Location: Imlil, Morocco
Another post from my birthday trip to Morocco back at the end of May. I’m a little delayed with the trips of earlier this year, so please excuse that this all happened a few months ago. I recently posted all about the beautiful colours of Marrakech here and here, so check them out too if you’re looking for ideas for your own Marrakech trip! Back to today’s story though – when my husband said he’d like to go on a tour of the Atlas Mountains, I didn’t really think much of it. I assumed it would be a casual stroll with a tour guide who would talk us through the view in the distance. Ha! Wow was I mistaken. In true Sarah style, I left the hotel fully bronzed, in a little romper and inappropriate footwear. I was very close to leaving the hotel with my five inch wedges, before common sense got the better of me and I went for the flats. Despite the slight wardrobe malfunction, this turned out to be my favourite day during my holiday to Marrakech and here’s why!
The tour started when we were picked up from La Mamounia, our hotel, bright and early. Do not expect to get too much information from the drive as this is not the highlight of the event. Our driver could only speak French and Arabic, but luckily through French and Simon’s broken Arabic we managed to understand each other. It’s quite a long drive so make sure you’ve packed some water and snacks, and have used the restroom before you head off. Along the way, your driver will stop you at some of the more picturesque spots so that you can take photos. The only thing I really did not agree with here was being stopped next to a load of snake charmers who were hoping we would take a picture with them and the snakes. The snakes are kept in a small basket with the lid on and only taken out whenever the charmer can get paid for a photo opportunity. Needless to say, we made a swift exit from that location as this is definitely not an attraction I want to encourage!
Next it was on to see the camels that live amongst some locals. We were stopped by our driver for the opportunity to go on a camel ride. I’ve done this a couple of times in the past so it wasn’t really something I was interested in, however we did stop to say hello and take some pictures. Whether you choose to ride on the camels or not, the scenery here is really very beautiful. You’re surrounded by Moroccan wilderness, lush greenery and of course, camels. You’ll see from the pictures that there is a pretty stream just behind when the camels we hanging around. I’m sure that if you did go on that 30 minute camel ride, you’ll find out where that stream goes.
After saying bye to the camels we continued our drive, stopping next at Richard Branson’s first Moroccan hotel, Kasbah Tamadot, which I’m told translates to ‘soft breeze’ in Berber language. I’m not sure why we stopped here other than to advertise the hotel if I’m perfectly honest, but it was interesting to see nonetheless. Decorated in traditional Berber style, it’s a 28-bedroom hotel that sits at the top of a valley and offers some really beautiful views of Mount Toubkal and some traditional Berber villages in the distance. For those that weren’t aware already. Mount Toubkal is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco, North Africa and the Arab World overall. It’s quite a site to see! Aside from the lovely views, I loved that they had a chess sets laid out on some of the benches and filled the internal pool with lots of bougainvillea flowers. Definitely somewhere I would consider staying if I were to head to the Atlas Mountains in the future.
This is where the fun started and the trek began – in the small village of Imlil. It was also here that I learnt it was a trek – and not a tour. A two-hour trek to be precise. I documented a lot of this on my Moroccan story highlights over on Instagram so feel free to head over and give them (and my struggles!) a watch. My advice on what to wear: just comfy footwear in general. I don’t think it is necessary at all to buy trekking books as it wasn’t a particularly strenuous trek. Oh and wear clothes that won’t chafe anywhere – remember that it is really hot during the summer months. If you are appropriately dressed, and in my case once I came to terms with my poor shoe decision, the stunning scenery starts pretty much straight away. You’ll be led through Berber woodland and we were lucky that there were hardly any other tourists around. We got to hear the undisturbed sounds of the woods, the waterfalls in the background and the birds in the trees. So peaceful and such a huge contrast from the hustle and bustle of downtown Marrakech. After walking for about an hour we reached a secluded waterfall where we stopped for a short break. I have always found waterfalls so magical, and to be so close to the water and to hear the sounds of the water falling was really ethereal for me.
We continued our trek past the waterfalls and through a Berber village located high up in the Atlas Mountains. It had a population of around 2,000 and sat at an altitude of around 1,740m! You might want to take some altitude sickness pills with you if being high up makes you a little light headed. As soon as we walked up to the main part of the village, a group of young kids walked up to us and really wanted high fives all around, which made me giggle a little. You’ll get the opportunity to visit some carpet shops for tea and a look around – note that they are a little cheaper than what you’ll get in the souks in Marrakech so keep that in mind if you were looking to buy a carpet. From there it was on to a really beautiful point where we got to overlook the village below and see the woodland that we had just walked through.
From the beautiful view point, we walked to the home of our tour guide where we were welcome with tea. It’s crazy to think that he lived with his spouse, all of his siblings and their partners and the kids. This was such an eye-opening experience for me. The house was pretty much void of furniture, and yet the kids all played together happily in the living room, not knowing what a playstation or an iPad is. It made me think that we are given so much in more developed countries yet don’t appreciate it half as much. On the other hand these kids had so much less by way of material possessions, yet so much more in terms of contentment. I found that very inspiring. We walked around the outside of the house and saw all their chickens roaming around, before ending the trek with a traditional Moroccan meal at what seemed like the living room of one of the locals. The food was tasty – I ate a veggie tagine and Simon had the meat one. The highlight of this though, was the spectacular view you’ll see in the images below. Can you imagine having that view for lunch everyday?!
I know that there is an even longer, 3-day trek through the Atlas Mountains which I would absolutely love to experience. Let me know your thoughts if you have done the day trek like me, or the longer one. Or even if you’ve ever stayed at Kasbah Toubkal! I’d love to hear what you thought about it in the comments!