There are very few places in the world where you can sandboard, snowboard and hike just a few hours from each other: the Atlas Mountains in Morocco is one of those destinations.
North Africa’s highest mountain range, the Atlas Mountains are an adventurer’s paradise, especially for hikers, punctuated with some of the continent’s most remote villages home to local Berber populations who have called these dramatic landscapes home for generations.
Running diagonally across Morocco, the Atlas Mountains span almost 1,000 kilometres forming the Jurassic-peak-like backbone of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and creating a border between the Mediterranean climate of the north and the encroaching Sahara to the south.
Where to Travel in the Atlas Mountains
The ultimate playground: the Atlas’ lush valleys, high peaks, year-round flowing rivers and cool canyons make for perfect trekking conditions. The range is divided into three sections: High Atlas, Middle Atlas and the Anti-Atlas (or the Little Atlas). Each offers different geography, communities and activities, but for those that want to hike, the High Atlas are trekking gold!
Nestled between the Middle Atlas Mountains and the Anti-Atlas Mountains, the High Atlas Mountains are home to an abundance of indigenous tribes, nomadic valley-dwellers, incredible trekking routes and North Africa’s highest peak, Mount Toubkal.
Typically when trekking in the High Atlas Mountains, English-speaking guides will be on hand to cook your meals and mules will carry your essentials so you can be freed up to explore ancient terraced villages, dramatic panoramic ridges and rich, pastoral valleys that you’ll pass through daily.
At 4,000 metres, trekking the High Atlas Mountains is not for the faint-hearted, however, Designer Journeys and our team of in-destination Local Designers in Morocco are experts when it comes to designing trips that are tailor-made to your needs and interests.
Read on to discover a guide to trekking the High Atlas Mountains and taking day trips from Marrakech to the Atlas Mountains.
Best Time of Year to Trek the High Atlas Mountains
In its highest regions, snow falls from September to May in the Atlas Mountains making them perfect for winter sports.
Just a short distance on a day trip from Marrakesh, in the High Atlas Mountains you’ll find year-round flowing rivers which give way to lush green, fertile valleys and secluded canyons which make for excellent hiking conditions for those of all abilities.
Luckily for you, trekking the Atlas Mountains is doable all year round. Although the winters are cold and snowy from November to June, they are enjoyable. In the summertime, the altitude prevents the summer heat from becoming unbearable, but it can get very hot down in the valleys.
Ultimately, the best time to trek the High Atlas Mountains is in spring when a little snow creates crunchy, comfortable pathways and the temperatures are pleasant and dry.
Best Hiking Trips in the High Atlas Mountains
Whatever experience you are looking for there is an abundance of trekking trips you can do in the High Atlas Mountains.
Mount Toubkal Trek in the High Atlas Mountains
North Africa’s highest peak at 4,167 metres, trekking Mount Toubkal offers travellers a unique insight into the Berber life of this region. Located in the western part of the High Atlas, this ancient rock massive overlooks the Haouz Plain to the north and the mountains Siroua and the Anti-Atlas to the south.
As you pass through little mud-hut villages, you’ll notice how time almost seems to stand still in the High Atlas Mountains. With the starting point just a 90-minute drive from Marrakesh, you can easily trek Mount Toubkal in three days accompanied by a local guide and mules.
Hike the Lower High Atlas through Local Berber Communities
As well as enjoying the challenge of the trek and the rewards gained, being amongst the Berbers and the people of the mountains is a great bonus. Berber culture and heritage have a rich tradition of hospitality, generosity and friendliness towards others. Meeting such people is heartwarming.
After spending a night or two in the mother city, you can take a short trip from Marrakesh to the High Atlas Mountains to begin a three-day hike through several Berber villages, passing by local farmlands and perhaps even visiting a traditional potter. There will be much to wonder at and absorb on your hike. Invitations in for tea are likely too, so be open to whatever comes your way.
Best Day Trips from Marrakesh to the Atlas Mountains
Day Trip from Marrakesh to the Atlas Mountains
Over the Marrakech Plain, you’ll head higher and deeper into the High Atlas Mountains. En route, you’ll pass by incredible scenery, quaint Berber villages and magnificent mountain passes.
You’ll spend the day enjoying traditional meals in the homes of friendly locals, taking short treks through narrow, water-cut gorges and admiring the distant bare rock mountain tops, forested slopes and cultivated valley floors which all make for great contrasts as you drive along.
Accompanied by a local guide, you can choose to make this day trip as strenuous or relaxing as you wish. Better yet, if you decide you’d like to extend your day trip from Marrakesh to the Atlas Mountains, one of our in-destination Local Designers can arrange a stay in a local home or a popular mountain riad for you.
Imlil Day Trip from Marrakesh
The journey from Marrakesh to Imlil is a short one of just over an hour. Imlil is a popular hitching post for mountain trekkers in the High Atlas. Sitting at the foot of Mount Toubkal, Imlil makes for a popular starting point to your trek or just a great place to spend a day.
En route to Imlil from Marrakesh, you’ll pass by the Berber village of Asni, famous for its weekend souk and then you will sink into the gorges of Moulay Brahim. For the entirety of the journey, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful scenery.
Once in Imlil, you can take an easy trek in with an Atlas Mountains trekking guide or begin the ascent of Mount Toubkal if you’d prefer to extend the day trip!
So, Are You Ready to Trek the High Atlas Mountains?
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a taste of trekking the High Atlas Mountains, our Local Designers can design the perfect trip for you. Morocco is a destination that allows for easy travel between major landmarks and cities, perfect for those that want to see a lot of this incredible nation in a short time.
Browse our range of fully-customisable Morocco trips or specify your budget, interests and travel style to connect with one of our Local Designers who can design your bespoke Moroccan adventure!