There are endless ways to tackle a trip to Morocco, with its dynamic natural wonders—from the sweeping desert, to rugged coastline, to snow-capped mountains. As you plan, keep in mind that you won’t be able to do it all. On a recent visit, I chose to sandwich high-octane exploration in Marrakech between a mountain adventure and a relaxing coastal retreat.
A four-hour drive from Casablanca (Royal Air Maroc offers nonstop flights from Dulles), the Imlil Valley will help you combat jet lag. For lodging, I recommend the no-frills, family owned Riad Atlas 4 Seasons for unencumbered mountain views, star gazing, and authentic Moroccan fare. The hotel will arrange a guide for hiking trails and waterfalls in the High Atlas Mountains and traditional Berber villages.
On the two-hour drive to Marrakech, embrace the calm from lush valleys dotted with olive, walnut, and juniper trees before entering the sensory-busting experience of the city—think vibrant souks, Moorish architecture, verdant gardens, and intricate mosques.
The five-star Les Jardins De La Koutoubia hotel nicely counters the energy coursing through Jemaa el-Fnaa square, located steps away. The marketplace comes alive at dusk with rows of food stalls and myriad street vendors. For dinner, walk a few blocks to El Fenn, a hotel also boasting an Instagram-worthy rooftop. The lamb shank confit won’t disappoint either.
Head to La Sultana Oualidia to end your journey. The 12-suite ecologically-minded hotel was delicately built into a fragile ecosystem on the Atlantic coast, overlooking a lagoon that fills and recedes with the tide.
The property excels at tiny touches of unfussy luxury including coffee and pastries delivered to your door each morning. Activities include surfing, horseback riding, bird watching, biking, and more. Indulge in fresh local oysters and rose on the terrace at sunset to bookend the day. No visit to Morocco is complete without a hammam, a traditional bathing ritual, which La Sultana’s spa has perfected.
Leaving Morocco isn’t easy. Back in Potomac, after a quick seven-hour flight home, you’ll already be thinking about your return trip.
My recommendation for shopping in Marrakech is not to buy anything on day one. Take it all in, make a game plan, and embrace the chaos. Having a strict agenda early on can derail the other-worldly experience of getting lost in the maze like medinas.