Entering through a discreet but beautifully carved door in the centre of the medina in Marrakech… the scent of orange blossoms fills the air and memories flood back into my mind. We’ve driven from the beautiful Kasbah Tamadot high up in the Atlas Mountain to Villa Des Orangers, a luxury riad in the vibrant and energetic city. The team at Original Travel , a luxury travel company specialising in creating experiences, have put together the perfect Moroccan itinerary from the Mountains to the Medina selecting the ideal accommodation for me along the way.
A Relais & Chateaux property, Villa Des Orangers is reputedly the very best of the riad-style hotels in Marrakech and by sheer coincidence it’s also where I stayed last time I was in the city ten years ago… Original Travel clearly know my taste. Our transfer between the two was hassle-free and after taking the scenic route from the Atlas Mountains into the city, we arrived in time to enjoy lunch at the hotel.
If you’re unsure as to the definition of a ‘riad’, it’s a traditional Moroccan house with a central courtyard garden often containing a fountain. Villa Des Orangers is just that, and the 27 rooms and suites are arranged seamlessly around a series of three lush courtyards. Having loved the hotel the first time I visited, I had high expectations and it truly didn’t disappoint – as soon as I entered the first courtyard and spied the floral fountain and orange trees, I felt so happy to be back. And I was reminded of the excellent service as we relaxed on the cosy sofas with a welcome drink.
The property is as pristine as it was when I first visited… it was originally built in the 1930’s for a prominent family in Marrakech who remained there until 1998 when it was bought by Pascal and Véronique Beherec who fell in love with the property and converted it into a hotel. Only the best Moroccan craftsmanship went into the hotel and the first courtyard boasts wooden handcrafted arches, gorgeous mosaic tiling, wall sconces and fine fabrics.
The hotel’s central courtyard features the beautiful swimming pool, framed by orange trees and a gorgeous vertical garden as well as intricate antiques, majestic archways and places to relax in the sizzling sunshine.
Mildly maze-like, there’s another smaller courtyard – where we took the stairs up to the hotel’s rooftop pool…
A place to not only bask in the sun but to take in the view of the Koutoubia Mosque, and have a uninterrupted views of the Atlas mountains.
Had the weather not been on our side, there are also several beautiful lounges to sit and enjoy a mint tea. Huge leather sofas, stylish wood paneling and fire places give the feeling of a cosy private members club, the perfect place to get away from it all.
The NUXE Spa lies just off one of the courtyards and is scented with rose and orange blossoms making it a dreamy hub of well-being and relaxation. There’s a whole variety of massages and facials that guests can choose from using the luxurious and fragrant NUXE products.
The spa also includes a Hammam, the use of which can be accompanied body scrubs and masks whilst guests relax in the steam.
If I could use one word to describe Villa Des Orangers, it would be ‘discreet’. Our room was conveniently located up a flight of stairs just behind the pool and when I saw the doorway I expected to see a normal room lying beyond.
How wrong I was!
The downstairs of our suite (that’s right downstairs!) had an entrance lobby with a beautiful carved wooden mirror, leading on to a study with a desk and day bed…
Ending in a living room area with TV and fireplace.
Up the stairs was our bedroom adorned in sumptuous fabrics with ample wardrobe space and best of all, our private terrace with a view of the pool below.
The bathroom featured double sinks, a deep soaking bath and a huge walk in showers, like Kasbah Tamadot, the bathroom products have been made bespoke for the hotel.
If I could give any criticism of this hotel it’s that the towels were too small, and as a petite person that’s saying something. I remembered that from my previous stay – funny what sticks in your mind isn’t when it was ten years ago!
While there is indoor dining space, meals take place outside in this blissful weather and by the pool surrounded by orange trees is the perfect place to dine. Breakfast is à la carte and can be enjoyed under the shady trees or by the pool – this is a place that never feels busy and the morning can be spent quietly enjoying your coffee while your senses are delicately simulated.
A Relais & Châteaux property, the hotel really mean business when it comes to food and the menu is a blend of French, Mediterranean and Moroccan influences. French chef Jean-Claude Orly is skilled at ‘East meets West’ cuisine with a blend of oriental spices enhancing his native cuisine.
Lunch is also included in the hotel stay and for us was a fairly simple combination of traditional Moroccan salads shared between us followed by beautifully cooked sea bass and a succulent chicken tagine.
By night, the hotel is totally transformed to an utterly romantic setting with tables placed by the pool and lanterns twinkling in the moonlight.
For dinner there is the choice of a Moroccan or an international menu, but guests are welcome to combine the two.
My prawns were flavoursome with the heady scents of local herbs, eggplant caviar, piquillos juice with preserved lemon while Mr S very much enjoyed the textures of an indulgent lobster ravioli with fennel and candied lemon.
I had worried my choice of the Moroccan sardines may be too heavy on the olive flavours but actually it was perfect for me and I loved the citrus flavours, the charmoula and spinach zaalouk. Mr S’s enjoyed a very well portioned beef tenderloin with chanterelles fricassee, candied shallots and truffle sauce.
I personally find Moroccan food can be a little on the sweet side so I decided to satisfy my savoury tooth with a cheese platter whilst Mr S went for a Paris Brest. If you choose to dine out of the hotel, there is of course a wealth of fantastic restaurants in Marrakech, some suggestions of which can be found in the Dossier that comes with the Original Travel welcome pack. Or if, like me, you like to be paper free, the Dossier is also included on the Original Travel app that contains all the other details of the trip – you don’t even need Wifi to connect to it.
Better still, for every trip you are assigned a Local Concierge to provide personal recommendations and secure hard to get bookings – Original Travel are the only travel company in the UK to offer such a service. Our concierge Jessica, was absolutely amazing, always on the end of an email or what’s app to chat or message about what we wanted to do. She recommended and booked two fantastic restaurants for us which were both exactly what we wanted.
Activities were organised for us as part of the the overall itinerary for our trip to Morocco and there was no need to worry about researching reliable companies, making bookings or sorting transfers as this was all organised for us.
Villa Des Orangers is located very close to the famous Jemaa El Fna square so it was easy for us to take a walking tour through the medina, discovering the royal palace museums, the Jewish Quarter and the labyrinthine Moroccan souks. Original Travel can also organise traditional cookery classes, quad biking in the nearby desert and other trips out of the city – all totally hassle-free.
The second half of our Moroccan adventure was once again seamlessly organised by Original Travel with Villa Des Orangers as the perfect choice of accommodation and our guided tour giving us an in depth history of Marrakech. What I personally loved most are all the little extras that I wouldn’t get from booking a holiday myself such as the Local Concierge, the App on my iPhone, the airport fast track and curated dossier of recommendations – all of which make taking a trip completely hassle free.