Escape to the mountains

After four days in the busy city we desperately needed a change of scenery so we packed our bags and headed for the Atlas mountains to a village called Imlil. Despite its size it is very touristy with lots of accommodation because it is the basecamp for everybody who comes to climb Mount Toubkal. With 4169m it is the highest mountain in north Africa and according to our host and former tour guide Jamal the most difficult in the whole of Africa due to its steep ascent.

Ted enjoying the grand view including Mount Toupcal

There are two ways to get from Marrakesh to Imlil: shared grand taxi or bus and taxi. The grand taxi goes directly all the way and is the easiest and most convenient mode of transport. The standard rate is 50dh per seat from the taxi rank in the city. You shouldn’t pay more than that unless you want more space, or the taxi for yourself. We opted for the more adventurous way and boarded the public bus 35 to Tahanaout. This costs 7.5dh pp. The taxi rank towards Imlil was on the main road after the big (and only) roundabout. Our bus driver dropped us there and helped us to get a taxi. Our driver asked for 10dh each which we didn’t argue about since it was cheap (for us at least). That’s still more than the locals seemed to pay but we didn’t mind. We thought the taxi would go all the way to our destination but we had to change again in Asni. The driver was very helpful and got us straight to another cab for the last leg. This time it cost us 15dh pp. Overall the journey was 35dh cheaper in total than the grand taxi.


The scenery around Imlil is grand with lots of peaks some of them with snow. We stayed in Dar Atlas in Ait Souka about a kilometer from the center of Imlil. It only has four bedrooms but comes with a big roof terrace. Our only negative point was the rock hard bed. The owner Jamal welcomed us with with fresh mint tea and gave us plenty of information about walks in the area. Since we arrived around lunchtime we headed straight out to see the cascades des amis just outside Imlil. The walk took us along one of the countless irrigation channels through a forest up to Aroumd, the highest village of the valley. From the path back down to Imlil we had a snack break in a half finished cafe next to the waterfall. The only downside of this place was the owner trying to overcharge us at the end but we managed to resist.

In the evening we had the best and biggest tagine yet in our dar; lovingly cooked by Jamal’s wife. The meal also included a salad starter and a fresh fruit and tea for only 60dh each! We immediately decided to be a bit lazy and eat in every night.

The next day we were woken up by a big but short thunderstorm. Following a superb breakfast we decided to do a walk around the mountain behind our village. At first we climbed up to the pass and over into the next valley occasionally taking shelter from sporadic showers. By lunchtime all the clouds had disappeared and we were merrily marching down towards a village called Tinerhourhine, sitting nicely above a wide riverbed. The people in this area are mainly berber and live off the land. Our path was fairly well signposted until we hit a village with dozens of similar looking paths everywhere so we struggled in every place to find our way through a maze to get to the path we could see on the other side. We had the slight suspicion that the locals removed the way markings to confuse hikers without a guide and then tried to earn money by showing them the way. We managed fairly well until we got to Ikkiss. After accepting the offered tea on a nice shady terrace overlooking half the village, we were lost for our way out and accepted the help of two girls who lead us down what looked like the refuse stream down to the river. This was definitely not the official route but on the other side was the way we needed to be on. After paying the girls some small change and crossing the water we encountered a man in the forest offering to show us the way. This all seemed like a well set up scheme to prey on guideless walkers. On our walk back across another pass towards Aguersioual and Imlil we saw a lesser kestrel and many other beautiful birds with we could not name. Overall the walk took us 7 hours including some pathfinding, a tea and a melon break. We were tired and sun burnt but it was totally worth it.

We spend the whole evening chatting to Maia from Australia who is on a backpacking trip quite similar to ours. You can find her exciting blog here.

Rainy view onto Imlil

The berber village of Tinehourhine

We spend the whole evening chatting to Maia from Australia who is on a backpacking trip quite similar to ours. You can find her exciting blog here.

On our last full day in the Atlas we walked through Aroumd again but this time continued up the valley towards the mighty mount Toubkal. Some misreading of our maps lead us through forests, terrace fields and apple orchards for an hour before we found that the path actually followed the rocky and very wide riverbed. It zig-zagged up on one side into the Toubkal National park. We followed it until we reached the pilgrimage village of Sidi Chamharouch at 2350m. This represents roughly the halfway point between Imlil and Les Mouflons, the aptly named mountain refuge from which all ascents of the mount Toubkal peak start.

Mosque and white rock of Sidi Chamharouch

Sidi Chamharouch is built around a white rock and mosque. According to a legend the rock fell on the residence of a saint and therefore pilgrimage can help cure female infertility and rheumatism.  People also believed that anyone suffering from mental diseases could be cured by visiting the ‘king of devils’ at sidi chamharouch and sacrificing a chicken or lamb depending on the severity of their condition.

Sadly we had to move on from this idyllic valley and back to Marrakesh since we wanted to go and see some desert. This time we ended up with an Englishman in a grand taxis since there were no taxis going to Asni.

We are both excited and anxious about this trip as it is our first group trip. Watch this space to read and see how it turned out.

Greater woodpecker

Unknown blue bird

3 thoughts on “Escape to the mountains

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