Ecolodge de Dar Itrane

Bougmez Valley, High Atlas, Morocco Book from Eur64

A simple, no-frills lodge in the remote Aït Bougmez valley - a little-trodden corner of Morocco's stunning High Atlas mountains
The High Atlas valley of Aït Bougmez remains one of Morocco’s best-kept secrets. Vehicle access came just three years ago, by way of an awe-inspiring road that snakes up and over a high pass before dropping down to the fertile valley floor. This was an extraordinary feat of engineering and it's not a route to be driven by the faint-hearted.

The valley still has the feel of a hidden Shangri-la; of a remote mountain kingdom that time passed by. Dar Itrane (which means House of the Stars) clings to a rocky bluff at the eastern end of the valley in the charming village of Imelghas, looking out across a patchwork of neatly tended fields to the snow-capped peaks beyond. This pisé-built inn, with 17 simple, homespun rooms, is an ideal trekking base and offers a unique insight into local Berber culture. What's more, its French owners have a genuine commitment to the natural, human and cultural environment of this uniquely beautiful corner of the High Atlas, so by staying here, you're helping to preserve the village and landscape.

Highs

  • The Aït Bougmez valley has a unique beauty and remains unsullied by tourism
  • The journey here is an adventure in itself - and one you'll never forget
  • The night skies, with so little light pollution, are simply amazing
  • The walking here is as good as anywhere in the Atlas and Dar Itrane friendly staff are accustomed to helping to organise treks

Lows

  • It's very remote and off-the-beaten-track - but that should be the allure
  • Some would find the spectacular journey to be an ordeal, and it's a definite no-no if you suffer from vertigo
  • There's no TV or internet access (a high for some)
  • Don’t expect gourmet meals but do count on simple and wholesome food
  • The place is run in an organic, occasionally chaotic, ‘take us as you find us’ kind of way

Best time to go

Winter can be a difficult time to visit - remember that the road can take a real battering after rain or heavy snowfalls. The valley is at its very best in spring when the apple trees are in blossom, but because it's so high, you’ll stay cool here in summer too.

Our top tips

Most of the guests come here to walk or to get to know local people and customs. If you are driving you need to be of the adventurous type and a 4x4 is highly recommended.

Great for...

Eco
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 17
  • Half board (lunch on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Steam Room
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Tours, excursions and treks
Room:

Rooms

Dar Itrane has 17 rooms, including 3 Family Suites that can sleep up to 4. The nicest rooms, by far, are those which look out across the valley - we recommend asking for one of these at the time of booking.

All are unaffected, homespun and comfortable, with simple screed floors, beamed ceilings and little in the way of fussy decorative detail. The small shower rooms are attractively finished in tadlakt, with small copper basins. Expect just a token bar of soap in the way of toiletries.

We felt that the almost monastic feel of the rooms was just right for a place whose main clientèle is the walking community. And the comfortable duvet-clad beds, with locally-woven colourful bedspreads, ensure that you’ll sleep well even when the temperatures drop below freezing. You should be ready to light candles when the solar-generated electricity gives up at night.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Terrace

Eating

There are 2 dining rooms at Dar Itrane. Of these we much preferred the salle marrocaine with its low tables, corner hearth and cushion-strewn benches. The second dining room, which has higher, wrought-iron tables and chairs, felt a bit too formal and a little soulless. And, of course, when the weather is good enough you can eat out in the patio in the shade of the apple trees.

Remember you're in such a remote place and don’t expect a gourmet extravaganza. Breakfasts are in simple vein: homemade bread and crêpes, local honey, jams, processed cheese and coffee or tea. Picnic lunches (most guests are out exploring the valley and its surroundings during the day) stick to a simple formula of salad and rice, fruit, bread and cheese, perhaps a can of tuna. Something similar is on offer at midday if you’re back at the lodge.

At dinner expect to be rubbing shoulders with your fellow guests if you're dining in the cosy salle marrocaine. Everyone eats the same fixed menu (included in the tariff) which can be tailored if one of the courses doesn’t suit. Starters tend to be vegetarian: vegetable soups, baked tomatoes or some kind of Moroccan salad variant. Main courses are all the typical Berber dishes of this part of the Atlas: couscous, tagines, méchoui or a thick meat stew. For dessert, there might be cake with fruit salad or flambéed bananas.

If you are a wine drinker you'll need to bring your own bottle(s) from Marrakech.

Features include:

  • Coffee tea making
  • Communal dining
  • Cooking classes
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Head on a trek or mule ride straight out from the lodge with local guides. With prior notice you can tackle the summits of M'goun (4069m, feasible from May to November; allow 3 days and 2 nights camping en route) or the lesser trodden Azourki (3690m; allow 2 days and 1 night). Enquire for prices, which vary according to group size and season
  • Walk around the hamlet, soaking up the days-gone-by atmosphere and local Berber culture
  • Berber cooking and language classes can be arranged given advance notice
  • Visit a local village home to see demonstrations of weaving, cooking and harvesting, and have lunch with the family
  • Dar Itrane provides notes for its own ‘cultural’ self-guided walks through the valley, including one which leads up to a spectacular fortified hilltop granary, a typical feature in this part of the Atlas
  • Stroll 20 minutes to the nearby village of Tabant, where an authentic souk is held evey Sunday
  • Ease away your aches and pains in the beldi hammam. Special hammam packs are on sale in Dar Itrane’s shop

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Language courses
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking

Kids

Anybody travelling with kids in Morocco is given an extra warm welcome by locals and this is especially true up in the remoter Atlas villages. There are regular football matches they'll be encouraged to join in with, and mules for them to ride. It would be an amazing experience for any kid (or adult) to see how people live in a place as remote as this.

Children under 2 year olds stay for free, while 2-11 year olds stay for 50% of the adult price when sharing room with an adult. Extra beds and baby cots are available on request.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
10/
Food
6/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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