Ourika Valley MoroccoIn just 30 minutes, you can escape from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech’s souks. Where to? How about Tahanaout (a.k.a. Tahanaoute)!

Set against the majestic backdrop of the High Atlas, the picturesque village of Tahanaout enthralls visitors with its landscape, architecture and history. Surrounded by a terrain dotted with olive groves, orange trees and lemon trees, you can admire the red clay constructions, built according to traditional Berber techniques.

In fact, one of the highlights of touring Tahanaout is participating in hands-on workshops, such as learning how to make pottery in the form of jars, jugs and bowls. The Berbers have opened their home to tourists, and offer cooking classes, too. Here, you’ll learn how to make homemade bread, makoda (fried potato cakes), couscous and other traditional regional dishes. Those who just want to dine or drink the local specialty, mint tea, can do so, too.

On your sugar high, you can hit the regional souk. From Berber carpets and traditional crafts to vegetables, herbs and spices, there’s plenty to taste, smell and touch. Rugs are entirely handmade, as they have been for generations. Paintings, sculptures and other artifacts, in turn, will make an everlasting keepsake of Tahanaout. If you haven’t polished up your bargaining skills, you can do so here.

In addition to the wide cultural offerings, Tahanaout is ideal for those who want to explore the outdoors. Trekking is particularly popular, including options for the less seasoned walker.

Those who enjoy bird watching should stroll along the riverbanks, where you can sight Moroccan wagtail, white stork and cattle egret. If you need a refresher, head to the Ouirgane, N’Fiss and Ourika Valleys. In the Ourika Valley, take the time to appreciate the small waterfalls in Setti Fatma.

To continue exploring, book a guide and mule. 4WDs can also be rented to get deeper into the mountain range. The best time of the year for trekking is between May and September; however, the area deserves a visit year-round. Ski buffs in particular will be glad to know that there’s snow at the summits any time of year.

After a full day of activity, kick back and relax; there’s a wide range of accommodation in all price ranges and styles. Even an authentic Berber castle has been converted to lodgings. Tahanaout has retained the remoteness and a way of life that has changed little, even with tourism arriving at its doorstep.

Photo by krebsmaus07.