For years it was considered one of the ultimate hippy retreats- a tiny city, protected from the oncoming Atlantic by ancient ramparts, in one of the premier countries for backpacking. But while that reputation for open-minded adventure remains, Essaouira, on the western coast of Morocco, is now renowned for a very different type of travel.
With a history pre-dating the 11th Century, you couldn’t ask for a more atmospheric place to partake in one of the planet’s most popular water-sports. Thanks to the near-constant presence of the trade winds, windsurfing has further added to the selling points of this particular town.
With the possible exception of Dakhla, a remote settlement located in the south of the country’s Western Sahara region, Essaouira is, without question, among the best locations in Africa for wind and kite surfers. With everyone from amateurs to pros descending in their thousands annually, this sport has brought luxury to this small city - travellers flocking to experience the stunning souks and fortified Medina alongside unspoilt natural beauty and near-perfect conditions.
Here are our top tips for those looking to pay a visit…
Best time to arrive
Thanks to the high temperatures of mid-summer in Morocco, we recommend visiting Essaouira either between April and late-May, or September and October, when thermometers should sit at a comfortable 25-30C.
The town is home to several world-class windsurfing clubs that cater to all experience levels. Equipment hire is available from most, and rates generally offer better value for money than in other countries. Popular choices include Club Mistral and Explora Morocco.
Where to stay
Considering the boom in tourism Essaouira has seen in recent decades, it’s unsurprising there are numerous accommodation options available, ranging from cosy B&Bs to sprawling five star resorts. For a taste of the traditional, our top pick is Riad Tamara, in the heart of the old town. A former colonial Riad, the internal courtyard is complete with splash pool and exotic fauna, seductive roof terraces overlook the Medina and of there is of course, easy beach access for windsurfing enthusiasts.
What to do when you’re not on the water
While windsurfing is the number one reason many people find themselves in Essaouira, it’s far from the only way to keep busy. Spend balmy Arabian Nights strolling the alleyways of the old town, bartering for a bargain in one of the bustling souks, or unwind with a traditional Hammam massage from one of the skilled Berber residents. If you tire of the beach scene, head into the wild interior on camel or quad bike, or learn to prepare a fabulous Moroccan tagine at one of the many local cookery schools.Search Villas