Trekking in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco
Are you thinking of trekking in Morocco? Well, why wouldn’t you? Morocco is a varied and rich country. This country is famous for its culture, its people, its food, and most important to us: its geography. From the Atlas mountains to the Sahara desert, Morocco has the most contrasting of landscapes, which will dazzle any trekking lover. Trekking in the Atlas Mountains can be a bit confusing at first because of all the different options and possible combinations, but no need to worry, in this article I will clear things up a bit.
To begin with, let’s talk for a bit about this famous mountain range: The Atlas. The Atlas mountains are found in northeastern Africa and are 2400 km long. This huge massif cuts across 3 countries, but its highest peak, Mount Toubkal, is in Morocco. So, there we have our first trekking option: climbing Mount Toubkal. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Another thing you need to know about this region before we get to the trekking part is that it is inhabited by the Berbers, an indigenous ethnic group from northern Africa. The Berbers still live in traditional villages scattered across the Atlas Mountains, where their traditions and way of living still prevail. Now that you know some basic facts about Morocco, its geography and people, let’s talk about what got us to Morocco in the first place: trekking. Here are the main options:
Climbing Mount Toubkal
Mount Toubkal (Jebel Toubkal) is the highest peak in the region, with a height of 4,167 meters. Ascending Toubkal is not a long mission, it can take 2 or 3 days to get to the top and back. However, if you feel more adventurous and you want to spend more time trekking in this wonderful massif, there are also treks that combine climbing mount Toubkal with other highlights such as Lake Ifni, the Sahara Desert,or Berber villages.
One important factor to take into account when climbing Mount Toubkal is the season. Although the summit can be reached all year round, the best time to hike to the top is in Spring, from April to May. In winter things get a little more complicated. Winter lasts from November till the end of April, and during these months, snow and ice accumulate at the top. This is why crampons and ice axes are compulsory for the winter trek.
Trekking in the Atlas Mountains
If you are climbing Mount Toubkal you will be trekking in the Atlas Mountains. There is, however, so much more to see apart from the highest peak. The treks in the Atlas Mountains are designed to walk you through some of the highlights of this beautiful mountain range. Pun intended.
The region’s typical characteristics are its valleys, its deep gorges, gushing river streams, and juniper and pine trees. Trekking in the Atlas is an excellent opportunity to relax, meditate, and enjoy nature. But it doesn’t end there: although Berber villages are not the core of these treks, you will still come across some of them in the way, allowing you to interact with the locals and to get to know their way of life. If you want to get a good overview of the region and its customs, then this option will suit your plans best.
Trekking through Berber villages
If you would like a more cultural approach, then this is the way to go. The treks that include Berber villages as their main attractions guide you through the Atlas Mountains and take you to these traditional villages. From one village to the other, you will be trekking among juniper trees and walking along rivers, always surrounded by the magnificent views the Atlas provides.
There are many alternatives to the Berber villages trek as well. You can go with a short, 1 or 2 days trek, where you will visit the main villages closest to Morocco, such as Imlil or Tinerhourhine, or you can choose a longer itinerary. There are treks that last 5 or 6 days, which take you deeper into the mountains, to more remote and exclusive Berber villages, which have less contact with the busy cities to the west. How deep are you willing to dive into the Berber culture?
Combine your trek with the Sahara Desert
If you are visiting Morocco, the Sahara Desert is a must, we can all agree on that. This is a great chance to kill two birds with one stone. Why not combine trekking in the Atlas Mountains with a camel ride in the sand dunes of the Sahara? First, you trek through valleys of walnut, apple, and cherry trees on the lower elevations, and as you go higher you enjoy the evergreen alpines.
Once you have crossed out Mount Toubkal’s summit from your To Do List, you can drive to the Sahara desert for a completely different experience: sand, heat, camels, and the world famous Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, an ancient fortified village typical of the Berber clay architecture. This combination is definitely the best way to get to know both sides of Morocco, literally and metaphorically. Have you made up your mind? Let’s trek!
Do you want to find out more about trekking in Morocco? Check our Morocco trekking guide.