Atlas and the lake

The ideal day trip from Marrakech when spending a few days in the red city, a true immersion into the Berber culture.

Trekking in the Atlas Mountains, lunch at Kasbah Tamadot, tea with a Berber family or 12th century Tinmel Mosque are the highlights of this excursion from Marrakech

DETAILED ITINERARY

Leaving Marrakech behind, the day trip follows the tarred road through small villages scattered across the plain. Soon afterwards, you will arrive on the shores of Lalla Takerkoust lake where a small break is recommended to take in the panorama before starting the ascent towards the deserted Kik Plateau. Time to take out your cameras! Ruins of Kasbahs once property of the local Pacha border the road. The limestone plateau is 1800 meters high and offers spectacular 360 degrees views and, in the spring, a marvellous spread of alpine flowers. From November to May, the surrounding peaks of the Atlas Mountains greet the view. On the other side of the plateau, lies the picturesque village of Moulay Brahim with its shrine where women from all over the area come and light candles, praying for baraka. By the river, camels and restaurants await their clients either for a Berber tagine or a camel ride. Asni is where a very important Berber souk is held on every Saturday and local producers bring fruit, vegetables and livestock to sell.

Further up, the road splits : straight ahead, the charming little village of Ouirgane with its majestic lake, an artificial dam created using dynamite only years ago. Due to the absence of the shores, the lake seems to have suddenly flooded the steep valley, as the branches of the pine trees almost touch the surface of the water.

Our excursion from Marrakech follows now one of the most picturesque routes in Morocco, one which is seldom used by intrepid travelers concluding a tour across Morocco coming from Sahara's dunes and Taroudant. Alas, before long, the impressive 12th century mosque of Tinmel, unveils itself in the distance. It feels almost eerie that this same route used by our day trip from Marrakech would be the same used by the Almohad armies to take over Marrakech centuries ago, destined to become the founders of an empire stretching from Western Sahara to nowadays Libya and all the way up to Cordoba and Seville, in Spain. It is a mosque that can also be visited by non muslims and draws inspiration from the Great Mosque of Cordoba with its beautifully decorated archways, sturdy towers and monumental doors. Once the visit concluded, lunch can be had in a charming inn in the area, by the pool.

If you choose to turn left instead of following ahead to visit Ouirgane and Tinmel mosque, our itinerary serpents along Oued Mizzane, in the shade of nut trees and crossing mountain springs, passing by Richard Branson's Kasbah Tamadot, to finally reach Imlil, the most picturesque trailhead in Morocco. On some days, the clouds descend and pass through the valley at eye level, like the ghost of a slow- moving train. In July and August you are guaranteed to find perfectly cool temperatures away from the scorching Marrakech. Martin Scorsese used it to shoot 'Kundun'and for good reason: Imlil will surprise you with the beauty and drama of the surrounding High Atlas and the local waterfalls are the perfect excuse for an enchanting mountain walk. If you want to catch your breath on the way and sip a mint tea or a coffee, there's no better spot than the roof terrace of Kasbah Toubkal. For those of you that want to try some serious Morocco trekking, a 3 hour trek on foot or mules can be arranged on spot or in advance. Lunch can be had at the exceedingly charming Douar Samra ( Moroccan). Lunch at Kasbah Tamadot is also recommended, for a special occasion. The menu is international and lunch needs to be booked in advance.

On the way back to Marrakech small villages with their mud- brick adobe houses greet your eye sight, stacked into the hillside or lining the water course shaded by the palm grove. The river gives place to the canyons and gorges and the local Berber granary towers over the landscape, a quiet sentinel guarding the silence of the valley. Past Tahnaoute, the tarmac road follows its course among olive or orange orchards and golf courses to reach Marrakech soon after.

You are free to choose your time of departure. However, in order to make the best out of your day out, we recommend leaving no later than 9 AM. Forecasted return time in Marrakech is 5 PM.

PRICE.............................................................................................. 65 EUROS PER PERSON ( BASED ON 2 PERSONS SHARING THE VEHICLE). DISCOUNTS APPLY FOR 3 OR MORE PERSONS.

The rate includes: private ( sole use) of the modern air conditioned Toyota 4x4 and the English fluent driver- guide, entrance fees to all sites and monuments, refreshing drinks inside the vehicle, pick up and drop off from/ to the hotel/ Riad and transport insurance.