When someone mentions a walking holiday, what springs to mind? Tents perhaps, waterproof clothes maybe, maps for sure… Well, forget all of those. Think instead of a luxury Berber castle hotel, short sleeves and a wonderful local guide who won’t get lost. We are at Kasbah Angour, just 30 minutes outside of Marrakech. But forget about the hustle and bustle of the city, this is pure peace and tranquillity.
For almost 1000km, the High Atlas mountain range stretches across the middle of Morocco. In the distance, and at the highest reaches, snow falls but lower down temperatures stay mild throughout the year making the foothills of the Atlas Mountains a year-round destination, ideal for all forms of guided walking breaks.
Kasbah Angour enjoys a hill-top location with simply stunning views of the Atlas Mountains. This is your backdrop for a short holiday combining time in the beautiful gardens, dining alfresco, swimming in the outdoor pool and then heading out for a walk exploring what feels like four completely different landscapes.
Half-day itineraries starting from Kasbah Angour are ideal for those looking to do moderate walking. Full-day walks are also offered and really enhance the experience in this setting. Walks are with a multi-lingual mountain guide local to the area and take around four hours. As we open our lungs on a walk, we also open our minds. Walking transforms the way we view and remember a destination especially with local knowledge. Let’s walk…
We descend from the Kasbah and follow a path east to the hill-top village or douar of Agadir-n-Igourramene. South of Morocco has an arid climate but it does sometimes rain. Come Spring time, there is a wonderful visual panorama of bright green fields interspersed with wild mountain flowers including lavender, flowering cacti and thyme. Looking back, Kasbah Angour sits prominently in the distance with its red sandstone walls contrasting with the landscape and the backdrop of the bright blue sky. Those with sharp eyes may spot kestrels and buzzards majestically gliding above the fields.
We are in Berber country and we arrive at a small village called Agadir. The first thing we are introduced to is the local school. The school’s official sign is now in both Arabic and Berber following the recognition of Berber as an official language in 2011. Agadir is largely composed of houses with baked earth (adobe) walls. Each house has space for animals and most grow herbs for tea in their gardens. We leave the village in the direction of the mountains, passing a well that is now used by shepherds to draw water for the village sheep and goats, and pass through a delightful small valley towards the Toubkal National Park.
We encounter eucalyptus trees growing alongside a seasonal stream bed and then enter the “forest” which is populated with juniper, pine, local small oak and more eucalyptus. We join a track that takes us to Outghal village. The word “outghal” is Berber for “elbow” as the village is located at the fork of two small valleys. After admiring the village, we pass through ancient olive groves with trees up to 150 years’ old into Igli village.
We continue alongside the Sidi Fares river valley. Our walk concludes back in the sanctuary of Kasbah Angour’s large gardens and we sit down to lunch under the blue sky. Visitors will experience the authentic Morocco at Kasbah Angour – local staff from the mountains, home cooking Moroccan style and interiors sourced locally and from all over the country. The hotel’s restaurant is open daily and serves a light lunch menu and a seasonal daily changing dinner menu.
Three course dinners are priced at 245 DH (around £20) and include typical Moroccan dishes such as Harira soup with lamb, tomatoes & chickpeas; chilled baked aubergine stuffed with tomatoes & thyme (v); coriander & garlic chicken grilled over a charcoal fire, sautéed potatoes and, of course, lamb tajine with quince, rice and Kefta (minced steak), all complemented by a wide variety of very good Moroccan white and red wines.
Those feeling energised can book other walks and there are many more available including two-day treks. Otherwise, just relaxing and enjoying the peace is also an option. The hotel features traditional architecture showcasing authentic Moroccan Berber style and ambiance. There are 25 bedrooms and suites which feature underfloor heating, wi-fi and air conditioning. The stunning gardens here cover 10 acres with spectacular views of the surrounding Atlas Mountains and green countryside. Kasbah Angour also features a vegetable garden filled with seasonal produce.
www.kasbahangour.com B&B is priced from £108 per room per night / Half-day walks are priced 295 dirhams around £24 per person / transfers from Marrakech airport 220 dirhams each way (£18). There are several daily flights from London to Marrakech offered by various airlines.
by Paul Argent
In light of the recent tragic murders of two Scandinavian students, the latest advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to those wishing to go hiking in the country’s mountains is to ‘seek local advice and take necessary precautions’.
The FCO cautions that trekking (or camping) alone can be dangerous and advises joining a group or hiring a registered guide.
Moroccan authorities say that one of the individuals arrested in connection with the murders had links to an extremist group. The FCO warns that terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks and advises travellers to be vigilant at all times, although it stresses that most of the 650,000 visits made by UK nationals each year are trouble-free. The country was visited by over 11 million tourists last year.
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