Douar Samra

Toubkal National Park, High Atlas, Morocco Book from Book from £82 per night

MOST EXTRAORDINARY ARRIVAL MOST EXTRAORDINARY ARRIVAL
A small and colourful guesthouse in one of the highest villages of the mighty Toubkal Massif, imbued with the warmth and vitality of its remarkable owner
From the fertile Ourika Valley, a winding road cuts east through a steep-sided gorge to emerge in a rocky ampitheatre at the base of towering Toubkal Massif. The stone and pisé villages that cling to the mountainsides have become one with the landscape. Tamartet is the highest, almost 2,000m above sea level, and at the heart of this cluster of red-earth buildings Douar Samra awaits you, as remarkable as its surroundings are wildly beautiful.

Jacqueline fell under the mountains' spell many years ago. A committed conservationist, she restored and expanded this village douar (house) using only traditional methods and materials, working with the villagers, letting them tell her how 'things are done'. She filled her creation with Berber warmth: bright cushions and blankets, candles rather than light bulbs, the aromas of Moroccan cuisine wafting out from a tiny kitchen and an authentic beldi hammam. There's no better trekking base, but if you prefer exploring with your eyes rather than your feet, the lofty roof terrace is an amazing platform to drink it all in.

Highs

  • You could hardly get much higher: you feel like you can reach out and touch the surrounding peaks
  • Antithesis to the off-the-peg hotel, a place where ‘care’ comes before ‘profit’ and each guest is welcomed as family, in true Berber tradition
  • One of the most beautiful areas of the High Atlas and at the centre of some of the region's finest trekking country, yet only a 1hr 30min drive from Marrakech
  • Jacqueline has decorated her home with warmth and colour, always looking locally for inspiration - the treehouse is the first of its kind in Morocco
  • Tasty Moroccan food prepared by your ever-smiling Berber hosts
  • Although only a walk away from Imlil (the centre for organised Atlas treks), Tamartet remains remote and unspoiled

Lows

  • The track up from Imlil makes for a tricky ride in anything other than 4x4 vehicles. It's best, and also great fun, to arrive by donkey
  • It's not for the anti-social - people tend to share meals and conversation with fellow guests
  • Some bedrooms are quite small with low ceilings. But the feel is cosy rather than claustrophobic
  • Electricity is confined to the kitchen and a few bedrooms, so if you want mod cons, look elsewhere

Best time to go

Although it can make trekking more difficult, it's amazing to be up here in the winter (Nov to Feb) when there's snow on the peaks. In spring (March to May) the terraces surrounding the village are blanketed in wild flowers and cooler day temperatures make it an ideal time to walk. And because of the altitude summers don’t get too hot.

Our top tips

You'll want walking boots or, at the very least, sturdy trainers - even novice trekkers will be glad of good shoes when exploring the rocky landscape. And, believe us, you'll want to explore. It's spectacular up here.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
  • Mountain Lodge
  • 8
  • Half board (lunch available on request)
  • Children welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Steam Room
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Board games
Room: Sabat

Rooms

There are various different types of guest room slotted into the fabric of Douar Samra. There are 4 in the main house, Main House Doubles and Main House Triples; most have no electricity and are lit by candlelight and oil lamps. Three Mini Suites (Mouss, Sdez and Sbat) reside in a separate group of buildings in the garden and are larger, each sleeping 3-5. Here there is electricity, and Mouss (the largest) has a cosy mezzanine to separate the 2 sleeping areas.

There’s also the Treehouse room, perched on 8m stilts just a stone's throw from the main house. Shaded by trees in summer, and warmed by a wood-burning stove in winter, it has a wraparound balcony offering magnificent views over the mountains and village. Inside there’s a kingsize bed and space for a cot, too. The feel is rustic chic, with wooden walls, a mirrored open-plan shower, a separate toilet, a hairdryer (there's electricity here), plus tea and coffee-making facilities for your post-hike mint tea.

All of the rooms feel very snug and welcoming and seem to reflect Jacqueline’s own inner warmth. There are bright Berber blankets for curtains, low tataoui ceilings, straw-matted floors, little niches for candles or lamps, richly-coloured sequined cushions and masses of original paintings.

Simple wooden poles rendered into the walls give you somewhere to hang your clothes and reed baskets provide additional storage space. The small tadlakt shower rooms have a similarly organic, homespun feel: sinks set into simple pole frames, screed floors and shower gel and shampoo in a small woven basket. Best of all though, you can slip out of your walking boots and into a pair of the cosy babouches that Jacqueline has placed in all of the bedrooms.

Even if you’re here during the winter months, when temperatures can plummet at night, you won’t be cold. Each room has its own open hearth, there are thick Berber blankets on the beds, cosy fleece dressing gowns and you’ll have a hot water bottle delivered last thing.

Features include:

  • Cots Available
  • Fireplace
  • Fleece robes
  • Slippers
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Douar Samra’s kitchen is the real heart of Jacqueline’s home. Whenever you pass by you’ll be greeted with a waft of spices being used for your next meal, and a smile from Rachida and her team of helpers. This is the place to try out a few words of Berber or French and, if you’re interested, to be talked through what goes into traditional Berber cuisine.

We ate as well here as we did anywhere in Morocco and have happy memories of sharing dinner with Jacqueline and her guests around a low table in the candlelit dining room. It has the same embracing vibe as the rest of the house with beautiful tataoui ceilings, low tables dressed in brightly-coloured shawls, cushion-laden benches, a fire burning in the hearth and Mohammed, Jacqueline’s second-in-command, busying about.

As vegetarians our meal was made up of a spicy vegetable soup followed by delicious Berber eggs (a sort of tomato tagine) while other guest feasted on tender, slow-cooked chicken spiced with ginger, cinnamon, saffron and cumin. Deserts were simple yet lovely, our favourite was a wonderfully moist almond cake followed by the obligatory mint tea. All vegetables and fruit, where possible, are cultivated in the hotel's organic garden and in the village.

Breakfast is of the simple, Moroccan variety, and is slightly different each day. It’s served out on the terrace in the warmer months. Bread is baked every morning; pancakes and jams are prepared in-house and are accompanied with pot-fulls of coffee and hot milk. You may also get fruit, yoghurts or sometimes boiled eggs.

If you’d like a picnic to take on your hike, just let Jacqueline know the night before; you'll get chicken mayo sandwiches, mixed salads, eggs, fruit and mineral water.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Communal dining
  • Dinner included
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Many guests come to undertake longer treks but day walks can also be organised; Jacqueline can advise on where to go, and tell you about the flora and fauna you may see

  • Horse riding can be organised in Imlil as well donkey trekking straight out from Douar Samra

  • Unwind from your trek with a traditional hammam

  • The village is enchanting: wandering its narrow lanes feels like stepping back in time; local crops are wheat, fruit and walnuts

  • With so much beauty all around you may be tempted to reach for your paint brushes and certainly your camera

  • Head for the kitchen, grab a mint tea and let the friendly staff show you what goes into making a traditional Berber meal

  • The peacefulness of the house and village fosters a ‘let’s just relax’ mood. There are plenty of quiet corners where you can be alone with your book or have a game of backgammon

  • Wrap up at night and head onto the rooftop terrace to stargaze - the clear skies are incredible and if you're lucky, you'll see meteors

  • Marrakech could be visited as a day trip though you might prefer to combine a trip there with an overnight stay

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking

Kids

Children are celebrated everywhere in Morocco and nowhere more so than in the Berber villages. It’s yet another sign of Jacqueline’s generous nature that children under 7 years stay for free and those up to 12 yrs receive a 30% discount on adult rates. You probably won’t need a babysitter because there’s nowhere to go at night. But one could be arranged if you want to just chill out in the restaurant for the evening, or go for a stroll.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Five of the rooms can be used as triples plus Mouss (one of the garden Mini Suites) has two extra single beds.

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour
  • Shops: 5 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Location

Douar Samra is in the traditional Berber village of Tamartet, near Imlil in the Atlas mountains, close to the Toubkal Massif. It's a 1 hour drive from Marrakech.

By Air
Marrakech Menara (75km). Click on the link below for a list of airlines.

From the Airport
Jacqueline can arrange for a taxi to meet you at the airport (see Rates for details) or she'll get a vehicle or donkey to collect you in Imlil. There are buses (from DH15) and grand taxis (from DH40) up to Imlil from Marrakech, which take around 1.5 hours. Alternatively you could hike to Tamartet from Imlil which would take about half an hour.

By Car
There wouldn't be much point in bringing a car if you're planning to trek. If you do want to hire one, however, see our car rental recommendations. You will need a 4x4 to navigate the Atlas Mountains.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

More on getting to Morocco and getting around, including ferries

Airports:

  • Marrakech Menara International 75.0 km RAK

Other:

  • Beach 250.0 km
  • Shops 2.0 km
  • Restaurant 2.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 8 independent reviews from i-escape guests

9/10
Room
9/10
Food
9/10
Service
9/10
Value
9/10
Overall

A wonderful stay with Jaqueline, Mohammed, Omar, the rest of the staff, three dogs, many ducks and the donkey. They couldn't have been more hospitable and kind. Some of the bedrooms have no electricity, but plenty of candles. Communal breakfasts and evening meals were extremely sociable with varied company - and picnics are great for days when out walking. Will be back...

9/10,

We had a great time at Douar Samra, despite the weather being rather unseasonally cold for late May. It's quirky, rustic, very informal and utterly charming. Good location too with breathtaking views and lovely walks from the door. Jacqueline's team (particularly Mohammed) go out of their way to ensure guests are made to feel welcome and at home - hot water bottles are put in your bed whilst you are having dinner for example, and fires are lit so you return to a warm room. We also enjoyed the sociable and convivial atmosphere at mealtimes as all guests eat together. Don't expect luxurious, spacious accommodation however - we had one of the rooms without electricity and showering in the dark proved to be a little challenging at times. Also, both the toilet and shower are just screened with a simple curtain. Overall though, we loved Douar Samra, and would definitely recommend it.

8/10,

My partner and I had a fantastic experience at Douar Samra. The eco lodge was beautiful, the gardens peaceful and the view unforgettable. The staff were amazing. Food was outstanding. It was brilliant being served in a 'family' style as we got the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Thank you to everybody at Douar Samra for a great trip, and thank you i-escape for the beautiful scarf. We will definitely be back.

10/10,

Great and cosy athmospheare with room for privacy in the beautiful and chique rooms as well as laughther and new friendships in the cozy commune areas. Most friendly staff (and sweet donkey) and very authentic - you are in a very rural village with authentic Berban living. Must stay if you are going to the beautiful mountain side of Marocco.

9/10,

Douar Samra exceeded all expectations. It is a very special place. The room was stylish, cozy and comfortable, the food was delicious and the staff were genuinely caring and attentive. If you like a home away from home then this hits the spot. It was very difficult to leave. We shall definitely be returning.

10/10,

A magical and truly wonderful oasis in the mountains. A stay at Douar Samra is essential for anyone who wants to recapture the spirit of their youth with more than a touch of adult comfort - we had a room with no electricity (by choice) which is probably the most exciting experience my 10 year old son has ever had - lit candles and a wonderful fire greeted us each evening, this is what dreams are made of in the mad world that we live in, how wonderful that the next generation appreciates it so much too!

10/10,

We loved this place for so many different reasons. Where else in the world can you find yourself in the heart of a Berber village amidst such stunning landscape with a true sense you'd gone back to a time when life was simpler.There might not be electricity throughout but at night, the candles, log fires and warmth from Mohamed, Rashida and Kitty made this place very special indeed. Donkeys might bray occasionally but I'd take it over the noise of traffic any day. Bedrooms are cosy, colourful and gloriously devoid of the trappings of the digital age and at dinner time you won't go hungry. Guests can snuggle up in their dinner den and feast whilst chatting away to interesting people also passing through. Yes this place is utterly unique.

10/10,

We love everything about this place (it's our second visit). The cosy, colourful rooms (it was unseasonally cold, but log fires in the evening made the rooms toasty), beautiful gardens, the stunning mountain views and ever helpful staff. There's always an interesting and eclectic crowd at dinner swapping travel stories. We did a few stunning hikes to the nearby villages, followed by relaxed afternoons in the garden. Even just a couple of days here really relaxes the mind and soothes the soul. Without doubt one of the most beautiful places we've ever visited.

10/10,

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