Should you visit Marrakech in Winter?
It’s official. We’ve gone mad. At least that’s what many of our friends and family believed when we mentioned we were going away for the weekend in January. “Anywhere nice?” they asked. Perhaps London, or maybe even Scotland? Nope. We were heading off for some winter sun somewhere a little more exotic. Morocco to be precise (surprise surprise). We were off to see whether visiting Marrakech in winter was a good idea.
Of course a weekend in North Africa might seem more than a little bonkers to some, yet it really does make sense. The flights were cheaper than a train ticket to London, and only about an hour longer! You get a lot more for your money over in Marrakech than here in the UK, and it’s sunny! So what’s not to love about travelling to Morocco in January.
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The benefits of visiting Marrakech in winter:
It goes without saying that prices drop along with the temperature and off-season bargains are around every corner. Hotels and riads in Marrakech are keen to attract customers and drop their rates accordingly, and room upgrades are much more frequent since there is more availability. This trip we stayed at the luxurious Riad Assakina in the old Jewish Quarter of the medina, and had the entire riad almost to ourselves. Bargain! Read about our stay here.
Although many of the locals were wrapped up in their winter djellabas, to those of us from colder climes it’s actually lovely and warm. Just like a summer’s day back here at home in the UK. When we visited in January temperatures were around 20 degrees C during the day, perfect for strolling the medina without dripping with sweat like you do from April to November. If you visit Marrakech in December or February the temperatures will be very similar to what we experienced in January.
COSY ARABIAN NIGHTS
As the temperature does drop during the night, it’s the ultimate excuse to finally make the most of those cosy riad spaces which during summer are pretty but never used. The roaring fires, the snugly cushions and romantic little hidey-holes. Riads are designed to withstand the extremes of temperature, thus are cool in summer and cosy in winter. Genius.
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PEACE AND QUIET
I’m not one for sharing. Whether it’s my chocolates, my germs, or my secrets. And that goes for my holidays too! I’d much prefer to have places to myself and hate nothing more than jostling elbow to elbow with a bunch of other tourists all fighting to get to the same place. So I absolutely loved visiting Marrakech in winter. Whilst the city was by no means deserted, the people we saw were mainly local, and we loved having entire museums and attractions pretty much all to ourselves. A virtually private visit to a palace? Don’t mind if I do!
Now Hubbie and I don’t mind the hassle in Morocco. We’re used to it and have learned to love it. Yet we didn’t feel like that on our first ever visit, and understand how it can put many people off. If this is you, then visit Marrakech in winter. The souk stall holders spend their days chatting with neighbours and sharing mint tea, many hardly concerned by the presence of potential buyers wandering past. Some will give a half-hearted pitch to your back as you carry on by, but most just seem to be waiting for the holiday season to kick in again when they can lure in their unsuspecting prey more easily. If anything, we were a little disappointed that no-one tried to fleece us for some exquisitely but hideously decorated Man United babouches, or some natural Viagra to spice up those cosy riad nights.
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Winter light is much better for photography than during the summer, mainly because the angle of the sun is smaller which creates more texture and shadow. There is also the ‘magic’ hour around sunrise and sunset when sunlight passes through more atmosphere and filters out the harsher blue hues. A dream for anyone interested in photography!
Maybe we were just lucky (it’s gotta happen some time!) but we sailed through our entire journey door to door with no holds ups and pretty much no queuing. This might not sound like a big deal, but anyone who has flown in to Marrakech Menara airport will know it’s the absolute pits, and not geared up for the volume of travellers it receives. At other times of year we’ve often had to stand in 2.5 hour long queues just to get through immigration upon arrival. There is never enough staff behind the counter, and those that are there seem disinterested and enjoy taking forever over each and every single passport stamp. We timed it last summer. The average was about 7 minutes per person, which is one helluva long time when there are only 8 officials and 1000’s of people to pass through!
So there you have it. Really, why would you not travel to Marrakech in winter? We’re totally hooked and don’t know why we haven’t done it sooner.
Would you visit Marrakech in winter?
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