Everything You Should Know Before Visiting The Himba Tribe In Namibia

Everything You Should Know Before Visiting The Himba Tribe In Namibia

The Himba tribe of Namibia is one of the last few semi-nomadic indigenous groups in the world.

If done right, visiting a Himba village can be the highlight of a trip to Namibia. However, most of the time unaware travelers visit the Himba tribes on visits that last no more than one hour, during which an observing person may rightly have the impression that life in the village is staged for the sake of visitors.

This certainly is the case for many people who visit Namibia on a generic tour – so much so that it’s hardly something I’d recommend.

However, my experience was much better than most. I joined an expedition led by Nomadic Tribe, a new travel community platform which aims at going well beyond the mere surface when facilitating encounters between travelers and indigenous communities around the world, and that strives to create tours that are run in a fully responsible manner. You can view and book their tours via the newly launched Nomadic Tribe app – currently available on iOS.

It was not an easy trip and certainly not what I’d call a holiday, but it was absolutely enlightening in many ways.

Our journey of discovery in Namibia started in Walvis Bay. One car, five people. Uncomfortable to say the least. But the most important thing was that we stocked up on water, and we were ready to go. It took us 3 days of non-stop travel to reach the Himbas in northern Namibia, but when we finally did it our experience was nothing short of amazing.

This post highlights everything you should know to prepare your meeting with the Himba tribe, with the intent to approach them in a respectful and appropriate way; to know how to respect their culture; to be prepared and to make the most out of this surely intense experience.

Before telling you how to prepare for this encounter, however, let me give you some background information on the Himba tribe.

Himba village

A hut in a traditional Himba village

Some Background Information About The Himba Tribe

The Himba tribe is an indigenous people that live between Northern Namibia – in the Kunene region, once called Kaokoland – and in Southern Angola. The border between the two countries is marked by the Kunene River and the whole area is home to many Himba villages, where around 50000 people live. 

It is easy to recognize a Himba village: the small, round huts are made of wood and covered with cow dung. They come in small groups. Sometimes the whole Himba village is surrounded by a fence and it can contain a smaller one for goats that live with the tribe.

Sometimes the huts are empty and abandoned, with a metal or wooden slab that shuts their door, but this doesn’t mean that people won’t be back to dwell in them. This is because the Himbas are the last semi-nomadic tribe of Namibia, and they periodically move from area to area according to the concentration of rains over time.

The Himba people survived a genocide in the 1900s, at the hand of the German troops that at the time were controlling the territory. Where the German troops have failed, however, modernity is doing a much better job – nowadays the Himba culture risks being completely lost as more and more Himba youngsters opt to leave the slow and uncomfortable life of the village for a more modern way of life in the city.

In the hope that these interesting culture is not lost forever, it’s important that visits to a Himba tribe are run in a responsible manner, one that allows visitors to observe and appreciate the culture, and to fully respect it.

Continue reading to discover how to prepare to visit a Himba village.

himba women braiding hair

Himba women braiding their hair

How To Prepare For A Visit To The Himba Tribe In Namibia

Before the trip

Pick the right operator 

It is always important to choose the right operator when traveling, but if you are planning to visit a Himba tribe it’s really crucial. Make sure you pick someone who has experience in the field of anthropology and sustainable travel for a long time. 

Namibian tribes are more than 10 throughout the country and they don’t have to be spoiled or – worst – exploited for tourist purposes. On the contrary, it is important to preserve their culture and habits so visitors need to be introduced to them properly by the right people and have to prepared before that. 

An expert guide will take advantage of the long trip needed to reach the north of the country to explain a lot about culture in Namibia and Himba culture in particular. Our trip was organized by Nomadic Tribe and carried out by Namibian people – we even had Himba guides and staff.

This kind of approach is the most effective way to not only have an authentic experience as a visitor, but also to positively impact the protection of the Himba people and culture in Namibia.

Another simple but important reason to pick a good operator and not to go on your own is that since the Himbas are a semi-nomadic tribe, only local people know where to find them at a given time.

Learn (some of) the language

While it is almost impossible to become fluent in the Himba language in a short time – even because it is not a written language and Himba people don’t even have an alphabet – it is possible and interesting to learn some of the basics. 

This way you will be able to introduce yourself when you meet the Himbas, and to have a basic conversation which will definitely be greatly appreciated by the Himba tribe.

Find below a short list of very useful words:

I = amni.

You = othe.

Hello = moro (often heard in “moro moro!” = hello hello!).

Thank you = hoku heppa.

Good morning = Wapenduka nawa? (as in” did you wake up well? The reply is “nawa” = well).

Good = nawa.

Bad = ohe.

Yes = Ah (a long “ah” sound).

No = Kako.

What is your name? = Ennaroe?

My name is… = Ennaranje… 

Beautiful = Moro morinawa.

Sun = eyuva.

Rain = umbura.

Water = omewa.

Food = ovikulia.

himba woman at work

A Himba woman milking her goat

Know what you can bring for the Himba people

Before this experience I could only think of bringing food to the Himba tribe I would be visiting. I didn’t know how else to help, what to bring. Knowing they are dressed in a traditional way, bringing clothes was not an option so I felt lost. Now I know exactly what to bring next time!

Apart from the food you can buy locally, on the way to the Himba villages, there is something you can bring from home:

  • Blankets: while days can be incredibly hot, nights can get chilly because of the desert weather. Blankets will be greatly appreciated, both as a base for the hut and to cover oneself at night.
  • Fabric in general: Himba women don’t wear proper clothes, except for a goat leather skirt and traditional jewelry. They do however use cloths to sit on, to carry their babies and to cover up when needed.
  • Metal cups: in a Himba village people tend to share a few plastic containers to drink and eat, and they get broken and dirty really fast. Metal cups for goat milk and water will last, won’t pollute as plastic does, and are easy to clean.
  • Camping pots and pans: in a Himba village food is cooked on fire and in the same pots and pans over and over again. Some new pots and pans will help.

Please avoid bringing any kind of plastic wrapping and object as there is no such thing as trash bins, and garbage is disposed of in the environment, just outside the villages.

Himba woman and child

A beautifully dressed Himba woman and her children

What to pack

This is not going to be a comfortable trip mainly because of three reasons: the heat, the long drives and the absence of running water while camping. Keeping this in mind, you will need to pack the following things that you are really going to need:

  • Comfortable, long trousers: It goes without saying you will need comfortable clothes. Trousers should be long to protect you from the sun and insects. Also, a dark-ish colors such as brown or military green is preferable as the dirt will be harder to notice. Pants such as Kuhl Horizn Straight or Kuhl Weekendr are just perfect for this kind of trip.
  • Comfortable, long-sleeved shirts: You will need fresh, light shirts, but long sleeves are better to protect you from the sun and insects. The weather is hot anyway and you’ll feel cleaner and safer with long sleeves. Again, a dark color – but not black – will be better. I recommend packing a Kuhl Sora t-shirt, which comes in several colors, and the Kuhl Svenna shirt. Both of them are long sleeves.
  • High socks: Just to give you an idea, we found several scorpions and ticks so high socks are a very good idea. 
  • Insect repellent: If you are traveling in the dry season you may not find mosquitoes, but it’s better to bring an insect repellent anyway. A broad spectrum one that includes ticks is the best option.
  • Sunscreen: The sun burns. Never forget your sunscreen and apply it multiple times a day.
  • Sunglasses: You will need sunglasses for two reasons: the sun and to play with Himba kids. They had a lot of fun with mine!
  • Sun hat: You need to bring a sun hat or, even better, a turban or something to cover your head and hair. Because of the dust you may want to keep your hair as clean as possible by covering them.
  • Wet wipes: Since there is no shower in the camp, wet wipes will help when nothing else is available. I remember “taking long showers” with wet wipes every night in my tent. Of course don’t dispose of the wipes in the environment but keep your garbage with the rest of your stuff you until you find an actual garbage bin even if this means carrying a bag of garbage for a full day or two.
  • Sanitizing gel: Sanitizing gel is a good option when there is no water, in order to keep your hands as clean as possible. You may want to use it before meals and a few other times throughout the day. 
  • Comfortable walking shoes: I thought forgetting my Teva shoes at home was a big mistake but I was wrong. Closed shoes is all you need. They keep the dirt and bugs off. Comfortable walking shoes are even better!
  • Med kit: Once you leave the city in Namibia there is no access to shops or medical assistance. Make sure you bring your med kit with you and don’t forget antihistamine, loperamide, disinfectant and painkillers.
  • Head lamp: A headlamp, preferably with red light which doesn’t attract bugs, will be very useful at night, both in the tent and outside.
  • Water bottle and filter: Bring a water bottle and fill it every time you get the chance. You won’t be able to wash it properly so keep it clean and make sure it’s properly closed and in the shadow while not using it.
  • Warm jacket: If your trip includes the Atlantic coast you’ll find a really chilly weather especially at night so don’t forget a warm jacket. It was not the case during our trip, but even in the rest of the country it can get really cold at night so you may need to use a jacket every day. Kuhl Spyfire Hoody is perfect in this case.
  • A sweater or, even better, a micro fleece – these are usually lightweight. Something like Kuhl Alska and Kuhl Lea Pullover.

Books about Himbas by people involved in the community and wildlife conservation

We had the chance to meet some very important Namibian personalities who wrote very interesting books on the Himba tribe and the region where they live. Garth Owen-Smith and Margaret Jacobsohn have been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1993 because of their work to preserve Namibian wildlife. Moreover, Margaret Jacobsohn spent 5 years living with the Himbas.

If you want to do some more in depth readings about the Himba tribe, these are some recommended books:

Himba village

Make sure to interact with the Himba for a more meaningful experience

During the trip

Don’t just take photos

If I didn’t stress enough the point that choosing the right operator is important, let me add this: most tours in Namibia only include a short stop at a Himba village to take photos and buy crafts. This sort of behavior is very common among tourists. 

The Himba people are so used to it that they were actually surprised when they saw us stopping by a Himba village, camping there, and sharing our daily lives with them. We were told that many people stop by but don’t want to talk to them or touch them, avoiding all contact. 

For us, this was of course really painful to hear. On the other hand, we were welcomed in an incredibly warm way as second visitors ever to stop at that specific Himba village, after just someone from National Geographic did a few years before. 

The purpose of a trip to meet the Himba people doesn’t have to be just taking a few photos. If you are not interested in a deeper and responsible experience, you may want to skip this part of the trip completely and enjoy the countless natural wonders of Namibia only.

Remember, you are stepping into an ancient, almost untouched culture and you’re representing your own culture. Think about how meaningful this is. Make sure you don’t make everyone from your country look bad!

himba in Namibia

Getting to know the Himba community

Get to know Himba women and Himba men

Himba women are very well known for their braids covered in a red mud made of ochre mixed with butter. Their whole body is also covered in red ochre, they use herbs as perfumes and they dress topless. Men also dress topless and wear traditional skirts.

All Himba people – adults and children – wear lots of traditional jewelry made with beads, metal and wood.

Inside Himba villages you will likely meet many women and children but a very few men. This is because Himba women rarely leave the village and they take care of the huts, they cook, and they look after children.

Men instead walk long ways away from their village with the cattle. They can stay away for days and they normally come back at night, so it’s less likely to meet many of them. 

In the Himba culture, women are in charge. Even if they rarely leave the village, for example to fetch water, their days are far from boring. There is a lot to do in the village every day: in the morning Himba women milk the goats and prepare breakfast for everyone. So the day starts. 

Himba women spend a long time every day “bathing.” While men can use water in rivers, women don’t have access to water so they cover themselves in ochre powder and herbs to stay clean. Another way to “bathe” is with smoke: they cover themselves with blankets while burning herbs underneath them. This way they keep body odor away.

Other activities during the day include crafting, feeding babies, preparing food for the village, cleaning up and throwing away garbage, and fetching water – the hardest task, as they literally dig the ground with bare hands to find water, then they carry heavy tanks of water back to the camp which can be miles away.

Himba culture

Preparing for the beauty rituals

Respect the culture

First of all, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Yes, Himba women go topless. This is considered a completely normal thing among the Himba people. Breasts are not a sexual object, as they are only seen as organs to feed the many babies a Himba woman usually has throughout her life. So don’t stare and simply don’t go if this is a problem for you. 

Another important aspect of the Himba culture is that, because of the lack of water, they drink very little and if they do they gather water in the same place where their goats drink. You can imagine how hard their life is. Also, Himba people don’t have access to food every day. Don’t flash your fresh soda can or meal/snack in front of them if you’re not willing to share. 

Even if the Himba people normally agree to have photos taken of them (and then they enjoy having a look at them with you) it’s always a must to ask for permission before shooting. The best practice is to approach Himbas with conversation and then ask. 

Care to travel more responsibly? Make sure to read my post The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”

Don’t give money

You will surely realize that Himba people live in very simple conditions, without running water or electricity, or comfort of any kind. Sometimes they can even go without food for days before they either slaughter a goat or receive some food from visitors. 

Your specialized guide will know what the Himbas you’re visiting need so feel free to ask. Don’t give money to the tribe. This doesn’t help at all and money is not in the Himba culture. The best way to support a Himba village is to bring food or buy handicrafts from the women. Sheep-farming and crafts are the only ways Himbas have to support themselves.

Himba people

Himba women sitting by their hut

Make sure you have an interpreter

Making some small conversation with members of the Himba tribe is fun, but not enough to really get to know people and to ask all the questions you have in mind. It is normal to feel curious about other people’s habit and keep in mind that the Himbas will also be curious about you, and you’ll be asked questions.

Thanks to a female interpreter that was part of our team, I was able to sit with a group of women while two of them were working on their braids, and to have a personal conversation about their habits and beliefs. 

At first of course I asked them for their names and made questions about the technique used for the braids. Little by little the translator helped me getting into more specific questions: I was wondering how Himba women manage when they get their period and I got my answer. I was wondering what Himba people think about the stars and the universe and I got my answer. 

The Himba women asked me about how traditional marriages in Italy work, and about the food we eat. I had a meaningful conversation and I have to thank my interpreter for this.

Further readings about Namibia

For more information about Namibia and how to plan your trip there, make sure you read these other posts:

Further readings about other indigenous communities

If you have an interest in indigenous communities around the world, make sure to read the following posts:

This post has been written by Giulia Cimarosti, an incredible photographer and travel writer who agreed to cover for me during Nomadic Tribe trip to Namibia. I wish to thank her for her incredible work and for all her insights.

Legal Disclaimer: Giulia was a guest of the Nomadic Tribe during her trip to Namibia and was thrilled to be one of the first to test this itinerary. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain hers. 

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A Complete Guide To Luderitz, Namibia

A Complete Guide To Luderitz, Namibia

Luderitz, Namibia. If there is a place you shouldn’t miss on your trip to Southern Africa, this is it. Between the Namib Desert and the South Atlantic coast (by far the most inhospitable one of this part of the world), this town leaves many a visitor puzzled. Because frankly, it is plain weird – though in a good way, obviously.

This small town of just 18000 people has a lot to offer to those who venture there. Colonial architecture makes it look like it’d be more in place somewhere in South Bavaria (and that’s why it’s called Little Munich) – but we are in the middle of the desert. The Art Nouveau buildings give it a quirky look.

Add to this the wildlife sightings and the beyond interesting surroundings and you’ll get why this is an unmissable destination.

In this post, I highlight the things you shouldn’t be missing when visiting Luderitz. Before I do so, however, let me first share some background information on how this lovely town came about.

Kolmanskop Luderitz

Kolmanskop can be easily visited from Luderitz

Some Background Information On Luderitz

The first European to arrive in the area where Luderitz was founded was Bartolomeu Dias. It was 1487 and he named the bay where he stopped Angra Pequena (small bay) and erected a cross on a stone to indicate the exact point where he landed.

In the 18th century, the Dutch started looking for precious minerals, but weren’t very successful. Subsequent expeditions in the area established that there was a very rich wildlife and activities such as whaling, fishing, seal hunting and even guano-harvesting were started. That’s how Luderitz was first founded.

It was in 1883, when Heinrich Vogelsang bought the bay Angra Pequena and the land nearby on behalf of Adolf Lüderitz, that the city got its name. The city expanded thanks to the efforts of the Herero and Nama prisoners who were held in a concentration camp located on Shark Island and created in 1905 during the Herero Wars.

In 1909 diamonds were first discovered in the area of Kolmanskop, near Luderitz, and the city started to prosper.

After the German population was forced to leave once World War I was over and the trade in diamonds started to shrink, Luderitz started losing importance as a trading harbor. Nowadays, the town has become a popular tourist destination.

Continue reading to discover the things to do and see in Luderitz.

Luderitz Peninsula

A dismantled power station in Luderitz Peninsula

7 Great Things To Do In Luderitz

Admire the colonial architecture and Art Nouveau buildings

Luderitz is packed with excellent examples of colonial architecture and Art Nouveau buildings, and a quick walk around town will unveil the best kept buildings.

Among the ones you shouldn’t miss there are the Deutsche Africa Bank building, which was built in 1907 and is the most important colonial building in town – we well as a national monument.

Located on Diamond Hill there’s Felsenkirche, or Rock Church, a vertical gothic style church that was consecrated in 1912. This is another national monument, recognized in 1978. It can be easily spotted from Luderitz Nest Hotel.

More colonial and Art Nouveau buildings include the Gluck Auf, built between 1907 and 1908 to be the mansion of a lawyer who worked for the diamond companies in the nearby Kolmanskop. It was declared a national monument in 2014.

The Goerkehaus was built between 1909 and 1911 to be the house of Hans Goerke, who also worked for the diamond company (he was a manager). Like the others, it is a national monument.

Lastly, there are the Kreplinhaus, built in 1909 and home of the first mayor of Luderitz, Emil Kreplin; and the Railway Station, built in 1904. Both of them are national monuments.

township

The township

See the other side of Luderitz 

Namibia became independent from South African in 1990, and like its neighbor country it has several townships. Even Luderitz has its own, and it is an interesting place to visit. I am always thorn when I have to write about visiting them, because there is an element of voyeurism in visiting a place where poverty is predominant. But if done on a good tour and with an excellent guide, it can be a great way to get a better understanding of the local way of life, of the relationship between the various communities living in a said place.

The living conditions in Luderitz township vary from one place to another, with some people making an obvious effort and accepting government aid and housing to improve their living conditions, and others simply living in poverty and below acceptable standards in improvised huts.

Kolmanskop

Kolmanskop is the most interesting place to visit near Luderitz

Explore Kolmanskop

Perhaps the highlight of a trip to Luderitz is visiting Kolmanskp, a ghost town which is at just 10 km, in the middle of the desert. The town was founded at the beginning of the 20th century, then diamonds were found in its surroundings. It was small yet very wealthy and with state of the art infrastructure.

Kolmanskop was completely abandoned when it was determined that extracting diamonds in the area was no longer profitable – more places were discovered in South Africa that were far more suitable. People living there had to leave their homes taking whatever they could with them.

Kolmanskop can be visited on a guided tour, typically lasting around 45 minutes. After the guided tour, you are free to walk around and take photos for as long as you want.

In Kolmanskop you’ll be able to admire the gorgeous mansions – some of them still well kept and with pieces of furniture, some completely taken over by the elements; the post office; a general store with bottles and glass windows and other objects of the time; a bowling alley which still functions; a restaurant and a train station. As the guide will explain, there used to be a cart that went around the town, taking the people living there to the various places.

Take care to also notice the small buildings in the distance (you won’t really be able to go there): these housed the workers who were quarantined before leaving Kolmanskop. The quarantine was practiced to avoid them leaving after having swallowed diamonds.

To discover more about Kolmanskop, make sure to read this post by National Geographic.

Diaz Point

Make sure to pay a visit to Diaz Point

Fight against the wind at Diaz Point

One of the nicest places to visit near Luderitz is Diaz Point, which is at about 18 km from town. This is the place where Bartolomeu Dias placed a stone cross, which is still visible today. You can walk up via a narrow wooden causeway, which has definitely seen better days. The views of the Atlantic Ocean from up there are marvelous, and if you look closely you can even see seals resting on some of the rock formations nearby. Make sure to bring a jacket as the wind in this part of Namibia is fierce!

Admire wildlife at Luderitz Peninsula

If there is one thing Namibia is famous for that’s its wildlife, and Luderitz Peninsula, near Luderitz, is a great place to admire various species. The area is fantastic for birdwatching – the best sight is that of pink flamingoes who frolic here to feed on the shrimp that live in the clean waters of the region.

See the sunset from the pier at Luderitz Nest Hotel

Luderitz glows at sunset. Several places in town offer great views of the sunset – there is a spot where lots of vans and camper-vans park from where you can get nice views. However, I think the best place to enjoy the beautiful light as the sun goes down is the pier right next Luderitz Nest Hotel, which overlooks the bay. If you are lucky enough to stay there, you may even get a room with a direct view of the balcony.

Eat the delicious seafood

Most of the food you’ll be eating in Namibia is meat – take it as a warning if you are vegan or vegetarian: your options outside of Windhoek are very limited. Thus, Luderitz will come as welcome change as you’ll find a few, excellent restaurants where you can enjoy very good, fresh fish and seafood. Among the recommended places there are the Portuguess Fisherman and Penguin Restaurant, which is located in Luderitz Nest Hotel.

Pink Flamingoes in Luderitz Peninsula

Pink Flamingoes in Luderitz Peninsula

Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Luderitz

When to visit Luderitz

Compared to the rest of Namibia, thanks to the fact that it is right by the ocean Luderitz is quite humid. It may be a welcome change from the incredibly dry air – depending on how you feel about humidity. The weather is mostly dry, with sunny days year round. The warmest months are March and April, the coldest ones June and July. The busiest months are April, August and September. I visited in June and even it was windy but pleasant during the day, and just chilly at night.

Where to stay in Luderitz

Luderitz is fairly small but there are a couple of good accommodation options. I don’t recommend camping, as the Atlantic current means that it gets cold and very humid at night. These are the best places to stay in Luderitz:

How to get to Luderitz 

There are two main ways to visit Namibia: on an overland guided tour (I recommend those run by Wild Dog Safaris) or independently, with a rented 4×4. In both cases, it takes around 8 hours to drive to Luderitz from Windhoek, but chances are you’ll be arriving from a different, closer place such as Keetmanshoop.

Luderitz has a small airport at about 9 km from town, with three weekly flights to the capital. There are some combis (minibuses) that connect Luderitz to the capital, but there is no set schedule.

Other useful information

Make sure to also get a good travel insurance for your trip to Namibia and southern Africa. Get yours here. Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

Further readings

For more readings about Luderitz, you can check one of these books:

If you are planning a trip to Namibia and Southern Africa, you may find these posts useful:

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Everything You Should Know Before Visiting A Berber Village In Morocco

Everything You Should Know Before Visiting A Berber Village In Morocco

Visiting a Berber village in Morocco is a must and whether you just go for a short time or, like I did, spend 5 full days hiking through the Atlas Mountains, you’re bound to have an incredible time.

The good news is going to the Atlas Mountains to visit the Berber tribes in Morocco is very easy. Amizmiz, one of the largest towns at the base of the Atlas, is just one hour drive and from there you can quickly get to the smaller villages.

However, there are some few important things you should know about the Berber culture before you visit.

In this post, I will explain everything you need to know before visiting a Berber village in Morocco and share a few tips so that you can make the most of your time during your visit.

Berber village in Morocco

A seemingly abandoned settlement

13 Things To Know Before Visiting A Berber Village In Morocco

The actual name of Berbers is Amazigh

The official name of Berber tribes in Morocco is actually Amazigh, a word which means “free people.” The name Berber derives from the word “Barbarian” and in general the Amazigh don’t like to be referred to as Berbers.

In reality, the word Barbarian derives from the Greek “barbaroi” or the Latin “Barbari” and in the common use during the time of the Roman Empire it meant “foreigner” and was used to refer to anybody who was not from Rome, and not intended in an insulting way. The Arabs used it to refer to people who spoke a language other than Arabic.

Please note I am only using the word “Berber” for purely simplicity reasons, and that I do not attach to it any negative connotation.

They are more than 15 millions in Morocco

The Amazigh are scattered across Northern Africa, where they are more than 50 million, and around 15 million of them live in Morocco.

They don’t speak Arabic

Though most Amazigh also speak Arabic, in reality their language is Tamazigh, of which there are several dialects and varieties. The language was officially recognized with the new Moroccan Constitution in 2011, but to date no law that implements the changes and that pushes for the use of Amazigh in public life and education has been passed.

On occasions, some people who have spent time in France they speak French – but in general you will need an interpreter and a local guide to be able to communicate with the Amazigh.

They live a very traditional life

The Amazigh main source of income is agriculture and cattle farming. Most men are shepherd and move around with their animals in search of pastures. At times they are gone for days and even weeks with their animals. Women usually look after the children and the house.

Both men and women wear traditional clothes and they are Sunni muslim.

Though most Amazigh live in very modest clay houses with little comforts, with time some have managed to build bigger homes with modern touches. Electricity made it to this part of Morocco no more than 10 years ago, and running water at times is not a thing.

A typical house consists of a kitchen and several rooms which are often scattered around an internal patio – one of them is a living room, with lots of stools and couches: this is where guests are welcomed. The bathroom is usually very modest and consist of a squat toilet and a sink (at times there’s not even that). The most comfortable houses have a hammam, which is what the Amazigh use to traditionally wash themselves.

food in Morocco

Amazigh people eat with their hands

They eat with their hands

One of the best parts of visiting a Berber village in Morocco is trying local food and eating with local families. The Amazigh don’t use cutlery and dishes for their food, but typically eat out of the clay pot used to prepare the food – the tajine – scooping up the food with bread. When eating couscous they use a spoon.

They don’t drink alcohol

Since the Amazigh are Muslims, they don’t drink alcohol so don’t expect to see any wine, beer or liquor during your visit – whether for a day or longer.

But tea is poured at any time of day

The one thing that is constantly pouring in Berber villages in Morocco is tea. It’s not even remotely close in taste to what you may be accustomed to, and it is serious business here – the procedure to prepare a proper pot of tea is quite elaborate and the end result absolutely delicious. You will be able to try the typical mint tea or an even more fragrant tea with herbs.

The Amazigh love their tea with lots and lots of sugar, but if you – like me – aren’t a fan of the sweet flavor, you can ask to pour yours before sugar is added.

People are very welcoming

The Amazigh people are incredibly friendly. Whether you visit one of the wealthiest family or one of the more modest ones, they will make it a point to welcome you with tea, snacks, and to show you around their house. On some occasions, they will even show your their best dresses and ask you to try them on, and then pose for photos with you.

Amazigh children

Amazigh children are absolutely adorable

Especially the children

Amazigh people have lots of children, and these are absolutely adorable and during a trip to the Berber villages in Morocco you’ll have plenty of opportunities to interact with them. As soon as they realize there’s a visitor in the village, they’ll come running and make a show of their best tricks, engage you in a game of soccer, pull you by your hand to take you around the village and show you to their family and friends. They will be all smiles and hugs and will make your time even more memorable!

They are just as concerned as we are about climate change

The Amazigh may live an isolated life in the remote villages of the Atlas Mountains, but they are not oblivious of the main issues the world is facing. On a conversation with a local shepherd in the village of Tizzga, it emerged that climate change is a major cause of concern, with people worried that with desertification and heat they won’t have pasture for their animals and they will lose their means of livelihood.

Berber tribes in Morocco

Amazigh men with their mules overlooking the valley

To the Amazigh, mules are a means of transportation

Mules are working animals to the Amazigh and when you’ll visit you will notice that a lot of them are charged with weights or that that people ride them. Please keep in mind that using mules for work purposes is part of the local culture, and that these animals are nicely treated and well taken care of – it’s in the interest of their owners to make sure that the animals are healthy and fit to work.

Waste disposal is very much an issue

Although it is doing much better than its neighboring countries, waste disposal is very much an issue in Morocco, and even more so in the Berber villages of the Atlas Mountains where there is no garbage collection system. You may not notice if you just visit for a day, but there are large waste dumps close to the villages and people often set them on fire, with terrible consequences for the environment and their health.

My hope is that policies to reduce plastic waste, as well as garbage collection and recycling policies are implemented as soon as possible.

Do you care to become a more responsible traveler? Make sure to read this post.

Berber villages in Morocco are actually very safe

We often hear people express their worry that Morocco is not exactly safe and people who have visited say that they have been victims of scams. I can’t comment for the cities – I didn’t spend enough time in Marrakech. But I can tell you that the Berber villages of the Atlas Mountains are absolutely safe and the people nothing but nice.

Berber women

Berber men and women dress modestly – and so should you, when visiting

7 Tips To Enjoy Your Visit To A Berber Village In Morocco

Dress modestly

As the Amazigh people of Morocco are usually Sunni Muslims, both Berber women and men are dressed very modestly, with women covering their head and men usually wearing a long sort of coat that goes all the way to their ankles.

Although you won’t be required to cover your head, it’s definitely recommended to be dressed modestly regardless of the weather, covering your shoulders and chest, wearing long pants or a long skirt and avoiding anything that is too tight and revealing.

Get an excellent guide

You shouldn’t be visiting a Berber village in Morocco independently. This is not for safety reason: the villages are truly lovely places and the people are kind and welcoming. But the language barrier is such that unless you get someone that speaks the local language you won’t be able to make much of what you see and experience.

Importantly, you need not only to have a guide, but to have an excellent one that proactively talks to the local communities, that is willing to act as an interpreter, and that has a real interest in informing you about the culture and customs of the Amazigh people.

This may seem like an obvious kind of tip, but I only too often seen guides that were not really interested in what they were meant to do, and this diminished the experience. Make sure to enquire locally for a recommended guide, or – should you decide to book your trip the the Berber villages in Morocco online – take your time to go through the reviews.

Below I will share a few good day trips that you can buy online.

Bring small presents to children

As soon as you get to the first Berber village, you will realize that there are many children, and that these are just as curious about you as you are about them. They will run after you, pull you by your hand so that you can go play with them, show you with pride to their friends and family. In some cases, they will ask you for small things – pens, candies, treats.

If you are thinking about bringing some presents for the children, enquire with your guide beforehand to get an idea of what may be some good options.

In general, I do not recommend bringing anything such as candies, chocolates or other kind of snacks – for two main reasons: most of the time these are wrapped in plastic, and the kids will just throw the wrap anywhere they happen to be, a lot of children in this part of the country have teeth issues (I have seen a good deal with major cavities).

If you don’t have the opportunity to consult with your guide before visiting, consider bringing a book – something that they can read or that they can use to write and study. You can even donate books to the local school.

Buy locally made souvenirs

You won’t find many shops when visiting a Berber village in Morocco. You will however come across places such as women cooperatives where you can see them brushing and preparing the wool and even making carpets. These are really inexpensive and truly local souvenirs and buying them will certainly bring a small contribution to the welfare of the local communities.

Make sure to carry some spare change and enough cash in case you have an opportunity to shop!

Smile

One thing you will notice the minute you’ll get into a Berber village in Morocco is how friendly people are – men, women and children will all smile at you, and you should do the same. It’s the first means of communication and it’s a nice way to break the language barrier.

On an occasion I even had a woman hugging me – it came completely unexpected, and it was such a genuine gesture that I was truly touched.

Berber village in Morocco

Some multi-day hikes go through a multitude of Berber villages

Multi-day hikes that go through the Berber villages in Morocco 

If you have time and want to have a more in depth experience of the Berber culture, you should consider joining a long distance hiking trip like the one I did.

My hike was organized by Nomadic Tribe, a new travel community platform which strives to allow travelers to have real and at times raw experiences with indigenous communities around the world, and to do so in a manner that is responsible and completely supportive of local communities. You can view and book their tours via the newly launched Nomadic Tribe app – currently available on iOS.

During the hike, you’ll be able to appreciate the gorgeous landscape of the Atlas Mountains and you will be visiting various villages, with a chance of encountering the Amazigh people, visiting their homes (and in fact, sleeping in their houses) and sharing a bit of their daily life.

Read the complete hiking itinerary through the Berber villages in Morocco in my post “A Fantastic Itinerary For Hiking In Morocco.”

Day trips to Berber villages in Morocco

If, on the other hand, you don’t have enough time for a hike but still want to visit a Berber village in Morocco, you could consider a day trip leaving from Marrakech. There are a few ones around that you can even buy online. I have selected the best ones – but I still recommend reading the reviews and the details to make sure it meets your expectations.

Here are the best day trips to Berber villages leaving from Marrakech:

Further readings about other indigenous communities

If you have an interest in indigenous communities around the world, make sure to read the following posts:

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Nomadic Tribe during my trip to Morocco and I was thrilled to be one of the first to test this itinerary. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain my own. 

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A Fantastic Itinerary For Hiking In Morocco

A Fantastic Itinerary For Hiking In Morocco

Hiking in Morocco is an incredible experience, that goes well beyond the pure pleasure of admiring the landscape.

There’s something truly special about trekking in Morocco, something that is hard to pin down and that you’d have to see to believe. Going deep into the Atlas Mountains – considered one of the hidden gems of Morocco – is a fantastic way not only to appreciate nature – picture snow capped peaks, creeks flowing through lush valleys, forests and much more – but also to get to know a very unique culture – that of the Amazigh communities, commonly referred to as Berbers (a term which, to be fair, they dislike as they find it insulting).

You can follow various trails to experience the beauty of the Atlas. One of the best around starts in Amizmiz, and takes the very few foreigners that venture there through the tiny villages scattered in this part of the country. Amizmiz is at a mere one hour drive from the busy Marrakech, but already feels like a world apart.

With its 11000 inhabitants, Amizmiz is by and large the most populated town in this part of the Atlas. This should set the mood for what you may experience should you decide to venture in a land where foreign visitors are as rare as they are welcome, and where ancestral customs are still very much a thing.

I recently had the chance to go hiking in Morocco Atlas Mountains, and it was a fantastic experience. In the course 5 days I managed to appreciate the beauty and solitude of the Atlas Mountains; I crossed a multitude of tiny villages; encountered the most friendly locals; enjoyed their culture and gorged on the delicious local food.

For those of you who are interested in experiencing the same, I have put together this post which contains a detailed itinerary, with what plenty of practical information about the distances and difficulties, about the sights and what you can expect, and finally where you can eat and sleep along the way.

However, please beware that although this itinerary is very detailed and with plenty of useful information, I do not recommend hiking this multi-day trek independently and even less so to do it alone: the trail is often tricky to follow, and you’ll be crossing villages where, should you not have some connection and not speak the local language, you’ll have a hard time getting a place to stay and eat for the night.

Check out my post 11 Reasons Why Hiking Alone May Be A Bad Idea.”

The best option to go hiking in Morocco is then to go on an organized adventurous trip such as that organized by Nomadic Tribe, a brand new travel community platform which strives to promote a new way of traveling by facilitating encounters between adventurous travelers and indigenous communities around the world. You can view and book their tours via the newly launched Nomadic Tribe app – currently available on iOS.

hiking in Morocco

Life goes on placidly in Morocco Atlas Mountains

A 5 Days Itinerary For Hiking In Morocco

Day 1 – from Amizmiz to Ait Irghit 

The first day on this itinerary for hiking in Morocco Atlas Mountain is spent walking from Amizmiz to Ait Irghit. You’ll be leaving the small town to get more and more into the mountains, where you’ll get increasingly immersed in nature and blissfully isolated.

You’ll come across very few people during your walk – some shepherds, a few women with their children, and sheep and at times cows enjoying their pasture.

The walking time between Amizmiz and Amezi, where you will be having lunch, is about 2 and a half hours.

Once in Amezi, you’ll have the first proper encounter with a local family, with the chance to learn a bit about the local customs and way of life – including the ritual of tea and washing hands before eating.

Your lunch spot varies depending on the guide’s choice, who picks a different family every time and usually makes it a point to help the family most in need. My group stopped at the very modest home of a widower and her beautiful children.

After lunch you’ll continue walking towards Ait Irghit, where you’ll spend the night. It’s a pleasant uphill walk and you’ll arrive to your final destination in time for sunset. Once there, you will have the chance of visiting local families for tea and snacks and to get to know their way of life.

Practical information

Download the track on Wikiloc here.

Overall walking distance: 12 km

Overall walking time: 6 and a half hours, including lunch break and several stops for photos.

Highest point: 1724 meters above sea level.

Lunch break: the typical arrangement throughout this 5 day hike is such that meals are consumed at local homes and they usually consist of traditional food such as tajine or cous cous. On the first day, lunch will be eaten at a tiny Amazigh village called Amezi (Tidli).

The sights

The views throughout your first day of hiking in Morocco are beautiful. As you cross the green fields, you’ll have views of the valley as well as the snow capped mountains, and on occasions you’ll encounter men or women working alone in the fields.

The villages you’ll cross are very modest – dirt streets, clay homes with little comforts – but give the overall landscape a nice touch.

Once you get to Ait Irghit, if the day is clear you’ll have the chance to admire sunset.

What to expect

This day is meant to ease you into the rest of your hiking in Morocco trip, so that you can adjust to the altitude. There won’t be any major challenge. The trail is easy to follow and the terrain mostly good as you will usually be walking on a dirt road. The uphill walking will be more persistent after lunch, but it’s nothing to worry about. You won’t meet many people – on occasion, a few persons working in the field, a couple of kids on a donkey.

TIP: Make sure to carry enough water for the day and some snacks to munch on before lunch, as on this day your lunch break will be rather late.

trekking in Morocco

The gorgeous views on the second day of the hike

Day 2 – from Ait Irghit to Infag

The second day of your hiking in Morocco itinerary will be spent walking from Ait Irghit to Infag, with a lunch break in Ait Ahmed.

After breakfast, you’ll have the chance to say goodbye to your host and their children, and then start walking out of the village and towards a thick, beautiful and pristine forest.

Though the distance is slightly shorter and most of the day you’ll be going downhill, the trail is very narrow in places and you’ll have to pay close attention to where you put your feet, making the overall walking time slightly longer than the previous day.

If you didn’t meet many people on your first day of hiking in Morocco, your second day will be even more peaceful. You’ll only see people once you get close to your lunch spot, in the village of Ait Ahmed which you will be approaching from above, thus having beautiful panoramic views.

The walking time between Ait Irghit and Ait Ahmed, where you will be having lunch, is about 3 and a half hours. The village is larger than Amezi, where you have lunch on your first day, and the overall impression is that locals are more accustomed at seeing travelers.

After lunch you’ll continue walking towards Infag, a small village built along the side of the mountain.

Practical information

Download the track on Wikiloc here.

Overall walking distance: 11.3 km

Overall walking time: 7 hours, including plenty of time for photos and lunch.

Highest point: 1704 meters above sea level.

Lunch break: with a local family in Ait Ahmed.

The sights

In terms of views, this is probably the most interesting day of this hiking in Morocco itinerary. You will be walking through the forest, reaching some tiny waterfalls which are perfect for a photo break; and as you will approach the village where you’ll have your lunch break from above, you’ll be offered an incredible sight.

Yet, the best view is that of the snow capped mountains from the meadows where lonely shepherds take their cows to graze. It’s an absolutely mighty and beautiful sight.

After lunch, you’ll continue walking mostly on a dirt road. The landscape will be a bit mode desolate and dry and approach various clay villages that look well hidden in the mountains.

What to expect

There are no major difficulties during your second day hiking in Morocco, other than the fact that the trail is at times quite narrow and not easy to follow – but this is hardly a concern since you’ll be with an expert local guide at all times. You meet even less people than on the previous day – it is all about getting close to nature.

TIP: Carry a power bank for your phone or make sure your camera is fully charged as there will be plenty of good photo opportunities.

Morocco Atlas Mountains

Posing for a photo in front of the incredible mountain views

Day 3 – from Infag to Tizgga

On your third day of hiking in Morocco you will be walking from Infag to Tizgga and your lunch break will be in Imi Ourmer.

You’ll start walking soon after breakfast, making your way out of the village and towards the valley. Walking along the dirt road, you’ll come to a river and you’ll have to continue walking along that on a narrow but easy trail.

As you’ll be crossing several villages, you’ll get to meet more people and you’ll be able to observe local life a bit more. In Imi Ourmer, your lunch spot, you’ll have the chance of visiting a cooperative where local women dedicate their time to the art of traditional carpet weaving.

The walking time between Infag and Imi Ourmer is short around 2 and a half hours.

After lunch, you’ll cross a couple of villages until the trail becomes a steep uphill until your final destination, the village of Tizgga, the highest point you’ll reach during your time hiking in Morocco. The village has some pretty views over the mountains, but it is incredibly modest.

Practical information

Download the track on Wikiloc here.

Overall walking distance: 13.5 km

Overall walking time: 7 hours, including lunch break and various stops.

Highest point: 1953 meters above sea level.

Lunch break: at a local house in Imi Ourmer.

The sights

The views on your third day of hiking in Morocco are stunning. Soon after getting out of Infag, you’ll reach a valley with a river flowing through it, and a viewpoint from where you can enjoy an encompassing view of your surroundings up until the snow capped mountains.

The village of Imi Ourmer, where you’ll be having lunch, is set scenically along the river. Along the river there is a channel system used by local women to do laundry in the traditional way, and that is a nice thing to observe. This is one of the villages you’re likely to enjoy the most, as the host family where you’ll be having lunch has a nice, comfortable home (by local standards) and it is very welcoming.

Tizgga, where you will spending the night, is a village of very modest people who are however absolutely friendly. They will make it a point to show you the most intricate traditional clothes and even offer you to try them on to pose for photos.

What to expect

Though the first part of the day is fairly easy and the walk is pleasant, the walk up to Tizgga can be challenging as you’ll be at a bit of an elevation, and the road you’ll be walking along quite steep. Other than that, it is an absolutely pleasant walk.

TIP: You’ll be tempted to buy a carpet from the women’s cooperative there and then, but keep in mind that you’ll be going through the same village on day 4 of this hiking itinerary, so you may want to spare yourself (or the mules) the effort of having to carry extra weight for at least one day.

Morocco trekking

Beautiful views just outside of Imintala

Day 4 – from Tizzga to Imintala

On your fourth day you will walk back down on the same trail you followed the day before, reaching the village of Imi Ourmer by lunch time.

After lunch you will walk towards Imintala, one of the largest villages in the area, where you’ll be hosted in a beautiful, very large traditional home that compared to the others where you’ll be staying will feel significantly more comfortable – this is the only night where you’ll be sleeping on a bed, though with your sleeping bag.

The village itself is more lively compared to the others and one of the most interesting one you’ll be coming across when hiking in Morocco, and chances are you’ll come across group of kids engaged in ball games who’ll be glad to involve you, or other youngsters walking around for errands.

Practical information

Download the track on Wikiloc here.

Overall walking distance: 12.8 km

Overall walking time: 6 hours, including lunch break.

Highest point: 1939 meters above sea level.

Lunch break: at a local house in Imi Ourmer.

The sights

For the first half of the day, the sights will be the same of those of the previous afternoon. After lunch, as you’ll be walking towards Imintala, you’ll have views of the mountains and of the small villages scattered along the way. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a sunset view from Imintala or in its immediate surroundings, but it’s still nice to get out a bit and admire the views.

What to expect

This is one of the easiest days of walking – for those who prefer going downhill. There are no major challenges along the way, and you will be happy to know that once in Imintala you will be able to enjoy a proper hammam.

food in Morocco

Meals are eaten at local homes

Day 5 – from Imintala to Amizmiz

Your final day of hiking in Morocco will also be the longest one, but you won’t encounter many challenges. The first part of the day will be spent walking towards Sidi Hssayn, where you will have lunch at a local home. After that, you’ll make your way towards Amizmiz, the initial point of this hiking itinerary, where a car will be waiting for you to take you back to Marrakech.

Practical information

Download the track on Wikiloc here.

Overall walking distance: 20 km.

Overall walking time: 7 hours, including lunch break.

Highest point: 1486 meters above sea level.

Lunch break: at a local house in Sidi Hssayn.

The sights

Similar to the previous days, you will be looking at dry mountains where you will  be able to spot several Amazigh villages.

What to expect

This is a long day – not so much in terms of challenges, but in terms of the distance you’ll be walking, almost all of it on dirt road. Be prepared with snacks and plenty of water to keep your energy flowing.

Berber villages in Morocco

A view of Imintala, one of the largest villages in this part of the Atlas

General Information And Tips To Enjoy Hiking In Morocco

The best tip I can give you if you plan to go hiking in Morocco is to get prepared for uncomfortable conditions. The hikes aren’t strenuous per se, and although you won’t be camping throughout this trail, you’ll be sleeping at local homes (more about it below) which are as far as it can be from luxurious – in some cases, you won’t even have a sink to wash your hands and brush your teeth before going to bed.

This is definitely not a trip for people who expect modern day comforts and who can’t let a day go by without getting online.

I recommend giving yourself enough time to follow the itinerary and add a few days in Marrakech at the end, so that you can enjoy a proper shower, rest in a good hotel and then move on to your next destination.

You may not be able to get a map of the trails but you can definitely download the tracks on Wikiloc, even more so as they work offline. Though – as I have stressed throughout this post – you shouldn’t be walking this trail alone, having a trail with a map that you can follow will also give you an idea of your daily challenges.

Continue reading for more tips on how to make the most of your time when hiking in Morocco.

Getting to Marrakech

The best starting point for hiking in Morocco Atlas Mountains is Marrakech, which is very well connected to other countries in Europe and beyond via flights with major and budget airlines. Marrakech Menara Airport is at just 10 km from the city center, but with traffic it may take you more than 30 minutes to reach your hotel.

Taxis are easily available right outside the terminal, but in case you don’t want to fiddle with money or worry about having to haggle a price, you can book a private transfer here.

Where to sleep in Marrakech

Chances are you’ll have to spend at least one night in Marrakech before you start your hiking trip. I actually recommend spending a few days afterwards as well, to explore the city – which has a lot to offer – and rest. The good news is that there are some excellent hotels in town, for all tastes and budgets. I have selected the best ones for you:

Stay tuned as I will be writing a more in depth post on where to stay in Marrakech.

Guided tours of Marrakech

The center of Marrakech is easy enough to explore. The nicest part is the Medina – though rumor has it that the Medina of Fez is even better. I recommend getting lost in the narrow alleys to look at the small shops, sipping tea, having a snack here and there, enjoying local life and grabbing all the photo opportunities you can think of.

If your time in the city is limited, you may want to go on one or two guided tours to make the most of it. Here are a few good ones:

I will soon be writing a post about the things to do in Marrakech.

Reaching the Atlas Mountains and the beginning of the trail

It takes about one hour by car (or two on a combination of local buses and shared taxi) to get from Marrakech to Amizmiz, where your hike will start. Nomadic Tribe will take care to arrange your transfer.

hiking in Morocco

Lovely children roaming about on a mule

When to go hiking in Morocco Atlas Mountains

The best time to visit Morocco Atlas Mountains is between March and November, when there is no snow. Summer months tend to be hot, though much cooler than in the rest of Morocco. I generally don’t recommend hiking in the summer, so if you are planning a hiking trip to the Atlas you should go between March and May, before it gets too hot; or in October and November, before it starts snowing.

I visited Morocco and hiked the Atlas Mountains in mid April and days were sunny, with pleasant temperatures that dropped at night, when it became rather cold and warm clothes were a must.

Another factor to keep in mind is Ramadan, a month during which Muslims fast during the day. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend visiting at that time of the year – mostly out of respect for locals who will be fasting. In 2020, Ramadan will be between April and May.

Guided multi-day hikes in Morocco with Nomadic Tribe

Several companies organized hikes throughout the Atlas Mountains, but I can only comment the one I used.

My multi-day hike in Morocco was organized by Nomadic Tribe, a new travel community platform which strives to promote responsible adventure travel and whose mission is to connect travelers with indigenous communities throughout the world, whether they want to travel alone, with friends or want to join an already formed group.

Via the Nomadic Tribe app you’ll be able to find information about the indigenous communities you may want to visit, read the itinerary of the trip, see if there is a tour leaving and book it. You will also be able to share your experience – much like on other social media – with photos and posts.

Accommodation throughout the hike

Before I go on to describe what your accommodation will be like while hiking in Morocco, let me reassure you that the lack of comfort during the hike will be made up by the incredible company of like minded people and by the smiles of the local families, who will go our of their way to make you feel welcome (I don’t think I have ever met such welcoming people!), and of their children who are absolutely adorable.

Throughout your hike in Morocco Atlas Mountains, accommodation will be pre-arranged for you and you will be sleeping in tiny Berber villages, in local homes which are very modest by our standards, but where families often rent out one or two rooms (usually the living room) to visitors and prepare their meals.

While the food is delicious throughout, the sleeping arrangements are modest, but in a way they contribute to creating a special bond with among the group members.

Don’t expect any luxury: you’ll be provided a sleeping bag and some blankets to keep you warm at night, and you’re likely going to sleep either on the floor on thin mattresses, or on the (very hard) couches. Usually, the entire group shares the room. During my hike, we slept in a bed (with our sleeping bags on tops, as linen was not provided) only on the last night of the trek.

None of the houses where you’ll be staying will have a bathroom as you know it. In most cases, you’ll have a squat toilet and, at best, a sink to wash your hands and brush your teeth – in some cases not even that.

Showers are not a thing in the villages of the Atlas Mountains – you’ll be able to use a traditional hammam a couple of times, and that will feel enormously recharging.

Hikes in Morocco Atlas Mountains

Make the life of those mules as easy as possible by packing light

Brief packing guide

The first thing you should consider when packing for hiking in Morocco is that you have to be comfortable during the day, and comfortable and warm at night. You also have to show respect for the local customs. While women won’t be asked to cover their head, both men and women should be dressed modestly, covering their shoulders, chest and legs – much like locals do.

This packing guide reflects the fact that you won’t really have a chance to shower and get changed that much – keep whatever you pack at a minimum, and please remember that mules will be the ones carrying most of the weight and you should strive to make their lives as easy as possible.

Try not to carry more than 7 kg with you – spread between your daypack and the backpack that the mules will be carrying.

Having said so, there are some items you should take with you and some things you are better off leaving in storage at your hotel in Marrakech.

Here’s what you should take:

  • Wet wipes – you’ll need them to wash yourself, your face, your hands any time water is not readily available (which will be often).
  • Hand sanitizer – for the reasons I have just said.
  • A small bar of soap – for the one time you’ll be able to use the hammam.
  • Deodorant.
  • A hat, a scarf and gloves.
  • Good hiking boots such as Salomon 4D 3 GTX.
  • A pair of flip flops or, even better, walking sandals so that you can rest your feet at the end of the day.
  • A pair of hiking pants (which you’ll wear during the day) and a pair of leggings to wear at night. For pants, I love Kuhl Cliffside Convertible pants and Kuhl Hykr pants.
  • Three t-shirts – one to wear, one as a change of clothes, one to wear at night. I am a fan of the Kuhl Sora t-shirt and the Kuhl Wunderer shirt, both long sleeves. For short sleeves, you can opt for something like Kuhl Kyra and Kuhl Sora.
  • A fleece such as Kuhl Alska and a good jacket such as Firefly Hoody.
  • A daypack such as Osprey Daylite Plus which you will carry during the day, and a slightly larger one such as Osprey Tempest 40.
  • A refillable water bottle, with a filter, such as Lifestraw.
  • A headlamp.
  • A small quick-dry towel.
  • A change or two of underwear and socks.

And here what you should leave in storage at your hotel in Marrakech:

  • Shampoo, conditioner, make up – you’ll honestly be lucky if you have a chance to use the hammam, and if you do so, you have to keep it quick.
  • Anything dressy, jeans, nice shoes – you won’t have a chance of wearing any of that.
  • Laptop – you won’t have any opportunity to plug it in!
  • Swimsuit.

You may want to check out my post The Perfect Hiking Packing List For A Long Distance Trek.”

people of Morocco

An Amazigh woman with her beautiful child

Concerns

There will be many occasions as you will be hiking in Morocco that will make you raise your eyebrow in disbelief or concern. Below are a few things you should consider, and a few easy things you can do to encourage change.

Use of mules

Using mules to carry weights is a common practice in Morocco, and part of the local culture. Chances are that even though you may decide to carry your backpack throughout the hike, mules will accompany the group to carry things such as sleeping bags, toilet paper and even bottles of water.

The easiest thing to do to make the life of these animals easier is to pack as little as possible and to ask the local company who is in charge of organizing the logistical support to not carry water, and suggest that you’ll be using a water filter such as life straw for your water bottle, which you can refill regularly.

Waste disposal

Despite the fact that Morocco is doing better than the neighboring countries when it comes to renewable energy, there is little doubt that it has major issues when it comes to waste disposal.

You’ll probably notice that there are various waste dumps, often very close to the villages you’ll be walking through. Waste collection is sadly not a thing in the most remote villages of Morocco Atlas Mountains and more often than not the only way to get rid of waste is to burn it – with terrible consequences for the environment, and toxic effect to the air.

While recycling waste policies have yet to be implemented in Morocco there are a couple of things you can do to minimize your impact – the main being to avoid using plastic. Using a filter for your water bottle is one of them, so that you can avoid buying plastic bottles.

Atlas Mountains

Not all the places you’ll see in Morocco Atlas Mountains will be this clean

Interacting with local communities

The Amazigh are nothing short of welcoming. In each village you will be visiting throughout this hiking in Morocco itinerary, you’ll meet with local families – not only the ones where you will be having lunch or where you’ll be sleeping, but also their neighbors, relatives, as well as small shop owners. They will all show curiosity towards the visitors, and an interest in interacting.

Keep in mind that this is a traditional society: the Amazigh are Sunni muslims, both men and women wear traditional clothes; their main source of income is cattle and agriculture (which is why they share worries for climate change, as it emerged in conversation my group had with them); they live in clay houses with little modern comforts; and donkeys and mules are often the only means of transportation they use to move from one village to the other.

The language barrier (the communities you’ll be visiting speak Tamazigh, and only on occasion they will know a few words of French) will be such that you will need your guide to act as interpreter – that’s why having a good guide is fundamental.

Make sure to ask show respect for the Amazigh at all times, by dressing modestly and by asking for permission to take photos – you’ll soon realize that most people are happy to pose for photos.

Check out my post “Everything You Should Know Before Visiting A Berber Village In Morocco.”

Interacting with local children

As you cross the villages of the Atlas Mountains, you’ll meet many children. They are truly adorable, welcoming and absolutely funny, and they will want to show you their tricks and play with you. They will also ask you for presents – small things such as pens, or – more often – candy or snacks.

I encourage you not to give children things that may have a detrimental effect for their health – I saw lots of children with cavities and very bad teeth – or to the environment. Chances are that if you offer them a snack, they will unwrap it immediately and throw the plastic wherever they are.

A better idea may be to make a donation to the school – books, paper, pens and even money would be welcome.

Do you care to become a more responsible traveler? Make sure to read this post.

I will soon be publishing a more detailed post on what to expect when visiting the Berber villages of Morocco.

Other useful information

While alcohol is easily available in Marrakech, where all the best restaurants and hotels serve wine, beer and cocktails, this is absolutely not a thing among the Berber communities that live in the Atlas. You’ll be drinking water, a lot of Moroccan tea and the occasional (instant) coffee.

I always recommend getting a good travel insurance, wherever you go and even more so if you are going on a long distance hike! You can get a good travel insurance here.

Make sure to also read my post Why You Need A Good Backpacker Travel Insurance.”

You can find more information on this itinerary for hiking in Morocco, quotes for the trip and even get a chance to join a group or put together one on Nomadic Tribe app.

Further readings about long distance hikes

If long distance hiking is your thing and you’d like to experience it in other parts of the world, make sure to read the following posts:

Further readings about indigenous communities

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Nomadic Tribe during my trip hiking in Morocco and I was thrilled to be one of the first to test this itinerary. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain my own. 

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Read what you need to know about hiking in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco - via @clautavani

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The Best Maldives Accommodation Guide For All Budgets

The Best Maldives Accommodation Guide For All Budgets

Picking your Maldives accommodation shouldn’t be a hassle.

The Maldives is a small country, yet a popular holiday destination. In recent years, it has opened up to independent and budget travel and you can easily stay at one of the lovely Maldives guest houses.

Yet, when we think of this country, we mostly just picture the fabulous Maldives luxury resorts and we dream of a vacation that is completely stress free and during which we are pampered 24/7. 

With so many excellent places to pick from, deciding where to stay in the Maldives can be a bit of a daunting task. One thing for sure, you should make it a point travel to the Maldives as sustainably as possible. This archipelago has definitely been impacted by tourism and, for as much as possible, you should try leaving less footprints and help preserve its amazing coral reef.

Make sure to read my post The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”

Having been to the Maldives a few times, and having tried both the all inclusive resorts, the luxury ones and the guest houses for independent travelers, I came up with a short list that will help you decide where to stay. 

Continue reading to discover the best accommodation options in the Maldives, suitable for any budget.

Maldives sunset

You are guaranteed incredible sunsets

The Best Maldives Accommodation Options For Any Budget

Best Maldives luxury resorts

Good news! Many resorts in the Maldives are putting in great effort to go green so your vacation can now be eco-friendly too. The following is a selection of the best Maldives accommodation for travelers who can afford to splurge. 

Soneva Fushi

This may well be the best Maldives all inclusive resort – my personal preference for it’s incredibly beautiful, comfortable but also eco-friendly.

It’s located in the Baa Atoll, which is part of Maldives UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, so you can rest assured that if you are into marine life you will be treated to something truly special here. It’s the kind of place where you will get to spot manta rays (though this depends on the season) as well as whale sharks

Soneva has a laid back approach to luxury. It’s gorgeous, really – but in a more casual, friendly way. Villas are all huge, but some come with a private pool. There are no overwater bungalows – which in my opinion is all for the best, as these are truly a bit destructive of the environment. All villas are hidden in the jungle, amid lush vegetation. 

Each villa has a private butler, so you can rest assured you’ll be properly taken care of. 

Food at the six restaurants in the resort is all organic and uses fresh, seasonal ingredients. There are more than 500 wines to pick from!

You’ll also be able to count on an open-air cinema, an observatory, and even home made ice cream.

One&Only Reethi Rah

Located in the North Male atoll at a 45 minutes speed boat ride from Male International Airport, this resort is massive – counting 130 villas. You may think that being so large you miss the intimate atmosphere, but that is hardly the case. Besides, a resort so large comes with an incredible range of activities so it is perfect for the most active travelers. 

Marine life near the resort is at its best. You can expect to see turtle (which hatch on the island), dolphin or sharks.

All villas face the sea – some are right on the beach, others on the lagoon. They are all very stylish, spacious and comfortable. As the island is quite big, all guests can count on bikes to roam around the island and find the perfect spot to relax.

The resort counts with a spa, where you can get any sort of treatment, outdoor tennis courts, a beach club and a children’s club – making it perfect for families traveling with children

There are several restaurants, including one that serves Japanese style food; one offering Middle Eastern cuisine and another one focussing on Mediterranean staples. If you don’t want to leave your villa, you can also opt for room service. Easy to see why this is one of the best Maldives accommodation options.

Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Maldives accommodation

An incredible sunset in a luxury resort

The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

Maldives luxury resorts make for the perfect vacation. Luxury is at its best at this fantastic resort. Located in the Dhaalu Atoll, it can be reached on a 45 minutes flight from Male International Airport – one of those flights that offer breathtaking views of the ocean. 

Among the activities offered at this resort, there are diving, windsurfing, jet packing, glass bottom kayaking and catamaran sailing.

This is the kind of place where all rooms come with a butler. They all are modern, stylish and with anything to make your stay comfortable. All villas have a private pool, a large bathtub, a rainforest shower, and large windows, so you don’t miss any of the incredible views. If you care for an extra view, you can also opt to stay in one of the overwater villas. 

There are several dining options which include a variety of international cuisines such as Italian, Chinese, Indian and Japanese. There is a fantastic wine cellar too. 

You will be able to enjoy fabulous spa treatments and massages, acupuncture, yoga and all sorts of fitness activities. Parents can count on a children’s club, so they can fully relax. 

Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

COMO Maalifushi

In the Thaa atoll, COMO Maalifushi is one of the best Maldives luxury resorts. It’s the kind of place that will make it impossibly hard to leave – so be prepared for the vacation of a lifetime. You will be chartered there on a fabulous, scenic flight from Male International airport, just so that you can take in the marvelous views. 

Among the activities you can enjoy from the resort, there is whale shark viewing expeditions, trips to the coral reef, stand up paddle boarding. You can also learn how to surf, or improve your surfing technique. 

If you are in just for the relaxation, you can enjoy the incredible spa and yoga classes. 

You can pick from a variety of villas – from garden ones that are completely immersed in the jungle, to beach villas with a private pool, and even overwater villas, some of which also boast a private pool. All villas are large – the smallest one is 72 square meters. All have a dining table, coffee machine, beautiful marble bathrooms with a large bath tub. 

There are a variety of restaurants where you can enjoy local as well as international cuisine – Japanese and Thai are the signature ones. The bars are perfect places for a sunset drink.  

As I said before, they will make it hard for you to leave!

Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Maldives all inclusive

Maldives all inclusive don’t necessarily have to cost a fortune

Best mid-range Maldives all inclusive

Mid-range is a bit of a stretch when it comes to Maldives all inclusive, but there are some that come at a price that is slightly more affordable than you may think, considering that they once you get there you really have no further expenses, and that the prices are per room – so perfect if you can share the cost with someone else. Make sure you book well in advance and pick a room that may be on offer. 

Reethi Faru Bio Luxury Resort

When it comes to Maldives accommodation, it is hard to beat this incredible resort blissfully isolated in the gorgeous Raa Atoll, where it was opened little over than two years ago. 80 meters from the shore you will find a fantastic coral reef. 

The 150 rooms are all gorgeous, spacious, stylish yet extremely cozy. Some face the lush garden, others the beach, and some even sit directly on the water. You can pick to have  a bed and breakfast package, or opt for an all-inclusive one. 

The resort features a spa and a sports center. There is a diving center that offers courses for beginners as well as advanced divers. You will also be able to enjoy any sort of water sport. 

There are six restaurants, each with their own bar, where you can savor any sort of cuisine. 

Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Adaaran Select Huduranfushi

Located in the North Kaafu Atoll, this is a great resort for water sports fans, families and even couples – in other words, it has the best of everything. 

The resort is quite big, by Maldivian standards. It counts with beach bungalows and overwater villas, and there even is a very secluded private villa on a tiny island right off the main beach. Rooms in the beach bungalows are very spacious – they can fit a family. They all have access to the main beach. Overwater villas have sunset or sunrise view, depending on the exact location. 

The resort has a fantastic activity center where you can book just about anything – from water flying to paragliding and fun tubing. One of the beaches in the resort gets excellent waves so this is a perfect spot for surfers

There is a nice pool, a main restaurant, and two smaller ones. 

Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Maldives all inclusive

Adaaran Prestige Vadoo is one of the best mid-range resorts

Adaaran Prestige Vadoo

Located in the Kaafu Atoll, this is a small resort by Maldivian standards. The island is actually tiny – you don’t need more than 20 minutes to walk the perimeter. 

The resort only counts with overwater bungalows, each of them with its own plunge pool. Rooms are incredibly spacious. They all feature a massive, comfortable double bed; a very large bathroom and a jacuzzi. They all have access to the water. You can pick between sunset and sunrise views villas. 

Adaaran Prestige Vadoo counts with a main restaurant, a bar, and a Japanese style restaurant. There is a spa for guests use, a nice pool, tennis courts and a lush garden. At the back of the resort, there is a diving center with direct access to the coral reef

It’s a truly wonderful place to disconnect from the stress of every day life. 

Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Paradise Island Resort and Spa

This lovely, extremely budget friendly Maldives all inclusive is located in the North Male atoll. 

You can pick between a wide range of rooms and prices – from the cheaper beach villas to the overwater ones. Each are comfortable and spacious. The overwater bungalows have a jacuzzi facing the sea, for an incredibly relaxing experience. 

The resort counts with a pool, a fitness center and a tennis court. You can engage in any sort of water sports – diving and snorkeling equipment are available for guests. 

In terms of food options, this is one of the best resort! There is an Italian style restaurant; a Japanese style one; a Seafood restaurant. The resort caters to all sorts of dietary requirements. 

Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Maldives guest houses

Maldives accommodation now features guest houses in local islands too

Best Maldives guest houses

Maldives accommodation doesn’t have to cost a kidney, and in recent years it’s become possible to travel to the Maldives independently and on a budget, as various guest houses opened in what are known as local islands. 

Maldives guest houses are actually quite good – clean, comfortable and with all the basics you need for your stay, none of the frills. It’s bare, but still cozy. Here is a selection of the best Maldives guest houses that are – needless to say – very budget friendly.

Sunrise Beach Maafushi

Maafushi is at a quick boat ride from Male International Airport. It’s the island where guest houses first opened, back in 2010, so you can expect good service there as hosts know what they are doing. You have ample choice of places to stay there, but my recommendation is for Sunrise Beach. 

The guest house – which feels more like a small hotel – comes with glowing reviews. It is perfect for couples, solo travelers as well as family with children – there is a playground on the premises. Guests can enjoy the free bikes to roam around the island, and a shared lounge perfect for hanging out and socializing . there even is a pool table. The terrace is perfect for sunset drink.  

A bikini beach is at just 200 meters from the guesthouse. 

Rooms are modern, comfortable – some have sea views, others have city views, and all are air conditioned. 

You can opt for the bed and breakfast package or, for a small additional price, ask to also have dinner. 

Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Vaali Beach Lodge Felidhoo

Felidhoo is one of the nicest local islands in the Maldives. That’s where you will find some of the best Maldives guest houses, including Vaali Beach Lodge. Located right in front of the beach, from there you will have easy access to incredible snorkeling, fishing and diving spots. Guests have access to a tourist “bikini beach.”

Rooms at Vaali Beach Lodge are plain, yet spacious, comfortable and incredibly clean. They are all air conditioned, all have sea views so that you can catch a gorgeous sunrise. 

The guest house usually offers a full board kind of package, so that all your meals are included in the price of your stay – making it extremely convenient in terms of prices and also easy so that you don’t have to wander around the island in search for a place to eat. Cuisine varies from local to Indian and Italian. 

It honestly is a lovely, very budget friendly place to spend your holidays – a true gem!

Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Maldives luxury resorts

Who said only Maldives luxury resorts are good? There’s a great range of guest houses!

Ocean Retreat and Spa Guraidhoo

What a nice island Guraidhoo is! It will give you the perfect combination of a local feel and a great holiday spot, where you will find quite a few good accommodation options. My favorite is Ocean Retreat, which is at just 90 meters from the beach which is perfect for snorkeling. 

Rooms at this lovely guest houses have views of the sea – some rooms have a balcony; all are modern and comfortable, with air conditioning. There even are family rooms, in case you are traveling with children. 

The front desk helps organize activities such as diving, fishing and other water sports. You can even spend a day at one of the nearby resorts for a small fee.

Ocean Retreat only offers breakfast to its guests, but you can enjoy a variety of other small local restaurants on the island. 

Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Veli Thoddoo Inn 

Thoddoo, in the Alifu atoll, is one of the few islands in the Maldives that has some land used for agricultural purposes – so it has a bit of a different feel compared to others. More genuine, if you ask me. This small island, which is at an easy boat ride from Male International Airport, has some great bikini beaches and some of the best guest houses in the Maldives. 

Veli Thoddoo is a truly lovely place. It has direct access to the beach, so that you can go snorkeling as soon as you wake up, and practice any other water sport you may wish. There is a travel desk, so you can ask for help in organizing activities. And you can rent bikes to wander around the island. 

Rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable. They all have cable TV and each have a kettle and even a hairdryer. 

The basic package includes breakfast, but for a little extra you can opt to have dinner at the guest house as well. 

The hosts are particularly caring and welcoming and they will make sure you’ll have the most amazing stay. 

Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.

Further readings about the Maldives

Traveling to the Maldives? Make sure to read my other posts:

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Find which are the best Maldives luxury resorts and budget accommodation options - via @clautavani

Discover the best Maldives luxury resorts and guest houses - via @clautavani