Marrakech to the Atlas Mountains

Arrival in Marrakech

Being alone in a luxury hotel was both unexpected and very welcome as we enjoyed our first day on the outskirts of Marrakech. The 4 hour flight from Heathrow was uneventful arriving at the clean and modern Marrakech international airport. Despite a long queue getting through passport control, we collected our bags and found our driver still waiting in the arrivals lounge.

The transfer from the airport to the Selman Country Club only took 20 minutes even though the driver couldn’t find the entrance and had to ask a couple of passing locals. In stark contrast to the dusty surroundings outside the gates – the grounds of the hotel looked green and well kept with various horse paddocks surrounded by bushes interspersed with lemon and palm trees. The simple lines of terracotta coloured buildings topped with green tiles gave the place a romantic and classy feel.

The 80 meters long Selman hotel pool

After a busy period at work, it is always nice to spend the start of a holiday completely relaxing and this was a great place to spend our first day in Morocco. The large grounds provided some good exploration and we especially enjoyed the stables which housed a number of beautiful Arabian horses. A couple of them had been taken into the paddock for a run around and it was fun trying to get a good photo. In the later afternoon, the weather broke up into a light rain but high winds. It wasn’t pleasant to be outside since the wind carried a lot of sand so we found shelter in the spa which we also had all to ourselves.

Impressive displays during our morning exploration of the stables

Over the two evenings, we enjoyed one night with dinner in hotel and the next in a recommended restaurant called Comptoir Darna which had good food as well as fun entertainment with belly dancers dancing amongst the tables. Rach joined in and I was very impressed with her belly dancing skills! The hotel has a really nice bar area where our waiter Mohammed looked after us with cocktails and bar snacks whilst we chatted about the next part of our journey.

Onwards to the Atlas Mountains

Our next step was about an 1.5 hours drive away up into the Atlas Mountains. We knew the weather would be cold and it had been snowing so we wrapped up warm which felt odd when we were still in the near-desert outskirts of Marrakech. Our destination hotel was called Kasbah Tamadot and we had arranged a transfer through them which made things easier. The drive was very scenic, through small villages and towns and then up into the Atlas foothills. It was only after the town of Asni that the road got a little narrower and steeper with snow on either side.

The hotel came into view and it was a lovely location – a large villa set high on the edge of a valley side, against a backdrop of high snow covered mountains. After a warm welcome, we were shown through to a lounge overlooking the valley (what we could see of it through the snow and clouds) and provided with a glass of champagne.

The grounds of Kasbah Tamadot from the lounge

The hotel was very quiet and we were luckily upgraded to a very nice room in the main building. The weather was still cold and the snow had turned to rain – but we decided to explore the grounds anyway since we only had one night here and tomorrow we wanted to do a walk up into the hills.

The hotel grounds were full of interesting little finds from an animal farm to a tennis court, a vegetable garden to a traditional ‘Berber kitchen’ where we the baker showed us how she was making the traditional bread known as khobz.

Making khobz in a Berber kitchen

The hotel prides itself on hiring its staff from the local community – mostly Berber peoples. Everyone we met was really friendly, relaxed and welcoming. We spoke with reception and organised a guide for the next day (it isn’t recommended to walk into the hills alone) and then retired to relax and get changed before dinner.

When the sun sets, the hotel transforms into a magical place with fire pits and candles lighting the place reminiscence of a movie set. The restaurant was quiet and we enjoyed a lamb tagine before heading up to the roof to look at the stars in the darkest of nights before the cold finally forced us to retreat back into our room.

An internal courtyard at Kasbah Tamadot

The next day, we took breakfast and then got chanced into walking clothes to head out into the hills. It was dry and sunny but the recent snow and rain meant the paths were icy and muddy. Our guide took us up a path that seemed to be little more than a sheep-trail leading up the side of the mountain. The views back across the valley were very pretty and although slippery – the walking was relatively easy going. After a couple of hours – we reached a point looking over the nearby town of Asni. From here we followed a more established path into the outskirts before cutting back through a forest and full circle back to the hotel. By this time, our boots and trousers were very muddy so we threw everything into the bath to wash away all the muck!

A view across the valley high above Kasbah Tamadot
Walking back through the forest towards the hotel

Our transfer to our next destination arrived at noon and with our bags packed and wet clothes tucked away – we said a fond farewell to the Atlas Mountains to head towards the Agafay desert. Kasbah Tamadot is a beautiful place and deserves more time to really explore the region further so I am sure we will be back one day.

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