With the Atlas Mountains as its dramatic backdrop, the Moroccan city of Marrakech conjures up exotic images of snake charmers, striking mosques and heaving souks – and it doesn’t disappoint.
The days of Marrakech being merely the domain of hippy travellers are gone. Today it’s a chic city destination offering trendy boutique hotels and luxurious hammams. Yet for budget travellers Marrakech still offers an inexpensive destination thanks to cheap all inclusive packages, low-cost flights, budget rooms, cheap food and free attractions.
How to plan your break: DIY or all inclusive?
Once you’ve decided on Marrakech as your destination, the biggest trip-planning decision you’re left with is whether to opt for an all inclusive holiday package, or to organise everything independently.
The ease and familiarity of all inclusive holidays can be reassuring if you’re travelling somewhere foreign and don’t feel confident going it alone. With a good holiday company it should ensure a hassle and stress-free trip.
Another big advantage of all inclusive holidays is that it’s easier to budget – the biggest expenses (flights, accommodation, and sometimes meals) are included in the price. Details vary from one deal to the next, though, so find out exactly what’s included – and remember, just because it’s easier to budget doesn’t necessarily mean a package will be cheaper. UK DIY trip planners can take advantage of low cost airlines flying to Marrakech, such as easyJet and Ryanair, and while all inclusive holidays usually provide airport transfers, in Marrakech these won’t cost you much anyway. The airport is only six miles from the centre, and the airport bus (number 19) only costs about Dh20 (just over £1.50).
You may find you have to compromise on certain aspects of your trip if you opt for an all inclusive break – such as departure dates, hotel location, or where you dine. For many travellers, seeking out great places to eat is one of their travel highlights, so an all inclusive holiday offering full board may not appeal.
How to spend your weekend in Marrakech
So, whether you’ve chosen an all inclusive holiday or decided to travel independently, there’s heaps to do in Marrakech. It’s not packed with big tourist attractions, but instead the greatest pleasures it offers are its street life, wonderful architecture, chaotic markets and interesting cuisine – all of which are inexpensive or free.
Day 1: Visit Djemaa el-Fna and the souks of Marrakech
At the heart of the Medina is the lively Djemaa el-Fna, a huge market square that’s home to street cafés, buskers, storytellers and a whole host of other performers, creating a lively atmosphere and all competing to entertain and wow the crowds. Set around the square there are colourful souks, where you could easily while away an entire day — but while it’s free to look around, the chances are you’ll find yourself parting with some cash on souvenirs. While you’re there, take a detour to see the gorgeous Ben Youssef Medersa, a former Koranic school, which lies at the heart of the souks.
In the evening, the lit-up square is transformed once again, and you can enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice or mint tea, piping hot street food, and a bizarre mix of free entertainment from the locals.
Day 2: Discover the city’s top historical and cultural sights
The historical Koutoubia mosque, the largest in the city, can be seen from virtually every angle. It’s a living place of worship and only open to Muslims, but get up close to admire the traditional Almohad style and copper-clad globes on its tower.
The 12th century Bab Agnaou, one of the city’s 19 gates, was also built during the Almohad dynasty. Through it you enter the Royal kasbah, home a mosque, the ornate Saadian Tombs, and ruined El Badi Palace. For 10Dh you can climb up some steps to the parapet for wonderful views over the city’s roofs and across to the distant Atlas mountains. Nearby, check out the architecture and inner courtyards of Bahia Palace (10Dh entry) or, if you need a break from the sun and crowds, head over to the densely-planted Jardin Majorelle for some shade and tranquillity.
Today’s guest column for Travel is Written by the travelsupermarket.com all inclusive holidays team.