Even with the opening of such elaborate, storied, luxury hotel giants like La Mamounia and Mandarin Oriental opening in Morocco, I’d much rather stay in a riad–a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard, restored and opened up to travelers. More intimate, it’s like a cross between being a house guest and a hotel guest. And even the most ridiculously luxurious riads are less expensive than conventional hotel rooms. The El Fenn, owned by Vanessa Branson and Howell James, is on the upper end of the price spectrum starting at $370 per night (includes airport transfers, Moroccan slippers and bedside mineral water!), but it’s unfathomably exquisite–with the kind of far-flung, exotic-meets-modern interiors you dream about. Plush sitting areas tucked into secret nooks with intricate architectural detail and beautiful Moroccan textiles and carrara marble pools, plus an in-house hammam and spa, organic garden, and a serious, museum-worthy art collection. Oh, and on occasion, the courtyard fountain is filled with petals. Just for effect. And if that seems a little Julian Schnabel of them, well, I think that’s the point.
Winter Discount Alert: During the months of November, January and December, guests get three nights for the price of two. Also offering winter courses in creative writing, photography and drawing to encourage artists to hunker down for longer stays. You can also rent out the nearby four-room Riad Vanessa (sleeps eight) with leather floors, cream tadelakt walls and a rooftop plunge pool.