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 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 the 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 an ambulance has been acquired so that the valley population has a safer way of getting to a hospital, litter collections have been started and in December 2004 a village hammam (Community Bathhouse) 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. It is 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 taxi, which has a journey time of 75-90 minutes. There are two options. First, you can hire a private grand taxi for approximately 300dh (February 2020). There is a grand taxi station directly across the street from the Jemaa el-Fnaa bus stop. Second, you can find a space in a collective taxi and pay 50dh (July 2018). The pick-up for the taxi collective is a few hundred meters up the street from the grand taxi station (31.622410, -7.989941, approx.). The collective will leave when it is full, so it is recommended to get there in the morning. It takes 15-30 min to fill a grand taxi. The road is now fully paved, even beyond Asni, but be aware it is twisted mountain roads so carsickness may be an issue. Another good options is the shuttle bus service run by Souk to Surf that connects Imlil to Marrakech (100dh), Essaouira (250dh) and Imsouane (300dh). These shuttles are run in modern comfortable minibuses and leave from several departure points spread throughout Marrakech. One of the major advantages of the shuttles is that tickets are booked online before travel, therefore you know that you are guaranteed a seat and don't need to waste time trying and find a collective taxi going to Imlil. The shuttles also have set prices, which is great if you don't want to spend time haggling with taxi drivers!
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 (9 MAD), or 20 minutes in a taxi).
In the Rough Guide, it says something to the effect there are 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 relief if Marrakech is hot.
To leave Imlil you have to go to the parking/taxi stop at the entrance to the village (same place where the grand taxis drop you off) the main chief of taxis will ask you where you want to go. Grand taxi to Marrakesh start price is 70 DH. There are also minibuses to Marrakesh 50 DH (locals pay 25DH but you have to know the language) but it's quite uncomfortable (not enough place for legs, dirty, loud)
Grand taxis arrive at 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 Ait Souka, with few more accommodation 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, hiking 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. Kasbah du Toubkal also sells soft drinks.
As of February 2020 there appears to be nowhere to buy alcohol in the village, but some guesthouses such as Riad Atlas Toubkal allow guests to drink their own alcohol with meals.
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.
A few guesthouses will not allow unmarried couples to stay (as of February 2020), but the great majority will.
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 the 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 enough time.