When we think about Morocco, cold and snow are not words that first pop up in our mind. But the central part of the country is dominated the Atlas Mountains that reach the 4167 meters, making the Toubkal the highest peak of North Africa.
Just one hour driving from Marrakesh, we reach the small village of Imlil, located 1800 meters high, passing through a rural landscape that slowly gets more green and cold as we move up along a winding road.
The trip itself worth the visit to Imlil, but is the location, on a protected valley in the Atlas Mountain a few kilometers from the summit, that attracts most of the visitors that come here to climbing Toubkal peak. Several infrastructures to support the tourism spread along Imlil as accommodations and restaurants as also some shops selling local products as honey, nuts and argan oil.
The village doesn’t have many attractions and there not much to do but it offers great views to the mountains and it’s a good base to explore the surroundings, like the nearby village Aroumd, on the way to the Toubkal trail, is easy to reach and where you can feel the local lifestyle.
Autumn, it’s no the high season in Imlil as hiking to the summit can become difficult with the start of the first snow, which doesn’t attract so many tourists. But it’s a very beautiful moment to be there as the place is quiet and the landscape is painted with an amazing color gradient of the leaves of the trees. The slopes of the mountains show different tones of green, that go from the dark from the trees that fill up the valley to the bright green of grass that cover the higher slopes; all theses crowned by the white of fresh snow.
Snow is always something that makes us smile. Watching snowing in Morocco was so unexpected that made me feel even happier than a child playing with the snowflakes, enjoying the different textures of the snow, and observing the changes of the color and consistency as it melts. It was necessary to go to Africa to see snow!!!
Where to sleep in Imlil:
If its winter it’s a good idea to spend a bit more money to find a comfortable place to stay, as Imlil is very cold and humid, and even in the middle of October the temperature can easily reach zero degrees during the night.
The most popular type of accommodation are the guesthouses, identified as “dar”, that usually are located in the same building where the owner, many times a mountain guide, lives with his family.
Only if you go on the high season its advisable to book a room in advance; October is low season and most of the places are empty, so is better just to find an accommodation when you arrive. Near the place where the grand taxi stops (also the bus) you can find owners of hostels and guesthouses waiting for clients, and in the low season is easy to bargain for a special price… much better than the promotions that you can find in reservations websites!!!
In October you can get a double room (with a very good hot shower) for 100 Dirham, without breakfast. Staying in a guesthouse is a good opportunity to have a homemade food with the family (a vegetarian meal can cost around 25 Dirham) and probably taste food that is not available in restaurants.
Where to eat in Imlil:
The village is very small, its basically a row of buildings and houses along the main road; what can be called as the village center is basically the T junction where the trail to Toubkal start and where is concentrated most of the shops and restaurants of Imlil.
Just follow the trace of the steam that comes out from the tagines that spread along the main road and you’ll find a place to eat. There are also a few local cafes serving chickpeas soup (harira) or fava soup (bessara). They don’t have a menu or a sign but try to spot a pile of empty bowls nearby the counter or simply ask for bessara or harira. It should cost around 6 Dirham, and you can ask for bread or a boiled egg (around 2 Dirham).
How to move around:
If you are in the mood to walk, Imlil is a good base to make some hikes to the nearby villages. You can use the main road that almost doesn’t have traffic or some of the footpaths that cross the small group of houses that nestling on the hillside.
The main villages around Imlil are Aroumd and Tamatert.
Aroumd, it’s on the way to the Toubkal trail and can be reached by a footpath from the center of Imlil or along the main road that goes south, in the direction of the mountains. I recommend starting this hike by the main road, from where you can get very good views of Imlil valley and from Toubkal; on the way back, you can walk through Aroumd and walk down the hill along a footpath crossing a beautiful forest of walnuts trees.
Even if you are not prepared to hike the 4167 meters of the Toubkal Mountain, you can still make part of the path walking until you feel comfortable during a few hours, and come back having in mind to reach Imlil before the sunset. The 2200 meters high are easy to reach from Imlil on a relaxing day trip.
The path is very clear but very rocky so it’s advisable to wear hiking shoes.
How to go from Marrakesh to Imlil:
There are two options:
- By local bus (see photo below);
- By shared taxi, that in Morocco are called by “grand taxi”; they are beige color cars, transporting up to six passengers; you can rent one just for yourself or share the ride with other passengers, but for that, you need to wait until the car gets full.
The grand taxi to Imlil departure from Rue Oqba Ben Nafaa, very close by the Winxo petrol station at Avenue Houman el Fetouaki. There’s always one guy in charge of the arrangement of the passenger according to taxis waiting, and you should try to spot him and deal directly with him the price of the ride, insisting that you want to wait until the car is full, that usually don’t take more than one hour. The trip takes 1 hour and costs 35 Dirham.
If you are traveling with a low budget, the local bus can be found a bit further in the same street; there’s no clear information about the departure schedule or the price, but the trip to Imlil should cost around 15 Dirham.
How to go from Imlil to Marrakesh:
If you want to move further East, on the way to Ouarzazate or to the desert, you need to go back to Marrakesh to get a long distance bus. SupraTours and CTM, that are the most recommended transport companies, offering a very good service, linking all major cities.
To return to Marrakesh you can use the same grand taxi, but it’s better to start in the morning as later you may not have enough passengers to fill up the car, ending up paying more.
There is also a local bus that goes from Imlil to Asni (5 Dirham), where you more chances to find more passengers to fill up a taxi; from Asni you can take another bus to Marrakesh or a grand taxi for 25 Dirham.