If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh, here are a few options to cool you down, all an hour's drive from the red city:
If you fancy a nice day’s walking in the foothills of the Atlas mountains, then perhaps this trip is for you. We’ll pick you up from the nearby parking at Sidi Ben Slimane around 9 a.m. and drive across the Al Haouz plain to the little village of Marigha. En route, and depending on the day, you can visit a local weekly Berber market (Saturdays, Tuesdays or Thursdays) and sip some local mint tea or a café nuss-nuss (half-half). A little further on is the hamlet of Marigha, where you will meet your English-speaking walking guide and begin your walk (approx. 2.5hrs). Said and his brother Abdou live in the nearby town of Ouirgane and will take you on a circular walk, passing well-tended terraced fields, river valleys and olive groves and explaining some of the local flora, fauna and customs of this beautiful and surprisingly productive countryside. Lunch will be prepared for you in a local Berber house from local, seasonal produce (vegetarian options are available) and then a further walk of 1.5hrs returning to your driver will round off your day. Aprrox. Return to Marrakesh around 5pm.
Price: €75 per person (minimum 2 people)
Price includes transport, lunch and English-speaking guide.
Kasbah Bab Ourika – Perched on a hilltop with breathtaking views over the Atlas Mountains and surrounding countryside, the Kasbah Bab Ourika offers non-resident guests a real treat. Lunch including vegetarian options changes daily and offers the choice between 3 starters, 3 mains and 3 desserts at 250 Dhs/£16 approx. per person. They also have a BBQ buffet available every Sunday. Free access to the swimming pool is possible depending on availability. Local walks are also available plus a guided tour of the hotel and lovely gardens. A return taxi fare will cost from £65 or €90 for 2 people each way and is approx. 40 mins drive.
La Ferme Berbère – A little further out of Marrakesh on the road to Ourika is La Ferme Berbère. Sophie, Nolane and Majd offer an informal, tranquil spot to relax, sipping a homemade juice or local wine and beer (it has a licence) and sampling the menu du jour – set lunch prepared fresh each day. Prices are very reasonably priced 155dhs (approx.. £11) per person for lunch and access to the pool. There is also a spa with a variety of hammam and massage treatments available. A return taxi fare will cost from £30 or €40 for 2 people each way and is approx. 20 mins drive.
The Capaldi Hotel & Spa – Another nice spot about the same drive as the Kasbah Bab Ourika is The Capaldi Hotel & Spa. Originally a farm guesthouse and vineyard, Ed Lyle and Tara Ford have built a rustically-chic 23 bedroom retreat hotel and spa and offer non-residents guests the chance to sample their excellent a la carte menu. Access to the pool is possible with prior arrangement, depending on the hotels availability. Local walks are also possible to the nearby lake of Lalla Takerkoust. A return taxi will be £65 or €90 for the day.
Kasbah Tamadot – This sumptuous summer residence was previously owned by an Italian designer and is Richard Branson luxury hotel in Morocco. Non-resident guests are welcome for lunch (approx.. 500dhs/£35 per person without drinks) between 12.30 - 2.30pm and a guided visit is also offered around the extensive grounds. Pool access is only for hotel guests.
Beldi Country Club – a delightful oasis of ancient olive trees and rose gardens. The Beldi Country Club is a lovely spot to spend the day, lounging by the pool and having a nice 3-course lunch (370dhs/£25 approx. including access to the pool). There are also some lovely rose gardens to walk through and, if you fancy something a bit different, why not try your hand at throwing a pot? Pottery classes (1 hour) are available for adults (200dhs/£13approx.) and children (100dhs/£7 approx.). There is also an excellent spa with a variety of hammam and massage treatments available. A taxi fare to the Beldi will cost from £15 or €20 for 2 people each way and is approx. 15 mins drive (6km).
Kasbah de Toubkal – Originally a summer residence for the Pacha of Marrakech, the Kasbah de Toubkal offers a more authentic experience in the Atlas Mountains. Based in the mountain village of Imlil the Kasbah offers a ‘Day out with the Berbers’ which includes a guided walk, 3 course lunch (vegetarian options available), hammam and return transport. Prices are from €110 per person.
An artist’s retreat with a difference, Al Maqam is located in the village of Tahanaout in the lower reaches of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. Al Maqam means ‘The Place’ in Arabic and it serves not only as an artist’s colony but also as gallery, library and a place to stay. There is nothing else quite like it in Morocco.
The painter Mohamed Mourabiti has been setting up Al Maqam for over a decade and now, carefully installing traditional home-wares and local paintings and now photographers, writers and artists flock to the centre to share ideas and inspiration. It is a supportive environment, and for those who struggle to pay the €50 for nightly accommodation, they have the option to pay with paintings or poems instead.
This unique, quiet place hosts workshops and also has paint materials for sale and a conference room – everything in fact that the artist needs. On average 100 international artists are hosted a year, and there are regular guests like the painter Abderrahim Yamou (www.yamou.com) and the French writer Michel Butor.
You can find out more here: http://almaqam.eklablog.fr/