We’ve got Morocco on our minds! Sumptuous luxury properties, bustling souks, excellent food, lovely countryside, and a government intent on attracting tourists…it’s no surprise that we love Morocco right now. Oh, and did we mention that there’s a 6.5-hour direct flight from New York to Casablanca?! Absolute Travel staff member Sasha Lehman recently returned from an investigative journey to Morocco and came back brimming with excitement about the possibilities for our clients. Here, she shares her “Absolute Best” recommendations for where to stay and what to do while you’re there.

1. Spend several nights at one of Morocco’s super-deluxe properties
It seems like there are new luxury hotels and ryads opening every day, but we have a few favorites. Villa des Orangers has a prime location in Marrakech’s medina and, unlike many of the smaller medina properties, it also has a spa and rooftop pool — so you can swim with a city view. Dar Ahlam is a kasbah-style hotel nestled in Skoura, at the base of the Atlas Mountains. After a day exploring nearby Berber villages, the spa and hammam is an excellent place to wind down and refresh yourself. Finally, La Sultana Oualidia hasn’t yet opened, but we’re waiting anxiously! Located between Essaouira and Casablanca, it has a prime spot on a gorgeous but sparsely-populated beach and is rumored to be building a beautiful spa. We can’t wait…

2. Cook Moroccan specialties like a dada
Though it’s now a luxury hotel, La Maison Arabe in Marrakech began as an exclusive restaurant, and its dedication to the art of cooking has never wavered. Learn the techniques for preparing traditional Moroccan dishes from a dada (traditional Moroccan cook) and then prepare your own meal. Conclude, of course, by consuming the fruits of your labor. Delicious!

3. Visit the seaside town of Essaouira
An ocean town with a laid-back atmosphere, Essaouira has a slower pace, delicious seafood, and some lovely hotels, making it a perfect place to spend two or three nights away from the big cities. At night, we recommend stopping by the promenade, where locals go to enjoy the evening air and eat fresh fish from the food stalls. Another great thing about Essaouira? The two-hour drive from Marrakech passes through groves of Argan trees, unique to Morocco and famous for the goats that climb their branches. You can visit a women’s-run Argan oil cooperative to see how the oil is produced from the nut of the tree and used for coveted culinary and cosmetic products.

4. Shop for leather goods in Fes
Treasures await the dedicated shopper in Fes – and half the adventure is in the expedition. As you stroll through the narrow streets of the souk, eager vendors will entice you to their stalls with promises of mint tea. Keep an eye out for the leather pouf pillows and ubiquitous babouches slippers, which make excellent gifts for friends and family. We recommend making a cultural excursion out of it by also visiting the tanneries where leather is treated. Tanning leather is a craft passed down through families for generations, and observing the process offers an important reminder of the hard work that goes into producing these lovely souvenirs.

5. Hike in the Atlas Mountains
From a base at Kasbah du Toubkal at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, Absolute Travel can arrange everything from a gentle afternoon stroll to an energetic journey of several nights. Whatever length, we promise you it will be an unforgettable experience. The trails wind through Berber villages, gardens, and groves of apricot trees – a simply breathtaking way to experience the Atlas Mountains. And, best of all, Kasbah du Toubkal also has a first-rate hammam and spa to help soak away any muscle fatigue from the trip when you return!

These are Sasha’s Absolute Best recommendations for Morocco, but there are countless other possibilities for private luxury travel in Morocco. Visit our website to learn more about Absolute Travel’s recommended itineraries to Morocco, www.absolutetravel.com