Essaouira (الصويرة) is a coastal city in Morocco.
A whole grand taxi from Marrakech runs anywhere from about 450dh - 800dh, depending on your negotiating skills, where you are, the mood of the driver etc. Alternatively, it's about 80dh per place if you wait and take a shared grand taxi (six passengers, leave when full).
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 2009 price is 65dh per person 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 80dh (2009 price, add 5dh per piece of stowed luggage).
At the bus station it is likely that there'll always be "a bus departing to Essaouira now". Unless you've time to kill and are not too bothered by hygiene, it's worth avoiding these other services as they will stop all the way to Essaouira, adding 1.5 hours to the journey.
Otherwise, the coach trip takes about 3 hours including a 15 minute half-way stop where you'll find snacks & 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.
The walled centre of town, the Medina, does not allow motor vehicles to enter other than the ubiquitous moped, but there are occasional horse drawn vehicles to dodge. Smile and get out of the way.
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.
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 , from 8AM to 8PM, Village of Diabat, Diabat is at 3 km of the medina, accessible by taxi, 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.
Ecotourism…Walking tours , 06 18 13 24 80 , half day, 8 bis rue houmman el fatouaki Médina Essaouira , 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 is included from town to the departure point of each walk.
Although Essaouira is on the sea, fish are quite expensive. Fishermen sell their catch through market hall and you can get it cooked in small stands nearby. Prices are clearly marked per 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. 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 Sqala 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 , +212 (0) 24-47 63 71 price=, 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).
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, shirmps 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)
La decouverte , 024 47 31 58, 8 bis, rue Houmman el Fatouaki, If you are tired of tagines, disappointed by italian-moroccan pasta, give La Decouverte a try. A french couple cooks with moroccan ingredients, moroccan like recipes but with french hand. Nice atmosphere, correct prices. Go for it
La Licorne , 024 47 36 26, 024 47 36 26, 26 rue scala, A great place in Essaouira for a romantic diner, or between friends, and for all of you who like to enjoy Moroccan dishes along with one of the country's finest wine.
Mint tea is available for about 6DH all over the 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 Sqala) for its view over the lively Place Moulay el Hassan and the harbour.
If arriving by bus, local women will surround you as you exit offering discount Riads or accommodation in their homes for as little as 150dnr (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.
Dar Leila , (44) 1962 771476, (44) 1962 771476, Essaouira Medina, 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
Riad Lunetoile , (212) 661 880 340, (212) 661 880 340, 191, Rue Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah , Essaouira Medina, 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.
Dar 91 , , 91 rue Chbanat , Essaouira Medina, Dar 91 is a private and self-contained house with its own roof terraces, 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 house is a chilled-out and authentic ‘home from home’, which we let out as a whole, rather than ‘by the room’
Hotel Smara, 044-472334, 26 Rue de la Skala, 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. **CAUTION** The hotel is very cheap and popular with lovely views from the terrace; but unless you want to experience cold showers and non-flush toilets... I'd consider paying a bit more and staying somewhere else!
Riad Malaika, +044.473861, +044.473861, 17 Rue Zayanne, 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).
Sofitel Thalassa Mogador, 47 23 34, 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.
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. WIFI internet available
Riad de la Mer , +442087880701, 7-9 Rue Khalid Ben Oualid, Kasbah, 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!)
If you're looking for longer term or apartment accommodation, try:
Jack's Apartments, 1 Place Moulay Hassan, Tel: 044-475538, Fax: 044-476901, Email: email@example.com, ; Family run business, renting out a group of about 12 apartments. Prices are a little higher than the Riads though you get good privacy and excellent ocean views.
Apartment Simoom, The apartment is 3 minutes stroll from the centre of Essaouira's beach, and directly inshore from the Club Mistral Kitesurf/Windsurf Centre. Tel: 00447515771251, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, . Apartment Simoom is a new property, incorporating traditional Moroccan touches into a clean comfortable modern apartment. Occupying the top floor of one of Essaouira's most prestigious new apartment blocks, the flat has a very light and airy feel with high ceilings helping to keep it deliciously cool during the day. Bedrooms and balcony overlook a Plaza, with views to the Medina, Forest and Beach, whilst the Roof Terrace gives uninterrupted 360 degree views across the Town, Beach and Countryside. Next to the Apartment are a supermarket and a pharmacy, and across the plaza is a patisserie and a restaurant.
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.
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 cannibis.
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