Our clients and many other Americans must have been impressed with Moroccan World Cup prominence; the country is a sizzling visitor scene this year! Marrakech is packed with luxury riads and lodges, as much as I love it, after a few days of the colorful chaos, most travelers seek a tranquil escape in the Atlas Mountains for a few days of serenity.
Keeping my eye on the pulse of the new important hotel properties before my fall visit, I’m very intrigued by a new hideaway in the Atlas Mountains. Olinto is a luxury Atlas Mountain retreat situated in the Berber heartland of Morocco, a mere 55-minute drive from Marrakech airport.
The nine vine covered cottages sit at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. The Retreat has been created by Prince Fabrizio Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa, a pioneer in establishing legendary Moroccan properties. In fact, on my first to Marrakech, I stayed in his glorious riad, the five-star Maison Arabe and still dine in the enchanted gardens.
A petite footprint on a massive piece of land provides the ultimate in seclusion. Each of the nine majestic pavilions has been designed with privacy and the utmost comfort at its core. Those in search of utter harmony and a much needed get away from it all, will find themselves surrounded by stunning vistas and pure mountain air.
Set on 10 acres amid groves of olive trees and perfumed gardens, above the Berber village Imlil. The retreat provides dramatic views, the cottages enjoy rooftop havens for private sunbathing, and secluded gardens, in some cases, small pools. A spa will open sometime next year, for now, guests can enjoy massages in the traditional hammam. I know of two clients who request private gardens or beach pavilions for nude sunbathing. Sunshine, a gentle breeze and privacy equals sybaritic heaven for many!
Set at the foot of Mount Toubkal, the highest northern peak, Olinto is the perfect location for hiking, adventure sports, mountain biking and climbing. Our clients who have stayed in the area, enjoy hiking with Berbers and visit women’s cooperatives and take cooking classes in local homes.
Shaded courtyards and vine covered pergolas provide places to read or just let the quiet take over. A natural grand swimming pool has majestic views of the reddish mountain peaks over a thick cluster of silver leaved olive trees.
One always needs a time out from Marrakech, and this retreat appears to be the perfect antidote.
My formal RSVP has been posted and my personal review coming in fall. Olinto has received much press since their opening.
My Morocco Fantasy is to deeply explore more and more of this fascinating country, region by region. My 19 Day Camel Caravan in November took me to the interior areas, the picturesque sand dunes of the Sahara with perfectly contoured ripples and undulating crests, the rugged Atlas Mountains, miles and miles of jagged peaks, and a mesmerizing stay in the oldest royal city, the ancient fortifications of Fez.
My recent Camel Caravan Journey II, focused on the sand and the sea. La Sultana Oualidia is the petite sister hotel of the luxury La Sultana Riad in Marrakech, described as the Sea and the City properties. This hidden gem nestled on the Atlantic coast, between Safi and El Jadida, sits above a greenish lagoon, dotted with oyster beds. The tides provide the rhythm of life for guests and the delectable oysters in a landscape of hypnotic beauty. El Jadida is a cozy little fishing town, famous for its seafood and in particular, its yummy oysters.
The first “royal beach” designated by King Mohamed V when he built a palace in the 1940’s, it was eventually abandoned but has now been rediscovered by ‘those in the know’. In fact, the beach area closer to Agadir has a prime big name luxury resort under construction. The Coast is calling in Morocco! Surfers flock here for awesome waves.
On Morocco’s western coast, this sleepy sister hotel to La Sultana Marrakech rests on a prime perch of wild coast, fringed by protected birdlife and surfing beaches, with miles of sandy beaches, perfect for beach walkers. The five-star resort includes two pools, beautiful rambling gardens, an extensive spa and a wonderful restaurant featuring fish – including live lobster & crab tanks – pluck your supper directly from a tank.
La Sultana Oualidia is designed as a family home, with private terraces, unique collections by designers, beautiful objects unearthed in markets, and contemporary paintings, guests can opt for getting away from it all, or setting off to discover nature.
Oysters arrived to Oualidia via an innovative Frenchman in the 1950’s; observing the rich environment of the tidal lagoon and an opportunity and aspiration were born! Portuguese oysters were first raised here, giving way later in the 1970’s to a Japanese variety which is principally the type of oysters cultivated today and valued throughout Morocco.
The Concierge team at La Sultana Oualidia work their magic suggesting a wide array of activities intended to keep you active or help you plan quiet sedate activities. I opted for leisurely on property activities at a slower pace! For those who prefer movement, we can organize yoga, surfing, fishing, picnics facing the ocean, birdwatching, horse-riding. Our Moroccan team can also plan off property excursions and a Camel Caravan seaside route, which is how I travel!
La Sultana Oualidia offers 12 stylish rooms and suites, with private terraces and Jacuzzis, a newish small cabin suite is perched like a mini-bird house in the trees, a dreamy infinity pool floats on the edge of the lagoon, a heated indoor pool, a small but well-equipped gym, an authentic Hammam and spa, several restaurants, and a delectable oyster-bar with views of the sandy lagoon. For a petite property, many offerings. This is the Montauk of Morocco!
Sheltered from the wind, thanks to the lagoon, the temperature is mild all year long. I would suggest off season as summer is buzzy and the size of the property is conducive to quieter months. My March visit was perfect – lovely beach weather, warm star-studded evenings, and very few guests!
The concierge organized a lavish private picnic on a secluded Atlantic beach. Crossing the lagoon in a fisherman’s rustic boat and visiting the oyster beds, I hopped out and hiked through a flower filled field to the top of a hill – to gaze down at a long sandy beach and the crashing Atlantic Ocean. A transformative change in scenery, two hotel staff provided a soccer ball, and a kite for play. The breeze rippled the canvas shelter, I sat watching kids explore tide pools. Sipping a glass of chilled Moroccan white wine, lost in thought and plotting more Moroccan Fantasies!
Fresh crab, little langoustines and just caught fish were barbecued by the staff, multiple courses of salad and couscous emerged from big straw baskets, an opulent beach banquet! A customary Moroccan nap under the undulating canvas concluded my enchanting picnic before crossing the lagoon at high tide!
The striking main building of La Sultana Oualidia, is a stone casbah-like building with turrets protruding toward sky. Suites are traditional in style, featuring stained-glass windows decorated with Moroccan symbols. The property is studded with greenery, gardens merge with small pools, wooden bridges span Koi filled pools. Birdsong, bees, and sea birds compliment the gardens.
Breakfast is served in a small pavilion, or as I do, brekkie delivered to bed! Highly recommend the homemade vanilla yoghurt and tender clouds of scrambled eggs. The green ‘restorative juice’ must have been sent by the Champagne Police! Wander below the terraces to a jetty which serves local oysters. Slurp a dish of briny oysters with a chilled flute of bubbly!
You come to Oualidia to relax! End a day as I did with a private Berber Tent dinner on the beach at sunset. Fire-pits illuminate the cozy space at the edge of the lagoon restaurant. A lobster trifecta feast sated me over my three nights – live lobster from the tank, barbecue lobster under the Berber tent and Lobster Paella on the sand.
Birdwatching is very popular in spring and autumn when migrating flocks travel from Europe to Africa. Exotic birds including graceful flamingos, white egrets and huge storks are just a few of the flying feathered creatures.
La Sultana Oualidia is 2.5-hour drive from Marrakech and a 2.5-hour drive from Casablanca airport. The two-lane road from Marrakech is well paved and has many turnouts to break the drive, peer over the edge of the tall cliffs and observe massive waves rolling in from an infinite horizon. A windy day transforms one into a human kite or a wobbly windmill tilting in the breeze on the edge of the steep precipices. Mother Nature owns her world on these windy bluffs. Surfing and windsurfing aficionados revere these beach areas, not far from the secluded lagoon of La Sultana Oualidia.
There is a weekly market on the weekends if you desire a souk stroll. Moroccans from the village and surrounding areas come for their shopping. Wander the stalls tasting gorgeous produce and home goods.
Who can resist fluffy Flamingos, succulent lobster, an indoor plunge under a glass gazebo, an authentic Hammam, bountiful beach picnics, Berber Tent dinners under a jet black sky, and the wild untamed Atlantic beckoning along the coast? Oh, did I mention the briny oysters!?
La Sultana, Oualidia a coastal Moroccan sanctuary, feed your fantasies.