Worth a Trip: The Agafay Desert

If you don’t have time to traverse mountain passes, you can take an overnight trip to the Agafay Desert, a rough, dry, moon-like expanse 40km southwest of Marrakesh down the Rte d’Amizmiz. This is a favourite playground for weekending Marrakshi’s who come for a spot of horse-riding, dune-gazing and canoeing on Lalla Takerkoust, a manmade reservoir on the edge of the Agafay. In spring, the desert is covered with wheat and wildflowers, but in summer and autumn it really does look like the desert. Here’s our pick of the region's country retreats and camps:

La Pause Skip off the grid to this desert getaway for days spent playing turf-free golf or Frisbee, or hanging out in hammocks by the pool. Kids can ride off into the sunset on mountain bikes, Arabian stallions or dromedaries and return to candlelight feasts. It's located about 34km southwest of Marrakesh, down a turn-off along the R212.

Scarabeo Roughly in the same area as La Pause, this nomadic eco-camp moves its 12 elegant bivouacs according to season, but there are always views of the desert and High Atlas. During the day spend your time trekking, camel riding, paragliding or flying kites, and by night dozens of lamps light your way to open-air film projections and unforgettable stargazing.

Jnane Tihihit Relax as nature intended, on an organic farmstead with solar-heated, whitewashed pisé bungalows amid pomegranate trees. Foodies can tend saffron gardens and learn to make couscous (meals around Dh175), while kids can go riding or head out to the lake-front beach or lounge by the chemical-free pool. It's located about 45km southwest of Marrakesh off the P2009.