Year-round sunshine and luxuriant tropical gardens make Le Jardin des Douars the place to stay in Essaouira, Morocco’s windy city.
Essaouira’s popularity amongst European travellers is growing. Considered a centre for culture, the city has all the effervescent, cosmopolitan excitement one expects from Morocco, but without the huge crowds omnipresent in Marrakech, Casablanca, and Fez. Located on the coast, the city is known for its colourful souk, picturesque harbour, and ever blowing winds.
There are several hotels garnering international attention in Essaouira, but few can match Le Jardin des Douars for intimacy, beauty, and easy living. About a 20 minute drive from the city centre, Le Jardin’s peaceful location is complemented principally by its exquisite gardens. Luscious and vibrant, they defy the thirsty desert earth surrounding them.
While the hotel was built in the last couple of decades, its architecture was inspired by the earthen Kasbahs of the Atlas Mountains which gives the hotel an authentic, traditional feel. The hotel is certainly lavish, but you won’t find the slick finishes that dominate large resorts. Instead guests come for more understated luxury that whispers rather than shouts.
With the fairly recent introduction of direct flights from Luton, Essaouira is more open than ever before to UK travellers. With the city’s rarely faltering hot weather and competitively low prices Le Jardin des Douars is a destination to have in your back-pocket.
As mentioned, Le Jardin’s gardens take centre stage. A warren of paths and passages cross through them, connecting the hotel’s various buildings. Indoor facilities include two restaurants, stylish accommodation, a full-service spa, boutique, and various sitting rooms and feature hallways. Outdoor you’ll find the terrace restaurant and bar, and two pools.
Despite its small size, Le Jardin manages to have cross-demographic appeal. Both large families and couples seeking romance are well catered for by the hotels two pool areas. There is a handsome adult-only main pool which looks out over the gardens and desert beyond. A plentiful supply of sun loungers are regularly pool-serviced by attentive waiters. Come late afternoon they bring round slices of cake and freshly brewed Moroccan mint tea – a generous thought. Elsewhere is an equally attractive family pool, where children can splash and shout without their parents worrying about aggravating fellow guests.
The hotel’s spa is extremely good value. A moisturising facial, for example, is priced at around £25, a one and a half hour hot stone massage for £60, or one of the exhilarating hammam treatments for £20. The spa’s standout feature is its traditional Moroccan hammam; decorated by candles and lanterns that cast starry shadows on the ceiling. Come with a treatment budget, as this spa allows seriously indulgence without breaking the bank.
Accomodation at Le Jardin is split into a wide variety of room classifications, all excellently priced for the level of luxury on offer. We stayed in a Luxe Room – the highest category before you move into suites – which came with a large sunbathing terrace, an in-room fireplace, a beautiful tiled bathroom, and a high domed ceiling with stained-glass cut-out stars.
For those travelling with multiple friends or desiring total and complete privacy Le Jardin has three private villas. They sleep between eight and ten people, and include their own swimming pools, lounge areas, terraces, kitchens, and bedrooms. All of them come with a chef who can provide breakfast and other meals in the comfort of the villas’ own dining areas. Priced at around 500 euros a night, they offer a glamorous private holiday for indulging couples or groups of friends.
Le Jardin’s superb food offering adapts continuously throughout the day. Breakfast is a charming affair characterised by classic egg dishes with a Moroccan twist. Crepes, French toast, and omelettes are all given the African treatment. An omelette we tried of vegetables, ham, and Moroccan herbs was sublime.
The hotel’s restaurant spaces include a large and beautifully decorated main dining room with a sunken lounge area. All ages are welcome here and a lively atmosphere pervades. Elsewhere is a far more romantic, adults only restaurant. A long narrow room with high ceilings features smart white linen tablecloths, kilim tub chairs, and twinkling lanterns – a divine spot for supper whether a guest of the hotel or not. Outdoors is an informal terrace area perfect for lunch, that serves a traditional Moroccan barbeque every Sunday.
The chefs at Le Jardin des Douars delight in using a wide variety of ingredients and influences, which usually results in Moroccan cuisine with Asian and Mediterranean flare. They deliver on the tagine front, with flavour combinations such as African spiced monkfish and lemon and olive chicken – a welcome break from the ubiquitous (albeit delicious) presence of lamb. Food at Le Jardin is light, flavoursome, and reflects Essaouira’s coastal setting with a wide choice of seafood dishes.
Le Jardin des Douars is priced from around £100 per room per night. Flights to Essaouira run direct from Luton Airport, with a transfer time to the hotel of around 15 minutes. Alternatively Marrakech is served by most international airports, with a further transfer time to Essaouira of around 3 hours.