Valleys of the High Atlas
Nicknamed the roof of Morocco, the High Atlas stretches over 750 km and hosts the highest peaks of North Africa: the Toubkal and M’Goun mountains culminating at more than 4,000 m.
These mountains, sometimes heavily snowed, offer many opportunities for lovers of sports and mountains hiking within varied and splendid landscapes.
The Cultural High Atlas
If it presents numerous and beautiful sites, what shapes the High Atlas is its ancestral and rich Berber culture. Nomadic Berber use to live in the center of the High Atlas and speak Tamazight. The “Chleus” are mostly concentrated in the west of the High Atlas, in the Dades and Todra’s valleys, and use to speak Tachelhit.
The music, the numerous festive ceremonies, the rich colors of the women’s clothes, the architecture of the villages and the ancient kasbahs are undoubtedly part of the cultural heritage of the Moroccan South.
High Atlas therefore offers not only treks, hikes or excursions, but above all a beautiful encounter to discover this millennial culture whether in its high fertile valleys, traditional douars or its rich and green palm groves.
Across the Atlas Mountains
Several high passes make it possible to cross this beautiful mountainous fence by taking winding roads, on the mountainside, whose views are breathtaking, but which require great attention to driving, these roads can sometimes prove dangerous.
The road connecting Marrakech to Taroudant, by the Tizi’n’Test is lined with cypress forests and argan trees, whose leaves are often grazed by small black goats. This itinerary passes near Oukaïmeden which is hosting the main ski resort of southern Morocco, just 60 km from Marrakech.
Just to notice, we who practiced it, advise lovers to have a good level before borrowing some of the red trails that have nothing to envy to the black slopes of France. Similarly, black runs with bumpy walls are a beautiful exercise in style.
You can also take time to stroll through the verdant valley of Ourika and its saffron farms and, of course, visit the national park Toubkal, which is often seen in the background with its 4,167 meters of altitude.
From the Zat valley to the Ounila valley passing by the Tizi ‘n’ Tichka
The best known of these passes is undoubtedly the Tizi ‘n’ Tichka, nested at 2,260 m, is one of the highest road passes of Morocco. The road connects Marrakech to Ouarzazate crossing the country Glaoua.
Initially surrounded by holm oaks and olive groves along the Zat valley, this route, while winding along the mountainside, offers wonderful views from where you can see the many bends, traditional douars scattered along the river below the road which, once crossed Tizi ‘n’ Tichka passes, skirts bare mountains with rare vegetation.
These peak behind, you ‘ll have the possibility to take a small road which leads to the ancient kasbah of Telouet, former palace of the last “lord” of the Atlas. It’s the beginning of the Ounila valley where, continuing towards Ouarzazate, is the Ksar of Ait Benhaddou.
It’s worth noting that, since it was registered and classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it has lost some of its authenticity and its now surrounded with too much hotels and restaurants. Anyway this Ksar from the sixth century has to be seen.
The Central High Atlas
In the middle of the High Atlas, the Tizi ‘n’ Tirherhouzine mountain culminates at 2,700 meters, gives us the possibility to reach the high Imilchil valley. famous for its “fiancée” and “music” festivals. This passage is a succession of lunar and desert landscapes declining all the shades of gray in a cluster of volcanic rocks with varied forms.
Once past the village of Agoudal you arrive to this high fertile valley generously irrigated by the Meloul river. After a visit to the two legendary lakes of Imilchil, named Tislit and Iselit, this wonderful journey in the Atlas can continue eastwards towards the Jbel Ayachi and the marvelous Jaffar’s Circus.
The track leading to it is reputed to be one of the most beautiful in Morocco, but its access difficulty requires the use of a 4 × 4. Once arrived, it is an enchantment. This splendid site has retained all its wild beauty, mixing steep cliffs and calm inspired by cedar forests all around.
M’Goun, hiker’s paradise
The surroundings of Ighil M’Goun offer magical places, the famous waterfalls of Ouzoud, with their 110m of fall. The upper valley Aït Bougmez, nestled at 2 000 m down to the M’Goun inspires more for the walk and the tranquility. With about 20 villages, it is a transition zone between sedentary farmers and semi-nomadic herders.
The M’Goun has become a must-see for mountain hikers, climbers and alpine off-piste enthusiasts
Hiking In The High Atlas
Some hikes can be perilous, even for the most seasoned. So it’s necessary to be accompanied as far as possible by an official or experienced guide who meets the guarantees of comfort and safety.
Generally the villages or cities where these various excursions are prepared have a guide office and some guest houses will be able to inform you and find you the right guide.
Walking and hiking
For hikers, seasoned or not the choices are endless, as the scenery and destinations can be so varied and magnificent. Excursions of varying length, which can be carried out by walk, or with donkeys, or even on horseback for amateurs.
For the bravest who want to face the arduous slopes, mountain biking is proving to be an interesting and environmentally friendly means of transport.
Many climbing spots exist on extraordinary sites, in the gorges of Todra and near the village of Amallego located on the axis between Aït Ani and Tinejdad. On these spots you can be accompanied by a guide.
The High Atlas by car
Exploring the High Atlas by car allows you to fully enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of the Tizi ‘n’ Tichka road.
To follow the roads of the valleys of roses, Dadès and Todra, ou must reach the high villages of Agoudal and Imilchil.
Renting a vehicle or 4×4 can be very useful in order to have a greater opportunity of choice in various excursions and to discover more freely the hiking possibilities offered by the High Atlas.
THE HIGH ATLAS RIVERS
Water, life source in the High Atlas
Most of the rivers of southern Morocco originate in the Atlas. From the depths of the High Atlas born those galloping rivers furrowing the high valleys. Oued Souss winds from the High Atlas to the Anti-Atlas and stretches to the Atlantic coast by the valley of the Souss passing near Taroudant.
From the massif of M’Goun flows the river of the same name, forming this marvelous valley also called “valley of the roses”. A festival held every year in May in Kelaat Mgouna and is totaly dedicated to this beautiful flower whose seeds would have been, according to legend, brought back from a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Dades Oued, on the other hand, forms a succession of colored rocks known as the Dades gorges, which from Msemrir stretches over tens of kilometers, bordered by ancient kasbahs, to the lively little village of Boumalne Dades.
As for Oued Todra, after a difficult course in the High Atlas, it crosses these sumptuous limestone cliffs of the Todra Gorges from where, since the fabulous peaks of the Aqqa N’Ouakouene, you can admire the surrounding mountains, buttresses The Anti-Atlas with the Saghro in the distance and the vast and verdant palm grove of Tinghir.
Just like Amellago, a small village situated above Goulmima, the Todra Gorges have numerous climbing spots for both beginners and seasoned climbers.
FAUNA AND FLORA
The High Atlas has a flora and fauna as varied as its landscapes. Botanists and other ornithologists will delight it.
The western slopes are mostly home for cedar and argan trees, while cypress, cedar, and Aleppo pine forests predominate in the center. The high valleys and small palm groves are rich with a large variety of fruit trees, logs, walnut trees, almond trees … without forgetting the many date palms and olive trees in the provinces of Ouarzazate, Tinghir and Errachidia.
The fauna is also very diverse. If some of the biggest animals like the Atlas lion have disappeared from these places, there are still many wild boars and small mammals and an unbelievable number of bird species, including many migratory and rapacious.
TELOUET – AIT BENHADDOU – OUARZAZATE
Todra – From 79 €
Imlil, Toubkal – From 20 €
Imlil, Toubkal – From 25 €
Marirha, Ouirgane – From 70 €
Imlil, Toubkal – From 23 €
Imlil, Toubkal – From 60 €