5 Nights In Morocco: Marrakech & The High Atlas Mountains

By Rebecca Cox

1 week ago

Where to stay, eat and spa


A five-night, six-day journey through the winding streets of the Red City and to the High Atlas Mountains beyond, from the rich, colourful artistry of urban Morocco to the vast and diverse peaks of North Africa’s highest mountain range. Rebecca Cox spends five nights on an Inclusive Morocco adventure. 

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DAYS 1-4: MARRAKECH

STAY

Amanjena, an Aman Hotel

Marrakech is electric. It is busy and bustling and loud and relentless. Everywhere you look, something catches your eye, piques your interest, inspires the senses. Vital, then, to find a retreat in which to rest and recharge so that you can enjoy it to the full. The palatial Amanjena is a short drive away from the walled Red City, set amongst inviting gardens and vast grounds. An oasis away from the hustle, the hotel’s vast columned lobby and reception rooms look out onto a calming central basin, leading on to an impressive main pool with plenty of sunny and shaded private lounging spaces. Amanjena has 40 pavilions and maisons on offer, many with private gardens or heated pools. My base for two nights, the Pavilion Piscine is a one-bedroom pavilion with a heated private pool and large outside gazebo for relaxing in. My itinerary is packed, but every second I spend within the gates of this luxe, private, spacious hideaway is restorative. The painted rose walls set amongst lush palms transport the beauty of the Medina to your own private Moroccan retreat: five nights holed up here appeals, but there is too much to see beyond these walls to stay put for long. aman.com 

Amanjena, an Aman Hotel

The Pavilion Piscine (c) Rebecca Cox

Riad Kbour & Chou

One of very few LGBTQ-owned and friendly riads in Marrakech, Riad Kbour & Chou is not like other hotels. You are not visitors, but guests at Jacques and Nicolas’ home. You will not be handed a key to your room (because they don’t lock, you’ll get one to the front door only), but one to the city, as Karim or one of the other friendly staff carefully talk you through the sites to enjoy and avoid, scams to be wary of and hidden gems, over a mint tea (what else?) and pastries. Each of the pretty rooms is completely different and furnished with souvenirs of Jacques and Nicolas’ 12 years in Morocco. And the simple and tasty breakfast on the rooftop is divine. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle, this boho gem is a must-visit for the free-spirited and lovers of eclectic design. Be sure to bid farewell to all the residents before leaving, particularly the dog, the frog and the speedy little tortoise. riadkbourchou.com 

Read our guide to Morocco for LGBTQIA+ travellers

DO

La Sultana Marrakech

La Sultana Marrakech (c) Rebecca Cox

The Best Hammam in Marrakech at La Sultana

Hammam in Morocco is not a luxury but a ritual. Every area in the city must have five things: a mosque, a school, a fountain, a communal oven and a public bath (hammam). Traditionally, residents would visit at least once a week, and the space was not only one to be revived and refreshed, but one to connect with your peers. Though most locals now have facilities at home and do not have the need to visit the hammam for their cleansing rituals, many still visit regularly, and as a visitor to Marrakech, it’s an experience not to be missed. If you’re short on time, you could visit the local spot, yes, but by far the most luxurious option to experience it is at the Spa at La Sultana Marrakech. Here, amongst the iconic pink marbled columns you’ll find experienced therapists who will give you an authentic (but tourist-friendly) hammam experience in the most aesthetic surroundings in the city. You will be washed, scrubbed, clayed and cleansed, while lying on a heated pink marble slab in a warm, low-lit room. It feels as indulgent and rejuvenating as it sounds, and it’s the perfect treat after a hot few days exploring the hot and dusty streets of the Medina. lasultanahotels.com

Spa & Lunch at La Villa des Orangers

The smell of fragrant cumin scents the air of the clear blue sky over the long narrow pool at the rear of this chic and petite villa. Spices are ground behind the hotel; each day, a different aroma scents the air. Sunbeds are nestled amongst greenery, shaded from the dappled sun. A peaceful oasis behind a bustling Marrakech street beyond, the villa is an ideal retreat for a rejuvenating spa day after a long flight following an early start. Enjoy the excellent Moroccan salad selection for lunch, a perfect array of vegetables blended with local herbs, spices and oils, from the rich pureed tomato and spiced aubergine to a fresh chopped avocado. Follow with the white fish tagine for the perfect light lunch, followed by a fresh mint tea, of course. Then retreat to the spa, for a rejuvenating top to toe massage or a complexion-reviving facial. villadesorangers.com 

La Villa des Orangers

Mint tea by the pool at La Villa des Orangers (c) Rebecca Cox

Guided Tours

Marrakech is visited by more than two million people each year, which contributes to it being one of the most tourist-friendly cities in the world, but easy to navigate it is not. The winding, bustling streets of the Medina are a maze: noisy, narrow and hot. Turn right, and left, and right again, three strikes and you’re lost. Best, then, to navigate them (at least to begin with) with a guide. Inclusive Morocco organised two incredible tours for our stay, one by foot and another by motorbike sidecar (noisy, bumpy and an absolute hoot). Sites not to miss include: Ben Youssef Madrasa, the Le Jardin Secret, Dar El Bacha Museum and Jardin Majorelle. inclusivemorocco.com 

EAT

A street food tour is a great way to try some local favourites like sfinge (sunset doughnuts) or spicy soups served with hot and flaky flatbreads. It’s also worth booking tables at El Fenn’s chic rooftop restaurant for lunch or dinner (the lunch salad selection is enormous and satisfying) and La Sultana Marrakech’s enormous rooftop terrace, where the food is as flawless as the views. Here, you can enjoy lunch or drinks amongst the lush tropical gardens and take in views across the Medina. The classic tagines are flawless, but the lobster salad with citrus fruit is the perfect lighter option if you’ve been over-indulging in the irresistible local cuisine for several days now. If you’re staying at the Amanjena, the Moroccan restaurant should be top of your list for a delectable evening meal complete with live lute music and soft candle lighting. 

The Medina, Marrakech

The Medina, Marrakech (c) Rebecca Cox

Le Trou Au Mur 

For a sweet and special dinner book at table at La Trou Au Mur.  As dusk falls the sky fills with swallows, and the cool blue turns grey-pink and then slate. The restaurant’s gentle pop playlist is interrupted by the call to prayer drifting over the crumbling rooftops to the west. Pink and white roses are growing on the rooftop next door, the wall in front of them a perfect blend of the two hues, Marrakech’s signature ‘red’ (clay pink). The slow cooked lamb is the restaurant’s signature dish, but if lamb is not your thing, the Moroccan salads or stuffed sardine starter are worth climbing the winding stairs to the rooftop restaurant for. As is the rich Tride main, a heavy Moroccan homemade sweet and savoury chicken pastry that serves as the ultimate comfort food. Save space for dessert, or if you simply can’t, at least a crisp glass of cool Moroccan rosé, before you slip back into the hot lamp-lit streets below. letrouaumur.com

DAYS 4-6: HIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINS

STAY

Kasbah Tamadot

Before arriving at this Virgin Limited Atlas Mountains retreat, I heard rumours that this was Sir Richard Branson’s favourite hotel, and after spending just two nights here, it’s easy to see why. Sadly, the main kasbah was partially destroyed by the earthquake in 2023, the library lost in a landslide and the riads and main restaurant damaged and forced to close. The owners decided to keep the hotel open, partly due to feeling a responsibility to the local staff to keep them in employment. As a result, during our stay, only the eight Berber tents are in operation, which means a more intimate experience with our fellow guests, all of whom we exchange words with during the course of the weekend. The infinity pool overlooks the valley below and the towering Mount Toubkal above, and is the central hub of the hotel, the terraces at either end currently the main gathering places for breakfasts and dinners. There are complimentary mini bars in the rooms and in several guest areas (including the tennis courts, should you fancy a rally), but cocktails by the pool are a must. As tempting as it is to spend your entire stay alternating between pool, terrace, private hot tub and back to the pool, Kasbah Tamadot’s true charm is found in its surroundings. Though picturesque when viewed from the pool with a pina colada in hand, the Atlas mountains are utterly breathtaking when you immerse yourself in them. The hotel runs regular guided hiking excursions, with different lengths and ascents for all levels of fitness and experience. Many of our fellow guests are return visitors, completely enamoured with this stunning mountain retreat, its world-class staff and its resident cat Mushkah, and I hope to be one myself one day, if fortune favours me. virginlimitededition.com 

Sitting by the pool at Kasbah Tamadot

Mountain views from the pool at Kasbah Tamadot

DO

Hike The Atlas Mountains

Not only is a guided hike through the foothills of the Atlas Mountains a chance to take in the stunning scenery and towering peak of Mount Toubkal overhead, but to learn more about the Berber culture, journeying uphill through rich woodlands and stacked Berber villages, bustling with activity. My guide, Rashid, knows every single local we come across, stopping for conversation, a kissed hand here, a slap on the back there: there is a joke for every child and always a moment to stop and give directions to lost Moroccan hikers who visit in high season to see the waterfalls and picnic in the valley by the river before it dries out. Work is underway to repair local houses after the earthquake, but government grants are limited, and many families have had to move to alternative villages or are navigating complicated medical costs or challenges in the aftermath. A guest house atop the highest Berber village is my destination for lunch, the highest settlement before the star attraction’s base camp and the spread of home cooked tagines, salads, breads and kebabs is one of the best meals of the entire trip, not least because of the unrivalled view and peaceful ambiance. The journey back down is three times quicker than the ascent, despite the full stomach. inclusivemorocco.com 

Berber Guide Rashid

My Berber guide, Rashid (c) Rebecca Cox

Farm Cooking Class

If you don’t come home from Morocco with a suitcase full of spices and a pretty ceramic tagine, you haven’t eaten enough local cuisine. (My spices actually split and emptied themselves all over my clothes when I sat on my over-packed case at the airport on the way home, but hopefully you’ll have better luck.) Find out how to recreate your favourite dishes at home with a Moroccan cooking class. I spend three or four hours on the grounds of Secret Berber Garden in the countryside learning to cook tagines and salads under cool cream canopies, guided by Chef Fatima, a Berber native who not only gives wonderful cooking advice, but is one of the most charming Moroccans we meet. The food (and laughter) is plentiful, from the rich, spiced mains to the sweet and fruity puddings. Everything is delicious. inclusivemorocco.com 

Traditional bread oven being used at Secret Berber Garden

On the farm at Secret Berber Garden (c) Rebecca Cox

THE FINAL WORD

So much to see, so little time. Let someone who knows Morocco inside-out craft your itinerary if you’re a newcomer to this magical and diverse country. Prepare to return home with a full suitcase, a full stomach, and an even fuller heart. 

BOOK

The itinerary outlined here starts at £3,550 per person based on two people sharing including all accommodation, a personal driver and all experiences and activities. To book your bespoke Moroccan adventure, visit inclusivemorocco.com

A journey from London Gatwick to Marrakech by plane, return, 1 person has a carbon footprint of 693 kg of CO2e. ecollectivecarbon.com