I recently had a conversation with Travel Designers Sarah Bello and Dana Wilson about their recent trip to Morocco. For both Sarah and Dana, this was a first to the North African country. They started in Marrakech, then traveled into the Atlas Mountains to stay at a desert camp and ended in Taghazout Bay. Throughout the stay, they toured a number of properties and got to fully embrace Morocco through tours, experiences, and meals with our local partners. I got the inside scoop into their most memorable activities, and got answers to questions that could be useful to anyone interested in exploring this beautiful country.
For many, Morocco is a bucket list trip. Whether it's the intrigue of the culture: the art, tiles, food, and color that come to mind, or a specific hotel (for Dana it was the desert camps), many travelers have an idea of what a trip to Morocco would be like. A country close enough to Europe that it doesn't feel daunting to get to from the United States, but vastly different from countries surrounding it with its Berber and Arab influences, this idea of Morocco—all the things you picture in your mind prior to traveling there—doesn't compare to the actual thing. Isn't that typically the case? With little expectations, Sarah and Dana put faith in our in-country partners to show them various parts of Morocco and the experiences they then get to share with you as Travel Designers.
Culture. Color. Hospitable. Hot. Tajine.
Each answer to the questions below are combined summaries of their responses.
Given the travel time, accommodations, and activities in Morocco, who would you recommend Morocco to? Is it suitable for families?
Morocco can fit in a lot of different categories and appeal many different travelers, and it could be as extensive or as short of a trip desired. Depending on your departing city, the added hours traveling from the West Coast to Morocco could make the trip more difficult and less appealing to families with young kids. Additionally, there's limited food options at restaurants and hotels for picky little eaters, so the destination may be more appropriate for adults or well-traveled, adventurous children and young adults.
Sarah mentioned, “It is the most epic girlfriend destination with all the shopping and spas. It combines everything I like to do with my girlfriends in a really incredible place." Shop for leather poufs, handmade rugs, woven blankets, and ceramics. Strip down and get scrubbed in Hammam spa.
Morocco is also a prime location for honeymooners or couples. With spacious rooms with seating areas or individual riads, the five star properties are more affordable than those you'd find in Europe, and it's a lovely destination for those celebrating a milestone with their partner or a small group.
Can you combine Morocco with any other countries?
Morocco can be easily combined with Spain, Portugal, and France using Air France and budget airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir. Morocco cannot be combined with countries in East or Southern Africa without a reconnecting flight in Europe. Although not impossible to do so, you would be backtracking to Europe en route to other parts of Africa.
What was your favorite property you toured or stayed at?
The Oberoi is located within Mediterranean orchards with fragrant citrus trees and centuries old olive groves. This five-star hotel has beautifully landscaped gardens and authentic architecture is inspired by palaces of ancient Morocco. The courtyard of the main building incorporates the design of the historic Medersa Ben Youssef, built in the 14th century; one of Marrakech’s most famous historic monuments.
Dana: "The Oberoi was so impressive. The grounds were massive and well-kept, and there's tile work throughout the property and rooms. Everyone was friendly and welcoming, and they also had great welcome amenities."
Inspired by the rose-hued buildings of old Marrakech, the luxurious Amanjena is close to the fabled Red City and set in its own expanse of gardens and grand open spaces. Shaded courtyards with fountains lead to the central bassin that nourishes the gardens in which spacious standalone guest pavilions and maisons rest, all with private gardens and many with private pools. Views stretch across the olive groves and palms of the oasis, extending to the High Atlas Mountains on the horizon.
Sarah: "Marrakech is loud and bustling, and if it's your first or last stop in Morocco, it may be nice to counter that vibrancy of the city with a more peaceful and serene hotel. That's Amanjena. It feels like no one else is around."
Inara Camp is set-up in the magical setting of the stony desert of Agafay. In the middle of a vast field of 10 hectares, Inara camp consists of 18 luxury tents with a splendid overview of the desert, each with inside king size bed, living room and separate bathroom with shower and toilet. The camp is intimate, and respects the tranquility of the desert. Dine under a private tent enjoying views of the Atlas Mountains, admire the sunset poolside, and watch as the night sky lights up with stars.
Sarah and Dana loved that you can get the desert experience, but still close to Marrakech. It can take 8+ hours to get into the Sahara Desert from Marrakech, so this is a good option for those with time restraints.
The hotel rooms and suites at Royal Mansour have been replaced by luxury riads that are scattered in a medina haloed with flowery alleys and enigmatic doors. There are 53 private residences, and each riad has its own uniqueness in decoration. Subtle variation of fabrics, woodwork, carpets, chiseled plaster and custom-made furniture, the riads are harmonious and elegant. Royal Mansour has roof terraces with views of the Atlas, and a private pool to fully immerse yourself in the art of Moroccan living.
Sarah: "Royal Mansour is so opulent and over the top. Glitz and glam. Everything is luxe."
What was your most memorable experience?
Sidecar experience in the streets of Marrakech
Aboard a vintage style sidecar, you can go on an off-the-beaten-path adventure throughout Marrakech. In the beautiful maze of the Medina, through the ancient French neighborhood or in the mythical palm grove, you're guided through the streets surpassing flea markets, secret gardens behind closed doors, and old art deco buildings in an open-air ride. During this tour, you're able to cover a lot of ground, and what's extra special is the driver points out places and parts of the city that are dear to him.
Note: There are many different options for touring and they're all customizable to the client. There are a bunch of different routes for the side car experience including going into the desert.
Ride camels and ATVs in the desert
An experience through Inara Camp in the Agafay Desert, ride along small Berber villages and blend into the landscape while taking in its natural beauty. Enjoy the Nomadic lifestyle by camel ride tour and get lost in the desert on ATVs.
Picnic in the Atlas Mountains
A surprising stop on the way to Inara Camp, a lavish picnic set up in the middle of the Atlas Mountains was the best meal Sarah and Dana had in Morocco. They mentioned feeling like they were in the middle of nowhere, seeing a Berber man herding his sheep, going about his daily life and breathtaking mountain views. They loved the different salads and rice dishes.
Now since being there, is there anything that was left out of this trip that you'd like to experience on your next trip to Morocco?
The Sahara! Sarah mentioned wanting to check out Dar Ahlam on the way to the Sahara and also visiting Fez.
What is something that really stood out to you (culturally, socially, or in general)?
Overall, everyone was so accommodating and welcoming. People were eager to talk about how progressive and forward thinking they are as a society, and how they envision the future for themselves and their children. There's an equal balance between old and new, modern and traditional. You can really find everything in Morocco.
Anything else to add?
Drink the Moroccan white wine!
Ready to book your trip to Morocco?
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