Salaam Aleikum! When a good friend of mine mentioned the idea of trekking for a week the Toubkal Circuit in the Atlas mountains in Morocco I didn’t have to think it twice to join her!
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This 7 day trip is definitely one of the hikes that I have enjoyed the most in my life, mainly because it’s an area that not many tourists go, and the undeveloped villages we walked through gave me the impression of walking in time towards a medieval era.
We did the Toubkal Circuit on our own, with no guides or anything booked beforehand. If you would like a guide, there will be plenty of offers when you get to Imlil.
After landing in Marrakech Airport, we negotiated a taxi to Imlil, which is about 90 min drive south. There are some very nice mountain views when you’re arriving. As we landed early in the morning, and as usual we were tight on time, we started our hike straight away.
Imlil was the most “developed” village we would see for the next 7 days during the Toubkal Circuit Trek as from this point we would slowly be travelling in time, with phone signal disappearing and the phone GPS working about 20% of the time, did I mention we had no guides or a proper map?
The entire area is not really well prepared for tourists, which may be a good reason why we saw only a handful of them until we arrived at the end of our trip to the Toubkal refuge, do not expect many (or any) signs pointing the direction to take.
Day 1 Imlil – Ouaneskra
The start for the Toubkal Circuit was not a hard day in terms of climbing, the hotter hours of the day caught us a bit lost under an area full of vegetation so we didn’t suffer at all.
We got lost by leaving the main path as I saw a trail of cherry trees and, like kids following candy, we decided to follow the trees! the cherries were soooo delicious I must have eaten more than a kilo of them, straight from the tree. Take that packed energy bars!
At one point we found that there was no path and the adventure for the day began. We had a “cartoon” map from a guide we bought in London and we were certain that Ouaneskra was on top of the hill we had in front of us, the only issue was that there was no path and only man-made stone terraces that needed to be climbed.
It took us a good while but we eventually made it. After using my very basic French skills to find out where we could stay to sleep, we found a gite with a balcony that had some very nice views for the sunset and sunrise.
Dinner (every day) was a delicious Tagine followed by a massive plate of fruit. The day hike took about 5 hours in total which was the shortest we did.
Day 2 Ouaneskra – Azib Likemt
We went in late May and the weather was glorious, at noon it was a bit hot though, which is something we came to learn on our second day as we started walking a bit late and we found ourselves going to the summit of Tizi-n-Likemt (3550m) in the hottest hours of the day.
The views were incredibly beautiful, on our way up we found a shepherd making a small fire and he invited us for tea, he made it with herbs straight from the mountain and quite a large “rock” of sugar he had on his bag, little did we need more that good dose of sugar to keep our energy levels up!
The climb seemed to never end and our water reserves were almost gone, we couldn’t even see the summit yet. After a good couple of hours we finally made it to the top and to our greatest of surprises there was still a snow bank there! my dehydration nightmares disappeared after eating the snow and filling up our bottles again, sliding on the snow was a must as well!
From that point we only needed to go down the other side of the mountain until we found Azib Likemt, which is just a simple house with a couple of shepherds.
They offered us to stay in a small coop where surely their animals normally sleep. It was a rock surface and walls with a wooden roof. No beds of course.
We tried a couple of “liquids” the couple made themselves, we have no idea what they were, one was like a liquid yogurt and the other one a sort of coffee, both were tasty but the “coffee” was so strong my friend was unable to sleep all night even after all the tiredness!
Day 3 Azib Likemt – Amsouzart
Learning from the previous day, we started our following days much earlier to avoid the heat at noon. It was another tough day but with gentler climbs than the day before.
We got to see more desert landscapes with some reddish hills that I really liked. The path was easy to follow and not much need to be checking the GPS, it was a great day to be absorbed by the environment.
Amsouzart is a “larger” Berber village where you can find a mini market (more of a stall) to buy some packed food.
We stayed in the Gite d’etape Omar Himmi, the Tagine was again super tasty and huge! and it has a very beautiful terrace to chill after a long day walk. I really liked the building architecturally.
Day 4 Amsouzart – Lac d’Ifni – Tizi n’Ouanoums
Probably one of my best trekking days ever, challenging, scenic, relaxing, long, and ending in the very best hotel I have ever stayed in. What a wonderful highlight of the Toubkal Circuit!
Leaving the green valley around Amsouzart we quickly arrived to a more arid mountain where you geographically enter the Toubkal National Park, at the top you’re delighted with great views of the Lac d’Ifni.
Heading down the lake is very slow, not because of the terrain but because it’s hard not to constantly stop to take photos.
We arrived to the lake at around 11:00 and decided to stay there chilling during the hot hours of the day, we had time to swim in the cold lake (you must do it!) and take a nap.
There’s a small stall where they sell some food, we had omelettes with tea and a “delicious” sardine-madeleine-sandwich (recipe is currently patent pending!)
At around 15:00 we decided to start climbing for the final stretch of the day. We knew in advance that tonight we were going to sleep rough, we didn’t know where though.
We started the climb of the beautiful Tizi n’Ouanoums on a rocky “path”, there was no path at all… the good thing is that you always have a stream nearby so you can top up your water bottles regularly.
At around 17:30 light was already starting to fade and we had to start looking for a suitable “flat” place to put our sleeping bags, shortly after 19:00 we finally found a good spot (literally the only one we manage to find in more than an hour), it was next to snow banks but we had several layers to protect us from the cold, and a small bottle of Scotch!
The views were simply breathtaking and sunset was only surpassed in beauty when the stars were starting to be visible one at a time. My photos were not very good of the stars but I’ll never forget that night!
Day 5 Tizi n’Ouanoums – Refuge du Toubkal
Waking up was also stunning, the light and visibility allowed us to see mountains so far in the distance that I couldn’t think of any other place I’d rather be. After having breakfast with a view, it was time to continue our climb from the previous day. We were still about an hour from the summit.
This was a very easy day, as most of it was downhill, still we got wonderful views and the contrast of the landscape with the remaining snow banks was a cool sight.
We arrived to the Refuge du Toubkal by mid day. So we had plenty of time to have a stroll around and for the first time in a week we saw other trekkers so we met some new people there.
I was very happy that it was actually not as crowded as we were fearing. Be careful not to confuse the Refuge with it’s next door neighbour (much more expensive) Refuge Toubkal Les Mouflons.
Day 6 Refuge du Toubkal – Mt Toubkal Summit – Aroumd
After trekking a week “around” Mount Toubkal I was craving to finally be at the top of the highest mountain in North Africa (4167m).
Started early as usual following a rocky path, by now I’m so happy that my boots have survived all this time as it has definitely been an endurance test on super rough terrains for them. Having had issues with my boots in Nepal, it’s something that now I tend to think of!
The climb was steep at parts, but it was a fresh cool day so it didn’t feel any harder than the previous climbs of the week. It’s certainly the easiest of all the ones we have done.
When you arrive to the summit you’re rewarded with impressive views, I was there only with two other people and it felt awesome to have the mountains for ourselves.
After taking lots of pics and absorbing the greatness of nature it was time to head down. We needed to get to Aroumd as our plane was on the following day.
This was a speedy walk downhill, the sight of Aroumd was for me a typical postcard image of a berber mountain village.
When we arrived I asked a man for a place to sleep and it seems I asked the guy that owned the one Gite at very top of the village, it felt as if we climbed more there than to get to the Toubkal summit!
I sadly can’t remember the name of the place, but it was great as we got rewarded for the final time with a delicious Tagine and a huge bowl of cherries!
Day 7 Aroumd – Imlil – Marrakech
Our final day to complete the Toubkal Circuit was not much of a really short hike, we were going to walk to Imlil to catch a taxi back to Marrakech but after stopping to talk with a local, he offered us a super cheap ride because he had to go there anyway.
We got dropped off in the middle of Marrakech with enough time to grab lunch, walk around the markets in the Medina and finally head to the airport.
If you have an extra day or two, it’d certainly not hurt to stay in Morocco a little bit longer as there’s a lot more to see in Marrakech.
If you’re looking for a week long adventure and you’re reasonably fit, I’d definitely recommend to head down to the Atlas Mountains and hike the Toubkal Circuit!
I love travelling solo, but judging by the remoteness of this place, I’d not encourage anyone to not go on their own as, at times, this trek will squeeze the best out of you.