IT’S not often that I arrive at a hotel and am completely taken aback by what I see before me.
Or, in this case, what I don’t see.
But when I found myself standing outside the boutique hotel Le Palais Paysan in Marrakesh I was looking upon something that was nothing at all like what I expected.
From its exterior – a rustic, understated, terracotta-hued block of a building, with no outwardly distinguishing features – this looks very little like a hotel as we know it.
But it is oh so enticing for it.
Here is a building purposefully designed to tease visitors into it, to uncover the gems it hides.
Like any good tease, a slice of what awaits can be found as you make your way to the entrance through a walkway separating the reception area from the main building.
This stone-cased corridor looks out onto the property’s vast grounds, complete with fruit gardens, horse stables and a backdrop of the Atlas Mountains, making it impossible not to delay your check-in in order to walk to its end to grab a sneak peak at the full view – a breathtaking panoramic of light, landscape and laidback luxury.
Such an enticing slither of scenery gives an impressive first impression of the hotel - which is set in seven hectares of land and prides itself on offering an ‘oasis of peace’ with a dash of ‘peasant luxury’ for those who wish to sample Morocco in style but also tranquility.
And it is certainly peaceful.
Nestled in a quiet spot on the road to a Berber town called Amizmiz, there is nothing to be seen for miles when looking out from any point within this hotel – apart from its perfectly manicured lawns, which lead on to the fields, desert and mountains that provide its stunning backdrop.
Of course, while it doesn’t feel like it, there are some other people living nearby – found in the small Berber village that you have to drive through in order to get there.
But the level of activity there, when we passed through at least, merely consisted of some local children playing, a few dogs trotting around and a couple of donkeys swatting the odd fly.
As a result, when you arrive at Le Palais Paysan and get over the initial surprise of its awesome setting you are quickly transported to a world which is calm, cultured and effortlessly chilled.
And this is a theme which runs throughout the entire property.
From the rooms, which offer an enchanting mix of traditional textiles with modern fixtures and fittings and relatively bare olive/grey walls (and all come with stunning views), to the spa, pool and restaurant and lounge areas, there was a definite Zen vibe permeating my stay.
Although, where the hotel makes understatement a priority for its exterior, it does dress to impress in its communal areas.
Glistening chandeliers, jewel colours, plush fabrics and cosy seating make this a quietly luxurious place in which to laze around.
Of course the superbly attentive and welcoming staff – most of whom are loyal, long-term employees at the hotel, which opened in 2013 – make it even easier to do very little.
With only a couple of days to enjoy this unassuming Moroccan hotspot, I was more than content to keep with the relaxed pace dictated by my setting, while soaking up my new-found surroundings.
There was a good chunk of time spent enjoying the ultra-chic pool area and also a trip to the spa and a tour of the vast estate.
Time was also spent enjoying long lunches and even longer dinners, as, really, sampling the fabulous local cuisine - pulled together by the impressive talents of the head chef and his ever attentive team – was an activity in itself.
From the traditional Moroccan tea, bread and pastries of the morning, which were utterly moreish, to the tagines, fish and meat dishes that filled the evening dining experience, and an ever so special lunch which brought a tasting platter of the chef’s best dishes to the table, there was much to enjoy on the culinary front.
Yet, there is plenty to do to keep yourself far busier than I was, should you wish to – with the hotel happy to organise horse-riding tours of its grounds; yoga sessions, Moroccan cookery classes, camel rides and quad-biking, as well as trips to take you further afield, including visits to the Atlas Mountains or the Medina.
Whatever your choice of activity, a visit to the in-house spa is a must – I can certainly recommend the one-hour full body massage for anyone hoping to ease out a few aches and pains, although there is also a traditional Turkish bath or ‘hammam’ on site, if you fancy unwinding like the locals with a ritual that includes a full-body soap, scrub and massage.
Ultimately, for anyone visiting Morocco who wants to sample more of the North African nation’s culture and traditions than simply the markets that the destination is by now synonymous with, Le Palais Paysan is both the perfect destination spot and location from which to explore.
Once there, if you choose to do very little at all, you will still soak up the culture, heritage and traditions of this ancient land with great ease.
But if you really must insist on activity, that too is easily sought out.
Either way, to stay at this hotel is to sign up for an entirely different experience of Marrakesh.
To be there is to be part of a world where old meets new, but culture, tradition and design are king.
But don’t just take my word for it – if you’re up for a slice of Moroccan life, without all the hustle and bustle, you should really go and see for yourself.
For full details, rates and bookings for the Le Palais Paysan in Marrakesh, Morocco, click here.