A Visit to the UNESCO beach town of Essaouira, Morocco

A Visit to the UNESCO beach town of Essaouira, MoroccoA Visit to the UNESCO beach town of Essaouira Morocco

Essaouira was the last stop on my 5 week Morocco trip. I have to admit it felt very un-Moroccan compared to other places I visited. There is a relaxed vibe in the air. Locals are friendly and unhurried. Merchants don’t hassle you when you walk by, which might have had something to do with the abundance of tourists (I was there between Christmas and New Year’s. I was told that every Riad in town was full up).

Essaouira is more than just a beach town. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a history dating back to the 5th Century BC. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans took turns controlling the town. In the 15th century the Portuguese came here and built the fortress and the massive walls that encircle the old town. In 1510 they lost control of Essaouira and the town became a haven for pirates. Later, Essaouira was Morocco’s main port and was used to ship goods coming from the caravan trade, goods that originated in Sub-Saharan Africa, and came through Timbuktu on the way to Marrakech.

A Visit to the UNESCO beach town of Essaouira Morocco


I was in Essaouira a week which for the normal visitor will be too much. You can do and see almost everything you have to in Essaouira in a day.


Things you “have to” do in Essaouira


1) Walk the ramparts

ramparts, Essaouira Morocco

A Visit to the UNESCO beach town of Essaouira Morocco. Views on Atlantic


2) Go to the port for a look at the boats, the fishermen and their catch

port, Essaouira Morocco

fisherman, Essaouira Morocco

3) Explore the citadel (called the scala or sqala) at the port

citadel (called the scala or sqala), Essaouira, Morocco

gloryhole, Essaouira Morocco

But really, Essaouira is a place to just walk and enjoy. Walk to the end of the beach. You’ll get offers to ride a horse or a camel. Walk through the medina, it’s a good place to buy your Moroccan souvenirs. Or walk around the town, following the walls. Sit on a square and order a mint tea or a “nous nous” (a coffee – half coffee, half milk). Walking and sitting, and taking jogs down the beach are what I spent most of my time in Essaouira doing.

A Visit to the UNESCO beach town of Essaouira, Morocco

beach views, Essaouirasouvenirs, Essaouira

dogs and cats in Essaouira, Morocco

animals in Essaouira


As I say, you can see all of Essaouira in a day. I would recommend 2 full days in Essaouira for the average visitor. But it’s a chilled out place where full-time travellers like to stay longer, like our friends Paul and Paula who are there for a month (which they wrote about here). I like to say that Essaouira is Morocco-lite: with all of the beauty of Morocco but less of the hassle and hustle that most travellers have to put up with when travelling in other parts of the country.


So should you make Essaouira part of your Morocco itinerary?  Yes, definitely.


the coastal town of Essaouira, Morocco



Practical Information

Accommodation. I stayed in 2 different riads while in Essaouira. The better of the two is Riad Maison du Sud which was excellent in every respect. Recommended.

Food. There are some local restaurants on the main street of the medina that are both good and inexpensive. My favorite was a tiny little place next to Pizza Samaresh where they have sandwiches, salads, and pizza (which you can all order to take away as I usually did). There is also a great little Italian restaurant called Taverna Bolognese Da Maurizio where I would go for a pasta and a glass of wine. Very nice.

Getting to Essaouira. I took CTM buses to get to Essaouira from Casablanca (8 hours), and Supratours from Essaouira to Marrakech (3 hours). The service is the same with both but I would recommend Supratours because their bus terminal is right next to the old town (the CTM terminal is about 2 km away). No toilets but they stop for a toilet break.

Transfers and Tours. Instead of taking the bus, you can get this 1st class Private Transfer from Marrakech (fixed group rate). You can also take this Full Day Tour of Essaouira from Marrakech. The tour is inexpensive and gets great reviews. Good for those on a tight schedule.

Weather. Essaouira is known for its winds which can make it a very chilly place. Funny enough, locals tell me it’s colder in summer (when the winds are strong) than in winter. December was near perfect weather with little wind, clear skies, and temperatures in the high teens (Celcius).

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A Visit to the UNESCO beach town of Essaouira, Morocco
A Visit to the UNESCO beach town of Essaouira, Morocco

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  1. Frank, another collection of great photos 🙂 I am glad you found it relaxing there and did not encounter the harassment you felt in Marrakesh. Lots of great information, interesting about the Portuguese being there in the 15th Century, but sounds like they did not have control for long? or otherwise Portuguese could have been the spoken language there today 🙂

    1. Thank you Gilda. You’re right it didn’t last long. And then in the early 1900’s the whole region became a French protectorate.

  2. Looks very relaxing. I tinkered with the idea of going there, but I chose El Jadida instead. Just like Essaouira, 1-2 days is enough for the average traveler. I’ve been here 13 days, leaving tomorrow for Marrakech. I really like it here; it’s peaceful. Just wish I knew French.

    1. Language a funny thing in Morocco. I’m glad I can speak French because it helped me 95% of the time. But the guys at the Riad in Imlil only spoke Arabic or Spanish. Weird. And some other people spoke no French but did speak English.
      Good to know about El Jadida. Curious to what you’ll think of Marrakech.

  3. Great photos, Frank! You really captured the town. I especially like the classic “hole” photo — with seagull. I agree that two days is enough for most tourists. We’re hanging out here for a month, enjoying the sun and sand (but staying off the beach: when the wind blows, as it often does, you get sandblasted!)

    This might be a good place to start a visit to Morocco. Ease into it slowly. Of course, you do have to go through Casablanca or Marrakech. Although, it is possible to fly between Essaouria and London-Luton, Paris-Orly, Dusseldorf, and Casablanca, although there are not necessarily flights every day. (We’ve only arrived by bus from Marrakech, though.)

    1. Yes, the famous “hole” photo, otherwise known as the Essaouira gloryhole. Actually I might be the only one who calls it that.

      I was lucky enough to get perfect weather, no sandblasting. I really agree with Essaouira as a place to dip your toes in Morocco. I’m really impressed that you guys are there a month though. Even a week there and I would see the same local characters every day…

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