Finn
The Secret Garden | ©Mike Finn

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. Do not hesitate to ask your guide for recommendations for eating or advice on how to bargain in the souk.

4. Excursion to Ouarzazate and Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou

Fortifications of Ouarzazate | ©Valdiney Pimenta
Fortifications of Ouarzazate | ©Valdiney Pimenta

It is known as "the gateway to the Sahara desert" and is a town 120 miles from Marrakech that is surrounded by fortified spaces of Berber origin known as kasbahs. Famous movies have been filmed in this clay village, Ait Ban Haddou, such as: The Mummy, Star Wars, Laurence of Arabia, Gladiator or Alexander the Great.

This day trip with an English-speaking guide can last about twelve hours (the site is about 4.5 hours away from Marrakech) and you will have the possibility to include lunch for a bit extra.

5. Gastronomic tour of Marrakech

Enjoying the small pleasures of Morocco
Enjoying the small pleasures of Morocco

Food is one of the big 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
  • Tajin (meats and vegetables simmered with spices)
  • Couscous
  • Mechoui (slow-cooked lamb)
  • 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 riding

View of the Atlas Mountains | ©Med EDDARAMI
View of the Atlas Mountains | ©Med EDDARAMI

This other option is a bit shorter (7 hours of excursion instead of nine) but it also includes the camel ride, the transport from the hotel and the guide. Besides the time, the main difference is perhaps that this is mostly a visit to the surrounding Berber villages and the route through the surrounding valleys is slightly different.

The lunch in this excursion is not included (you can add it for an extra $ 8), but instead includes a stop at the falls to enjoy the views from above and free time to take a short walk around the 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 carry a bottle full of it. 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 riding

Sunset in the Agafay desert
Sunset in the Agafay desert

Also with a similar route, this is an excursion that takes you on 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, it's a good idea to buy a bottle since in other countries it is usually more expensive and not always pure like this).

The price of the excursion also includes drinks, a guide, transportation from the hotel, a camel ride, and, for a supplement of 8 dollars, lunch.

Itinerary

  • The Agafay Desert
  • The Atlas Mountains
  • The Atlas waterfalls
  • The valley of Imlil
  • The Asni Valley
  • The Amizmiz Valley
  • Berber villages
  • Naqab Waterfall

8. Private tour of the stalls of the Medina

Walking through the Medina of Marrakech | ©Juan Antonio Segal
Walking through the Medina of Marrakech | ©Juan Antonio Segal

The tour of this private tour of the Medina stalls is mainly focused on the stalls and souk and the crafts 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 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 always busy. 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 of spices, food, leather, handicrafts, cosmetics, and so on. 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 good for one thing, each artisan has his technique, each painter has his favorite corner of the city and each color has its meaning. For this reason, among all the tours I took during my visit, my favorite tour in Marrakech was the one that took me shopping in Medina.

A word of advice: bargaining is an art in Marrakech so don't get carried away by high prices or shopkeepers' claims.

9. Private day tour of Marrakech

Walking among the markets
Walking among the markets

Tour enthusiasts will find in this modality the best option. In this private tour of Marrakech, the guide is exclusively dedicated 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: 7 to 9 hours touring the city and its attractions.

What this tour consists of

The duration of the tour allows for several aspects to be addressed. 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 (please note that the entrance fees to them are not included in the price of the visit).

Afterward, the guide will take you through the different souk stalls, 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 Arab culture and tradition, something that will allow the traveler to get closer to the country and its customs.

Itinerary

  • The Ben Youssef Mosque
  • The Almoravids Dome
  • The Yamaa el-Fna square
  • The Saadian tombs
  • The Jewish Quarter
  • Bahia Palace
  • The Koutoubia Minaret

10. Excursion to the Ourika Valley

Peace, calm and splendid views of the Ourika Valley | ©puffin11k
Peace, calm and splendid views of the Ourika Valley | ©puffin11k

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 leisure 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 walk through the areas with the best views of the region and then you can explore the village at your own pace. Lunch is not included and neither is the local guide (although you can count on his services for an additional supplement of $ 4); the excursion consists of the transfer from the hotel in Marrakech in a vehicle with a capacity for about 15 people equipped with air conditioning.

11. Excursion to the Ouzoud waterfalls

Views of the Ouzoud Falls
Views of the Ouzoud Falls

The the Ouzoud waterfalls is one of the longest day trips (a total of about 10 hours). This landscape is about three hours drive from Marrakech, but the spectacle that you will enjoy on 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 of 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

The port of Essaouira | ©Jean-Marc Astesana
The port of Essaouira | ©Jean-Marc Astesana

Essaouira is a fishing village away 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 consult this other article on Essaouira Day Trips from Marrakech.

13. Get organized for a day trip from Marrakech

Detail of the decoration of the Saadians Tombs | ©David Stanley
Detail of the decoration of the Saadians Tombs | ©David Stanley

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 am 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 tour 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

The excursions usually have departures every day of the week, although it will depend on the capacity and the available drivers. The weather in Morocco is always the same (hot and dry); this means that, regardless of the dates of your trip, most excursions will be available.

Since the capacity of this type of excursion 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 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. Anyway, at the time of booking, you can ask if the tour is adapted or not for the little ones, as some of them, such as Essaouira, may be an exception.

Physical fitness required

You don't need athletic endurance to do this type of excursions, but most of them include walks or climbs (in areas such as the Ouzoud waterfalls you will miss important views if you do without them) either in groups or individually. If you have health problems, back problems, or reduced mobility it is better to opt for other more accessible excursions.

Food

You must check when making your reservation if lunch is or is not 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 eat.

Some areas are also ideal for picnicking as they have 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 won't hurt to carry in your backpack your camera (you will see breathtaking landscapes) with enough battery (the excursion lasts a whole day) and some entertainment if the way to the destination is very long.

Wear your most comfortable clothes, including sports shoes and summer clothes (temperatures are high in Morocco, but you will need a cardigan or jacket during the trip as most vehicles are air-conditioned).

Camel rides

Some of these excursions include camel riding; this can be a very pleasant experience, but some people are afraid to ride or just don't like the idea. Don't give up on a tour just 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.

Commercial stops

Although not always advertised, many of these routes have several stops along the way; some are to take in the scenery, but others are intended for you to visit local stores and, of course, shop.

It is not mandatory 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; it is not necessary to be in good physical shape, but they are not suitable for people with back or health problems.

14. Practical information about guided tours in Marrakech

Jamaa el-Fna Square | ©Ritzo ten Cate
Jamaa el-Fna Square | ©Ritzo ten Cate

Beware of the unofficial guides that you will find 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 stroll 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 this type of proposition (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

Concerning this, something less common, although it can also happen, is that during visits to certain souk stalls or restaurants you are offered certain products as "gifts" 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 when dealing with the locals, but also to avoid surprises, it is best to make sure you know 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 the opportunity offered by the guided tour to ask your guide all your doubts; whether or not to accept mint tea if offered, the most appropriate way to dress, how to greet the locals, how to behave in sacred places, etc.

About the photos

In Morocco you may find everything so exotic that it is common to want to shoot a thousand and one photographs; in the monuments, there will be no problem, 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.

15. If you are interested in tours and excursions in Marrakech, you will also be interested in...

Camel ride in the desert | ©Yeo Khee
Camel ride in the desert | ©Yeo Khee

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 can meet Berbers who live in villages in the desert. Here you can read my guide about Camel Rides and Tickets.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is the best trip 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. Giving you the best value for your money, you will enjoy a unique experience in the desert and pass through an oasis, UNESCO World Heritage sites, Berber camps, the Todra Gorge, the Atlas Mountains, and other landmarks of the area.

  • Why is Ouzoud so famous?

    The Ouzoud waterfalls are a popular tourist visit, mainly thanks to its local wildlife of monkeys and the spectacular views of the place. You can also take a bath in the river and that's why many visitors of Marrakech choose a day trip to Ouzoud to get a rest from the heat of the city.

  • What is there to see at Ourika Valley?

    The Ourika Valley is one of the favourite places of visitors. The drive to the Valley from Marrakech is full of impressive sights of the Atlas Mountains and its winding roads and villages, and once there you can experience a peaceful day by the river and have authentic lamb and vegetable tajine lunch in one of the riverside stands. If you are feeling brave, you can also climb up to its famous waterfalls, just come prepared with adequate shoes.