Tizi n’Test (2092m) is an awe-inspiring pass that crosses the Atlas and connects to Taroudant and Taliouine. Cutting right through the heart of the Atlas, the road was blasted out of the mountains by the French from 1926 to 1932 – the first modern route to link Marrakesh with the Souss plain and the desert, an extraordinary feat of pioneer-spirit engineering. Until then, passage had been considered impracticable without local protection and knowledge: an important pass for trade and for the control and subjugation of the south, but one that few sultans were able to make their own.
The Tizi n’Test (2092m) itself becomes truly momentous 18km before it connects to the N10 – a rather torturous stretch filled with hairpin bends. A lovely, yet challenging drive, it’s one of the more scenic jaunts in the whole country, giving way to unmatched panoramas that serve as a splendid gateway to the Souss region of the country.
Over the Tizi n’Test pass, the descent towards the Taroudant–Taliouine road is dramatic: a drop of some 1600m in little over 30km. Throughout, there are stark, fabulous vistas of the Tizi n’Test mountains jutting out around the Nfiss Valley with clusters of villages in view hundreds of feet below.Read More
Trekking the Tichka Plateau
Trekking the Tichka Plateau
Exploring the Tichka Plateau and the western fringes of the Atlas, you move well away from established tour-group routes and pass through Berber villages that scarcely ever see a foreigner. You’ll need to carry provisions, and be prepared to camp or possibly stay in a Berber village home if you get the invitation – as you almost certainly will. Sanitation is often poor in the villages and it’s a good idea to bring water purification tablets (see Atlas trekking practicalities). Eating and drinking in mountain village homes, though, is surprisingly safe, as the food (mainly tajines) is thoroughly cooked and the drink is invariably mint tea.
However you approach it, the Tichka Plateau is a delight. Grazing is controlled so the meadows, in spring, are a mass of early daffodils and flowers. Imaradene (3351m) and Amendach (3382m) are the highest summits, west and east, and are superlative viewpoints. The plateau is drained by the Oued Nfis, first through the Tiziatin oak forest, using or bypassing gorges, then undergoing a series of villages, one of which, another Imlil, has a shrine to Ibn Toumert, the founder of the Tin Mal/Almohad dynasty.
Approaching and exploring the plateau
There are approaches to the mountains from both north and south: Imi n’Tanoute, Timesgadiouine and Argana, on the main Marrakesh–Agadir bus route (north and west), and Taroudant–Ouled Berhil (south) or the Tizi n’Test road (east). From the north and west approaches, taxis, or rides on trucks bound for mines or markets at trailheads, could be used; from the south, smaller pick-up trucks (camionettes) ply up daily to Imoulas, the Medlawa Valley and Tigouga. For eastern access by the Oued Nfis, take the piste down from the Tizi n’ Test and follow up the south bank of the river.
If you can afford it, hiring Land Rover transport to take you, and possibly a guide, to meet prearranged mules and a muleteer is the most efficient procedure. El Aouad Ali in Taroudant is the recognized expert on the region and could make all arrangements. Or you could arrange a small group trek through the UK-based trekking company Walks Worldwide (w walksworldwide.com), who organize all levels of treks with El Aouad Ali. The IGN 1:100,000 maps for the area are Tizi n’Test and Igli.