Morocco Tours Hiking
Morocco Tours Hiking: Experienced hikers head for Mount Toubkal, which overlooks the High Atlas Mountains and Marrakech like a giant genie watching over its magical landscape. In Morocco, walking takes you through the most remote villages. Where you’ll find more than a warm welcome from the Berbers, and enjoy some excellent Moroccan cuisine. In May, you can even walk with the Ait Atta nomads as they migrate from the warm lowlands to the cooler mountain pastures.
Anyone who has missed out on Marrakech’s sweltering souk would be hard-pressed to guess the peaceful walking trails and fresh, unspoilt landscapes that stretch beyond Marrakech.
Hiking to discover Morocco
But all are waiting to be discovered in the Atlas Mountains by those with walking shoes and a few days to spare. Morocco is less than three hours’ flight from London. And the High Atlas less than 70 km from Marrakech. Once here, a network of trails winds through traditional villages and lush valleys. While Mount Toubkal (Jebel Toubkal in Arabic), North Africa’s highest peak, attracts seasoned mountaineers.
The Anti-Atlas lies further south, offering empty trails with gentler slopes. There’s also the chance to hike the Jebel Aklim, offering spectacular views of the great northern peaks. The Berber people are common to all the Atlases. Warm, confident and long practicing sustainable living in these majestic mountains, they guide you into their world with expertise and warmth.
Is hiking in Morocco difficult?
That really depends on where you’re going. There are many superb day hikes in the lower reaches of the High Atlas. So you can settle into a comfortable spot, like the Kasbah du Toubkal in Imlil. And discover spectacular scenery and traditional Berber villages.
Point-to-point treks take you deeper into the landscape, often between 8 km and 22 km.
Trekking in Morocco with mules
Mules can be used to carry supplies and your hiking backpack. So you only need to walk with your small rucksack. The whole of the Atlas Mountains region is generally undeveloped. So you can expect a mix of well-maintained trails. But also rocky, stony trails, with occasional steep ascents and descents. Seasoned hikers with some climbing experience will find plenty to enjoy in Morocco.
The Jebel Toubkal summit, North Africa’s highest peak, is difficult and must be approached with a guide. In winter, crampons and ice axes are essential. The altitude is not Himalayan – Toubkal reaches 4,167 m – but you can’t rule out the possibility of altitude sickness symptoms, such as shortness of breath or nausea.
Walking in the Anti-Atlas is rarely technically difficult, but some walking experience is useful, as the trails can be very rough and stony. This is a sparsely populated area, and many inhabitants have left the region in search of work in the cities. The trails have therefore often been neglected and partially abandoned. Expect trails that are difficult to follow – a solid reason to walk with a guide.
How much time do I need?
Morocco Tours Hiking: The High Atlas and Anti-Atlas are all close to major cities – Marrakech and Agadir respectively – which can be reached by flight from Europe. This means you can fly in one day and hit the trail the next. Jebel Toubkal offers short breaks, with three days of hard walking and free time to relax in Marrakech.
On hiking vacations that follow a point-to-point itinerary, a one-week trip can include five days of trekking, while a fortnight’s vacation allows for longer, more challenging treks lasting up to 12 days, with the possibility of achieving several peaks over 4000 m.
Best time to trek in Morocco
The best time to go hiking in the Moroccan High Atlas is from March to October. In spring and autumn, the sun is strong but the air is cool, but April can be wet. Summer is hot, and even the lower valleys of the High Atlas can reach 29°C; it’s only above 3,000 m that you need cold-weather clothing.
Winter ascents of Jebel Toubkal are possible, but at night the temperature drops well below zero, with snow generally falling in late October or early November. There is no snow in the Anti-Atlas. The best time to hike here is from October to April, with sunny days and cool nights.
When to go hiking in Morocco
Although some hiking routes in the High Atlas are closed in winter due to snow, you can still join the Jebel Toubkal summit trek, tackling snow and ice with ice axes, crampons and experienced guides. The winter climbing season here starts in November and continues through December, January, February, March and April.
The Anti-Atlas mountains are closer to the Atlantic, with lower altitudes and latitudes than the High Atlas. This means that the Anti-Atlas is the mildest of Morocco’s mountain regions in winter. Walking is pleasant from October to April, with warm days (15-20°C) and clear skies, but the temperature at night is generally cold, sometimes dropping below freezing. There is occasional snowfall on the highest peaks and passes, but not enough to prevent hiking. Due to its proximity to the Sahara, the months of June, July and August are extremely hot.
Hiking in Spring
Morocco Tours Hiking: Spring in the High Atlas is wonderful, as wild flowers from poppies to wild orchids and blue gentian appear as if by magic. Spring begins as early as February in some regions.
Temperatures become milder in the High Atlas in March, with highs of around 27°C, although temperatures can still dip below freezing at night.
Hiking in autumn
In October, temperatures start to plunge in the main hiking regions, averaging around 18°C, rather than the 25°C highs of September. If you’re tackling Toubkal, be aware that there can be patches of snow in late April, early May and late September, so crampons may be necessary for April and October hikes.
Hiking in Morocco in the summer
Morocco Tours Hiking: During the high summer season, there can be a temperature difference of up to 15°C between the lowlands and the mountains of Morocco. It can be very hot at 30°C in July or August in the High Atlas, while Marrakech is over 40°C.
Hiking during Ramadan
There’s no need to avoid Morocco during Ramadan. Some businesses and restaurants may close, but walking vacations are not affected, as local guides and drivers generally choose to work. However, bear in mind that their energy levels may be a little lower during this period. If you spend time in Marrakech or other cities before or after your trek, you may find the day quieter, but in the evening there’s a wonderful party atmosphere as locals break their fast and then go out to meet friends. In 2018 and 2019, Ramadan falls between May and June, then April and May in 2020.
Hiking in the High Atlas
Separating the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts of Morocco from the vast Sahara Desert, the High Atlas Mountains stretch diagonally across the country for almost 1,000 km. To the north lies the Middle Atlas, easily accessible by day hikes from Fès and Meknès. To the south is the Anti-Atlas, the magnificent High Atlas forming the backbone of Morocco. Which is why Berbers refer to them as Idraren Draren: Mountains of mountains.
Morocco Tours Hiking: It’s a wild and rugged landscape, with a dozen peaks over 4000 m and numerous rivers, which flow north towards Marrakech, creating a network of fertile valleys. Despite the harsh, isolated conditions here – the high slopes and passes of the High Atlas can see snow from November to late March – the region has long been inhabited by Berbers.
In fact, it’s the presence of the warm and friendly Berber that makes hiking in Morocco so special. Your hiking guide will help you translate, but sign language and simple French are often enough for chatting, while a night in a lodge or home is a wonderful way to experience Berber hospitality, food and traditional life.
The Western High Atlas
The western part of the High Atlas range is the oldest and home to the mighty Jebel Toubkal, which at 4167 m is visible from Marrakech. It lies within the Toubkal National Park, which attracts many visitors from the High Atlas. The Ourika Valley is popular with day-trippers from Marrakech. The neighboring valley of Imlil is much used by hikers heading for the summit of Toubkal, while Azzaden is on the other hand quieter but just as beautiful. There are so many trails in this area, from the challenging trek up to Toubkal to the easy walks at the foot of the hills, that you can easily match the walks to your fitness and experience.
Head a little west of Mount Toubkal to the western edge of the High Atlas Mountains, a region well worth exploring. Further off the tourist trail than the Toubkal region, this section is also quieter and generally warmer. The landscape is beautifully green and fertile, with valleys full of date, almond, walnut and olive trees and wild flowers everywhere in spring. Trekking here is gentler than in the Toubkal region, but no less magical.
On the Tichka plateau, for example, you’ll find mountain meadows surrounded by peaks where Berber shepherds graze in summer. The highest peaks are Imaradene (3351 m) to the west and Amendach (3382 m) to the east, two excellent vantage points on the plateau.
Central High Atlas
Morocco Tours Hiking: The Central High Atlas is more remote than the Toubkal region and features spectacular rock formations, ridges and deep gorges of red and orange stone, sculpted by erosion. There are secluded valleys here, including Aït Bougomez, Aït Bououli and Aït Blel, and isolated Berber villages, some with architecture of a style found only here, in Yemen and Afghanistan.
Here, the M’Goun massif dominates the landscape, North Africa’s second-highest peak after Toubkal. It lies between the Sahara and the central plains and, although most people aspire to the summit of Toubkal, reaching the top of the M’Goun massif is undoubtedly more demanding, with longer trekking distances and variable weather conditions in the Sahara.
Trekking here takes you deep into the untouched Atlas regions, for a real insight into the culture of the mountain community. You’ll be walking well beyond the reach of vehicles, so you’ll need a guide and the help of mules and muleteers.
Hiking in the Anti-Atlas in Morocco
Anti-Atlas means Little Atlas, but there’s nothing less. The only thing “small” here is the number of visitors, despite its location close to Agadir. Morocco has such an abundance of trails and spectacular scenery that the Anti-Atlas has been somewhat neglected; so much so that you may not meet other hikers during your stay. Instead, discover empty paths and the warmest welcome from the Berber villagers you’ll meet along the way. It’s not uncommon to be invited to a mint tea, with hand gestures and basic French usually sufficient for friendly conversation.
As well as learning about traditional Berber life, the trekking is fantastic, through a dry landscape, with arid peaks rising above lush valleys, dotted with oases. Despite the harshness of the landscape, the Berbers who live in the Anti-Atlas cultivate the staple foods of wheat, barley, olives, figs and almonds, and if you walk in autumn, you’ll see women dressed in bright colors bringing in the harvest. Don’t miss the wildlife either, including Cuvier’s gazelle, the cuffed mouflon and the Barbary macaque.
Many treks here tackle Jebel Aklim.
Morocco Tours Hiking: This peak, surrounded by Berber villages in valleys guarded by old kasbahs, rises to 2531 m and is one of the highest peaks in the Anti-Atlas. From the summit, you can admire the High Atlas and Djebel Siroua, an extinct volcano located at 3304 m in the Anti-Atlas.
As the Anti-Atlas is less frequented than the High Atlas and has experienced local depopulation, some trails have been neglected. Expect difficult trails, on stony, uneven ground – not technically difficult trekking, but certainly tough. On the plus side, there’s no extreme altitude to contend with, fewer difficult ascents and descents, and no extreme temperatures.
In fact, the Anti-Atlas is an excellent destination for winter hiking, with a milder climate than the High Atlas and less snow. Days are generally warm in winter (15-20°C) with clear skies, while in spring and autumn, days can become warm – think 18-28°C – with clear skies and strong sunshine, but nights are cool and pleasant 8-18°C.
The Anti-Atlas is much less developed for hikers than the High Atlas.
As a result, point-to-point treks usually involve wild camping, as campsites and other accommodation simply don’t exist. This means no showers, and just a simple toilet block. If that sounds a bit basic, you should know that full-service campground catering is a delight, and the choice of places to camp is fantastic.
You could pitch tents in a valley of olive groves criss-crossed by streams or on a picturesque plateau surrounded by farmland, with sunrise views that are well worth the lift. Once the trek is over, you can relax before heading home, especially to Taroudant. You can shop in the souk and visit the hammam, without the hassle associated with Morocco’s larger, more visited centers.
Must-sees for hiking in Morocco?
Most hikes are concentrated in the High Atlas, near Marrakech. There are also trips from Agadir to the more remote Anti-Atlas, with its empty trails and less steep climbs. Guided walking is recommended, usually in small groups or on individual trips.
Breaks in the center offer easy hikes through Berber villages as well as more challenging all-day loops around giant gorges and lush valleys. You can also opt for point-to-point trekking, wilderness camping or staying in simple lodges, with mules to carry bags and cooking equipment.
A typical week-long itinerary might involve five days’ walking in the High Atlas, with time to enjoy Marrakech. Longer trips of 15 days go further, with the possibility of climbing several 4000 m peaks in a single trek.
More remote and less developed than the neighboring Imlil Valley, the Azzaden Valley is home to a spectacular hiking lodge in the village of Aït Aïssa, with its own hammam. From here, stroll easily through beautiful Berber villages or try a more strenuous seven-hour circuit – one passes over the Tizi n’Tzikert pass at 2930 m, another particularly magnificent route passes over the Tizi n’Teouti pass at 2450 m and the Tizi n’Tougdalt pass at 2700m.
Morocco Tours Hiking: Many hikes in the High Atlas begin in the village of Imlil, home to walnut trees and bustling with hikers and muleteers. From here, climb Jebel Toubkal, hike the Toubkal massif or wander easily through the surrounding Berber villages, wheat fields and apple orchards. The magnificent Kasbah du Toubkal is a 15-minute walk upstream from Imlil.
This is one of the highest peaks (2531 m) in the Anti-Atlas. Climb it for spectacular views of the High Atlas, then follow the Aklim range circuit through villages surrounded by almond and palm trees, such as Irtem and M’dint. Here, the brightly-dressed Berbers, who still lead very traditional lifestyles, are wonderfully welcoming.
Morocco’s second highest peak. With two peaks, Timzguida and Ras Ouanoukrim, most people refer to the former because of its huge, domed summit with plenty of room to admire the view.
Morocco Tours Hiking: Jebel Toubkal is the highest peak in North Africa, offering views of the Atlantic coast and Sahara desert from the summit. Reaching the summit, at 4,167 m, is a difficult trek in all seasons and should not be attempted without a guide. Starting in Imlil, the climb generally takes two to four days. Various itineraries are available, from mountain refuges to wilderness camping.