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Discovering the Atlas Mountains

Written on : 02 July 2019
By : Melchior Burin des Roziers
Discovering the Atlas Mountains

Discovering the Atlas Mountains

Morocco, it is the sea, the desert... but also the mountains which occupy more than a quarter of the country's surface area!  And when we talk about mountains, a word immediately comes to mind: The Atlas... the name of a divine place where an eponymous giant was condemned by Zeus to bear the celestial vault on his shoulders. This spectacular landmark is worth a visit. That's why we offer you the opportunity to venture into breathtaking landscapes and taste the beauty of this mythical barrier between the Mediterranean and the Sahara! 

But to talk about the Atlas is a tad elusive because you can't just summarise a 2500-kilometre strip in North Africa. That is why we prefer to focus on the Moroccan part of this channel, which is undoubtedly the most interesting. 
 
 

From Marrakech, you can reach the High Atlas Mountains.

From Marrakech, you can reach the High Atlas Mountains.

Go on a getaway in the valley of the Ourika, at least for a day. 

To the north of the massif, you will have the opportunity to travel along small roads bordered by spectacular reliefs. If you are craving authenticity, this is your opportunity to discover small Berber Villages hung on the side of the mountains. You can check out the local craft industry by planning a visit to a Berber market or an argan oil factory run by women. 

Another idea would be to go and cool off near the Setti Fatma waterfalls, at an altitude of 1500 metres. There are seven of them and offer an amazing view of the Atlas Mountains. 

As you can see, the Ourika Valley and its surroundings provide a temporary escape from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. However, note that it is more than advisable to go there in an air-conditioned car, if possible accompanied by a guide and equipped with your best walking shoes.

Fancy trekking?

Fancy trekking?

Welcome to one of the best spots in the world for trekking enthusiasts.  Depending on your desires, you have a wide range of choices. 

Djebel Toubkal (4167m) remains the highest and most easily accessible peak in Marrakech. The assistance of muleteers will save you a lot of effort. To reach this highest point of the High Atlas and North Africa, it will take 63 kilometres from Marrakech, heading south. Generally, it is accessed through the Imlil valley where Berber communities live.  

The ascent of Jebel M'goun (4701m) is also a good experience as it allows you to discover both the roof of the Central High Atlas and the legendary hospitality of the inhabitants of the "happy valley" Aït Bougmez. Don't hesitate to stay with the locals! 

Djebel Sirwa (3304m) and Djebel Saghro (2712m) remain warmer and more isolated than the others. The name of the latter literally means "drought" in Tamazight.... couldn't be clearer! However, in both cases the landscapes are wonderful in their appearance: Sirwa is mostly stoned and deserted while Saghro and its black rocks appear strangely lunar. These summits are easily accessible from Taliouine (Moroccan saffron capital) and N'Kob. 

Activities for the whole family!

Activities for the whole family!

There is something for everyone: from simple hiking to climbing, mountain biking and horseback riding. All these activities are quite simple to organize. But don't worry, the Atlas is not only for trekking enthusiasts and top athletes! 

If you feel like a Berber, you can just as easily go on a camel ride to the foothills of the Atlas Mountains for a few hours. This is done from the village of Asni, 40 kilometres south of Marrakech, at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains. A very pleasant experience amidst orchards and charming little hamlets. Of course, you will have a breathtaking view of the snow-covered mountains, pines and lush valleys. Bird lovers will not be disappointed!