Originally built on a rocky peninsula and overlooking the Atlantic, Essaouira is one of Morocco’s must-see destinations. With a white-washed medina enclosed by huge pink sandstone ramparts which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with a rich Portuguese and Andalusian heritage, Essaouira holds great appeal.
From a long white sandy beach and dunes to a bustling fishing port with excellent seafood and colourful wooden fishing boats, Essaouira has always been a favourite retreat of hippies, sailors, artists and musicians. Founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC, the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century and established the first fortifications and a trading post.
The town of Essaouira itself wasn’t built until the latter half of the 1700’s, sanctioned by an Alouite sultan, Mohammmed II. It was actually a renowned French architect who designed and built the town, harbour and fortifications in the style of a European fortress.
There are several great attractions in Essaouira as well as the Festivals of Andalusian and Gnawa music. Try and watch the sunset over the Purple Islands, just off the coast. Windsurfing, kite surfing, surfing, buggy and quad-biking are all popular and well-established activities in and around Essaouira.
Located 176 km from Marrakech and just over 173 km from Agadir, Essaouira is centrally positioned for those arriving by air from either gateway. The drive from Marrakech typically takes 3 hours. From Agadir, along a scenic coastal route, the drive can take up to 4 hours. The backstreets and passageways of the old medina are best explored on foot, although taxis are readily available for journeys outside the medina.