If you are researching Atlas Mountain tours and trying to narrow down the best guide for your trek or hike, then look no further. In 2022, we found the best guide for the job! Escaping the chaos of Marrakech into the serene Atlas Mountains is an absolute must if you are an outdoor lover and traveller, looking for authentic experiences.
I’m going to start this review by pointing out, that our tour with Trek Atlas was not a compensated trek of the Atlas Mountains. Nor will you find any affiliate links in my post below. We paid for our tour in full and we have no financial agreement with Trek Atlas in writing this post.
We had researched online and found many operators selling Atlas Mountain tours. After narrowing down a few, we emailed them with questions about what options we had available for trekking. And also, questions around how kids generally handle hiking the Atlas Mountains. From the replies we received, we felt an immediate confidence and connection with Trek Atlas.
But I’ll tell you why below… read on for our full review of Trek Atlas. Then when you are convinced, go ahead and book your Atlas Mountain tour in Morocco – you won’t be sorry you did.
Update 2023: We have been in contact with Ahmed following the devastating earthquake centred around the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. We were relieved to hear that Ahmed and his family are well and safe, and that the villages of Imlil and Aroumd were largely unscathed. Ahmed is in the process of preparing for a summit to Mount Toubkal, in order to check the safety of the trail. I will update this post with more information as and when I hear more from him.
Table of Contents
Overview – What we Loved About Trek Atlas
🥾 It was a private tailored tour and we were able to take the kids
🗣 Communication was excellent, quick and easy
🚪 The tour was door to door and only 90 minutes from Marrakech
⛰ Ahmed our guide is from the village and took us off the beaten track
💰 Value for money was fantastic in relation to other tours
🌱 There is a strong commitment to sustainable tourism with Trek Atlas
👀 Read more reviews for Trek Atlas here on TripAdvisor
Finding Private, Tailored, Atlas Mountain Tours
We are keen outdoorsy people, we’re not super fit, but do love long hikes and getting out into nature. And after slow travelling in Morocco for two full months leading up to our hike, we had had many recommendations about visiting the Atlas Mountain range.
So, as I explained above, we did a google search for Atlas Mountain tours in preparation for our hike. And with some back and forward of emails between multiple companies, we decided on Trek Atlas.
We chose Trek Atlas for three main reasons – our tour was private, communication was excellent and value for money was the best.
From the first email exchanged with both Chris and Ahmed and they felt like the right fit for us. They were efficient, quick to respond and we felt like they cared about the experience that we were about to embark on with them.
Any concern that we voiced with them before our trek, either through email, whatsapp or call, was immediately addressed. So, you can rest assured knowing that they will understand, listen and provide helpful advice wherever they can.
For example, trekking the Atlas Mountains with our 7 and 9 year old was probably our biggest concern. We were quickly told that we would have a mule on standby to help out tired little legs when needed. Problem solved!
The Story of Trek Atlas
I knew we were in good hands minutes after our arrival in Imlil to meet Ahmed our guide at the restaurant. As I walked in, the restaurant staff glanced over my shoulder and saw Ahmed. Then immediately tell me – “the best guide in the Atlas Mountains.”
Enter Ahmed! To fully appreciate how lucky we were to find Trek Atlas you need to hear some of the background story for Ahmed Zin and Chris James. A large part of how they met, and their story contributes greatly to how Trek Atlas came to be.
Meet Ahmed Zin
Born in the small village of Aroumd in 1977, Ahmed knows the Atlas Mountain range and beyond like the back of his hand. His father was born there, he was born there, and his daughter and three sons were too. Aroumd is the last village before you begin ascending up into the Atlas mountains. It’s a Berber village, with a population of 1700. It’s small and beautiful and very traditional for the region.
Ahmed went to Koran school until he was 16 and from a young boy was preparing for life as an Imam. However, with school a large expense on the family, it soon became more important for him to begin work. And from that point onwards he began working on the family farm.
In his time off he took up extra work as a muler (guiding the mules up the Atlas Mountains), soon moving up to a cook-hand. During this time, he committed himself to learning new languages including, French & English. Then when he’d saved enough he began studying to be a guide with the Royal Moroccan Federation of Skiing and Mountaineering.
Ahmed was driven, he had a goal and his heart was set on working as a guide taking tours on the Atlas Mountains. Over the following ten years Ahmed worked as a guide across several tour providers. And then in 2008 Chris James arrived in Morocco for a group tour and was guided by, no other than, Ahmed Zin.
And this is where the story gets really cool!
Meet Chris James
Chris James from England, then in his 60’s, and travelling along with a group of friends, arrived to trek the Atlas Mountains. This six day tailored hike was a Moroccan hike of a lifetime, but also a beginning of a great friendship between Ahmed and Chris. He later returned to Morocco with his wife to hike again with Ahmed.
Chris obviously spotted some greater potential in Ahmed and offered to set up a website on his behalf. Back in the United Kingdom, retiree Chris dedicated his time setting up the Trek Atlas website on Ahmed’s behalf.
And so now when enquires come in, Chris is the first point of contact and answers all the potential client’s questions. Then he connects you with Ahmed when you have confirmed and ready to discuss the tour in more detail.
The important thing to note here, is that Chris does this without a fee. He dedicates his time for a good friend… in fact Ahmed describes him not as a friend, but family. He says that he is where he is because of Chris.
I don’t know about you… but this story spoke to me of integrity! And I love supporting small business and local. So, when I discovered the background story of Trek Atlas, I just knew it had to be shared.
The Experience – Two Day / One Night Atlas Mountain Tours
Here is where I tell you about our experience. And I will struggle to keep it brief, but I’ll do my best.
We chose to keep it simple and went for a one night, two day tour to the Atlas Mountains. Partly due to time restraints and because we had heard others had struggled with the hike up to the summit at Mount Toubkal. Also, because we were unsure how the kids would cope and weren’t really prepared in terms of shoes and fitness.
Knowing what I know now, we probably could have done the hike to the summit. It just means we’ll be back again.
Door to Door Service
With our tour itinerary chosen we were eager and ready to go. A driver collected us from our accommodation in Marrakech. This is the fantastic thing about an Atlas Mountain tour – from Marrakech its only 90 minutes to Imlil. The door to door service makes life easy breasy getting to and from Imlil. A taxi is sent to collect you from your hotel, or hostel in our case, and you have it all to yourself.
We were dropped off in Imlil, met by Ahmed and a after a quick mint tea we set off. A mule was arranged to carry our couple of overnight bags. From here it was just us, in nature with our guide.
Off the Beaten Trail Treks in Atlas Mountains
As we mentioned above your trek takes you through Ahmed’s home. So, he knows this terrain like the back of his hand. You really get a sense that you are off the beaten track.
Our first day involved a walk from Imlil to Aroumd a tiny Berber village further up the valley. But we didn’t take the route that the other tourists take from Imlil. This was the first thing we loved about Ahmed’s tour… where can, he takes you on the lesser trodden path. The one the locals take.
Arriving at the village in Aroumd and you step back in time. It feels wholesome in some way, and a privilege to be a part of. And as this is Ahmed’s village you receive a very respected welcome.
After settling into our guest house, and a delicious lunch of egg tagine we had a private tour of the village and Atlas Mountain valley. We ate the tastiest cherries from a secret white cherry tree, and agreed never to share its location. We walked the village, the river, the apple orchards, past the local hammam and up to Ahmed’s home.
Here we were welcomed for mint tea and freshly baked cake made by his eldest daughter. And from the terrace we sat enjoying our afternoon tea as we looked up towards the Atlas Mountains and Mount Toubkal. This spectacular view was what we were to hike the next day.
Atlas Mountains with Kids – How They Coped
When we hike with our kids I always expect complaints for the first 30 minutes. In all honesty I did not hear “are we there yet” once. Ahmed gave our girls Berber headdress to wear, he gave them each a Berber name, he answered their hundreds of questions and helped them over streams. It was also lovely to have his son join us for the day’s hike.
We hiked in total just over two hours up to Sidi Chamharouch and the same back. The small village at the temple and the temple itself were very interesting to see. For lunch we sat at the top of a beautiful waterfall and then the kids went swimming before it was time to begin the trek down.
Value for Money
So, the million dollar question… does Trek Atlas provide value for money. Well other than taking a dreadful group tour where you’ll find yourself rushed from one site to another along the busy tourist trail, you won’t find better value for money.
As we mentioned, we emailed several tour groups and Trek Atlas came out trumps on budget. Not to mention, they were honest about the fees, transparent and there were no surprises or add-ons.
One of my favourite subjects of course is sustainability around tourism. And it’s clear that this is also of major importance to Ahmed.
He spoke of large cleanups around the village of Aroumd that take place after summer. Many domestic tourists flock to the pretty riverside edge to picnic in Aroumd, but sadly leave their rubbish behind. When summer finishes and the tourists leave, the villagers will clean up the mess. While it’s sad to hear this happens in such a beautiful spot, it’s reassuring to know that the village come together to remove it.
It’s also important to note that when you book a tour through Trek Atlas you are supporting small business and supporting local. By booking your Atlas Mountain tours directly through his website you are giving work to a guide, a muler, a cook, guest house and transport. This means money goes directly to helping a community that heavily relies on tourism and sidesteps corporate platforms whom take a significant percentage.
On our Atlas Mountain Tour we used our trusty Lifestraw which we filled from the river. If you’d like to know more read our post on how we travel sustainably.
Plans for the Future
Ahmed began creating a guest house before 2020, obviously that all went on hold with Covid. But with tourism returning to Morocco, he is now getting back up and running. His guest house has been built and is awaiting work to commence on the interior. And honestly, the views from his guest house terrace don’t get any better.
He also hopes that some of his children will follow in his footsteps as guides on the Atlas Mountains. But it’s a very challenging career, as training to be a guide becomes more complex. Despite the difficult and expensive training, we are sure that if his children share his determination they will continue in his path.
It’s clear Ahmed is a major role model in his children’s life and it was obvious that they have great respect for him. Another reason to support the beautiful Zin family.
Booking a Tour with Trek Atlas
When you visit the Trek Atlas website you have the opportunity to browse the various options available. What we liked about his booking platform is that he makes recommendations based on the time of year you visit, your interests and number of days available. There are multiple hikes, destinations and services to choose from… be it snow, desert or mountain trekking.
So if you are considering an Atlas Mountain Tour, we thoroughly recommend Trek Atlas. You’ll be able to tailor your tour to your own trekking needs and you’ll leave Morocco with standout memories! Not to mention you are supporting an incredible guide and person… Ahmed and his tours of the Atlas Mountain is worth every penny.
And please tell Ahmed that My Free Range Family said hi!
If you’d like to know more about the hiking trails and sights of the Atlas Mountains then read this post.
Or if you’d like to know more about hiking the Atlas Mountain with kids then this is the post for you (coming soon).
We now travel full-time and have plenty more itineraries and guides to share on all the destinations we visit. Sign up to follow our journey! (And don’t worry we won’t spam you with unnecessary emails.)