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Trek the High Atlas and journey through the heart of Morocco
Morocco’s location on the edge of the Sahara, together with its historic trade links with the ports of Europe, have shaped its rich cultural traditions. The incomparable blend of mosques and minarets, spices and scents and great imperial cities are a constant source of inspiration while our trek in the High Atlas provides a further compelling dimension to our journey. Our fully escorted tour travels from Casablanca to Fes and Marrakesh to enjoy a fascinating introduction to the souqs; the medinas and riads, while in the ancient trading port of Essaouira, we wander the narrow lanes that are reminiscent of Southern Europe. A highlight of our journey is our trek in the Atlas Mountains. We follow trails through traditional Berber villages to alpine pastures where the summits of the High Atlas stretch before us. We also offer an optional non-technical ascent of Jebal Toubkal (4167m), the highest mountain in Morocco.
- Hassan II Mosque - Casablanca
- Fes, UNESCO-listed El-Bali medieval city
- Saharan sunrise and camel riding
- Crossing the remote Tizi n'Ougalzim
- Views of the snow capped Atlas Mountains
- Gardens, mosques, palaces, and the souqs of Marrakesh
- Peninsula town of Essaouira
Day 1 Arrive Casablanca
If you are arriving on Day 1 of the trip you will be met and transferred to your group hotel. If you arrive on any other day please make your own way to the joining hotel as listed on your final tour voucher. Meet your guide and group members at a briefing at approximately 7:00pm on Day 1 (details will be at the reception of group hotel).
Day 2 Drive to Meknes via Rabat
Before driving to Meknes, known as the white city, we will visit Casablanca’s beautiful Hassan II Mosque. On the way from Casablanca to Meknes we will stop in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, to visit the Grand Mosque - another very imposing and highly decorated structure. The hinterland around Meknes provides a variety of agricultural products including cereal crops, olives and citrus. The city itself was once the heart of the Moroccan sultanate with many impressive buildings as a result.
Day 3 Drive to Fes via Moulay Idriss and Volubilis
Today we have time to explore the ancient Roman ruins at Volubilis, the largest and best preserved in the country and originally one of the Roman Empire's remotest outposts. We also wander around the beautiful village of Moulay Idriss, a holy site, named after Morocco's most revered saint of the same name. Moulay Idriss was the great grandson of the Prophet Mohammed and founder of the first Moroccan dynasty. Continuing to Fes, founded in the late 8th Century shortly after the Arabs swept across North Africa and Spain, we arrive at the symbolic heart of Morocco. It has become the cultural and religious centre of the country and has retained a distinctly Arab identity despite the arrival of some Berbers from the interior over the centuries. Today Fes is made up of three sections, the modern Ville Nouvelle, with its chic cafe-lined avenues, Fes el-Jdid and Fes el-Bali. Fes el-Bali is the original Medina and is one of the largest medieval cities in the world.
Day 4 In Fes
After a guided tour of the city and old Medina we drive to Borj Sud, a Christian fort built in the 17th Century, for an almost aerial view of the old city and its surrounding olive groves. From here we venture into the Medina of Fes el-Bali which dates back to the 8th Century. In 1976 UNESCO declared this Medina one of the world's cultural treasures; the palaces, mosques and fountains are among the most beautiful in Morocco. The colours and aromas of the olive and spice stores mixed in with communal bakeries and the mysterious perfume shops are just some of the delights that make this journey through the ancient alleyways, full of scurrying people and surprises, a memorable experience. We will also visit the tannery to watch the dying of leathers and a mosaic and tile factory to see how these stunning local handicrafts are made. We will enjoy a lunch in a traditional Moroccan restaurant.
Day 5 Drive to Erg Chebbi (approx 9 hours)
Today we will be on the road by 7:00am. We travel in our air-conditioned minibus passing through the agricultural regions of north Morocco and the fertile plains irrigated by the Oued Aggai in the foothills of the Middle Atlas. We then begin a long climb through an old cedar forest and holm oaks. The scenery changes dramatically where beyond Timhadite lies a completely barren plateau, reminiscent of a lunar landscape pitted with small volcanic craters, the largest of which is Sidi Ali, an immense lake bordered by steep cliffs. After stopping for lunch at the breathtaking Ziz Gorges we continue on past palm-fringed towns to Erfoud, and to the sand dunes at Erg Chebbi. Here the deep orange-hued dunes of the vast Sahara stretch for miles. We spend the night in a local Hotel where there is the option to sleep on the roof under the stars.
Day 6 Erg Chebbi, drive to the Dades Gorge (approx 3.5 hours)
Today we'll rise before dawn to experience the amazing colours of a Saharan sunrise from the saddle of the traditional Berber transport: a camel. On returning to our hotel we have breakfast and commence our journey to the Dades Gorge. En route we have lunch at the spectacular Todra Gorges and visit some of Morocco's greatest antiquities, the Kasbahs of the eastern slopes of the High Atlas. We drive on to the spectacular Dades Gorge where we stay in a small local hotel. We also take time to explore the countryside and wander for a few hours through the fertile fields and local villages soaking in rural Morocco.
Day 7 To Ouarzazate (approx 2.5 hours)
En route to Ouarzazate (pronounced war-zar-zate), we explore the Kasbahs, oasis and Berber villages in the fertile valleys along the eastern flanks of the Atlas Mountains. We may visit the ancient Kasbahs of Skoura and depending on the day, explore the markets of El-Klaa Mgouna. The earthen town of Ouarzazate lies among the shadows of date and pomegranate trees on the banks of the Dades River. Overnight Hotel
Day 8 Drive to Marrakesh
Leaving mid-morning, we drive 30km from Ouarzazate to the Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou, the most exotic and best preserved in the entire Atlas area. We will have lunch before continuing on to Telouet and the former palace of Pasha El Glaoui, the Berber chieftain. Passing sandy coloured Kasbahs and the shy Berber women in their traditional black costumes, we leave the arid desert area and cross the High Atlas Mountains to arrive in Marrakesh late in the afternoon. Framed by the snowy heights of the Atlas Mountains and thousand-year-old palm groves, Marrakesh has a profound impact on all that visit it.
Day 9 Marrakesh
Today we are led by our expert guide to discover the soul of Marrakesh. We visit gardens, mosques, palaces, and the souqs of the old Medina before reaching the humming centre of Marrakesh: the Djemaa el-Fna. The atmosphere of this square is overwhelming with its jumble of food stalls, snake charmers, fortune and storytellers and the wide variety of people that flock to its attractions. We return in the evening, when the square really comes alive. It is a must to taste the many wonderful dishes on offer at the stalls.
Day 10 Marrakesh
The day is completely at leisure. Your guide can provide plenty of suggestions for sightseeing and shopping, or you may also simply choose to relax by the hotel pool. You will be given your kit bag and sleeping bag to pack your gear for the trek. This evening we have arranged for dinner at a prestigious Riad: an ornately decorated house that displays craftsmanship indicative of the Moroccans' passion for detail, and where fine food, wine and skilled belly dancers enrich our last evening in Marrakesh.
Day 11 To Ouirgrane (drive 2 hours)& Trek to Tiziane(1600m, 5 hours)
Meeting up with our porters and their mules in Tassa Ouirgane we begin our trek, walking through the National Park of Toubkal. As we walk up the Azzadene Valley we pass small villages shaded by walnut and apple trees, plots of maize and stone walls with beautiful yellow pumpkin flowers creeping over. Overnight in a Berber house.
Day 12 Trek to Tizgui (1800m, approx 6 hours)
Leaving Tiziane via Tizi N'Touati (2100m) we ascend for 3 hours to reach the Tassaka Plateau passing holm oaks and junipers. Tonight we will camp near Tizgui at Azib Assoul.
Day 13 To Tizi Oussem (1850m, approx 5 hours)
We ascend steeply from Tizgui towards the Tizi N'Tagoudalte pass at 2700m where we will be rewarded with fine views. Our gradual descent to Tizi Oussem, passes through alpine areas overgrown with beautiful wildflowers: campanulas, red poppies, iris, walls of violets, various herbs and small succulents. Overnight in the village staying in a Berber house where you may have the option to enjoy a private hammam, a local bath to wash away three days trekking.
Day 14 To Tazagharte refuge (3000m, approx 5 hours)
Leaving Tizi Oussem, the last village in this valley, we continue to climb up the Azzadene Valley catching glimpses of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. We will enjoy the Cascade d'Irhoulidene and continue to wind our way up the mountain until we reach our accommodation for the night in a mountain refuge.
Day 15 Trek to Refuge Nelter (3200m, approx 4 hours)
Today, we cross the impressive and remote Tizi n'Ougalzim (3700m), a steep and rocky pass that zigzags its way steadily up, rewarding us at the top with magnificent views (weather and conditions permitting). There is an optional climb of Mount Bignousseen (4005m). Upon reaching the top we see the next challenge awaiting us: Mount Toubkal. We descend to our campsite below and enjoy the waterfalls and pools that the river offers us.
Day 16 Summit of Mount Toubkal (4167m, approx 7 hours)
We have an early start for our attempt on Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak. The summit of Toubkal is neither technical nor very demanding, and once at the summit, the views are spectacular. We may start off in the dark to avoid the midday sun and to summit in time for sunrise. If you prefer, you have the option of a rest day relaxing in camp located at the foot of the peaks, and surrounded by mountains.
Day 17 Trek to Imlil (approx 5 hours); drive to Essaouira
Today we walk down the valley passing through the deeply religious village of Sidi Chamarouch. This area is also rich in wildflowers and in spring we'll find the magnificent Peony Rose. We will also pass herds of goats traversing precarious mountain trails. We take lunch outside the village where we farewell our trekking crew and their mules before driving to Essaouira.
Day 18 In Essaouira
For a change of pace we spend the day in the peaceful Peninsula town of Essaouira. With its Greek-like whitewashed walls and its mixture of Portuguese, French and Berber fortifications, it has a completely different flavour to our previous destinations. Protected by the trade winds, Essaouira is a handicraft centre, particularly for artisans working with sandal, cedar and lemon wood. We will undertake a half day tour of the city to discover all its highlights with the afternoon free to take a relaxing walk along the Atlantic coastline or browse the souqs. Fishing is also one of the main industries of the town and the fresh catch is a specialty of the restaurants and the cheap harbour side fish markets are a must for lunch.
Day 19 Drive to Casablanca (approx 6 hours)
Leaving Essaouira we will travel north toward Casablanca, stopping at coastal villages where we may sample some of the local dishes and stop for a swim. On arrival in Casablanca, the rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 20 Trip concludes in Casablanca
Our trip concludes after breakfast. You will be transferred to the airport if you depart Casablanca today. For departure on any other day, transfers can be arranged at additional cost.
- 19 breakfasts, 13 lunches and 14 dinners
- comfortable hotel accommodation in Casablanca, Meknes, Fes, Marrakesh and Essaouira
- internal transport by private vehicle
- kit bag including sleeping bag and 7cm foam sleeping mat
- two-person tents
- dining tent and toilet tent during camping section
- mineral water during trek
- mules to carry all personal and group equipment
- group leader, mule handlers, camp hands and kitchen staff
- all park entrance fees and trekking permits
- emergency medical kit
- arrival and departure transfers if arriving on Day 1 and departing Day 20 only
- 20 day trip
- 7 day trek
- 13 nights hotels
- 4 nights camping
- 2 nights gites
Trip Main Activities
- Adventure Touring
Group Size Min
Group Size Max
Specialist gear required include walking boots and day pack (a comprehensive gear list is provided in the pre-departure information provided on booking).
What You Carry
In your daypack you will need to carry extra warm clothing, a rainjacket, water bottle, film and camera gear, valuables and personal items such as sunscreen, lip-eze etc. Porters and mules carry all group gear and your trek pack.