It’s hidden away in a narrow lane in the heart of the medina. There are no signs, only a huge door with brass knockers. Nothing reveals that behind that door hides a beautifully restored Moroccan palace turned hotel: a riad. A riad is the ideal place for travellers to escape the chaotic city outside. The hustle and bustle feels miles away when you’re reading a book in the quiet courtyard, sipping mint tea and smelling the fresh flowers that sit in colourful pots around the fountain.
Last October we travelled through Morocco. It wasn’t a backpack trip this time: we booked a car and our hotels through Riksja Travel, a Dutch travel organization I like very much. With Riksja you can design your own trip, they book your hotels and transport, but you travel independently. It’s a very convenient way to travel, especially if you have limited time and want to make the most of your trip. What I love about Riksja is that they choose special, small scale accommodation that reflects the atmosphere of a country. In Morocco we stayed mostly in gorgeous riads in the heart of Morocco’s imperial cities.
A tranquil refuge
It’s more expensive than a regular hotel, but staying in a riad is very much worth it. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house. It’s usually hidden behind a big door in the medina, often without any signs. And then you step inside to find a complete palace. A riad always has an inner courtyard and the rooms are set around it. The amount of rooms is small, usually about six. The details are often amazing and many riads are a showcase for the amazing craftsmanship of the Moroccans. Mosaics, reliefs, tadelakt walls, traditional lamps and gorgeous fabrics, everything is beautifully designed. A riad doesn’t have large windows facing outside: the windows look out on the courtyard. That (and the thick walls) isolates the noise from the chaotic outside world. Staying in a riad means you’ll have a tranquil refuge after spending a day in the hustle and bustle of the average Moroccan medina.
Riad Dar al Batoul, Rabat
Dar al Batoul is a former merchant’s house, now turned into a lovely riad. All the rooms and the hallways are traditionally decorated with gorgeous Moroccan furniture and art and the rooms are very comfortable. And the breakfast is great too! You can’t beat the location or the atmosphere.
Price: 90 euro per night, per room
Riad Bahia, Meknès
This colorful, cosy riad is tucked away in the heart of the medina of Meknès. It has many lovely nooks and a roof terrace full of plants to relax. The helpful owners are avid travellers themselves, which means they know exactly what their guests need. The home cooked dinner is a great choice as well.
Price: 65 euro per night, per room
Riad Dar al Batoul, Fes
A little outside the medina, but still in the old town of Fes, is riad Dar al Batoul. This was the most beautifully decorated riad we stayed in. Dar al Batoul is a great place if you’re travelling by car: a guarded parking lot is 200 meters away and it’s still only a ten minute walk to the ancient medina.
Price: 90 euro per night, per room
Riad Soumia, Marrakech
This riad is lovely in all aspects: the design, the comfortable rooms, the location (only a five minute walk to Jemaa el Fna) and especially the manager, Abdelfattah. Abdelfattah is the friendliest man we met during our trip and nothing was too much for him. He even arranged for a nice bottle of wine, to drink in the peaceful courtyard in the evening. And the breakfast, served on the roof terrace, is amazing too.
Price: rooms from 60 to 120 euro per night (different rooms available)
Riad Casa Lila, Essaouira
I fell in love with the coastal town of Essaouira for many reasons, and riad Casa Lila was one of them. This white and purple riad is just amazing. Rose petals were sprinkled on our beds and in the bathroom every day, there were comfortable sunbeds on the roof, the location was great and…Casa Lila has an in house spa with lots of treatments to choose from. I chose the hammam/massage option and I promise you: it was 1,5 hours of pure bliss.
Price: rooms from 75 to 120 euro per night (different rooms available)
No riads, but still worth the mention
Dar Echchaouen, Chefchaouen
A perfect location just outside the medina (ideal if you’re travelling by car), the most comfortable beds of Morocco, surrounded by mountains, with a lovely staff. That’s Dar Echchaouen. I looked forward to the extensive breakfast from the moment I opened my eyes, I loved the views on the town of Chefchaouen and the pool is great after a hot day sightseeing in the beautiful blue medina.
Price: rooms from 60 to 80 euro per night, per room
Kasbah Ennasra, Rissani
The drive from Fes to desert town Rissani is long: it took us about 9 hours, with only a 30-minute break in total. But our travel fatigue disappeared as soon as we laid eyes on Kasbah Ennasra. This hotel is pure luxury. Our room looked like a honeymoon suite, the design is flawless and we loved the huge pool. The staff is very friendly as well. We could easily have spent a couple of nights here, but we only had one, before taking off to the desert.
Price: rooms from 60 euro per night, per room