There comes a time in long term travel when you encounter a place that you don’t want to leave. For us on our Moroccan road trip, Imlil is this place.
Imlil is a small town at the base of the Atlas Mountains and the starting point for those who climb Mt Toubkal. Many bypass this town, arriving early from Marrakesh and hiking directly up to the refuge further up the mountain. We drove from the Sahara and arrived in the late afternoon. As many guide books rightly describe, the entrance to Imlil is a cluster. At the taxi stand where mini buses also drop off, there is a cast of characters who approach and hassle any arriving foreigner to be their mountain guide. We had already decided we did not want a guide for our hike and drove by the throngs quickly. Helen stopped the car in the middle of the main intersection of the small town and Jesse and Quan got out to search for our housing.We had booked the Atlas Riad Prestige and every local we asked kept pointing up the mountain. We made our way off the Main Street and started up a mountain path passing mules and their owners who kept offering us a ride. We walked past a woman’s Argan Co-Op and approached a small stream where two boys were moving rocks. We asked for the way to the Atlas Prestige and as luck would have it one of the boys worked there and called to let them know we had arrived, and then sent us back down to our car where a mule would help us back up with our luggage. We arrived back to the car safely parked in a lot just past the main intersection and all our luggage loaded on a mule. There was an extra mule left so Quan opted to take it up the mountain riding side saddle as all the locals do.
As it turns out, Atlas Riad Prestige was located above the fray of Imlil up the hill on a quiet overlook. Upon arrival we walked out to a beautiful outdoor patio with a clear view of the Atlas Mountains and the Berber village across the way. Taking in the crisp mountain air and the quiet rural landscape Quan immediately turned to Jesse and said “We should stay a few days after the hike, this is our R&R place!”
Atlas Riad Prestige
Atlas Riad Prestige is #2 on TripAdvisor and they were completely booked out the next few weeks. We were lucky to even be able to book the two rooms we had with them for the night before our hike. The manager of the Atlas Riad Prestige, who is a one man staff as manager, concierge, and chef, assured us he would arrange housing at a sister property we would equally enjoy after our hike. Quan was suspect as the property was located down at the village, the very fray we wanted to escape for our few days of rest.
Nevertheless we took his offer, as they stored our luggage while we were on our hike, we kept a few of our beers cold in the fridge for us to celebrate the descent, and helped transfer us to the new place – the Dar Imlil.
We followed the mule loaded with our bags down to the village and realized as we made our way that we already knew half the town. We passed the ladies of the Argan Co-Op and promised to be back the next day for purchases, we said hi to Idriss at the Atlas Trek Shop, waved to the nut vendors we had purchased snacks from, and went over to tell the sandwich vendor how good his tuna fish sandwich tasted on the mountain. The busy hectic tourist town had now transformed into a familiar place.
In terms of the Dar Imlil, we can not say enough good things. Though it is technically located in the village, which provided us with easy access to the coffee shops and stores, its isolated just past the Main Street in a quiet oasis next to the river.
There is also a swimming pool on site that is surrounded by lush vegetation and fruit trees.
The best part is the staff. They are friendly and go out of their way to provide a great experience. Here we are with the hotel manager Abdul:
Our first night with Helen and David we were craving pizza and asked Abdul if they served it onsite. He said that they did not but would get us the menu from a nearby Italian restaurant. They put in the order for us and served us on our terrace. It was so above and beyond any expectation. We ate outside and it was a little chilly, luckily we were provided kaftans that we wore for dinner that were Star Wars-esque. On our Hollywood of Morocco post we talked about the many famous movie sets we saw, we also realize the influence Moroccan clothing must have had on the Star Wars costume designers. David’s kaftan made him look like Obi-wan Kenobe and Jesse looked like the Dark Lord. 🤣
On our final night Hussein invited Quan to learn how to make her favorite, Moroccan Soup. It was a hilarious experience as Hussein is a jokester, he dressed her in chefs clothes and told any staff who came by that she was a new member of the staff. While we waited for the soup to cook we shared a mint tea together, one of the best Quan’s had in Morrocco!
What To Do In Imlil
There is a reason most don’t often stay in Imlil. If you are on a 10 day trip around Morocco, it is best to have this as a pitstop to Toubkal. Since we are traveling long term, we seek unique destinations that have cheap accommodations that make us feel at home. As mountain people from Colorado, Imlil with its sweeping mountain views really fit the bill. We spent afternoons reading and lounging on the terrace and by the pool. There are plenty of hikes accessible nearby as well as mountain biking options. We checked out the town Hammam- this was truly a bathhouse for the locals so we ended up not entering nor would we recommend it. Instead we visited the women’s Argan Co-Op up the hill and bought Argan oil and black soap to use in the jacuzzi size tub in our hotel room at the Dar Imlil- we called this our “at home” Hammam.
We Will Miss our Friends in Imlil
Imlil is such a small town that we got to make many friends that we saw each day. Most visitors either bypass this town or stay for a day either before or after their Toubkal hike. As we were the rare foreigners who stayed, the whole town seemed to know us. At our last lunch when we sat on a terrace on the Main Street eating lunch at Ahmed’s cafe, we waved to Hussein from Dar Imlil as he walked by, across the street Middou waved to us from his shop and invited us over for tangine and tea (we had bought a rug from him for our Nana’s 94th birthday) and then our friend at the Tuna fish sandwich store also popped by to say hello. If we walk up the street we would get to see Idriss at the Atlas Trek Shop , further up the ladies of the Argan Co-Op and every so often we’d spot a familiar face going by on a mule. Imlil has been one of our favorite places so far on the trip primarily because of the laid back, friendly, Berber people here and we are so glad we got to spend 4 days with them.