Morocco is seductively exotic yet increasingly accessible. The modest airport at Marrakech is finally being expanded and low-cost routes easily connect this bohemian, cultural, and historic city with Europe and beyond.
After a few days exploring the medieval medina, the souks and the gardens of Marrakech, I really recommend taking a taxi for the 90 minutes’ drive south to the Berber villages of the stunning Atlas Mountains.
Search out the Ouirgane Valley, a small plateau surrounded by striking red earth foothills, and planted with olive, almond and fruit trees. It’s unspoilt, and emerging as an attractive visitor base to explore the area thanks to its good communications and proximity to the mountains, the Toubkal National Park and fascinating Berber villages.
After my few days hiking in the High Atlas Mountains I was more than ready for some luxury comforts and hotel pampering. Apart from Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot hotel, which now has become more bling than Berber, the area is not that well served with stylish accommodation, so I was intrigued to be given the opportunity to have a ‘sneak peek’ at ‘L’Amandier Hotel’ which is scheduled to be opened in May.
I arrived in a vintage Mercedes taxi, so iconic of Marrakech, but becoming a rarer sight these days as Morocco’s swift growth encourages the country to embrace all things new. The access from the main road is by a stone track that meanders through pine trees. The estate is truly hidden away, and the location is exceptional. Its elevated position offers commanding views across the entire plateau with 360 degree panoramas that take in the snow-capped High Atlas.
The L’Amandier Hotel & Villas has been a labour of love for its British owners, who found the land some years ago and knew that it would make a special place to stay. They broke ground over 6 years ago, starting with the construction of what is now a collection of contemporary, luxury villa residences which are available for private investment purchase and holiday rentals.
The exteriors are of traditional terracotta, echoing the earth tones of the surrounding Berber villages, yet with strong, modern styling. The interiors are uncluttered and clean, with traditional polished Tadelakt plaster walls, and beautiful handmade floor tiles from Fez. The terraces include a plunge pool and compelling views. Each property has a roof terrace with Moroccan-style curtained seating area. It’s fabulous for star-gazing.
The latest addition to the estate, which is landscaped with established Mediterranean gardens of lavender, hibiscus, bougainvillea, fruit and olive trees, is the six room small luxury hotel that is now nearing completion. It’s oriented so views from of each of the intimate rooms overlook the infinity pool and on to the Atlas Mountains beyond. A Hamman and spa are part of the promised facilities, together with a gourmet restaurant and hip bar. The style of the hotel and villas is contemporary; so don’t expect a pastiche of ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ decoration here. Instead it’s clean, modern lines with handmade ceramic tiles and a few luxury Moroccan details.
The hotel looks to be fully operational by the autumn and suggested rates are from about 300 euro per room per night.
The villas are already available for rental, from about 480 euro per night for a 2 bed residence, with access to the hotel’s facilities.