10 Experiences in Essaouira
5 Feb 2018
Essaouira is the most laid-back destination in Morocco and visitors will encounter both bikinis and boards on the beach but also an exciting, UNESCO World Heritage Site, cosmopolitan medina.
Here are 8 Experiences in Essaouira to ensure this is a must-visit destination in 2018:
Essaouira has always attracted the creatives and free-spirited and is the artistic capital of Morocco. Most of the artists are local and self-taught inspired over the years by the light and beauty of this small city. The Galerie Damgaard, located at the gates of the medina, showcases Arab and Berbere cultures with a creative power of gesture, wide variety of themes and plenty of jubilant colour.
Some art galleries to visit in Essaouira include:
- L’atelier des Arts Empreinte – see collections by resident artists inspired by Morocco
- Elizir Gallery – spread across several levels and a follow up to the art filled restaurant
- Galerie l’Arbre Bleu – local & international artists exhibit inc. paintings & photographs
Essaouira officially has around 320 days of sunshine per year which may make visitors think that the beaches here are busy, they are not. In the winter visitors can stroll or take part in water sports and in the warmer months the sun beats all day. The medina is a short walk away meaning visitors can break away from the heat for a walk.
- Ocean Vagabond on the beach in Essaouira, is one of the coolest and most affordable places to dine whilst watching the waves. The laid-back terrace is the perfect backdrop after a day learning to kite surf. Ocean Vagabond offer several kite surf options including group, couple and private lessons. The winds that blow on Essaouira bay provide the ideal atmosphere for beginners.
Le Jardin des Douars is the leading independent hotel in Essaouira. It is located inside a botanical garden with views of argan-studded hills. There are many varieties of tropical trees and plants. Maybe visitors will spot the various phoenix canariensis or the butia capitata, callistermon linearis or the sabal pamettos. If these are hard to find just ask one of the many gardeners.
- Not staying here? If you book lunch, you can explore the gardens and use the outdoor heated swimming pools and relax in peace.
Nature may not be the first thing that springs to mind when planning a visit to Essaouira. But, Essaouira is home to the famous Argan trees found across forests just inland from the Atlantic coast. The Argan is a true symbol of the region surrounding Essaouira. Southwest Morocco produces this highly prized oil which is extracted from nuts and these have been used across the world in beauty products and spa treatments. How about finding out about the origins of the Argan tree and exploring the Moroccan countryside? Either a full-day or half-day hike offers visitors to Essaouira an insight into the charms and slow-paced way of life of this corner of Morocco, a complete contrast to the busy medinas. Le Jardin des Douars partners with Ecotourisme et Randonnées, who guide guests around the countryside crossing through several douar (small traditional villages).
- Half-day hikes priced 250MAD per person (minimum 3 people), so around £19 / Full-day hikes priced 450MAD per person (minimum 2 people), so around £35
Essaouira is well located for a food adventure in Morocco. Visitors can try Atlantic catches at Essaouira’s fish souq whilst also sampling traditional Moroccan tajines across this cosmopolitan city. The medina includes traditional and new dining ventures, showcasing both the city’s location by the sea and the country’s freshest produce at local markets. Restaurateurs head to the port each day to get fresh fish. At Jardin des Douars guests can eat in the main dining room, a more intimate ‘couples’ dining room or alfresco on the terrace. There are various menus.
- Essaouira’s outdoor fish grill stands are a lively option for lunch. Located at the port, the laid-back stands sit side-by-side and offer a truly unique dining experience. Visitors simply select from a selection of freshly caught fish, this is then cooked on the grill and served with salad and bread.
Essaouira isn’t like other Moroccan destinations. It remains relatively crowd-free and the big developers haven’t really moved in. That means visitors get to experience a quiet beach, a manageable and enjoyable medina and combine a coastal and city vibe without the hassle.
Jardin des Douars is home to a hammam and spa where treatments are offered using Argan oils. Le Jardin des Douars offers a varied hammam and spa treatment list not typical of most hotels, the Argan oil used is local and organic. Treatments include the Skin exfoliation Hammam with Smimou Salt and Argan Oil.
The walled medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here visitors will discover the most laid-back medina in Morocco, compared to larger towns and cities. Fans of Othello the film, may recognise the labyrinth of streets. Combined with traditional craftsmen and women creating authentic Moroccan pieces on sale in many stalls and shops, guests will also experience many contemporary new restaurants, shops and galleries. Essaouira’s medina is smaller than those in other Moroccan cities meaning guests can explore and shop without getting lost.
- A great place on Rue al Yeman is Mega Loft, popular for its night-time live music, this large restaurant is full of unique furniture items and local art.
The Gnaoua & World Music Festival takes place each June. This annual contemporary music festival welcomes a diverse selection of artists for four days. The vibrant festival spills out across the town with street performances. One of Morocco’s most popular music events.
Aside from kite surfing, visitors can try Stand Up Paddle, Windsurfing and Surfing. Expect waves of between one and three metres. The beach is also the place to ride a camel or horse or simply relax and take a walk towards the medina. Beginners welcome as are families.
Essaouira showcases an exotic yet affordable ambience and Lonely Planet recently voted the destination as a ‘Best Value Destination’ for 2018. Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018 awards, highlight where tourists should head next and Essaouira was one of five ‘Best-Value Destinations’.
Le Jardin des Douars offers luxurious yet affordable accommodation nestled in the heart of the Essaouira hills only 12 minutes by shuttle to the medina. The botanical garden setting further adds to the attraction of this hideaway. There are 19 bedrooms and 6 suites in total and three luxury villas. The hotel’s facilities include two outdoor heated pools, three dining areas including a large open plan restaurant, a couples only restaurant and alfresco dining on the terrace. Other facilities include a hammam and spa and a shuttle service.
Discover paradise on the Atlantic coast, just 3 hours from the UK.
www.jardindesdouars.com B&B priced from around £105 per room, per night or £490 per villa, per night.
Travel Information: easyJet fly between London Luton and Essaouira twice per week on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Essaouira airport is located 15 minutes from Le Jardin des Douars and a shuttle service is available. Marrakech is about three hours from Essaouira.
All images: Jardin des Douars