Morocco’s High Atlas mountain range stretches east from the Atlantic Ocean to the Algerian border. Centuries of erosion have produced rocky peaks that descend to deeply carved, green valleys. Djebel Toubkal, at 4,167 m (13,670 ft), the highest peak in North Africa, dominates the Toubkal National Park. Established in 1942, and situated 60 km (37 mi) south of Marrakech, this remote area is a trak homeland, and small settlements and villages are scattered throughout, clinging precariously to the mountainsides. Built of pisé (rammed earth), they blend perfectly into the environment.
From Tamatert, the highest village at about 2,000 m (6,600 ft), you set out, with mules and a guide, to ascend to the Tamatert Pass, trekking through terraced fields of wheat and barley, orchards of apples, cherries and walnuts, and finally forests of pine and junipers. Walking or riding is the only way to travel and transport goods in this region, and the undulating tracks, though sometimes rocky, are well maintained.
The views from the pass are vast, encompassing two separate valleys: this majestic sight can barely have altered in 1,000 years. The high peaks, including Toubkal itself, are the source of water for the Tamatert valley – a multitude of springs, fed by melting snow and ice, trickle, tumble and cascade downwards, irrigation canals ensuring every inch of fertile land is well watered. The golds and greens of the valley floor turn to purples, reds and browns as you gaze at the barren peaks above. In spring the mountainsides are covered in gorgeously colourful wildflowers, attracting scores of butterflies, some of which are endemic. Birds thrive here: Alpine accentor, chough, booted eagle – altogether about 50 different species can be seen, not to mention Barbary sheep, endangered through over-hunting, and shaggy mountain goats that skip up and down seemingly impossible inclines.
On foot with mules
WHEN TO GO:
All year round, but If you don’t want snow, go between April and October.
TIME IT TAKES:
There are treks to suit everyone, varying between about four hours and ten days. The latter means camping, but your guides will do all the hard work, Including the cooking, and the mules will carry all the essentials leaving you free to enjoy
Climb Djebel Toubkal – you do not have to be a very experienced mountaineer to achieve this.
Trek to the lovely Lake Ifni, and Its nearby waterfalls.
Visit traditional Berber villages Including Sldi Chamharouch, a place of pilgrimage.
visit Ait Ben Haddou, a remarkable fortified village and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Spend a few days in Marrakech, a city unlike any other.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Even trekking with mules, you’ll want to walk some of the time, and as the tracks are rocky and uneven, a walking pole will be a great help.