All of us have a vision of sleeping in the desert under the starry sky for one tranquil night away from the city. Of course there are many options to do this with trips from Marrakech into the desert being so readily available.
Personally, I’m not one who likes to pee in a hole. Which is why La Pause is a great in between place for that peaceful, in-the-middle-of-nowhere vibe, but with an added touch of luxury.
We checked ourselves in for a weekend; 2 days, 1 night.
Out in the Agafay desert, it is quite a trek to find. Usually the resort arranges transport for you from the city in a 4×4, but in our case we decided a nice drive through the rolling, stony desert slopes would be better for our estate car – more of an “experience”.
Heading out on the road towards Agafay, you have to make a careful left turn 22km down the way at a sign that says “Terres Des Etoiles” and “Café Agafay” – none of these are actually where you’re trying to go but La Pause is so off the map, that they’re, well – off the actual map.
Following this dust road for a while, we drove in the tracks of cars before us; bending through an empty land. (If this isn’t your thing, you’ll be please to know that officials are in the process of building a road that connects part of the desert to the main street.)
Finally, in the distance, we spotted some greenery and what looked like the tops of modest lodges.
We arrived to a completely empty resort. Treading from the car park to the entrance we walked over a tiny bridge where a small, almost dried out river lay – inside baby turtles splashed around. We walked up a stony path and into what looked like the main area – there was a clear dining area under berber tents, a shop with herbal goodies and a small swimming pool under the shady olive trees. What we couldn’t find, was someone to welcome us (apart from a small gecko that ran past our feet and onto one of the table cloths.)
After discovering the place by foot, we stumbled upon a worker there and told him we had a reservation, he told us he would get the guy in charge. Less than a minute later a man who seemed to be the “keeper” of La Pause approached us.
He spoke to us in Arabic, then French, then English – explaining he was expecting us a little later and apologising that he had not been there to welcome us. At that, we were given a small, guided tour (though there was no need, we had already done our fair share of umm-ing and Ahh-ing already.)
We sat by the pool for our welcome drink – a fresh lemon and mint cocktail with ice – whilst he took our passports and made sure our room was ready.
No other soul was in the place. Just the two of us and our juice. The silence was incredible.
For the first time in a long time we heard not only the birds chirping, but the wind whispering through the trees, the water splashing up against the sides of the pool and the ice clinking in our glasses.
From the moment we arrived at La Pause – it was a little piece of serenity.
We were showed our room – an amazing eco-lodge made just as old Moroccan houses used to be; from mud, sand and straw. It sat on top of the highest hill, facing out towards the tilting desert.
Inside we had a main seating area with the bedroom, a shower room, a bathroom, a hamam (which wasn’t working during our visit due to pipe maintenance), a huge living room with a fireplace, and a humble outdoor space with a set of lounge chairs and hammock.
Despite the lodge being made from mud, it was pure luxury. The finishes were impeccable. The décor was in keeping with the Moroccan theme but not garish or over-bearing. It was very clean, and the high ceilings added to the sense of space and vastness of the desert.
Every lodge is completely separate from one another, this means total privacy for you and your party.
If you’re staying the night, one thing to know about La Pause is that everything is powered by solar energy – at night there are no electrical lights, only candlelight, and it is wonderful.
After settling in and changing, we headed back down to the pool for a refreshing dip. When we got there, towels had already been laid out for us.
After the first 20 minutes of de-stressing; having a drink, having a swim – it instantly became obvious that we could become quite bored without wifi and no one but ourselves to talk to.
However, after that thought entered and left our minds it was surprisingly easy to make conversation for the rest of the day in the late afternoon sunshine – apparently we forgot that’s how people used to communicate before smart phones existed.
Having our fill at the pool we went back to our lodge for a nap, it became apparent the sun would be setting soon so we grabbed one of the books we found in our living room’s small library (there were some in English and French,) and sat outside waiting for the sunset.
From the top of the hill on our own makeshift “veranda”, we watched the sun go down behind the Agafay hills and slowly drifted off into a nap under the dusky sky.
When we awoke, night had fallen and lanterns were lit up everywhere to guide us around the pathways of the resort.
Gliding down to dinner after one of the most peaceful naps we’d had in a long time, we were met by a single waiter. A four-course meal was included as part of the package we’d booked.
A private tent had been set up for us. Candles lit up the place and a fire blazed some metres away to provide a burst of light.
Everything was hand-cooked and the first thing our palettes were greeted with a cold, vegetable soup. Despite sounding perhaps a little unappetizing, it was extremely delicious. The vegetables were so flavoursome and with a pinch of Moroccan spices, they had the kick we needed.
Next we were brought a pâté alongside a mix of salads, which was quickly gobbled down to welcome something warm into our stomachs – and boy – we were not disappointed.
After, sets of three tagine pots arrived to the table; a sweet potato tagine, a lamb, apricot and prune tagine, and a tagine full of cous-cous (for good measure).
Needless to say, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and after chowing down half of the first tagine, alongside a couple of (alcoholic) cocktails, we were in a food coma.
Now, the reason of our visit was to celebrate a birthday – which we may have mentioned in passing to the manager when we’d first arrived.
After the main dishes were cleared away, we suddenly saw a silhouette walking towards us holding a plate out in front of him. When he lit a candle, we saw that he was holding a homemade cake. Covered in berries and hugged in orange slices, La Pause had made us a whole cake to say Happy Birthday!
Of course, we’d saved some room for dessert and the fruity mix on top of what turned out to be a cheesecake was absolutely delicious.
We rolled ourselves back to our room where the staff had put some battery powered lights (outside and inside) to help us navigate a little bit better.
We turned everything off and had a moment of star-gazing. The sky was so clear that we could see the milky-way.
With full stomachs and fulfilled spirits, we went to bed and slept the whole night through.
In the morning we were awoken by little slices of sunlight shining through the cracks of the wooden shutters that we’d closed to cover the windows. We had wanted to wake up early to see the sunrise but obviously the sandman had got the better of us.
Breakfast was also included in our package and it could be had whenever and wherever we wanted.
After some time lounging around our lodge, showering with their special bio products made on site (they had some wonderful mandarin shower gel and pelargonium shampoo), we made our way down to the pool side and breakfasted beneath the olive trees.
Again, they definitely weren’t stingy with the amounts – we were provided with orange juice, tea/coffee, Moroccan breads and pastries, Msemen, a selection of jams and the pièce de résistance; tagined eggs in a tomato sauce.
It had only been a few hours and we were in a food coma again – it was too delicious not to eat!
We spent the afternoon by the pool and having a wander through the gift shop where I picked up some argan oil and La Pause’s very own olive oil.
We had gone away because we wanted to relax, be away from our phones for a day or two and see some nature. Without a doubt, that’s exactly what we got.
For others, La Pause has a whole range of activities you can do: cycling, donkey rides, horse riding through the desert, quad biking, hiking, golf…. We were just the “laze by the pool with cocktails” types.
La Pause is open to guests staying the night and guests that are just there for the day.
Price: A tad pricey, but definitely well worth it – a night in the best lodge in the place with breakfast and dinner included will set you back €150pp. If you want to visit in the day, Lunch looks to be around €30 and a bottle of wine around €20 – (hot tip: bring your own wine and pay a corking fee around €10; it’s certainly a unique experience to drink wine in the tranquility of the desert underneath Berber tents with camels off in the periphery.)
Verdict: We very much enjoyed our stay at La Pause and would definitely go back again as well as highly recommend it to others. Though the lack of staff welcome at the beginning did make us take a step back, they more than made up for it once they’d put their gears on with the attentive things like laying towels out for us, setting up lights and candles in our room and making our very own birthday cake – all without having to ask! This is a place where you can have great food and drinks and completely switch off from the world, oh, and it’s only 25 minutes down the road.
So, for romance, reconnection to friends or a lonesome swing in a hammock – head over to La Pause.