It’s hard to believe that a land of sweeping deserts, majestic mountains and ancient medinas is a mere 3-hour flight from the UK. You can leave home in the morning and be sipping mint tea in a souk by lunchtime. But to experience Morocco in all its dazzling glory, we think a city-beach-mountain combo works best…
City escape: Marrakech
Souks crammed with colourful handicrafts, snake charmers bewitching crowds, the sweet smell of spices wafting through the air, and the hypnotic call to prayer ringing throughout the medina. Welcome to Marrakech.
Best hotel for value: Dar Zaman, a tiny riad in the quieter reaches of the medina. Set around a pretty central courtyard that twinkles with candlelight after dark, there are just 4 chic rooms, plus a restaurant offering fresh produce from the market. Stay for 3 nights or more and get a complimentary arrival dinner.
From just £77 per night.
Best hotel for location: Riad L’Orangeraie is just 5 minutes from Djemaa El Fna, the vibrant main square where teeth pullers, spiritual healers and storytellers entertain. Step inside the townhouse to find elegant rooms, floral patios, a secluded swimming pool and a cool terrace gazing out towards the Atlas Mountains. Hard to believe you’re slap bang in the middle of a city.
From £135 per night.
Best hotel for families:
Fawakay Villas are located just on the outskirts from Marrakech, among leafy gardens with roses and blooming bougainvillea. Kids will love the swimming pool, playground, arts & crafts shack, and the friendly family pets. Adults can delight in spa treatments, a hammam and a free bottle of wine on arrival.
From £150 per night.
Best hotel for couples: El Fenn is a riad with pure class. Rooms are tastefully decorated with bold hues and vintage furniture, and the restaurant has a glass chandelier lording over it. Rooms are dispersed among tranquil gardens, and there are 3 pools, treatment rooms for massages, and a roof terrace for evening cocktails. For an added splash of romance, i-escape guests staying more than 2 nights get a free hammam.
From £241 per night.
Our top tips for Marrakech:
Haggling is a way of life in the souks. The unwritten rule is to ‘go in at half the asking price’ and work your way up from there. Remember, it’s all a performance so don’t be afraid to let it play out for a while.
Unwanted attention can be an annoyance, but it’s also part of Moroccan culture. If you feel you’re being ‘hassled’ it’s fine to just ignore it (and usually it’s the best way of being left alone).
Take ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper. The medina bustles 24-hours a day, and the call to prayer might be a surprising wake-up call at dawn!
Beach escape: Essaouira
Blow the cobwebs away in bohemian Essaouira, Morocco’s fabulous ‘windy city’. Such distinctive weather makes it popular with a hip, windsurfing crowd but non-surfers can while away the days getting lost in its medina, delighting in the thriving culinary scene, or marvelling at the blue-tailed fishing boats moored in the harbour.
Best hotel for value: Head south through the eucalyptus groves to reach Baoussala. This laid-back, Kasbah-inspired hideaway brings you back to basics without comprising on luxury. You can walk around barefoot, recline in cushioned chill-out areas, and chat with new friends. Plus, the homecooked food is scrummy.
From just £77 per night.
Best hotel for location: Madada Mogador, where the glistening waters of the Atlantic lie straight ahead, and the bustling streets of the medina are on your doorstep. Claim your complimentary house cocktail on the roof terrace, and perhaps try your hand at a cooking class, which includes a trip to the souk to pick up spices and ingredients.
From £104 per night.
Best hotel for families: Rebali Riads is set just south along the coast from Essaouira. These 6 serviced riads come with sea views and full kitchens – but if you can’t face cooking, there’s a private chef on hand to help. Kids will feel giddy with the entertainment on offer: tennis courts, table tennis, games to borrow, camel rides on the beach and a big lawn to run about in.
From £100 per night.
Special offer: book between Jan-March 2019 and get 7 nights for 6.
Best hotel for couples: Prepare to be dazzled by Salut Maroc, where the sensational interiors are like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Each of its 11 rooms is inspired by a Moroccan city, with Islamic tiles, vintage pieces and copper bathtubs. There’s a hammam, where you get a free 30-minute session, and a rooftop dining terrace with sea views.
From £88 per night.
Our top tips for Essaouira:
Dress appropriately. It might be tempting to don skimpy beach wear, but Morocco is a Muslim nation and it’s respectful to dress accordingly. For women, skirts and dresses below the knee should be fine.
Make sure you try grilled fresh catch of the day from the stalls around the harbour.
Stock up on argan oil. There are a handful of female-run cooperatives in Essaouira where you can see this product being made.
Mountain escape: High Atlas
The High Atlas is a hikers’ paradise. This mountainous land of jagged peaks and remote Berber villages quite literally forms a barrier between urban Morocco and the Sahara. It’s also perfect road trip territory, with winding roads that carve through dramatic river gorges. Buckle up; it’s a nail biting ride!
Best hotel for value: Climb the winding track up to Douar Samra and you’ll feel like you’re approaching the top of the world. On arrival, you’ll be welcomed with open arms by your warm Berber hosts. The owner, Jacqueline, is a committed conservationist, and her guesthouse boasts excellent eco credentials. Stays are half board, and the food is sublime. Our Bookings expert, Ben, says: “this is one of my favourite places on our whole website”. How’s that for praise?
From £84 per night.
Best hotel for location: It’s all about the views at Kasbah du Toubkal. It’s perched on a hilltop surrounded by peaks, and you have to walk the last 15 minutes in order to reach it. From the panoramic terrace, look up and admire Mount Toubkal soaring overhead, or look down and see 3 verdant valleys scattered with sleepy hamlets and blooming orchards.
From £116 per night.
Best hotel for families: For a high-end mountain escape within easy reach of Marrakech, take the family to Dar Tamazerte. It’s a private villa for 4-8, is surrounded by subtropical gardens, and gazes out towards snowy mountain peaks. Kids can splash about in the huge pool, and there’s a shared tennis court for all to use. A live-in cook and housekeeper ensure luxury is not spared, and the roof terrace is a killer spot for stargazing.
From £320 per night.
Best hotel for couples: Opt for a swanky stay at Kasbah Bab Ourika. This gorgeous mountain retreat is only 40 minutes outside of Marrakech, but it feels a million miles from the modern world. The rooms are enormous, and come with underfloor heating; some have private pools, too. Recline in a cosy corner of the serene gardens that wrap around the Kasbah, and indulge in some romantic R&R.
From £161 per night.
Our top tips for the High Atlas:
Renting a car? Check if a 4×4 is required to reach your mountain hotel. Make sure to do a thorough vehicle inspection when you pick it up and point out any scratches not accounted for. If picking up your car in Marrakech, drive straight out from the airport to avoid getting caught up in the hellish city traffic!
Brush up on your French if you’re heading into rural Morocco.
Pack warm clothes for the evenings — the High Atlas can get very chilly at night.