Things to see near Marrakech, from Sahara to the roof of Morocco

Things to see near Marrakech

There are so many things to see near Marrakech that a few days’ getaways will not be enough to enjoy the many attractions of the region. The truth is that this city is located at a geographical crossroads (hence its historical importance) between the sea, the desert, and the impressive Atlas Mountains, places as interesting as attractive.

   Of course, as important as determining things to see near Marrakech is the choice of when, since there are times of the year when certain excursions are quite inadvisable. For example, a visit to the desert in the middle of summer or to the high mountains during the harshest days of winter.

Here are some of the best excursions that can be done from Marrakech, by road and in just a few hours of travel.

The great desert experience

  Without a doubt, the Sahara is a must-see near Marrakech. Spending a night in the largest hot desert on the planet (with more than nine million square kilometers) is an experience impossible to forget. There is no light pollution here and millions of constellations can be seen with the naked eye.

   And then, waking up in the middle of the night to contemplate the sunrise over the desert dunes is something that borders on the sublime.

   One of the classic excursions is the one that leads from Merzouga to Zagora, passing through the small village of Ramlia, as it allows you to discover the diversity of landscapes that shows the desert in this area: vast arid plains, dunes, dry valleys, gorges, oasis…

   This route can be done in an off-road vehicle in about four hours, although most travelers usually leave Merzouga in the morning and arrive in Zagora, or vice versa, late in the afternoon, to make the most of the desert experience.

Things to see near Marrakech
Camels in the Merzouga desert

Essaouira, the port of artists and artisans

   Essaouira is one of the great surprises to see near Marrakech. A town with an absolutely Portuguese physiognomy overlooking the immensity of the Atlantic Ocean.

   Portuguese traces are visible at every step you take in this city, even when seen from afar: whitewashed houses decorated with geometric tiles, streets with typical Portuguese pavement, wooden doors, and windows painted with bright colors, a wall built with golden stones … To all this must be added the presence of many artists and craftsmen, who have found in this place the inspiration for their creations.

Things to see near Marrakech
Discover the charms of Essaouria

   Essaouira had the name of Mogador during the period of Portuguese domination of this area of Morocco (XV-XVIII centuries) and was one of the most important ports of the country. This meant a wealth that explains the beauty of its medina, included in the list of World Heritage of Unesco since 2001.

   As attractive as the town itself are the beaches in the area, where you can enjoy (weather permitting) all the beauty and pleasure of bathing in the ocean or water sports.

   For example, the urban beach itself or that of Diabat-Thagarte, with its six kilometers of golden sand, and next to which are the remains of the Castle of the Black Sultan (from the eighteenth century).

Ouarzazate, the Hollywood of Morocco

Ouarzazate (or Ouarzazate) is one of the most scenic places to see near Marrakech. It is not for nothing that many directors have chosen this city and its province as the setting for the shooting of films and television series of international fame. For example, Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile, Gladiator, The Mummy, Star Wars, Game of Thrones…

   Most of these productions took advantage of the technical support of Atlas Studios, considered the Hollywood of Morocco. And many scenes are used as a backdrop for the red earthen ramparts of this city considered the Gateway to the Desert.

   In fact, from here depart many of the excursions that go into the Sahara spend the night in tents and tents. Also, some of the routes cross the valleys and reach the great heights of the neighboring Atlas Mountains.

    As for the city of Ouarzazate, as such, any visit should not miss a walk through its labyrinthine medina, as well as admire its Kasbah Taourirt, a fortress with numerous rooms and passageways richly decorated with plaster and tiles. Undoubtedly, one of the most authentic constructions of this type to see near Marrakech.

Atlas Studios Ouarzazate

Ait Ben Haddou, a citadel in the middle of the desert

About 30 kilometers from Ouarzazate is the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, which is undoubtedly one of the most interesting citadels to see near Marrakech. Built with mud and stone, it is so authentic that it is recognized as a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

   In fact, it is considered one of the best-preserved ksar of Morocco, which was accessed and exited through two perfectly controlled gates from where the traffic inside the enclosure was regulated.

   Perched on a hill, from where you can dominate many kilometers around, inside Ait Ben Haddou historic buildings remain as the old castle or the mosque, in addition to numerous fortified towers. Meanwhile, the labyrinth of narrow streets of the medina is flanked by dozens of stores of artisans and souvenir sellers.

Things to see near Marrakech
Buildings of Ait Ben Haddou

The Ouzoud waterfalls and the fertile Ourika Valley

   Of the places worth seeing near Marrakech, the Ouzoud waterfalls are undoubtedly the most refreshing. That is, as long as the riverbed has not dried up, something that happens during the harshest and driest summers.

   Located next to the village of Tanaghmeilt, these Ouzoud waterfalls are not only a place for bathing. They are also a good reference for mid-mountain excursions and for many Moroccan families they are simply a good place to rest.

   In fact, the proliferation of hotel and commercial businesses that have sprung up in the area is very striking. For example, those restaurants that place their tables on the riverbed itself, so that diners can enjoy their food with their feet in the water.

   Before arriving at Ouzoud you must pass through the Ourika Valley, a fertile agricultural area around which small villages have emerged where you can take the pulse of rural life in Morocco. In these villages, you can buy all kinds of handicrafts and even the prized argan oil.

The Ouzoud waterfalls

The great Atlas Mountains

   Along with the Sahara, the Atlas Mountains are one of the most spectacular and diverse places to see near Marrakech. Thus, a little more than 100 kilometers from the city is the Tubqal, the highest peak in Morocco and North Africa, with its 4,167 meters.

   An excursion reserved for mountaineering enthusiasts and snow lovers. In fact, the routes up to this point are usually several days long and are not without a certain difficulty.

   But there are many other options to admire the landscapes of the Atlas with less effort. Above all, thanks to the excursions through the so-called Three Valleys. That is, those of the Ourika, Asni, and Oukaimeden rivers, which leave behind fertile farmlands and small villages, inhabited since time immemorial by the Berber people and framed by scenic panoramic views of the Atlas peaks.

Things to see near Marrakech
The great Atlas Mountains

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