14 May Marrakech Day Trips
So, you like nature, Skiing, mountain hikes, and scenic views? Morocco has it all and the snow-covered peaks are only 60 KM from the city of Marrakech, the most popular tourist destination in the country. In Marrakech, you can see the mountains from nearly any terrace in the city, but do you dare venture into the wild? You can rent a car and leave the city life in the rear-view mirror with as little as half a day to spare. Morocco boasts a 300 day a year sunshine schedule so take advantage and go explore.
There are a few ways to day trip to the mountains though I recommend renting a car. Also, the roads are less crowded on weekdays. A car rents in Marrakech from approximately 300MAD a day and seats 5. By choosing this option you can stay as long as you would like, overnight if you fall in love with the landscape. You can stop at any point for pictures, stay too long at a cliffhanging café for coffee and mint tea or stop at all of the local Berber merchant shops and strike a deal on a handcrafted Berber carpet. Most economical rental cars are manual transmission in Morocco so make sure someone can confidently navigate the winds of a small mountain road while on the lookout for pedestrians and the livestock that lace the sharp turns.
About 20 minutes into the drive you will have passed all of the small outer city vendors and have a “last chance” ATM opportunity at a local bank to grab a few dirhams for lunch, merchants, the slopes or even a hotel if you wish. A small note of caution to those expecting international standards when it comes to restrooms. This is a mostly village community and local ways might be a bit of stretch for your taste. Bring napkins or wipes. This is not always the case but better safe than sorry! Ok enough of that.
Once you hit the base of the hills you will see clearly marked signs with many options for destinations. Pick your poison! I recommend checking out the small Berber villages on the way up. These communities are known for their talented and culturally creative craftsman. Mirrors, lamps, rugs, clay cooking pots as seen in the old city but you have now found the source. Strike up a deal for one of those ottomans you were eyeing in the medina. Or just ride a camel.
Go all the way up. All signs point to Oukaimeden for checking out the slopes of Africa’s highest ski resort at 2800 meters. You will still find people on the slopes well into March. There is a right turn at a fork in the road about halfway up the mountain that takes you to Oukaimeden. Once you reach your destination, expect to pay a small parking/entrance fee per car of 15 MAD. Vendors will have rentals for ski and snowboarding if you dare. There are 9 runs, a chair lift and a ski school. You can opt for any version of a Moroccan ski experience you wish going with rentals for the resort at about $20 and lessons at $10 an hour and a $10 lift pass OR chance a pair of antique skis and forgo a traditional lift for a donkey transport to your lift. The resort also has condo style cabins for overnight rentals.
There are small restaurants at Oukaimeden that are mostly local cuisine and affordably priced. You have spent time in Marrakech by now and have an idea of what to expect. I recommend a fairly new French/Moroccan Restaurant/Riad after the right turn up the hill headed to the resort for lunch. The establishment is named AUROCHER. The venue is only about 6 months old and has a promising future. This café, lounge terrace, and Riad is built on the side of a cliff over a ravine. Facing a green mountainscape, a kitchengarden cultivating fresh herbs such as the local saffron flower and more, this gem has it all. The cuisine is Sophisticated Berber. Order the Tagine HERE. Have the kafta as well as the chicken with green olives. If you crave something lighter order the Trio Moroccan Salad and coffee the local way. (Espresso and warm milk). Lay in the sun or shade on a lounge chair and bask or nap while enjoying traditional French music and guitar. Stay a while!
This is a great budget adventure. Here you have the opportunity to go for a hike to stretch the legs, or bring a book and blanket to relax in nature. This is your unguided adventure, you decide!