To many, one of the most beautiful (and alluring) parts of Morocco is the rural landscape of the High Atlas Mountains. Here, earthen Berber villages lay terraced into the mountains, their flat, baked-mud roofs nestled against the fertile slopes. Life moves at a slow pace, and the virtues of family and hospitality to strangers are held in high regard.
Your first glimpse of the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas Mountains – the largest mountain chain in Africa – may well be from Marrakech, over the sun-drenched palms surrounding your hotel pool or from the rooftop of your riad, with the Koutoubia minaret in the foreground.
Whenever and wherever you first notice it, it will inevitably be the outline of Mount Toubkal (nearly 14,000 feet) that first catches your attention.
When you eventually say goodbye and gain distance from the town, the incredibly flat plain on which Marrakech rests, starts to change into a backdrop of rolling hills and then mountains.
In the Atlas, the way of life is very traditional and has only recently been disturbed by the intrusion of modernity. The majority of the population still lives in remote mud villages and the economy revolves around agriculture. Weekly souks (markets), which travel from village to village, are the primary source of supplies for villagers and still the preferred means of socializing (often for matchmaking purposes) with others outside of one’s own village.
For centuries, the lands of the High Atlas have been known for their untamed warrior clans, which existed well into the 20th century and gave the French fierce resistance. It was a dynasty from a small village in the Atlas that ruled Spain for centuries.
There are only two passes through the famed Atlas; both originate in Marrakech.
One, Tizi n’Tichka, winds its way over the great trans-Saharan trading routes that led east through the lush oases and river valleys of the desert to the great dunes and endless sands of the desert and ultimately to Timbuktu.
The other path, known as Tizi n’Test, is even more dramatic (and full of hairpin turns). It snakes its way south from Marrakech, reaching an altitude of 7,900 feet before descending into the fertile Sousse Valley and the ochre-hued city of Taroudant.
We can design a daytrip from Marrakech, but we suggest that you spend a night or two in one of our preferred hotels, crafted from an ancient kasbah.
We can also arrange hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking – even multi-day ascents of Mount Toubkal for the experienced climber.
For something a little less strenuous, let us arrange a private cooking lesson, using local ingredients, at an organic farm in a remote village.