If you’re planning your first trip to Morocco, chances are you’ll be tempted to visit the country’s best known sites: the busy souks of Marrakech, the historic mosques of Fez, the infinite sea of golden dunes in the Sahara Desert, the windy coastline in Essaouira, or the dramatic mountain landscapes of the High Atlas. While these will all be worthwhile destinations during your trip in Morocco, don’t forget to include Moroccan villages! There’s a case to be made for wandering off the beaten path and exploring some of the country’s lesser visited towns and villages. It’s here that you’ll get to taste a slice of real Morocco, away from the tourist crowds and at your own comfortable pace.
Although best known for its desert landscapes and labyrinthine souks, Morocco is actually home to some of the most stunning mountainous scenery in the world. Those who venture away from the country’s bustling medinas will find dramatic mountain ranges, high snow-covered peaks and lush green valleys. Best of all? Hiking remains a largely unexplored activity by foreigners here, leaving you to enjoy Morocco’s natural landscape all to yourself.
The Ounila Valley links the Tizi n Tichka pass to Ait Ben Haddou and was originally the main thoroughfare for the trans-saharan trade route between Marrakesh and sub-saharan Africa. Today, evidence of this once highly important role is reflected in the numerous crumbling kasbah’s and ksar which are dotted all throughout the valley.
While many people know Morocco for its labyrinthian cities, bubbling tajines, or never-ending shopping options, there’s another resource that makes this country so appealing. For people who would rather get away from the cities, some of the best hiking opportunities in North Africa can be found in Morocco. If a grueling multi-day trek is your dream come true, or you’d prefer a leisure walk along country trails, or maybe something in between you can find the ideal trek. To uncover some of the best trekking in Morocco we’re sharing some of our best kept secrets.
Many places in Morocco lend themselves to amazing photos. Whether you are an amateur or semi-pro, getting superb landscape (or even people shots) adds to the depth of your experience and helps to bring your trip back to life once you are home again. I’ve gone through some of our latest Morocco trekking photos and thought I’d share those with our readers with a quick blurb about the location and what I enjoy about the photo itself. I can’t offer much in the way of technique or camera settings; my knowledge is more on the ascetic side of the whole thing. If you’ve got any comments or photos of rural Morocco, or photos of you enjoying your time in Morocco’s mountains, please feel free to send them to us via email. I will try to add them to this piece over time. Unless otherwise stated, these photos were taken by Chris Griffiths and Thom Buttery, amazing photographers and film makers from the UK who are responsible for our amazing travel videos you’ll find throughout our website (including those of Fez, Essaouira, Chefchaouen, and more). (more…)
We came to Morocco for adventure, and to dive headfirst into a culture and country unknown to us.
Our driver, Mohammed, bespeckled and stoic, doesn’t speak a lot. He’s got both hands on the wheel, planted firmly at 10 and 2 with his eyes steady on the road.
At 6,000 feet above sea level, spiraling along what must be our 30th hairpin switchback, I’m really starting to appreciate Mohammed’s businesslike approach. Our kids, four and seven, debate their favorite superpowers, oblivious to our precarious position on the top of the Tizi n’Tichka.
Located in southwest Morocco, the Anti-Atlas Mountains are far off the beaten path and can deliver an unspoiled experience for travelers willing to make the journey. This range derives its name from its big, better-known northern neighbors, the High Atlas Mountains, where walking and trekking in Morocco was made popular; “Anti-Atlas” means “Lesser Atlas.”
This range is hardly lesser, however, except when it comes to a tourist population. Within the mountains, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the landscape and glimpses of Berber village life without a crush of other visitors. The Anti-Atlas range extends all the way to Ouarzazate, where many choose to begin tours of the Sahara Desert, so many itineraries combine mountain and desert. (more…)
Nestled in the Argan biosphere of southern Morocco, Atlas Kasbah Ecolodge offers the first eco-friendly accommodation in the area. This unique resort offers visitors the chance to experience Morocco while maintaining the ecological sustainability of the region. The concept integrates six objectives—water conservation, energy conservation, waste management, purchasing practices, integration with the landscape and environmental education—to achieve a balanced eco-friendly approach.
Hassan Aboutayeb and his wife, Helene, own Atlas Kasbah. Hassan was kind enough to answer a few questions about the ecolodge. (more…)
On November 18 and 19, 2011, Tribeca Cinemas will host the second Moroccan Film Festival. While Morocco has long been utilized by American filmmakers to provide dramatic backdrops for films like Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Rendition and Babel, in recent years the country has developed a strong cinematic tradition all its own. The Moroccan Film Festival gives American audiences a chance to experience this new addition to the world of film, as well as the opportunity to gain a unique perspective on modern Moroccan culture.
Ten feature films are planned over the two-day festival, as well as a number of short student films from the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Visuels de Marrakech. (more…)
Trekking in the Mountains of Morocco is, for many, the highlight of a trip to Morocco. The alpine landscape reveals traces of the range’s glacial history (for real!), and is a far cry from the scrub of the plains or the sands of the nearby Sahara Desert. But while any trip requires planning, a jaunt to the High Atlas necessitates a slightly higher degree of preparation. As with any mountain landscape, temperatures and conditions can change quickly, and available resources will vary wildly between villages and outposts. Here, then are a few things to consider as you get ready for a trip to the High Atlas.
Guides – If you are planning to strike out on the trails, you may be curious about hiring a guide to help show you the way. There are a number of guiding/touring businesses in almost every trailhead village, as well as the larger cities. They can provide transport, food, lodging or any combination thereof you like, in addition to leading you through the mountain passes. Make sure you are clear on your price before you go, and establish exactly what is being provided ahead of time. Don’t feel guilty about shopping around for good prices or service! (more…)
Lords of the Atlas is prefaced, like many histories, with markers that help orient the reader in the world they are about to enter: a chronology of events, a genealogical chart for tracking names and lineage, a map of tribal territories. What sets apart this historical account is the adept blending of the political with the personal.
The rise and fall of one of modern Morocco’s most powerful families dovetailed with the tumultuous years of colonialism and independence, and the microcosm of world politics being acted out on the Moroccan stage. Author Gavin Maxwell never loses sight of the people involved in the theater of the “Moroccan Question.” Much like the oft-quoted Walter Harris, this book brings the personalities into the power politics at play. Against a landscape of dates, successions, treaties and conquests, Maxwell paints for us portraits of the individuals involved, and the result is a compelling narrative of ambition, loyalty, ego and mortality. (more…)
With five distinct mountain ranges, trekking in Morocco is a year-round activity. From the rugged Rif mountains in the north to the dramatic Anti Atlas that spill out to the southern Souss plains, dozens of routes for hiking and trekking are accessible during whatever season you plan to visit Morocco. Being prepared and planning ahead will help keep you healthy and safe during outdoor pursuits.
Consider the Weather
The Atlas Mountains are best accessed from late spring to early fall, although the higher peaks remain above the snow line until mid to late June. If you want to summit Jebel Toubkal or hike at higher elevations before the snow melts, you’ll need proper equipment for winter trekking. Jebel Sarhro, a volcanic range in Morocco’s southeast is best accessed from December to mid April before water sources disappear and the mercury starts to rise. The Anti Atlas, Rif and Middle Atlas can be hiked during all four seasons, although conditions in the Middle Atlas vary widely during the winter months; you could experience days warm enough to wear t-shirts in December or need to bundle up for a blizzard in March. (more…)
Not far from the High Atlas Mountains are the mountains of the Jebel Sahro. The starkness of this range belies the beauty found there. Although this area is not as well traveled by trekkers it is well worth the trip. The landscape is awash in mesas with flat tops, deep gorges and pinnacles that have been twisted from volcanic activity. The view includes expansive almond groves and date palms.
Because of the terrain, planning a trek in this region comes with many options. Regardless of which direction you choose to walk, you’ll be met with satisfying scenery. You can launch your Sahro trek from any one of three points. Two towns in the north make good starting points, Boumaine du Dades and Kelaa M’Gouna. You can also take off from the southern village known as N’Kob. There are several Moroccan tour operators in these three cities that provide services. (more…)
If you are thinking of visiting Morocco for the trekking opportunities in the High Atlas Mountains, there is no bad time to go. Depending on what type of trek you desire and your physical abilities, you will be able to find a trek at any time of the year.
There are a number of easy and moderate day hikes in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains. Some of these hikes will take a good portion of the day but should be manageable by most people. Toubkal Park and the Azaden Valley offer hikes for those with a bit more experience and stamina. If you’d like to enjoy a couple days of hiking in the High Atlas Mountains, there are tours available that allow trekkers to stay with a local family so that they don’t need to shuttle back and forth from the city day after day. (more…)
For outdoor enthusiasts who want to experience trekking in Morocco without the crowds—or for those who have been to Morocco before but are looking for new places to explore—look no further than northern Morocco.
Talassemtane National Park, a vast area with 150,000 acres of forested land, is located near the Rif Mountains, a region north of the Middle Atlas Mountains. While many people opt for tours in the High Atlas Mountains, those who set their sights on Mount Bouhachem and Mount Soukna will have the opportunity to experience Morocco’s great outdoors without rubbing elbows with countless other tour groups. (more…)
People travel from around the world to trek Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. The most southern of the country’s ranges is known as the Anti-Atlas, which spans from the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest to Ouarzazate in the north. The Sahara Desert borders the range to the south … a drastic contrast from the towering mountains!
Though the Atlas Mountains is often the most popular trekking destination in Morocco, the Anti-Atlas rivals the northern peaks with views of the Sahara Desert and fewer people on the trails. (more…)
Tizi-n-Test is a pass at 2100 meters above sea level. It is characterized by greenery juxtaposing red clay hills and roads. Tizi-n-Test is the point in the High Atlas Mountains where the many valleys of Marrakesh meet the Sahara of Morocco. Trekking in Morocco takes fortitude and knowing where the best places to visit are. By taking the road of Tizi-n-Test Pass you are able to reach your starting destination for some shoe-in-the-ruff mountain hiking. (more…)
The beautiful village of Imlil can be found nestled in the heart of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and the terrain that surrounds this peaceful village is a rich contrast from that of the country’s lowlands. Here, pink houses are spaced unevenly through the village with numerous trees – mostly walnut – interspersed around them.Everyone in Imlil loves the nature of their surroundings and all of them would be willing to take a walk with you into the mountains to show you their lovely land. (more…)
The High Atlas Mountains are located in central Morocco which is part of the North African continent. There are three distinct sections to this mountain range. The western portion of the High Atlas Mountains stretches out from the Atlantic Ocean. This is the oldest section of the entire mountain range with a high point at Jbel Toubkal which stands at 4,167 meters. The summit can sometimes be viewed from the nearby city of Marrakech. The High Atlas Mountains in Morocco provide some of the most picturesque scenery in the world. The canyons, ravines, and gorges created from the mountain formation create an ambiance setting that is unlike any other place in the world. (more…)
Here, we present a thoughtful piece from Brian Connery as he ventures on an Atlas trek in Morocco. From Imlil to Armed to Setti Fatma, Brian takes you on a quick, yet in-depth adventure of summitting and hiking around Jebel Toubkal in the High Atlas region.
Sleep was constantly disturbed with fearful visions of us becoming a magic carpet heading back down the valley.
From Imlil to base camp is a five hour trek ascending 1470 meters. Fearing the wrath of the SPCA (society for the prevention of cruelty to Australians), I arranged a mule to carry our heavy backpacks up to base camp. Erecting our tent on a dirty gravel pad in the wind shadow of the massive refuge, we proceeded to secure every anchor point with pegs and boulders.
During the night the alpine gusts strained these anchor points and rattled the tent un-relentlessly. Sleep was constantly disturbed with fearful visions of us becoming a magic carpet heading back down the valley. At day break we were woken up by several teams of trekkers heading for the summit. Pressured by this bee-hive of activity, we got our act together and started for the 960 m ascent as well.
The Japanese group were the first to encounter altitude problems. Their lead guide yelled down to ” leave the struggling lady with some food and continue”. We yelled back ” your a guide and don’t you ever do that”! Reaching the summit of Jebel Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountains (4167 m – the highest point in North Africa), we shared this joyous occasion with one other couple from France for half an hour before the waves of trekkers arrived.
We descended via another col to complete a circuit passing through a boulder field strewn with the wreckage of an old twin engine airplane that crashed many years ago. For the next four days we became the mules as we backpacked eastward into three new valleys.
How much it reminded us of Nepal: primitive terraced villages in the valleys, sleeping in “Gites” (guest house), and facing a high pass each day to change valleys. Trekkers here quickly step aside for loaded mules but none stepped aside for mule Doyle or mule Connery. Has our preconcieved image of Morocco been confirmed? It has been surpassed many times over. Now the english speaking world has to come and discover what the French have known for many years!
As the temps begin to plunge closer and closer to that omnipotent zero degrees, the last alternative we fellow hikers want is to stay indoors all winter. No, we will hike and freeze if we must in order to reach that trailblazer or peak! Of course, there are easy ways and hard ways to go about our hikes. With the proper gear, a hike, especially in a foreign country like Morocco, especially up a foreign mountain like Jbel (Mount) Toubkal, can be enjoyable and refreshing rather than painful and unbearable. When hiking in the High Atlas Mountains up Jbel Toubkal in Morocco, it’s imperative to pack gear that will see you to the top. (more…)
The High Atlas, often referred to as the Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, forms a sort of wall that keeps precipitation localized to certain valleys. The Draa Valley and the Ourika Valley are two regions that receive an ample supply of rainfall annually, which results in strong agricultural-based local populations. The rivers that run through the area are apparent at the surface level especially in spring, but disappear once mid-summer sets. The rivers or wadis continue to supply fresh water to springs and irrigation systems through underground channels. Environmentally speaking, the Moroccan government is attempting to re-establish what the French changed, a system of low water consumption planting. With less rainfall than ever before, farmers are attempting to sustain their land for future generations.
Walking or trekking in any regions of the High Atlas is a memorable venture. In all the ranges, it is a good idea to take a local guide along with you, especially in areas around Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains. The central mountain range is a great place to explore if you enjoy forests and the occasional troop of Barbary Macaque or indigenous populations of apes found only in Morocco and in Gibraltar.
As mentioned, the High Atlas is divided into three main ridges throughout the country. The Western High Atlas is the most popular for tour companies and tourists alike. The area boasts a 4,167-meter peak that requires trekking in the snow from November through June. While developers talk about the regions plans for tourism, local guides and travel companies offer a variety of services. Some eco tour Morocco companies use low-impact tourism in Morocco in order to maintain the ecosystem and local life of the area.
The Central High Atlas continues northward and differs from the above in that it contains gorges, valleys, and canyons. The most popular are the Todra Gorge and Dades Gorge. Rock climbing and trekking are quite popular in these areas. While the area is cooler in the summer due to its altitude, the sparse vegetation reveals the sweltering conditions during the dry season.
The Eastern High Atlas contains other peaks that compete with that of Jbel Toubkal. Both Jbel Ayachi and Jbel Saghro offer some amazing hiking, but are dangerous in the early spring months when avalanches are common. Extreme skiers frequent the area in winter in order to enjoy the difficult terrain and splendid views of the surrounding countryside. In this area, the Atlasaurus was discovered, which has given the area some fame. The key discovery provided a missing link between dinosaurs in Africa and the Americas.