Agafay Desert, Morocco

Caravan by Habitas Agafay

Price per night from$203.66

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (MAD2,029.09), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Queen of the desert

Setting

Lunar desert landscapes

It doesn’t get much Berber than Caravan by Habitas Agafay, a starlit desert camp lost between Marrakech in the north and the ethereal drama of the Atlas Mountains’ snow-capped peaks to the south. Take the edge off the midday heat with a dip in one of two outdoor pools, or stay cool the old-fashioned way: with a refreshing mint tea or punchy hibiscus cocktail. Atmospheric evenings promise sunset tea ceremonies, when camels silhouetted against dusky pink dunes will have you coming over all Lawrence of Arabia, and star-spangled skies set the scene for a Moroccan banquet in the lantern-lit restaurant.

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Facilities

Photos Caravan by Habitas Agafay facilities

Need to know

Rooms

40 Berber-style tents, of which two are suites.

Check–Out

Noon. Check-in is at 3pm. Guests arriving early can store luggage and make use of the facilities until their rooms are ready. Late check-outs can also continue to use the facilities, but there’s a US$50 fee to retain use of your room until 3pm.

Prices

Double rooms from £175.26 (MAD2,232), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of MAD6.00 per person per night on check-in.

More details

Rates include breakfast in the Olivar restaurant, served until 11.30am. Wake up late to smoothies bursting with fresh fruit, and tuck into freshly baked breads and waffles, fruit bowls, confit-tomato quiche, banana bread with coffee mousse, and more.

Also

The camp is on one level, with few stairs to negotiate. But rustic stone paths and some rough terrain may prove challenging for anyone with serious mobility issues.

At the hotel

Free WiFi in public areas. In rooms: free bottled water, safe, and organic local bath products with honey and argan oil.

Our favourite rooms

There’s not a single accommodation option here that won’t leave you starry-eyed. All of the tents come with furniture and decorative pieces from local artisans and the Marrakech souks. We’re talking oversized Berber rugs, fine Moroccan linens, giant leather pouffes, beautiful Moroccan lanterns, and more. Terraces up the ante, promising views across gently undulating desert dunes to the Atlas Mountains, spectacular at any time of day, but particularly at sunrise and sunset – and great for stargazing after dark. For a bit of extra room opt for a Dune or Desert Lodge. Or go all out with an Atlas Lodge for maximum cat-swinging space and a huge private deck.

Poolside

There are two outdoor pools, both open 9am to 6pm. Hit up the main one by the bar if you’re in the market for fine desert views and a juice or cocktail with your afternoon dip. The second pool is more secluded and invites sunrise and sunset plunges with only the native birdlife for company.

Spa

There are two treatment rooms, with a range of options incorporating local techniques and products including argan oil.

Packing tips

Apart from the stars, the bright lights of Marrakech on the distant horizon and a few well-placed Moroccan lanterns, there’s not a whole lot of night-time illumination here, so a torch is essential. Likewise mosquito repellant. And, should the idea of a complete digital detox strike the fear of God into you, you should also factor in a couple of pre-loaded portable power packs – electrical sockets are in short supply in the desert.

Also

The camp’s extensive activity programme runs the gamut from morning yoga to bread-making, calligraphy workshops, and quad-biking in the desert.

Children

Kids are welcome and will be wowed by the experience of sleeping under canvas, as well as activities like camel-riding and stargazing. Downside: there’s no kids’ club, crèche or babysitting facilities.

Sustainability efforts

As you might expect in a place like this, tents come with solar-powered lighting and some have eco-flushing toilets, while herbs and vegetables are grown in the camp’s garden.

Food and Drink

Photos Caravan by Habitas Agafay food and drink

Top Table

There’s a single table that sits slightly apart from the rest. This is the one to ask for if you’re planning a dinner proposal – or just don’t like other people.

Dress Code

No need to dress for dinner here, where chucking a floaty kaftan over your swimsuit is practically de rigueur. Layers are a good idea for cooler desert evenings, when even the most persistent mosquito can be thwarted by shirt sleeves and a long trouser.

Hotel restaurant

Wicker gazebos and huge woven lampshades provide much-needed shade at breakfast, brunch and lunch in the Olivar restaurant. There’s traditional Moroccan fare on the menu at dinner, when low-key lighting (lanterns and fire pits) allow the (literal) star attraction to shine. But if you can bear to tear your eyes away from those hypnotic night skies, you’ll discover tables laden with cheese tacos, delicately spiced fish tagines and must-try signature dishes that include chicken kabsa with crispy garlic, tahini and harissa oil, and meat-stuffed pastry briouates. Bowls of local breads, olives and dates will keep you just the right side of hungry while you wait for the main course to arrive.

Hotel bar

A small but mighty cocktail list blends local ingredients – mint, hibiscus, seasonal fruits – at the outdoor bar. Pitch up at dusk for the aptly named signature Sunset cocktail (vodka, hibiscus, rosemary, agave, and ginger) and stick around for a rum-laced Market Sangria with local fruits and spices, as the mountains and dunes fade into shadow and the night sky bursts into life with great clumps and clusters of stars.

Last orders

Both the bar and restaurant are open until 10.30pm.

Location

Photos Caravan by Habitas Agafay location
Address
Caravan by Habitas Agafay
Km 23 Route d'Agafay
Marrakesh
Morocco

Cast adrift somewhere between the sensory saturnalia of Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains’ otherworldly peaks, Caravan by Habitas Agafay’s luxe Berber-style tents float on undulating desert dunes beneath silent starlit skies.

Planes

The hotel’s a 40-minute drive from Marrakech Airport. Transfers can be arranged in advance for groups of up to six people.

Trains

Marrakech train station is a 40-minute cab ride from the camp, and connects to Casablanca, Rabat and Fez.

Automobiles

You can rent a car at the airport and there’s private parking at the camp entrance, though camels and quad bikes tend to be the preferred modes of transport out among the dunes.

Worth getting out of bed for

Just because you’re in the desert doesn’t mean the only things worth doing are cooling off in the pool, cooling off with a hibiscus cocktail and cooling off with a mint tea in the shade of the ancient olive tree. Although there’s a very solid argument to be made for doing just this, on a blissed-out loop, for the duration of your stay. 

But, should you feel even the slightest urge to get active, Caravan by Habitas Agafay has you covered. The spectrum of activities covers everything from meditation in the dunes to kicking up dust on desert quad-biking adventures. Wake up to a rejuvenating morning yoga session beneath the purpose-built geodesic dome and learn how to bake bread to traditional local recipes before enjoying the fruits of your labour fresh from the clay oven. 

How you choose to connect with the desert’s otherworldly landscapes may well be dictated by your tolerance for saddle soreness. Brave souls can navigate rocky dunes on camelback or, for a slightly smoother ride, cruise through aromatic eucalyptus forests on an e-bike tour. Hire a dune buggy for maximum comfort and greater manoeuvrability on the shifting sands – and to fulfil that lifelong Mad Max fantasy of yours. Pleasure-seekers of a more sensitive nature can opt for gentler pursuits. The traditional evening tea ceremony, afloat on a super-soft woven picnic blanket beneath burning sunset skies, for example. Or interpretative desert dancing in the dunes. A blackboard by reception details each day’s activities, and has also been known to include the likes of calligraphy classes and stargazing sessions, complete with telescopes and laser pens.

Guided excursions to traditional Berber villages in the Atlas Mountains can also be organised and you will, of course, want to unleash your best haggling game on the Marrakech souks. Successful navigators of these atmospheric narrow lanes, seduced by the heady scents of exotic spices and the traders’ irresistible patter, can expect to emerge bearing armfuls of tea, saffron, jewellery, Berber rugs, and Moroccan lamps.

Local restaurants

Scenic, off-grid isolation is the mantra at Caravan by Habitas Agafay, and the restaurant here stands up well to multiple repeat visits. Which is lucky, considering the nearest decent eating and drinking options are 40 minutes’ drive through the desert, in Marrakech. 

The views at La Terrasse des Épices are worth the pilgrimage alone, all terracotta Medina rooftops, and the Atlas Mountains lurking on heat-hazed horizons. The food ain’t half bad either. Opt for the signature tanjia Marrakchia, a lamb dish that’s slow-cooked in clay pots, and spiced with ras el hanout, ginger, saffron, and cumin. Diners with enough self-discipline to save space for dessert reap the rewards: options include decadent chocolate pastilla, amlou (argan oil, almond and honey) tiramisu and a plate of six (count ‘em) traditional Moroccan pastries.

Another perennial Marrakech favourite, Le Jardin is true to its name. This peaceful garden oasis is hidden just metres from the Medina’s main square, bordered by lofty 16th-century walls which enclose a frenzy of foliage and emerald-green tiling, and a menu of Moroccan classics including mezze, tagines and orange-blossom crème brûlée.

Local bars

Cocktail hour sees the Marrakech in-crowd make a beeline for upscale rooftop joints. Luxury hotel El Fenn’s crowning glory is its terrace, which boasts some of the finest Koutoubia Mosque close-ups in town. Pick your viewing spot from the 30-foot marble bar, where the signature saffron-infused El Fenn Mule delivers quite the post-souk kick.

A short stumble round the corner, Le Grand Café de la Poste promises relaxed old-school glamour. Think dusky pink exteriors, checkerboard marble floors, a grand central staircase and great swaying palm fronds both inside and out. Try to resist the (admittedly strong) temptation to start loudly quoting lines from Casablanca after your third gin fizz. You can thank us later.

Reviews

Photos Caravan by Habitas Agafay reviews

Anonymous review

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this bijou Berber camp, shaken the desert sand from their shoes and unpacked their spoils from the Marrakech souks, a full account of their off-grid glamping break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Caravan by Habitas Agafay in Morocco…

It’s remarkable how off-grid Caravan by Habitas Agafay feels, despite being just 40 minutes from Marrakech, a city for which the term ‘bustling’ barely suffices. Of course it helps that you’re in the middle of an actual desert, but still. That feeling of being completely cut off from civilization begins the minute your cab crunches up the long gravel track to the camp and continues with that first sip of iced hibiscus juice at check-in. It’s there as you amble to the bar to contemplate the surreal lunar landscapes and distant snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains over a cold bottle of local Casablanca beer. And when you nod hello to the resident peacock after dinner, lanterns lighting the way to your tent, where cosmic views from the Berber lounge (aka your terrace) and desert WiFi that can – let’s face it – be a bit hit and miss, leave you with nothing to do but enjoy the silence, starry skies and sweet, sweet solitude.

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Price per night from $203.66