Concierge.com's insider take:
This is Sir Richard Branson's Moroccan retreatas every other sign on the property will remind youand it's every bit the North African fantasia you'd build if you too were a globetrotting billionaire. The setting is unbeatable: 16 acres of manicured gardens on the slope of a wadi (dry riverbed) that snakes through the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains, an hour-long drive south of Marrakesh. Branson expanded the original 1940s kasbah extensively, and the result is a jumble of courtyards, reflecting pools, stairways, and salons, all decorated in traditional Berber and Marrakeshi style with touches of India and sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 18 rooms, our favorites are Nos. 11 and 12at almost 500 square feet and with large terraces, they're bigger than average, separate from the main building but still close to the infinity pool, and have a private tiled terrace planted with fruit trees and bougainvillea. There's an excellent restaurant, and plenty of activities (tennis, spa, gym, camel petting). We suggest a morning hikeor at least a mule rideup the neighboring ridge: It's worth the effort for the view of the valley and a peek at a traditional Berber village (ask for the amiable young Mohammed as your guide). While a night here will set you back, at minimum, $475, we recommend it as an indulgent add-on after a few days in dusty, busy Marrakesh, or for the adventure-minded, as a launching point for mountain biking, horse trekking, or even a two-day assault on Mount Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak. But if your idea of adventure is ordering a second bottle of rosé by the pool, you need not look further.
From the editors of Condé Nast Traveler:Richard Branson's latest property sits atop a bluff in the High Atlas Mountains, and so thrilling is the 45-minute drive from Marrakesh—on a narrowing road which switchbacks into the clouds—that your arrival is both a disappointment and a relief. The 18-room Kasbah was once the property of an antiquarian and artist, and items from his collections decorate the rooms, most of which have their own terrace or patio but no television. The hotel promotes itself as a home base for adventurers, but its DNA is closer to that of an old-fashioned European sanatorium, the kind in which days are whiled away wandering the gardens and inhaling the fresh air. Credit must be given for its graceful integration into the surrounding landscape and culture: The sweet staff are largely drawn from two Berber villages that bracket the property, and management seems genuinely proud of the employees and their heritage. 2006 Hot List
When to go: April and May, when there's still snow on the mountains but the days are mild.
Which room to book: The freestanding duplex Master Suite has its own plunge pool (doubles, $410–$540).
Amenities: 24-hour Room Service, Gym, Pool, SpaSubscribe now to Condé Nast Traveler for just $1 an issue! ›
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