Marrakech, Morocco is a divine city pregnant with museums, hotels, cafes, bazaars, and religious sites. There’s also plenty of walking, eating, biking, hiking, swimming, riding, driving, skiing, and generally fun outdoor activities to do within the city center and in the near countryside. Here are 15 outdoor activities in and around Marrakech.
Just about an hour’s drive outside of the city, your taxi will curl up the High Atlas Mountains until it reaches this secluded village about 5,000 feet above sea level. Still an epicenter for the country’s walnut and cherry production, it’s also the location where the film “Seven Years in Tibet” was shot.
And then, as most visitors to Imlil do, they advance up the highest mountain in the country. Jebel Toubkal reigns high at 13,671 feet, and its peak is attainable with the help of guides, or independently with experienced mountaineers.
Sahara and Atlas Mountains Day Trips
Great guided companies like Atlas and Sahara Tours offer full-day trips from downtown Marrakech to locations like the High Atlas or the desert. Some even bring you back to the city before nightfall.
Four-wheel drive excursions into the past, essentially. Full-day journeys across the ancient indigenous Berber people’s trails leading through the Atlas Mountains will take you to wonderful places like Tahanaout, a village outside of modernity.
Essaouira Day Trip
If you’re feeling a little cagey with the dust and noise but wish to keep Marrakech as a home base, there’s the amazing Atlantic beachfront city of Essaouira, about two hours away. The streets are quieter, smiths are hard at work in their open-door shops, and the sea port is right there.
There’s plenty of green enclaves sprinkled throughout downtown. There’s Majorelle Garden, restored by Yves Saint-Laurent. Then there’s the Agdal Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site just like the 12th century-designed Menara Gardens (pictured above), located at the “gate” to the Atlas Mountains.
A convoy of four-wheelers through the arid and rolling landscapes outside of Marrakech sounds like a wind-whipping thrill ride. Tours are available, your guide leading the way through old volcanic sites and palm groves.
Get on a Horse
A five minute drive north of the city brings you to the Les Cavaliers de L’Atlas, run by the dedicated horsewoman Sophie Chauvat. One can stay in the lavish guesthouse and take horseback excursions on beautiful breeds like the Anglo-Arab, Berber, or Shetland ponies into the Atlas Mountains.
Get in a Raft
The great Morocco Rafting Company has been leading drenching excursions into the wild waters of the Atlas Mountains for over a decade. Day trips to the Ahansel River are possible from Marrakech, and they even run a kayaking school.
See the City Walls
A horse-pulled calèche will circle you around the outside perimeter of the medina’s walls, built in the 12th century. Six miles of galloping and over 200 towers, the gates and walls will glow a light pink in the afternoon sun.
There’s never a flake of factory-made snow on Oukaimeden, but there’s normally enough powder to have an exhilarating and visually stunning ski experience. Hiking or riding the chair lift are options as well.
You won’t miss it, the enormous open-air market smack in the middle of the old city. Talk about piles of oranges, steam rising, smoke billowing, fire roaring, snakes charmed, bells jingling, umbrellas swaying, the dust shining through the sun. You’ll feel as if this is the world’s center.
Hot Air, Cools Skies
Round trips to and from the city to a site near the Atlas Mountains will set you up with a morning gondola flight, looking down at the Moroccan villages, mountains, and oases from the heavens.
Right outside of the loud and clanging medina is this garden reprieve. It’s a fancy hotel, actually, but non-guests are allowed to hang out in the beautiful Arset El-Mamoun gardens and take tea, ice cream, or a swim in the pool. Oh, and Putin’s daughter had her wedding there, if that’s at all alluring to you.
Roof Terrace Drink
Perfect for mid-day, or for watching the city which never winds down from above, Marrakech is a city of rooftop cafes and restaurants.
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This article was originally published March 18, 2015.