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Getting There

By Bus & Grand Taxi -- Buses and grands taxis depart from a terminal 3km (1 3/4 miles) outside the Bab er Rob medina gate in Marrakech, best reached by petit taxi, to Amizmiz (1-1 1/2 hr.; 40dh), Asni (1 1/2-2 hr.; 40dh), and Setti Fatma (1 1/2-2 hr.; 45dh). During winter, a separate, direct route to Oukaïmeden operates daily from the same terminal (2 1/2-3 hr.; 50dh), or otherwise take Setti Fatma transport as far as the Oukaïmeden turnoff, from where you should be able to find a stray grand taxi or hitchhike heading up to the resort. For Imlil, catch a grand taxi or public transit van from Asni at the main rank at the entrance to the walled souk for around 20dh one-way. Ouirgane can be reached by any bus or grand taxi traveling the Tizi n'Test road from Marrakech's Bab Doukkala station (1 1/2-2 1/2 hr.; 40dh-50dh) or Taroudannt (4-5 hr.; 150dh); sometimes you can pick up a ride in Asni for either direction.

Grands taxis can also usually be chartered from Marrakech for the day, either from the Bab er Rob terminal or directly from your hotel. For Imlil or Oukaïmeden, rates average around 350dh one-way. For a full day's outing to Oukaïmeden and Setti Fatma, or Imlil and Ouirgane, expect to pay between 500dh and 600dh. Note: Remember to pay at the end of the day, not the beginning, and agree on all costs and the itinerary upfront.

By Car -- The main road heading south from Marrakech is well signposted in both Guéliz and the medina (look for the signs to Oukaïmeden). For Amizmiz, Asni, Imlil, and Ouirgane, take the Asni/Taroudannt turnoff opposite Bab er Rob in the southwest corner of the medina. After 5km (3 miles), the road forks left for Asni and Taroudannt; stay straight for Amizmiz. The road from Asni to Imlil has been tarred for some years now and is in reasonably good condition. For Oukaïmeden and Setti Fatma, stay on the Oukaïmeden road past the medina walls. After around 35km (22 miles), the road starts to wind upward and stays very scenic whether you continue on to Setti Fatma or turn right up to Oukaïmeden. Note: Gas stations are few and far between once out of Marrakech, so fuel up before you depart.

Driving in this region is only for confident drivers, as the traffic can become very busy during the warmer months, especially on weekends, when Marrakchis head for the hills. From winter to early spring, the roads are prone to flooding and minor landslides, and visibility can be poor. From Asni to Ouirgane and farther up and over the Tizi n'Test pass there are many hairpin bends.

Visitor Information

The Centre d'Informations Touristique Ourika (tel. 0668/465545), 33km (20 miles) from Marrakech on the road to Oukaïmeden/Setti Fatma, provides brochures, information, and a map of the various attractions in the Ourika Valley. It's open daily 9am to 5pm. For those planning a trek independently, the Bureau des Guides d'Imlil (tel./fax 0524/485626; bureau.guides@yahoo.fr) in the center of Imlil is the official mountain guide center for the entire region. The center is a wealth of information on every aspect of trekking the High Atlas and is staffed by registered guides, most of them English speaking. The office is on the central square and is open daily from 8am to 7pm during summer and 9am to 5pm during the colder months.

Fast Facts

There are no banks in the Western High Atlas. The accommodations listed here will, however, usually accept payment in -- and sometimes exchange -- major foreign currencies (cash only, preferably euros).

Pharmacie Asni, on the main Marrakech-Taroudannt road in Asni (tel. 0524/462006), is open daily from 8am to 9pm.

A four-wheel-drive ambulance services the villages of the Aït Mizane valley, including Imlil and Asni, and is easiest contacted via the hotels Kasbah du Toubkal and Dar Imlil.

There are private coin-operated téléboutiques in Asni, Imlil, and Oukaïmeden. Internet access is available at Cyber Asni on the main Marrakech-Taroudannt road in Asni. It's open daily 9am to 11pm.

A set of four maps covering the regions around Amizmiz, Oukaïmeden, Taliouine (the southern approach to Jebel Toubkal), and the Tizi n'Test is rarely found within Morocco (try the grocery shops adjoining the square in Imlil) but is readily available from major bookstores in the U.K. and online.

Getting Around

By Foot -- It goes without saying that the easiest way to explore the mountains is by foot. For those not wishing to wander off alone, hiring a guide can be easily arranged. In Imlil, visit the Bureau des Guides d'Imlil . Elsewhere, simply inquire at your hotel or a local restaurant or cafe, and a guide will miraculously appear. Try to hire only those guides who are officially registered with the Association des Guides et Accompagnateurs en Montagne and who will have this status noted on their Moroccan ID card. Expect to pay around 500dh per half-day for these mountain specialists.

By Mule -- For those wishing to explore more than the general environs surrounding your hotel/village of choice but not wishing or able to do this by foot, hiring a mule for the day is the only option. The Atlas mountains are crisscrossed with an established network of mule trails, and no matter where you are staying, a mule -- and accompanying muleteer -- will be available for hire. In the Toubkal area, each mule generally has its own muleteer; in other areas, one muleteer may look after two to three mules at a time. Rates start from around 150dh per half-day for the mule, with an additional tip of up to 50dh for the muleteer.

By Organized Tour -- In Marrakech, every hotel and maison d'hôte will be able to organize day and multiday tours to the Western High Atlas. One very reputable company that is experienced with English-speaking travelers is Imagine le Voyage, corner of rue Mouahidine and rue Bani Marine in the medina (tel. 0524/427977; fax 0524/427972; www.saharaexpe.ma). A full-day excursion to either the Ourika Valley or Ouirgane starts at 250dh per person, and to Imlil from 400dh per person. Mountain Voyage (tel. 0524/421996 or 0661/242136; mountainvoyage@menara.ma), local manager of the Kasbah du Toubkal, offers "A Day with the Berbers" that departs Marrakech daily at 9am, returning at 4pm. The itinerary includes a visit to a local souk (market), lunch at Kasbah du Toubkal, followed by a relaxing hammam session or alternatively a mule ride/short trek to an outlying Berber village for mint tea with the locals. The tour costs a prohibitive 1,150dh per person, but comes backed by the reliability and top service that this company is renowned for.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.