Mimosa and jacaranda gave way to walnut, apple and cherry orchards as we climbed.
Kasbah Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains can only be reached on foot or by mule. I chose a mule, and friendly Berbers guided me along a river valley where women washed clothes and gathered firewood. We stopped for mint tea in a village house, admiring brightly coloured carpets hung from walls above the narrow alleys.
The Kasbah is perched high like a fortress, surrounded by snow covered mountains, a gentian blue sky and a view to a distant waterfall. With warm sun and a cool breeze on my face, I devoured tagine of lamb and the sweetest ever oranges. I envied those staying, with their wood burning stoves and deckchairs.
I had discovered Shangri-La – not surprisingly, Toubkal has stood in for Tibet. I wanted right then to do the long trek to the top of Toubkal – at 4167 meters the highest mountain in North Africa. But it was Christmas Eve and time to return home.
Day trips can be arranged to the Kasbah with a pick up from your hotel in Marrakesh.
+212 524 485611
I collect hotel stays like spinsters collect cat figurines and Kasbah du Toubkal is the best place I've ever stayed.
At 250E per night for the deluxe suite, it's not cheap, but worth every penny.
- Your every need is anticipated (except alcohol, but they notify you in advance, and it's fine to bring your own)
- Scrumptious food
- Insane 360 degree views of the Atlas Mountains
- Walking trails of all lengths and levels of difficulty
- Genuine hospitality
- Multiple opportunities to mingle with fellow travellers
- Small pleasures (bright flowers, kittens, freshly-baked bread)
It's only a one-hour drive from Marrakesh.
It's not five-star luxury, but it's five-star charm.
+ 33 (0)5 49 05 01 35
A small family run guest house, cosy ensuite rooms, warm blankets for night, djellaba hanging on the rail to keep you warm by the wood fire where we ate home cooked meals. Hussaine can arrange treks (we didn't) or suggest walks (we did) and arrange taxi transport to/from his place. A nice Moroccan feel, simple and a calm contrast to the chaos of Marrakesh. Lovely mint tea and biscuits on the roof terrace when we arrived.
Imlil, Marrakech, Imlil 42152
Google map: tinyurl.com/yhagog8
Dar Adrar is a lovely place to stay at the top of Imlil, run by one of the star guides of the atlas, Mohamed Aztat, and has great views from the roof terrace, peaceful rooms, hot shower and an in-house hammam.
Houssine is a kind and friendly guide who will arrange a trek to suit your needs. We spent four days walking in the area around Jebel Toubkal, staying in gites/refuges in Berber villages, with a guide (Hassan), a cook (Mohamed) and a very lovely mule (Hasht-hasht). The mule carried our spare clothes, the food, and occasionally also the cook! We opted for four quite tough days walking (5-9 hours walking per day), culminating in a starlit ascent of Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa at 4167m.
Whilst it would have been possible to go up the mountain itself without a guide, having the guide enabled us to spend longer in the surrounding area and see more of the local villages than we would have done on our own; plus we had all our meals prepared for us and didn't have to carry too much gear. The extra few days trekking also ensured we had no altitude problems ascending the peak as we were well acclimatised to the altitude by that point.
Houssine's Ouassaggou Guest House was lovely - a good 15 minute walk from Imlil but small (just two guest rooms), peaceful and comfortable. Houssine met us off the bus and the mule carried our bags up to the guest house.
A four-day trek with just two of us in the group cost 360 euros total, including food and accommodation. This may be more than arranging something locally, but worth it for the security of having trek arranged in advance from the UK. A double room in the guest house cost about £28 a night including breakfast.
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