Nestled in a valley among the Anti-Atlas Mountains in the south of Morocco is one of the country’s most precious treasures: the secluded oasis of Tafraoute. You will have to drive some 250km from Agadir on winding roads and dirt paths to get there. Once you arrive you will realize Tafraoute is worth the effort. Set against a backdrop of incredibly shaped rock formations, this hard-to-reach town is one of Morocco most relaxing destinations and the perfect base to explore the Anti-Atlas region. With very few tourists, lovely small restaurants, and spectacular places for outdoor adventures, Tafraoute is the ideal destination for those seeking to enjoy a relaxing getaway or an adventurous few days among nature.
What to Do
Its off-the-beaten-path location makes Tafrauote a secluded and peaceful town. The idyllic natural landscape and a refreshing swimming pool are all you will need to take a break during the hot summer days. Best of all, you don’t need to worry about faux guides or hassling shop keepers: there are practically none in this safe Moroccan haven.
The natural beauty surrounding Tafraoute is simply astounding and it would be a shame not to get wonderfully lost as you discover it. A drive around Amlen Valley, where Tafraoute is nestled, can take you to a host of different places including the charming Berber villages of Oumesnat and Emintizket. Check out the unique rock formations, and agadirs (hilltop granaries) in the villages of Amtoudi and Ikouka. Never heard of these places? That’s what makes this region so wonderful!
Wednesday is market day in Tafraoute and local merchants gather in the town center to sell their goods. You will also find woodwork, leather, silver bracelets, earrings, and other interesting items on sale all for a much cheaper price than in the souks of Agadir, Marrakesh or Fez.
Amlou is a mixture of almonds, olive oil, argan oil, and other natural ingredients usually served for breakfast or as a snack with bread at different times of the day. In Tafrouate, local ingredients are added to make this dip even more unique. A must try if you’re visiting.
If you are looking for a completely authentic hammam experience, Tafraoute is one of the best places to try this Moroccan ritual. There are a few places around town where you can indulge yourself for an afternoon but the favorite spot for locals is the Old Hammam located just behind the market.
Hiking and Trekking
The red-granite mountains that surround Tafraoute are not a walk in the park, so they’re not recommended for light walkers or beginner hikers. However, if you are looking to get in some physical exercise and get to know one of Morocco’s most spectacular regions, Tafraoute and the Anti-Atlas Mountains offer numerous possibilities, including Jebel Kest, the highest peak in the region.
There are a few places in Tafraoute that offer bike rental services. If you want to explore some of the surrounding areas on two wheels grab a map, hire a guide, and you will be all set to go. The road from Tiznit to Tafraoute offers some of the best cycling conditions in Morocco and astounding views – just be prepared for anything!
There are two main festivals that take place in Tafraoute. Don’t miss them if you’re traveling in Morocco when they occur. One is the Almond Blossom Festival, held in the second week of February when the almond trees in the region are blossoming. Berber music and dance are performed live each night along with delicious Berber foods. The second festival is the Tafraoute Summer Music Festival, a three-day event held in August. The festival features local bands, musicians, and artists from all over Morocco and is open to the public.
What to See
Les Roches Bleues. These “Blue Rocks” are undoubtedly one of Tafraoute’s most iconic symbols. Painted in 1984 by Belgian artist Jean Verame (who repeated the feat in Texas) with the help of a local team of some 20 firemen, the rocks provided the perfect canvas for a multi-color piece of art. Today, they can be seen from the road when driving from Tiznit to Tafraoute.
La Tete du Lion. This rock formation, which translates into English as “The Lion’s Head”, is located on top of a boulder on the Tafraoute Valley Mountain. Unsurprisingly its uncanny resemblance to a lion’s head is what inspired the name.
Ait Mansour Gorge. Thirty kilometers from Tafraoute, the incredible Ait Mansour Gorge is located in the heart of the Anti-Atlas Mountains and is considered one of Morocco’s finest oases. The refreshing palm trees and spectacular views of surrounding mountain scenery make this one of the best places to bask in natural beauty. You can also enjoy plenty of activities such as swimming, hiking, biking and camping.
La Maison Traditionelle. Located in the nearby town of Oumesmat, this museum is housed in a traditional Berber home displaying typical household items. The local caretakers will complement the exhibitions with stories of the traditional ways of the Anti-Atlas.
Where to Eat
Tafraoute is a small city and there are not so many traditional restaurants. Pay attention to where and what the locals are eating. Small snack kiosks, patisseries, and grills often serve as restaurants – just don’t expect cloth napkins and silverware!
Beautifully decorated with traditional Moroccan rugs and lanterns, this is one of the most popular restaurants in Tafraoute. It’s easy to understand why: tasty and traditional Moroccan dishes and impeccable service abound at La Kasbah. Alcohol may not be advertised on the menu but it is available on request, so don’t be shy to order some wine or beer to accompany your tajine.
This family-owned restaurant serves a mean tajine and at an incredible price (the fixed menu is just Dh55). Located on the road from the bus station, this restaurant is very popular with the locals and is becoming increasingly popular with foreign travelers as well.
L’Étoile du Sud
Opened originally in 1968, this “Star of the South” has been serving delicious tajines and couscous for decades in a picturesque Bedouin-style tent. Tour groups occasionally stop by for lunch but the service is always impeccable and on warm nights, this is one of Tafraoute’s best places to dine.
L’Étoile d’Agadir. If you’re looking to grab a refreshing drink at any time of day, this is your go-to place in Tafraoute. Besides its delicious continental breakfast served in the morning, this café stays open throughout the day to quench your thirst.