If you’re in Morocco and visiting the Atlas Mountains, you might want to consider visiting Imlil, which is a great base for hiking the region…

Visiting Imlil & the Atlas Mountains

The Imlil Valley might not be particularly familiar to the majority to people heading to Morocco. I’d wager that the Atlas Mountains themselves are unlikely to be top of your ‘to do’ list, not with the madness of Marrakech, the splendour of the Sahara, the romanticism of Casablanca and the rustic charm of Essaouria all vying for your attention. However, I would recommend a visit to the Atlas Mountains, especially if you are a keen hiker.

For experienced mountain trekkers, Imlil is a mere five hour hike from the base of Jebel Toubkal, the tallest peak in the Atlas mountain range. Not quite ready to tackle Toubkal? No matter, there are plenty of easier hikes to be had in and around the surrounding Imlil Valley. 

For me, being a city dweller, I found the fresh mountain air, peace and quiet and spectacular landscapes a welcome escape and a chance to recharge.

A burst of autumn colour spreads across the Imlil Valley.

~ Getting to the
Imlil Valley ~

It takes in the region of 1.5 to 2 hours to cover the 90km from Marrakech Menara Airport to Imlil. My mate Sam had pre-booked our transfer through Marrakech Airport Transfer, who provided a good transfer service. The car was comfortable and air-conditioned and was waiting for us as we left arrivals at the airport. The journey flew by (although it always helps when everything through the window is new and exciting). After a couple of days in the mountains, we used the same company to transfer back to Marrakech for part two of the trip. 

~ Visiting Imlil: Accommodation ~

We stayed at the Kasbah du Toukbal for two nights. The Kasbah is a National Geographic lodge and room prices range from €175 to €480 per night and more details can be found here. I tend to opt for cheaper accommodation, but every now and then you need to treat yourself (and its not every day that you get to spend time at Nat Geo accommodation).

Aside from the comfortable facilities, the lodge enjoys an elevated position and its various verandas and lookout points offer stunning panoramas across the Imlil Valley.

Looking back across the Kasbah du Toubkal from the terrace situated above our room.

~ Eating in the
Imlil Valley ~

Because we visited in the low season, Imlil was quiet and places weren’t necessarily open for business. Whilst the lodge had a restaurant, we decided to head out into Imlil itself for dinner. 

On the first night, we had dinner at the Hotel Riad Imlil, and I was pleasantly surprised with the meal. I say this because it was a rather odd dining experience. It was late and we were on the hunt for a bite to eat when we stumbled upon the Riad Imlil. I think we may have been the only people in the entire building, aside from the owner. We ended up tucking into a tagine in front of a small tv showing what looked like a Chinese western with Moroccan subs.

On the second night, we ate at the Riad Atlas Prestige, which was one of my favourite meals of the trip. We’d dropped in during the afternoon to check whether the restaurant was open. The friendly owners were happy for us to return later that night. The dining area was small and cosy – the walls were adorned with colourful rugs and there was a roaring fire in one corner of the room. To begin I had a nice, spicy soup which was accompanied by some Moroccan bread. As is standard in Morocco, I opted for a tasty tagine for my main. 

~ Visiting Imlil: Activities ~

People visit the Imlil Valley for two main reasons: hiking and the views. The Imlil Valley and surrounding Atlas Mountains offer stunning and dramatic landscape views  We organised a couple of hikes with a local guide, Ali. My favourite of these was to the Tizi ‘n’ Tamert pass, which you can read about here

If we’d had more time (and appropriate footwear), I’d have liked the chance to tackle Toubkal properly. As it was, we only went as far as the ‘base camp’ before returning to our lodge. 

If you have been or are you thinking of visiting Imlil, let me know your thoughts and comments, below… 

By CHRIS BURCHILL

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