Nick Boulos visits Morocco’s most dynamic beach resort
Among the endless plains of argan trees and dusty peaks of the Anti-Atlas mountains is a resort built from rubble.
Sitting on the Atlantic Coast, Agadir reinvented itself after a devastating earthquake in 1960 that killed a third of the population. Now it is Morocco’s premier beach town. But make no mistake, Agadir is far more than sun, sea and sand.
The New Town, known locally as Nouveau Talborjt, is a thriving mini-metropolis of mosques and markets, trendy shisha lounges and French-inspired patisseries that demand attention – if you can drag yourself away from the fine golden sand along the crescent-shaped beach.
SELL: GOOD VALUE AND GUARANTEED SUNSHINE
Blessed with more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Agadir is a safe bet for those searching for a little winter sun. While Britain shivers, Agadir enjoys a climate similar to that of the Canary Islands. An average winter temperature of 20C means it is warm enough to relax on the beach and take a dip in the sea – even in February.
With such fine conditions, it’s no surprise that Agadir has capitalised on its sunny demeanour and perfect location. Heavy investment has led to a developed tourism infrastructure, with an abundance of hotels, casinos, golf courses and fine dining restaurants.
But Agadir has substance as well as style. Beyond the beach lies rich diversity: authentic Moroccan culture, ancient history and some of the best natural wonders in northern Africa. “Whether you are looking for a relaxing beach holiday, cultural discovery or an active adventure, Agadir suits every taste,” says Faical Alaoui, trade marketing manager at the Moroccan National Tourist Office.
A recent increase in flights has made Agadir increasingly accessible. British Airways now flies from Heathrow after inheriting the route from BMI, while easyJet operates from Gatwick and Thomson from Manchester. If that’s not enough, Morocco also offers good value for money with a relatively attractive exchange rate between the pound and dirham (£1 currently buys 13.9 dirham).
“Sterling may not be as strong against the Moroccan currency as it used to be, but it still buys you lots of dirham, meaning your money goes a lot further,” says Joanne Colchester of Classic Collection Holidays.
STAY: NEW OPENINGS AND GREATER CHOICE
While there are hotels to suit every taste and budget, the most popular properties are, unsurprisingly, the larger resorts located along the inviting seafront.
The Royal Atlas is particularly impressive, with three lagoon-style pools around tropical gardens and spacious rooms with sea views.
Meanwhile, the newly opened Sofitel Royal Bay Resort is already winning fans with many a hedonistic touch. The Le Healthy beach bar boasts four-poster beds and hammocks as attentive waiters serve fresh fruit smoothies.
Other top sellers include the Riu Palace Tikida and the Royal Decameron Tafoukt.More intimate options are also available, including the boutique Riad Villa Blanche (pictured below). Each of the 28 contemporary rooms are individually decorated and there’s an outdoor pool and luxurious spa.
Most resorts now have spas to allow guests to truly unwind. As well as traditional hammams, treatments tend to incorporate the healing benefits of argan oil, produced locally and renowned globally. Budget travellers have less choice, but recommended is the Suite Hotel Tilila. A short walk from the beach, it pays tribute to the country’s heritage with Berber art throughout.
SEE: MOUNTAINS AND MARKETS
The obvious place to start is the beach – all five miles of it.
Family-friendly and patrolled by lifeguards, it’s also a popular spot for watersports. Travellers can choose between surfing lessons, kayaking, jet skis and windsurfing, while those feeling less active can opt for a leisurely catamaran cruise along the coast.
There’s plenty to keep you busy inland too. Head north towards the village of Imouzzer and a scenic spot within the Atlas mountains called, rather appropriately, Paradise Valley.Surrounded by two-mile-high rock faces, the lush valley is one of palm and pine trees growing on the banks of flowing streams.
Or you can venture south to Souss-Massa National Park. Pink flamingoes and gazelles are among 600 animal species living in this vast coastal wilderness of cliffs, orange trees and sand dunes. The walking trails are perfect for hikers and birdwatchers.Back in the city, don’t miss the Amazighe Heritage Museum for all aspects of Berber culture.
Shoppers will enjoy Agadir’s atmospheric Souq al-Had and handicraft and artist workshops in the Coco Polizzi medina. Built in the late 20th century, the complex is designed to replicate a traditional medina with brickwork buildings and labyrinthine alleys.
The seafront promenade comes to life after dark when locals congregate for an ice-cream and a balmy evening stroll. Enjoy a glass of Moroccan wine at Café del Mar, a prime spot for people-watching. But for views to remember, head straight to the 16th-century fortress that overlooks the city from its hilltop vantage point.
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