Hotels

Hotel Review: An eco haven in rural Morocco

While a trip to Morocco often starts and ends with visiting the big cities like Marrakech for most people, it’s worth heading out of the city to explore the high Atlas Mountains. For anyone who enjoys being surrounded by serenity, nature and traditional Berber hospitality (and in the cooler months, views of snow-capped mountains), this is the perfect place. 

And the Kasbah du Toubkal hotel, set in the Toubkal National Park (which is home to North Africa’s highest mountain Jbel Toubkal) is the perfect base for travellers looking to relax as well as soak up nature with some light trekking – offering a striking contrast to the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. 

The eco hotel is located in the small village of Imlil, and is set amidst beautiful gardens (complete with cute resident kittens) and large terraces offering unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains.

The hotel is reached by a 15-minute uphill walk (well cared for mules carry the luggage, don’t worry), and offers fourteen comfortable en-suite rooms, three of which can be used together as a private self-contained house when travelling in a group. 

Meals are usually served in a set menu style in a rooftop terrace, where guests enjoy simple, delicious and nourishing Moroccan food while being captivated by the intimacy of the mountain and valley views (spectacular especially at golden hour). The warm, friendly and knowledgeable staff make a stay here feel like being welcomed into someone’s home. 

Kasbah du Toubkal was founded in 1995 by Mike and Chris McHugo, British brothers who have been mountain hikers, and Atlas adventurers since the 1970s. They bought the property as a ruin and, in partnership with Oma Ait Barmed, a local mountain guide who first led Mike through the Imlil Valley in 1978, they restored it to its original magnificence using local materials and techniques. 

The boutique hotel has won numerous awards and acknowledgments for sustainability, setting a gold standard for responsible tourism in the country. Starting with the design and architecture that is sensitive to the local environment and exemplary protection of natural heritage, to its total immersion in the local community – the hotel runs several programs that give back. 

The Kasbah team has co-founded the Imlil Valley Association, which manages everything from waste disposal, and improved fresh water to running a community hammam and also working at a higher level to ensure that the region is protected from unsustainable insensitive tourism development. A 5 per cent automatic levy is added to every tourist visit to the Kasbah, that goes towards funding the association. 

Another impressive program that the Kasbah has been instrumental in creating is the extremely successful Education for All Initiative, which ensures that girls from remote mountain communities are able to continue their education beyond primary phase. To do this, they have opened and run several boarding houses that cater to the girls’ education, social and cultural needs. (If you would like to donate to this fabulous cause, you can donate here.) 

Hotel guests are also given a guide on how to be a more respectful and conscientious guest when visiting Berber land. This means the hotel does not serve alcoholic beverages on the premises, although guests can bring their own. 

This sort of education on how travellers can directly impact the environment, economy, and culture of a region goes a long way in helping to develop a deep and meaningful connection with the place and its people – and making a stay here memorable. 



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