Explore The High Atlas
The small, dusty town of AMIZMIZ, 58km from Marrakesh, is the site of a long-established Tuesday souk – one of the largest Berber markets of the Atlas, and not a key destination for tourists. The town comprises several quite distinct quarters, including a zaouia, kasbah and former Mellah, separated by a small, usually dry, river. Amizmiz makes a good base for mountain biking in the High Atlas.
From Amizmiz, the nearby village of Ait Zitoun is a lesser-known, yet much better place to start treks than Amizmiz, as you can arrange both mules and supplies here, along with a local guide. Ait Zitoun is a tricky place to find; it’s located on a short piste veering left off the main road connecting Amizmiz to Ouirgane (look for a small sign stating Gîte Ait Zitoun). It’s possible to arrange a walk to Ouirgane from here, which takes three to four days and is best done in the cooler months – a highly recommended guide is Omar Jellah (t 0670 414623, e [email protected]; contact at least two to three days in advance), who specializes in this region. The walk is at a relatively low altitude for the mountains, and the surrounding hills are green in the spring months and roasted brown in the summer and fall. For the most part, it’s a steady, easy foray into villages, valleys and foothills, but there are some slightly steep inclines approaching the ridges.
An alternative to both of these villages for an overnight stop is Lalla Takerkoust, 22km northeast of Amizmiz. Views from the lake of the surrounding mountains make for wonderful photo opportunities in the winter with the surrounding snowcapped peaks in clear view. A few villages dot the landscape and walking to some of the low-lying hills for views of the region makes a worthwhile day’s venture.Read More
Mountain biking – and some routes from Amizmiz
Mountain biking – and some routes from Amizmiz
Morocco offers some of the best adventure riding in the world with routes suitable for all abilities. The High Atlas has jeep and mule tracks that cover the countryside and several adventure companies offer mountain biking as a pursuit. Travelling independently, it’s important to be aware of local sensibilities; ride slowly through villages, giving way to people where necessary, especially those on mules and children tending livestock. If renting a bike, negotiate essential extras like a pump, puncture repair kit and/or spare inner tube. A helmet is recommended, and carry plenty of water.
Of the three routes detailed below, the first two can be done by a novice with a rented bike, while the third is best left to the proficient, preferably on their own bike. All routes begin and end at Restaurant Le Source Bleu located in Irghagn, above Amizmiz. As few roads are signposted, the Amizmiz 1:100,000 topographical map is highly recommended, and best obtained from specialist map shops before you leave home.
Route 1 The Oued Anougal Circuit
From Le Source Bleu, descend to the piste road running from Amizmiz to Azegour and then head on uphill past the Maison Forestière. About 1.5km beyond, a narrow piste branches off left, taking you down the west side of the valley to pass through the village of Aït Ouskri, from where there are tremendous views up the valley, to Jebel Gourza and Jebel Imlit. The piste continues, passing the villages of Tizgui, Toug al Kheyr and, after 10km, Imi-n-Isli and Imi-n-Tala (“big spring”), before crossing the Anougal River below Addouz to the eastern side of the valley. Care should be taken in spring, when the river can become swollen from melted snow. Following the piste through Imzayn, and sticking to the lower track, leads to Igourdan and, after about 12km, uphill, to Aït Hmad.
Leaving Aït Hmad behind, the road widens to become a full-width piste jeep track allowing a fast but safe downhill back into Amizmiz.
Route 2: Jebel Timerghit Circuit
Follow the Route 1 description to Imi-n-Tala then take a piste westwards through the forest to reach the Oued Erdouz road from Azegour, with Jebel Timerghit towering above. Turn left and circuit the hill to Toulkine and on through the granite landscape towards Azegour. Five hundred metres before Azegour you come to a junction – turn left here, crossing a bridge over the Oued Wadakar, and continue past the remains of a mining site. The route then runs through forest and, after a gentle crest run, descends in numerous bends to Amizmiz, passing the Maison Forestière.
Route 3: Toulkine Descent
Begin the route in the same way as those above, but don’t break off left as in Route 1. Keep on ahead for the long toil through the forest to gain the gentler crest before descending into the Erdouz-Wadakar valley where there are extensive ruins from the mining that once took place here. Cross the bridge and turn right to circuit round to Toulkine. A piste heads northwest from the village but instead follow the mule track that heads due north over the crest to circuit the valley heads with Adghous perched in the middle. This then wends through the Jebel Aborji forest before a rather brutal descent to the plains at Tiqlit. Note that it’s advisable to check the route at Toulkine.