The fourth time Richard Branson went to Marrakech to launch an around-the-world flight attempt in a hot-air balloon, the Virgin mogul’s parents made a discovery while helping their son prepare for takeoff: a curious home for sale in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, an hour south of town. Branson’s mum was so taken with the place, which belonged to an Italian antiques collector, that she convinced Sir Richard to buy it after his balloon landed (in the Pacific Ocean, some 7,000 miles short of his goal). Today Kasbah Tamadot brings guests to the edge of old Morocco, where terraced fields of oat grass adorn the hillsides and goatherds still have the right of way ($605; kasbahtamadot.virgin.com). Adrenalized excursions are, of course, on tap—from balloon rides to three-day ascents of Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa—but the day hikes are musts. Opt for the Kasbah’s Aguersioual and Tamatert Pass trek (lengthy but doable if you’re in decent shape) and hoof it into a web of mountain villages that have changed little in the past millennium. You’ll cross two 7,000-foot passes and share shoulder-width footpaths with sheepherders and school-bound Berber kids. Back at the Kasbah, a hammam, or Turkish bath, will render the otherworldly experience complete.
Need to Know: In the mountains, cameras can be offensive. Ask for permission before snapping portraits.