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Mount Toubkal 4 days
Morocco’s mountains are a barrier: nature’s clear line-in-the-sand between the fertile lands of the Mediterranean coast and the Sahara Desert. When you arrive in Marrakech (which is not, as you might think, the country’s capital) you feel you’ve reached the mythical “end of the road”: it’s as if you’ve entered a time-warp and are visiting another, earlier century. Marrakech remains, even today, one of the liveliest and most exciting of cities. You approach Marrakech across the great Jbilet plain, flat as a table-top, with Marrakech guarding the route to the High Atlas Mountains away to the south. The setting is perfect!
The High Atlas Mountains
Three mountain ranges constitute the Atlas: in the south the Jebel Sarhro and Anti Atlas (strictly speaking two distinct ranges, but let’s treat them as one) lie closest to the Sahara and mark the end of the great sand seas and the start of the highlands. The middle of the “sandwich” is formed by The High Atlas, with Jebel Toubkal the highest peak at 4,167 m. And finally the Middle Atlas descends to the Maghreb, the fertile part of the country where wine, sugar and wheat is produced.
Day 1. Explore Marrakech
We will meet you upon arrival at Marrakech airport and drive you into the city for an overnight stay at our favourite riad. We can arrange a guide to escort you around the city to explore the narrow lanes and souks (Optional).
Day 2. Set off for Mount Toubkal
Make a prompt start after breakfast and drive (private vehicle) the short distance (2 ½ hrs approx) via the Moulay Brahim gorge, along precipitous roads with stunning drops and amazing views, to reach the mountain village of Imlil.
In Imlil we meet our mules: it doesn’t take the muleteers long to transfer bags from bus to backs and we’re off! The trail leads through a peaceful grove of mature walnut trees, with a busy stream running through. Above the walnut grove Kasbah du Toubkal looms, guarding the entrance to the mountains.
The gradient is very do-able: not too steep and not so narrow that you can’t enjoy the pristine views to the east. This is a rich farming area (rich by Berber standards, rather than Cotswold farmer standards!) And you’ll see wheat and millet being cultivated along with a host of tree-crops; most impressive of all being the apricot trees.
We pass a tiny shrine, Sidi Chamharouch, the guardian of the spring, which is a great spot for a picnic lunch. The afternoon is “short” before we reach Neltner Refuge. This is a mountain saddle which is right at the tree line; beyond are the barren rocky slopes of the massif of Toubkal. Our camp for the night (two man tents) is at 3,207 m. Showers are available.
[Full Board. 6 hrs walking; 3,207m]
Day 3. Mount Toubkal Summit Day
It takes about 5 hrs to trek from Neltner camp to the summit (4,165 m) which is the highest peak in North Africa. The views get better and better as you gain altitude and from the top (on clear days) you can see Marrakech to the north and endless ridges running away south towards the Sahara sand-seas.
Return to Neltner for lunch and continue descending to Imlil. Tonight we stay in the kasbah itself! As you walk beneath the portcullis and enter this huge property with hidden paths and passages, you step back in time. We will have dinner in the salon and breakfast on the roof terrace.[picnic lunch, D & B.]
Day 4. Relax time in Marrakech
This morning we have an easy start to the day before returning to Marrakech.
When we arrive in Marrakech there may be time to visit a hammam (traditional steam bath) and the perfect antidote to mountain dust! This depends on your flight time or onward travel arrangements. A typical guide-price for a 30 min steam followed by a 30 min massage is £35 paid locally.
Transfer to airport / onward travel.
Grading – Is it for me?
This trek, whilst strenuous at times, is suitable for anyone in good health and with a reasonable level of fitness.
Mount Toubkal Trek conditions and what to expect:
Toubkal is an extended mountain walk that lasts 2 longish days: there are a couple of sustained ascents and descents. You will be camping for 1 night on the trail. There will be full support from local staff but you will be carrying a day pack whilst walking (5 – 10kg). Walking days usually involve 6 to 8 hours on the trail and possibly longer. Climate and remoteness may also play a part. Previous trekking experience is not essential but you must have a good level of walking fitness.
Morocco is a developing country – be prepared to leave Western expectations behind, a little patience and a sense of humour are essential.
What’s the weather going to be like?
The two best seasons to visit the Atlas Mountains are late spring and autumn. At these times the Atlas experiences dry seasons and there is little or no rain. Mountain weather is generally warm and sunny during the day although night-time temperatures can drop to just below zero.
The prices includes
Meet & greet at Marrakech airport
Return airport transfer
1 night in Marrakech riad
1 night camping at Nelter Refuge
1 night in Kasbah du Toubkal
Full board from dinner on day 1 to lunch on day 4
Qualified English speaking mountain guide
Experienced trek cook
Mules to carry equipment & luggage
Camping equipment (2-man tent; foam matrass; kitchen equipment; Mess tent.)
If you would like to down-grade your accommodation and use: a three-star hotel in Marrakech; Neltner camp (as above); and a Berber family-stay in a mountain farmhouse; the following prices apply:
For 1 person: £799 pp
For 2 or 3 persons: £485 pp
For 4 persons: £295 pp
For 5 or more persons: £255 pp