How to get the most from Marrakech
Listed by many top travel publications as one of the best holiday destinations in the world, Marrakech in Morocco has taken a hit to its tourism due to the uncertainty of its neighboring countries.
The one question we get asked more than any other – is Marrakech safe? Marrakech is no less safe than many major European countries, and missing out on this cultural wonder would be something you’d be left regretting forever – plus, if it’s good enough for David Beckham then it’s good enough for me. Here are a few things to start you off when planning your Marrakech adventure by blogger Colin Matthews.
Use a Guide
Using a guide in Marrakech is essential and will only enhance the experience. The guides are not expensive and they come jam-packed full of knowledge. I used a guide for the Medina, The Atlas Mountains and the Ourika Waterfalls, and without one I wouldn’t have had a clue where to go.
Insider tip: when you get approached asking if you need a guide, check out their credentials. All ‘official’ guides are given government tags, and will be more than willing to show you this. An ‘un-registered’ guide will take you to his friends shops, which are normally located down a dodgy back-street – a little intimidating, especially if you’re a solo traveller.
Visit the Incredible Medina
Visiting the Medina is an absolute must when visiting Marrakech, and visually offers every colour of the rainbow. From snake charmers to souks and tarot readings, the Medina is full of 8,000 different shops, and can be completely chaotic. With shouts of ‘the more you buy the less you pay’ and ‘we will give you a very special price today’, many of the shop owners will try and entice you into their very own Aladdin’s cave. Never accept the first price, you’ll have lots of room for movement, and ‘bartering’ is all part of the fun. We managed to get a guide for 2 hours at the cost of about £5 (80MAD)
Insider tip: the souks offer lots of wonderful things to buy, but you could find yourself feeling a little pressured. The shop keepers will try and entice you to put things in a basket, and then give you the price at the end. Be savvy and demand the price before it goes in the basket. Use ‘la shukran’ (Arabic) or ‘non merci’ (French) to tell them ‘no thank you’.
Visit the Atlas Mountains and Ourika Waterfall
These majestic beauties are situated around 45 minutes from the centre of Marrakech, and offer a complete contrast from the hustle and bustle of the Medina. Swapping dusty streets with clear water streams, and bright red buildings with snow-capped peaks, the Atlas Mountains and Ourika Waterfall can be experienced in one incredible day trip.
I used a private guide and paid around £30 for the whole day, which included the journey there and back, lunch in the mountains and an adventurous trek up to the willow tree – this is where the Ourika Waterfall cascades down to the valley below. On your way up you’ll experience the authentic Berber lifestyle, passing by homes built into the mountain, shops reached only by traversing creaky wooden suspension bridges, and camels lazing by the roadside.
Insider tip: the hike up to the Ourika Waterfall is a challenging one, and isn’t your average gentle stroll. Wear the correct footwear, light clothing and take some bottled water.
Stay in the La Palmeraie Area
Whilst staying in the Medina means being close to the action, I preferred to be just on the outskirts. La Palmeraie is located a 15 minute journey from the centre and offers lots of luxurious hotels for you to choose from, offering rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. The lush green vegetation is kept well maintained, with the smell of the Jasmine flower infused in the air – it’s not difficult to see why many celebrities choose this area when staying in Marrakech.
Insider tip: many hotels offer free shuttle runs into the Medina, but make sure you remember where you got dropped off, and the return times – the Medina is a maze.