A pleasant day-trip for a swim and a hot bath, the spa village of Moulay Yacoub, 21km northwest of Fez, has been offering cures for the afflicted for centuries. Legend relates that the village was named either after Sultan Moulay Yacoub Ben Mansour – cured after his first bath, they say – or from the corruption of Aquae Juba, the spring of a local Berber king, Juba, who was envious of Roman hot baths. Either way, the hillside village’s fame is founded on its sulphur-rich spa waters, which are pumped from some 1500m below ground and reach temperatures of around 54˚C. Cars and taxis park at the top of the village, leaving you to descend flights of steps past stalls whose bathing goods add a chirpy resort atmosphere; the swimming pool (daily 6am–10pm; separate areas for men and women; 8dh) is near a square halfway down the hill.
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Old thermal baths
The old thermal baths (baignoires or anciennes thermes) are a short walk beyond the swimming pool, and have a more medicinal purpose – albeit fairly basic to Western eyes. They’re usually busy, but you can enjoy a hot bath on your own (baignoire individuelle) or with a friend. Massage and jacuzzi are also available, while the masseurs in the thermal baths can put you through your paces with a hammam-style scrub. Beware that both facilities – baths and pool – are only cleaned once a week on Monday evening, so you’re probably best not swimming that afternoon.
Thermes de Moulay Yacoub
Much more upmarket than the old thermal baths, the Thermes de Moulay Yacoub is a spa for serious medical treatment – mostly rheumatism and respiratory problems – and serious self-indulgence that is as exclusive as it gets in Morocco. Not surprisingly, prices rise accordingly, though they do include a bathrobe and towel. The main reason to come, however, is that the main pool is mixed – a rare chance for couples to bathe together.