The Ameln Valley offers some of the most spectacular natural scenery in Morocco as well as some of the most picturesque villages. Nestled against the granite peaks of the Anti Atlas Mountains in southwestern Morocco, the Ameln Valley is a stunning landscape of towering cliffs, colorful granite boulder-strewn fields and unique rock formations.
This area of Morocco is incredibly fertile, and the hills are covered with argan, almond, and palm trees. Argan trees produce a fruit that is similar to the olive and are valued by the people of the Ameln Valley. A highly prized oil, valued for its nutritive and medicinal properties, is produced from the argan fruit. Locals use argan oil as a bread dip and on couscous and salads. They also export it out of the region to support reforestation projects in Ameln Valley. Since food is sparse in the region, goats have taken to climbing the argan trees in search of food.
The Ameln Valley is known as the valley of 26 villages. Houses and mosques situated among the cliffs of the Anti Atlas Mountains are painted in vivid pinks and red. The villages are spread out throughout the valley and each has its own unique charm. To visit the villages, you’ll either need to reserve a spot on a guided trekking tour or tour around the area by car or mountain bike, taking time to stop for day treks through the villages.
Tafraoute is the most famous village of the Ameln Valley. Surrounded on all sides by dramatic red mountains, Tafraoute is a bustling village that has plentiful amenities, which makes it an excellent home base for exploring the rest of the Ameln Valley. From late February to early March, the village comes alive with the celebration of the almond harvest. People take to the streets with all-night dancing and singing as parties move from village to village.
The area immediately around Tafraoute is easy to explore by mountain bike or foot. You can view prehistoric rock carvings on the giant granite boulders randomly scattered throughout the valley. A must-see, Le Chapeau de Napoleon (Napoleon’s Hat) is just outside the village of Aguerd-Oudad. This distinctive rock formation provides the backdrop of the beautiful pink village of Aguerd-Outdad.
One of the other main draws to the Ameln Valley is Jean Verame’s Painted Rocks. Verame is a Belgian artist who spray painted some smooth granite boulders shades of blue, red and black in 1984. The colorful boulders offer quite a bit of contrast compared to the earthly colored sand, rock and mountainous terrain of the Ameln Valley.
The Anti Atlas Mountains are the last significant mountain range before entering the vast and arid Sahara Desert. Although the Anti Atlas are not as popular as the High Atlas Mountains, they still offer some wonderful climbing and trekking opportunities. Even if you are not a mountaineer, you can make it to the top of 2,359-meter Jebel El Kest. You can begin the trek from the village of Tagoudiche and summit without any technical climbing.
Buses run to Tafraoute from Agadir, Casablanca and Marrakesh daily. Agadir is the hub airport for southern Morocco. Renting a car may be worthwhile since the Ameln Valley is rather remote and a great amount of distance needs to be covered in order to fully explore the region.
Written by Amiee Maxwell.
Photo by Vanessa McLaughlin.