Marrakech (also spelled Marrakesh) is a popular destination when visiting Morocco since it provides plenty of attractions and the opportunity to experience Moroccan culture and customs. If you spend more than a few days in the city, though, you’re bound to start thinking about all the things to see in Morocco outside of Marrakech. What makes day trips so valuable is that they showcase the country’s diversity. The best day trips from Marrakech take you everywhere from the mountains and desert to the coast, with the following trips definitely worth the time and effort.
Editor’s Note: Although many of the day trips mentioned below can be done on a guided tour, for more flexibility and independence consider renting a car for the day. Your own 4 wheels allow you to be in control of your time and schedule, and depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out to be cheaper than using other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the cheapest prices at Rentalcars.com.
1. Ouzoud Falls
To escape the city and discover a surprisingly lush and green side of Morocco, head for the stunning Ouzoud Falls. This impressive waterfall in the Middle Atlas Mountains is one of the most common day tours from Marrakech, and with good reason. Fed by the El-Abid River, the Ouzoud Falls drop a total of 110 meters (360 feet) across several tiers. Besides appreciating the views of this striking waterfalls set within the El-Abid Canyon, you can take a boat ride to the bottom of the falls or go swimming in the cool river.
Getting there: For sake of ease, most visitors take a guided tour to visit the waterfalls. Alternatively, it’s a 2.5 to 3 hour drive from Marrakech.
Situated on the Atlantic coast, the seaside city of Essaouira makes for one of the best side trips from Marrakech. What’s nice about visiting Essaouira is that you get to see a completely different take on city life in Morocco. It doesn’t hurt that Essaouira is full of scenic spots and has a bit of an unexpected bohemian vibe. While it’s easy to get distracted by the city’s beachfront, it’s best to head over to the medina and port area, where you’ll spot the significant city walls, still lined with defensive cannons, that look out over the ocean. Then there are the blue fishing boats that fill the port and the many restaurants serving up fresh seafood. If nothing else, you’ll appreciate the relaxed vibes of this seaside spot before returning to the big city.
Getting there: The best way to fit in a day trip to Essaouira is with a guided tour. Going by car from Marrakech takes roughly 2.5 hours.
3. Aït Benhaddou and Ouarzazate
Few Marrakech day trips delight visitors to Morocco quite like a journey to see the twin destinations of Aït Benhaddou and Ouarzazate. These two places southeast of the city are iconic attractions due to their long history of hosting international film and TV productions, including Game of Thrones, Gladiator and The Mummy. Aït Benhaddou, a UNESCO-listed fortified village from the 11th century made from red mud bricks, is probably the more instantly recognizable of the two and is captivating to wander about. As for Ouarzazate, the town is known as the Hollywood of Africa, and most visits focus on a tour of Atlas Studios to see familiar sets from movies shot there.
Getting there: Getting to Aït Benhaddou and Ouarzazate by car takes around 3 to 3.5 hours, but the drive is worth it. However, many visitors find that taking an organized tour is the best way to experience it all in one day.
4. Agafay Desert
Exploring the deserts of Morocco is usually pretty high on travelers’ agendas. As such, the Agafay Desert ranks among the best places to visit from Marrakech because it allows the possibility of a day trip into the desert, something you can’t really do with the Sahara. Even though the Agafay Desert may not offer the Sahara’s sand dunes, a trip here is loaded with raw landscapes and immersive experiences. Whether horse or camel rides, quad biking, or sipping traditional tea in a Berber village is more your speed, this day trip from Marrakech provides a genuine otherworldly experience.
Getting there: Driving out to the Agafay Desert from Marrakech generally takes 45 minutes to an hour, depending how deep you go. For a fully rounded experience, consider a guided tour with camel ride included.
5. Ourika Valley
Just a short trip from Marrakech lies the sublime scenery of the Ourika Valley. Hidden within the foothills at the start of the Atlas Mountains, the Ourika Valley is home to small villages and lined with beautiful cherry and almond orchards. The Berber still live in the valley as their ancestors did centuries ago, and trips here often focus on what Berber life is like today. You may find a local market taking place depending on the day, and visiting local collectives trading in argan-oil, a popular Moroccan cosmetic product, is common, too. There’s also the wonderful river and mountain scenery to enjoy, including the pretty Setti Fatma waterfalls, where several different hiking trails through the mountains start.
Getting there: It’s possible to drive from Marrakech to the Ourika Valley in under an hour. Most people, though, choose to go with a guided tour since it’s usually more affordable and simpler.
It’s easy to see why the small Berber village of Imlil is one of the best places to visit in Morocco, once you realize that it is surrounded by the High Atlas Mountains. Imlil enjoys some of the best mountain scenery in Morocco, including views of Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in the country. Mount Toubkal and the surrounding mountains provide dramatic vistas, all of which can be enjoyed from Imlil down below. While you can’t hike to the summit in one day, you can take small hiking trails to nearby local villages, admire the views, and breathe in the fresh mountain air. And when you’re at 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) elevation already, some visitors will find those hikes more than enough.
Getting there: If you’re interested in experiencing Imlil fully, choose an Atlas Mountains hiking tour that focuses solely on the area rather than one that merely stops in along the way. Going by car to Imlil takes just over an hour.
7. High Atlas Mountains
Because they cover so much of the country, the Atlas Mountains are bound to appear on most trips to Morocco in some shape or form. When it comes to the mountains near Marrakech, we’re referring specifically to the High Atlas Mountains, the highest section of this long mountain range. Throughout the mountains, there are countless valleys to explore that are home to hiking trails and small Berber villages. Places like Ourika and Imlil are the most popular destinations, but there are some great alternatives like the town of Asni and the Mizane and Zat Valleys. With the right day trip, it’s possible to combine multiple valleys and towns and discover just how varied this region can be.
Getting there: Reaching destinations within the High Atlas Mountains typically takes 1 to 2 hours by car. However, a guided tour of the mountains is the best way to see lots of different places without the stress of finding your own way.
8. Marrakech Palmeraie
Do you want to escape the city without actually leaving the city limits? Then make your way to the Marrakech Palmeraie, the beautiful palm groves of the city that provide the ideal setting for all sorts of fun and enjoyable outdoor activities. This lush green space at the far northern edge of the city is an oasis that makes a dreamy backdrop for exciting adventures like camel rides and quad biking. While the resorts and golf courses nearby may make it feel like a gimmick to attract tourists, this plantation of thousands of palms dates back to the 12th century and continues to provide wood and dates for the city.
Getting there: The Palm Groves of Marrakech are only a ten-minute taxi ride from the city center, but if you want to try a range of activities, it’s best to organize them in advance with a tour.
Another great coastal destination is the sunny city of Agadir. This port city offers a fantastic blend of beaches, interesting historical landmarks, and resort pleasures that will make you feel pampered. You could easily just spend your time here sunbathing or surfing, if that’s what your vacation is missing. Alternatively, you could head to the spas, golf courses, and bars if you just want to unwind. But there’s plenty to see in Agadir as well, from the fine beachfront promenade to the dramatic remains of the city’s old hilltop fortress. No matter what you choose to do, the 60s–70s vibe makes Agadir a unique place to visit in Morocco.
Getting there: It takes roughly 3 hours to drive from Marrakech to Agadir, with buses also running every few hours between the two cities.
At the other end of the spectrum are the alpine slopes of Oukaïmeden. Found within the High Atlas Mountains, this ski resort is one of the best in Morocco, maybe even in Africa. Oukaïmeden includes elevations around 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) and features six ski lifts and slopes that suit everyone from beginners to those ready for its advanced runs. While it may not be as carefully groomed or modern as Western ski resorts, these characteristics help make skiing here a special and memorable experience. The ski season is best during January and February, while springtime opens up the mountain’s hiking trails.
Getting there: The drive from Marrakech to Oukaïmedenn typically takes just under 2 hours.
11. Imouzzer and Paradise Valley
A journey to Imouzzer shows just how far the Atlas Mountains spread across the country. Practically isolated until the 1930s, Imouzzer Ida Ou Tanane, a small Berber town north of Agadir, is a remote and peaceful place to visit off the tourist track. Besides taking a stroll through town and sampling the local produce of honey and argan oil, the best thing to do here is to see the Cascades. This gorgeous waterfall is a little out of the town center and quite a beautiful sight. While visiting Imouzzer, be sure to continue on a little to Paradise Valley, a photogenic area boasting natural rock pools fed by more small cascades.
Getting there: It takes a little over 3 hours to drive to Imouzzer, with Paradise Valley another 20 minutes or so away.
Alongside Marrakech, Casablanca is easily one of the most well-known destinations in Morocco and can be comfortably explored with a well-planned day trip. Casablanca sits due north of Marrakech on the coast and is the largest city in the country, functioning mainly as a commercial and industrial center. There are a handful of big sights to see, starting with the city’s medina that feels even more chaotic and maze-like than Marrakech’s. Then there’s the Place Mohammed V, a square within the more modern and open French colonial part of the city. The main attraction, though, is the immense Hassan II Mosque, the second largest mosque in the world. Having been built in 1993, it’s not very old, but its scale and design are truly striking.
Getting there: Travel by both train and car takes just under 3 hours, with train departures from Marrakech every few hours.
13. Ouirgane Valley
Our final option for a scenic day trip into the High Atlas Mountains is the gentle and breezy Ouirgane Valley. Lying further west than the other valleys, Ouirgane is a little more off the tourist trail than Imlil or Ourika and better for it. Marrakech locals often seek out the valley to escape the heat, and visitors will find the gentle hiking trails between mountain villages a bit quieter as well. While hiking from one village to the next you’ll pass loads of fruit, olive, and nut trees and take in the majestic mountain landscape as you go.
Getting there: The Ouirgane Valley takes around 1 to 1.5 hours to reach by car.
14. Tinmal Mosque
A lesser-known destination that’s definitely worth investigating as a day trip from Marrakech is the historic Tinmal Mosque (also spelled Tin Mal or Tinmel). This secluded religious landmark set within a dry, yet picturesque valley sits in the ruins of a medieval fortress among the High Atlas Mountains. The mosque was built in the 12th century and is one of the few mosques in the country that non-Muslims can visit, mainly because it is no longer a fully functioning place of worship. A visit involves exploring the medieval remains and admiring all the well-preserved details around its interior courtyard. Note that you may have to contact the mosque’s guard by phone to be let in if the site is not open; you’ll find the number posted on the entrance door.
Getting there: The drive through the mountains to reach Tinmal Mosque takes roughly 3 hours and features the scenic Tizi-n-Test road.
15. Lalla Takerkoust Lake
It may seem strange to include an artificial lake and dam on this kind of list, but Lalla Takerkoust Lake is definitely worth a visit on account of its scenery, including the gorgeous backdrop of the snowy Atlas Mountains. This man-made lake is a popular weekend spot for city locals. The lake offers the possibility for all kinds of water sports like swimming and paddle boating, while off the water there are picnic areas, and outdoor activities such as horseback riding and quad biking.
Getting there: Lalla Takerkoust Lake is only 45 minutes drive from the center of Marrakech. Some tours include a stop at the lake as part of their itineraries as well.
Bonus: Sahara Desert
Though not an option for a day trip from Marrakech, there’s no way we can leave out at least mentioning a trip to the Sahara Desert. The unfortunate reality is that the Sahara is simply too far from Marrakech, taking close to nine hours to drive one way. So if you do want to include a visit in your Morocco itinerary, you really need to allow several days for it. Most visitors choose a three-day tour to the Sahara Desert, which includes sleeping in a Bedouin camp, camel rides, and climbing the Erg Chebbi Dunes to see the breathtaking desert sunsets.
With this list to guide you, you should have no problem coming up with day-trip ideas for your time in Marrakech. All the interesting places you can reach from the city are one of the many reasons so many tourists choose to make it a centerpiece of their experience in Morocco.