Marrakech is one of the most colourful, vibrant and bustling cities you could visit. It will draw you into its kaleidoscopic vortex and before you know it, you’ll find yourself lost in the medina, looking for the lantern or carpet you plan on taking home with you. Yet, as colourful and exciting as Marrakech is, it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming.
My 3-day Marrakesh itinerary aims to help you navigate your visit with ease and confidence, so that you can make the most of this intriguing city. One of the days in this itinerary is dedicated to an Atlas Mountains Day Trip from Marrakech, so that you can enjoy the nature and peace that Morocco can also offer its visitors, as well as the hustle and bustle of the medina. I’m sharing my personal experience of this one day tour, and the reasons why it was my favourite day on my holiday to Marrakech.
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Our Atlas Mountains Day Trip from Marrakesh
When my husband first suggested to me that we should 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. I was very much mistaken, and admittedly I should have done my research. In true Sarah style, I left the hotel fully bronzed, in a little romper and inappropriate footwear. My self-inflicted wardrobe malfunction didn’t stop it being a fantastic day.
We booked the Agafay Desert, Berber Villages & Atlas Mountains Tour, one of the Viator tours on offer. Regrettably though, we opted to skip the Agafay Desert part. At the time, spending our last afternoon in Marrakech watching the sunset from the pool at La Mamounia felt like a more relaxing option. Looking back now, I would recommend watching the sunset in the Marrakech desert if you have the energy! With the Agafay desert tour included, the complete itinerary lasts 8 hours and conveniently includes pick-up and drop-off at most Marrakech hotels.
The Drive to Imlil
Our private tour started when we were picked up bright and early from our hotel, La Mamounia. We were collected on time in an air-conditioned 4×4, ready for the 2 hour drive ahead of us – do not expect to get too much information on the drive as this is not the highlight of the event. Since it’s a 2-hour journey, make sure you’ve packed some water and snacks, and have used the restroom before you head off.
Whilst our driver could not speak English, he was friendly and eager to accommodate and, through our French and broken Arabic, we managed to understand each other. Along the way, we were stopped at the more picturesque spots to be able to take some photos. Just like Djemaa el-Fna, many of these sites were unfortunately full of snake charmers who were hoping we would take a picture with them and the snakes. Please do not engage with these snake charmers – find out why in my Marrakesh itinerary. It’s safe to say you’ll agree that this is not a practice that should be encouraged and will hopefully, one day, come to an end.
Meeting the Camels for a Camel Ride
Next it was on to see the camels that live amongst some locals and given the opportunity to go on a camel ride. Whilst it is part of the tour, we’ve been camel-riding a couple of times in the Middle East and thought we would just stop to say hello.
Whether you choose to go on that 30 minute camel ride or not though, the scenery here is really very beautiful and makes for a gorgeous location for photography. You’re surrounded by Moroccan wilderness, a pretty stream, lush greenery and of course, camels.
A Stop for Refreshments at Kasbah Tamadot
After saying goodbye to the camels we continued our drive, stopping next at Richard Branson’s first Moroccan hotel, Kasbah Tamadot, which translates to ‘soft breeze’ in Berber language. Decorated in traditional Berber style, Kasbah Tamadot is a 28-bedroom luxury hotel that’s cut off from the world, overlooking a valley. It offers some really beautiful views of Mount Toubkal and some traditional Berber villages in the distance.
Mount Toubkal is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco, North Africa and the Arab World overall. Quite a site to see! Aside from the lovely views, chess sets were laid out on some of the benches and the internal pool was filled with lots of bougainvillea flowers. Definitely somewhere to consider staying if spending a few days in the Atlas Mountains.
Arriving at Imlil and Beginning the Trek
This is where the fun started and the trek began – in the small village of Imlil. It was also here that our friendly guide informed us that it was a trek – and not a tour. A two-hour trek to be precise. My advice on what to wear: just comfy clothing and footwear in general – no need to buy trekking books as it wasn’t a particularly strenuous trek. If you are appropriately dressed (and once I came to terms with my poor choice of shoes), the stunning scenery starts pretty much straight away.
You’ll be led through Berber woodland and on our particular trek, 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. It’s 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 quite an ethereal experience.
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 spectacular point in the mountains that allowed us to overlook the village below and see the woodland that we had just walked through. To me, it was this very point that made this Atlas Mountains day trip from Marrakech most worth it. Check out the pics!
From that stunning view point, we walked to the home of our tour guide where we were welcomed with mint tea. It’s crazy to think that he lived with his spouse, all of his siblings, their respective kids and their partners! It was such an eye-opening experience and really gives a true insight into the lives of a Berber family that live high up in the mountains and the Berber houses they reside in. 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 freely, before ending the trek with a traditional Moroccan late lunch.
We were served a traditional veggie tagine at what could almost have been the living room of one of the locals, were in not for the other table of tourists. Very authentic and very tasty – in fact we even accepted seconds! 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?!
At this point, this tour would continue on to the Agafay desert. If you have more time to spare whilst in Marrakech there are a few things worth checking out that can also be found in the Al Haouz region:
- Ourika Valley: you can find plenty of ‘Ourika Valleys Day Tours‘ on Viator, so I would recommend reading through the reviews and selecting one which is best suited to your schedule. Some of these can even be combined with the Atlas Mountains tour above.
- Ouzoud Waterfalls: As above, just search for ‘Ouzoud Falls Tours‘ and select one of the many day trips that might match your requirements.
- AVOID: Try and avoid the ‘argan oil cooperatives’ that you’ll come across on the drive up to the High Atlas Mountains. From the research done for this article, most of these co-ops are unfortunately scams. Argan trees only grow in the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO-protected region of south west Morocco, and some articles argue that many of these co-ops are not actually owned by the women you see pressing the oil. Err on the side of caution, purchase certified pure argan oil from a shop and make sure that the money trickles through to the right people.
If you’re planning a trip to Morocco soon, you might want to check out this detailed article on all the things you need to know before visiting Morocco, to make sure you’re fully informed before your trip!
SHOP THE PINK PLAYSUIT
(although not recommended for the trek!)
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