atlas mountains guide

The arid dunes of the Sahara Desert, the vibrant colours of the Marrakech souks, and clay pots of Tagine scattered across the tables of a restaurant in Casablanca; these are the images that are conjured up when most people think about travelling to Morocco.

But somewhere halfway to heaven there’s another world, still undiscovered by most. High above Morocco’s sun-baked towns and cities stands the overwhelmingly prominent altitude of the Atlas Mountains. With its peak tucked into the soft wispy clouds, this 4,000 metre climb is nothing short of amazing for anyone with an adventurous bone in their body.

atlas mountains accommodation

Home to enchanted castles, parched dessert roads and dramatic ravines, the Atlas Mountains is suitably positioned through Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, taking a little piece of charm from each country and forming its own essence as a stand-alone destination for the most intrepid travellers.

The vast stretch of mountain extends to about 2,500 km across Northwestern Africa, its highest peak is Toubkal, and its elevation 4,165 metres in Southwestern Morocco.

BERBER POPULATION

The main population of the Atlas Mountains are the Berber people, the indigenous group whose culture and traditions encompass the entire history of life in North Africa. In the beautiful mountains, the friendly and humble Berber people live a much less ostentatious lifestyle than perhaps in the cities where Arabs and Moors reside.

Visitors to the Atlas Mountains will find much more than just outstanding natural beauty and views that leave you speechless. Visitors to the Atlas Mountains will also discover the peculiar world of an autochthonous civilisation.

things to do atlas mountains

Many travellers who visit the Atlas Mountains are looking for uninhibited adventures; a destination manifested for the fearless. But for the less intrepid, there really is something for everyone. From the striking natural beauty surrounding the mountain ranges to horse riding or bird watching – and not forgetting the rich history hidden under castle ruins at each level – there’s a lot to be explored.

ACTIVITES

For the sporty and active, there are many ways you can uncover the beauty of the mountains a fragment at a time through your favourite activities. Hike, stroll, ride or bike across the varying terrain to explore the Atlas Mountains in your most acquainted vessel.

Hiking
The most popular way to appreciate the magnificence of the Atlas Mountains is to explore the range on foot. Breathe in the thick mountain air, catch rhythm of the mountain’s natural soundtrack, and savour the crags and cliffs as you hike at your own pace.

Although hiking is the mountain’s main draw for adventurous tourists, you’ll be blessed with a quiet trail from start to finish. You may meet one or two walkers along the way – or you may not – still very much undiscovered, the mountains are all yours once you set off.

Take a leisurely day-walk through the steady mountain tracks or endure a few days of intense hiking with some overnight stopovers.

Mountain Biking
Patience is a virtue with trekking but if you need something a little nippier, try the tough and sprightly wheels of a mountain bike. Mountain biking trips can be easily organised when you’re in the Atlas Mountains, and with its steep drops and eclipsing cliff walls, you’ll find biking here an absolute thrill.

Mountains biking trails will provide you with a roughly guided path, suitable for bikers at all levels. Or if you want to join a group, try an organised mountain biking tour.

Horse Riding
If there ever was a romantic sport, horse riding would surely tick that box. View the spectacular colours and textures of the mountain range from your grand, elevated dais as you ride the tame and beautiful animal through the warm sunset. Riding through the Atlas Mountains can make for a rewarding trip and the more inquisitive traveller can find their footing as they ride through the interesting and unique Berber villages.

There are various horse riding tours available for riders at all levels, including some overnight trips.

Bird Watching
If vigorous activities don’t tickle your interest, bird watching has become a growing popularity amongst travellers to the Atlas Mountains. The secreted destination is home to some of the most beautiful winged creatures in the world, and since word leaked to the curious traveller, there have been a number of birding tours available in Morocco which escort you up to the mountains for some serious bird spotting.

In late March, the mountain ruptures into bloom so spectacular species such as the Nightingale, warblers, and buntings begin their migration northwards – a great time to witness the awe-inspiring movements of our planet’s most beautiful birds.

NATURAL SIGHTS

For some, citing the Atlas Mountains’ most beautiful sights is aimless; everything in the mountains is a wondrous sight. From the grounded gateway to the very summit of Jebel Toubkal, no part of your journey will be short of incredible beauty. Here are some natural sights to look for along the way…

Ouirgane
Discover the delightful Berber village of Ouirgane which is conveniently positioned in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Just a short drive from Marrakech, this quaint village is perfect for day-trippers who don’t have the time or stamina to advance a full mountain trek to the top.

Cascades d’Ouzoud
Morocco’s famous waterfalls are a must-visit natural sight for anyone trekking Middle Atlas. One of the most beautiful sights of the mountains, you’ll be sure to find sanctuary from the soothing sounds of the falls after hiking the parched desert trails of Lower Atlas.

Zaida National Park
Zaida National Park is close to Beni Mellal, the gateway to Central High Atlas and it offers a natural oasis of plush greenery for hikers.

Fortress of Tadla
Encircled by pretty olive fields, the Tadla Fortress is a majestic vision amongst green-patterned groves and a real point of interest for history geeks. Close to Beni Mellal, hikers can explore the Zaida National Park in the same afternoon.

Mgoun Massif
Reaching 4,068 metres, the Mgoun Massif is the second highest peak of the Atlas from Morocco and a great milestone for dedicated trekkers.

Jebel Toubkal
Adrenaline junkies can find solace in accomplishing the final summit to Jebel Toubkal, the Atlas’ uppermost point. The peak hits 4,165 metres, a further 97 metres from Mgnoun Massif.

sights in atlas mountains

GUIDED TOURS

The Berber population and the people of Morocco are a humble and approachable kind, with friendly faces and warming smiles, and their approach to tourism in the Atlas Mountain range is one of embrace. They love to show visitors from around the world how beautiful their mountain is, and so have designed a number of tours to suit varying tourist preferences.

Whether you want to endure an extensive tour on foot with overnight stays or a fast and furious 4×4 tour of the mountains in a day, there are many ways you can discover North Africa’s gem.

Available tours include:

• Hiking and trekking tours (with a mountain guide)
• Muleteers (mule hire tours)
• Mountain biking tours with riding groups
• Horseback tours for horse riders
• Guided birding tours
• 4X4 tours (can be arranged with some Marrakech hotels)

Another exciting activity in the Atlas Mountains includes skiing. Read on to find out more about trekking or skiing in Morocco’s weird but wonderful ski resort.

trekking in the atlas mountains

Trekking is one of the most rewarding ways of exploring the Atlas. What better way than on humble foot to see the wonderful sights of North Africa’s greatest peak? Here is a detailed guide on how you should begin your exhilarating voyage on foot.

FINDING TOUR OPERATORS

Tourists looking for a reputable tour operator will not struggle here. Although finding information about the trekking the Atlas Mountains or even coming across other trekkers who have achieved it, is scarce, finding a decent tour operator won’t be too difficult if you’re in Marrakech.

You will find that most adventure tour operators will offer guided hikes. Prices can vary but a two week High Atlas expedition may be anywhere between a couple of hundred pounds to triple that amount. If you are seriously looking, be sure to do some price comparison on the web before you book.

INDEPENDENT TREKKING

If you want to go independently, the best way to do this is via an expert tour guide. An experienced tour guide is an invaluable part of your journey; he will know the mountain trails like the veins on the back of his hand. For the safest trip with the gains of getting to the most stunning vantage points or for mountain tips that you just can’t put a price on, a tour guide is essential.

If you have booked your accommodation, this is a great place to start. Many hotels and lodges will be able to help you with a dedicated tour guide. Anywhere between £40 to £100 per day is typical of an organised trekking tour.

Here at Maroc Lodge, we can also offer half day tours to full day tours. You can find out more from our tour tariff guide. We can also provide mules for an interesting and more comfortable expedition.

trekking in atlas mountains

WHEN TO GO

The Atlas can be trekked any time of year. But the best time to visit will depend entirely on your weather preferences. Here’s our guide on when to go trekking and how to get there.

Best Time to Visit?
Summers can be unbearably hot in the summer seasons, although this may be appealing to some sun seekers. Temperatures can hit around 40◦C or higher in Marrakech. Winter sees a comfortable temperature dip to around 20◦C in the bustling city and many travellers find this a more relaxed time to visit.

Although the Atlas can be explored any time of year, it’s important to bear in mind that winters can be bitterly cold, with heavy snowfall in High Atlas. The peak of Jebel Toubkal is usually blanketed with bright white snow from the months of November to May/June.

Even in the hotter seasons, the altitude can confine temperatures so the heat of Marrakech can be left behind once you head into Mid Atlas.Spring is the best time to visit if you want to catch the last evidence of snow with the advantage of warm days and pleasantly balmy evenings.

Getting There
Starting your trek is easy once you reach the bustling city of Marrakech. Spend a few days here chowing down on the best Lamb Tagine, sip refreshing Mint Tea, and wander the Souks whilst snake charmers spin their words and musical notes to lure you in.

Marrakech can be reached by air, road or rail, and once here you will not struggle to find eager tour operators who will help you plan your Atlas trek. Coaches can get to Morocco by ferry from Algeciras in Spain, or travel with Eurolines Coaches from London to Marrakech (also stopping off in beautiful Casablanca).

skiing atlas mountains

One of the most amazing experiences for today’s modern traveller; skiing in Africa is the most surreal and surprising activities you could come across. If trekking – and all the other aforementioned Atlas activities – don’t have you salivating with excitement, book yourself into the small but magical ski resort of Oukaimeden.

THE RESORT

Oukaimeden is tiny gem of a resort, one which boasts more charm than size. It won’t have the worth of Europe’s Verbier or Tignes when it comes to stay duration, but Oukaimeden is perfect for a day trip. With five main runs and some nursery areas, this is not a challenge for experts, but more of a surreal experience in the beautiful Atlas Mountains – certainly not a place you would expect to be skiing by any means. In terms of facilities you will find everything you would expert in the French Alps; a ski school, hotels and restaurants.

SKI HIRE

For seasoned skiers, what could be more surprising than the activity of skiing in Africa is the cost of it all. Prices start from £7 a day for a ski pass, £11 a day for ski hire, and £3 a day for skiing lessons. Bottom end pricing compared to Courchevel or Chamonix, advanced skiers who holiday at the Alps regularly will leave Oukaimeden feeling rich.

places to stay atlas mountains

A great starting point to your magical tour of the Atlas is the vibrant city of Marrakech. A city like no other, you can find excitement from every corner of the city square; dangerously alluring snake charmers, streets dotted with sneaky swindlers, souks filled with colour and interesting textures, cafes filled with hungry diners salivating over marinated meats and delicately spiced cous cous.

From Marrakech, the Atlas gateway, you can travel to the foothills of the mountain. Amizmiz village is a great base for anyone looking to explore Lower Atlas, Mid Atlas all the way up to High Atlas and its peak at Jebel Toubkal. You can find our hotel Maroc Lodge nestled here right next to Amizmiz and we can offer a great place to relax before or after your mountain hikes.

For adventure seekers and avid trekkers, overnight camps can be arranged with independent guides or organised tours.

For more information on travelling to the Atlas Mountains, please do not hesitate to contact us.