[KASBAH TAMADOT, MOROCCO] — Pulling out of the crazy busy dark corners of Medina of Marrakesh, the sky suddenly opens up. Endless palm trees paint the sky like clouds. Vast estates with long pink mud walls line the highway for miles.  And that’s when you first see them, the Atlas Mountains, snow capped even in the 80 degree spring heat. Beckoning from a distance to come up to the cool crisp air.

Soon the road thins out, the estates give way to small hamlets, dirt orange mud-walled buildings stacked like books up the hills. Traveling fast in the air-conditioned wifi-enabled van, I spy an old man on a donkey pulling livestock like it was a Christmas Card, which is kinda jarring when you’re in a Muslim country.

Moroccan village road to Atlas Mountains
This, is Morocco.

The drive from Marrakesh is only a little more than an hour, but you feel like you are a thousand miles away. As you climb the High Atlas mountains, the terrain goes from brownish orange and pink and dust to suddenly a lush green, when the valley opens up before you. A palisade of the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains and the great Mount Toubkal (the highest mountain in Morocco and North Africa) staring right at you, its top capped with snow like a frothy cappuccino.

The road zigzags up the valley along a swollen grey river, loaded with sediment coming from the mountains, in contrast to the barren arid desert you just left. You turn a corner and the driver giggles. There it is. Richard Branson’s  Kasbah Tamadot.  A pink palace in contrast to the deep greens and browns of the mountains towering around it, perched on the edge of a cliff, a roaring river crashing below. With Toubkal nodding in the distance.

“Do you want to stop to take picture?”  my driver Anas said, his smile visible in the read view mirror. “Definitely.”

Kasbah Tamadot on hillside
Kasbah Tamadot hillside view of Toubkal
It’s hard to think of a more dramatic view.

Morocco was never really that high on my List. Perhaps I was too scared to figure it out. Or to go there by myself. But then years ago I saw picture of this incredible place — almost from this exact spot, that photographer obviously enchanted by the same view. From then on, Morocco moved to the top of the list.

Continuing on my quest (and obsessive hobby) of finding the world’s best hotels in remote locations, I chose this one next. I hate wasting money on fancy five star hotels in big cities… that just seems like a way for them to remove cash from your pocket, with overpriced restaurants and subservient stone-faced attendants at your beck and call. That’s no fun.

But I will drop a chunk of change on somewhere isolated like this. Where you can appreciate that it’s just hard (and expensive) to run a nice place somewhere so isolated and logistically difficult. But it’s the views I’m after, way out here in the middle of nowhere, not fancy white tablecloths.

Kasbah Tamadot is one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed.

Once owned by an eccentric Italian art dealer, years ago billionaire Richard Branson bought it for his family as one would, restored it and eventually converted it into one of his Virgin Limited luxury hotels.  Luxurious hotels in exotic places, just like this.  Actual palaces and destination resorts you could stay in, like he would.

Finally, I was here.

It’s actually amazing how easy it is to get here; way up here in the High Atlas. A lot of people just go to Marrakesh and move on, but this is only forty minutes or so from the Medina.  You can even take a taxi here for lunch, if that is all the time you have. Or your hotel can arrange it.

It’s ridiculously expensive to stay here, as you can imagine, with only a few dozen ornate rooms in this exotic locale, but worth every penny — if you’re going to splurge on something big, this would be it.  One way or the other, I highly recommend getting up here.

A Tour of Kasbah Tamadot

We round the tight curve in the road and the van stops in front of a gigantic pink wall, a cloud of dust follows past as I open the van door.  We walk through a crack in the two story thick wooden doors, the smell of flowers and a cool breeze surrounds me like I just dove into a senses pool. Plants, trees and flowers of every shape lead up the path to a fairy tale building, bright in the sun.

Kasbah Tamadot entrace courtyard
As soon as you walk through the gates there is just a riot of scents and colors and textures and sounds. Like the rest of Morocco, overwhelmingly beautiful.

We pass through the garden and a series of interlocking courtyards to a grand covered marble terrace overlooking a cyan colored pool, pointy pines trees lined up like soldiers, guarding the view down the valley.  The sound of a roaring river as a soundtrack. “Monsieur Dan, please have a seat. My colleague will be with you in a moment. Would you like some mint tea?”

Kasbah Tamadot dining terrace
Most of the eating areas of the kasbah are outside, surrounded by the Atlas Mountains, the roar of the river and cool mountain air.


The tea arrived instantly, as is Berber welcoming custom, the smiling man in a turban gave a long tall pour to cool the tea, a long steaming stream ending up in the little glass. “Shoogar?”

I sat back in the comfortable couch and let the entire scene wash over me. But then, something else. A creepy feeling, like someone was staring at me. I sat up to take some tea and screamed like a little girl. There, silently, just at my left arm stood a three foot tall green peacock, twitching his crown, the breeze of his feathers cooling the sweat off my arms. His third eye of feathers staring at me, unblinking.  My god, where am I?

It really was crazy, all this. A riot of contrasts all at once, frying my brain. Dust. Morocco. Pool. Mountains. Trees. Marble and tile. Snow! A peacock!

A good looking tan couple waded to the shallow end of the pool, now toweling off under the umbrellas. The sound of an unseen river fills the whole valley. Punctuated with the gentle clinking of silverware by others having lunch behind me.


And that’s how your experience starts at Kasbah Tamadot. Marrakesh seems a world away.

Kasbah Tamadot pool and trees
I swear, when I saw a picture of this exact view, I knew I had to come here. Never had really thought about Morocco before. And now I was here.

The kasbah is huge, with interconnected main buildings, dramatic criss-crossing stairways, some isolated rooms in outbuildings, some safari-like tents tricked out in the finest Berber decor and this amazing poo.

Let me show you around:

Kasbah Tamadot pool view of village
And just for dramatic effect, the infinity pool overlooks across a roaring river valley to a picture perfect Moroccan village clinging to a hillside…
Kasbah Tamadot infinity pool with view
I mean…. just kill me now….

Like everything in Morocco, it is perfect beyond your wildest dreams. The main buildings, the out-buildings, the pool, the grounds and the extremely fun and friendly service — they seem to dig working there and enjoying the views and food as much as everyone staying there.  And everything in Morocco looks different at night. The same place, completely different, as candle-lighters (my dream job) light lanterns all across the estate.

The Rooms at Kasbah Tamadot

Kasbah Tamadot staircase
The main building is really a series of buildings connected by crazy stairs and interior courtyards. Some rooms high, some low. A wading pool with floating roses of every shade of red. A restaurant. A bar. Indoor pool (why?) and other cool places to chill. I was here for days but never got to explore it all as I was off gallivanting in the surrounding Atlas Mountains. )I was planning to stay in a room here, but you’ll read more about that later.)  One night, you might have dinner served on the roof terrace. Another, by the pool.


Inside the Master Suite at Kasbah Tamadot

Master Suite view from main pool
They were nice enough to give me an upgrade to the prized Master Suite, which sits away from the main hotel, in a small little three room building.

The Master Suite is nearly world-famous… to the cognoscenti who have been here. In a luxury hotel owned by one of the most famous man in the world, he knows a thing or two about privacy.  Since I’ve stayed there, I’ve seen this suite as a backdrop countless photo shoots — it’s shape and colors instantly recognizable..

I had no idea I was going to get upgraded. It was secret between my awesome travel agent Ginny and the hotel.  When they told me, I nearly spat out my mint tea. As we walked down the garden path and ducked behind the hedges, I was giddy like a kid… and then I walked in…

Kasbah Tamadot Master Suite building
The Master Suite sits in its own building, separate from the other rooms, perched right on the ledge overlooking the roaring river… the sound to lull you to sleep at night. There were two or three suites in the building, but it was so private, I could never tell.
Kasbah Tamadot sunrise Master Suite
The mornings in the Master Suite are the best part of the day, the sun creeping over the mountains and lighting up your naked morning swim.
Kasbah Tamadot Master Suite covered terrace
You can see how private your whole pool area is, you can see out by nobody can see in.


Dining at Kasbah Tamadot

Kasbah Tamadot breakfast terrace
Breakfast is usually held on the sunny terrace overlooking the roaring river below, with the cool morning air blowing down the valley.

There are a number of terraces where they serve day to day meals, but what’s cool is Kasbah Tamadot will choose a different place to eat each night, always a surprise. On the roof. By the pool. A hidden courtyard. Or your own terrace. All lit by a hundred candles. Most nights they’ll bring in musicians, a band or a lone kora player, to make this already obscene scene, almost pornographic.

Kasbah Tamadot pool movie
One night a week is Movie Night down by the pool. With bonfires and a buffet, followed by cocktails around the pool or in laying on big pillow on the grass, under the Berber tents in the back.

After a couple of days in Marrakesh, you should head up into the Atlas Mountains to really do a deep-dive into Morocco’s Berber culture and absolute beauty. You can sit. Eat. Hike or trek from village to village, in some of the most stunning geography there is. All made better by the outstanding Moroccan hospitality and over the top luxury of Kasbah Tamadot.

If you have a bucket list, save up your money and you should go here.

Additional Reviews & Information about Kasbah Tamadot

Here’s the website of my awesome travel agent Ginny Mariano who booked my whole trip.  Here’s a great article in Travel & Leisure.And another review in Forbes. And another review in the always reliable UK Telegraph.  And a great article in the superb Australian travel website Traveller. And a great overview of Kasbah Tamadot in Conde Nast Traveler.

You can read more about the Kasbah on TripAdvisor.

Here’s a link for Kasbah Tamadot in the always reliable Mr. & Mrs. Smith boutique hotel site.  And, as always, a perfectly objective review on the hideaway booking site iEscape.  And if you want the ultimate in door-to-door booking service, nobody does it better than Scott Dunn.  And another of my favorite booking sites Tablet Hotels, which has verified member ratings from people who have stayed there and gave Kasbah Tamadot a 20/20.

And if you want the perfect guides to take you around, take you hiking, biking or any other motivation, use Mohamed or Rachid from Atlas Trek Adventures. They are certified World Class guides that the hotel uses.  Tell them I sent you. You can see a post I did about them here.

— Last Visited April 2015

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