Le Jardin des Douars is a paradisaical riad boutique hotel located in the coastal town of Essaouira, Morocco. Riad is the Arabic word for “garden” and this hotel has a beautiful botanical garden where guests can escape not only from the stress of the outside world, but also due to its location in the hills overlooking the Ksob river, from Essaouira’s notorious north-easterly trade winds.
Le Jardin des Douars is a haven for anyone who wants to enjoy some sunshine (you get 320 days a year of it in Essaouira) in a laidback but rather spectacular little North African palace.
Perfect for couples looking for a peaceful, luxurious weekend break, yet also ideal for families (the provision of a separate “adults only” swimming pool and intimate couples restaurant help to explain this apparent contradiction), the friendly, helpful staff, exquisite food and stunning surroundings promise a wonderfully relaxing holiday.
Le Jardin des Douars is small, offering 19 bedrooms, six suites and three luxury villas, which helps to create a pleasingly intimate vibe. Each room has its own style, but our room (the family terrace room) was adorned with traditional North African art, a lamp in the shape of a bird, an African mask and a fireplace. The rooms are spacious and clean, and the beds soft and comfortable.
The shower is pleasingly powerful, and it wouldn’t be a true Essaouira experience without the argan oil based shampoo and shower gel toiletries.
There are no TVs or phones in the rooms, but with breathtaking gardens to explore in the glorious sunshine, who would want to spend their time on the phone or watching a film in their room?
Le Jardin des Douars has two heated jade green pools, one for adults only, and its lush grounds compel you to spend hours ambling around, taking in the serenity, admiring the scenery, and keeping your eyes peeled for tortoises scuttling about, in and around the greenery.
The atmosphere in the hotel and gardens has an instantly relaxing effect, but if you need some extra help to de-stress, the hammam is at your service, offering an array of soothing, revitalising massages and treatments.
Food and Drink
There are two restaurants, one of which is a large lounge, offering an area next to the main dining room with a plush red three-sided sofa and fireplace where guests can enjoy pre-dinner cocktails (although don’t expect spectacular mixology; whisky sours and mojitos are the name of the game here). The other restaurant is a small, intimate, “adults only” place, with candles and silky white tablecloths.
The food is excellent – stylishly presented and splendidly creative, the cuisine is bursting with Mediterranean, North African and French flavours. If you spend a weekend here like many do (with flights-only available on Easyjet on Saturdays and Tuesdays), you’ll have some hard choices to make, as you won’t get to try everything. The salmon pave with pea flan was a personal highlight, as was the shredded lamb with prune and apricot puree and monkfish tagine. For dessert, try the chocolate tart, a wonderfully rich pleasure for the diner with a sweet tooth.
The hotel serves lunch every day in the terrace. If you’re there on a Sunday, be sure to book your place for a stupendous barbecue buffet, with superbly succulent skewers and a delicious array of rices and salads.
Is WiFi available?
Service is weak in the rooms, but reliable outside and in the restaurants and other common areas of the hotel.
Rooms start from a very reasonable £105 per night and includes breakfast or £490 per villa, per night.
The hotel is a 10-minute drive from Essouaria proper, and it runs a shuttle several times a day for a small fee. There are galleries in Essaouira to explore, as well as markets and some decent restaurants, but nothing to match the peace, calm and dinners in Le Jardin des Douars.