Essaouira, Morocco © Kayaky
The popular holiday resort town of Essaouira dates from the 18th century and is easily reached by bus from Marrakech. The town is encircled by a fortified wall and faces the sea, featuring a beautiful stretch of beach, some pretty whitewashed houses, boat-builders workshops and art galleries. What makes Essaouira popular is the laid-back holiday atmosphere, and the reliable coastal wind which makes it a perfect place for wind-reliant watersports like kite surfing; although the wind can make sunbathing and swimming more difficult. It is also famed for its woodcarving tradition, particularly due to the appeal of the local fragrant Thuya wood, which ensures that some gorgeous souvenirs can be found.
Other popular activities in Essaouira include horseback riding on the beach, visits to the Argan Woods and Thuya Forests, and excursions to nearby Diabat, which draws tourists mainly on the strength of Jimi Hendrix's presence there many years ago. The harbour of Essaouira is a hive of activity, with stalls and open air seafood restaurants, and is particularly busy during the daily fish auction that attracts as many seagulls as buyers, sellers and onlookers (there is no fish auction on Sundays). The area is thought to have been inhabited since prehistoric times and is dotted with archaeological remains: Mogador Island, just off the coast, boasts the ruins of a Roman villa.