I was already traveling for seven weeks solo in Morocco. It was day number 44 in June 2019 in Morocco when I headed to Morocco’s highest mountain with a plan to make it to its top, to the Toubkal summit. I love challenging myself and I envisioned myself on the top of Toubkal at 4,167 meters for a few days later.
I’ll tell you how to plan climbing the Toubkal and make it to the top of Toubkal a reality. I added my personal story as well which I consider a story of tenacity and willpower, a story of not quitting even when your body wants to give in and the circumstances are all against you. It’s a story of taking risks when you have zero clues of what to expect.
Table of contents
1. How to get to Mount Toubkal
The Toubkal peak is to be found in the Toubkal National Park in the Atlas Mountains.
First, you will need to travel to Imlil from Marrakesh. There is no bus or train going from Marrakesh to Imlil. I heard about some bus but never seen it.
Thus, you need to take a shared taxi directly to Imlil. The price should be 40 dirhams (4€). It’s also possible to take a shared taxi to Asni and then from Asni to Imlil. There are several shared taxi stations in Marrakesh. The one going to Imlil or Asni is close to Jamaa el-Fna. Just ask your hostel or hotel in Marrakesch and they will tell you where it is.
When you are at the shared taxi station from which taxis go to Imlil, you will be adviced what’s the best option for you at the time of your departure.
To be honest, I ended up not taking a shared taxi to get to Imlil because my Couchsurfing host picked me up in Marrakesh. I just met him and some of his colleagues close to Jamaa el-Fna and we drove back to Imlil together.
I had no plan as of when I would start my hike. In the end, I stayed in Imlil two nights and only my third day in Imlil I started ascending to the Toubkal summit.
More about that later! Just know that there are are several ways to get to the Toubkal summit. The one that I did is the most popular 2-day hike from Imlil to the summit.
Around Imlil you can always meet nice little mules
2. Accommodation in Imlil
I decided to try Couchsurfing in Imlil. It was my first Couchsurfing experience after many years of traveling. It was definitely interesting and it was worth it by all means.
Like I mentioned I traveled to Imlil from Marrakesh with my Couchsurfing host. In Imlil 5 children joined us in the small 5 seat car. We were in this way 7 people in the car. ☺️ We were driving to his house. My host lives in a valley in a village next to Imlil. Normally, people live in small villages close to Imlil and not in the town of Imlil.
Two of the cutest children took me to my place. It was actually a hostel next to my host’s house. It was weird but I was like let’s see what comes out of this experience. It was just too weird! Imagine Couchsurfing in a hostel! I had my private room with a private bathroom. On top of that nice breakfasts and dinners were served every day when I was there. And it was all free!
As my host has a travel agency he also arranged for me a private guide for climbing the Toubkal summit. The guide cost 400 dirhams (40 €) per day. That means 800 dirhams (80€) in total for two days. That was just his fee to walk with me to the Toubkal from Imlil and back. Plus, I had to pay for the refuge, my food, and drinks for two days.
Hiking around the valley of Imlil takes a couple of hours
The place keeps its prices normally the lowest on booking.com and even breakfast is included. I stayed here and I can recommend it if your biggest concern is your budget.
This hostel is located in the valley of Imlil in a small village 30 minutes from the town center of Imlil. The local experience is guaranteed here 100%. The village itself is situated on a hill. You can walk up the hill going through the houses and meet local people. From the top, you have the view of the whole village.
Also from the top of the building of the hotel, the view is so beautiful.
The dinner is amazing as well. For dinner, they serve traditional Moroccan food made by the wife of one of the owners.
Dar Atlas Charme
This hotel costs double, but it’s still a budget hotel. Here you also have breakfast in the price. You can also have a balcony with your room. Most importantly I love the big terrace of the hotel on the top of its building where you can have your breakfast with a breathtaking view.
I can’t leave this out from my recommendations. This place has such amazing decorations. If I had my own hotel, it would look like this. And of course, the view from its terrace is just what we dream about when we want to be in the Atlas Mountains. Breakfast is included here as well.
This is no luxury in the traditional sense but definitely a few levels fancier than the previous ones. What I love about this place is that it’s fancy but still traditional and authentic at the same time. I’ve found this closest to the center with the best reviews. So if you want to be close to the town center, this should be your best choice.
My tips about accommodation in the mountains
I spent around a month in the Atlas Mountains and have read the reviews of a lot of hotels in the mountains on booking.com. Many people are complaining about not having hot water or it’s hard to balance the hot and cold water to get the right temperature. It’s totally normal in the mountains and it has nothing to do with how much you pay for your hotel. Just be happy that you have water! :-)
There are people who are whining about that the hotel is too far from the town center or because the road going there is too rough. Yes, it can be! But in return, you have a more beautiful view of the valley of Imlil. And yes, in the mountains it’s all-natural. So, the whole place should be rough and raw.
The third issue people can make a fuss about is not finding toilet paper in the bathroom when they need it. It can happen. If that happens to you, use the shower rose to wash where it’s needed. It’s actually more hygienic than using toilet paper. Alternatively, just in case have some toilet paper with you all the time.
3. Hiring a guide to climb Mount Toubkal
Getting a guide for climbing to the Toubkal summit is mandatory since last year, the murder of two Scandinavian hikers. It’s obligatory both for Moroccans and foreigners.
On the way to Toubkal from Imlil, there are three police checkpoints where you have to present your passport and without a guide, they don’t let you pass. I met several Europeans who complained about the fee. It’s for your own safety.
I have met people on the way and in the refuge who made it somehow up until the third police checkpoint without a guide. They somehow took an alternative path and that way they could by-pass the first two police checkpoints. I personally don’t recommend that you do that.
There are many ways to hire a guide.
– You can go to the Office of guides (Bureau des Guides) in the town of Imlil and get a guide from there. Here the official price for the guide is 50 € per day. You can locate the place on google maps or just ask anyone in town where it is.
– There are also travel agencies and you can hire a guide through them.
– Last but not least, you can ask around spontaneously in Imlil or in the valley while walking around. I talked to a lot of people including guides on the way about prices for private guides. It literally means chatting up with people randomly. This way you can bargain better. The best deal I pulled off was 1000 dirhams (100 €) including a guide for 2 days, accommodation, and 2 meals. But for such a deal, you gotta play it smart and it took me a lot of time.
In the end, I chose to go with a guide offered by my host as I trusted that they would give me a reliable guide. Moreover, also because after hosting me in the hostel and providing meals, I thought it would be fairer. If you are interested in my guide, talk to Hassan from Dar Assoud and ask Sabeer as your guide. My price was 800 dirhams (80 €) for 2 days. If you are more than 1 person, you can pay the fee together. This was my price but might not be the same for you. The official price, as I mentioned, is 1000 dirhams (100 €).
Regarding the payment, I would like to tell you a few things. First, I think 50 € per day for the guide is totally fair. Some Europeans complain that it’s too much because they could even manage the hike on their own. Practically, yes! But you need a guide. That’s the law.
My advice is that before you pay your guide, discuss your expectations. The guide is there to show you the best and quickest way. As a matter of fact, the way is pretty easy between Imlil and the refuge, but I noticed that on the way back on the second day between the refugee and Imlil, guides leave their clients.
If you are two, you probably don’t care. But just know that for the money you pay they are supposed to take you back to your starting point. In my opinion, as you are the one paying, don’t be shy to tell them how you want to do it.
The best way could be that you pay only the first day at the end of the first day and you pay for the second day at the end of the second day. If you are a solo traveler, it’s even more important to discuss your expectations before you leave, like doing the hike at your own pace or whether you will need help with the photos.
4. My story to hike from Imlil to the Toubkal summit and back
I actually got diarrhea before the hike which exhausted my body a lot. It happens when you travel. :-) One part of me said: “I can’t do it! I’m all in pain.” Then, another part of me said: “Don’t waste your time in the room. You wanted to be on the top of Mount Toubkal.” I remembered one of my favorite videos ever from Casey Neistat: “Do what you can’t”. Most people say: Don’t do what you can’t! I don’t think like that! Do what you can’t! Challenge yourself when you think you can’t!
My body felt so heavy, but I left at around 10:00. Better to start earlier, by the way. :-)
The hike from my hostel in Imlil to the refuge is normally easy. There are people who make this hike in 3 hours. So it’s up to you. It took me as long as 7 hours to get to the refuge. It was too hot and I had to stop quite often because I just felt super weak and sick.
But the point is that I kept going. It doesn’t matter how slow we are going as long as we don’t give up!
On the way up there are several places where you can get snacks, orange juice or tajine. I managed the hike on cheap cookies, candies, and water I got from a Hanut (small shops in Morocco) on the way. I felt so sick that that’s all I felt like eating.
In the mountains mules carry food, drinks, tents and luggages up and down the mountains
The mountain refuge behind me
In the refuge, I went to bed at like 21:00 that day after dinner served by the refugee.
The dinner was pretty good. Some soup, spaghetti with tomato sauce and melon. I couldn’t sleep in the refuge at all. I think the room was for like 20 people. I felt like my nose is full of dust. I didn’t have any sleeping bags like most people. I just used whatever I got there.
I was wondering how often wash the pillows and the blankets in the refuge… Maybe never… I had to use loads of blankets because I felt really cold. The window was open which made the room cold but with the window closed there is no air there. So better being cold than being without air…
I woke up at 4:00, had breakfast and left around 4:40 with my guide.
The beginning was extremely difficult. For about an hour it was totally dark. We used a headtorch to light our way. I just saw some rocks in front of me and dimly my guide.
After like 30 minutes we departed, I started to have some crazy strong headache. I never have headache… My head was literally exploding and I had no pain killer. I never carry any pain killer and my guide didn’t have it either. My strategy is worry when I get into trouble not before. :-) This is one good example for how I manage my life.
My guide said: “That’s probably altitude sickness.” The hell with it! I need a quick solution. I waited sitting until some hikers were closer to us. And when I saw some headlights approaching in the darkness, I shouted down asking whether they have any pain killer. They didn’t have.
I saw some headlamps down again approaching. I hoped that they would get up quickly and they would have a pain killer. Once they were relatively close I shouted down for pain killers. They shouted back that they had and I decided not to wait but run down in the darkness to get the magical pain killers.
I could hardly move my body but the headache was stronger than any other pain. I got two Russian painkillers. I was hopeful that the headache would be gone soon. I think it was the early wake up that gave me a headache. I’m damn not an early person.
Nevertheless, it’s smart to carry a painkiller just in case to avoid drama. :-) So, I took one pill which helped about half an hour later. But the pain itself exhausted me so much and I started crying.
I asked my guide to let me be on my own a bit as I didn’t want to cry in front of him. I was bursting out too much and I cried pretty loud. It was hard not to hear it in the silence of the early hours in the mountains.
The way up was not as easy as I was finding really hard to carry my bag. Yes, I carried a lot of unnecessary stuff like my GoPro set and my tripod which I didn’t even use in the end. Lesson learned. Twice after this, close to 4,000 meters, I cried again. First, I wanted to stop it but then I just allowed myself to cry. It was such a relief and so liberating. I hate suffocating my feelings. I just want to feel them. This time it was time to cry again.
And I made it to the top! I thought I was gonna laugh when I’m on the top. Just like when I ran my first half-marathon in Munich. It was mentally challenging and I thought I was gonna cry out loud when I cross the finish line. Instead, I had a big laugh. However, not this time! I burst out! There were like 10 other people on the peak. I was crying in front of everyone. Anyways, I made it!
The way down was easier, but still took a lot of time. We were back in Imlil around 7 pm. So it’s around 14 hours in total on the second day which we broke with a lunch break at the refuge. When got to the refuge, all I wanted is to sit and eat. The lunch was an omelet with bread, salad and tea.
That day, I stayed in Imlil one more night to rest. That’s what I recommend to you as well. Have a nice dinner in Imlil and better leave early in the morning.
Going down the mountain
5. Accommodation options in the base camp
You either stay in one of the mountain refuges or do camping. On our way up there were two refuges. They are like dormitories with shared bathrooms. If you want to make sure that you have a place there, book in advance. I didn’t do it but during high season, it’s better to do it, like over Easter, in September and in summer.
This is where I stayed. It’s very basic with only dorm rooms. This is nowhere close to luxury. It’s not even about comfort. It’s just a place where you can have a bed, a shower, and some food.
Based on the reviews none of them is better than the other. This place offers private rooms as well.
If you check the reviews of these two places, you will find all kinds of comments. How much you enjoy these places is up to you. You gotta take the whole experience as a new adventure and a survival camp.
The people working in these hotels don’t give much damn about how you feel. They just want to get their job done and that’s it. What you experience here is no hospitality but quick business. I cannot say that these places are clean because they are not. They can be very dirty. But I didn’t care!
I always had hot water, but there are a lot of complaints saying there is no hot water there. I guess you cannot predict whether you get hot water or not. I say just be happy to have water.
The rooms are probably hardly cleaned. The pillows and blankets are probably never washed. The meals you get there are too expensive relative to what you get. Hygiene… forget it! Toilet paper? Forget it! Bring your own if you want to have you bum wiped. :D
If you like it super rough, go for camping that you can get arranged through tour operators in Imlil. Be aware that independent camping is not allowed.
Tents in the Atlas Mountains
6. Budget summary
Grand taxi Marrakesh – Imlil: 2*40 dirhams (4 €)
Total: 8 €
The 2-day hike
- Guide for 2 days: 800 – 1000 dirhams (80-100 €)
- Accommodation in the Refuge de Toubkal: 270 dirhams (27 €) for a night
- Breakfast: 30 dirhams (3 €). It’s normal breakfast: bread, jams, butter, tea and coffee.
- Lunch: 50 dirhams (5 €). It was omlett, bread and some salad.
- Dinner: 70 dirhams (7 €)
Total: 1,220 dirhams (122 €): guide for two days, 1 night in the refuge, 1 dinner, 1 breakfast, 1 lunch
Accommodation in Imlil
The price is around 7 € per night.
7. What to wear for the hike
– Hiking shoes
You can make it in trainers too, but better to have hiking shoes.
– Wind and waterproof jacket
– Hat and sunglasses
– Several layers of clothing
What you wear depends on the season. I was there in May. During the day it was really hot under 3,200 meters. The night was really cold. For the night you need a lot of layers for sleeping.
The next day between 3,200 and 4,167 meters, the temperature keeps changing. In the morning, I had my leggings for sleeping and on that my fitness pants. But I had to take off the leggings later.
I was wearing also several layers on the top as well including a vest, a long sleeve shirt, a fleece pullover, and a wind jacket. Slowly slowly I got rid of some of them on the way up. But sometimes it felt cold or windy and I had to wear more layers again.
8. What to bring for the hike
Bring only what’s really necessary. I was totally unprepared but I managed everything. In any case, in case you want to get prepared properly, from experience I can tell you what you need.
In Imlil, there is no atm. That means you need to get cash in Marrakesh. However, I’m sure you can pay in € or in USD for tours and hotels.
– Sweets, dried fruits and energy bars
In Imlil, all I could find was cheap biscuits and candies. It’s better to do the shopping for the hike in Marrakesh.
You can get water and orange juice on the way. But have at least a big bottle of water with you.
It’s necessary if you climb in the darkness early in the morning. I didn’t have it but I got it from my host.
– Sleeping bag
I didn’t have one. But mostly everyone has their own sleeping bag in the refuge.
– Pain killer
You might need it against headache. I didn’t have but next time I would have a few pills just in case. Even if you don’t need it, it might help someone else.
– Suncream and lip balm
Your lips will get dry without protection.
– Toilet paper
If you have any questions, write to me in the comment section!
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