Marrakech has many places to discover and enjoy, but to immerse yourself in Moroccan life and to get an idea of the nature and landscape of the country when you return from your trip, it is advisable to get out of the city and go on an excursion.
1. Tour of the Medina with a local guide
The Medina of Marrakech is the central area of the city where social, economic and commercial life takes place. It is surrounded by long adobe ramparts, made up of narrow, bustling streets and has been declared a World Heritage Site. With this description it is easy to guess that a guided tour of this area is a must during the trip to get to know the main corners of modern Marrakech.
The main value of this guided tour of the Medina in English, is not in the points you are going to visit, but in the orientation of the local guide who will accompany the group during the tour. Their experience and knowledge of Marrakech and its way of life is an attraction that you will not have access to on your own.
- The Bahia Palace.
- The Saadian Tombs.
- The minaret of the Kutubia.
- The Yamaa el-Fna square.
- The souk.
2. Guided tour of Marrakech
On this private guided tour of Marrakech in English, lasting about three hours, you will visit the Koutoubia Mosque and the Bahia Palace, and see some of the most emblematic places in Marrakech, such as the Jewish quarter, known as "Mellah", the Kasbah Mosque, the Saadian tombs, or Bab Agnou, one of the 19 gates that formed the entrance to the walled enclosure of the city.
Together with an expert guide you will wander through the alleys of the city and learn about the history and culture of Marrakech. You will also have time to relax and explore the city on your own.
- Jemaa el Fna square.
- Bahia Palace.
- Jewish Quarter.
- Kasbah Mosque.
- Saadid Tombs.
- Bab Agnaou.
- Koutoubia Mosque.
3. Private day tour of Marrakech
For those who love tours, this is the best option. On this private tour of Marrakech, the guide is dedicated exclusively to one traveller and his or her travel companions rather than to an organised group. It is the most complete way to get to know the city of Marrakech because in addition to the personalised attention, it is one of the longest tours: 7 to 9 hours touring the city and its attractions.
The length of the tour allows for several aspects to be covered. There is a part of the tour that will be focused on more "traditional" tourism; that is, you will visit the most important monuments of the city and you will learn about their history and the reason for their importance (please note that the entrance fees to these monuments are not included in the price of the visit).
Afterwards, the guide will take you around the different stalls in the souk, where you will be able to talk to the traders and craftsmen and learn more about their profession and way of life. Finally, throughout the tour the guide will also talk about Arab culture and tradition.
- The Ben Youssef Mosque
- The Almoravid dome
- The square of Jamaa el-Fna
- The Saadian tombs
- The Jewish quarter
- The Bahia Palace
- The Kutubia minaret
4. Tour of the souks of Marrakech
The main focus of this tour of the souks of Marrakech is on the stalls and souk and the crafts and items on sale: pottery, paintings, leather, tea, carpets, clothes, jewellery, spices, etc. However, three hours is plenty of time and you will also see other less commercial parts of the Medina and, most importantly, you will have time to chat with your local guide about the things that catch your attention.
You will meet your guide in the Jamaa el-Fna square. If you're wondering which is the best day to book this tour, let me tell you that it doesn't matter: the centre of Marrakech is a constant weekend. You have the possibility to choose the private tour option, so the guide will be dedicated only to you and your travel companions.
Why I like this tour
The heart of Marrakech is undoubtedly in the souk and its stalls of spices, food, leather, handicrafts, cosmetics and so on. Strolling through the souk is to gawk at every corner, not because you are necessarily looking for something, but because you feel that there are thousands of objects looking for you to tell you their story.
Each spice has its own purpose, each artisan has his technique, each painter has his favourite corner of the city and each colour has its meaning. For this reason, of all the tours I took during my visit, my favourite was the one that took me "shopping" in the Medina.
A word of advice: bargaining is an art in Marrakech, so don't let yourself get carried away by high prices or the shopkeepers' claims.
5. Gastronomic tour of Marrakech
Food is one of the great attractions of this city, but, although it may seem otherwise, it is not always easy to find good food during your visit. So if you like to try new things and experiment with flavours, I recommend this guided gastronomic tour to get to know the local specialities. Do it at the beginning of your trip, it will be very useful for choosing restaurants and dishes on later days.
The most important thing to know if you are interested in Moroccan food in general and Marrakech food in particular, is that in this culture eating and drinking is not just a formality, but a way of life, a way of sharing customs and socialising. On this tour the guide, in addition to offering you some tastings (keep in mind that you are not going to sit down to eat, but the idea is that you try different foods and flavours) will teach you the true meaning of Moroccan culinary culture and typical dishes.
Typical dishes of Marrakech
- Moroccan salad
- Tajines (meats and vegetables simmered and spiced)
- Mechoui (lamb cooked gently)
- Tanjia (lamb stew with spices and candied lemons and cooked for hours)
- Kaab el-ghazal (croissants filled with almond paste and flavoured with orange blossom water)
6. Excursion to the Atlas Mountains and the Agafay desert with camel ride
The main attraction of this day trip is an in-depth visit of the Agafay desert, which is a desert near Marrakech (very popular for camel rides like the ones included in the tour) where the plants that produce Argan oil grow (if you have the opportunity I advise you to buy a bottle as in other countries it is usually more expensive and not always pure).
The price of the tour also includes drinks, guide, transport from the hotel, camel ride and, for a supplement, lunch.
- The Agafay Desert
- The Atlas Mountains
- The Atlas waterfalls
- The valley of Imlil
- The valley of Asni
- The valley of Amizmiz
- Berber villages
- Naqab waterfall
7. Excursion to Ouarzazate and Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou
Known as "the gateway to the Sahara Desert", Ouarzazate is a city 200 kilometres from Marrakech that is surrounded by fortified spaces of Berber origin known as kasbahs. If this doesn't tell you anything, the names of films shot in this clay village, Ait Ban Haddou, such as: The Mummy, Star Wars, Laurence of Arabia, Gladiator or Alexander the Great.
The tour to Ouarzazate and Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, available in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Arabic, can take around twelve hours (the location is about 4.5 hours away from Marrakech) and you will have the option of hiring a guide and lunch for a supplement.
8. Excursion to the Ourika Valley
The Ourika Valley is one of the most beautiful areas of Morocco, both for the attractiveness of its landscape and for the peace and tranquillity of the area. If you are looking for an excursion where you can disconnect and go at your own pace and learn a little more about the way of life of the locals, this is one of your best options.
During the visit to the Ourika Valley you will take a group walk through the areas with the best views of the region and then you can walk around the village at your own pace. Lunch is not included and neither is the local guide (although you can hire his services for an additional supplement of three euros); the tour consists of a transfer from your hotel in Marrakech in an air-conditioned vehicle with a capacity for about 15 people.
9. Excursion to the Ouzoud Waterfalls
The Ouzoud Falls is one of the longest day trips (a total of about 10 hours). The scenery is about a three-hour drive from Marrakech, but the spectacle you'll enjoy on arrival is well worth it. Set in a landscape of arid hills, these are the highest waterfalls in North Africa, and this excursion will allow you to walk around them, relax on their banks or watch the monkeys that live in the area.
The Ouzoud waterfalls are one of Morocco's main mountain attractions and this plan is designed for you to explore them at your own pace. The starting point and return point will be your hotel in Marrakech and you can bring your own lunch (I recommend it) or buy something from the local cafes.
10. Excursion to Essaouira
Essaouira is a fishing village far from the mountain scenery and deserts, but it is still one of the most popular excursions from Marrakech. This town, known as the "Pearl of the Atlantic", is ideal for a day's rest from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, to taste its excellent fish and, if you go for more than one day, to do some of the hiking trails that start from there.
Practical information on guided tours of Marrakech
Beware of unofficial guides in the Medina
It is common for locals (often children) to come up to you while walking through the souk and ask to "show you around" the city in exchange for a tip. These are not specialised guides and all they will do is take you on a stroll through the souk without explaining anything to you.
In fact, sometimes it can even be a bit risky because the 'tour' is far from the safe tourist area. Be aware of this and be wary of such propositions (better safe than sorry) and book your tour in advance to avoid disappointment or deception.
Make the most of your guided tour
Take advantage of the opportunity offered by the guided tour to ask your guide any questions you may have; whether or not you are obliged to accept mint tea if offered, the best way to dress, how to greet the locals, how to behave in sacred places, etc.
In Morocco you may find everything so exotic that it's common to want to take a thousand and one photographs. There will be no problem taking pictures of monuments, but if you are going to take pictures of people or handicrafts , ask permission beforehand.
Ana's Traveller Tip
Be wary of locals who come out to meet you in the souk and offer you a tour on their own.
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The best thing about guided tours of the city, at least for me, is being able to feel like a local for a few hours and not only see the main sights, but have the information to understand them and put them into context. If you are looking for a similar feeling, I recommend you to choose a camel ride where you will have contact with the Berbers who live in villages in the desert. Here you can read my guide about Camel Rides and Tickets in Marrakech.