Top-Rated Things to Do in Morocco’s High Atlas Region
| by Assia A. |
| Last Updated March 24, 2023 |
From the breathtaking sunrises in the Sahara Desert to lush forests that cling to steep mountain slopes, Morocco’s High Atlas Region have plenty of natural wonders.
It’s easy to see why these High Atlas villages are special. They’re tucked away in deep valleys or clinging precariously to the mountain slopes. The snow-capped peaks shimmer on the horizon, while below a carpet of green fields rolls out before you.
Rugged canyons and flourishing oases create fascinating color contrasts. The red-brown loam-built Berber villages complete the landscape picture.
This is the best place you can go to in Morocco for outdoor activities. You can choose between hiking, climbing, or mountain biking.
The region is North Africa’s well-established destination for hikers. There are appealing routes in the region for casual day hikers, as well as serious mountaineers.
Morocco’s mountains also provide plenty of historic attractions for tourists. Ait Ben Haddou is the region’s most famous sight, but there are lots of other traditional kasbah and ksour architecture to explore. The stunning mountain scenery is found everywhere throughout the region.
Get more info on what you should not skip in Morocco’s High Atlas region.
Climb Jebel Toubkal
Jebel Toubkal is North Africa’s highest peak in southwestern Morocco, located in the Toubkal National Park. At 4,167 metres (13,671 ft) above sea level. Located 63 km (39 mi) south of Marrakesh, and visible from it.
It is a popular destination for trekkers and ski mountaineers At the base of the mountain. They usually approach the mountain from Marrakesh via the road-end village of Imlil. Trekkers can hire qualified guides, as well as porters to carry equipment and food supplies higher into the mountains.
During summer, the mountain trek is non-technical yet challenging. Nevertheless, the trek is popular on account of its moderate difficulty and picturesque sights.
Most trekkers overnight at the Toubkal Refuge before heading to the summit early in the morning, before descending on the same route.
Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou
The mudbrick ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco’s most photogenic building, should not be missed by a first-time visitor to the country.
It is an ancient Moroccan town that has been around since the 11th century. Presently, very few citizens live in it. The inhabitants are instead found in its modern village outside the fortified walls.
The fortress stands amid lush fields and orchards of almond trees, overlooking the barren cliffs of the Ounila valley. At first, it seems that it has just sprung up from the ground.
The ksar has been significantly restored in modern times, thanks in part to its use as a Hollywood filming location and to its inscription on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1987. Scenes from Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, and Jesus of Nazareth, among many others, have all been filmed there.
For the best views and photos of the surrounding countryside, take your time to climb up into Kasbah turrets.
Ait Ben Haddou is 30 kilometers northwest of Ouarzazate and 170 kilometers southeast of Marrakesh. It is located on the slopes of a hill next to the Ounila River (Asif Ounila).
Day trips from both towns are a great option for many travelers looking to visit the site. If you’re heading to the Sahara dunes, keep this town on your list of places to visit too!
The Draa Valley
The Draa Valley is the entrance to one of Morocco’s most famous desert dune fields in the Sahara region, this High Atlas valley is interesting in itself with kasbahs (fortified buildings) and ksour (fortified villages).
The Draa Valley is a well-known trans-Saharan caravan route, so it’s no surprise there are traditional mudbrick fortifications along the valley floor.
Agdz and Tamnougalt are the best attractions in the valley. Agdz has two beautiful kasbahs that can be visited, while Tamnougalt’s labyrinthine ksar is one of the oldest in Morocco.
At the southeastern end of the valley, there is Zagora. It has plentiful accommodation options, so it’s the Draa Valley’s best base. From the Zagora’s mountain, there is an outstanding panorama on the Draa Valley with its palm oases, the desert with its rock.
If you’re heading into the desert, it is from the oasis of M’Hamid that the doorway opens for visiting Morocco’s other great desert destination — the Chegaga—the highest dunes in Morocco, towering at 300 meters.
The small villages of Bounou and Ouled Driss in the palm groves just before M’Hamid, have some amazing kasbahs that can be visited.
Hike in the Dades Valley
Morocco’s Dades Valley is one of the most popular destinations for walking and hiking. It has amazing mountain scenery, crumbling kasbah buildings, tiny villages, and winding roads, as well as the unique rock formations that make it such a beautiful place to visit.
Located in the stunning natural landscape of High Atlas and Gebel Saghro. In the Dades Valley, gorges and canyons follow each other in quick succession along the Dade River,
Nature lovers won’t want to miss seeing the eagles and lammergeyers (bearded vultures) while the adventure seekers will certainly want to explore the switchback road into the valley.
For experienced walkers, local agencies organize treks for several days in the Dades Gorge. Experiencing a unique hike that will take you through varied terrains, lush palm groves, and desert panoramas.
Many interesting villages are close by and should be added to your trip.
The Ouzoud Waterfalls
One of the most visited and photographed natural sites in Morocco, the Ouzoud Waterfalls (Cascades d’Ouzoud) offer mind-blowing scenery with water plunging for over 110 meters and three waterfall tiers.
Walking up to the bottom of the falls is very enjoyable, surrounded by thousands of olive trees that shade the path. The surprise treat at the Ouzoud Falls is the friendly monkeys swinging around you on the trees. There are several restaurants with a beautiful view of the Ouzoud falls surrounding the area.
You can get there independently (by public transport or with your own car) or with a tour. Ouzoud and Azilal have both accommodation options if you want to explore the cascades without the crowds.
Hike in the Todgha Gorge
Situated in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco, Todgha Gorge is North Africa’s best climbing destination & popular hiking, also popular with trekkers and 4WD tours.
The Todra Gorges are a chain of deep-sided canyons carved out of the eastern side of this range by fast-moving rivers on their way down to the coastal plains.
Offering some amazing hiking and photography opportunities in the dry season, Todgha Gorge is a popular climbing destination thanks to its robust rock sides with many uneven surfaces. More than 140 routes rated French Grade 5+ to 8 have been bolted in the canyon.
There are some accommodations as well as cafés and other services along the gorge basin. This serene setting is also a great getaway for those who want to spend some quality time far from the city.
Trek the Toubkal Circuit
Morocco’s High Atlas has many beautiful multi-day treks, but the Toubkal Circuit is one of the most popular in Africa.
Starting from Imlil, it takes hikers on a 60 km (37.3 mi) loop around Jebel Toubkal, which at 4167 m (13,671 ft) is the highest peak in the Arab world. Along the way, this trail traverses natural oasis valleys, mountain passes, and panoramic ridges.
Hikers will experience a memorable fusion of natural and cultural elements, the latter coming in the form of ancient villages and great local hospitality.
The Adventure Trek takes 7 days, but some trekkers can extend it to break it up into shorter walking days, and/or include a rest day.
Trekkers can hire a qualified guide in Imlil, as well as porters to carry equipment and food supplies higher into the mountains.
The High Atlas Base Town of Ouarzazate
Ouarzazate is a city south of Morocco’s High Atlas mountains, located on the crossroads between three major valleys in Morocco — the Draa, Dades, and Ziz Valleys—.
Known as a gateway to the Sahara Desert, it is home to the magnificent Taourirt Kasbah, a residential castle made of rammed earth, which was built in the 19th century.
The Kasbah Taourirt is well-preserved and a third of it has been opened to the public for visits, it is the only real sightseeing place in the town, with views over the rugged local landscape, which featured in several movies.
Dazzling landscapes that are popular for filming (scenes from “Gladiator”, “Kundun”, and “Alexander the Great” were all filmed in the countryside), the town has become a famous stopover for round trips, but also for desert tours and excursions.
However, also close to Ouarzazate are real highlights to discover, such as the world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site Ait-Ben-Haddou, which is located around 30 kilometers away.
Another beautiful attraction to visit just 20 kilometers from Ouarzazate, is the Fint Oasis. The oasis is enchanting with beautiful palm groves and dreamlike scenery. The red rocks next to the mud structures create an exciting contrast.
The Kasbahs & Countryside around Telouet
Telouet Kasbah is often visited on day trips from Marrakesh. This mighty fortress was built in the 19th century by the ruler El Glaoui family. It has been restored in the early 20th century.
The kasbah is a scenic building with plenty of rooms inside that still feature some of their original, extravagant designs.
Telouet is the perfect destination for exploring rural Morocco, with plenty of 4WD trips and hikes to experience. In particular, don’t miss Anmiter where you can visit a crumbling kasbah.
Enjoy the Ourika Valley
Ourika Valley is one of Morocco’s most popular attractions for outdoor activities. It is only50 kilometers west of Marrakesh, which makes it the easiest destination to visit in the High Atlas region.
Surrounded by beautiful green fields, this valley is home to an impressive waterfall, green riverbanks, and some excellent hiking trails.
This trip gives you the opportunity to enjoy beautiful nature, while also getting a look into several authentic Berber villages and small towns with a rich heritage.
If you are looking for a quick and easy escape from the busy streets of Marrakech, the Ourika Valley is a fantastic option, with many scenic views and beautiful landscapes.
Tours & Excursions in High Atlas
Visa & Health Requirements
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