The High Atlas Mountains, Imlil, Morocco

Morocco may be best known for its desert camel rides through the sand dunes, the blue city of Chefchaouen, exploring the old cities and the souk in Marrakech and Fes but when I landed in Morocco, I really felt like going to the mountains. (It’s just this urge I get from time to time without any rational reason that I cannot fight off)

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As it turns out, Morocco has one of the best mountain ranges in North Africa.

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Since I was in Marrakech already, I decided I wanted to see Mt. Toubkal or the surrounding mountains in High Atlas. Despite my enthusiasm, I couldn’t find much information about how to get there and how much it would cost on the internet without booking a tour. I also learned that since the tragic murders of two girls last year who went camping alone in the area, it was obligated to go with a guide. By this point, I had been traveling for a few months and just came from Europe where I had used up a lot of my money.  So I didn’t want to book a packaged plan which tended to be more expensive. Plus, it was early March and there were still some snow left at the top. I didn’t have my trekking boots or my clamp-ons.

I decided to go to a village called Imlil, which was a village at the foot of the High Atlas mountains with one of the best trekking trails.

How to get to Imlil

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There is a yellow collective taxi that runs from the Marrakech city center near the square by the Jemaa el-Fnaa. If you keep shouting “Imlil” to people, you’ll eventually find the place. It’s 50 dirham (5 euros)/ one way to Imlil and you have to wait until the taxi has enough people to carry until it leaves so it’s better to leave early and have time to spare. Don’t pay more than 50 dirhams though. If you’re unlucky, you’ll have to change taxi at Asni, which is the only town before Imlil that has ATM so if you’re low on cash, you should withdraw some money in Marrakech or in Asni.

I met two lovely women who were sisters visiting Imlil on their holiday. One was from Casablanca and the other lived in the Netherlands. I was grateful for my university French lectures since I could somehow communicate in my broken French. They gave me their numbers in case of an emergency and they also helped me negotiate prices for the rides (and only paid 35 dirhams).

Where to stay

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There are plenty of hostels in hotels in Imlil so you won’t really need to book in advance but if you want to be on the safe side, make sure you book a hotel that is not too far from the village center because I had to walk 15 minutes down a hill just to get something to eat. But despite its isolated location, I did enjoy the silence and the quietness which was the whole point of me visiting in the first place.

Climbing gears & guides

To climb Mt. Toubkal which is over 4000m high in mid-March, you would need clamp-ons proper boots. I didn’t have either of these which was why I decided to ditch the idea of climbing up there, but there are many shops where you can rent any climbing gears for a very cheap price. It’s a lot cheaper than buying your own gear just to climb here unless you already own them, so even if you have nothing on you, you can still show up in Imlil and do some hikes.

Since I made the mistake of forgetting to withdraw cash in Marrakech, I had barely any cash on me. Funnily enough, most of the stores said I could exchange some of my things I owned for the things that they sold/rented.

You can find guides everywhere in this small village, it’s a matter of finding one that you can trust. Try finding other tourists and split the costs with you. It’s also nicer to have other people to talk to while hiking.

Day hikes around the area

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I ended up postponing my trip up to the Toubkal for another visit and decided to do day-hikes around the area which is completely doable on your own and even though the internet says that the trails aren’t well marked, as long as you stay in the area and don’t get lost in one of the villages and their mazes of houses, you’ll be ok.

DAY 1
I stayed in Imlil for a few days. On the first day, I hired a guide to show me around the area. He grew up in the nearby village and he knew the area by heart, every trail, every tree.

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A looooong line of caterpillars. Apparently their eyes shine at night so you can see a dotted line from afar. So interesting.
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The only radio tower in this region. Some villages further into the mountains don’t have any signals, no internet. Can you imagine a life without internet these days?
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One single road that stretches further deep into the mountainous regions. He tells me that there are villages where it is only reachable by foot during the coldest months of the year where everything is covered in snow.

I’ve come here to hike, which is my hobby. But people who live in these villages hike as part of their daily lives, as a necessity, to buy their groceries, to visit their friends and families. Sometimes, I find it strange that a 3rd world necessity can be a 1st world luxury.

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DAY 2

Next morning, I decided to go for a run to a village that was a little further away. I love going for a run in the morning to explore whenever I visit new places.

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Villages in the mountains. Blocks of houses are like a maze and despite all the numberings on the doors, I still got lost and ended up running around in circles.
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A little waterfall on my hike up to the highest village in the area

 

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