Best for high-level hiking: Morocco

From high-level trekking in Morocco's Atlas Mountains to rubbing shoulders with A-listers on Hollywood Boulevard, and from rural retreats off Tuscany's beaten track to jet-set hang outs for Moscow's super-rich, our writers have been to the ends of the earth to find a world of inspiration

The call to prayer that reverberated around the small village of Tamatert in the Atlas Mountains on my first morning in Morocco provided a far more atmospheric wake-up call than my usual grating alarm. So it was something of a disappointment to discover later that the "adhan" came courtesy of a recording blasted out by a crackly speaker; electricity arrived in the village only a few years ago.

We'd chosen to stay in the Kasbah Samra as a base for our hiking holiday, in search of the modern travellers' holy grail: the authentic experience. It is a charming, traditional, flat-roofed, thick-walled stone refuge built by the men of the village for Jacqueline Brandt, the guesthouse's vivacious Swiss owner, who came to Morocco a decade or so ago. The guesthouse uses electricity to power the fridge, but is otherwise heated by open fires and lit by candles. As such, the Samra feels detached from the modern, metropolitan world.

My first parting of the curtains on waking was rewarded with the bizarre scene of a man dressed from head to toe in fresh – and still bloody – goat skins dashing through the previous night's light snowfall. Here was authenticity in spades. It was Eid al-Adha, the Muslim festival of the sacrifice, marking Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of faith. Just in time, God provided a ram instead and today the feast is celebrated by the slaughter of goats, sheep and cows. In the mountains around the Samra the tradition has an added dimension. After the feasting, the young men of the area stitch together the fresh goatskins into a highly alarming costume and chase each other.

We began our first full day's hike by following the valley down from Tamatert to the trekking centre of Imlil, down the valley from Mount Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak at 4,167m. The village is a prolific producer of walnuts and apples and there was a rich, cidery scent of fruit hanging over the main street. The walking here is hard work, especially in December, which is outside the main tourist seasons of March to April and September to November, but the views are worth it. The valleys are dotted with streams and poignantly bare cherry and walnut trees that will boast a rich pink and white blossom come the spring. We stopped for lunch under an apple tree in the garden of a family house in Tinerkourkine, sipping fresh, tooth-dissolvingly sweet mint tea. Then we continued, climbing back up to the snowline as the clouds closed in, returning to Tamatert in the mist.

After each day's hike we returned to the Samra for dinner, which we ate from low wooden tables in the candlelit living room, propped up on scattered cushions as close to the fire as possible. Dinner here – prepared by Mehamed and Rachida – was a simple affair: a delicious shared tagine of spiced chicken, sliced potatoes and peas served, of course, with a small gold-embossed glass of mint tea that was wryly referred to as "Berber Whisky". Later in Marrakesh, we found that the locals considered this joke a versatile one – babouche slippers were "Berber Adidas" and a hand-spun lathe "Berber Black & Decker".

Though romantic, the Samra is quite chilly in December, and the fires, hot water bottles and multiple blankets could only just keep the cold out. However, this chilly air couldn't deter the goat-men outside on the mountainside from beating their drums and chasing their "prey" late into the starlit night.

Seven nights in Morocco combining the Kasbah Samra in the Atlas Mountains, La Sultana in Oualidia and Dar les Cigognes in Marrakesh costs from £1,145 per person including accommodation, a half-day hike in the Atlas Mountains with picnic lunch, return flights and private transfers (including mule ride). For more information or to book, visit simpsontravel.com or call 020-8392 5861

Wonder walks

* Lanjia is an eco-friendly, community-based lodge set in northern Thailand. Built in traditional style with Western comforts, it offers superb walking in the surrounding hillside and a traditional Hmong hill-tribe experience. Two nights from £220 pp with TransIndus (transindus.co.uk; 020-8566 2729)

* Learn how to be a game ranger at South Africa's Shamwari Game Reserve (shamwari.com) on a three-day walking safari where you are shown how to shoot, track and approach potentially dangerous animals – and experience a camp sleep-out From £697 not incl. flights

* Take the family on a Spanish walking holiday with your very own donkey as a companion. Explore the Segovian heartland on foot with an equine guide as back-up. Seven nights from £956 pp, £365 per child, B&B incl. picnics, transfers and donkey. Inntravel (01653 617906; inntravel.co.uk)

* Explore the remote Himalayan foothills and stay with local communities. Village Ways (01223 750049; villageways. com), a pioneer of village-to-village walks in the Himalayas, has introduced a new walking holiday in the picture perfect Saryu Valley. Ten nights from £769 pp

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links