Only a three-hour flight from the UK, Marrakech is a fabulous choice for a city break and packed with beautiful hotels. Here at The Good Spa Guide, we simply had to visit and find out what was happening on the Marrakech spa scene. We were not disappointed.
Marrakech is in the south of Morocco, at the foot of the snow-capped Atlas mountains, which provide a stunning backdrop. The temperature is usually hot by day and cold by night.
Marrakech is a UNESCO world-heritage site. Often called "The Red City", the Medina is surrounded by pink walls built in the twelfth century. Four times a day you hear the haunting sound of the Muezzin's call to prayer, a backdrop to an ancient and culturally rich city. The scent of "les orangiers", or orange blossom, filled the air in late March when we visited and bright pink bougainvillaea was everywhere.
Morocco was under French protection until 1956 and French is still widely spoken, as well as Arabic. French is an asset when visiting Marrakech as, outside the big hotels, few people speak English. The local currency is the Moroccan dirham but some places also take euros.
Marrakech has a vibrant night life, with many bars, restaurants and clubs to explore. In the centre of the action is Djemaa el-Fna, the huge square in the old city. After dark, the square is packed with locals playing instruments, performing plays, smoking, snake charming and selling street food.
Central to the spa offering in Morocco is the hammam or Turkish bath. Hammams are traditional public baths where the locals go weekly to socialise, as well as wash. In the luxury hotels, you get a very rarefied version of the hammam experience. However, your therapist will use the traditional black Beldi soap which is an essential part of this Moroccan spa treatment. With the texture of butter, the soap is made from black-olive pulp and is rich in vitamin E. It prepares your skin for exfoliation which the therapist will carry out using a traditional kessa glove to remove impurities and dead skin.
One thing to bear in mind when visiting Moroccan spas is that nudity is no big deal within the hammam or treatment room. You will have a spa gown and a miniscule disposable thong to wear; once the gown is off, you are down to your thong. Every part of your body will be scrubbed and massaged, depending on the treatment you have chosen.
The sight and scent of hundreds of dark pink roses greeted us when we arrived at Four Seasons, Marrakech. They were arranged in different size vases on a huge table. The effect was absolutely stunning. The hotel lobby is a light and airy glass courtyard; beyond that are the lush gardens of a very beautiful resort. Within the grounds is the self-contained spa, built, like the hotel, in 2011.
Duck-egg blue, the traditional colour of Marrakech, is the accent colour throughout the modern and stylish spa. This blends well with the calming tones of cream and natural stone. Le Spa reception has a retail area selling products by Thémaé, ila and Natura Bissé -- the brands used in the treatments at Le Spa at the Four Seasons Resort Marrakech.
Two corridors lead off from reception: one to the male spa; the other to the identical female spa. Each corridor is lined with glass display cases of Djellabas, or traditional Berber robes. Female or male Djellabas indicate where you should be heading.
Each wet spa has a sauna, steam and hammam rooms. The whole spa area looks onto its own herb garden via a full length window. At the centre of the spa is a round cold plunge pool, surrounded by wooden lattice screens. This is where you cool down after using the heat experiences. Once you have lowered yourself into the cold water, you can lie back and contemplate the star effect in the ceiling above you. The large oblong Jacuzzi, heated to 36 degrees, has strong jets to pummel tight muscles. There is also a private hammam suite with its own sauna and steam room.
Le Spa at The Four Seasons Marrakech has 14 single treatment rooms and one double; there is also a private pavilion with two double treatment rooms. Each treatment room looks out onto its own miniature herb garden. (The Four Seasons Resort Marrakech grows the all the herbs needed for both their kitchen and spa.) The treatment rooms are named after a locally grown plant, including saffron, neroli, rosemary, verbena, argan, and eucalyptus.
The idea of the "fragrant spa" is the vision of Verena Lasvigne-Fox, the energetic and enthusiastic spa director. Verena previously ran the spa at Four Seasons George V Hotel, in Paris.
The relaxation room also overlooks a herb garden and has large comfortable loungers on which to enjoy your post-treatment haze. Help yourself to various herbal teas and a selection of healthy snacks, including dried fruit and nuts, fresh apples and local oranges.
The Spa at the Four Seasons Resort Marrakech also has a manicure and pedicure suite and a L'Oreal hair salon.
Treatments to try
As in all spas in Morocco, the hammam is the obvious experience to try at The Four Seasons Resort Marrakech. For total hammam indulgence, try the three-hour Moroccan Well Being treatment. This combines the complete hammam experience with the Four Seasons signature massage, followed by a facial using local organic products, tailor-made for your skin.
For days when you just can't make up your mind whether you want to be in the spa or poolside, head to the Poolside Spa Cabana. Here you can choose from a range of tempting 30-minute ila treatments: "Sun Cooler" is for when you have overdone it in the sun, while "A Taste of Kundalini" aims to heal your chakras and soothe your nervous system.
Families: the spa offers treatments for teens and also younger children, aged 6-11. Perhaps the Sweet Dreams Massage will soothe your little angels to sleep so that you can have a quiet evening?
Yoga fans: there is a yoga terrace on the roof and regular yoga retreats at The Four Seasons Resort, Marrakech as well as a daily morning class. Resident yoga teacher, Perumal Koshy, has been teaching yoga for over two decades in America, Europe and Morocco.
The most beautiful white spa robes ever! Towelling on the inside and, on the outside, cotton with a thread count so high it feels like silk.
Expect to pay
The Spa at Four Seasons Marrakech offers most of its massages in either 60- or 90-minute versions to suit your time and budget. The Massage of Marrakech costs around £73 for 60 minutes or £109 for 90 minutes.
The ila Ananda Facial costs around £88 for 60 minutes, and the Age Recovery Cure, which includes yoga facial massage and reiki healing techniques, costs £132.
Royal Mansour is a stand-out hotel in a city that has many amazing and luxurious hotels. Royal Mansour is hidden within the walls of the old city, the Medina. It is a city within the city. It has everything you could ever need in a hotel, including a library and art gallery, a piano bar and a cigar lounge. The restaurants are overseen by 3* Michelin chef Yannick Alleno.
There are no rooms at Royal Mansour, but 53 "riads", or traditional Moroccan houses. These riads have private plunge pools, solariums and fireplaces on the roof. The larger ones have private Bedouin tents as well.
Royal Mansour's army of staff move around the hotel complex via a series of underground tunnels so as not to disturb guests' peace and privacy.
Le Spa Royal Mansour is set over three floors. The first impression is one of space and light. The sun streams through the ornate white lattice-work of the central pergola. The colour scheme is very much white on white. The floors and walls are white marble and in the spacious reception area are beautiful white and gold sofas. The white decor provides a wonderful contrast to the vibrancy and heat of the city beyond, and the overall effect is one of great calm.
Le Spa has its own library filled with beautiful books and a fireplace. This alone is enough to detain you for a few hours. There is also a Wellness lounge, an indoor pool, a gym, a Pilates studio, a manicure and pedicure suite, a Leonor Greyl hair salon, and a make-up studio. The Wellness lounge serves a selection of light, spa-friendly food including salads, smoked salmon and foie gras. You can also order a selection of champagnes, wines, teas and freshly squeezed juices. A large retail area sells the products used in the spa: Sisley, Chanel, Dr Hauschka, and local organic skincare brand Maroc Maroc.
In keeping with the exclusive atmosphere, three private spa suites are available to hire. Each has its own hammam and terrace where you can have the full range of spa services in the privacy of your own spa within the spa.
Treatments to try
The hammam is a must-try treatment in Morocco, and Le Spa Royal Mansour may well offer the ultimate luxury hammam experience. We tried their hammam and you can read about that here.
However, there are many beautiful treatments to try at Le Spa Royal Mansour. How about the "Richnesse d'Arganier" facial which uses argan oil and melted honey to nourish dry or irritated skin? Or maybe the Ceremonial Maroc Maroc massage which uses Monoi butter (made by soaking the petals of Tahitian gardenias)? The Ceremonial Massage finishes with a special rose moisturiser treatment for the chest.
Le Spa Royal Mansour also offers a range of face and body treatments by Sisley, Chanel, Dr Hauschka, and Maroc Maroc. Also on offer is reflexology, Thai massage, shiatsu, lymphatic drainage and a Mechanical Slimming Massage to treat cellulite.
Who would like it?
Chanel fans: Royal Mansour is the first spa in the world to offer Chanel treatments.
Luxury lovers: your every need is catered for. There is even a socket inside your locker so you can leave your phone charging while you spa.
The ultimate relaxation room. This large, white-marbled room has individual beds, each surrounded by white wooden lattice-work and screened with pale gold silk curtains. Once cocooned inside, there are duvets and raw silk cushions, and a built-in engraved silver table for your belongings. The sound of the fountain in the centre of the room will ease you into your post-treatment haze.
Expect to pay
Chanel facials range from £110 for a basic one to £278 for a 120-minute facial using Chanel's Sublimage range. Massages start at around £160 for a 60-minute Sisley relaxing massage.
Top French architect, Jacques Garcia, has created something extraordinary at The Selman. The design is a fusion of traditional Moroccan and ultra-modern. From the hotel entrance you can see beyond the heavy fuchsia velvet curtains to an immense crystal chandelier hanging in the main reception. Beyond that is a large terrace, then a heated 80-metre pool stretching into the distance.
The Espace Vitalité Chenot Spa at The Selman is connected to the main hotel building by a stunning black-and-white mosaic courtyard with a fountain.
The spa has seven treatment rooms, four hydrotherapy rooms, a jet-massage pool, a large hammam area, and an indoor relaxation pool. A private spa suite has its own hammam, massage and hydrotherapy areas. Outside are two heated pools, a Jacuzzi and a beautiful garden. The fitness suite looks out over the garden.
Espace Vitalité Chenot's reception area is upmarket clinical -- quite sparse with large white sofas and a white reception desk -- where you fill in your consultation form on arrival.
Beyond reception, the mood changes completely. You enter a courtyard designed around a square relaxation pool, mostly lit by candles in storm lanterns. Daylight filters down onto the water through little holes in the ceiling, which look like stars as you gaze up from the pool. Day beds in semi-darkness line the edges of the pool, and you can relax here after a treatment. The atmosphere is deeply peaceful, far away from the noise, vibrancy and sunlight of Marrakech.
The treatment offering at Espace Vitalité Chenot leans towards the medi spa. The focus is less on pampering and more on health, with a big emphasis on detoxification.
Treatments to try
The spa offers treatments using the Chenot method (PDF); Henri Chenot's approach was influenced by Chinese medicine. He believed it was important to observe the digestive system as it eliminates, assimilates and regenerates. Chenot's detox programme involves eating Biolight cuisine, which is basically a raw food diet.
In search of a trimmer silhouette? You might like to try Lapex (laser lipo) -- a treatment to reduce fat and cellulite. The spa's Icoone treatments promise similar results, with an additional claim to reduce wrinkle and expression lines on your face. If you have a few days, try the six-day "Slimming Mission". This includes a body scrub, six hydro-energetic cures, six anti-cellulite massages, three Lapex treatments, three Icoone treatments, and six fitness sessions with a personal trainer.
You can try a range of facial, body and beauty treatments, with private exercise classes to enhance your detox programme. Choose from yoga, Pilates, and pool-based aqua-biking and aqua-gym.
Kenzi Menara Palace is about ten minutes' drive from the Medina, near the original city ramparts. Land is more plentiful in this part of Marrakech, now being developed as a tourist area. It has less old-world charm than areas nearer the Medina but there is more space to build. The immediate impression on walking into the huge reception area of Kenzi Menara Palace is one of space.
Beyond reception is a large terrace where guests eat breakfast, weather permitting. Beyond that is a very large pool surrounded by loungers.
You reach The Spa by Terraké through the hotel via several wide courtyards. The path leading to the spa is covered by a wooden lattice which throws dappled light onto the ground. The Spa by Terraké is spacious, like the hotel; it covers 1,800 square metres.
At the centre of the Le Spa Terraké at Kenzi Menara Palace is a 12-metre square pool with underwater lights which constantly change colour. The pool is too small for lengths, but resistance jets mean that keen swimmers can get a serious aqua workout by attempting to swim towards them. The two swan pipes both deliver a satisfying shoulder pummelling. Lie back on the relaxation beds around the pool and just gaze at the coloured lights. The spa was quiet when we visited and a very tranquil place to be.
The Turkish baths or hammam suites are divided into male and female, but the sauna is mixed.
The Spa by Terraké at the Kenzi Menara Palace has six treatment rooms, three scrub and shower rooms, and two "balneotherapy" -- water therapy -- rooms. Here you can try the signature Terraké baths (more of which below).
The roof terrace has a gym with views over the hotel gardens, and a fitness suite for yoga and Pilates classes.
Treatments to try
The Terraké signature baths. The Terraké philosophy is one of science combined with returning to nature. All treatments are divided into four "themes" -- earth, light and air, water, vegetation. (This links to a PDF.) The titles do lose some of their poetry in translation. In French, they read respectively as "terra magica", "de l'air et de lumiere", "eaux premieres" and "vegetal luxuriant".) There is a signature bath for each of the four themes, depending on how you want to feel afterwards. If you choose the light and air bath, you are promised that: "Snowy flakes and aromatic gel will exhilarate the senses like the air of mountain tops." A massage and a facial is also devoted to each element. The Origins of the Sea Rehydration face ritual uses sea algae in the products, while the Terra Magica massage uses Terraké products with precious minerals. The Terraké Majestic Rituals include a welcome ritual, scrub, massage, wrap and application of an intense moisturiser; again a ritual for each theme.