If you’re itching to visit a truly unique destination, then Marrakech is it. Unlike any place I’ve ever been, four days in Marrakech was one of the most sense-stimulating and interesting places I’ve ever been to (so far!).
Read on as tripatlas.com/new brings you ten top experiences in magical Marrakech that will delight your senses and make you fall in love with North Africa. Love hot, exotic destinations? Then you’ll love these articles: Travel the Worth with Indiana Jones; 10 Unique & Non-Cliche Honeymoon Destinations; or discover the Best of Hanoi in 3 Days.
Top 10 things you must experience in Marrakech, Morocco
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10) Pet a monkey . . . you know you want to!
Think of Morocco and picture monkeys with mini purple vests and a tiny thimble-shaped hat? Me too. At the Djemaa el Fna night market, you’ll find these pesky little monkeys and their owners looking to make a buck. Petting or posing for a photo with a monkey will cost you – but hey, it’s the real deal here in Marrakech.
9) Go for a smelly but romantic horse-drawn carriage ride
A just-as-touristy activity as posing with a monkey is taking a donkey or horse-pulled carriage ride to or from the Djemaa el Fna market. While it’s not nearly as romantic as a Central Park tour, it’s a cheap way of getting around the old part of Marrakech and much safer than trying to cross the streets on your own.
8) Go wild on ATV’s & camels in the desert
One of the top activities in Marrakech is actually on the outskirts of Marrakech in the dessert dunes of La Palmeraie, an area being developed to be a desert oasis with lots of resorts. The palm trees and sand dunes in the Palmeraie are the perfect place to go wild and hard on the ATV rides or slow and casual on a camel ride.
7) Eat a whole lamb head
When it comes to exotic foods in Morocco, it doesn’t get any scarier or more bizarre than a whole lamb head. Part brisket chunks, part tendon and bones, and part fish-like gelatinous bits, it’s a delicious delicacy that even I couldn’t help tasting – and liking. Served at the Djemaa el Fna at night, the best lamb head stall are the ones at the east side of the market, just beside the clam stands. There is one chef here that is hardcore as it gets and truly passionate about his food. Besides the lamb head, he makes a killer lamb tajine that will keep you going back.
6) Stay outside the medina in an oasis villa
Staying inside the medina’s walls is an exciting experience (see #3), but if you’re looking to relax, then book a stay at the Dar Ayniwen Villa Hotel in the Palmeraie just outside Marrakech. Hidden away at the end of a series of dirt roads in the desert, this villa oasis was transformed from a family home into a welcoming home-away-from-home for visitors to Marrakech, including a number of celebs looking to stay out of sight. Get a one-on-one cooking lesson from the chef, relax by the pool all day, or get waited on day and night. There’s no rush here at Dar Ayniwen. For more on Dar Ayniwen, go to: www.dar-ayniwen.com.
5) Visit an authentic Moroccan hammam for a bath
When Japan, you visit the hot springs; when in Turkey, you visit the Turkish baths; and when in Morocco, you visit the hammam. Visit a private or hotel spa for a more upscale and costlier version; or visit a public hammam where you’ll find locals. A visit to the hammam is a bathing experience, so bring a scrubbing mitten/glove, a towel, and extra underwear. You can opt to do-it-yourself or have an assistant. Inside the hammam, it’s hot and steamy – all the better to open up your pores. You get doused with warm-hot water, followed by a lathering of black Moroccan soap, and a scrubbing-down so intense and exhilarating, you’ll leave with new skin.
4) Shopping in the souks & spice market
If you’re looking to visit the market, be sure you brush up on our guide to How to Bargain & Haggle at the Market for the best results. Specialties to watch out for: cactus silk scarves, cashmere scarves, little camels for your mantlepiece, dried dates/fruits, leather pillow and ottoman cases, and carpets. For spices, be sure to pick up a bag of the Moroccan 5-spice & a 20-something spice, the Moroccan curry spice, some ground cinnamon, and saffron. Be prepared to bargain hard and take your time!
3) Stay inside the medina walls
There’s something sexy and exciting about staying inside the ancient walls of the Marrakech medina. La Sultana Hotel is a secluded refuge like no other, hidden away from busy side streets overrun with scooters and merchants. Once you walk into this exotic sanctuary, you’ll never want to leave. Hailed as a Great Hotel of the World, the impeccably designed hotel is made of four smaller uniquely designed riads. Guests can spend their time on the handful of terraces, gardens, patios, and lounging spaces to relax, take their pick of four pools located throughout the property, or catch breakfast or a drink at the rooftop restaurant, overlooking Marrakech’s Kasbah district. For more on La Sultana, go to: www.ghotw.com/la-sultana.
2) Moroccan cooking classes
There are two cooking schools that run classes out of hotels, neither of which is cheap, but both which offer a complete experience of food culture in Morocco. The Maison Arabe Cooking Workshops begin in the market where you’ll learn about Moroccan spices and foods. The lesson continues in the kitchen where you’ll learn how to prepare traditional Moroccan dishes like tajines, couscous, pastillas, crepes, and more.
1) Djemaa el Fna
The excitement of the Marrakech night market will keep you going back again and again. The Djemaa el Fna is where all of Marrakech congregates to finish the day and it’s non-stop entertainment at each turn. Wisemen tell stories, magicians show you their tricks, henna tattooists are always at the ready, performers, musicians, acrobats, snake charmers, and sneaky monkeys – there’s never a dull moment. As the best dinner spot in the entire city, stick to vendors that sell the specialties: soup, lentils, snails, and brisket or tajines – and stay away from the vendors with wide selections (skewers, salads, grilled veggies, couscous, tajines, etc.).