Morocco,  Recent

A Tour of Morocco’s Stunning Atlantic Coast

We discover Morocco’s beautiful and varied Atlantic coast, including Agadir, Taghazout, Essaouira, El Jadida and Tangier.

After Taroudant, the final leg of our Moroccan adventure takes us back to our starting point: Tangier. In the end, we hit up more destinations than planned, thanks to a crappy Airbnb or two!

Contents

Taghazout is a surf town 30 mins north of Agadir. It’s a cool little place with some nice hipster breakfast spots, good restaurants, lots of surf shops and surfer types hanging around.

Our immediate impression when we arrived wasn’t great, as some incredibly drunk old Moroccan guy was demanding we pay for parking whilst swaying far too close with his stinking beer breath. This was something we had not experienced at all before in the whole country! Luckily this guy turned out to be an anomaly and the rest of the town was very chilled.

Free parking is available here.

Things to Do in Taghazout

The main theme of the town is definitely surfing. After spending time in some highly conservative small towns and cities in Morocco, Taghazout seems incredibly liberal. Moroccans and tourists alike are on the beach in bikinis and swim shorts.

Apart from surfing, the beach is pretty long so you can take some nice beach walks or just chill and enjoy the sunshine.

Paradise Valley

About an hour’s drive from Taghazout, is a place humbly called “Paradise Valley”. From my initial research, it seemed to resemble something like Achour Waterfalls near Chefchaouen. This wasn’t far off but surprisingly, we were the only visitors there. Given the proximity of Agadir (30 mins drive) I would have thought it would be much more popular.

We chose a route which took us down into the valley and along part of the river to a waterfall – see the route on AllTrails. Along the way, an old lady ran out of her house to offer us atay. She put down a mat on the floor, cushions, table and laid out a huge spread.

The waterfall itself wasn’t huge but the stunning thing was the water. I’ve never seen water such an incredible colour of jade. I braved the water for a quick swim but it was cold enough to hurt so wasn’t in for long!

The road from the valley to Agadir is short but it’s currently undergoing work and very dusty.

Where we stayed in Taghazout

The accommodation in Taghazout is much more expensive that what we’d been paying previous (typical coastal/tourist prices). Also we were sharing the apartment with friends so needed a bigger place. We stayed in this Airbnb in town. It was fine for a couple of days but didn’t have a workspace.

Eating and Drinking

Taghazout has quite a broad range of restaurants from the more traditional Moroccan cuisine, to pizza, more modern takes on Moroccan cuisine, and vegan restaurants.

There are a couple of places serving alcohol too; across the beach towards Tamraght there are some hotels with beach bars. One place in Taghazout itself that I would recommend is a restaurant called Munga’s Kitchen. It’s not really well reviewed online but we found it to be excellent – fabulous interior, great pizza and wine.

Agadir

We had friends visiting us in Morocco and the most convenient airport unfortunately turned out to be Agadir. I don’t really get the attraction of Agadir. It has a nice (enormous) beach and a couple of good restaurants but not really a lot else going for it. It’s a large, busy city. The old part was destroyed in an earthquake in the 60s. There is a replica of the old medina that was built in 1992; we didn’t visit.

Apart from that, to me, it mostly resembles a tacky coastal town with some dilapidated crap bars and some incredibly pretentious hotels for people who think they’re better than everyone else. And huge casinos. Really, it’s my idea of hell.

We tried to make the most out of it. One of the attractions is the market the Souk (market) which is closed on Mondays, the day we wanted to visit. In typical Moroccan fashion, a guy called Hassan started chatting to us before we’d even got there and suggested we visit an argan oil manufacturer. We decided to accept the side quest and, as my friends really wanted to buy some gifts before they left, asked him where we could go instead of the market.

The argan oil place was pretty interesting. Argan trees only grow in the south west of Morocco, so it is a very unique product. Hassan had described it as a factory but it was really more a shop with a demo. The shop owner explained the production process and a woman was there who demonstrated how traditionally the oil is extracted by hand. They also showed a documentary clip about the benefits of the oil.

The shop sells the oil is every form possible and (my friends assured me) the prices are much better then you’d find in the UK. The shop was worth visiting but such places are available in other Moroccan cities – we’d just turned down previous offers.

Where we stayed in Agadir

We had planned on staying a full week in Agadir but our apartment turned out to be really loud, not particularly nice and half the lights didn’t work. As we weren’t really enjoying Agadir anyway, we decided to cut our losses and spend a few days in Essaouira instead.

One of the more popular destinations in Morocco for tourists, Essaouira is known for being a beautiful, relaxing place to stay which is much more chilled than cities like Marrakech.

I visited Essaouira previously a few years back so it was interesting to go back and see how it’s changed. Essaouira in the past had quite a hippy vibe, attracting artists and backpackers. It appears to have transformed now into a much more bougie, upmarket town. Packed with excellent restaurants, quirky cafes and shops selling stylish (and expensive) clothing and home items, tourism has clearly had its impact.

We really enjoyed our couple of days here; we definitely had the holiday feeling! Essaouira medina is a UNESCO world heritage site and it seems a lot of money has gone into maintaining it. Outside of the medina there’s a fish market which is pretty interesting. You can even buy a fish and get it barbequed nearby.

Where we stayed in Essaouira

There is no shortage of accommodation options here. We picked a great riad called “Essaouira Wind Palace” in the middle of the medina. Despite it’s location it was still quiet at night. I’d definitely recommend it.

Eating and Drinking in Essaouira

Essaouira has a ton of restaurants and cafes packing to a small space and you can hardly go wrong. Expect to pay more than you would elsewhere in Morocco though! Some of the places we tried and really enjoyed where:

  • Taverna Bolognese Da Maurizio a small Italian restaurant. They serve excellent pizza.
  • Fish Burger Essaouira a small snack shop selling fish tacos, burgers etc. Definitely worth going to!
  • Mega Loft this place is really huge! It’s got an awesome interior and tons of space. We used it as a workspace too which they’re more than happy about. Great Wifi and music.

El Jadida is a small port city about halfway between Agadir and Tangier. Like many Moroccan cities, it has an historic medina, around which a modern city has grown.

In the case of El Jadida, the medina is a former Portugese fortification which was known as Mazagao (or Mazagan in English), from “Amazigh” which is the name the proper name for the Berber people.

Built in the 16th Century, the medina is small but charming and in need of a lot of love. After coming directly from Essaouira, which is a major tourist center and has clearly had much money spent on it, I feel a bit sorry for El Jadida. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The center of old Portugese city is currently closed off due to restoration work. I can’t say that I saw much work going on so one can only hope.

One notable point about the city, is that it’s possible to walk on the whole city wall which is something I haven’t seen in other medinas. Many of the original features remain; it really has a lot of potential.

In addition, the port is absolutely lovely. The residents make good use of the jetty; it’s a popular place for walking, running and also swimming (even in December – much too cold for me!).

Things to do in El Jadida

Apart from exploring the town, there isn’t a huge amount to do here. There is a beach but compared to Agadir or Essaouira it’s not really that nice – there’s a lot of trash. About a 30 minute walk from the medina, there’s an old lighthouse which you can look at but not go inside.

You can walk on the city walls in El Jadida

Where we stayed in El Jadida

Unfortunately, we had a bit of a bad time with our landlord in El Jadida. The apartment we rented had a dampness issue; it had no heating, the paint was feeling off the walls and the main bedroom was moldy. The two neighboring buildings were doing construction work which was really loud.

We complained to the landlord but his behaviour was really strange. He kept saying he would come round talk to the neighbours but he never showed up. We then realised the photos of the house online had windows in that didn’t exist anymore. His neighbour had built a house blocking most of his windows – no wonder it was damp.

The landlord said he’d come and see us at the end but never showed up again. We reported the issue to Airbnb and they gave us a full refund. The landlord then gave us a slating review which he totally lied in – which thankfully Airbnb removed quite quickly! Anyway, don’t stay in this apartment – the guy is an a**hole.

Eating and Drinking in El Jadida

Outside the city walls is an open air market. There food stalls selling grilled meat, soups, juices and old ladies selling Moroccan pancakes. It’s a good area to get some cheap eats.

We also ventured off into the fancier part of town which has some good higher end restaurants too:

  • Maison Eric is a European style restaurant that also offer a Japanese menu. We had excellent fish and steak. They don’t serve alcohol. We paid about 40 Euros for two main courses so it’s on the pricey end.
  • Al Bahri is a fish restaurant. We made friends with a Moroccan guy who wanted to practice his German, and invited for a meal. This restaurant was his suggestion and was excellent. We had a huge fish to share between us and it was about 40 Euro in total.

Tangier was our port of arrival but we didn’t explore here at the start. Landing back here, it seemed like a paradise of green after being in the dry south of the country!

Tangier is a modern city and relatively calm compared to other big cities in Morocco. It’s a beautiful place and has lots of open spaces, parks and is really quite walkable. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of traffic – there is – but there’s space to walk and plenty of areas with wide sidewalks.

The old medina is very beautiful, situated on a hillside overlooking the historic port.

After our freezing cold, moldy time in El Jadida, one of the first things we looked for was some comfort i.e. an awesome restaurant. We ate at Nono, a pretty fancy place near the beach. The food and service were excellent, which you would expect with the price tag.

Unfortunately, we had such a good time chatting to an interesting Congolese-Belgian/Moroccan couple over several bottles of wine, that we ended up with a rather huge bill (but we don’t talk about this, it was totally worth it).

Tangier has a much more cosmopolitan feel to it than a lot of Morocco. Its close link to Europe, and the mentality of the Rif people, having a lot to do with that.

In the medina, we found the most high quality traditional blankets and rugs we’ve seen in the whole 3 months of being in Morocco! We chatted to the shop keeper, Badr, and ended up having a meeting with his sister about their products. The mentality is just very different to other parts of Morocco; I’m sure they will do very well with their business. As if confirming our thoughts, whilst we were stood talking, an Italian couple walked past and also exclaimed that the products were the best quality they’d seen.

The weather is kinder in Tangier than on the Atlantic coast (not so surprisingly. It feels a bit warmer even though it’s more northern. They have rain here in winter but it’s not as windy so it feels a more comfortable temperatures.

Things to do in Tangier

Tangier is a bustling city and has plenty of museums and galleries, restaurants and bars to keep you occupied. Here is what we got up to.

Phoenician Tombs

On the side of a cliff above the sea, there are some ancient Phoenician Tombs carved into the rockface. Like many antiquities in Morocco, it’s not well looked after unfortunately and they’re full of stagnant water, trash and people walking all over them. The location is particularly beautiful though and you can see why it was chosen as a burial site.

Lixus Archeological Site

The remains of the ancient Roman city of Lixus lie just outside the modern town of Larache, just over an hour from Tangier. The site is in a better condition and has nicer facilities than Volubilis.

Lixus is very interesting; it contains an industrial quarter which not something we’ve seen often at Roman sites. The remains consist of huge stone vats where they produced a type of fish sauce and also a purple dye, which is probably something learnt from the Phoenicians.

Hercules Cave and Cotta Haunted City

The drive over to the Atlantic coast from Tangier takes about 25 minutes and is a very scenic trip. The hills above the city are green and covered in forests and parks. I found the beach itself not that great really – there’s a lot of over-development going on. Hotels, villas build copy/paste along the coastline.

Hercules cave is also a bit of a tourist scam. It costs 6 Euro entrance and it’s tiny. Whilst the view is pretty cool, there’s not much to see.

Cotta city ruins were a bit of a mystery. They’re marked on the map but you can’t actually get inside because they’re surrounded by the walls and armed guards of the Saudi King Palace. The other side is a big, fancy hotel. We couldn’t find a way there at all.

Where we stayed in Tangier

We splashed out on an apartment for Tangier after the previous experience. It was extremely comfortable and modern, albeit at the upper end of our accommodation budget. The location was pretty good; there was a fantastic market nearby which sold all kinds of fresh produce. It was a bit of a walk to the center of town (about 30 minutes) but that was fine for us. I’d recommend the area we stayed, or somewhere closer to the beach would also be good.

That concludes our 3 month long trip to Morocco. What an adventure! Morocco was full of surprises. A varied land where each region you go to feels totally different. What will stay with most is the kindness and generosity of the people. They’re always willing to help, and even people with really nothing will still find something to give you. Shukran, Morocco.

Don’t forgot check out my Morocco posts – link below. If you enjoyed this post or have any questions, please get in touch via the comments or write to me on Facebook (Hopelessly Nomantic), Instagram (Hopelessly_Nomantic) or Twitter (HopelesNomantic). Thanks for reading!


Planning a Trip to Morocco?

Check out my other posts on our journey through Morocco from Tangier to Tetouan and Chefchaouen; south to Fes and Meknes; through the desert and finally along the Atlantic coast.


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