If you’re visiting Morocco and want a full-on experience of the Atlas Mountains this is your perfect trip! It was a 5 day long trek across the Atlas Mountains that I did with my guide Omar, our cook Imbrahim and a no-name mule that was carrying our stuff. Yes, they don’t name their mules in Morocco! We spent the first three nights in small mountain villages, whilst the last night we stayed at a mountain refuge just below the Toubkal summit at about 3200 metres height.
It’s important to point out that for hiking Atlas Mountains in a similar manner you probably do need a guide unless you want to wild camp along the way. Arranging accommodation in the small mountain villages without knowing the locals (and the language) is probably impossible. On top of that, in order to get to the summit of Mt Toubkal (4,167m) or the Toubkal refuge a guide is required by law. There’s a checkpoint on the way up that can’t be crossed without a guide.
I did my trek through MaraTrek, which had been recommended to me by my friends and I’m really happy I chose the MaraTrek guys. It’s probably the first guided outdoor experience in my adult life – a guided tour of any kind has always been my nightmare but sometimes it’s just necessary as the guide can take you to places you’d hardly be able to discover yourself – and this trekking adventure is one of the examples! Omar, Imbrahim and the mule took a really good care of me, I experienced the Berber culture at first hand and Omar taught me lots about the life in Morocco. He also took me to a local spa in his home-village, which was quite a memorable experience! Forget everything you know about spas from your country… On top of that, there’s no mobile coverage in most parts of the High Atlas, which was an extremely refreshing experience for me. No emails, no Whatsapp, no text messages… My only entertainment in the evenings was my book and my own thoughts (the latter can be a bit painful at times but it’s good for you!).
The trek itself wasn’t anything hard. In fact, it was too easy for my liking but probably a vast majority of my friends would rate it as perfect. During the 5 days we did about 80km and bear in mind that our backpacks were carried by the mule. It probably could have been done in 4 days but, in the end, this trip was more about enjoying the journey rather than challenging myself (which is something I do most of the times when outdoors). It was actually like taking a holiday from my ordinary holiday (if it makes sense)…
The main highlight of each day was probably getting to experience a new village every evening, a new mountain view from the balcony of our little guesthouse, Imbrahim’s dinner, and just seeing the simple life people live there. And of course, reaching Mt Toubkal, the highest peak of North Africa, was a big highlight of its own and a cherry on top of the cake at the end of the trip.
We started the ascent towards the Toubkal refuge from Imlil on the penultimate day of this trek. The plan was to reach the refuge, spend the night there and reach the summit in the early morning next day along with most of the other hikers who stayed in the refuge too. However, because we were faster than Omar anticipated we reached the refuge about 3 hours before the sunset and Omar suggested we have enough time to reach the summit and come back. And so we did that! It was rather tight as we came back to the refuge about 30 minutes after the sunset but the whole summit was just ours! Definitely a good decisions! We only met another group of 3 people who had the same idea. Again, the hike to the summit wasn’t especially hard – the most challenging thing was the altitude as in the morning we started in 1,500m and the same evening we reached 4,167m. In other words, we didn’t have any time to get used to the altitude difference. But still, it was very doable… Oh, and I forgot to mention it was the Christmas evening when we reached the summit – 24th of December! Next morning we just had a relaxed hike back to Imlil from where Omar arranged a taxi for me to get back to Marrakesh.
Note, I did the trek towards the end of December and there was snow only from about 3000m – mainly ice patches so micro spikes would have come in handy. On the summit it was around 0 degrees, no snow. Hiking Atlas Mountains wouldn’t be complete without reaching the Toubkal summit so definitely consider it if you’re in the area. You can even get a guide from Imlil without prior booking.
If you’re thinking about trekking in the Hight Atlas Mountains don’t hesitate to ask me any questions in the comments of this post. You can download the whole trek in GPX for your GPS device by clicking on the “Download” button under the map.