Essaouira Travel Guide

Essaouira, a city on the Atlantic coast and a well-known to water sports fans offering all year long the perfect wind.

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All the info to prepare your trip to Essaouira. How to get in, maps, activities to...
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Essaouira, a city on the Atlantic coast and a well-known to water sports fans offering all year long the perfect wind. The Medina of Essaouira is a UNESCO World Heritage listed city, an example of a late 18th-century fortified town, as transferred to North Africa by European colonists.

The medina is home to many small arts and crafts businesses, notably cabinet making and ‘thuya’ wood-carving (using roots of the Tetraclinis tree), both of which have been practised in Essaouira for centuries.

The fishing harbour, suffering from the competition of Agadir and Safi remains rather small, although the catches (sardines, conger eels) are surprisingly abundant due to the coastal upwelling generated by the powerful trade winds and the Canaries Current. Essaouira remains one of the major fishing harbours of Morocco.

Essaouira is also renowned for its kitesurfing and windsurfing, with the powerful trade wind blowing almost constantly onto the protected, almost waveless, bay. Several world-class clubs rent top-notch material on a weekly basis. Parasols tend to be used on the beach as a protection against the wind and the blowing sand. Camel excursions are available on the beach and into the desert band in the interior.

Additionally, there are quad biking excursions, cookery courses, photographic excursions and Berber massages available for the active visitor.

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  • A whole grand taxi from Marrakech runs anywhere from about 450dh – 1000dh, depending on your negotiating skills, where you are, the mood of the driver, etc. Alternatively, it is about 80dh per place if you wait and take a shared grand taxi (six passengers, leave when full).
  • There are tourist transfer services too. It is a more comfortable option than shared taxis with recent and air conditioned vehicles. The rates depend on the number of passengers. Essaouira taxi Transfert: is a dependable one. The drivers are souiri.
  • Supratours run coaches from their offices – immediately next door to Marrakech’s new train station – to their office in Essaouira – just down the street from the beach and close to the medina entrance at Bab Marrakech. The 2014 price is 70dh per person for standard bus (?or 100dh per person for the Comfort Plus bus?), plus 5dh for each piece of stowed luggage.
  • CTM also run a coach service from Marrakech’s bus station (or the CTM Offices in the Gueliz, on Zerktouni street) for 75dh (add 5dh per piece of stowed luggage). Note that the CTM bus stops much further out than the Supratours office, a taxi to the medina costs 15-20dh.
  • At the bus station it is likely that there will always be “a bus departing to Essaouira now”. They are slower as they stop en route and less comfortable than the big companies – your journey may thus be between 30 and 90 minutes longer, but with a shorter wait.
  • Otherwise, the coach trip takes about 3 h including a 15 min halfway stop where you’ll find snacks and refreshments, and toilet facilities. There are no facilities aboard the coaches.

Please note: tickets are rarely available for the next departing coach. Try and book your tickets the day before, or further in advance during peak travel periods.

  • From May 2015, EasyJet will commence flights from London Luton airport direct to Essaouira.
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The walled centre of town, the Medina, is supposedly restricted to non-motorized vehicles, but this rule is widely ignored in the case of mopeds which are an increasing nuisance. Other than that, there are occasional donkey carts to dodge.


Essaouira is a perfect example of a late 18th century fortified town, with the original canons still in place and where Orson Wells shot his Othello, “The Moor of Venice”. More recently Essaouira has appeared in the HBO TV hit “Game of Thrones”, standing in for fictional city Astapor.

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  • The beach dominates the Essaouirans’ leisure time. Although the strong wind and currents makes relaxed tanning and swimming a little difficult at times, it is perfect for kitesurfing and windsurfing. With good winds for most days of the year, Essaouira is a watersports’ paradise. The best spots are reported to be Essaouira Bay, Sidi Kaouki, Cape Sim and Mouley Bouzertoune. Equipment can be hired from various hire centres on the beach front. However, this is not the ideal place to learn watersports, particularly kitesurfing. There tends to be a bit of a catch 22 – either its calm and you can’t go out because there’s no wind or its windy and you can’t go out because there is a huge shore break. In addition the water can smell of sewage.
  • World Music Festival in June.
  • The nearby town of Diabat is at the other end of Essaouira’s beach, and is allegedly where Jimi Hendrix once spent some time. Even if the stories aren’t true, this long, windswept beach with its ruined fort is a fantastic walk. Diabat is an empty, concrete Berber village that is practically devoid of attractions except the Hendrix ruin and a Hendrix Cafe. It’s best visted in the early morning via taxi and then return to Essouiara via a short and very romantic walk on the beach past the castle in the sand of Hendrix fame.
  • Zouina-cheval, Village of Diabat (Diabat is 3 km from the medina, accessible by taxi). from 8AM to 8PM. Zouina-cheval organizes horse treks and horse rides in the surrounding of Essaouira. The rides are for everybody (beginners, good riders, children) but the treks are recommended to good riders as you spend long hours riding. If you want city breaks and experience the countryside as well as beaches, dunes and traditional village, those rides are for you. The monitor, Najib, is very qualified and very nice. Prices are correct and you don’t have to negotiate. from 170dh for 1h to 7150dh for a week.
  • Ecotourism…Walking tours, 8 bis rue houmman el fatouaki Médina Essaouira, ☎ 06 18 13 24 80. half day. Discover the real Essaouira-Natural Essaouira…on foot Guided Eco-friendly tours of the amazing countryside around Essaouira. You can discover the Argan Woods, the Thuya Forests, and the unimagined world of the Dunes… take mint tea in a berber village, and learn the secrets of a unique and irreplaceable ecosystem at your own pace. Price per person per day: half day is 200 DH and full day is 400 DH (including a traditional meal with moroccan family) Transport from town to the departure point of each walk is included. 200 dh.
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Essaouira’s craftsmen are renowned for their woodwork and lacquerware. Intricately inlaid boxes, chessboards and curios can be found for good prices in the city’s hundreds of shops; however, beware that extensive deforestation is taking place in the area due to these woods not being replanted. Artwork of all kinds can be had here. Spices are probably not the best to buy here due to the high humidity.

  • Windsurf Essaouira Moulay Bouzerktoun (Magicfunafrika), Moulay Bouzerktoun (44 000 Essaouira). Winsurf center with new material from Fanatic/North for lessons and rental on a World Class windsurfing Spot.
  • Kitesurf in Essaouira (YouSurfEssaouira), Boulevard Mohamed V (44 000 Essaouira). Right on Essaouira main beach perfect to learn or practice kitesurf with Youssef and his team. They offer kitesurf rental and kitesurf lessons. Their unique asset? Unique local mood!
  • Postcard Art – Mustapha El Harchi, Place Moulay Hassan. One of the happiest quadraplegic painters you’ll ever meet. After dealing with all the hustlers and shopkeepers, Mustapha will put a smile on your face. 20 MAD per art piece.
  • Ocean Vagabond Club Mistral, Essaouira Beach in front of Barakat Mohamed, ☎ +212 524 783934. 9:00 To 18:00. Ocean Vagabond offers the wider and the latest range of gear for windsurfing, kitesurfing, surfing and SUPing. Martin and his crew are here to provide the best instruction and tips to ride around.
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Although Essaouira is on the sea, fish are quite expensive. Fishermen sell their catch through the market hall and you can have it cooked at the small stands nearby. Prices are clearly marked by weight on the large pricing board at the end of the fish market stalls, but this seems to make little difference to the chances of being hustled.Sample price: I payed 5 DH for pack of fresh sardins (10 one of them) in fish market. Carefully evaluate how much you are being charged. A cheaper option is to buy Harira (a spicy soup) for 2-5dh or sandwich (i.e. at Blue fasade for 10-20dh, walking at the street from fish stands to the medina). There are many reasonable restaurants and cafes on the main streets and squares. Upscale restaurants worth a mention are Taros (2, rue de la Skala Tel: 044 47 64 07) which combines a French-Moroccan restaurant, a gallery and a terrace bar with live local music and “5” (rue Youssef el fassi) for its elegant ex-pat vibe.

  • La Triskalla, Rue Touahen (in the Medina). Restaurant (excellent Vegetarian food and Fish), Creperie, Galerie. Cosy environment in an old Riad, friendly service. Free internet for customers (WiFi + PC available). between 20 and 60dh per meal.
  • Patisserie Driss. close to the main square is a great place for cakes and snacks.
  • Fish Market, Essaouira local market. If you are a fish enthusiast, you cannot miss the food in the market. Buy your fish (cheap, shrimps are 50dh/kilo, sardines 5dh/6, etc) take it to the small kitchen / restaurant and let them cook it for you. They add salad, olives and bread for 25dh. Really fun, cheap and good food! (The food here is NOT cheap – see cautionary tale above). buy the fish + 25dh for the baking.
  • La Decouverte, 8 bis, rue Houmman el Fatouaki, ☎ 024 47 31 58. If you are tired of tagines, disappointed by Italian-Moroccan pasta, give La Decouverte a try. A French couple cook in a Moroccan style but with a French twist. Nice atmosphere, good prices. Go for it mains 50dh – 80dh.
  • La Licorne, 26 rue scala, ☎ 024 47 36 26 ([email protected], fax: 024 47 59 71). A great place in Essaouira for a romantic dinner, or between friends, and for all of you who like to enjoy Moroccan dishes along with one of the country’s finest wine. mains 160dh.
  • Riad El Baraka, 113, rue Mohammed El-Qorry, ([email protected]). Set in a former Jewish school, this hip place has several dining rooms and a bar set around a large courtyard in the shade of a huge fig tree. The food is mainly Moroccan with some Middle Eastern and Jewish influences, the decor cool, and there’s live music by local bands at weekends.
  • La Cantina, 66 Rue Boutouil (GPS +31.51552°,-9.76830°), ☎ 024 47 45 15. If you’re fed up by tajines and couscous, this English-run restaurant will be your oasis. It majors in burgers, with extensive vegetarian options. ~70dh.
  • Shyadma’s Vegan Food, 20, Rue Laalouj – Place El Khayma. Lovely vegan/vegetarian spot in the middle of Place El Khayma, a less visited place with many restaurants. Shyadma’s is tiny, but everything is made from seasonal vegetables and fruits from the nearby market. You will most likely have to wait 15-20 minutes for your grub, but it’s well worth the wait. If you call this Moroccan slow food, you will be very right. A refreshening delight for foodies, especially vegetarians and vegans!
  • Chez Yassine, Rue Zayan. lunch only. Great tagine restaurant down a quiet side street. Yassine is very friendly and speaks excellent English. Sunny terrace on the roof for eating. 40 – 60 MAD.
  • la soupe, Ave. Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (He sets up towards the north end of the street away from Place Hassan). 18:00 – ?. This quiet man serves piping hot bowls of delicious harira nightly. Pull up a stool and watch all the tourists go by! 3 MAD.
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Mint tea is available for about 6dh all over town, or for free if you are invited in by any carpet salesman who will assure you you are entering “just for a look.” Some of the hotels have licensed bars, but it’s hard to beat the terrace bar of the Taros (2 Rue de la Skala) for its view over the lively Place Moulay el Hassan and the harbour. An off-license, the only one in town, can be found outside of Bab Doukkala on the Boulevard al Massira, to the right. Just inside this gate is the “black market” for alcohol on religious holidays and at night. Just ask the boys selling loose cigarettes! Locals can be seen quite openly, if discreetly, to roll joints and smoke hashish outside cafes in the harbour and the people are generally very relaxed. It is highly illegal though and not recommended unless you’re feeling very safe about it!

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If arriving by bus, local women will surround you as you exit offering discount Riads or accommodation in their homes for as little as 150drh (can be negotiated down to 75), though you will not get a view of the ocean for this. There are many hotel options available so feel free to bypass them. You can always return to the bus station and they will still be there.

  • Riad Baladin, 9 Rue Sidi Magdoul, ☎ +212661604504 ([email protected]). Small oasis in the center of the Medina and nicest part of town, the Skala close to the Sea. 10 charming rooms in 3 attached houses with lot’s of terraces with a panoramic view over the whole town and Sea & a private massage room and Jacuzzi! The female manager speaks 6 languages (German, English, French, Italian etc.) and is very helpful during the stay. (Discounts available in the low season and for longer stays). From 50€-90€/night incl. breakfast/taxes.
  • Riad Dar Bô, End of Street Sid Mohamed Ben Abdellah, ☎ +212642448136 ([email protected]). Charming house to rent exclusively in the Medina and close to the Sea. 4 beautiful rooms (each with a bathroom) on 2 levels with a spacious livingroom in the basement with kitchen for self-catering (breakfast and/or dinner possible to order). Two great terraces also with a panoramic view over the whole town till to the Sea. From 120€-180€/night for 4-12 people.
  • Riad des Deux Rives, Medina of Essaouira, ☎ +33664098991 ([email protected]). A Riad of the XVIII th century in Essaouira. Double: €60, suite: €90.
  • Riad essaouira wind palace, 15 , Av l’istiqlal (Essaouira médina), ☎ +212 5 24 47 21 46 ([email protected]). checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. located in the heart of the medina, just a few meters from the port, the beach, Skala, the place and the lively souks of the city, Riad essaouira wind palace has been beautifully restored in authentic Arab-Andalusian style; while preserving souls and décor of Mogador riad’s. In the floors, 23 spacious rooms and a warm color, ceilings covered with plaster and decorated with design furniture style cedar agree perfectly the modern comfort and traditional Moroccan style. A panoramic terrace where have breakfast join the rediscovery the medina ramparts, the great clock, Skala of the port, el Manzeh , the beach and the distant forest. 50 euro.
  • Dar 91, 91 rue Chbanat (Essaouira Medina), ([email protected]). Dar 91 is a trio of private and self-contained apartments in the picturesque, walled old town of Essaouira. Here you can sit back and watch everyday Moroccan life unfold. Located in an area of the medina relatively untouched by tourism, the apartments offer a chilled-out and authentic ‘home from home’.
  • Dar Lazuli ([email protected]), 7 Moussa ben Noussaire (Essaouira Medina, 2 mins from beach). 200 year old riad. £60 per night.
    Dar Leila, Essaouira Medina, ☎ (44) 1962 771476 ([email protected]). Dar Leila is a fully restored, staffed riad sleeping up to 10 in the heart of the medina. It has 5 beds, 3 baths and a fabulous secluded roof terrace. Breakfast included, other meals available. Minimum 2 people From £500 per week.
  • Dar Zahira, Medina Essaouira. Located right in the lively and bustling heart of Essaouira, Dar Zahira is a relaxed retreat hidden in one of the medina’s narrow alleys. The small riad is built around a courtyard and sleeps a maximum of 6 persons. The house can be rented as a whole. Breakfast is served every morning. Wi-Fi internet available.
  • Hotel Orson Welles, rue al akaba n°19 borj 1 Essaouira, ([email protected]). checkin: noon; checkout: noon. Good hotel and good price with free parking facing the hotel. The hotel is near to beach 4 minutes walking. 400 Drh for double room with breakfast.
  • Riad de la Mer, 7-9 Rue Khalid Ben Oualid, Kasbah, ☎ +442087880701. Very large 18th century riad, retaining original features and character. Stunning views of the ocean, centrally located just off the main square, 5 minutes from the beach. Sleeps 10. Think Villa Maroc, but smaller (and cheaper!) £47.50.
  • Riad Lunetoile, 191, Rue Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (Essaouira Medina), ☎ (212) 661 880 340 ([email protected]). Riad Lunetoile is a 200 year-old family home, well-situated in the centre of the ancient, walled, Medina of Essaouira, with a beautiful terrace giving a breath-taking view of the Atlantic ocean, the bay, Diabet in the distance, as well as a lovely panoramic view of the rooftops, and streets, of the Medina. from €35, see website or call for special offers.
  • Riad Malaika, 17 Rue Zayanne, ☎ +044.473861 ([email protected]). Provides an authentic Riad stay. This former Moroccan home has been beautifully restored and converted and is in the center of town. The staff is extremely hospitable and courteous. It has a beautiful terrace rooftop perfect for private lounging. Rooms are charming and run from 500dh to 1000dh, including breakfast (discounts available in the low season and for longer stays).
  • Hotel Smara, 26 Rue de la Skala, ☎ 044-472334. Is one of the cheapest (and therefore most popular) hotels in town, so you may need to book ahead during peak season. The spartan roof terrace has nice views over the cannons used in the opening sequence of Orson Welles Othello. Singles / doubles with shared bath start from Dh 47 / Dh 96.
  • Le Medina Thalassa Sea & Spa Hotel, ☎ 47 23 34. (formerly the Sofitel) Right on the beach, it will be happy to indulge your every whim, for a hefty price. Singles / doubles start at Dh 1400 / Dh 1850 during low season but can rocket up to Dh 1890 / Dh 2430 during the peak new year period. Luxury suites are also available and there’s a Sofitel-branded health spa next door for those in urgent need of a hydrotherapy session and facial. There is now a new Sofitel (with golf course) just 7km away.
  • Riad Bab Essaouira, 35 biss, bd my Abd errahmane Eddakhil (5 mn walk from the big square Moulay Hassan), ☎ 00212661439221. checkin: 8H00; checkout: 12H00. Boutique Riad Bab Essaouira with a great location peacefull and easy ,5 mn walk from the big square Moulay Hassan and the sea.4 ensuites accommodations with in a design riad with black african vibes.2 roof terraces with a fantastic ocean view at 360.dinner on site on request and concierge service. 85 euro.
  • Hotel Argana (Hotel Argana), Bab Doukkala. 60 DH 1 person, 100 DH 2 persons. Hot shower 5 DH. Rooms are clean. Toilets outside. Not for honeymooney travelers, but rather for people who just need clean and (quite) quiet place to sleep. Nice grandma-lady at the reception :) 60.
  • Hotel Bab Doukkala (Hotel Bab Doukkala), Bab Doukkala. Cheap and quiet hotel in the center. Prices are negotiable – no plain tariffs. I payed 80 DH for one night in room with bathroom outside and no window :-). It gets a little colder (february) in the night in there – ocean is close. negotiable.
  • Riad Nakhla, 12, Rue d’Agadir Essaouira (main street in the medina), ☎ [email protected] Internet is fast. shower pressure is low but it’s hot. nearby lots of food and shops. Double room 360dh. No sound insulation. Can be very noisy at night if other guests are talking. 250.
  • Atlantic Hostel, 34, rue Ellabbana, Essaouira, Morocco 44000 (Atlantic Hostel: Number 34 Street (Rue Ellabbana), situated in the main Medina of Essaouira. There are two easy ways to get to the hostel. 1. If you arrive the main bus station, go to the Bab Douka entrance of the medina. Walk through the gate and straight down Avenue Zerktouni. Rue Ellabbana is the third street on your left, where the hostel is located. 2. If you arrive at the supratours bus station, go to the Bab Marrakech entrance of the Medina. Walk through the gate and straight down Avenue Mohamed El Quori until you reach the arch. At the arch turn right and walk down Rue Souk Jdid until you reach the second arch. Keep walking straight ahead, through the arch, onto Ave. Zerktouni. Rue Ellabbana is the second street on the right, where the hostel is located.), ☎ 00 212 6 51 67 45 04. checkin: 12.00; checkout: 10.30. An excellent hostel, easy to find, only a minute off the main street. Large, clean rooms, hot showers. Excellent roof top terrace where you can have a nice breakfast in the sun. The Hostel also has very friendly staff. 60MAD.
  • Riad Baoussala ([email protected]), Douar el Ghaouza – (44000 Essaouira), ☎ +212 666 30 87 46. Lovely guest house situated in the nature, at 9km south of Essaouira, between Essaouira and Sidi Kaouki, 6 charming rooms and suite, gardens, terrace, large pool of 15m x5m , spa. 80€ to 120€.
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Avoid the space cake dealers and do not let them fool you into thinking that it is ok for tourists to use small amounts of cannabis. Beware of motor bikes speeding around the old town. The area is supposed to be pedestrian-only, but the motor bikes ignore the rules.

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Essaouira, a city on the Atlantic coast and a well-known to water sports fans offering all year long the perfect wind. The Medina of Essaouira is a UNESCO World Heritage listed city, an example of a late 18th-century fortified town, as transferred to North Africa by European colonists.

Travel and tourism in Essaouira. How to get in, maps, activities to do, where to eat and sleep. Download the Free Essaouira Travel Guide.


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Michel Piccaya


As a freelance travel photographer, Michel Piccaya has been on the road worldwide for more than 20 years, exploring the most incredible itineraries. He’s currently based in Brussels however never stays at home for a long time !

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