Once Morocco’s main trading port and a stronghold of Jewish culture, Essaouira became famed as a hippie hangout for surfers and expat artists in the 20th century. These days Essaouira offers its cool breezes and relaxed atmosphere to a broader range of visitors. The windy city remains a favorite destination for its picturesque fishing harbor, medina walls, blue shutters, twisting derbs (alleyways), and sea, sand, and surf.

Essaouira pretty much has a nine-month high season, from mid-March until early November, with extra peaks around Christmas, New Year’s, and the hugely popular Gnaoua Music Festival in June. More hotels and guesthouses have opened in recent years, including a five-star resort and golf course south of the town in Diabat, but the town remains peaceful in its laid-back bustle—an enticing blend of fishing port, historical medina, and seaside haven.

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