World’s Most Unusual Hotels: A Boutique Riad in Morocco

May 7, 2018

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Traditionally found only in Morocco, riads are beautiful homes and palaces that have been reborn as hotels. And while they may not be quite as unusual as a resort made out of a salt in Bolivia or a hotel in Costa Rica housed in a vintage Boeing, a riad is still a very original style of lodging that travelers should absolutely try during a trip to Morocco.

A Moroccan version of a B&B, riads have a very specific design aesthetic. Each one features an interior courtyard or garden (riad, in Arabic, literally translates to gardenssurrounded by high walls. These charming spaces are ornamented with colorful zellige tiles and detailed Berber carvings. Large arches frame welcoming corners with cozy seating areas.

Staying in a riad is a special way to get acquainted with the local culture. After all, who wouldn’t want to sip a glass of Moroccan mint tea while stretched out on an inviting sofa or adorned floor pillow?

The courtyards often have small pools and serene fountains, too — perfect for an escape from the blazing Moroccan sunshine.

While rooms and suites at riads vary in terms of size, layout and style, they’re often as richly decorated as the courtyards. Expect to find thoughtful design details, like scattered rose petals, a private fireplace and hand-painted ceilings.

Accessible rooftops are also a common feature found at many riads. Depending on the property, the rooftop terrace may have a cafe or seating area.

Because true riads flank a medina (or the old, often walled Arabic section of a North African city), travelers can expect views of bustling souks, narrow labyrinthine streets and, depending on the city, the silhouette of the Atlas Mountains in the distance.

Many riad room rates include breakfast, and travelers can also look forward to exceptional, personalized service from staff members, as the lodgings are typically small and intimate.

Even if you don’t stay at a riad (or you do, but you want to see a few others, too) you can plan to have a meal there or purchase a day pass to enjoy the roof or pool.

Travelers can also opt to pay for access to a riad’s hammam (like the classic Arabic-style spa at La Mamounia. In fact, seeing the various riads around Morocco can be a specific variety of tourism for travelers interested in hospitality, spa treatments and Arabic design.

Riads are often quiet retreats from otherwise frenetic cities like Marrakech. These palatial properties are usually hidden away in the maze-like alleyways of the medina, which somehow amplifies their charm. Although they may be difficult to find at first, watch closely for signs around the souk telling you where to turn (sometimes, especially here, Google Maps just doesn’t cut it).

Another trick is to contact your riad for transport ahead of time. It may be slightly more expensive than the average taxi, but the odds you’ll arrive without hassle or delay are much higher.

Added bonus: you won’t have to haggle with the taxi driver in French.

Perhaps the highlight of a riad stay is that you rarely have to spend a lot. Some of the most magical riads in Marrakech, for example, cost approximately $100 to $150 per night — or even less.

A few of our favorites include the seven-room Palacio de las Especias, Riad BE and the 18th-century Riad Slitine, which has a rooftop terrace perfumed by white rose bushes and orange trees.

Since most riads are independent and don’t have loyalty programs, instead of booking directly with the property, use Hotels.com. If you use your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card you can get 10x miles on purchases made at Hotels.com/Venture.

That means you’ll receive 10% back on hotels booked at Hotels.com, as miles are worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed for a statement credit against travel purchases. Cardholders will need to book and pay through a special URL, Hotels.com/Venture, to receive the 10x miles.

Photos by Jessica Rovniak and Lori Zaino for The Points Guy.

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