Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hiking the High Atlas: Mount Toubkal, Mint Tea, and Berber Taxis

Hiking Mount Toubkal has been one of my ultimate travel dreams. The second-highest summit in Africa (Mount Kilimanjaro takes the lead), it's situated in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. More specifically, it's in the Imlil Valley, about two-and-a-half hours away from Marrakech.

Since our short time in Morocco didn't allow us to spend the two-to-three days necessary for reaching the summit, Joy and Kerridwen and I opted for a day trip out of Marrakech with Authentic Tours Marrakech. The 40€/person fare included transportation to and from our lodging in Marrakech, a visit to a Berber village, and a guided (private) hike. We knew from the get-go that we would be paying for our own lunches, but were thrilled that it only cost 5€/person! Of course, we tipped the driver and the guide, but I was happy that there were no hidden costs.

Before reaching Imlil, we stopped at a Berber village to enjoy mint tea, traditional bread, and butter--all homemade. Each Berber village has an outdoor communal oven where the women cook the bread. I wish I had a photo to show you, but as there were women and children using the oven, we respected their wishes to not be photographed.

The village is also where I got my first-ever glimpse of Mount Toubkal--and saw a giant herd of goats crossing the road! I love the juxtaposition of the traditional village with the modern electrical wires and road.

And then we finally arrived in Imlil. Our guide, Ibrahim, met us there and we immediately began the hike. The first 20 minutes were the hardest--all of us were thinking, "why did I sign up for this?!" But as time went on, the hike got easier. I don't know how to describe the breathtaking views, so I'll let the photos do the talking.

Note the Berber villages, as well as the wheat crops (the areas that look like steps). Imlil Valley is home to five Berber villages, and everyone knows each other. Not only are the villages small, but they rely on community. It's truly beautiful to see, as modern cities often lack that aspect. Every time we passed someone, Ibrahim knew him! Sometimes, his friends were even riding a "Berber taxi," which was Ibrahim's way of saying a donkey or a mule (the primary form of transportation in Berber villages).

We finished off our day in Imlil with a late but wonderful lunch of tajine, bread, and fresh fruit, followed by some shopping. I love the Berber scarf and handmade Berber bracelet I picked up for myself, and my mom loves her new Berber earrings! This was also when we learned exactly how high we'd climbed--1740 meters, or 5709 feet. Over a mile into the sky!

While I only took a couple of video clips in Imlil, I still thought they'd be worth showing! Look out for the grazing at the end.

Marrakech is a popular vacation spot for students abroad, and I highly recommend this tour to students (and everyone else, for that matter). You'll enjoy breathtaking scenery, experience a taste of Berber life, and breathe in fresh mountain air, all for a reasonable price. For the record, I have absolutely zero affiliation with Authentic Tours Marrakech. I just loved this tour so much that I want you to enjoy it, too!

Have any of you hiked Mount Toubkal, or the Atlas Mountains in general? I know that I'll return to Imlil, but this time I'm going to make it to the top.


  1. i hiked the atlas mountains and it was so life changing! beautiful pictures!

  2. Love the photos! Trying to experience Morocco before I leave Europe next month!


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