Imlil is a village in the high Atlas mountains, about 65km south of Marrakech. I’d found myself here after agreeing to accompany my mum on her attempt to climb a ridiculous bloody mountain, the highest in Northern Africa at 4167m: Jebel Toubkal. The village of Imlil is itself a product of tourism, providing accommodation and the primary start-point for visitors attempting the climb.
Imlil turned out to be a lovely place and provided insight into a side of Morocco I hadn’t seen on my first trip. It’s almost like going 1000 years back in time, with dirt paths and donkeys; but everyone has satellite dishes on their mud houses and mobile phones.
To get to Imlil you first need to get to Marrakech, and to get to Marrakech you need to read the Marrakech post. Go ahead.
On this occasion we flew with Ryan Air and it cost us 906MAD (£65) each, one way. My return flight was by myself and because I had no flexibility of date due to work, I paid 2037MAD (£146) one way to London, which I felt was horrific. If you have flexible dates and can book return flights, you can get tickets for much cheaper.
From Marrakech the best way to Imlil is via grand taxi. Again, go and read the Taxi guide for more info on how to do that. Our taxi was kindly arranged by our host, it cost us 325MAD (£23) and took just under 1.5 hours. This is more expensive than what we might have gotten by ourselves (maybe as low as 250MAD), but the door to door service was worth it and we were glad to get there without any fuss. If you don’t want to hire the whole taxi, you can buy a seat in a taxi from Marrakech to Imlil for around 50MAD (£3.50).
There are buses that service this route, departing from the Marrakech bus station. This method is a slight gamble as Moroccan buses rarely run as scheduled, you might find yourself waiting around for quite a while before anything happens. Also, full size buses only go as far as Asni, so from there you will need to take a mini-bus (a van really) or a taxi to Imlil anyway. Marrakech to Asni might cost you 20MAD (£1.40), once there a mini-bus/van to Imlil might cost another 20MAD.
We wanted some comfort either side of our epic hike and so we chose a nice place using Airbnb. Our twin room cost us 310MAD (£22) per night and was very good quality. Our incredible host, Lachen, also provided our meals (at a small cost), arranged our guide and mule for Toubkal, and packed us lunches for our two day hike. If you ever find yourself going to Imlil, I can’t recommend Imlil Authentic Toubkal Lodge enough.
The Refuge in Imlil has beds for 75MAD (£5.30) a night, which is about the same as the local hostel prices. The dorm rooms in Imlil are generally well used and clean.
A good quality riad or lodge have rooms starting around 265MAD (£19) per night for a double/twin. More expensive rooms in the same Riad can be as high as 700MAD (£50) per night, but there is little difference and they have the same facilities as the cheaper rooms. For example, you might pay more to have a slightly nicer room, but you share the balcony and dining area with everyone.
As lovely as Imlil is, you don’t go for it’s charms and you don’t go to stay. You go to Imlil to hike Toubkal. Imlil has a couple of cafes and some basic shops, but my guess is that you will find yourself eating at your accommodation while you are there, and the only real thing to do in the area is move on.
As relatively inexperienced hikers, we felt more comfortable hiring a guide for our Toubkal ascent. We also hired a mule for the two days to carry our food and water, leaving our main packs at our accommodation in Imlil. For the two days our guide cost 865MAD (£62) and the mule 320MAD (£23) between us. Not bad really, and we considered it well worth the cost as the mule provided constant hilarity with its muley ways.
The first day is spent hiking to the refuge at Toubkal, which is where you stay the night before the final ascent the next morning. From Imlil to the refuge took us around six hours, but it was a fairly leisurely pace with plenty of breaks. If you are super fit, I think you could do it in four hours. There are a few difficult parts, but overall the hike is moderate level, obviously take good shoes and appropriate clothing or you will be in a world of pain. The area can get uncomfortably hot depending on the time of year, but it gets cold as you increase altitude. We started out sweating in shorts and t-shirts, but the refuge (at 3207m) was very cold even in September.
The refuge itself is much better than we expected, it’s amazing how there is such a place so far up the mountain, in fact there’s two. You can choose between private rooms or dorms; our private room cost 950MAD for the night and included dinner and breakfast, but you can do it cheaper if you stay in the dorms. Dorm rooms start from around 200MAD (£14) including a meal. There are (some) hot showers, water and snacks available to purchase and blankets are provided (at least they are in the private rooms).
We were up at 5:30am for the 2.5 hour climb up to the top of Toubkal. Take a torch as you leave in the dark and the path is treacherous, but as the day dawns over the huge peak your footing becomes clear, and you almost forget about tumbling down the mountain to certain death for a few seconds. It’s a hard but amazing experience; the view from amongst the clouds is great, and the feeling of having made it is even better. At high altitude the air is thinner so we might have spent 15 minutes at the top, gasping for breath in the cold, before heading back down. Descent to the refuge is tough and takes around 2 hours, once there you can have lunch and catch your breath, then it’s a five hour downhill walk back to Imlil. This is by far the hardest part; untrained legs are screaming and it takes serious will-power just to get home, but we made it by late afternoon and died a happy death.
Our journey back to Marrakech was in a private taxi which cost the same as the opposite journey a few days earlier, and we were happy to pay it, just so long as we didn’t have to walk anywhere.
Imlil & Toubkal for three nights;
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