Marrakech has many places to discover and enjoy, but to immerse yourself in Moroccan life and to get an idea of the country's nature and landscape when you return from your trip, it is advisable to get out of the city and go on an excursion.
1. Walking 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 alleyways 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 your trip to get to know the main corners of today's 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 if you do the same tour on your own. The tour is on foot and lasts about four hours.
Itinerary of the Medina walking tour
- The Bahia Palace: it is also known as "The Palace of the Beautiful" and its main characteristic is that every inch of it has been decorated and covered with paintings or precious woods. It was built in the 19th century and is full of labyrinths and squares with fruit trees.
- The Saadian Tombs are a series of chambers arranged around a small garden. It was the work of the Sa'did Sultan Ahmed el-Mansour, who built it to bury himself and those close to him. It was walled up by the Alawites and rediscovered in 1917.
- The minaret of the Kutubía: it is that high "tower" that you can see from the centre of Marrakech hidden among palm trees and vegetation. From there the voice of the muezzin sounds five times a day. It was built in the 12th century and is more than 70 metres high.
- The Yamaa el-Fna square: it is the central point of Marrakech and the life that floods it throughout the year is a constant spectacle. Don't forget to go up to some of the terraces in the area to see the square from above.
- The souk: the stalls that line the medina are known as the souk area. Here you will find all kinds of handicrafts and spices.
2. Excursion to the Atlas Mountains and the three valleys with a camel ride.
A camel ride is a must on a trip to Morocco; after all, there are not many countries where you can enjoy a camel ride and you have to make the most of it. This tour covers the camel trekking experience for part of the trip and also includes a visit to the Atlas Mountain s and the three valleys of the region: the Ourika Valley (one of the most famous), the Asni Valley and the Oukaimeden Valley.
What this tour consists of
The Atlas Mountains are surrounded by Berber villages and offer nature lovers extraordinary arid landscapes dotted with green shoots in some areas. One of the main attractions of this tour is precisely the visual spectacle to be enjoyed during the tour, but it is not the only one.
Throughout the tour you will enjoy the explanations of an expert guide and these, especially when they delve into the Berber way of life, can be just as exciting as the scenery, allowing you to return from your trip with a much more realistic view of life in Morocco.
What is included in this excursion
- Transfer in air-conditioned vehicle
- Professional guide
- Water and coffee or tea
- Lunch in a Berber village
- Camel ride
- Advice from a professional guide
- Pick up and drop off at your hotel or riad in Marrakech
3. Historical tour of Marrakech with visit to the Secret Garden
On this four-hour historical tour of Marrakech in English, a local guide will take you to see the historical sites of the city, including the Secret Garden (one of my favourite spots). Once you book this tour, you will meet your guide and the rest of the group at the meeting point and from there you will visit not only the main points of the Medina, but also the Jewish quarter of Mellah and the Kutubia viewpoint.
You will like this tour if during your visit to Marrakech you plan to see the Secret Garden (something you should not miss because it is one of the most beautiful places in the city). Throughout the tour, as well as seeing the sights included, you'll be able to put the city and its customs into context, something you'll find very interesting in a place as multicultural as Morocco. Don't hesitate to ask your guide for recommendations on where to eat or tips on how to bargain in the souk.
4. Excursion to Ouarzazate and Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou
Known as "the gateway to the Sahara desert", it is a town 200km 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, available in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Arabic, can take around twelve hours (the site is about 4.5 hours from Marrakech) and you can hire a guide and lunch for a supplement.
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 dishes during your visit. That's why, 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 to choose restaurants and dishes in the following 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. Short excursion to the Atlas Mountains and the three valleys with a camel ride.
This other option is a little shorter (7 hours instead of nine) but also includes the camel ride, transport from the hotel and the guide. Apart from the time, the main difference is perhaps that it focuses more on the surrounding Berber villages and the route through the surrounding valleys is slightly different.
Lunch on this variant of the tour is not included (an additional six euros), but it does include a stop at the waterfalls to enjoy the views from above and free time for a short walk around the surrounding Imlil Valley. The experience of the traditional lunch and the enjoyment of tea with a Berber family are moments you will remember as vividly as the landscapes you will visit during the day.
Ana's Traveller Tip
If water is not included in your tour, always bring a bottle. There won't be many opportunities to find drinking water along the way.
7. Excursion to the Atlas Mountains and the Agafay desert with camel ride
Also with a similar route, the main attraction of this excursion is a more in-depth visit to 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 of 6 euros, lunch.
- Agafay desert
- The Atlas Mountains
- The Atlas waterfalls
- The valley of Imlil
- The valley of Asni
- The valley of Amizmiz
- Berber villages
- Naqab waterfall
8. Private tour of the Medina stalls
This private tour of the Medina's stalls focuses mainly on the stalls and souk and the crafts and items on sale at each of them: pottery, paintings, leather, tea, carpets, clothes, jewellery, spices, etc. However, three hours is a long walk 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 most interesting aspects of life in the city.
You'll meet your guide in Jamaa el-Fna Square (the square is the centre of the whole city and is impossible to miss). 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. The tour lasts about three hours and is a private tour, so the guide will be dedicated to you and your travel companions.
Why I like this tour
The heart of Marrakech is undoubtedly in the souk and its stalls selling spices, food, leather, handicrafts, cosmetics and much more. 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.
Every spice has a purpose, every artisan has his technique, every painter has his favourite corner of the city and every colour has its meaning. For this reason, of all the tours I took during my visit, my favourite one in Marrakech was the one that took me "shopping" in the Medina.
A word of advice! Bargaining is an art in Marrakech, so don't get carried away by high prices or the shopkeepers' claims.
9. Private day tour of Marrakech
Tour enthusiasts will find this is the best option for them. 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: from 7 to 9 hours touring the city and its attractions.
What this tour consists of
The length of the tour allows for several aspects to be covered. There is a part of the tour that will be focused on the 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 them 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, which will allow the traveller to get closer to the country and its customs.
- 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
10. 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 tranquillity and calm that you can breathe in the area. If you are looking for an excursion where you can disconnect and go at your own pace and get to know a little more about the way of life of the locals, this is one of your best options.
During your visit to the Ourika Valley you'll take a group walk through the most scenic areas of the region and then you'll be able to explore the village at your leisure. Lunch is not included and neither is the local guide (although you can hire his services for an additional 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.
11. 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 three hours' drive from Marrakech, but the spectacle you'll enjoy on arrival is well worth it. Set in a landscape of barren hills, these are the highest waterfalls in North Africa and this excursion will allow you to walk around them, relax on the banks of the falls 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 in the local cafes.
12. 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. Known as the 'Pearl of the Atlantic', Essaouira is a great place to take a day break from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, sample some excellent fish and, if you're staying longer than a day, take one of the many hiking trails that start from here.
If you want to know more about this excursion, check out this other article on Essaouira Day Trips from Marrakech.
Organise your trip from Marrakech
How to book
The method for booking any tour around Marrakech online is the same. When you book your place you will have to choose the day you want to do the excursion; as they are full day excursions the departure time is always early in the morning (between 7 and 9 am depending on the distance of the area to be visited).
Once you have made your booking you will be sent an email asking for your contact details and the address of the hotel where you are staying if the tour has a hotel pick-up option. Once you have given these details you will be sent the information about the pick-up time or meeting point. Please note that many of these tours include a free cancellation, but this must always be at least 24 hours in advance.
The best dates
Tours usually depart every day of the week, although this will depend on capacity and available drivers. The weather in Morocco is always the same (hot and rain-free), which means that regardless of your travel dates, most tours will be available.
Since the capacity of these tours is always limited to the capacity of the transport vehicle, you also don't have to worry about whether it's better to do it on a weekend or a weekday.
Excursions from Marrakech with children
Most of the places to visit are quite a distance from Marrakesh, and for small children the journey can be tiring, as can the walks at the destination. However, when booking, you can ask whether or not the excursion is suitable for children, as some, such as Essaouira, may be an exception.
Physical fitness required
You don't need the stamina of an athlete to do these types of excursions, but most of them include hiking or climbing (in areas such as the Ouzoud Falls you'll miss important sights if you skip them), whether they're group or individual. If you have health problems, back problems or reduced mobility, it's best to opt for more accessible treks.
What to bring
It is very important to check at the time of booking whether or not lunch is included in the price (sometimes it is not, but you can get it for an additional supplement and I recommend it if the option is to enjoy a typical meal with a Berber family). The excursions last a whole day and you may need to replenish your energy along the way, so even if lunch is included, I recommend you always bring a snack.
Some areas are also ideal for picnics, although there are plenty of local cafés or restaurants where you can get something to eat, so keep this in mind when making your choice. Water is also important - water is not drinkable in much of Morocco, so if the tour doesn't include it, make sure you don't forget to pack a bottle in your rucksack.
What to bring
As well as water and food if necessary, it won't hurt to pack your camera (you'll see some stunning scenery) with plenty of battery life (the tour lasts a whole day) and some entertainment if it's a long way to your destination.
As for clothing, make sure it's comfortable, including sports shoes and summer clothes (temperatures are high in Morocco, but you'll need a cardigan or jacket to cover up for the journey as most vehicles are air-conditioned).
Some of these excursions include camel rides; this can be a very pleasant experience, but some people are afraid of riding or just don't like the idea. Don't miss out on a tour because of this.
The camels travel in a caravan, most of the time led by a Berber guide who makes the journey on foot; you can walk alongside him if you wish. If, on the other hand, the camel ride is your main attraction, you can read more about the options available in this article.
Although not always advertised, many of these routes have several stops along the way; some are just to take in the scenery, but others are aimed at getting you to visit local shops and, of course, to shop.
You don't have to do this, nor do you haveto tip those who show you the ins and outs of making local products, but in cases such as the trip to the Agafay desert where Argan oil is made, it can be worthwhile as you'll find slightly lower prices than in the centre of Marrakech. In any case, be prepared for these stops as they can be a bit tedious, but they are unavoidable.
Ana's Traveller Tip
These excursions can include walking and climbing; you don't need to be in good physical shape, but they are not suitable for people with back or health problems.
Practical information on guided tours in Marrakech
Beware of unofficial guides around the Medina
It is common for locals (often children) to come up to you as you walk 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 sure that what you are offered is included in the tour
Related to this, something less common, although it can also happen, is that during visits to certain souk stalls or restaurants you may be offered certain products and think they are gifts that are included in the tour when in fact they expect you to pay for them at the end.
To avoid confusion and to avoid being rude when dealing with the locals, but also to avoid surprises, it is best to make sure you know what is included in the tour and if in doubt, ask your guide slyly. In any case, after any guided tour of the city you will know how to handle yourself much better in these situations.
Get the most out 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 it is 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 won't be any problems at monuments, but if you're going to take pictures of people or artisan products , 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.
If you are interested in tours and excursions in Marrakech, you will also be interested in
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 information to understand them and put them in context. If you are looking for a similar feeling, I recommend choosing a camel ride where you will have contact with the Berbers who live in villages in the desert. You can read my guide to Camel Rides and Tickets in Marrakech here.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best excursion from Marrakech?
If you are visiting Marrakech for a week or two, and want to take some time away from its bustling streets, our recommendation is that you go on the 3 day tour to Merzouga and Erg Chebbi. it gives you the best value for your money, you will enjoy a unique desert experience and pass through an oasis, UNESCO world heritage sites, Berber camps, the Todra Gorges, the Atlas Mountains, and other points of interest in the area.
Why is Ouzoud so famous?
The Ouzoud waterfalls are a popular tourist attraction, mainly thanks to its local monkey fauna and spectacular views. You can also take a dip in the river, which is why many visitors to Marrakech choose a day trip to Ouzoud to get a break from the heat of the city.
What can you see in Ourika Valley?
The Ourika Valley is one of the visitors' favourite places. The journey up the valley from Marrakech is filled with stunning views of the Atlas Mountains and its winding roads and villages, and once there you can experience a peaceful day by the river and have authentic lamb and vegetable tajine lunch on one of the river banks you will find. If you are feeling brave, you can also climb up to its famous waterfalls, just be prepared with the right shoes.