Spa Junkie on… La Sultana, Oualidia

In search of a winter-sun spa break, our columnist is lured to Morocco

Image: Jay Yeo

With autumn well and truly here and my heels replaced by Hunters, I’m hankering for a burst of sun. The brief: a hot destination, not too far away so we can visit for a weekend, and a new discovery, with spa for me and sport for him. I decide to head off the beaten track to a lagoon on the Atlantic coast of Morocco that’s perhaps more famous for pink flamingos than spa treatments – a retreat called La Sultana.

After an overnight stay near Casablanca airport, we set off after breakfast. The two-hour journey is rather terrifying, given that our driver seems to have no understanding of speed limits and compulsively overtakes. There’s not a great deal aside from arid landscape to distract me, but eventually we reach the sleepy fishing village of Oualidia, once a holiday spot of the Moroccan royal family.

As we turn down a hidden track, the town’s faded grandeur morphs into the glory of a gorgeous stone building, with terraces draped in bougainvillea and coloured-glass lights, which perches beside the lagoon’s oyster beds.

We sit down for an alfresco feast of lobster and oysters, with delicious Moroccan wine. The food is spectacular, and most ingredients are sourced locally. Inside, our sumptuous suite has a sandstone ceiling and zellige-tile floors, and the private terrace is home to a stone-cut Jacuzzi with lagoon water. Our view is over the lagoon, its sky-blue waters punctuated by pink flamingos.

The retreat’s infinity pool has prime position and overlooks the 11km long lagoon, but it’s the spa I’ve come for. An ionised indoor heated pool sparkles under high stone arches. It is the perfect spot to escape to between my afternoon siesta and treatments. Post-swim, I choose the classic hamman and massage treatment from an extensive but uncomplicated menu that also offers holistic body and facial treatments using local oils and fruits: almond, lemon, cumin, olive, dates, prickly pear, rose and honey.

Inside the hammam – a domed, hand-cut stone and tiled room flanked by two stone beds and a carved sink – it is dark and humid. My therapist pours hot water all over my body, works up a lather with the soap and scrubs from my forehead to my feet to remove all the dead skin cells. Even my armpits get a good seeing to.

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Skin squeaky clean, I’m ushered into an adjacent cabin. I feel like I have stepped inside an Aladdin’s cave, but instead of gold there is an abundance of argan oils, scrubs and clay wraps, the smells of which entwine with the heat from the hammam to create an aromatic, steamy feast for the senses. As Moroccan music plays, my therapist performs a fabulous full-body massage using all-natural, local argan-oil products. Her technique is strong, but not painful – she uses her elbows with particular aplomb. She also performs a holistic facial – a scrub, cleanse and massage that’s basic but thorough and leaves my skin feeling smooth and hydrated. She finishes by massaging the oils into my head and hair, which feels heavenly.

Post-treatment I meet up with The Italian, who has been on the private beach, deciding between an afternoon of paddleboarding, windsurfing, kayaking, dune-biking and horse-riding. He plumps for paddleboardingon the lagoon, travelling up past the former king’s palace and the village and back again.  

The next day, after a delicious breakfast of homemade breads and jams on our private terrace, we do laps in the pool – with a few pitstops to gawk at the birdlife goings-on down on the lagoon. Mid-morning, we take a small boat across the lagoon to the beach and hike across the dunes for a hour before attempting a swim in the ocean – but the water is very cold so we head back for lunch; a sumptuous private picnic laid out on the sand.

The afternoon is spent once again in the spa. The Italian gets, well, Italian, and goes for a simultaneous deluxe mani and pedi, while I head back to the hammam. Is there any better endorsement of a treatment than heading back for exactly the same again...?

The Bottom Line

This was just the weekend spa break I was after – truly relaxing. The spa is a gorgeous jewel and the treatments performed with love and care. The spa is free of high-tech gadgetry, and the traditional, hand-performed treatments are very authentic, effective and calming. Combined with outdoor activities and incredible food, it was the perfect break – a hidden pearl of total escapism. Next time, I’m booking the Treehouse Suite…

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Spa Junkie, aka Inge Theron, is the founder of FaceGym. She pays for all her own travel, accommodation and therapies. Follow her on Instagram @spajunkiechronicles.

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