Lets climb Mount Toubkal: A complete guide

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(Last updated on: 29/11/2020)

Are you wondering if you should climb Mount Toubkal? Climbing Mount Toubkal isn’t on everyone’s travel itinerary who visits Morocco. But if you are the adventurous type and you like to get off the beaten track, then this mountain climb is absolutely for you!

Climbing Mount Toubkal can be completed in just two days and requires no prior training or experience. And the rewards are fantastic- you get to experience the authentic rural Moroccan culture and enjoy spectacular views. Plus, the feeling of accomplishment when you reach the top is incredible!

In this post I have it all covered, from what to expect during your climb to where to stay and what you should pack… By the time you have read through this article you will be all set. So, what are you waiting for? Lets get you ready to climb Mount Toubkal!

Tourism in the Atlas Mountains

climb Mount Toubkal
The Atlas Mountains are popular with those seeking remote hiking and rural tourism opportunities.

Most people haven’t heard of the Atlas Mountains, which is surprising given that the area is one of the world’s most fascinating regions to travel through.

The Atlas Mountains are found in south-west Morocco. The mountains are not a continuous chain, but instead they are a series of ranges separated by wide areas of land, called plateaus. These plateaus stretch for 2500km through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The mountain range separates the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara Desert.

The Atlas Mountains were created approximately 80 million years ago. This was the result of a violent collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates. The result was the formation of these incredible mountains, which have been described as ‘other worldly’. The Atlas Mountains can be split into six sub-ranges:

  • Anti-Atlas
  • High Atlas
  • Middle Atlas
  • Saharan Atlasd
  • Tell Atlas
  • Aures Mountains

At 4167 metres (13,671 ft) high, Mount Toubkal is The highest mountain in the Atlas region and also in Northern Africa. Also known as Jebel Toubkal, this mountain is the most popular area to be visited in all of the Atlas Mountains. Having said this, though, the number of tourists who travel to Mount Toubkal remains relatively small.

Those who do choose to visit are usually travelling from Marrakesh. There are various hiking options in the Atlas Mountains, with the most popular being to climb Mount Toubkal. Many people choose to combine a climb with visits to local Berber Villages or a trip to the Sahara Desert.

The first recorded Mount Toubkal climb was in 1923. Three French explorers, named Marquis de Segonzac, Vincent Berger and Hubert Dolbeau were the first to reach the summit, although there were likely earlier climbs that were not officially recorded. These days, people from all walks of life choose to climb Mount Toubkal.

Learn more about the Atlas Mountains in this fascinating BBC documentary.

Interesting Mount Toubkal facts

small settlement near mountainous terrain
Mount Toubkal is the highest mountain in Northern Africa.

Here are some of my favourite interesting facts about Mount Toubkal:

  • Mount Toubkal is one of 1524 peaks in the Atlas Mountains, known as ultra prominent peaks.
  • The area is rich in natural resources and you can find deposits of iron ore, lead ore, copper, silver, mercury, rock salt, phosphate, marble, anthracite coal and natural gas
  • Unlike most of the Atlas Mountains, Mount Toubkal is not made of sedimentary rocks, but instead consists mostly of volcanic rocks.
  • The mountains were home to a number of now extinct species, including the North African elephant, the Atlas bear and the Barbary lion.
  • The mountains are home to the endangered Barbary leopard. 
  • There is a plane wreckage on the mountain, and the bones of those onboard can be seen lying beneath the rocks.

Why you should climb Mount Toubkal

There are many reasons why you should climb Mount Toubkal. Here are my top five:

You can use it as a trial run for bigger mountains

Mount Toubkal was my first ever mountain climb. I was super naive and didn’t know what to expect (I didn’t even pack a coat!!).

But I am glad that I made the mistakes that I did here and not on Mount Kilimanjaro, which I climbed some months later. After all, people die on Kilimanjaro without the proper equipment!

You can climb Mount Toubkal in only two days. The endurance and altitude are enough to give you a taster of mountain climbing, without overwhelming you. I thought it was the perfect introduction to high altitude mountain climbing!

climb Mount Toubkal
Climbing Mount Toubkal was great preparation for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

It provides a unique cultural experience

You will meet plenty of locals on your climb. You will eat the local food and see local Berber Villages. It is a fantastic cultural tourism experience!

The views are spectacular

It goes without saying that the views on the climb up to the summit are incredible!

The sense of accomplishment is phenomenal

When I reached the summit I was soooo proud of myself. I was literally buzzing for days afterwards.

Climbing Mount Toubkal is challenging enough that you get a real sense of accomplishment when you reach the summit.

It is easily accessible

One of the great things about Mount Toubkal is that it is accessible to most people. You don’t have to be mega fit or endure months of training to climb Mount Toubkal, in fact ,I even saw children climbing the mountain!

Mount Toubkal is also accessible geographically. Just a couple of hours from Marrakesh, it is easy to hire a private car or jump on a bus to Imlil- the starting point for your climb. And Marrakesh itself is super easy to reach, with many budget and scheduled airlines flying into the city from all over the world each day.

Private 2-Day Mount Toubkal Trek from Marrakech

Booking a two day private tour is the best way to climb Mount Kilimanjaro!

With this tour, you can ascend at your own pace and receive undivided attention and one-on-one support from a private guide. Most of the planning, from arranging transport to overnight accommodation and mules to carry packs, is done for you.

  • Hike at a pace that suites you during this private guided trek up Mount Toubkal
  • Rise early and witness sunrise from the summit
  • Views of the Valley of Imlil and the shrine of Sidi Chamharouch
  • Private round-trip transport and refuge accommodation included

What’s Included
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Tea and Coffee
  • Local guide and professional guide
  • Hotel pickup and drop-off
  • Return private transport from Marrakech
  • Muleteer Team
  • Private Cook

The best time of year to climb Mount Toubkal

The best time of year to climb Mount Toubkal is when the weather is warm. Fortunately, the weather is warm for much of the year in Morocco. April-October are the best months to visit.

You can still climb Mount Toubkal in the winter months, however the climb becomes more difficult and you will need the appropriate climbing gear to prepare you for the cold temperatures at the top of the mountain.

Average weather in Imlil (the starting point for your Mount Toubkal climb).

How difficult is it to climb Mount Toubkal?

One of the great things about Mount Toubkal is that it is accessible to most people!

You do not need any special training or abilities ro climb Mount Toubkal. You just need to be relatively fit and to have the mental stamina to make it to the summit.

Heck, I even saw your kids on the mountain! If they can do it, anyone can!

The climb generally starts off pretty easy and then gradually increases in intensity as you climb the mountain. You don’t need any special climbing skills or equipment as you can walk the entire way.

The final ascent is the most challenging part when you climb Mount Toubkal. For parts of this, there will barely be a path and you will be clambering over rocks. It is pretty steep.

climb Mount Toubkal
The sunrise from the top of Mount Toubkal was incredible.

Once you reach the top of the mountain you are required to walk along a narrow ridge. Whilst this certainly isn’t difficult, it also isn’t for the faint-hearted! If you are scared of heights, like I am, then you will need to mentally prepare yourself for the near vertical drop to the side of the path!

Strangely, I always find the descent the most difficult part of a mountain climb. The constant strain on my already tired limbs tends to take its toll.

This was exemplified during my Mount Toubkal climb because I did not have adequate shoes! I had decided to wear some old trainers that did not have a good grip. This meant that I was slipping and sliding all the way down the mountain! I strongly recommend that you pack accordingly when you climb Mount Toubkal- I have a suggested packing list towards the end of this article.

How long does it take to climb Mount Toubkal?

It takes two days to climb Mount Toubkal.

Most of the walking is done of the first day. This is relatively easy and is along guided pathways. You will probably walk for around 5-6 hours, stopping for lunch on the way.

You will end your day at one of the two refuges on Mount Toubkal, where you will rest for the night. These are located at an altitude of just over 3000m.

Most tours will then depart again before sunrise. The final ascent takes around three hours and involves very steep terrain.

You will then spend a further 3-5 hours descending the mount, depending on which route you take.

If you prefer to take things slower, you can also do a three day climb.

Is it safe to climb Mount Toubkal?

It is perfectly safe to climb Mount Toubkal.

As with any mountain climbing, there are risks involved. The two major risks are injury and altitude sickness.

There are uneven paths and steep ridges. Plus, you will probably be undertaking part of your climb in the dark. So, of course, there is a slight risk that you could have an accident or injure yourself.

climb Mount Toubkal plane wreck
We took an alternative, longer route down the mountain to see the remains of a plane wreckage.

Whilst climbing Mount Toubkal isn’t taking you to the same heights as Mount Kilimanjaro or Everest, for example, it is still high enough for you to suffer from altitude sickness. I experienced this myself during out climb. Altitude sickness can range from a headache to death, so it is not something to take light-heartedly.

Whilst you can climb Mount Toubkal independently, I strongly recommend that you hire a guide. You can either book an organised tour, like we did, or you can find a guide when you arrive in Imlil. A guide will be able to help with keeping you on track, prevent you from getting lost and help in the situation that you do have an accident, injury or suffer from altitude sickness.

3 Days Mount Toubkal from Marrakech

On this thrilling 3-day trek, journey through the mountains, stopping at traditional Berber villages; hike to the summit of Mt Toubka and enjoy spectacular views over the surrounding mountains; and spend two nights at the Toubkal Refuge.

  • Spectacular views from Mt Toubka, Morocco’s highest mountain
  • Guided hikes around Mt Toubka, Assif Ait Maizane Valley, and Tizi n O’unoums
  • Two night’s accommodation at the Toubkal Refuge in the Atlas mountains
  • Hassle-free hotel pickup and round-trip transport from Marrakech
What’s Included
  • Transport from and back to Marrakech
  • One night in Toubkal Refuge with full board 
  • One night in Imlil with half board 
  • Guide
  • Mule 
  • Crampons ( Winter ) 
  • Sleeping bags

Can children climb Mount Toubkal?

If you are travelling as a family, you can still climb Mount Toubkal!

However, high altitude isn’t recommended for small children and the final ascent can be a bit challenging for little legs. I saw a couple of families during my climb and none of the kids made it to the summit.

If you want to climb Mount Toubkal with kids, it can be done. But, one parent might need to stay at the refuge with the kids while the other ascends to the very top of the mountain.

Can I climb alone or do I need to join a tour?

As I mentioned before, you can climb Mount Toubkal independently. However, I would not recommend it.

We usually never book organised tours. However, on this occasion we did.

climb Mount Toubkal
We booked a private tour for our Mount Toubkal climb and we were so glad that we did.

The tours are not expensive and the guides help to keep you safe on the mountain. This is particularly important during the final ascent when it is difficult to see as you are climbing in the dark for much of it…. I was shocked when the sun came up to find that the terrain were had been climbing up was on the edge of a steep ridge!

Booking a tour also helps the local community. Shopping local is one way to make sure that you maximise the positive economic impacts of tourism. The money that you spend on your tour can help to find healthcare and education, amongst other things, in the local area. The local kids might get a new computer in their classroom because of your tour- now doesn’t that make you feel good?

I usually book my tours through Viator. This company is owned by Trip Advisor and they have a huge variety of tours to suit different people. They are just a middle man- they put you in touch with the local operators- and shopping local helps you to be a more sustainable tourist.

Here are some of my recommended Mount Toubkal tours-

Accommodation on Mount Toubkal

You will start your climb from Imlil.

Most people who climb Mount Toubkal will start in the morning after breakfast. Therefore, you will need to arrive in Imlil the night before.

Your accommodation on the mountain won’t be great and you won’t haver the best night sleep (more on that in a moment). So it is important to get some good rest while you are in Imlil. There are many places to stay in this village and almost everywhere is geared up to accommodate climbers. After all, why else would you be here?

The best hotels in Imlil

Most of the accommodation options in Imlil have a great homestay vibe to them. They often have communal lounges and gardens, which is a great place for you to meet other climbers.

We stayed in the Riad Atlas 4 Seasons, which I would highly recommend. The owners spoke perfect English and gave us lots of helpful advice. The food was brilliant AND it was served on the terrace, which had the most AMAZING views! I sat and watched the stars that night in anticipation of my first ever mountain climb the next day- I was so excited, but also a little nervous!

The views at dinner at the Riad Atlas 4 Seasons were exceptional!

We also have some friends who stayed at the Riad Atlas Prestige. They said that this place was also great. It’s a traditional old style Berber house, which gives you a fantastic cultural tourism experience. This place also has amazing views and the social scene here is great- there are places to hang out with the other travellers and get to know them.

Our friends highly recommended Riad Atlas Prestige due to the comfortable rooms and great social scene.

There are many other guesthouse types of accommodation in and around Imlil that you can choose, however I cannot personally vouch for any others. You can check what is available on your travel dates using the search box below.

Booking.com

Mount Toubkal refuge

There are only two accommodations options on the mountain, and both are refuges. Which one you stay at will depend on which route up the mountain you take.

When we chose to climb Mount Toubkal our guide took us to this refuge and from what I have heard, the other one is much the same. You have two sleeping options here- camping (if you have brought your own equipment) or the dormitories.

climb Mount Toubkal refuge
If I ever climb Mount Toubkal again, I will choose to camp at the refuge.

Remember that you are on a mountain, so please don’t have any high expectations of these refuges. Here’s a summary of what you can expect:

  • It is FREEZING cold, even in summer
  • Dormitories are mixed gender and sleep up to 27 people
  • Blankets are not provided
  • Meals are simple and not particularly appetising
  • Bathrooms are shared
  • Showers are cold
  • There is often a queue for the shower

Personally, if I ever climb Mount Toubkal again, I will opt to stay in a tent. There is a space for tents outside and I expect you would probably sleep better here than in the shared dormitories.

We were really unprepared for our climb and didn’t even have any bedding. We were really lucky that somebody leant us a blanket each! This is another reason why it is important that you prepare to climb Mount Toubkal- sleeping without a blanket in those temperatures wouldn’t just be uncomfortable, it would be dangerous!

Mount Toubkal packing list

OK, so I have told you that I slid down the mountain because I didn’t have the correct footwear and I almost slept in sub-zero temperatures without a blanket because I didn’t take any bedding. Another thing that I haven’t mentioned yet is that I didn’t have a coat or any gloves. Wow, I am actually a bit embarrassed to admit this…

No- you should absolutely not climb Mount Toubkal without the proper gear! I was stupid and naive and this was dangerous.

Fortunately, I was MUCH more prepared with my Kilimanjaro packing list a couple of years later. Remember I said that climbing Mount Toubkal is a great trial run for bigger mountains? Well, this was certainly the case for me!

climb Mount Toubkal
Here I am wearing the guide’s coat and gloves. I was stupidly unprepared.

You don’t need lots of things for your climb, but these are the essential items that you will need (Note- if you climb Mount Toubkal in the winter then you will need additional thermal layering):

Know before you go: Essential Mount Toubkal resources

Those of you who regularly follow me on this website or on Instagram, will know that I am a big advocate of doing your research before you travel. Not only does this help you to have a better trip, but is also helps you be more efficient, save money and be kinder on the environment and the people around you.

Here is my recommended reading list for your Mount Toubkal climb:

2 Comments
  1. Kieran Swail

    Great read Hayley – well structured and easy to follow. I’ve recently set up my own podcast Tomorrows Visitors available on Spotify and i am in the process of establishing my website. I work in the Business Support Team at Southern Regional College in Northern Ireland . I really like the way you have laid out this blog.
    Kieran

    Reply
    • Dr Hayley Stainton

      Thanks Kieran. And good luck with with your website!

      Reply

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Hi, am Dr Hayley Stainton

I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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