Instead of traveling to the overwhelming melting pot of Marrakech, opt for a more subtle and low-key Moroccan holiday.
Just a few hours by bus from overwhelming Marrakech is the quaintest little seaside town. Essaouira, Morocco, located on the African Atlantic, was my favorite destination Morocco. It is a charming little town with a seaside marketplace full of fresh fish, cute rooftop cafes, and one of the few bars where I spent time in Morocco. The pristine beach is full of windsurfers and sailors who travel here from all over the world. The wall that surrounds the town looks like something out of a movie – and it is. Essaouria was a filming location for Game of Thrones. It has charm and an all-over relaxed vibe, but with no shortage of things to do. Oh, and its pronounces es-uh-weer-uh!
Where to Stay in Essaouira
Accommodation in Morocco is cheap. I’ve stayed in some of the most beautiful places in my life while in Morocco, and all for less than $100 USD a night. WOAH. Here are some of the best options I have come across while browsing for places to stay in Essaouira.
We splurged with Jack’s. It was the most expensive place we stayed in Morocco, but well worth it. We each had our own bedroom! Definitely worth checking out. You can learn about their different apartment options on Booking.com (what we used to book our entire Morocco trip!)
They were sold out for our stay, but this Riad would have been my second choice for accommodation! Not only is this a beautiful riad in the center of Essaouira, but they have a FANTASTIC restaurant we ate at! (More details at the end of the article!)
Here are 9 reasons why you should add Essaouira to your Moroccan vacation.
I’m from Florida, and that means I am EXTREMELY picky about my beaches. And I’ll tell ya, I really liked the beach in Essaouira. The water was a little cold, but the sand was soft and the sun was warm. There was great people watching and even a few little chalets to get drinks at if you needed. If you’re not into surfing, you can watch others try while you lay out on a towel or a rented chair.
Game of Thrones Filming Location
All you Thronies (or Crows for you Reddit users) out there are going to LOVE Essaouira! ***SPOILERS COMING UP– SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU AREN’T CAUGHT UP*** (do you live under a ROCK?!) Remember that EPIC moment back in season 3 (before everything went to hell) where Daenerys stood up against the masters, started the end to slavery in the East, tricked some “smart” men, gained a loyal army of about 13000, and wasn’t bat-shit crazy? Yeah, me too. And you will be taken back to that time when you visit Essaouira. That was season 3 Episode 4, and it gave us one of the best episodes of all time. “DRACARYS”. Can we go back to then, before Dany took half an episode to go full mad queen? K. Thanks.
By hitting up the ramparts and a few other locations in Essaouira (you can’t miss them its a small town) you can live your Game of Thrones fantasies. (I know I did). It was pretty incredible to be standing in the same exact spot as the Mother of Dragons. Long may she reign.
Adrenaline Junkies Will Love it
Whether you are a pro surfer, recreational surfer, or never stood on a board in your life, people come from all over the world to surf in Morocco, and specifically Essaouira. There are many companies that do surfing lessons, Surf Twins were some really nice guys we met out and about in Essouira and I totally recommend them!! You can also go sailing or windsurfing! It is always windy here due to the tradewinds, so be sure to pack a windbreaker. It does get a little chillier here than in other places in Morocco.
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Luxury Hammam Experience
Being more of a chilled out, beachy, but hasn’t quite reached resort level kind of town, there were several spas and hammams to choose from. We went to Azur Spa to get our traditional Moroccan Hammam, and we were NOT disappointed. For those of you who don’t know a hammam is a Turkish Bath or a steam bath. Basically, a wet sauna. The non-spa hammams can be a little intimidating for those of us westerners not used to this tradition, so I recommend a spa experience first if you are feeling a little hesitant. I give you fair warning: expect to be naked and for someone else to bathe you. I mean full on bath with a big ole scrubby hand glove. Wash your hair and body with argan oil, the whole 9 yards. You’ll either feel like a princess or a small child, there really isn’t any in-between.
I think on my list of top 10 sunsets has to be this one we saw in Essaouira. Now, this is saying something, because I see a sunset typically about 5 days a week. I never get sick of them, but you could definitely say I’ve seen more sunsets than the average person. Something about that big ball of fire sinking below the African Atlantic was magical. Add sitting on top of hundreds of years old ramparts with locals and travelers alike- peaceful and so in the moment, was breathtaking.
The Seafood Market
Seafood lovers, get excited. Every morning the fisherpeople in Essaouira head out to get the fresh catch for the day, and by about noon they are all back with a fresh batch for you to peruse. Pick your favorite type of fish, shrimp, or other local ocean dweller and have them filet it up and hand it over. Keep walking down the pier to a little fry shack who will cook your fresh food up, right in front of your eyes. So fresh, this stuff is basically still swimming.
Argan Oil is Made Here
Argan oil is made in Morocco, and the region Essaouira is in, it is one of the most highly cultivated areas. You should be careful when buying Argan Oil, as there is often fakes and not true 100% oil being sold. Here are a few tips to determine if Argan Oil is worth buying.
- The only ingredient should be 100% Argan Oil
- Clear or plastic bottles can make the oil deteriorate. Be wary of these. Try to purchase dark glass bottles.
- It shouldn’t smell like nothing, and it shouldn’t smell awful either. Just a nice nutty/fruity scent is what to expect.
- The texture should be smooth. No slimy or sticky. Your skin should absorb it.
- There should be some sediment at the bottom, and the oil should look a little cloudy. Should be pale yellow in color.
The Medina is Stunning and Less Hectic than Others
In Essaouira, you can get the authentic feel of a true old medina, without the experience of some of the horror stories you hear coming out of the bigger towns. Places like Marrakech sometimes end up being a feeding frenzy for scammers looking to prey on tourists, but this isn’t the case in Essaouira. A charming seaside town, everyone is mellow here, and while someone may ask to touch your hair or call you “Shakira”, you’re probably not going to be harassed to buy some junk too badly.
Some of my most favorite restaurants that I chowed down on in Morocco were found in Essaouira. Here are just a few
- Taros- Great tapas and a lively bar with live music and DANCING!!
- Yoo Frozen Yogurt – Yummy fresh breakfast or lunch food!
- Triskala – Vegan, organic, & YUMM- also super duper cute inside (recommend reservations)
- Baladin – Try the frutti di mare, 100% worth it
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