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ESSAOUIRA

A monumental jewel on the Atlantic, with a genuine atmosphere and many activities.

A monumental jewel on the Atlantic, with authentic atmosphere and many activities Essaouira is undoubtedly one of the pearls that Morocco has on its Atlantic coast. Bathed by the ocean, it preserves a very interesting monumental heritage, dating from different periods. In addition, it displays some very striking traditions, some a result of popular life and others as a demonstration of folkloric pride. Therefore, a getaway here will always be a wise decision.

Table of Contents

Where is Essaouira?

Essaouira is located on the Atlantic coast, in the southern sector of the country, roughly the same distance from Marrakech as from Agadir. That’s why many travelers organize a trip to this city when they are on vacation in either of those two destinations. Administratively, it is part of the Marrakech-Safi region and has over 100,000 inhabitants.

Its climate is similar to other Atlantic cities of similar latitude: warm but ‘ventilated’ thanks to the breeze coming from the ocean, cooling the air in the summer months. This wind can be somewhat uncomfortable for those who want to lie on the beach to sunbathe, but it is a very appreciated element by surfers and other water sports enthusiasts.

How to get to Essaouira?

Here are the distances that separate Essaouira from other Moroccan cities, which will help you get an idea of its location:

  • Casablanca: 370 km
  • Rabat: 450 km
  • Ouarzazate: 380 km
  • Agadir: 170 km
  • Marrakech: 180 km
  • Asilah: 660 km
  • Fez: 660 km
  • Merzouga: 750 km
  • Tangier: 700 km
  • Chaouen: 710 km
  • Al Hoceima: 920 km

 

Despite being a small city, it has its own airport (Essaouira-Mogador), although of small dimensions: only flights from some low-cost airlines from France and the United Kingdom mainly land here.

However, the absence of a port for ferries and a train station (whether high-speed or conventional) means that the plane is the only option for those who want to get here from distant destinations. The other alternative is to fly to Marrakech or Agadir, which are the other nearest international airports.

In any case, road transport is the most common option for traveling to Essaouira. Although its bus connection is limited to lines with Marrakech, Casablanca, and Agadir, private vehicles can use two highways to access the city: the N1 for those traveling from the north (Safi, Casablanca) or from the south (Agadir) and the N8 for those coming from Marrakech.

How to get to Essaouira

Essaouira: history and context

The history of Essaouira, like many other destinations on the Atlantic coast, is linked to several civilizations of great sailors. The first evidence of this place is related to the Phoenicians, almost eight centuries before the birth of Christ, when they set up a camp of fishermen and pottery production here.

The Romans, centuries later, also reached here and exploited the place as a center for the production of purple, so valuable in the ancient world because it was a dye highly appreciated among the ruling class.

This settlement did not regain great international relevance until the establishment of the Portuguese here, in the midst of their commercial and conquering race at the beginning of the 16th century: they built a port and a fortress on land, which served their own sailors. It was during this period that it received the name of Mogador, which is still often used today.

But the city we know today did not start to emerge until 1760: that year, the Alaouite sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah ordered the tracing of a historical medina next to the Portuguese fortress, and for this, he commissioned the project to a French engineer in prison, Theodore Cornut.

The result: a historic center surrounded by walls, as is usual in Moroccan cities, but with the exception of having a regular

layout, like the urban developments that were already in vogue in the Western world. In fact, the translation of Essaouira is something like “the well-designed”, in reference to its rectilinear layout.

This was followed by a period of prosperity, as Essaouira ended up occupying the prominent commercial position that Agadir had, due to its good position and the security provided by its coastal fortress.

Today, the port retains only a certain activity of small fishermen, whose catches enliven life in the coastal district, where a small market is set up for this purpose when the catch arrives. But above all, Essaouira has embraced national and international tourism and has positioned itself as an interesting excursion of one or several days from Marrakech, also exploiting the beaches in its surroundings and the activities that can be done there, such as surfing.

Essaouira

Why travel to Essaouira

Essaouira is a city that does not disappoint: it is interesting for tourists of very different profiles. And the best proof of this are these varied reasons that can convince you to make a getaway to this destination:

  • It is declared a World Heritage Site. Therefore, it is a good destination for lovers of historical monuments, as it preserves interesting military, civil, and religious constructions with several centuries of antiquity.
  • It captures all the charm of the Atlantic. For many travelers, Essaouira is the only (and best) option to experience the beauty of the ocean during their trip to Morocco. If your circuit only runs through the desert or the monumental cities of the interior, its visit will offer a magnificent contrast in terms of landscape, climate, and atmosphere.
  • Proximity to Marrakech and Agadir. A trump card in favor of Essaouira is its proximity to two major tourist destinations, such as Marrakech and Agadir. This way, one can go and return by private vehicle, even on the same day.
  • Many leisure activities. Thanks to the presence of tourists practically all year round, Essaouira is a good destination for sports activities on its beaches or in its surroundings: surfing, kitesurfing, camel rides on the sand, golf…
  • A splendid sunset. Logically, the charm of the sun falling below the sea line on the horizon is a spectacle that can also be enjoyed in the rest of the Atlantic cities of Morocco. But here it acquires a special beauty, especially if in the frame of the photo you include the famous island of Mogador or the camels that usually stroll around here during the day.
  • A very lively fish market. Of the many traditional activities present in Essaouira, fishing is one of the most rooted, logically. And it acquires all its magic when the boats return from the sea and dump their catches in the stalls of an almost improvised market in the port.
  • Love for folklore. The main cultural event of Essaouira is the Gnawa Festival in June, dedicated to the folk music of the country and, in particular, to the gnawa, of Sub-Saharan roots, very colorful and declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  • An atmosphere of Game of Thrones. Essaouira has the honor of being in the select group of destinations that has served as a set for the mythical series Game of Thrones, and not by chance: its picturesque maritime fortress proved ideal for filming scenes from Astapor, from the third season.
  • Essaouira’s Clock Tower and Ramparts
O que fazer em Essaouira

What not to miss in Essaouira

  • Despite being a small city, Essaouira has many things to see. Fortunately for the traveler, they are relatively close to each other, so it will be easy to set up a walking tour without missing any place of interest. This list groups the most important ones:
  • The port
  • The scala of the kasbah
  • Moulay Hassan Square
  • ‘Rectilinear’ medina:
    • Gates of the medina walls: Bab el Menzah, Bab Sbaa
    • Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah Museum or Museum of Popular Arts
    • Souk el Jdid
    • Ibn Youssef Mosque
    • Clock Tower
  • Essaouira Beach

Essaouira for a premium traveler

Essaouira has experienced significant tourist development in recent years. This translates, in turn, into improved services, many of them of premium quality. Here are some ideas to consider if you want to enjoy a truly exclusive trip:

Luxury Hotels (5 stars):

  • L’Heure Bleue Palais: Located within the walls of the medina, this hotel combines tradition with luxury and has been awarded the Relais & Châteaux distinction.
  • Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa: Overlooking the ocean and a golf course, this hotel offers modern luxury and first-class amenities.
  • Le Domaine de L’Arganeraie: Although it is on the outskirts of Essaouira, this resort offers luxury villas in a serene setting.
  • Villa Quieta: A beautiful hotel with an impressive view, known for its hospitality and comfort.

Luxury Restaurants:

  • La Table by Madada: A chic bistro with a focus on fresh seafood and local recipes.
  • Elizir: Located in an old riad, it is known for its bohemian atmosphere and a fusion of Moroccan cuisine with international touches.
  • La Caravane Café: Offers an eclectic culinary experience in a theatrical setting.
  • Les Alizés: Located in the heart of the medina, this restaurant is known for its authentic Moroccan cuisine.

Golf Courses:

  • Golf de Mogador: Designed by Gary Player, this is one of the most prestigious golf courses in Morocco, offering spectacular views of the Atlantic.

But the best way to configure a tailor-made and high-quality trip is to trust in Chic Morocco: we are an agency with experience in this Atlantic city and with premium providers, who will meet your demands when you are in this tourist destination… and in any other part of the country.

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