Imlil is a village in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. It is a good starting point for a trekking holiday or for climbing Jbel Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa (4167m). Imlil has a variety of shops and "pensions" as well as being a trailhead village for treks deeper into the mountains including the ascent of Toubkal. Imlil is a progressive community and money from tourism goes into a variety of projects organised by the Village Association (L'Association Bassins d'Imlil) such as litter collection and disposal, an ambulance and the building of a community hammam.
Imlil is also a hub for mountain guides and muleteers who work in the area surrounding Jbel Toubkal. It is also a main entry point for those wishing to trek in the mountains in this area.
The Imlil Village Association
There is an Imlil Village Association which is using money from tourism to address the problems it brings, like litter, as well as start new projects. A local "tax" has been agreed by many of the businesses providing tourist facilities to fund projects. To date a Land Rover Ambulance has been acquired so that the valley population has a safer way of getting to hospital, litter collections have been started and in December 2004 a village Hammam (Community Bath house) has been opened on the little road up to the school.
The Imlil Association is part of the "Association Bassins d'Imlil" which is an umbrella organisation which other villages are able to join to promote and plan ecologically responsible tourism and infrastructure.Its a great place to go.
Imlil is approximately 60 km south of Marrakech, and it can be reached by road through the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. Grand taxis regularly run to and from Marrakech. The drop off point in Imlil is the scrubby space next to the Hotel-Cafe Soleil at the bottom end of the village, by the river.
By far the quickest and easiest way to get to Imlil from Marrakech is to take a grand taxi, which leave frequently when full (especially in the mornings) from the grand taxi station near Sidi Mimoun Garden. The price for a seat in a grand taxi (May 2015) is 50dh, and the journey time around 75-90 minutes. The road is now fully paved, even beyond Asni.
If you can't find a grand taxi then there are other options. It takes about 80-90 minutes to get from Marrakech to Asni by bus. There are buses from the central bus station which ostensibly leave every 30minutes (but often don't for hours). Small minibuses to Asni also leave when full from in front of Sidi Mimoun Garden. A quicker way is to take a petit taxi to the out-of-town grand taxi park (15dh - if you're better at haggling you can get this lower). From there, a grand taxi will take you to Asni (90dh split between 6). Once in Asni there are minibuses and grand taxis that will take you the remaining 18km to Imlil (30 minutes in a minibus (9dh), or 20 minutes in a taxi).
In the rough guide, it says something to the effect that there's open-back trucks that take the villagers up and down the mountain to Imlil. This is true, but they leave only a few times a week. Be warned there are many faux guides and hustlers in Asni: Travellers are told about the 'bus', by a 'local' who's story matches the guide book's exactly. They are told they should follow him to the village where the truck is. However, this is just a ploy to try to get them to buy his cheap jewellery. Instead, you will be better off hitching to Imlil. The road up the pass is quite busy during the day, and a ride can be found for around 20 or 30 dh.
The road has been upgraded.
As you travel up the valley from Asni to Imlil, the countryside around you will transform: From arid dust to green, leafy foliage. The temperature will drop also, a very welcome break from the baking heat of Marrakech
Grand taxis arrive to the parking in the entrance of the village. Imlil is a relatively small village, so travelling by foot is the best option. Many of the paths are fairly rocky, so appropriate footwear is recommended. If you walk up the road to further south, you'll reach the village Souka, with few more accomodation options.
Visitors can use the new hammam by joining the Imlil Village Association and paying a small entrance fee.
If you are planning a trek into the mountains and other valleys, as well as the traditional stays in village houses, there is a Trekking Lodge in the village of Aïd Aïssa in the Azzaden valley. The lodge provides comfortable accommodation around the area and was being built with the help of the village associations.
Relax at the cafe until night falls. Mind the mosquitoes though from the river. At sunset you will hear the sound of the call to prayer. The mosques sound even more ancient and timeless in the mountains, the sound echoing through the hills, the distant villages far down the valley seeming to reply.
One of the great delights of the area is to sit on the Kasbah roof eating lunch or taking tea and watching the subtle changes of colour of the surrounding mountains as the sun moves.
There is a group of shops that cater to tourists towards the south of the village, selling items including jewellery, headscarves, and the moroccan djellaba - a full body garment with a pointed hood worn by both men and women.
Trekking resources(crampons, hikin poles, ice axe, mountain boots) are also available in several shops around the village, and nowhere higher up. Hiking maps are available at most shops, normal price is around 60 Dirham (you need to bargain!).
There is a small café near the tourist shops selling soft drinks. The Kasbah du Toubkal also sells soft drinks at higher prices. On April 2015, the cost for a carafe of mint tea (fills 5 small glasses) was MAD150 (about GBP10.50) and it came with a plate of "nuts". A glass is 50 per person so a carafe is worth it if there are more than three of you. The views from there are worth it. You do not have to buy the tea.
Leaving the stress and insanity of Marrakech for this little mountain village and surroundings is a good idea, even just for a day or two. You can pitch a tent in a grassy clearing beside the French Refuge. You can stay in the Refuge too. Both options are cheap. The refuge was washed away, along with part of the village in 2000-2003. It's since been rebuilt and is fine for use again.
When heading out, it is possible to hire a mule or donkey to carry your luggage. If you're inexperienced, or the weather looks dodgy, a guide might be a good idea too.
To go back to Marrakech, one needs to go to main car park and take a seat in a grand taxi. Keep in mind that they might take a while to fill up, so plan anough time.