Undoubtedly boasting one of the most stunning locations within the tranquil Ouirgane Valley, this intimate six room boutique hotel and spa, with villa residences, promises to be a relaxing and stylish hideaway, close to the foothills of the Atlas Mountain: and only 90 minutes’ drive south of Marrakech – reports Andrew Forbes.
Morocco remains undeniably exotic. Tantalising close to Europe, yet worlds away in terms of culture, cuisine, architecture and charm. Always a welcoming city, Marrakech is now a stylish international destination with an extraordinary mix of medieval architecture and upmarket tourist bling.
However the city is changing rapidly, and the smart crowd is seeking authentic and adventurous experiences beyond Marrakech, with excursions and stays close to the Berber villages within the striking valleys of the Atlas Mountains. Thankfully more upscale accommodation is finally emerging in these rural areas, including the Hotel L’Amandier.
I was invited to stay in one of the elegant villa residences at the estate and have a sneak peek at the nearly complete L’Amandier Hotel, set to launch in May and be fully operation by late summer.
The project, spearheaded by British owners using plenty of local talent, has been on-going for a number of years.
The first to be built were the contemporary private villa residences, some of which are still available for investment purchase, and most can be enjoyed as holiday rentals through L’Amandier. Each villa rental offers access to the luxury services of the new hotel.
Small Luxury Hotel
The hotel was having its finishing touches added when I visited. The modern, almost stark architectural style uses terracotta bricks which echo the earth tones of the nearby Berber Villages.
The interiors are uncluttered, without the ubiquitous ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ paraphernalia that so often decorates properties in Morocco. Instead the ambiance is understated and elegant, with glorious handmade tiles from Fez.
Striking teal on the floor, like a simmering sea, contrasted with sand coloured tiles on the walls. Lamps and metal work make reference to the hotel’s provenance, but overall the Moroccan touches are a case of ‘less is more’.
Built into a small hillside, the hotel entrance lobby is on the first floor, and leads to the six guest suites. A striking staircase with double height windows looking out across to the Atlas Mountains, leads guests down to the ground floor where the restaurant and bar are to be found, which in turn leads out on the pool terrace, and landscaped, grass terraces for sunbeds.
A spa and hammam is also promised, a luxurious addition to the cluster of villas that have their own plunge pools and expansive private roof terraces and sheltered gardens.
The residences share the hotel’s understated look and feel, including wonderful handmade floor tiles, traditional Tadelakt plaster walls, with discreet inset lighting and lots of floor to ceiling glass window doors.
The tiles continue from inside-to- out, emphasising the indoor/outdoor lifestyle.
The guest rooms are of modest dimensions, but have high ceilings and spacious ensuite bath and shower rooms. These privately owned villas are available for rent by guests through the hotel management. The finer details of the service levels and standards of presentation are still be worked out, but the potential is for some super-smart residences with luxury onsite hotel services.
The villa residences surround an established, landscaped Mediterranean style garden with lavender, hibiscus, bougainvillea, fruit and olive trees. There is a charming sunken garden with fountain, pergola and lawns, as well as a tennis court. Although unfinished at the time of my visit, indications from my sneak peek are that the estate will be truly special.
Location, location, location
More than anything though, it is the location that is so remarkable. Accessed from the main road to Marrakech, via a rustic stone track through pine trees, the estate commands one of the most privileged positions in the valley – an elevated location that affords exceptional views; 360 degree panoramas of the area’s modest villages, with minarets; the surrounding distinctive red earth mountain foothills; and the snow-capped mountains beyond.
It’s an ideal location for exploring this fascinating Berber region; to take day or overnight hikes into the Toubkal National Park. I used the Toubkal Trekking – www.toubkal-trekking.com – for an authentic insight into the local culture, nature and cuisine.
The valley is home to small hamlets and modest agriculture; citrus, olive and as the hotel’s name implies, almond groves too.
Hotel – autumn 2016:
Guest suites from £210 per night (room only). Minimum two nights stay.
L’Amandier villas: from £390 per night for a 2 bedroom villa sleeping 4; and from £560 per night for a 3 bedroom villa sleeping 6
Prices are for a self-catering basis for a minimum two nights stay.