The Atlas Mountains are located in North Africa, passing countries Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. In Morocco, Atlas Mountains is stretched from west to east and has divided Morocco into two different parts: The Sahara Desert, which is one of the biggest deserts in the world, and the Mediterranean (Atlantic Ocean beaches).
For the people interested in Indigenous and traditional lands, Morocco and its Atlas Mountains is a perfect destination. The number of cities is not too much. Still, there are many Berber villages mostly located in the valleys of the Atlas Mountains, and their official language is both Arabic and Berber. We strongly recommend you travel and visit these spectacular and mesmerizing places.
Toubkal peak is the highest peak among the Atlas Mountains and even takes the lead among Arabic countries with 4167 meters height, located 60 km from south Marrakech. This peak is at Toubkal National Park’s center, a right skiing choice in the winter and hiking in the summer. So choose appropriate shoes and clothes for 2-days hiking.
How to Reach Toubkal Peak
To reach National Park, you have to take a taxi from Marrakech to Imlil –a village near Toubkal Peak. It takes 75-90 minutes and about 30-40 Dirham for each one. But if they understand that you are a tourist, they may want you to pay more, try to be wise. You can stay there at guesthouses, and then you have to trek about 6 hours to reach the Toubkal refuge. Don’t forget to visit Around waterfall near Imlil before starting your trip to the Toubkal.
You have to choose a guide to climb the mountain, but it’s not necessary to be certified. There are many people in Imlil who volunteer to be your guide, and three police checkpoints check you if one of them is with you. You have to stay at least one night in one of two refuges near the top of Toubkal. Although climbing Toubkal is so hard, you will forget all hardships when reaching the top. May to September is the best time for traveling to Toubkal. In the winter and beginning of spring, the weather is so cold that a lot of rain and snow may make trouble for you.
Ouarzazate, the Door of the Desert
Ouarzazate is a small-town called the desert gate in the southern part of High Atlas. In addition to brick houses, this dry town has a Sunday market where you can buy various goods and handicrafts as souvenirs. It can be a starting point to visit the central part of the family of Thami El Glaoui territory.
Their castles are in different Kasbahs. As Ouarzazate is a point between Sahara and the mountains, you can find different ways to visit Sahara or mountain-like, camel, bikes, motorbikes, or assistants for trekking. Several agencies there will help you to decide.
The best time to visit Ouarzazate is from April to May or September to November because it is near the Sahara. The other suitable time to travel is Christmas, but the problem is that a big population will come on those days. Fortunately, there are direct flies from Europe to the Ouarzazate airport, which is 2 km outside the town, and you can take a taxi for 10 Euro and go to Ouarzazate. There are many hotels in Ouarzazate, from ordinary to five-star hotels from 21 Euro per night to more than 200 Euro per night.
Ait Ben Haddou, the Historic Ighrem
It’s one of the most interesting handmaid structures classified by UNESCO in 1987 as a World Heritage Site and located on the southern slopes of the Atlas Mountains. Although local people believe that it was made in about 750 AD, the structures seem to belong to the 17th century. Its beautiful, enchanting, and strange brick structures even attracted Hollywood filmmakers to make more than 50 films there. Ait Ben Haddou is the center of Ouarzazate province. To go there from Ouarzazate, you can take a taxi or rent a car.
We can say that this waterfall in Azlil is one of the most attractive natural destinations for tourists and people of that area. You can take a taxi or bus from Marrakech to Azlil, then to Beni-Melal and go to the waterfall by taxi; you can reach the fall, passing a shaded path by olive trees. Ouzoud is a collection of several falls falling into El-Abid River’s gorge. The fantastic and green view of the waterfall dazzles every viewer’s eyes.
Dades Gorges, the rugged wadis
Dades river created a series of rugs, which is called Dades Gorges. This area is famous due to its smell of roses in spring _big rose farms to get rose water. There are many mudbrick palaces through the valley, and that’s the reason for naming it Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs. People of villages are barbarians with a unique culture and lifestyle. If you want to see some best views and landscapes, you should go on foot to find the local’s suggestions. The red valley walls are beautiful, and the river in the valley irrigates gardens of wheat and orchards of fig.
Kasbah Tifoultoute is one of the Kasbahs in Ouarzazate province, about 8 kilometers from Ouarzazate. One of the Glaoui’s fortresses was built in the 17th century and now is a restaurant by a private owner. The monument has stairs to upper floors up to the roof, and there you can see all of Tifoultoute valley. Lovely palm trees surround the Kasbah. From the bus station of Ouarzazate Souq, you can quickly go to this Kasbah.
Todra Gorge, the Limestone River Canyons
It is an oasis created naturally by the Todra river in the depth of 300 m in the Atlas Mountains by orange rocks. It’s one of the most attractive natural destinations for photography. You can pass it by hiking, biking, or climbing stones. Besides, travelers can go there from Ouarzazate airport by car. You will be 3 hours in the way. The spring and autumn are the best and also the busiest time to visit the Todra gorge. Here, tourists can enjoy scenes or enjoy shopping handicrafts. You can use Berber guesthouses or luxury hotels or even stay camping to please from nature based on the budget for the accommodation.
This valley by lots of kasbahs and Berber villages and palm gardens is a lovely area to visit. The Draa Valley is located in southern Atlas from Ouarzazate to Zagora, and the river is the longest in Morocco by about 95 km longitude. Despite its longitude, it doesn’t have much depth. And mostly it doesn’t receive to the ocean. Inhabitants of villages in the valley use water from the river to irrigate their gardens.
You can rent a car from Ouarzazate to Agdz, which is called the gate of Draa valley and has a famous market of date. You can have long trekking about 7 km in the valley and enjoy the fantastic sceneries and landscapes and take photos. Try to go to the water of Draa valley in warmer seasons and then you can see several Berber villages in the way and people living there for centuries.
This area is known because of its black inhabitants –more than any other place in Morocco. They are originally from Mali. One of the best places to visit in Draa valley is Ait Ouzzine Kasbah. It’s a Berber village with about 300 families. They have a traditional life by their wells, livestock, henna firms, and gardens. You can walk in the village and enjoy their way of living, see their way of making bread and tajin.
You may like to have lunch there, fresh bread, traditional spicy foods, then let them paint your hand by Henna and use their Berber perfumes of musk and amber. The best time to visit the Draa is spring and autumn. It’s better to start your trip to the Draa in the early morning. Usually, you can barely find a car after 11 in the morning. It is often a one-day trip.
Ourika valley is the easiest place to visit from Marrakech. Tourists and people from cities around go there for the weekends. You can have a guide from Marrakech and go by car to the Atlas Mountains’ amazing nature, then go to Setti Fatima waterfall and hike there. The next destination can be the village of Arhbalou and have lunch in Berber restaurants along the Ourika river.