Morocco Magic: Trekking in the Atlas Mountains

Since my trip to Borneo at the start of the year I have been on the lookout for the next opportunity to be a little closer to nature and maybe do some more trekking. When I was planning this trip and realised how close the Atlas Mountains were to Marrakesh, it seemed like the ideal solution.

After two hectic but wonderful days in Marrakesh we headed out to the small village of Imlil which is at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, where we were staying at the Kasbah du Toubkal. The Kasbah is consistently voted as one of the world’s best eco lodges and it didn’t fail to impress. The Kasbah markets itself not as a hotel but as a Berber hospitality centre as none of the staff are professionally trained hoteliers. It’s a joint venture between a UK tour company (Discover Ltd) and the local Berber community with whom they have established the Imlil Village Association. The Kasbah does some fantastic work fundraising for the local community and providing employment to the villagers. Unsurprisingly, their unique approach to responsible tourism has won many accolades.

To reach the Kasbah you travel by car to the village of Imlil and then trek for about 15 minutes up to the hotel. Only a few minutes into the trek up to the Kasbah I started to realise that trekking here was going to be way harder than Borneo and wished that I could hitch a ride on the mule that was carrying our luggage.

We had a great experience at the Kasbah from the get-go, again being lucky enough to have our room upgraded to a big deluxe room with the most breathtaking views over the mountains. The food was top notch- with a 3 course set menu being served for lunch and dinner and a very generous Moroccan breakfast that comes as part of the room rate. The Kasbah doesn’t serve or sell any alcohol out of respect for the Berber beliefs, but they are very relaxed about you bringing your own. However, one of the things that I loved most about the Kasbah is that unlimited soft drinks were included as part of the room rate- meaning as much mint tea as you could drink! I got quite addicted to Moroccan mint tea over the course of our trip and drank gallons of the stuff. We even bought some to take home with us, but unfortunately the boy packed it in the same bag as some pungent Moroccan spices and now the tea is tainted with their aroma!

Apart from one particularly blustery occasion we ate all of our meals and spent a lot of time chilling in the tower at the top of the roof terrace which had amazing views of the surrounding mountains- its the little green roofed tower in the picture below.

Beautiful scenery and yummy food aside, the main reason I had wanted to come here was because of the trekking. Against all odds, I had actually really enjoyed trekking in Borneo so wanted to try it again. I’m definitely not naturally an outdoorsy type of girl and the boy is even less of an outdoorsy type of boy, so I was a little apprehensive about what it was going to be like, if we would enjoy it, and more importantly if we would actually be able to do it!

On the first day we had a short two and a half hour introductory trek to wet our appetite. We walked through the surrounding villages which were higher up than the Kasbah in the rocky mountainous areas and then down through the green valleys of apple, cherry and walnut orchards. I could just about cope with that and was looking forward to our big walk the next day.

Everything started off well on the big walk the next day, there was one older gentleman with us and the Berber mountain guide. I thought this guy is probably older than 60 so I’ll definitely be better than him. I was so so wrong on that part, turns out he is an avid walker in the Lake District and was quicker than a mountain goat. His wife had opted to stay and read at the Kasbah for the day and I was soon thinking she was a very smart woman.

Near to the start of the walk our guide showed us what our route would be by pointing out a forest at the top of the highest mountain that looked very far away to me. Although it seemed like a joke, I just kept walking.

We saw some different villages from the day before and walked through some lovely orchards at the start of the walk where we saw gorgeous cherry trees heavy with fruit and cute little lambs grazing.

It got quite a lot harder from here… the terrain was so steep that it was more like mountain climbing than walking and given that I’m not the biggest fan of heights it was definitely a challenge. The boy on the other hand was loving it and breezing on ahead, he didn’t even get angry when I drank all of our water in the first 2 hours (it was really hot!). I was very proud of myself when we reached the highest point- the forest that our guide pointed out at the start of the walk. Mostly I was happy that hopefully it would all be downhill from there.

As we made our way down we passed some amazing rocky landscapes- and weirdly a football pitch on the side of the mountain. The geographer in me was nerding out at all the awesome rock formations!

To finish off the walk we came down the valley from the rocky barren landscape into a lush green valley with gorgeous waterfalls. There were lots of local people hanging out at the waterfalls taking refuge from the heat and the tiny cafes/food stalls looked very nice (note the natural refrigeration they use!)

I was massively relieved to see the Kasbah come back into view at the end of our walk but also really proud of myself for conquering the big mountain! The long shower and big meal afterwards were very deserved. We spent the late afternoon chilling and reading on the roof terrace with lots of mint tea. It was beautiful watching the wind whip up the dust from the mountains and then bizarrely watching it come back down again as muddy rain.

The Kasbah is a very special place mainly due to the breathtaking landscapes, but also because of the tranquil atmosphere and very friendly staff. I hope I’ll be able to return one day x


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