Hiking in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains offers dazzling experience
IMLIL - I have long dreamt of a hike in the High Atlas mountains, known for their grandeur and beautiful landscape. I decided to go for the adventure along with seven other people, including friends.
We hit the road from Casablanca towards Imlil on a four-wheel drive on a Friday afternoon in mid-September. Imlil, which is 70km from Marrakech, is a hiking heaven thanks to its surrounding mountains. Most hikers flock to the little town to climb the 4,167-metre Mount Toubkal.
We reached the town in the evening and had to hire mules to take our luggage to the Dar Aymane Guesthouse, where the friendly staff made us feel at home. The ambiance was terrific as we sat around a long dining table to share traditional Moroccan dishes for dinner.
The next day we woke very early to a mesmerising view of the peaceful mountains and agricultural land.
Two local guides, one who was also a cook, with two mules to carry luggage were waiting for us. We stopped at the town centre because one of the hikers needed boots to deal with the rough terrain awaiting us on the way to the waterfalls.
Hikers from around the world, armed with their walking sticks and backpacks, were roaming the town centre’s streets, preparing for long journeys towards various destinations, including Mount Toubkal.
Several guesthouses in Imlil offer interesting 1-day or 2-day guided hikes but some hikers, with smartphones and experience in hiking, choose to navigate on their own.
We did not have to worry about food because we paid 1,000 Moroccan dirhams ($110) for an all-inclusive package for the trip, excluding the Casablanca-Imlil leg of the journey.
We began our hike with great motivation towards Tamsoult to discover the beauty of its waterfalls. The first few hundred metres were tough because, at 1,800 metres above sea level, we could hardly breathe. The temperature, however, was quite mild compared to the simmering heat in Marrakech.
As we ascended, the terrain became more treacherous with narrow footpaths across the mountains but the view got more and more stunning. We could see Berber hamlets scattered among the foothills of the mountains.
Once we reached the peak of our ascent after a non-stop, 4-hour walk, we took a break under a large tree to enjoy a lunch of vegetable salad and tinned mackerel. As starving as we were, we wiped out our dishes!
We walked another four hours through pine trees, green valleys filled with goats and mountain creeks to reach the waterfalls just before dusk.
The sound of water tumbling down on the rocky mountains at a striking speed amid clouds of mist was shattering in the otherwise eerily quiet surroundings.
We climbed few rocks to get closer to the mesmerising scene that was worth every single inch of the physically demanding 8-hour hike.
We headed to the beautiful valley of Azzaden to spend the night in our sleeping bags in a homestay after another exhausting 4-hour walk in the darkness. The accommodation was not what we expected because four of us had to share a room.
The next day was much tougher as we headed back to Imlil in the rain taking a different itinerary. The terrain was tougher because of the muddy footpaths, which greatly tested our stamina.
Nevertheless, the surroundings offered heavenly views among the almond, apple, cherry and walnut groves. We descended to Aguerssiwal village where we had the chance to walk on the side of a terraced roadway to Imlil, where the 8-hour walk came to an end.
It was absolutely the best hike ever!
Imlil is a small village that has huge importance as the gateway into some of the most dazzling hikes of the High Atlas mountains. No wonder it is ranked among world’s best hiking destinations.