Are you likely to be an exhausted, overworked wreck by the time you take a summer break? Maybe you know that you really need some proper rest, but the idea of a traditional spa or health farm makes you baulk. Then head for the hills. Or mountains, to be more precise.
The Atlas Mountains are one of the most majestic mountain ranges in Africa. They are also considered to have one of the healthiest climates in the world. Because of their proximity to Marrakech and a range of trustworthy operators offering anything from travelling by bicycle to pony trekking through the astounding landscape, you have a lot of choice. Whether you opt for a package or travel independently you could do far worse than heading for the stunning mountain hideaway of Ouarzazate.
It was once an important strategic spot that will appeal to anyone with a bit of a Beau Geste fantasy. It played an important role as a French Foreign Legion stronghold in the years that saw the French struggle to keep control of the important trade route while the likes of the famed warlord Pasha El Glaoui had ideas of his own for running things in southern Morocco.
To really benefit from this amazing region, plan enough time to knock about in some of the fascinating mountain towns where traditional Berber culture still thrives and scout some local accommodation. This ranges from the luxurious to the basic. We, however, suggest Kasbah Bab Ourika, a charming hotel with a surprisingly contemporary feel nestled on a dramatic hilltop location overlooking the Ourika Valley. All ochre and earthy tones, the facilities at Kasbah Bab Ourika conspire to make you relax, with the intimate uncrowded feel that comes from having only fifteen rooms. Stunning mountain views, indulgent vaulted bathrooms and the secluded swimming pool ensure a place where you really can unwind and cast off the worries of the world without having to rough it.
Their chef specialises in the best of Berber cuisine and sources fresh ingredients daily from local markets. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered if you want a break that gets you back on a healthy, even keel. Better still, the delicious local delicacies can be taken in the atmospheric beamed dining room, in one of the charming colonnades of the courtyard or even in your own spacious room.
If you’re up for something more energetic, nearby hiking, trekking, biking, rafting or even skiing (at the right time of year) are all readily on offer. Time it to be there on a Monday and there are the delights of the traditional Berber market in the nearby town of Tnine Ourika. However, we suspect that all that might be entirely secondary: simply let the mountains work their magic and revive you flagging spirits. Do the best kind of nothing…