Few countries boast such impressive natural diversity as Morocco. From its balmy coastline to the remote landscapes of its interior, the country offers visitors everything from relaxed beach breaks through to mountain escapes. Yet trekking in Morocco remains the highlight for many. Beginners will enjoy gentle forays into the Atlas Mountains in summer, while tacking some of Africa’s toughest terrain in the depths of the snow-ravaged winter presents a serious challenge even to experienced hikers. Morocco rewards every traveller that explores its vast valleys and peaks. Here, we’ve picked seven of our favourite treks.
North Africa’s highest peak, Jebel Toubkal vaults 4167m into the heavens in the Central High Atlas, dishing up views that more than reward the effort of trawling up there. This quasi-mythical mountain is the most eulogised peak in the country and it well-deserves the praise heaped upon it. In summer it is an adventure that most reasonably fit people can tackle in two or three days from Imlil – altitude sickness, sunstroke and dehydration permitting – and the Kasbah du Toubkal is an ideal base that lies at the trail start. In winter, when the trails are thick with snow, Toubkal is an even more serious beast requiring specialist gear and skills. For an exhausting but exhilarating challenge, there is also the Toubkal Circuit, a gruelling trek that takes around a week to complete.
When the snows make the High Atlas tricky, the mountain range of Jebel Saghro offers beautiful wintry landscapes but with fewer challenges. A continuation of the Anti-Atlas, it has slightly milder temperatures and trails that are usually still passable without the same level of difficulty as Toubkal’s snowy wastes. The highest peak, Amalou n'Mansour, is much lower than the High Atlas peaks, at 2712m, so the risk of altitude sickness is generally less of a problem. The local cave paintings are a bonus.
The traverse of the M’Goun Massif in the Central High Atlas need not be as taxing as taking on Toubkal if you avoid ascending the high peaks such as M’Goun itself (4071m). This lets you spend more time savouring the drama of the mountain scenery and valleys that are home to the local Berber tribes. The area is at its best in late spring with carpets of wild flowers and dramatic snow-melt rivers in valleys like the Ait Bougmez and the Tessaout. If you’ve got a week to play with, you can enjoy exploring the lower slopes and valleys, or use your time to acclimatise properly and tackle M’Goun itself.
Alan Keohane (c) Dorling Kindersley
The Anti-Atlas is a much less heralded mountain range than the High Atlas and lies in the south of Morocco, but it still boasts a number of tempting peaks. Sirwa, a chunky 3304-metre-high volcanic mountain, actually connects the two ranges. From Atougha Mount Sirwa can usually be climbed in two days, though a guide is thoroughly recommended particularly for the potentially dicey final section. Alternatively, make a week of it taking time to ramble through the Berber valleys, with their steeply terraced fields, on a week-long round trip from Taliouine.
Morocco’s northern Rif Mountains are not as renowned as many of the country’s mountain ranges, but are a firm favourite with local walkers, especially families. Base yourself in Chefchaouen and myriad day trip options beckon. An ideal relaxed half day saunter is along the banks of the Ras el-Maa river. You can choose your duration, then just retrace your route or catch a taxi back. More difficult is the long day hike up Jebel al-Kalaa, which overlooks the town. For overnight hiking trips the Talassemtane National Park tempts.
Ifrane National Park
Nature lovers can indulge themselves in Morocco’s ‘Little Switzerland’ and its visual feast of flora and fauna in this expansive national park in the Middle Atlas. The Atlas Cedar tree-shrouded slopes here are at their best in spring and autumn. Look out too on the walking trails year-round for the Barbary Macaque – once found throughout North Africa, it’s now an endangered species and the Ifrane National Park is one of its last preserves.
Most visitors to Morocco don’t normally associate the coastal beach resort of Agadir with hiking, but the lush oasis of Paradise Valley is not far inland. This deep palm fringed gorge follows the river north up to Imouzzer Ida Ou Tanane 60km away. Those short on time can take the short (about 3km) walking trail from Imouzzer Ida Ou Tanane out to the ‘Cascades’ waterfalls. If you have more time you can hire a guide and mule to explore the valley’s Berber villages and camp under the stars.
Need to know
Robin’s key tip: always hire a professional qualified guide for your trail and personal safety. Don’t just grab one of the often unqualified guides that hang around the trails. Macs Adventure, a UK operator, employ only qualified Moroccan guides rather than ex-pats or uncertified locals, and they work closely with the pioneering Kasbah du Toubkal lodge, where your stay helps fund projects like local schools and ambulances.