How would you enjoy leisurely riding through beautiful valleys that are fringed with green palms, fertile orchards where the scent of the fruit is on the air, and visiting Berber cultures and villages without having to hike clear up into the Anti Atlas Mountains? It is possible if you decide to veer away from the standard tours of Morocco and go for something a little different by cycling your way through the country, travelling from Paradise Valley to the Atlantic coast and everywhere in between at your own two-wheeled pace.
Cycling through Morocco can be done through a Morocco itinerary of your own choosing. In order to get the best experience cycling through the country, however, plan on at least seven days to properly see some of the rich countryside and meet the intriguing people. Plus, this is a very eco-friendly way to visit Morocco and if you are all into helping preserve the environment, partaking in a biking tour is a great way to do it. Human-powered travel means more future power for everyone.
If you decide to hook up with a cycling tour, be aware that some of the trip will be done with cars and carrier vehicles over some of the more dangerous and steep mountain passes. In order to do Morocco in seven days on a bicycle, you need to be able to travel fairly quickly between your destinations. Otherwise, plan on taking longer in the country or shortening your itinerary to only include a few choice places within easy riding distance.
While you could start in just about any city in Morocco, the city of Agadir is a fun place to launch your bicycle tour if you’d like to have a swim. You will leave Agadir and head towards the town of Tafraoute, an old garrison town in the area. In between the two you will have the opportunity to see many of the villages and towns that lie on what was considered one of the important trade routes in the country. The scenery here includes olive groves and orange orchards and most of the small villages you pass through are well known for their markets. This part of the trip is traditionally taken via bus transfer, and about 40 kilometres outside of Igrhem you will begin your cycling trek towards Ait-Abdellah.
The Morocco cycling part of the trip here is done all on well-paved roads. You will cross over the Tizi-n-Tarakatine pass towards Tafraoute. Make sure you have your camera handy as there will be plenty of photo opportunities available at the pass and around the town proper. There are magnificent rock formations here that display the volcanic activity that is still very present in the area, providing you with shots of pink granite rocks and spiky pinnacles that seem to balance rocks like a seal with a balloon on its nose.
Depending on the itinerary you choose with your Morocco tour operator, you will spend at least three days in Tafraoute cycling around and exploring the beautiful countryside and mountain air. It is here that you can also begin to learn about the Berber tribes that dot the landscape of Morocco, living independent, nomadic lives in the same way their ancestors did before them. With the rocks to explore and the Berber tribes in this part of the trip willing to enlighten you of their way of life, you will find that the time spent here goes by very fast.
From Tafraout you can then travel in to the Ammeln Valley with its almond and palm groves nestled in the high mountain passes. This is the ancestral home of the Ammeln, one of the most well-known tribes in the Anti Atlas Mountains. You will drive to this location and then have the opportunity to explore the area on your bicycle, speaking with the Ammeln as you go your way.
The Ammeln and the other 5 tribes that inhabit this region of Morocco are known as the ‘Lords of the Atlas’. They are fiercely loyal and extremely money savvy, not to mention very independent. To say that they are culturally removed from the rest of the country is misleading as they are probably the best example of Morocco’s historical culture in the first place. By visiting with these nomadic tribes, you will be able to learn about and experience first hand examples of their music, dance, language, and religion.
When you leave the Ammeln Valley, you will head towards Tanalte via Ait Ihya and Ait Iftane high in the mountains. This is some gorgeous scenery that you will be biking through and if you get a chance to snap some pictures, do so. You will drive down the Anti Atlas into Lakhmis Ida Ougnidif for the night before heading out early in the morning to Tahala, an oasis in the middle of a very dry plain. Here you will see small Berber settlements, and the ‘Painted Rocks’, an outdoor exhibit of rock formations that were painted by Belgian artist Jean Veran in 1984. Head out towards Ait Mansour and its spectacular gorge, spend an additional night in Tafraoute and the mountains and then head towards the coastline and the banks of the river Ait Moussa before heading to Paradise Valley, the Atlantic Coast and then back to Agadir.
Biking Morocco is a great way to enjoy the country, see more of the countryside, and experience the culture without feeling rushed to do so. It’s also a green way to travel if you are environment conscious and a fun way to get some exercise.
by Sam Mitchell