Morocco, for a long time seen as a land of cultural awakenings, is fast gaining a reputation as a top-class adventure hotspot. Indeed, more and more people are now taking trekking holidays in Morocco, and leaving behind the sensual enclaves of Marrakech, Essaouira and Agadir.
Branching out towards the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas Mountains, the verdant valleys of Ourika, and the outlandish desert steppes of the Sahara.Few places in North Africa, or the world for that matter, can offer such a variety of vistas, such a cacophony of colours, and such a diversity of landscapes as Morocco.
Throw in some ancient Berber cultures, customs and traditions, and you get a walking holiday to remember – with great food and great company to boot!
Here’s a breakdown of some of the top 10 trekking holidays in Morocco in particular the best and most popular routes and regions if you’re off in search of walking adventures in Morocco.
Jebel Toubkal Ascent
At 4,167 metres, Mt. Toubkal is the highest peak in North Africa. It is not surprising, therefore, that it has rapidly become a favourite destination for trekking holidays in Morocco.
Hikers tend to start at the village of Imlil and make their way towards Refuge du Toubkal base camp, which sits at 3,207 metres – taking in all the outstanding natural beauty of the Toubkal National Park along the way.
At Toubkal’s peak, intrepid trekkers are rewarded with dazzling 360° views of the park and beyond. The entire trek takes 2-3 days and can be completed all-year round. Winter treks are, needless to say, significantly more difficult, and require crampons. Qualified mountain guides, mules and equipment can all be hired in Imlil.
Setti Fatima, a small village 65km south of Marrakech, is a central point for a number of walking and trekking holidays in the Ourika Valley.
Being so close to the ‘Red City’, these trails are naturally popular with those who like to combine a city break with a brief foray into the wilderness.
What puts Setti Fatima in the top 10 trekking holidays in Morocco is the diversity of its plant life. You’re unlikely to find such intense greenery anywhere else in North Africa. The main attractions here, however, are the seven waterfalls of the Ourika River which give an oasis-like feel to the area.
The Saharan dunes of Erg Chebbi in south-eastern Morocco provide a magical backdrop for a desert trek. Space and time seem to be irrelevant here, and only the starry sky and the whispering wind occupy your thoughts.
Indeed, trekking here can be a mystical, soul-soothing experience. Technically speaking, it’s not you who’s doing the trekking; it’s your camel. But that doesn’t make exploring Erg Chebbi any less of an adventure. Tour operators are numerous, and since there are no defined routes, all of them offer something different from the next.
If you thought the Atlas Mountains were the be all and end all of trekking holidays in Morocco, think again. The Rif Mountains, though not quite as high as the Atlas ranges, are every bit as beautiful, diverse, and historic. More rain falls here than in any other part of Morocco, so they’re considerably greener too!
The starting point for most hikes into the Rif Mountains is the incredibly charming town of Chefchaouen, with many trails leading deep into the Talassemtane national park, where cedars, oaks and firs fight for sunlight along breathtaking ridges, and gushing streams carve their way through rocky ravines. Barbary macaques, golden eagles and gazelles all inhabit this fertile paradise, so be sure to pack those binoculars!
Berber villages, ancient Kasbahs, deep ravines and towering peaks: treks in and around the Todra Gorge offer a little bit of everything. In truth this is less of a gorge and more of a canyon. In places its sandstone cliffs are 160 metres high, and walking beneath them gives you a great sense of Todra’s imposing grandeur.
Date and fig trees line the river which at one time must have been an almighty torrent to have created this gigantic crack that divides the Atlas Mountains. The Kasbah of Tinerhir is the starting point for most treks. These tend to lead north towards Todra’s narrowest point (10m), where the sheer rock walls of the gorge tower above you.
Ait Bougmez Valley
Arguably the most picturesque of all the High Atlas valleys, Ait Bougmez is a paradise-like playground for trekkers. Soaring peaks provide a backdrop for endless fruit orchards and vast green pastures bisected by fast flowing streams, while Mgoun Massif, Morocco’s second highest mountain, looms in the distance.
Many of the routes here lead through remote villages, giving you plenty of opportunity for cultural experiences. In fact, there are said to be 28 communities here, each with their own customs and traditions. 14 kilometres in length and approximately a kilometre across, the trekking possibilities are almost endless in Ait Bougmez Valley.
Lying between the High Atlas Mountains and the Sahara desert is the Jebel Sahro range, one of the most popular trekking destinations in Morocco. This is a remote region of jagged peaks and sandy plateaux – occasionally interrupted by green gorges and isolated oases.
Jebel Sahro is accessible all year round and is therefore an ideal spot for winter trekking. In fact, winter is probably the best time to visit, since visibility is greater and temperatures are usually more bearable – not too hot, not too cold!
Views towards the High Atlas are at their very best here. Most routes run through mud-brick Berber villages, and some even incorporate the Amalou n’Mansour, Jebel Sahro’s highest peak (2712 metres).
Essaouria has long been recognised as the place for Morocco surfing holidays, but this psychedelic coastal city is also fast becoming a Mecca for the trekker.
More and more visitors are breaking loose from the city to explore the incredible surrounding countryside: on horseback, on camelback, or on foot.
If deserted beaches, secluded villages, rocky cliffs, crashing waves and glorious sunsets is your idea of hiking heaven, this might just be the place for you!
Jbel Sirwa Range
Bridging the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas mountain ranges is the volcanic wilderness of Jbel Sirwa, a land of plunging gorges, craggy cliffs and almost unnatural rock formations.
Trekking routes here are far, far away from the beaten paths of the High Atlas, so you can expect a greater degree of peace, tranquillity and authenticity. Most tours take you through traditional Berber villages, where locals are far less accustomed to the presence of tourists than their counterparts in the High Atlas, but no less friendly, approachable and welcoming.
The foothills which surround the mighty mount Toubkal are not only extraordinarily beautiful, but also relatively easy to traverse, making them ideal for light trekking holidays in Morocco and you certainly don’t have to be expert mountaineer to get around here.
You’ll find a multitude of tour operators running out of Marrakech, most which take you down to the village of Oukaïmedene where the trek begins. The route takes you up the Imenane Valley and through the Tizi n’Tamatert pass, finishing up in Imlil (where most Toubkal ascents begin). Expect stunning sunsets, panoramic views and amazing Berber cuisine!
Hopefully you have found our top 10 trekking holidays in Morocco useful and it has inspired you to book a trip to North Africa – please let us know how you get along!