Kasbah Bab Ourika

Ourika Valley, High Atlas, Morocco Book from Book from £132 per night

Lord over the Atlas at this coolest of kasbahs at the head of the Ourika Valley
Few are the settings to match Bab Ourika's hilltop perch. To the north the jagged peaks of the Atlas rise sheer above the bled, to the east the fantastic forms of the Salt Natural Park's hills change hue with each passing hour, whilst to the west the lush terraces of the Ourika valley cut a sabre of green across an otherwise mineral landscape. This is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the Maghreb.

When it came to the kasbah's creation - it was the brainchild of a well-heeled English gent' - the ornate style of so many Marrekechi riads was eschewed in favour of a traditional build. Walls were made of rammed earth, floors of natural coloured beijmat and furnishings of Berber fabrics in muted shades of cream, brown and beige. The result is a series of living spaces which feel intimate, deeply restful and spoilingly comfortable. Bedrooms are big enough to stage your own fantasia and all have underfloor heating, fine linens and private terraces.

Come to dine beneath unpolluted night skies, lie by the sparkling pool, revel in the romance and live your own chapter of The Morocco That Was.

Highs

  • A beautiful mountain getaway yet you're just 40 minutes from the maelström of Marrakech
  • Excellent hiking on your doorstep and Bab Ourika has its own guides
  • Masses of intimate corners throughout the kasbah and gardens: it's perfect for romantic R&R
  • Lifts you high above the mundane: gazing out at those amazing wraparound views means you'll forget the bank statements, daily commute and reality TV
  • Admirable eco credentials, and very supportive of its surrounding Berber villages

Lows

  • The chances are you won't meet the owner, but you'll be well cared for by manager Joana Meireles and the friendly team of Berber staff
  • Arrival is via a bumpy track which cuts through the narrow streets of a Berber village: all part of the adventure
  • A hefty wadge of dirhams if you stay for several nights - but why not just buy one less carpet?
  • The kasbah's isolation means you'll feel bound to dine in house

Best time to go

Any time of year would be a good time to stay at Bab Ourika, even mid summer: the kasbah's 900m elevation makes it several degrees cooler than Marrakech and massively thick outer walls ensure that things stay cool on the inside.

The Ourika valley looks stunning at any time of year, perhaps most so in spring when the first shoots cloak the terraced hillsides in delicate hues of green. And to see the Atlas mountains blanketed in snow on a clear winter's day - this is a great time to trek - is bound to be a highlight of your journey.

Our top tips

Set time aside for visiting the Ourika valley and the waterfalls at Setti-Fatma: you'll need to hike for about 2 hours if you want to see all 7 of them.

Great for...

Eco
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Spa
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 26
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • Children welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Steam Room
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Deluxe Room

Rooms

Rooms are big, high-ceilinged spaces which take their cue from the clean-cut, organic lines of Berber architecture. Most have open tadelakt hearths and all have underfloor heating, whilst thick pisé walls ensure there's no need for air-con, even during the summer.

Although some Deluxe Rooms have terraces, the Suites in the main house offer guaranteed outdoor space (as do most of those in the garden), as well as big dressing rooms and huge bathrooms; some with sunken tubs and from Room 12's raised tub you have soaring views of the National Park. We also love the vast Deluxe Suite, between the kasbah's twin towers, with its enormous terrace, walk-in dressing room and a vaulted bathroom.

Newly opened (and we’re yet to see them) are the Garden Pool Suite and 2-bedroom Garden Deluxe Suite, both of which have cosy sitting rooms with fireplaces and private terraces. The new Garden Retreat Villa is home to a Garden Deluxe, a Family Suite and a Private Pool Suite; good for groups.

Beneath petal-strewn, pom-pommed blankets, top spec' mattresses, fine linens and orthopaedic pillows await, but don’t expect much in the way of electrical gizmos - these would feel out of synch here. In the bathrooms, big tubs (some of the sunken variety) and/or walk-in rain showers complement buff-coloured marble, heated towel rails, natural soaps and gels, and humongous fluffy bathrobes.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

The restaurant aims to showcase the finest traditions of Berber cuisine whilst always offering some kind of European alternative. Locally sourced produce is a cornerstone of all dishes, and much of it is grown in the hotel’s gorgeous organic gardens - including one the finest vegetable patches we’ve ever seen!

Dinner more than lived up to expectations. A starter of roasted beetroot, rocket, feta, walnuts, mint, sherry and vinaigrette was followed by a scrummy sweet and spicy beef makfoul whilst the fresh fruit salad with raspberry sorbet was a perfect foil to the rich flavours of the main course.

Bab Ourika's cosy bar offers a choice of Morocco's best wines and there's French champagne on ice if you're in celebratory mood, a fire will be burning in the colder months. If you're dining beneath the stars it will be hard to drag yourself away from the extraordinary Atlas panoramas.

The breakfasts also showcase local produce: fruits from the gardens, freshly baked bread and pancakes piping hot from the kasbah's oven and we loved the 'Berber style' omelettes with fresh tomato and onion.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore the northern flank of the Atlas on foot, horse back or mountain bike: the kasbah has its own trusted guides and trails lead straight out from the hotel, through local Berber villages if you wish
  • Spend the day in Marrakech (just a 40-minute drive away) smug in the knowledge that you'll be sleeping far from the mad hustle and bustle
  • Indulge with a soothing massage or traditional hammam overlooking the National Park, or laze by the pool - a yoga instructor can also come up from Marrakech (request in advance)
  • The hotel can arrange rafting in the Ourika valley; hot air ballooning on the plain of Marrakech and even skiing in Oukaimdon (a 40-minute drive away)
  • The Monday Tnine Ourika market is as colourful as they come and you can tour local saffron farms and essential oil makers in the company of a local guide

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Mountain biking
  • Private guided tours
  • Rafting
  • Shopping / markets
  • Skiing
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Well being
  • Yoga

Kids

Although kids are made welcome at Bab Ourika, and families often stay, the mood here is very grown-up with the accent firmly placed on intimate-escape-for-two.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms can hold a baby cot and most can also hold an extra bed. Deluxe Rooms 7 and 8 can interconnect, the Deluxe Suite can hold up to 6 plus a baby and the Garden Deluxe Suite has 2 bedrooms. The Garden Retreat Villa has a 2-bedroom Family Suite with terrace, or a more luxurious 2-bedroom Private Pool Suite, complete with infinity pool.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available on request.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 20 independent reviews from i-escape guests

9/10
Room
8/10
Food
9/10
Service
9/10
Value
9/10
Overall

A great place, warm and friendly, stunning views, great food, what more could you want.

10/10,

The welcome we received on arrival and attention of the staff during our stay was without fault. Extensive gardens with many terraces and quiet areas for relaxing in the shade or sun with the mountains as a backdrop (still snowcapped in March). Hussein will take you for a local walk (8 or 14 km) with a very interesting commentary about his life in the village, with lunch in a Berber home. We visited a delightful couple and sat on their handmade colourful carpet on their terrace whilst enjoying their hospitality and home cooked meal. Also make time for the hike 300m up to the waterfalls.

9/10,

Everything about it is wonderful. The thick-walled building with its mix of courtyards and cosy spaces, the cool and deceptively casual interior design, the gorgeous gardens with amazing views, the delicious food, and the friendly and efficient staff. Exactly what I was looking for: the perfect place to rest and recharge for a few days, and take some excursions when you want to be a bit more active.

10/10,

Fantastic views and fantastic hotel. The lunches were amazing. Sadly the internet was down whilst we stayed (apart from a slow connection in the reception area), and there was a delay in checking out. But apart from that a great hotel and a lovely stay.

9/10,

I wish I could give the devoted service a six out of five. Nothing was too much trouble. The valley / mountain setting is heavenly. The hotel grounds with countless water features and bowered nooks, spread over the plateau at the top of the hill on which the hotel sits. This location with its commanding views make it like a paradise.

9/10,

Stunning location in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. I received an upgrade to a stunning and spacious suite. Food was delicious and service understated but plentiful. So many peaceful spots to sit in the garden. Perfect for quiet getaway and I shall be back...

10/10,

A truly wonderful place with loads of love for the details and the most amazing views over Ourika valley. You can start hiking right off the premises and return for a perfect lunch in the shaded pergola prepared with herbs and vegetables homegrown on the estate. Service is immaculate, the pool is quite, the hammam very authentic. We'll certainly come back.

9/10,

Magical

9/10,

What an oasis - so beautiful, so relaxing, just perfect.

9/10,

We liked the serenity, peace and quiet, national forest walks and amazing views. Great place to relax and unwind.

8/10,

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Rates for Kasbah Bab Ourika