Glamp in the Sahara
So you want to go to the desert but don’t fancy roughing it? We hear you. Nowadays it’s all about ‘glamping’ rather than ‘camping’ in the Sahara, allowing travelers to see the shifting sands of those rose-gold dunes without sacrificing all-important creature comforts.
Specialists can arrange overnight stays and multi-day trips, and the journey takes around 12 hours from Marrakech and eight from Fes. The long drive is a worthy experience in itself—en route you'll pass crumbling citadels, mud-built Berber villages, lush valleys, and palm groves.
When you arrive, you can expect a nomad-style tent, with a proper bed and plenty of blankets for the chilly nights, and a nice bathroom with piping-hot water thanks to solar paneling. Gourmet breakfasts with eggs and fresh fruit fuel days spent hiking, sand-boarding, and camel riding, before a delicious, home-cooked dinner as the setting sun paints the sky and the Milky Way begins to appear.
This 8-day itinerary covers Marrakech, Essouaria, and the Sahara, including a night of glamping. Though this is a true luxury trip, you should nevertheless pack the essentials for this kind of terrain: outdoor clothing, a sunhat, sunscreen, and some cash for tips. If you have some extra time, you could opt for this two-week itinerary that includes glamping, plus a hammam visit, winery tour, and hot air balloon adventure.
Luxuriate in a Hammam
Few experiences are as quintessentially Moroccan as the hammam. These steam baths are the pride and joy of most luxury riads, which often have a full menu of spa-style treatments.
The classic hammam treatment, traditionally performed au naturale, involves a pore-opening steam and exfoliating gommage (rub-down with a rough kessa mitt and black olive soap) on a marble slab, before a thorough hosing down with cold water. At the luxury end of the scale, you can book a tension-busting, orange blossom-scented massage, then relax in a fluffy robe, mint tea in hand, beside a mosaic-tiled, lantern-lit pool. After a couple of hours, you’ll leave feeling new-born and walking on air.
Among our absolute favorites are La Sultana in Marrakech, whose 'Royal Hammam’ is followed by a soothing argan-oil massage. The Royal Mansour has a startlingly lavish white birdcage of a spa, with three private hammam suites, first-class treatments and an air of exclusivity. In Fes, head to Les Bains Amani, a gold-kissed spa where you can treat yourself to the Royal Hammam, 75 luscious minutes of scrubbing and masks, all done by candlelight.
Sleep in a Moroccan Palace
It’s like a magic trick: push open that no-name wooden door and behind it you’ll find a quiet, orange tree-rimmed courtyard, where a fountain splashes and lanterns cast patterns. Once home to Morocco’s elite, many mansions and riads now welcome guests in truly palatial style. Just say the word and the genie-like staff will arrange a candlelit dinner, lovingly prepared with season-driven ingredients, a lavish breakfast on the roof terrace overlooking the minaret-topped medina, or a private hammam session.
Top billing goes to the Royal Mansour in Marrakech. Designed by none other than King Mohammed VI himself, this "medina within the medina" is a gasp-out-loud showpiece of artistry that took 1500 craftsmen three years to hammer, carve, and tile into perfection. It’s luxury all the way, with flawless service (including private butlers), an exquisite spa, rose gardens, and fine dining restaurants.
One of the most sumptuous picks in Fes is Palais Amani, a swoon-worthy 17th-century palace with Art Deco edge. Here a citrus-scented courtyard leads to grand suites and a mosaic-tiled hammam. And in the foothills of the High Atlas, Sir Richard Branson’s five-star Kasbah Tamadot in Asni is an out-of-this-world retreat, with 360-degree mountain views, landscaped gardens, palatial suites and luxe Berber-style tents with private hot tubs.
For more, read our list of Top Luxury Riads in Marrakech.
Wake Up with a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Floating slowly above the arid landscape close to Marrakech as the sun begins to rise is a once lived, never forgotten experience. Yes, you will probably have to get up in the dark, but it’s worth it for the feeling of quiet exhilaration as you drift onwards and upwards, with the Atlas Mountains on the horizon and ochre-mud villages appearing toy-town tiny far below.
Many adventure specialists offer 40- to 60-minute hot-air balloon flights on their itineraries (weather permitting), but be sure to book well in advance. Most include a 4x4 pick-up and mint tea or a full breakfast in a Berber tent post-flight. To up the luxury (and romance) further still, you can book a private flight for two—a reliable choice in Marrakech is Ciel d'Afrique.
Tailored Cooking Classes & Wine Experiences
If you want to recreate that incredible diffa (feast) back home, a hands-on cooking class is a great way to get to grips with the subtleties of Moroccan cuisine. You’ll typically learn how to make an appetizer, an entrée (usually a tagine), and sometimes dessert, before enjoying the fruits of your labor. Groups tend to be small (maximum 12 people), so there’s plenty of time to socialize and get tips from the dada (traditional Moroccan cook). Bring a notepad and camera to keep tabs on what you’re cooking.
Highly regarded classes in Marrakech include the insightful workshops run by La Maison Arabe, which are followed by lunch on the roof terrace. At Faim d’Epices, a farm on the city fringes, Michel breathes passion into his classes, where you’ll get a primer on spices before launching into a full morning of bread, salad, and tagine making. Lunch is served al fresco overlooking the olive groves. This 7-day trip pairs Marrakech fun, including a tagine class, with Berber culture in Imlil
Wine, you say? Morocco now produces some surprisingly good tipples, some of the best from the vines at organic boutique winery Val d’Argan in Essaouira. Vintner Charles Mélia hails originally from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and his wines (especially the reds) are a nod to France’s esteemed Rhône Valley. After a tour of the vineyards, which are worked by camels instead of tractors, you can enjoy a tasting and a Moroccan lunch with wine pairing in the restaurant. Be sure to try to the Perle Gris, a fresh, fruity, pale rosé that's made with a red-wine grape and white-wine practices.