You may be planning to visit Morocco in the near future, and making plans for the cities and destinations you intend to visit. However, there are several spots in the country that often overwhelm travelers hoping to pay them a visit. This is because the areas are vast and difficult to understand easily. Consider planning a visit to the Moroccan part of the Sahara Desert or the Atlas Mountains…it automatically tells you that you may need a deeper level of knowledge just to plan a visit. Fortunately, that is not the case, and where the Atlas Mountains are concerned, it is much easier than you might think to plan the perfect Atlas Mountains tour.
Understanding the Atlas Mountains
Like many large mountain ranges in the world, the Atlas is actually three different ranges. They are known as the Anti Atlas, the Middle Atlas and the High Atlas. In the far north of the country are also the Rif Mountains and in the farthest south are the mountains of the Sahara known as the Jbel Sarharo.
This tells you that any Atlas Mountains tours can begin from more than one location since they stretch almost the length of the country. While a huge number start in Marrakech, there are other routes available. The more important factor, though, is to consider the difficulty of the drive. This is one reason that the best Atlas Mountains day trip is one in which you do none of the driving on your own.
In fact, a travel expert for the publication The Guardian agreed, saying “Normally I’m happy to get behind the wheel, but [it] offered the chance for me to take in the scenery…Added to that our route, over the 2,092m-high Tizi n’Test pass, is one of Morocco’s most challenging roads, and best driven…by someone who has done it before.” (Guardian, 2013)
So, an Atlas Mountains day trip is remarkably scenic but also challenging to navigate if you are distracted by such things as pretty mountain villages, small cottages tucked among blossoming fields, and light that seems to belong in a painting more than a mountainside.
Destinations for an Atlas Mountains day trip
- Asni – In the foothills of the High Atlas, it is only an hour from Marrakech and is surrounded by villages, fruit orchards, and gardens. It is part of the route that some take from Marrakech to Taroudant and leads to the famous, but difficult to navigate Tizi-n-Test pass.
- Imlil – A Berber village close to the Jbel Toubkal – the highest peak in the northern part of Africa. It is a popular stop for tourists, and is the starting point for many mountain treks. Modernized for visitors, it still has many of its orchards, making it truly picturesque.
- Mergouza – Though a two-day trip from Marrakech, this is part of a longer Atlas Mountains day trip that ends at the Sahara! You will enjoy amazing scenery making this journey and can return to Marrakech via the faster motorway from Agadir if desired.
- Ouarzazate – In the High Atlas Mountains, it is so lovely and picturesque that it has appeared in more than a dozen films since the 1960s. It features flawlessly preserved kasbahs and is actually a very popular place for Moroccans on an Atlas Mountains day trip.
- Ourigane – Set in the Toubkal National Park and in the High Atlas Mountains, this town is only 90 minutes from Marrakech. It is a lovely Berber village with stunning views, many kinds of wildlife, and different options for treks into the surrounding mountains. Visit in the spring, during an Atlas Mountains day trip, to take in the stunning sight of the many almond trees in full bloom.
- Tinmal – Less than 100km from Marrakesh, it is in the High Atlas and was once the capital of the Almohad Empire, which is part of Berber history. A mosque from the 1100s remains, and the locale is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Taroudant – East of the southern city of Agadir, it is similar in appearance to Marrakech and was once a fortified city along the caravan routes. It remains inside of its walls, and is a perfect option for an Atlas Mountains day trip.
Additionally, you might stay very close to Marrakech and enjoy trips to places such as the Ourika Valley where you can enjoy amazing views of the mountains from the Ourika River area. There is a lovely waterfall at Setti Fatma in this area too. If you want to discover one of the finest waterfalls in the country, you can also depart from Marrakech and visit the Cascade D’Ouzoud during an Atlas Mountains trip. It is close to Tanaghmeilt in the High Atlas.
These are but a few of the locations you might choose as a destination for your Atlas Mountains day trip. Some of them are truly picturesque, and some of them can help you begin a more active trek into the mountains. There are guided hiking tours, and also many easily traversed paths near some of the villages.
The key is to consider hiring a guide or a driver to ensure you safely navigate the mountain roads. While safety is a major consideration, you must also remember that you are in the mountains to see them – not stare at the road as you follow its winding path!
Last Updated on June 9, 2022