I've said it before and I'll say it again, Trailblazer guides take some beating.
— Adventure Travel
Using this guide
Scale and walking times
Timings in any mountains, no less in the Moroccan Atlas, can be one of life’s great imponderables. Nevertheless, I have attempted to organise the treks in this book into convenient stages equating to the amount of ground you might reasonably expect to cover with enough time to rest at the end of each day and still enjoy your destination. Since everyone walks at a different speed, all timings given should be treated as approximate. Don’t feel compelled to divide your trek into these exact same stages and do walk at your own pace (see p11). Until you do work out how your speed relates to those suggested, allow extra time.
Timings are given along the side of each trail map with arrows showing the direction to which the time refers. Black triangles depict the points between which the timings were taken. Since these timings are for actual walking you will need to add on time for rests or stops along the way. If you are planning a longer trek than those described in this book, allow a rest day every five days or so. Finally, try not to cover too much ground too quickly; the appeal of trekking is, after all, the slow pace that gives you the chance to really see the country.
Up or down?
The trail is shown on the maps as a dotted line. An arrow across the trail depicts a slope; two arrows show the slope is steep. The arrows point to the higher part of the trail. If, for example, you were walking from A (at 900m) to B (at 1100m) and the trail between the two were short and steep, it would be shown thus: A– – –>> – – –B. The spot heights on the trail maps have, for the most part, been taken from the Division de la Carte 1:100,000 map series.
Any word printed on a Moroccan map in Roman letters has been transcribed from either a Berber dialect, itself rarely written, or from Arabic (see p70). This can lead to a lot of problems. Place names in particular can often be spelled differently from one map to another. Different spellings of place names are shown in this route guide but only on the first mention of that place name eg‘Imlil/Imelil’ (below). Where places referred to in the text are not shown on any of the recommended maps, an attempt has been made to spell these names phonetically (see also Glossary, pp254-6).
Natural water sources, or springs, usually provide the safest water to drink on the trail and trekkers should replenish their bottles whenever such opportunities arise. An attempt has been made to mark all water sources on the route maps. Nonetheless, it is recommended that even source water should be treated with some caution (see Water Purification Systems, p29); always treat before drinking.
The Toubkal region
Most High Atlas trekkers make Jbel Toubkal (4167m/13,670ft), the highest peak in North Africa, their first goal. Indeed, in season about 90% of trekkers in the Atlas Mountains are likely to be in the Toubkal Region at any one time. Toubkal is easy to reach from Marrakech and, although it is not advised here, the summit can be tackled in just a couple of days (see pp138-44).This is a stark but exceptionally striking region. The views from the summit of Toubkal provide a wonderful opportunity to see the way in which the Atlas Mountains form a spine across the length of Morocco, dividing a gleaming Atlantic coast to the north and west from the scorching vastness of Saharan Africa to the south and east.
GETTING TO IMLIL/IMELIL
By far the simplest and most efficient way to get from Marrakech to Imlil is to take a grand taxi. If you have just landed at Aéroport Marrakech-Menara, you may choose to negotiate a direct ride without entering Marrakech at all. Otherwise you will need to get to the taxi rank just outside Bab er Robb, the gate on the south-west edge of the Medina. The journey from Marrakech to Imlil takes 75 minutes; a place should cost 30dh or you could book a private taxi for 200dh. Alternatively, buses from Marrakech (20dh) run as far as Asni (47km) in 90 minutes. A morning bus (Line 3) runs from the gare routière at Bab Doukkala leaving at 10.30am, but is unreliable at the best of times and grinds to a halt altogether during Ramadan. A much more trustworthy afternoon bus departs from Bab er Robb, by the taxi rank, at 1pm. Additionally, mini-buses (20dh) also leave from Bab er Robb for Asni every two hours.
From Asni you would then need to organise transport for the final 17km to Imlil. The asphalting of the road means this journey is now easy. Although trucks (10dh) still frequent the route, particularly on Saturdays, the day of the Asni souk, one of the most important in the region, it is frowned upon to take a lorry when taxis are available. A place in a shared taxi from Asni to Imlil costs 15dh and a private taxi 50dh. There are also five or six minibuses daily (15dh).
At the time of writing there were no regular taxis to take trekkers back to Imlil from Tacheddirt at the end of the trek. It would be best therefore to organise your return taxi before first setting out on your trek. There is, of course, no set price for this trip though a taxi from Tacheddirt back to Marrakech, via Imlil if you need to drop off your guide, could cost around 500dh (£40/$60), or even 600dh should you opt for a 4x4.
There is little reason to spend time in Asni itself, being but a lively roadside village offering little more for most of the week than a handful of cheap cafés. Granted, the Saturday souk would provide a good opportunity to stock up on supplies. If, however, you seek luxurious accommodation there’s Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot ( tel: 024.36.82.00, web: www.kasbahtamadot.virgin.com; 24 rooms) just outside Asni along the road to Imlil. Rates start at €360 per night in the low season rising to €1700 in the high season for the master suite which consists of three bedrooms and a private pool. This truly beautiful hotel, built around a series of courtyards and gardens, also has an indoor and outdoor pool, a hammam, a gym, tennis facilities, a restaurant and a bar.
This busy, colourful trailhead (1740m/5707ft) in the Aït Mizane Valley serves trekkers well. There are several cafés, places to stay and a Bureau des Guides through which you can very easily organise your trek using official guides. Do, however, make sure that you have sufficient dirhams with you before you arrive in Imlil as there is neither a bank nor a currency-exchange facility here.
- Minimum impact trekking
- Planning your trip
- Using this guide
- Sample trek: Toubkal circular trek
- Moroccan Atlas Trekking Routes
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