Mount Zalagh in Morocco: Tranquility among the Olive Groves

morocco olive treeMount Zalagh looms high over Fez, looking down on the crowded city and its narrow, winding alleys. A world away from the hustle and bustle of one of the most densely populated areas in Morocco, Mount Zalagh, covered with olive groves and scented by wild lavender, offers a view of the entire city and the surrounding landscapes—the Sebou Valley, Rif Mountains and Sais Plain. In the winter, expect snow, but in the summer, the elevation provides the ideal temperature for an escape from the heat and the perfect spot for a picnic. Despite its proximity to the city, it is never crowded, much to the delight of mountain bikers and hikers alike.

Reaching Zalagh’s summit is easy enough for even inexperienced hikers and takes no more than an hour or two, even at a leisurely pace. To reach the mountain, take a grand taxi (taxi kabir in Arabic) from the Bab Guissa, a 12th-century city gate located in the north of the medina. You can usually count on finding a taxi queue in front of the Sofitel Palais Jamaï nearby. Ask the driver to take you to the base of the Mount Zalagh or, in Arabic, Jbel Zalagh (JE-bal ZA-lagh), along Ouezzane Road, which is to the left after leaving the Palais Jamaï and leads to the southern base of the mountain. You reach a small pine forest, from which you can find the trailhead. As always when taking a grand taxi, agree on a price beforehand. The trip should normally cost no more than 7 or 8 Dh, so make sure to bargain. (more…)

Birdwatching in Morocco

birds in MoroccoIf you’re an avid birdwatcher, you might want to consider a trek to Morocco. The country’s mix of varied landscapes, including mountains, wetlands and deserts, offer travelers opportunities to see an eclectic mix of rare and endangered bird species. The country has developed a reputation as one of the major birdwatching centers of North Africa.

Morocco’s friendly attitude to tourism draws bird-lovers from around the globe seeking to catch a glimpse or snap a photo of one of the more than 480 species that make the country their home at least part of the year. Visitors should plan their trips during the prime birdwatching seasons, which will vary some with the different species and the regions across the country. The weather in Morocco is normally mild, so you can be assured of plenty of sunlight.

Travelers to Morocco can also hit a number of hotspots for birdwatching. The country’s numerous preserves, parks and other dedicated sites help to showcase the populations of species like wheatears, larks, raptors, warblers and large numbers of resident birds and migratory species. (more…)