Les Jardins de Skoura

Skoura, South & desert, Morocco Book from Eur70

Reviewed by Jessica Williams
Beautiful, relaxing and verdant haven in the Palmeraie of Skoura, in the foothills of the Atlas, 40km from Ouarzazate
Blissfully off the beaten track - you leave the tarmac road, following orange and white markers past kasbahs, small villages and dry river beds - Les Jardins de Skoura is an oasis of stylish accommodation. It's set in huge gardens, about 40km from Ouarzazate, crammed with sunflowers, vines, apricot, olive and pomegranate trees. Each of the 8 individually styled rooms and suites has unfussy, quirky furnishings, contributing to a laid back and comfortable atmosphere.

All credit goes to Caroline, the French owner, who developed the guest house from an old farm ruin, working with over 20 builders for 18 months. She is justifiably proud of her achievement, and we can vouch for the excellent service - and food - which she provides. We enjoyed 3 blissful days walking among palm groves and ruined kasbahs, relaxing in hammocks, swimming in the unheated pool (a delight in the hot summer) and exploring the breathtaking landscapes of the Atlas foothills, including Ait Ben Haddou and the Dades gorge.

Highs

  • Secluded, remote and relaxing, with great views of the High Atlas
  • Delicious traditional food available every evening in the beautiful garden (or inside in winter with an open fire)
  • Spacious rooms, all with living areas
  • Caroline can arrange for half-day or day-trips to the Dades and Draa valleys, as well as donkey rides locally
  • Ideal stopover between Marrakech (4.5 hours) and the Sahara dunes at Azawad (4.5 hours)

Lows

  • Nearest airport at Ouarzazate has few flights so expect a long drive in (4.5 hours from Marrakech)
  • If you don't like traditional Moroccan food, you will need to venture far to find a good alternative
  • No twin beds
  • Ouarzazate is not a pretty town (though film buffs will love it), and don't expect any nightlife

Best time to go

The guesthouse is shut for a week in January and two weeks in June. The winter can apparently be cool especially at night and the height of summer can see temperatures well over 40C. Spring and autumn are probably the best times to visit.

Our top tips

Keen photographers will adore the extraordinary, photogenic landscapes of Kasbah Amerhidil and the much-filmed hilltown of Ait Ben Haddou.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Family
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 8
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 10 Jan 2016 - 10 Feb 2016
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Standard Room (Ellouze)

Rooms

The 8 spacious rooms come with alcoves, high ceilings, arches and thick set walls, all spread over 2 floors. All are decorated simply with traditional, interesting furnishings and a focus on comfort as well as style.

The Tahouna Standard Room has a double bed, an ensuite shower bathroom, and a living room area. The Superior Rooms are similar, though all have space for an extra bed and two (Mechmech and Hàaneb) can interconnect for a family or group of friends.

The 3 Suites also have double beds but contain separate living rooms, larger shower bathrooms and working fireplaces for chilly winter nights. The largest is the first-floor Suite Atlas, which also has a private terrace looking towards the High Atlas mountains. On the ground floor, Suite Séguia has views of the Palmeraie and direct access to two patios. Suite Jnan lack outdoor space but looks onto the garden.

Expect hairdryers, complimentary toiletries and climate control. After dark, the only sound is crickets, frogs and the wind in the palm groves: sheer tranquility.

Features include:

  • Climate control
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

We had a candlelit supper in the garden for each of our nights under the stars, listening to the crickets. Each time, we valiantly devoured a 4-course meal consisting of an amazing variety of delicious chilled soups (melon with ginger being one), inventive salads, huge tagines or couscous and then dessert, which was either a mousse, pastry tart or fruit. On one evening we were treated to a local artist singing while we ate!

We also had breakfast in the garden - including fresh coffee, tea or hot chocolate, fresh orange juice, and a selection of jams and pancakes. In cooler weather, breakfast and dinner are served in the main dining room on the ground floor, when the fireplace would come into its own.

Lunch can be ordered in the morning and will be served at the pool side, in the garden or on a terrace. There's normally a choice of pasta, rice, salads and fruit and the olive oil is made on site!

The quality is high, it is all home made (even the delicious apricot jam is made from orchard windfalls!) but you are given what is cooked each evening. Do not expect a menu; let Caroline know if you are a vegetarian in advance of your arrival.

Caroline will be available at supper and spends time with all her guests to ensure they are enjoying their stay and have as much information on the area as they want.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating: Breakfast
Activity:

Activities

  • The local area is beautiful and Caroline is more than happy to arrange tours with French guides, most of whom also speak sufficient English. These range from walks in her local palm groves, trips out on her donkeys for half days, to more lengthy expeditions
  • Horse riding is 8km from Les Jardins; tell Caroline the night before if you want to make a reservation
  • Borrow bicycles and cycle around the lovely Palmeraie
  • Longer explorations could take you into the spectacular High Atlas mountains; up the Dades valley (the country of the figs) which has snow one side and semi-desert the other, to discover the “Street of the Thousand Kasbahs”; or to the Draa Valley (country of the dates), which takes you in about 5 hours from the Atlas to the Sahara desert
  • This area is known for trekking - deep gorges, snow-clad summits, remote Berber hamlets - but be warned: it's too hot to hike in the middle of the day from April through September
  • The local town of Ouarzazate, though far from spectacular, does have markets, pharmacies, supermarkets and a range of banks. It also hosts the biggest film studios in Morocco, so if you wish to see the plane in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the statues from Gladiator or any number of other film props, this is place to go!
  • Henna tattoos can be arranged by local artist
  • Return to the guest house for a refreshing swim in the pool

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Private guided tours
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking

Kids

Children are welcome. They will enjoy playing in the garden, pool and surrounding area, but there are no specific facilities. Note they will need to eat with you in the evening.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Most rooms have a sofa that can be used as an extra bed; some Superior Rooms can interconnect.

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement (extra charge).

Kid Friendly: Pool

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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