An increasingly popular travel destination, Marrakech is a delightful city to visit, whether for a couple of days or for a couple of weeks. With so many beautiful things to see, and so many great places to visit, I would highly recommend going for at least a week. I visited in January 2016 for 3 days and 3 nights, and although this gave me time to explore some of the city, I wish I had been able to spend some more time in this enchanting place.
As an added bonus, Marrakech is extremely easy to get to- Ryanair offers a direct flight from Stansted to Marrakech Menara airport, and the flight itself lasts merely 3.5 hours. Booking about a month in advance, the flight cost approximately £59 return per person, and thereby not much more expensive than flying to destinations in Europe.
Where to stay?
My best advice would be to avoid staying in hotels, and instead opt for a traditional riad. “Riad” is technically a term used to describe a garden, however it refers to a town house that is built around a central courtyard. A riad is typically owned by an individual or a family, and thus you get to enjoy a more personal and cultural experience that you would not get from a hotel. Riads are found in nooks and crannies all over the city, and are peaceful little sanctuaries amidst the bustling city.
I stayed in Riad Bindoo during my visit and cannot recommend it enough. The staff were extremely accommodating, and the riad itself was beautifully furnished, with a pool in the centre, and various places located around the riad to sit and relax. Like Riad Bindoo, most riads will also have a terrace on the roof, from which you may be able to see the expanse of the city. These terraces are heavenly during the night, and you can enjoy the evening on comfortable couches, drinking mint tea and enjoying the breath-taking view of the city lights.
The cost of the room was £130 for 2 people for 3 nights- very affordable and worth every penny. In total, the flights and accommodation came to £125 per person.
What to do?
• Souks. These markets are scattered around Marrakech, and are definitely worth a visit. Souk Medina is perhaps the busiest and most famous in the city. You will find countless stalls with items ranging from hand-made pottery, to clothing, to beautiful figurines. The souks are particularly magical at night, filled with people dancing, laughing and enjoying the music. Whether you come here in order to buy some souvenirs, or simply to enjoy the hustle and bustle, the souks are a definite must-see.
• Majorelle Gardens. Located in the heart of the city, the garden is a tranquil sanctuary in the middle of commotion. The garden is filled with exotic plants and trees, including giant cactuses and pools filled with water lilies and lotus flowers. Although the gardens are smaller than I had imagined, as well as being a tourist hotspot, this is a great place to visit if you are seeking to enjoy some nature and quiet.
• Atlas mountains. Despite not having been here on this particular trip, numerous people have recommended visiting the Atlas mountains. This involves a whole-day trip, and thus is better for those who are staying in Marrakech for a longer period of time.
• Camel riding. Due to a short stay, we opted instead for a camel ride in the desert, not far from the city. We were picked up from and dropped off at our riad, and enjoyed approximately 2 hours of camel riding. The tour includes a walk through the desert, with a 30-minute tea break in the middle, where we were given unlimited Moroccan mint tea and pancakes. The guides were extremely friendly, and the price was extremely reasonable- coming to only £25 per person.
Where to eat?
There are numerous cafes and restaurants scattered in and around Souk Medina, where we ate lunch and dinner every day. All the cafes serve mouth-watering food for small prices. The tagines, cous cous and Moroccan milk bread are must-tries. The simplicity of the meals is complemented by the intensity of the flavours, and I can honestly say there was not a meal I did not enjoy.
For some nicer, albeit only slightly more expensive restaurants, I would recommend going to Nomad and Terras Des Espices. Nomad is located in the middle of Souk Medina, and although it is difficult to find, it is well worth the struggle. There is a lovely outside terrace, and the food is beautifully prepared. Terras Des Espices was recommended to us by several people, however we were unfortunately unable to pay the restaurant a visit due to the limited time we had in Marrakech.
• As a Muslim country, women should dress appropriately and refrain from showing their knees and shoulders, otherwise may face harassment.
• Learn to say “no” in the Souks- people are likely to try to persuade you to buy something, or touch the animals they bring for entertainment, and can charge you money for unwillingly following their lead.
• You may find it extremely difficult to cross the streets in Morocco- there don’t seem to be many crossing points, and cars, bikes, and horse-carts seem to come from all directions at high speeds. Though the drivers are more careful than they may seem from a first impression, be sure to take care when crossing the roads or walking along them!
• Take care when asking for directions, for you may be charged for the help given