Were you an intrepid backpacker in your previous life? Exploring distant and exotic lands on a budget, getting off the beaten track and feeling like you were doing something different? Now that young kids are in the picture, travel priorities may have changed. But you don’t have to get sucked into the package holiday bubble.
Let us suggest Essaouira (pronounced ‘essa-weera’). If you haven’t heard of it before, Essaouira is a bustling port city, with a beautiful windswept beach on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. It’s so much more laid-back than hectic Marrakech, but still retains a quintessential Moroccan charm and character, with a fascinating culture to satisfy the latent explorer in you. It’s a very gentle introduction to an Islamic country and you will be travelling with your kids in Africa!
We visited as a family in May when the average daily temperature was a perfect 24°C (also meaning we could pack light) and during the school term when flights are cheapest. We had the best time and this is why we think Essaouira is the perfect intrepid travel destination for young families:
No jet lag
Morocco is in the same zone as the UK. So no adjustments required to the daily nap routine whatsoever. Easy.
No travel vaccinations are required
As long as your little ones are up to date with their standard vaccination schedule at home, you’re good to go. Just ensure you have adequate health insurance before you travel as the national health service isn’t that great and the private hospitals in Morocco are very expensive.
Reasonable flight time and no visas
Ryanair is currently the only airline flying direct to Essaouira from the UK (London Stansted). Flights are on a Tuesdays and Saturdays and the flight time is 3.5 hours. Otherwise, fly to Marrakech and then take the three hour bus to Essaouira. Check out Supratours for bus time and prices. Alternatively, you could hire a car in Morocco.
As for visas, they are not needed for most visitors to Morocco (including Brits) and you are allowed to remain in the country for 90 days. You also get a very cool stamp in your passports.
Now you have a family, your pennies just don’t go as far as they used to. Accommodation, travel, food and activities are a fraction of what they are in the UK. Just be prepared for some light-hearted haggling at times. Plus, easyJet have off-season return flights for only £42 per person. Now that is very tempting.
Great selection of afforable accommodation available
Stay in a central riad with a rooftop overlooking the medina, or enjoy something a bit more upmarket with a pool for the kids. It’s a compact town so it’s easy to get around, and your tourist dollar goes much further here, so you can treat yourself with a bit of a splurge.
For budget try: White And Blue
For midrange try: Villa Daba
For luxury try: Heure Bleue Palais – Relais & Châteaux
Warm, friendly and open locals
The locals absolutely adore children. We spent most afternoons just roaming freely around the medina; waving, high-fiving and chatting to locals. Even down at the port, the hardened fishermen wanted to meet our boys and teach them how to mend their fishing nets.
There’s so much to do on your doorstep
Sandy beach with safe, shallow waters, camels to meet and ride, the medina, souqs, fishing port and ramparts to explore. Essaouira is the perfect sensory playground for your little ones. There is enough to easily fill a week-long holiday, without having negotiate transport outside of the city. Plus, so many of these activities are FREE!
Meal times made easy
Eating out anywhere in the world with little ones is not exactly a relaxing experience. Keeping them entertained until the food arrives can be a challenge, only for them to gobble it up in 5mins and the meal is over. In Essaouira, street food is available everywhere. From tajines and fresh seafood from the port, to the more familiar pancakes, shwarmas and fries. Vendors pile their carts high with fresh fruit and there are even French pattisseries dotted around the medina. There is so much on offer that all family members are happy. A big hit for our boys were the fresh orange juice stalls. Pick up whatever you fancy, whenever you fancy. Snack away whilst you continue your leisurely discoveries around the medina, or if it’s dinner time, make a pit stop on your way back to your accommodation to enjoy round the dinner table. Just don’t forget pick up some lovely Moroccan bread for breakfast the next morning. It’s rather sweet and the kids love it.
This asside, there are plenty of restaurants that are very welcoming to children. Just have the kids tablet and sticker book handy for entertainment, as even a pancake may take 20mins to prepare.
Nappies and essentials are available everywhere
And we really do mean everywhere! You will see bags of Pampers hanging from every other street stall! And the staples of milk, eggs, bread, crisps are easily purchased on your doorstep. Your kids will love the interaction with the individual stall holders; allow them to ask for/point to what you need, give them the money to pass over, whilst perhaps attempting a bit of Arabic if they can (‘es salaam alaykum’ – Hello, and ‘shukran’ – thank you).
Useful Travel Info:
Best time to visit: Mar-Jun & Oct-Nov
How to get there: Ryanair is currently the only airline flying direct to Essaouria from the UK (London Stansted), on Tuesdays and Saturdays only. Alternatively you could drive or catch a three hour bus from Marrakech.
ATMs: Plentiful and easily accessible in the medina
Visas: Not required for most nationalities for stays of up to 90 days. Passports must be valid for 6 months beyond date of entry.
Language: Morocccan Arabic (Darija), Berber and French
Government travel advice: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/morocco
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