Things to do in and around Marrakech

A Guided Half Day Tour of the Medina

This short, guided tour in the company of a bilingual, qualified guide is scheduled, essentially, as an introduction to a number of the principal monuments and attractions of Marrakech; it also allows first time visitors to get their bearings before exploring further on their own at a later stage. Depending on time constraints and any particular preferences of participants, visits can include several of the following:

the Saadian Tombs of  the kasbah (containing the finest examples of islamic art in all Morocco), the landmark Koutoubia Mosque with its 12th century minaret, the iconic central square, Place Jemaa el Fna and vast Marrakech souks, the Ben Youssef Medersa, the renowned Koranic school dating back to the 14th century, the 19th century Bahia Palace, the Tiskiwin Museum with its private collection of rural arts and crafts, the ancient ruins of the El Badi Palace, the Marrakech Museum of Decorative Arts and the Museum of Photography

Above all, an introductory tour of the souks is de rigueur. Here, in miles of labyrynthine narrow lanes, are hundreds of shops and market stalls as well as workshops producing all manner of local handicrafts, as well as pottery, leather goods (the ancient tannery, lost in the mists of antiquity, is amazing), brassware and much much more. 

City Tour by Horse-Drawn carriage (calèche)

An agreeably relaxing and romantic way to see Marrakech, its new town, ancient medina and even the leafy Palmeraie, on the north side of town, is from a horse-drawn carriage (calèche). The itinerary, which can usually be tailor-made to take in any particular landmarks you may wish to see, takes around 2½ hours, each carriage accommodating up to 4 people. The coachman will collect you from, and return you to, Les Borjs de la Kasbah or drop you off elsewhere, if you prefer. Regular health checks are carried out on all carriage horses by SPANA, the British charity for working animals.

Henna Tattoo Session

Organic henna is employed for these artistic tattoos, each applied in keeping with traditional designs, the paste being mixed by the artist herself to control the quality and texture of its composition. During each (completely painless!) tattoo session Moroccan mint tea or coffee will be offered to you in keeping with local custom. To ensure the longest lasting tattoo one is advised not to wash one’s hands for at least an hour or two afterwards.

Half-Day Dromedary Ride  

Leave the hustle and bustle of Marrakech behind and take a gentle, half day dromedary ride through the beautiful Marrakech Palmeraie. According to legend the extensive oasis of La Palmeraie was once the site of a military camp where, during al fresco meals, discarded stones from dates brought from the oases of the Sahara found their way into holes in the ground left by soldiers’ lances, which is said to be how the Palmeraie came into being. Mounted on your dromedary your gentle trek will navigate the Palmeraie via luxury villas, the golf course and small communities of Berber houses. Before returning to town you’ll be invited to take a mint tea at home with a Berber family.

Three-hour Quad or Buggy ride

Take to a quad bike and enjoy visiting the leafy palm groves of the Palmeraie district of Marrakech or explore the Agafay desert, some 30 kms from the city, on an exhilarating trip taking in wildly contrasting landscapes comprised of dry riverbeds, mountainous terrain and rocky desert. Along the way you’ll come across traditional Berber villages where tea and pancakes will be offered in the house of a local inhabitant.

A cross between car and motorcycle, quads and buggies behave quite differently. The quad has similar controls to a two-wheeler (i.e. with handlebars and trigger accelerator), a central motor and ‘saddle’ to accommodate a passenger at the back. Each rider is required to wear a helmet. The buggy, being lower to the ground, resembles a go-kart with steering wheel, pedal accelerator, seat and rear engine. Each vehicle is fitted with a roll-over cage and seat belts are mandatory. There is often a place for a passenger next to the driver.

 Hot Air Balloon Flight 

This is your chance to experience the breath-taking spectacle of sunrise over the red desert and to admire the majestic sight of the mountain peaks of the High Atlas (snow-capped between December and April) and the ever-expanding urban landscape of ancient Marrakech in contrast to its rural surroundings largely comprising cereal plains dotted with oases and olive and orange plantations. Following the flight, you will be served a Berber breakfast under canvas in the Palmeraie district of Marrakech. 

The outing includes return transportation by 4WD vehicle to the take-off site where a welcome tea awaits you. Each flight takes between 40 and 60 min depending on weather conditions.  

Visit a Country Souk

Lasting all morning, a country souk brings together the agricultural produce and craft products of local people together with a vast range of other goods and services, including barbers, farriers and, occasionally, tooth pullers!  Authentic, colourful and animated, a country souk is the centre of social and economic social life of each district. One of the largest and most fascinating souks is that of Ourika, a village at the entrance to the eponymous mountain valley in the foothills of the High Atlas.

The Saffron Plantation

Some 30 minutes from Marrakech, this small saffron farm is located near the village of Ourika, nestling at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. In the little museum, you can learn about the history and cultivation techniques of this highly-prized peppery spice, produced from the pistils of crocus flowers, harvested in autumn, and its role in Moroccan cuisine. One can buy saffron-based products in the shop and enjoy a walk in the grounds.

 Gardens Open to the Public

Anima. This splendid 2-hectare botanical garden, designed by the celebrated Austrian artist, André Heller, makes for a delightful and unusual visit in the Ourika Valley, 27 kms from Marrakech. This magical place, opened in 2016, boasts a dazzling assortment of colourful plants, not least thousands of roses, as well as lush palm trees. There is also a small museum with an exhibition of photographs.

Le Jardin Majorelle. This, the best known garden in Marrakech, is a delightful haven of tranquillity in the heart of the new town. Designed by the French artist after whom it is named, and bequeathed to the city years later by Yves St Laurent, it is resplendent with displays of Mediterranean and sub tropical plants including 800 species of cactus and flowering shrubs, especially hibiscus and bougainvillea, and includes a number of water features. 

Le Jardin Secret. Also open again after a gap of several hundred years is the excellent Secret Garden, a loving recreation of a former medieval garden in the heart of the medina. Originally created during the 16th century Saadien dynasty, the site comprises two separate, symetrically designed gardens, one exotic, the other Islamic and a small museum explaining how the current project came about.