Essaouira, on the rocky southwestern coast of Morocco, is a favorite among visitors and locals alike. The constant sea breezes cool the small city in summer and warm it in the winter, providing a pleasant atmosphere year round. The winds also attract wind and kite surfers from around the globe; the beaches in and around Essaouira are considered some of the best kite surfing waters in the world. What really draws the crowds, however, is the beautiful architecture, lovely sea views and easy going atmosphere.
The fact remains, though, that Essaouira, for all its charms, is still a small town, and after a few days, visitors may get the itch to see what else the area has in store. Luckily, there is plenty to do and see within a few hours of Essaouira. Here are just a few of the options:
Imsouane – A tiny coastal village two hours south of Essaouira, Imsouane has a reputation much larger than its small size would have you predict. Known best as a surfing outpost, surf shacks have sprouted all along the hill above the beach, which is surrounded on all sides by sandy cliffs hundreds of feet high. The sandy beach is also a wonderful spot for a picnic or just to spend some time alone in your thoughts. The beach is rarely busy (something that can never be said of Essaouira’s strand), and there are a few small shops on hand to provide lunch or snacks. If you have something particular in mind, however, it’s best to bring it with you. Imsouane can only provide the basics, but really, what more do you need?
To get there, hire a taxi from Essaouira. If you have a specific plan, or don’t mind paying extra, hire the taxi for the full day. Since Imsouane is quiet, it can sometimes be difficult to find a taxi when you want one. There are also a few hostels in the village if you decide to stay on.
Diabat – This is an easy trip to take, and many visitors to Essaouira may even make it unknowingly! Diabat is just a few kilometers south of the city, along the beach. You can stroll through the small town and explore the ruins of both an old casbah and bridge. There is also the famous ruined stone tower a few yards out into the waters, easily seen from Essaouira.
Sidi Kaouki – This village, about 15 kilometers south of Essaouira, is a popular campground among visitors—and even a few locals. The winds and currents along the beach converge to provide what is thought to be the best windsurfing conditions in the country. The waters can be perilous for just this reason, though, and should be handled with caution. There are plenty of Argan trees and low-lying hills around the beach, which provide fantastic scenery. There is also a small shrine to a Muslim saint.
Jebel Amsittine – This mountain, about 60 kilometers from the city, is a great place to get away from the coast for a day while taking time to explore the southwest’s other great wonders. Covered in Argan trees and zig-zagged with shepherds’ trails, the mountain towers above the hilly landscape and provides wonderful views in all directions. The climb is mild to moderately difficult, depending upon the path you take. There is also a dirt roadway that leads to the top, should you choose to make the drive.
This is another situation where hiring a driver for the day would be your best solution, as the area is more isolated, and you cannot be sure of availability times for buses or taxis.
Written by Margaret Jackson.
Photo by xoan.