Atlas Mountains Day Trip Marrakech

On our first full day in Marrakech (main post here) we did a day trip to the Atlas Mountains with a personal driver (and SUV) that was recommended to us by our riad.

After one hour and forty minutes we made a quick fifteen minute stop at an argan oil store where you could watch mostly old local ladies produce expensive liquid used for food, medical, and cosmetic purposes right in front of you. Another 20 minutes later we arrived at the first of two main stops: the pretty Ourika waterfalls. The riad had suggested that no local guide was necessary at the two locations where we were stopping. They were absolutely right.

The waterfalls did not carry much water during this time of year, but the narrow valley and the mountains around it are amazing.

 

You climb steep mountain paths along a little river, once or twice on ladders and over rock walls and groups of boulders. However, it is a rather short, safe and easy exercise. We saw 80-year olds and 8-year olds make their way without too much trouble, women with city boots and every other person with flip-flops. We were the only people wearing hiking boots and were probably quite rightly criticised for it, because running shoes, while not protecting the ankles, provide much better grip on the often wet surfaces. Ideally wear shoes with relatively soft rubber soles AND ankle protection.

If you can avoid going there during the main seasons (Easter and X-mas), then by all means do so. The paths were constantly and extremely crowded while we were there. We often had to wait for people approaching us making their way before we could continue, but no big problem.

Little stalls selling traditional clothes, handicrafts, water and some food cling to the rock walls along the way at various spots and invite you to take a little break.

We would highly recommend using insect repellent, as there will be mosquitoes and these little buggers sure as anything know what they want and they’re intent to get it.

After our 1.5h hike we had lunch at one of the many small local eateries next to the riverbank. We’d recommend going for one of the more touristy, well-frequented, western-looking ones. There are some much cheaper ones a bit further away from the centre of the village, but they didn’t look enticing to us and seemed to lack in hygiene. Best not to take any bets with regards to your tummy.

The soup and tagine we had tasted just right, and after we had gobbled down our desserts, off we went again, this time to the mountain village of Imlil, the centre of mountain tourism in Morocco, only 50km away. Due to the narrow winding roads and lots of traffic, the trip took more than one and a half hours. Imlil is a lovely little hamlet and feels much higher up than its actual 1,800m altitude. The mountain tops in view, including Morocco’s highest mountain, Mount Toubkal (Berber: ⵜⵓⴱⴽⴰⵍ; Arabic: توبقال‎‎), 4,167m, undefeated until 1923, were all covered in snow. Neither of us have ever been to the Himalaya, but somehow we both felt that this had a touch of a Nepalese hamlet near the top of the world. Kasbah Du Toubkal (in the feature photo above), now a luxury lodge, looks beautiful against the background of Mount Toubkal.

We only had time for a one-hour hike that turned out to be more like a pleasant walk along a relatively flat path, but the views were phenomenal. We will be back for a proper hike during our next visit to Marrakech.

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