EasyJet’s first direct flights from London to the magical Atlantic town of Essaouira launched on Friday 1 May, making Essaouira a contender for a long weekend getaway, with the new Friday and Monday schedule.
Marrakech fans heading for a break at the Hapimag Residence in La Palmeraie can now choose to fly in to Essaouira (flights land in the morning) and spend a day exploring the charming, relaxed UNESCO medina in Essaouira – perhaps squeezing in a camel ride along the beach or lunch at one of the beach cafes – before heading on to Marrakech for the weekend.
EasyJet’s new route conveniently operates on Mondays and Fridays, with outbound tickets starting from £40.99 and return tickets at £35.08. The trip is worth the early start – flights will depart from London Luton at 6.40am and arrive at 10.20am local time, so you’ll have a whole day ahead of you to soak up the Moroccan sunshine before dinner in Marrakech, an easy two hours and twenty minutes drive by car.
Before the new easyJet flights, the only way to get to Essaouira from the UK was to fly into Marrakech and then take a grand taxi, coach or private transfer to the bohemian beach town, which boasts one of the most easy-going, easy to get around medinas in Morocco.
In summer, while temperatures soar in Marrakech, the mercury rarely touches 30C in the cool blue doorway-lined streets of Essaouira, and British winter haters will be happy to know temperatures from October to April are milder here than almost anywhere else in Morocco.
Essaouira’s unique atmosphere and friendly local community has attracted many famous names over the years. Orson Welles, Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens all fell in love with this place, charmed by its free-thinking, tolerant, welcoming spirit and a new photo opportunity around every corner.
This small city’s artistic, artisan and musical roots run deep, with the famous 18th annual Gnawa Festival kicking off from 14th – 17th May and a host of other music festivals scheduled during different seasons throughout the year.
As soon as you arrive, you can almost instinctively sense Essaouira’s history, a fascinating tapestry full of cultures and commerce – at one time the local population was approximately 40% Jewish, with Jews and Muslims living in peaceful coexistence.
Once used as Marrakech’s harbour, it is still a working fishing port and its Portuguese, French and Arabic architecture echoes the influence of these nations who’ve come and gone over the centuries.
Like Marrakech, you’ll find jewellery, leather goods and artisan products in Essaouira – local highlights include pure argan oil (culinary and beauty), silver Berber rings, and beautifully-carved Thuja wood artifacts, all very reasonably priced. Berber women still produced argan oil by hand, and you can watch them at work at one of the many women-run co-operatives just outside town.
The local restaurant scene, once somewhat sleepy and tajine-restricted, is now taking off, with new eateries opening almost every month and if you’re a wine lover, you’ll want to schedule a trip to the local French-run vineyard, Domaine du Val d’Argan, about 20 minutes inland.
Essaouira’s unique mix of camels, kite-surfers and souks are a compelling draw when temperatures in Marrakech are way too hot – or to escape the grey UK skies in November or February. Temperatures are warmer than in southern Europe all winter long and you won’t have to endure a long flight to get there. The new London Luton to Essaouira flight takes around 3.5 hrs, touching down in the Moroccan morning sunshine ten minutes from the beach, just in time for a late breakfast of crispy square pancakes (“msemen”), coffee and freshly-squeezed orange juice, ready for your first ever camel ride…