A hippy hangout in the 1960s, the lovely fishing port of Essaouira has a laidback atmosphere and delicious fresh seafood – all with a coastal breeze that makes it a cooler option for summer. This wind, known to the locals as alizee, makes Essaouira a hotspot for windsurfers and kitesurfers.
Much of the modern city was designed by Théodore Cornut, the same Frenchman who designed Brittany’s Saint-Malo, and the atmosphere of a European port town can certainly be felt here. Explore the 18th-century fortress and bustling square, though, and you’ll experience the same kind of unmistakably Arabian buzz associated with Marrakech. Climb the ramparts for fantastic sunsets and views, see some of the wood marquetry that Essaouira is famous for, or go horse riding along the sand.
A few hours’ drive down the coast from Essaouira lies the port of Agadir, which has hundreds of years of history but was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1960. Rebuilding over the last half-century, though, has been nothing short of extraordinary, and today Agadir is a city of wide leafy boulevards lined with French cafés, and is a favourite of holidaying Moroccans. It is fringed with a long sandy beach, and Agadir’s bay is counted as among the most beautiful in the world.
An hour and a half’s drive inland from Agadir lies the ancient town of Taroudant, a fortified Berber bazaar town which, with its pink city walls, is like a mini-Marrakech; the jewellery and carpets for which the town is famous make great souvenirs. This area’s not short on natural beauty, either, with the Little Atlas Mountains making for great trekking – the volcanic mountain Jebel Sirwa, which soars dramatically from the Mars-like landscape, makes for some incredible views.