In true The Whole World is a Playground style a weekend in Marrakech wasn’t just a weekend in Marrakech. As soon as we realised we were only a few hours away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site (our obsession is well documented!), a trip to the Moroccan coast and the opportunity to check out a stunning Game of Thrones filming location we rented a car, braved the crazy Marrakech traffic and embarked on a day trip to Essaouira!
Time to rise?
‘Dave, will you drive in Marrakech?’ I innocently inquired in the run up to our trip. I was well aware of the traffic madness that would greet us but, knowing he would probably find it fun, was hopeful he would agree to the adventure. ‘Of course I will, lets plan a road trip!’. Excellent!!
A pre dawn start gave us the opportunity to catch a glimpse of a less frantic Marrakech and we had a beautiful wander through the Medina on our way to pick up our rental car which was tucked away in a car park just outside the Medina ready for our early morning departure.
The Best Riads in Marrakech
- Riad Joya: Where we stayed while in Marrakech. Riad Joya is a truely beautiful, luxury riad with all rooms facing onto the interal courtyard. We enjoyed breakfast on the roof in the mornings and Jemaa EL Fna is a 5 mintue walk from the hotel door and the staff couldn’t have done more for us. Our rate also included a free transfer to/from the airport which was really useful as finding your riad in Marrakech really hard when you arrive – Check prices now
- Riad Enchanté: another intimate riad located close to Riad Joya and also a short 5 minute walk to Jemaa El Fna – Check prices now
- Riad Les Nuits de Marrakech:Literally one minute walk from Jemaa El-Fnaa this beautiful traditional Moroccan Riad is perfect for couples and although it’s in the centre of the medina it’s very peaceful. This riad also has a beautiful terrace and swimming pool – Check prices now
Less than 3 hours later we arrived in the seaside town of Essaouira ready to explore!
Essaouira Fishing Port
Our first stop was the vibrant Essaouira fishing port where, among a sea of blue boats, we watched the fishermen ply their wares in between mending their nets and tending to their boats. The smell of fish filled the air and the seagulls and street cats regularly swooped in to pick up the scraps. We indulged in considerable amounts of people watching as we drank in the action from the busy fishing port.
Keen to have a bird’s eye view of the action unfolding we made the short walk over to the Citadel which proudly guards the Skala port below. The views were incredible and we had fun exploring the fortified walls lined with cannons and listening to the waves crash. We also spent a little (lot) of time indulging in silly poses which pleased us to no end!!
Game of Thrones in Essaouira
From the moment we arrived in Essaouria the city seemed familiar and it is all down to featuring in Season 3 of Game of Thrones when Daenerys passed through Astapor with the intention of buying an army. We’re big fans of Games of Thrones (check out our incredible Game of Thrones Northern Ireland road trip here) and the filming locations are always guaranteed to be stunning!
We strolled along the city walls enjoying the views and enjoying some banter with the traders lining the route.
Our afternoon was spent in the walled Medina where we wandered through the narrow streets lined with colourful shops and cafes. The Medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site designated as a result of being ‘outstanding example of a fortified town of the mid 18th Century’. We’re huge UNESCO fans and were delighted to check out another Morocco gem!
With our seaside and chocolate cravings satisfied it was time to hit the road and begin our journey to the Atlas mountains while bidding a fond farewell to Essaouria. It was a fantastic day trip and a lovely contrast to the hectic Marrakech with the UNESCO and Game of Thrones spotting an added bonus!
Renting a car and driving in Marrakech
The freedom of a car rental always wins us over and we found it relatively easy in Marrakech. We made the 10 minute trip to the airport the previous evening to pick up our wheels and parked it in a secure overnight car park close to the Koutoubia Mosque just outside the Medina.
The Drive from Marrakech to Essaouira:
The roads were quiet on our way to Essaouira given our early morning start and the straight route resulted in an easy 2.5 hour drive. Arriving back in Marrakech at rush hour was an experience in itself and, among the gridlocked traffic, we had to contend with donkeys, horse and carts, mopeds, cars and pedestrians. It was chaotic but a lot of fun, especially from the passenger seat! In the words of the driver it was ‘interesting’!