How to arrange a trip to Essaouira
Essaouira is a charming coastal town bathed by the Atlantic Ocean with a stunning old Medina enclosed by high ramparts that once protected the city from marauders. Also known by the old Portuguese name of “Mogador”, Essaouira was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
Essaouira features various cultural influences: its importance as a trading port during the centuries attracted Portuguese, British, French, Arab and Jewish merchants and sailors to its shores. These European and Arabic influences are still reflected in the architecture and structure of the city. Its houses with whitewashed walls, the crowded narrow alleys, colourful craft shops, the port and the fish market, the souk, and its laid back atmosphere, make Essaouira a not to be missed spot in the Country. Essaouira is also nicknamed “the city of the wind” due to the strong wind that often blows here, which undoubtedly makes the long beaches of the city a paradise for the surfers.
WHEN TO GO
It’s possible to visit Essaouira all year round. Compared to other Moroccan destinations, Essaouira has a moderate and not usual climate with mild winters and warm, dry summers. Average highs range from 18°C in January to 24°C in August. The wind is another constant in this climate, and it blows all year round, especially in the form of an afternoon breeze in summer. The summer season (May-Sep) is the best for windsurfing and kitesurfing.
HOW TO GET TO ESSAOUIRA
Essaouira has no airport or railways station; therefore, you first have to reach Casablanca, the country’s main hub, or Marrakech by flight and then take a CTM bus to Essaouria. If you plan a tour around Morocco, the best way to enjoy the country is to book a private car with a driver through a local agency to avoid wasting time with local transport. Click on the banner below to find your mean of transportation to reach Essaouira.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN ESSAOUIRA
Essaouira offers a good choice of accommodation, from budget to higher-end hotels. The best area to stay in is the Medina, as the attractions are all concentrated within its walls. Accommodations in the Medina are mainly Riad and Dar. The Riad is a typical traditional house with an internal garden often embellished with a fountain, carpets, plants and flowers; the Dar is typically a smaller house with no inner garden or multi-storey like a riad. On the other hand, if you prefer to sleep in a hotel and have a higher budget, there are several excellent accommodations just a few minutes on foot from the Medina. We slept in the Medina at La Caverne d’Ali Baba along Avenue d’Istiqlal.
Here, a list of good accommodations inside the Medina:
- Riad Malaika;
- Riad Beldy;
- Les Terrasses d’Essaouira;
- Villa Garance;
- Berber Hostel;
- Essaouira Wind Palace;
- Riad Emotion;
- Suite Azur Hotel;
- Dar Ness;
- Raoud Rayhane.
Here, a list of accommodations within walkable distance from the Medina:
- Hotel Ocean Vagabond;
- Hotel La Medina Essaouira Thalassa & spa;
- Cote Ocean Mogador Hotel;
- Atlas Essaouira & spa;
- Heure Bleue Palais;
- Riad 7 Pierres;
- Riad Dar Awil;
- Chbanate Riad;
Use the widget below to find out all the accommodations in Essaouira.
WHERE TO EAT IN ESSAOUIRA
Our favourite place to eat is Place Moulay el Hassan, where you’ll find small restaurants-stalls selling fresh fish. You have to haggle the price, choosing among tasty fish, octopus, squids, and lobsters displayed on the stalls and make them cooked on the cook’s grill. It’s also possible to eat fish for lunch at the fish market in Souk Jdid, along Avenue d’Istiqlal.
CURRENCY EXCHANGE and METHOD OF PAYMENT
The local currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD). 10 MAD is roughly USD 1 (August 2020). Don’t change your money at the airport (just the indispensable) and wait to be in Essaouira, where you’ll find some currency exchange shops and several ATMs to withdraw from. We exchanged our currency in a small shop along Rue Skala, close to the hotel Dar Ayour. You’ll also find a bank and ATM in Moulay el Hassan and next to the Damgaard Art Gallery. Next to Gusto Italiano restaurant along Avenue Mohammed V, not far from the Medina, is the CashPlus exchange shop. Cash is widely used and is the preferred and often the only payment method.
TRAVELLERS’ SAFETY AND TRAVELLERS’ HEALTH
In general, Essaouira is a safe destination, but, so as in all the touristic cities, take care of your belongings. The official religion of Morocco is Islam, and even though the locals are welcoming and used to seeing thousands and thousands of tourists every day, it’s recommended to dress respectfully. For women, in particular, it would be advisable to cover the knees and shoulders not to draw any unwanted attention or cause any offence, especially when visiting any religious places. Remember that Safety conditions change worldwide daily; therefore, always do your research through official websites.
There aren’t actual health threats in Essaouira, and the health situation is, on the whole, satisfactory. The only precaution you need to take is to drink bottled water and avoid ice in your drinks to prevent gastrointestinal disorders often accompanied by diarrhoea and fever. Health services/public hospitals are not on par with western standards, and if you need medical attention, it’s better to call on a private hospital/clinic. It is highly recommended to consult a travel medicine specialist to assess travel-related risks and have information to ensure your health and safety.
It’s always recommended to take out travel insurance during a trip, even if you’re only going for a few days. Mainly to cover the medical expenses because they could be very high if you need them. We always do our travel insurance with Worldnomad.com. Remember to read the terms and conditions to ensure that the policy covers your needs. Getting an estimate from World Nomads.com is simple; click the image “Get a quote” below and fill out the necessary info!
LOCAL SIM CARD and WIFI
Even though you’ll find wifi in the hotels, and many cafes and restaurants, getting a Moroccan SIM card will make your stay a lot easier. At the Arrival level in Casablanca or Marrakech International airport, you’ll find Maroc Telecom and Orange’s main providers, which offer a package of calls plus data. You can also buy the SIM card at any tobacco stand. We purchased a Maroc Telecom SIM card for 50 MAD (about 5 USD), which gave us 5GB of data valid for 1 month.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN ESSAOUIRA
How long to stay in Essaouira?
The most exciting attractions in Essaouira are all within walkable distance inside the Medina. The fortified old city is relatively small, and a single day is enough to visit all the most interesting spots. We highly recommend staying in Essaouira for at least a couple of days to enjoy its charming and laid back atmosphere. We are sure that you’ll love it!
3 days or more in Essaouira
Thanks to the strong wind that constantly blows all year round, Essaouira is also a perfect destination for surfers and kitesurfers. Along the kilometre-long beach of Tagharte, you will find the Essaouira Gliss City surf club, where you can ask for information and book private surfing lessons. Also for surf / kitesurf lessons, you can even address to Surf Essaouira and Kitesurf (along Rue Abdelaziz Al Fachtali, in the Medina), BleuKite Essaouira (along Rue Lalla Hasna, not far from the beach), or Mogasurf surf school (just outside the gate Bab Doukkala, on the left).
Essaouira is also a perfect base for exploring the surrounding area and its charming coastal towns. For example, we highly recommend visiting the beautiful city of Safi, Oualidia and El Jadida.
City tours, day tours and activities in Essaouira
If you are looking for an alternative and easy way to discover the city and its surroundings, check Viator.com and GetYourGuide.com. You’ll find many activities and tours offered and managed by local tour agencies on these reliable web platforms. Booking your tour is very easy; click on the image below or the name of the web platforms, and you’ll find out about all the tours in town and surroundings. After booking, you’ll get an email with all the information you need and the voucher to show to your tour guide.
Local operators: in our 2 trips around Morocco, we arranged the vehicle with a driver with Tizi Trekking and Atlas Discovery.
DRONES IN MOROCCO
We are drones lovers, and when it’s possible, we like taking pics or videos with our DJI Mavic Mini. Unfortunately, at the moment, Morocco has a strict NO drone policy for safety reasons. We were told that if you get caught flying, there’s a fine of about 120 USD and the drone’s confiscation. The best thing is to leave your flying camera at home. Anyway, you can contact the competent aviation authority or ask the Moroccan embassy or consulate in your country for further information about the regulations.