Moon Marrakesh & Beyond

Day Trips, Local Spots, Strategies to Avoid Crowds


By Lucas Peters

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From embracing the frenzied souks of Marrakesh to camping in the otherworldly Sahara, experience Morocco at your own speed with Moon Marrakesh & Beyond.
  • Explore In and Around the City: Wander Marrakesh’s most interesting areas like the medina and Ville Nouvelle or head to Toubkal National Park or Casablanca
  • Go at Your Own Pace: Choose from multiple itinerary options with ideas for foodies, souk shoppers, hikers, and more
  • See the Sights: Haggle at a souk marketplace, stroll through the colorful Majorelle Gardens, wander down a trendy street in the Ville Nouvelle, or admire the intricate woodcarvings at Bahia Palace
  • Get Outside the City: Stay in an overnight desert camp like Erg Chigaga, hit the slopes in Toubkal National Park, and take a Moroccan cooking class in Casablanca
  • Savor the Flavors: Try traditional Moroccan cuisine like couscous and tagine, sip mint tea in a courtyard café, and stop at a street cart for hoomus or bissara soup
  • Experience Morocco After-Hours: Relax in a hammam, take in the magic of the Jemaa el-Fnaa plaza at night, or stay in a unique riad guesthouse
  • Get to Know the Real Marrakesh: Author Lucas Peters shares his love of his former home, with tips for supporting local businesses and respectfully engaging with culture
  • Full-Color Photos and Detailed Maps
  • Handy Tools: Background information on Marrakesh’s history and culture, plus tips on ethical travel, what to pack, where to stay, and how to get around
Day trip itineraries, favorite local spots, and strategies to skip the crowds: Take your time with Moon Marrakesh & Beyond.

Extending your adventure? Check out Moon Morocco.
















You’ve never experienced a destination quite like the famed “Red City.” For years now, Marrakesh has been one of the world’s greatest travel destinations, and for good reason. Unlike other destinations that invite you to see, Marrakesh invites you to do. Whether you want to relax in one of its many gardens, pools, or hammams; learn to cook the Moroccan way in one of the popular cooking courses; or haggle for the best price in the bustling medieval markets, Marrakesh is a destination that is guaranteed to engage all your senses.

My first time in Marrakesh, back in 2009, I felt like I was transported to another universe. Sights like the Saadian Tombs, Bahia Palace, and the Secret Garden are all wonderful, but the real charm of the city is found just around sunset out on the Jemaa el-Fnaa. As the sky darkens, the entire square lights up with traditional music, snake charmers, acrobats, and more. That this has happened every night for a millennium is a modern marvel.

From Marrakesh, you can easily visit the snow-capped heights of the High Atlas Mountains, enjoy year-round suntanning weather along the Atlantic Coast, or travel deep into the Sahara. Many of the mountain destinations can be done as day trips, including hikes through rustic Amazigh villages that look as though they haven’t changed in centuries. Along the Atlantic, you’ll find some of Morocco’s finest beaches in Essaouira, Taghazoute, and Agadir. In the desert, you can discover the nomadic culture of the Sahara and feel the utter amazement of spending a night out on the great sand sea.

Finally, many travelers will find themselves in Casablanca for a day or two on their way to or from the Red City. Beyond the daily rush of big business, there are a few sights to see, including Morocco’s largest mosque, as well as a number of great restaurants.

traditional Moroccan zellij—mosaic tiles

ornate lamps in the medina

A tajine cooks in the busy medina.

seeking isolation in traditional Bedouin tents

the towering Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

camel near Erg Chigaga


1 Feeling the real pulse of Marrakesh every night on the carnivalesque wonder that is Jemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakesh’s liveliest public square.

2 Chilling like a modern-day pasha in one of Marrakesh’s brilliantly renovated riads, or one of the truly special accommodations that dot the surrounding region.

3 Wandering through the incredible UNESCO World Heritage site of the Aït Ben Haddou, one of the finest examples of the kasbah architecture of the desert region and the setting for countless Hollywood productions.

4 Hiking through the rustic Berber villages and humble homes of the majestic High Atlas Mountains to experience the older, more ancient Morocco.

5 Pampering yourself in a hammam, or traditional Moroccan spa, with options available at all levels, from budget to luxury. This bathing ritual is impossible to skip.

6 Cooking a traditional Moroccan meal at a cooking class, enabling you to take the tastes of Morocco home with you to share with your friends and family.

7 Catching a wave in Taghazoute, the self-proclaimed “Surf Capital” of Morocco, a touch of San Diego in Morocco.

8 Camping in the Sahara Desert, disconnecting all of your devices to connect with the infinite universe far, far away from it all.

9 Cooling off beneath the Ouzoud Waterfalls, Morocco’s largest, a great escape when the city is scorching.

10 Splurging on a five-star meal at one of Marrakesh’s stellar restaurants. To say this city is a foodie’s dream is an understatement.

11 Sipping a G&T at Casablanca’s best gin joint, Rick’s Café—here’s looking at you, kid.



Three days and two nights is just enough time to see the biggest sights in the old medina, tour one of Marrakesh’s popular gardens, and get a feel for life here. More days will give you more flexibility and a more relaxed pace. Prioritize getting a guided tour your first full day in Marrakesh. This will allow you to quickly see the major sights and avoid getting lost, though getting lost at some point is inevitable.

Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh with flying pigeons

Before arrival, it’s smart to reserve accommodations, guides, and any fine-dining restaurants you wish to try.

Make sure to download a map of Marrakesh (or have a print one with you, such as the one in this guidebook), marked with your accommodation. This will prove invaluable, whether you are in a taxi or walking through the medina for the first time.



 Get your bearings in Marrakesh’s maze-like medina, starting at the Koutoubia Mosque—first under the watchful guidance of Saeed, your guide from Marrakesh by Locals, and then, if you dare, on your own.

 Spend time lounging on the terrace of your luxurious riad.

 Enjoy an exquisite Moroccan dinner at one of Marrakesh’s world-class restaurants before diving into the city’s legendary nightlife, from posh bars to exhilarating nightclubs.

A family explores the colorful Bahia Palace.


 Explore the Ville Nouvelle, the Red City’s newer neighborhood. This more relaxed day is full of photo ops. Be sure to pack your camera.

 Head into Gueliz to visit the Majorelle Gardens and the Palmeraie, a palm tree-lined district of Marrakesh’s most palatial homes.

 Dive back into the medina for a camel burger and to browse the offbeat Perfume Museum.

 Head out onto the Jemaa el-Fnaa to take in the electric atmosphere of this famous square at night.

eating out on the lively Jemaa el-Fnaa


 Get to work cooking your own Moroccan meal at Faim d’Epices, sipping on artisan tea or coffee while you learn how to make a traditional Moroccan tajine and salad with Chef Nezha.

 After eating the perfectly spiced tajine of your creation, head back to Marrakesh to spend the afternoon bartering in the souks, challenging your friends to see who can get the best price.

 In the late afternoon, head out from Marrakesh on the adventure of your choice: sunbathing on the coast, exploring the desert, or trekking through the mountains.


With its enviable nearly perfect year-round weather and long stretches of sandy beach, this strip of Morocco is something like paradise. In Essaouira, you’ll have the chance to see a smaller, trendy medina with lots of art and music, while farther south in Taghazoute, you can experience a deeper connection to the ocean through surf and yoga, while some fine dining and sunbathing takes place in nearby Agadir. As with most places in Morocco, you’ll want to reserve accommodations in advance and make dinner reservations in Essaouira and Agadir. Though possible to explore by bus, this is a region best seen from the privacy of your own four wheels. Just don’t forget to pack your swimsuit.


Kammy Hostel: For students, backpackers, and shoe-stringers, there is a lot to like about this hostel, from the clean rooms to the friendly staff. Take advantage of the incredibly cheap price in Marrakesh to splurge elsewhere in your travels.

Riad Boussa: Charming. Stylish. Cozy. Well-located. Riad Boussa ticks all the boxes, and at its price point, for the quality of service, linens, excellent breakfast, and diligent owner, this is one address in Marrakesh that is guaranteed to please.

a cozy room at Riad Boussa

Domaine Malika: Enjoy your mountain escape in this four-star property with lots of windows and local touches that will make your stay in the Ouirgane Valley truly memorable.

Chill Art Hostel: Perhaps the best hostel in all of Morocco: spacious and clean, with all the amenities you could want. Chill Art Hostel cares about creating intentional travel communities at a great price.

Munga Guesthouse: Eco-friendly and stylish, this is Taghazoute’s premier place to be for great surf, food, friends, and yoga.

Bivouac Chergui: If you’ve made it all the way to Erg Chebbi in the Moroccan Sahara, you’ll want to glamp it to the max. Take advantage of the air-conditioned bivouac tents, warm hospitality, music, and bonfires, as well as a light show to beat all light shows put on every night by our good friend, the Universe.


 Start out early from Marrakesh right after breakfast to maximize your time in Essaouira. The N8 national road connects Essaouira directly with Marrakesh on an easy three-hour drive.

 After dropping your bags off at the Chill Art Hostel, get a sense of the town’s hippie vibe with lunch at Yoo Healthy Food.

 Spend the afternoon and evening wandering the medina, ducking into the odd art gallery, and soaking up some rays on the beach before heading back to your hostel to make some new friends on the rooftop terrace.

The rocky coast hugs the coastal road.


 After breakfast with your new friends, take a last walk through the medina, maybe picking up a piece of funky art as a souvenir of your stay.

the famous blue boats docked in Essaouira

 From Essaouira, follow the N1 national road south down the Atlantic Coast. This is a beautiful 2.5-hour drive. Allow for more time to pull over, take a photo, and explore. Consider packing a picnic lunch for the way.

 Check into your accommodations and head out to Banana Beach for an afternoon in the sun before tucking in for the night.


 Wake up early to start your day with a little sunrise yoga.

 After breakfast, grab a board and head out for a little surfing.

 Pack into the car and head down to Agadir for lunch, a short 20-30 minute drive south down the N1.

 After lunch, take a walk along the boardwalk, relax on the beach, and head back to Marrakesh for dinner. From Agadir, Marrakesh is an easy 2.5-hour drive east on the A7 paid toll autoroute.

the chill beach of Agadir


It’s hard to get all the way to Marrakesh and not be drawn in by the romance of the desert, falling under the spell of the vast Sahara. Visit some of the world’s finest kasbahs, meet up with some of Morocco’s friendliest people, and have the night of your life tucked in beneath the stars.

This itinerary is best done with a car. You’ll want to make sure to reserve accommodations in advance if you’re planning on staying in one of the desert camps. Make sure to keep an eye on the weather. The desert is a place for extremes, whether that comes in the form of heat, cold, or sandstorms. Pack accordingly.


 Head over the Tizi n’Tichka pass via the N9 national road from Marrakesh. You’ll see signs for the Kasbah Aït Ben Haddou turnoff about 20 kilometers (14mi) before Ouarzazate. Turn off the N9 and follow this road for 20 minutes.

A guide strolls the Aït Ben Haddou kasbah.

 Spend the early afternoon exploring this ancient city, and stay for lunch in one of the kasbah cafés.

 To get to Ouarzazate, backtrack to the N9 and follow the sign for Ouarzazate, a short 20-minute drive. Explore the maze-like Taourirt Kasbah and browse local handicrafts on sale at the Ensemble Artisanal before having dinner at Le Petit Riad and tucking in for the night.


 Start your morning with a tour of Atlas and CLA Film Studios, keeping an eye out for Hollywood royalty before hopping in the car. Direction: Merzouga.

 Follow the N10 north, past Skoura. At Tinejdad, turn off the N10 and follow the R702 (Route de Jorf) to Erfoud. Continue on, following the signs for Merzouga, about one hour farther along. Total driving time is around 6-8 hours, depending on stops. Erg Chebbi is the towering mass of sand at the end of the road in Merzouga. You can’t miss it.

A group of friends climbs Erg Chebbi to catch the sunset.

 It’s best to arrange desert camping ahead of time. Guides can meet you at the parking lot or, even better, in one of the local accommodations that often provide covered parking for you while you camel-ride into the sunset.

 Dig in for a camp-cooked meal, enjoy the music and bonfire, and when the stars come out, rejoice.


 Wake up early to watch the sun rise over the dunes before heading back to Merzouga for breakfast at one of the local accommodations, included in the price of your desert camp.

 Hit the long road back to Marrakesh, retracing your steps to Ouarzazate, over the Tizi n’Tichka pass and on to Marrakesh. You will want to make sure to cross the mountain pass before nightfall. Budget your time accordingly.

 Consider stopping over for an extra night in Ouarzazate, nearby Skoura or the Dades Gorge to break up the drive back. For more information on how to do this, consult the Moon Morocco guidebook.

tea service in the desert



Morocco is a country with four distinct seasons, following other countries in the northern hemisphere, with summer lasting June-August, fall September-November, winter December-February, and spring March-May.


The beginning of fall is one of the better travel periods, after the kids have gone back to school and many European vacationers are back to work. Daytime temperatures are about perfect along the coast, averaging 16°C (60°F) to 27°C (80°F), and the water is generally warm throughout September. It’s a real possibility that you’ll have an entire beach to yourself. Toward the end of fall the Sahara becomes cooler, with October generally being an excellent month for desert excursions. November is a slower travel month, so deals can sometimes be had with hotels, restaurants, and tours around this period.

an artisan plies his trade


December is becoming a trendy time to visit Morocco, with many holiday-goers Christmas shopping in the medinas of Marrakesh, though temperatures can be surprisingly chilly, averaging 6°C (43°F) at night and 21°C (70°F) during the day. January typically kicks off the short ski season in Oukaïmeden, though the rest of the country is quieter, with some hotels and restaurants closing down for the month. More remote roads are sometimes washed out during the heavy seasonal rains.


Spring is probably the best all-around time to visit, with temperatures typically around 15°C (58°F) at night and around 26°C (78°F) throughout the day. The mountain snows have cleared, valleys are in bloom, and the entire country north of the High Atlas seems to erupt in shades of green, while the not-too-distant Sahara is warming up for the summer.

the enormous Erg Chebbi sand formation of the Sahara


During the summer, temperatures soar inland, especially in cities like Marrakesh, averaging 38°C (98°F) with many days well above 40°C (102°F), making travel difficult and unbearably hot. Weather-wise, this is the best time to be on the coasts. August is crowded, as many Europeans and Moroccans have the month for vacation. Moroccan families crowd the beaches of Essaouira, while Europeans flock to the packaged resort town of Agadir and other beaches along the South Atlantic Coast. The Sahara should be avoided during the summer, as travel is just too hot, with daytime highs well over 45°C (113°F).


The busiest travel times for Moroccans, outside of the August vacation, revolve around the Islamic calendar, with the two largest holidays being the holy month of fasting, Ramadan, and the biggest holiday of the year, Eid al-Adha. Travelers to Morocco will encounter traveling hiccups and delays during these times. However, despite this, for Muslim and non-Muslim travelers curious about Islam, visiting Morocco during Ramadan or any of the other religious holidays can be a rewarding experience. Many mosques have all-night dikr, a kind of spiritual chanting done in a group, while many families will open their doors to entertain guests. Some of the liveliest nights in Morocco happen during Ramadan.


During the month of Ramadan, Moroccans are fasting throughout from sunrise to sunset. Many businesses are closed, including restaurants, or have shortened opening hours. Traveling by public transport can be difficult, with many delays in service. The exact dates of Ramadan and other Muslim holidays are not known in Morocco until there is a sighting of the moon by religious officials that matches with Islamic scripture. Roughly speaking, Ramadan should fall between April 23 and May 23 in 2020; between April 12 and May 11 in 2021; and April 2 and May 1 in 2022. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr, often called Eid es-Seghir, or the “little holiday.”


Currency: Moroccan dirham (abbreviated as “Dh” in this book and “MAD” on currency exchanges)

Conversion rate: 1Dh = .09 EUR; .095 USD; .084 GBP. Rates fluctuate. A good rule of thumb is that 10Dh is about 1 USD or 1 EUR.

Entry requirements: No visa needed for travelers from the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia, or New Zealand. South African travelers need a travel or work visa to enter the country.

Emergency numbers: Morocco has a few standard emergency phone numbers. Each are only a couple of digits long and can be dialed from any Moroccan phone, though English will not generally be spoken. For most emergencies, travelers are best served calling their local consulates.

A man pauses to gather thoughts before prayer.

Medical/Fire: 15

City Police: 19

Royal Gendarmerie (police force outside of major cities): 177

Time zone: GMT (during Ramadan, time is moved back one hour)

Electrical system: European, round 2-prong plugs, 220 volt

Opening hours:


On Sale
Feb 25, 2020
Page Count
304 pages
Moon Travel

Lucas Peters

About the Author

Lucas Peters first landed in Morocco in 2009. He came for a new career, teaching English Literature, and a new adventure in a new country. He had lived in different parts of Europe and the US, but never in Africa before. He didn’t count on starting this new life from complete scratch, but that is exactly what he had to do when none of his luggage arrived with him. He spent his first two weeks in Morocco in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan, shopping in markets for food, clothing and other basic necessities without speaking a word of the local language. His unexpected, sudden immersion in Moroccan life made him fall in love with the country.
Since 2009, Lucas has been traveling Morocco, from the date groves of the Sahara to the fishing villages along the Atlantic Coast. He’s dined at Rick’s Café in Casablanca, caught a ride on the Marrakesh Express, gotten lost in the labyrinthine maze of the Fez medina more times than he cares to count, and followed the Beats in Tangier. Along the way, he picked up some of the languages that make Morocco so amazing, made a few great friends, and married his wife, a Tanjaioua from Tangier.
Though Lucas no longer teaches professionally, his travel writing has led him to manage one of Morocco’s most successful sustainable tour operators, Journey Beyond Travel. He lives full-time in Tangier with his wife and two kids. Together, as a multi-lingual family, they continue to explore Morocco: the small towns dotting the national roads, the difficult-to-access mountain villages, secluded beaches, and vibrant, twisting passages of the old medinas.

Learn more about this author