Follow our intrepid Kristy Larson on this hiking adventure into the stunning Atlas Mountains of Morocco!
Morocco is an enchanting country steeped in culture and tradition with incredibly diverse landscapes—the orange sand dunes, volcanic outcrops, and crumbling kasbahs of the Sahara; the blue-gray peaks of the Atlas Mountains; plus intriguing walled cities full of tiny winding alleys where veiled women peek from behind doorways. It’s also a great country for hiking (it’s not all desert), and this trip zeroes in on a fabulous trek through the remote M’Goun Valley, an oasis-like valley with cultivated crops, a string of Berber villages, and a backdrop of the snowcapped High Atlas Mountains (the snowy peaks of the High Atlas come as a surprise to those who think of North Africa as solely desert). This is one of the most stunning areas in Morocco, with spectacular canyonlands and escarpments reminiscent of the American Southwest.
We’ll wander through small villages of Berber farmers and shepherds and enjoy the picturesque landscape of great escarpments, oasis like valleys, and orchards of almond and walnut trees. We’ll drive through the Dadès Valley, with its fabulous kasbahs and date-palm oases, for a trek through the remote M’Goun Valley. Walking upriver through towering narrow canyons, we share the trails with proud white-robed Berbers astride sturdy mules. Then we’ll meander through a series of remote villages strung out along the M’Goun River as it flows through a fertile, cultivated valley. Traditional dress and cultures have not changed here for centuries (some say this is the way Nepal used to be in the early days of trekking), and hospitality ranks high among the local Berbers (be prepared to sample offerings of sweet mint tea).
Our adventure is enhanced by in-depth visits to Fès and Marrakesh, whose grand walls, ornate gates, and striking mosque are testaments to an illustrious history. A pre-trip extension to the 17th-century Portuguese harbor-fortress of Essaouira is also available.
7 days of moderate to strenuous hiking on varied terrain (maximum elevation is 9,514'), some long drives, cultural touring
- Trek through a stunning oasis-like valley of Morocco's High Atlas Mountains
- Discover remote Berber villages where traditions and culture have not changed for centuries and hospitality ranks high
- Enjoy in-depth visits to Marrakesh and Fes, whose cultural monuments are testaments to an illustrious history
Duration: 14 days Start Location: Marrakesh End Location: FesDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Marrakesh
Arrive Marrakesh in time for lunch and an afternoon walking tour of the medina, the mysterious old town of Marrakesh.
Day 2 : Marrakesh
A full day of sightseeing in Marrakesh, one of Morocco's oldest and most beautiful cities.
Day 3 : Drive to Ait Ben Haddou
We drive across the High Atlas Mountains, through picturesque Berber villages, until we reach the fortified city of Ait Ben Haddou, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Day 4 : To M'Goun Valley
We explore the incredible kasbah village of Ait Ben Haddou before driving to the M'Goun Valley (also known as the Valley of the Roses) to meet our mules and begin our trek.
Day 5 : Issoumar Camp
We begin our trek in a Berber region along the Mgoun river, full of crumbling kasbahs, wild roses in the spring, and mud-bricked villages surrounded by green fields of barley, figs and almonds (4-5 hours of hiking).
Day 6 : Tiranimine Camp
5 hours of hiking through Berber villages along the M'Goun River until we reach our camp at Tiranimine at 5,904 ft.
Day 7 : M'Goun River Gorge Walk
5-6 hours of hiking in the shallow rivers and narrow canyons of the spectacular M'Goun Gorges. Camp at 6,560 ft.
Day 8 : Tighermt n’Aït Ahmed
Today we trek 6-7 hours through the traditional villages of the Ouzirimt Valley and camp at an ancient granary located at 7,200 ft.
Day 9 : Hike to Ait Bougoumez Valley
Today we hike up the Tizi n'Ait Imi Pass (9,512'), passing nomads tending their sheep and goats, before descending to Ait Imi springs and Ait Bougoumez Valley. 6-7 hours of hiking rewarded with a night at a Berber lodge and Moroccan-style hamam (bath).
Day 10 : End trek - Bin el Ouidane Lac
Hike through the Berber villages of the Aït Bougoumez Valley to where we meet our vehicles. We drive through spectacular forested gorges with ancient kasbahs dotting rocky promontories and spend the night in a hotel along the edge of Lake Bin el Ouidane.
Day 11 : Drive to Fes
We begin our drive to Fès, stopping to explore the cedar forests near Azrou in search of the once common Barbary ape (that also populate Gibraltar). We continue north through Ifrane, then on to the city of Fès, considered the most “complete” medieval city in the Arab world.
Day 12 : Fes
Full day of sightseeing in Fes - both inside and outside the medina.
Day 13 : Meknes & Volubilis
We tour some of the lovely and interesting sites near Fès, including the hill town of Moulay Idriss, the holiest Muslim town in Morocco, and spectacular Volubilis, once capital of the Berber kingdom of Mauritania and one of the most important Roman ruins in Africa.
Day 14 : Depart Fes
Transfer to the Fès airport and depart on homeward-bound flights via Casablanca or Europe.
DATES: Best time to go: May - June, September - October Departures: May 26, 2013 - Jun 8, 2013 Sep 22, 2013 - Oct 5, 2013
Es Saadi HotelMarrakesh, Morocco
Located in the heart of Marrakesh on 8 hectares of flowering parkland, this resort is comprised of the hotel, the palace, and 10 individually themed villas. Next to the Casino de Marrakesh, and walking distance from the old city, the hotel offers spectacular views of the High Atlas peaks.
Riad Ksar IghndaAit Ben Haddou, Morocco
The Riad Ksar Ighnda is located close to Ait Benhaddou and Ouarzazate, overlooking the Atlas Mountains and the edge of the Sahara desert. In an authentic yet modern setting, the hotel blends in with the environment.
Traditional bedrooms are spacious with modern comforts including private bathroom, air conditioning, satellite TV, DVD/CD player, minibar. A refreshing swimming pool offers a place to cool off after a day sightseeing, the hotel is also equipped with a spa, hammam and Jacuzzi.
Hotel Les MerinidesFès, Morocco
Perched atop a hillside overlooking The Imperial City of Fès, this 4-star hotel boasts an excellent reputation. The rooftop restaurant serves up traditional Moroccan fare and the guest rooms are beautifully designed with decorative carpets and contemporary furniture.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Kristy fell in love with Morocco about 20 years ago as a Peace Corps volunteer. After all these years she is still startled by its seemingly endless mountains and desert valleys, and the colorful, exotic Berber culture living in a long-forgotten age. Kristy has a passion for traditional Moroccan arts and handicrafts, speaks some Arabic and Berber dialects, has a great rapport with the Moroccan people, and will open the doors of understanding for you.