Most people associate Morocco with colorful souks, sand dunes, camel rides through the desert and drink sugary mint tea. While the latter turned out to be a new addiction for me, one of the best activities during our trip to Marrakech was an afternoon hike in the Atlas Mountains in Toubkal National Park.
Toubkal National Park
Toubkal or Toubkal in the Berber is a mountain peak in southwestern Morocco in the Toubkal National Park. Mount Toubkal (Jbel Toubkal) is a summit less known to non-mountaineers. At 4,167 meters, however, it is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains. It is popular with serious hikers, especially from spring to autumn when they get to the top. The High Atlas Mountains run almost 1000 km across Morocco and surround Marrakech south and east of the Atlantic coast.
The Jura peaks of the Atlas Mountains form a weather barrier between the Mediterranean climate in the north and the Sahara in the south.
We weren’t planning to hike, but when we woke up to the Kasbah Tamadot with clear skies and snow-capped mountain views, we decided to visit Armed, the highest village in North Africa. A traditional lunch on the highest roof terrace in the village was also promised.
Imlil, Ait Mizane Valley
The car drove us past the Kasbah and Asni valley to the village of Imlil. We met our guide Mohammed here and our mules. We stupidly decided against four mules and just drove with two, which we regretted in a few minutes. We were prepared with layers of warm clothing, but our shoes weren’t waterproof to hike up the rugged snow-covered trails.
The picturesque village of Imlil is the starting point for many hikes in the Atlas Mountains in the Toubkal National Park. The settlement in the Ait Mizane Valley offers breathtaking views and there are a few hotels where guests stay before going on the three-day hike to climb Toubkal, the highest peak in Morocco.
Aroumd, highest village in North Africa
We walked along the path, following our guides, there was no marked path, you would definitely need a guide to navigate the terrain. In some places the path was narrow with steep slopes. We enjoyed every minute of trekking – it was so peaceful. We drove through a few Berber houses, children played on the streets and families and mules on the way. In a way, it reminded me of the hikes in the Himalayas with the scout group mt Girl Scout back then.
It took us about an hour and a half to reach Armed, the highest village in North Africa. Armed, which is also known as Aroumd, lies at an altitude of approximately 2000 m above sea level and has 1900 inhabitants. When we reached the restaurant, which is more of a traditional house, we were greeted with warm water before lunch to clean our hands. We were the only ones there for lunch that afternoon. During the spring months, the restaurant is staffed by people who hike in the Atlas Mountains in Toubkal National Park.
On the roof we had an excellent traditional Berber lunch with a breathtaking view of the snow-capped mountains. But first we enjoyed mint tea on the highest roof terrace in the village. Then came hot skewers with chicken, curry noodles and fresh salads. The olives were the best! The boys enjoyed their meaty tagines with fresh figs and vegetables. The food was excellent and the view was great – we couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon!
A few things to consider: Morocco is a temperate country when it comes to Islam and it is very welcoming to tourists. Locals understand that travelers come from different cultures and therefore have different rules, but it’s always good to be careful and respectful. Local culture is quite modest and it is not common to see people in shorts who dress appropriately. We were there in winter wearing pants, sweaters and jackets. If you are visiting during the summer months, cover the limbs with light clothing. See this post for Tips on what to wear in Morocco, Don’t worry about your possessions either.
We were on the roof terrace and enjoyed the view. The mules and our guides waited when we heard the call to prayer drift across the rooftops. It was time to go back!
If you are in Marrakech, plan a day trip to the Atlas Mountains in Toubkal National Park. Most hotels can arrange this. Our guide Mohammed mentioned that besides Kasbah Tamadot he also works with guests from La Mamounia, La Sultana. We were only in Morocco for a few days and had no time to explore the rest of the country. If you have the luxury of time, check out my friend Jenny’s 2.5 week time Morocco itself travel itinerary to plan your trip. We loved Morocco and know we will be back to discover more!
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