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Imlil is not a place you find on a standard Morocco itinerary, however if you’re interested in going hiking in Morocco, you should visit Imlil. This village in the mountains is surrounded by Toubkal National Park is only a day trip from Marrakesh.
If you’re looking for something different after experiencing the desert, kasbahs, medinas, and maybe even a Moroccan spa, come hiking in Imlil to enjoy the fresh mountain air, laid back atmosphere, incredible views, and cute guesthouses. Today, Sabrina, a Dutch traveler, will be sharing her experience hiking in Morocco’s most beautiful national park.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’off’][/author_image] [author_info]Sabrina is a Dutch digital nomad who loves traveling around the world and working online all over the world. She writes at Backpacking Like a Boss about her journey as a digital nomad. [/author_info] [/author]
Why you need to visit Imlil, Morocco
Imlil is nestled in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains, at the end of the Mizane Valley, at 1800 meters altitude. It has a population count of around 5,000, but only some stay over winter when the town is virtually closed. The mountains around Imlil are dotted with small Berber villages and irrigated green valleys. As soon as you drive up to Imlil, you instantly understand why everyone comes here to hike. Along the main road, you’ll find small restaurants as well as guesthouses.
How long to spend in Imlil, Morocco
You can visit Imlil on a day trip from Marrakech, however you’re unlikely to get a full day’s hike in if your tour stops off at any other destinations. You’ll only get a few hours in Imlil and a short walk (along a crowded path).
It’s better to take a few nights to enjoy Imlil and its epic hiking. Many people don’t associate hiking with Morocco, but Jebel Toubkal is a worthy hike for those looking for an adventurous vacation. (Some locals choose to visit Imlil for a few days just to enjoy the crisp mountain air and/or climb Toubkal.)
Imlil, an off the beaten path destination?
All the day tourists can make the town feel a bit crowded during the day. During the departure for hikes in the morning and the leaving of the day trippers in the afternoon, things can get a bit hectic. As soon as the tourist buses leave town and the hikers have cleaned up after their hikes, the town gets quiet and peaceful again. It’s a lovely place to stay for a few days, relax, hike and breathe in the fresh air! Imlil can still be classified as an off the beaten path destination in Morocco for now. However, mass tourism may change that soon.
Hiking opportunities in Imlil, Morroco
Hiking is the number one pastime in Imlil and honestly – there is not much else to do unless you just want to chill in your hotel or guesthouse.
The number one thing to do in Imlil is to conquer the Jebel Toubkal. Most tourists come here with this exact purpose. Climbing Jebel Toubkal is a two day hike where you will spend one night at a refuge. The highest point you will reach is 4167 meters; there may be snow up until June! You can also suffer from altitude sickness at these heights, so inform yourself properly. You can arrange the trek up Jebel Toubkal with any guesthouse or tour agent.
Hiking around the valleys
If you want something less strenuous than the Toubkal, your guesthouse can arrange a guide (350 dirham for the entire day for 2 people – BYO lunch) to take you through the neighbouring mountains and valleys. This 6-8 hour hike starts with a rather steep ascend to get out of the town. You will continuously follow the donkey trails – the paths that the inhabitants of the hills and valleys use to walk with their donkeys to transport food and other goods.
After you reach the mountain ridge, the walk continues by descending into the valley past the first Berber village. In May, the rivers are full and you will get to admire beautiful green valleys while you are walking along bare mountain ridges.
On the way, you will meet several shepherds with their goats and sheep going around the valley to eat and drink. You will see the ingenious irrigation systems and village constructions that allow people to live in these circumstances. This day hike took around 7 hours and was of medium difficulty (lots of going up and down!).
Hiking to the Waterfall of Imlil
If you are looking for a small hike from Imlil, consider hiking to the local waterfall. (The total trip is about 1.5 hours.) It was a 25 minute uphill walk along the same route that the Toubkal climbers go. You follow the irrigation canals at the end of the road before you have to jump from rock to rock until a beautiful little waterfall appears around the corner! A nice small DIY trip without any other tourists!
Other hikes in Imlil
There are a lot of hiking options in the Toubkal National Park. For a quick tour, you could simply ascend to Aroumd and come back the same way in a few hours. If you are ready for something extreme, you can adventure out to the 7-10 day Toubkal Circuit. This is best done in the summer months. If that sounds like too much, an overnight stay in a refuge or with a local family can be arranged on your way to the Cascades d’Irhoulidene. In any case – you cannot go wrong with hiking in this area of Morocco; It’s strikingly beautiful everywhere!
Food in Imlil, Morocco
Food in Imlil is fairly standard for Moroccan food. You’ll find warm and filling tagines easily. You’ll also find a few small grocery shops selling bread and vegetables. For a proper meal, head to some of the restaurants along the main road or any of the guesthouses/hotels. Insider tip: If you hike to the local waterfall, you may meet a guy selling homemade granola bars! They’re tasty and affordable.
Where to stay in Imlil Morocco
There are many great guesthouses, dars, and beautiful riads in Imlil. There is even a Kasbah hotel liaised with National Geographic. Imlil Refuge is a good option for backpackers with clean rooms, helpful staff, and a nice common area.
Other things to know about hiking and staying in Imlil
Most people arrive in town with guesthouses, tours, and guides prearranged. If not, you can head to the Bureau des Guides, explain them what kind of experience you are looking for and they can set you up with a guide.
I arrived in town without a guide and it was very easy to find a good hiking guide for Jebel Toubkal. We also checked out maps to go hike independently, but for the one day hike, it seemed more efficient to simply hire a guide and not get lost.
Imlil is a small town, so carry cash to pay for things. You might be able to trade some hiking shoes or sweaters for a carpet if you get lucky as supplies are limited.
You’ll find internet at most guesthouses, but it’s not super fast. Similarly, there is cell phone coverage, however don’t expect 4G yet.
Getting to Imlil from Marrakech
If you have your own transport, you can head down from Marrakech via the R203. This is a scenic route with good paved roads. If you are coming from the south, you will have most likely taken the exhilarating Tizi n’ Test mountain pass route. In both cases, when you arrive at the town of Asni you take the Imlil route and keep driving for about 20 minutes until you reach Imlil. The road from Asni to Imlil is small and in pretty bad condition, but doable.
Private taxi’s from Marrakesh cost approx. 500 Dirham. You can also get to Imlil the local way, by taking a grand taxi to Asni and then another one to Imlil. This reportedly only costs 20 dirham for the grand taxi to Asni (1 hour), and another 10 dirham for the last 17 kilometers to Imlil.
Getting around in Imlil
The town is divided into by the river coming from the mountains and has a beautiful backdrop: the Jebel Toubkal. The village is small and you can walk everywhere. For the occasional tourist that doesn’t come for hiking or does not fancy walking (yes, I have seen ladies in high heels!), mules can be found to transport them up to their guesthouse or sightseeing spot.