Chances are, you've probably been hearing a lot about Morocco lately. This culturally rich, culinarily delicious, and naturally stunning country has become a bit of a vacation hot spot among honeymooners everywhere. And for good reason: The landscape offers no shortage of diversity, and the hotels (many are what Moroccans call riads, transformed from a palatial estate with central gardens) are not only stunning but offer a great value. It's a convenient entry point into Africa as well for those who want to get a bit exotic on their honeymoon.
Morocco is quite different from a private island honeymoon where you simply book a flight and a villa and hang out in the sun and sea. Morocco requires extensive planning and organization. But don't spend your own time on all the minutiae. Experiential travel agency Scott Dunn, with their team of experts in the North African country, build bespoke journeys for each couple, based upon individual interests and desires. You literally won't have to worry about a thing. It's the best way to soak things up-and trust us, there's a lot to soak up.
Flying into Morocco oftentimes means landing in Casablanca. Whether you're starting your romantic adventure there or wrapping it up on the way home, the seaside Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca kicks things off with a stunning start. (Note: The hotel doesn't serve alcohol, though its teatime is filled with enough decadent goodies to make you forget about booze.) It used to be that MarrakechВ was the center of tourism, but things are shifting, and if you skip out on the north, you'll miss out on some of the country's most hidden gems.
Fes, for starters, is a city of wonderful contrasts. It has the world's largest and oldest medina (city), in which you could easily get lost if not for following the porter to your spectacularly styled riad. Enjoy a vibrant and playful six-course dinner at the elegant, intimate Nur, featuring Mexican-inflected modern Moroccan menus that change daily, with the best local ingredients collected each morning. вЂњStreetsвЂќ can sometimes be just a foot and a half wide, and you'll only see donkeys while wandering the medina maze. Book a private tour (Scott Dunn handles this) is the best way for you to gain knowledge about the culture and history as well as exposure to new flavors and features you wouldn't find otherwise.
In Fes-pronounced not with a Z sound but a snakelike S-it's all about the riad, and somehow despite maintaining a Moroccan feel, each is totally unique from the last. Riad Fes, a Relais & ChГўteaux boutique property, is a prime address, perfect for couples who appreciate chic, intricate design and mouthwatering cuisine (there's also a Zen pool and gorgeous wine bar). Palais Amani, meanwhile, is all sumptuous Moroccan rugs and impeccable tile work, carved wood and stained glass. The 17th-century structure boasts a new rooftop eatery and cooking workshop space. For an endless supply of curiosities, try Karawan Riad, which features curated antiques and Instagrammable vignettes in its romantic rooms and intimate spaces.
Another can't-miss of the north is the Blue City, officially named Chefchaouen. (You've probably seen it on IG.) Imagine Santorini, if instead of white, it was coated in all shades of blue. The effect on this 15th-century town is magical, and lovers could spend an entire day wandering the twisting passageways hand-in-hand, taking photos along the way. Book a top floor room at Lina Ryad and catch a sunset from the terrace, watching the hot oranges of the sky meet the peaceful blue hillside. Active types can also hike to the Akchour waterfalls, a 45-minute taxi ride away.
Of course, a day or two in Marrakech should be figured into any honeymoon. Besides cute rooftop restaurants in the busy medina, such as Nomad and CafГ© Des Г‰pices, there's no shortage of shopping in boutiques like 33 Majorelle. (Make sure to bargain: Start by offering less than half of the quoted price.) Don't miss the famous blue gardens and the MusГ©e Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech-they are both equally deserving of a stop. The bustling city offers plenty of attractions: Maison de la Photographie is a cool stop, and Villa des Orangers (a Relais & ChГўteaux spot, too) in the medina has an Eden-like quality aided by African dГ©cor, a large pool, and impeccable food.
Still, one of the best parts of Marrakech is just outside its terra-cotta walls: a slew of incredible hotels that seem to exceed five-star ratings. Royal Mansour, commissioned by the current king, ensconces its guests in 53 gloriously decorated individual riads-picture breakfast in cuddly bathrobes beside your private third-floor rooftop plunge pool-and a totally dreamy spa. Amanjena puts a coral-pink tadelakt and teal tile spin on Moroccan style, with graceful arches, high ceilings, and a supreme sense of privacy. It's the place to go when you're a bit run down by all the activity. And to feel like royalty, head to La Mamounia, the grand dame of Marrakech resorts, with expansive gardens, multiple buzzy restaurants, and gorgeous rooms that are far fancier than anywhere else you've experienced (it's also a popular wedding venue). While you're in the city, you won't want to miss an authentic Moroccan hammam experience.
Although you can take a day trip to the High Atlas, honeymooners should seriously consider staying a few days at Sir Richard Branson's idyllic Kasbah Tamadot, a luxe mountain hideaway that's truly picture-perfect. Suites and tents are all one-of-a-kind and vibrant (just wait until you see the bathtubs). Hiking should definitely be part of any itinerary here, since these hills truly come alive when you're in them.
Another easy drive from Marrakech is to the ever-charming Essaouira, a blue-accented fishing village with a beach full of camels and horses ready to ride, as surfers and windsurfers play in the rolling aquamarine waves. Shop here for Berber jewelry, rugs, and wooden dГ©cor with less pressure-and a little less aggressive bargaining-than in Marrakech, and dine on mouthwatering meals for half the price (the French-ish Umia for the best food in town, La Table for inspired seafood, Silvestro for authentic Italian, and Vagues Bleues for lobster lasagna).
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If epic bucket list experiences are what you're after, then your romantic Morocco trip simply won't be complete without a stint in the Sahara desert. The drive is rather long and arduous in parts (hire a driver, unless you're super adventurous), but couldn't be more worthwhile. The Azalai Desert Lodge provides a warm, paradisiacal midway point to rest, lounge by the pool or in the daybed under palms, and prepare for the trek to its Desert Camp in the spectacular dunes, by car and camel. (Heads up: There's no Wi-Fi, and if you'd like wine, be sure to bring your own.) Just a couple of dozen miles from the Algerian border, the small collection of tents is tended by a gracious staff who will bake you Berber Bread in the sand. You'll feel like the only two people on earth, nestled under the sparkling blanket of stars. And isn't that the point of a honeymoon?