Danielle and I originally didn’t think we’d have time to visit Essaouira, Morocco’s famous yet totally laid back beach getaway, but then we ended up blitzing through the Sahara Desert (can you blitz on a camel?) so we were able to spend three nights in Essaouira.
And I’m so glad we did, because it ended up being my favorite place in Morocco! Like, I would happily book another trip to Morocco just to return to Essaouira.
I loved Essaouira’s chilled atmosphere, the fresh seafood there was amazing, and I might be in the minority here, but I actually found Essaouira more beautiful than the Pinterest-famous Chefchaouen.
Or maybe I loved Essaouira so much because it marked the start of the “holiday” part of my two weeks in Morocco.
breakfast at Villa Maroc – some the best meals I had in Morocco!
As a former backpacker, I sometimes find it hard to find a balance between wanting to reap the benefits of the rough, independent travel style of backpackers while also indulging just a bit in a grown up vacation. But I think Danielle and I did a really good job of getting the best of both worlds in Morocco.
For the first half of our trip we stayed with locals in Airbnbs, as well as a few nights with Danielle’s friend who’s just finishing up three years with the Peace Corps in a small village outside of Fes. I feel like I learned so much about Morocco during our first week there, especially in the village, but it was also sort of exhausting. Am I getting old?
So we gave ourselves three full days to enjoy Essaouira, staying at the gorgeous Villa Maroc and even spending an afternoon at Villa Maroc’s gardens and pool outside of Essaouira. And oh it was so nice!
I think another reason I loved Essaouira so much was the amazing company we kept there. Danielle and I caught a late-night shared taxi from Marrakech to Essaouira straight from our bus from the Sahara Desert in Merzouga, and we ended up sharing with the sweetest couple. The woman was from Texas and her husband was Saharan, and we ended up hanging out together every night we were in Essaouira.
One of the things I miss most from my backpacking days is constantly meeting other travelers while on the road.
I also loved wandering through Essaouira’s medina.
Sorry I can’t seem to stop with the Essaouira photos. It was just so pretty there! Apparently we were also really lucky with the weather – usually it’s really windy, but it was totally still, which meant that the sea was extra clear and blue.
view from a window of a synagogue in Essaouira
We wandered pretty aimlessly around town, but there are also some cool activities available to book in Essaouira like horseback riding and camel riding. I also have friends who booked a 3-day surf trip and loved it. So you have loads of options!
Where to eat in Essaouira
Probably the best meal I had in Essaouira was at Ramsess. The food was so, so good, and the woman who runs it was incredibly friendly.
We also tried the fresh seafood stands by the harbor – they’re all exactly the same, so we just picked one. Here you can pick out fresh seafood to eat and they’ll grill it for you there. They tried to pile our plate with a bunch of things we didn’t want, but it was fairly easy to then choose our own options and agree on a price – just be very clear on what the final price will be before they cook it all up for you.
And if you want to experience Moroccan nightlife, Taros has a rooftop terrace with live music/dj and a bar (a rarity in Morocco). It was fun to hear which songs all the Moroccans went crazy for!
Accommodation in Essaouira
Villa Maroc might be a splurge for Morocco, but it is so worth it. I found it randomly on Booking.com, but it turns out Villa Maroc is quite famous for launching the popularity of riads throughout Morocco. It’s huge – I think I got lost just about every time I tried to find my room – with a maze of the prettiest little corners.
Staying there also made me obsessed with Moroccan decor – would it be weird to have a Moroccan theme inside a Norwegian log cabin?
And after an exhausting 17 hour journey from the desert to Essaouira, it was really nice to relax at the pool at Villa Maroc’s gardens. The pool is in the middle of a garden of olive and argan trees, making for a peaceful escape from the city. It was also my first real dose of Vitamin D after a long Norwegian winter, and I think I needed it!
Guests of Villa Maroc can visit the gardens free of charge – you just have to pay for the 15 minute transfer, which the hotel can arrange for you. There’s also an optional barbecue lunch at the gardens. The Villa Maroc Gardens are also open to people who aren’t staying at the hotel.
Getting to Essaouira
We got a shared taxi from Marrakech, and then also had a shared taxi on our way back from Essaouira.
But getting the taxi involved a lot of waiting around for other potential passengers to arrive, so if you’re on a tight schedule and are only visiting Essaouira on a day trip then I’d recommend booking a driver, which you can do here.
What to Wear in Essaouira
As Essaouira is a beach city, some tourists were more relaxed with their clothing choices. I saw a lot of short sundresses, shorts, and tank tops. So if you want to bare a little skin in Morocco, this might be the best place to do it.
Personally I still didn’t feel comfortable showing skin in Essaouira – the women walking around in sundresses and shorts got a lot of stares and attention that I wasn’t really in the mood for. So I kept with light blouses, cotton trousers, and long skirts. In mid-March it was still quite cool in the evenings, so I wore warm sweaters at night.
And if you want to wear a bikini at the beach then there are certain areas in front of resorts and restaurants where it’s acceptable. On the main beach nearest the medina I only saw men in swimsuits – women were fully covered.
Have you visited Morocco? What was your favorite place?