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.
Riad Atlas Chateau - Owned by Driss Lachguer, a popular Berber mountain guide, this family-run guesthouse provides spacious, pristine rooms with private bathrooms (except some cheaper rooms), plus a/c and heating. Solid breakfasts included.
The easiest way to trek Jebel Toubkal is on a guided tour, like this 3-day tour starting and ending in Marrakech.
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.
In Tinerhir: Hotel Tomboctou - A kasbah built for Sheikh Bassou in 1944, tastefully converted by Moroccophile Spaniard Roger Mimó, Tomboctou is one of the country’s memorable small hotels. There’s a range of tasteful and cosy rooms (all cool in summer and heated in winter) and friendly staff on hand to help with exploring the local area. There’s also a pool in the courtyard, a good restaurant and a small bar.
Either before or after your climb (or instead if you're not too keen on climbing this one), take a desert safari from Marrakech and spend the night camping under the desert sky and marveling at the Jebel Saghro mountains.
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.
Kasbah Assafar - Skilfully restored pisé kasbah in the village of Aït Khyar, with a terrace that makes the most of its lofty position (1400m altitude) – there are eight rooms (two en suite) but make sure you ask for one with valley views. Also operates Assafar Cottage nearby, which has seven dorm rooms with three–ten beds, shared bathrooms and a self-catering kitchen – or eat at the main restaurant. Cooking (100dh, set menus) centres around honest Berber food (cooking classes are available). Owner Boullouz Aziz is a very experienced mountain guide who can organize walking and mountain biking in the Vallée des Roses and the Jebel Saghro.
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.
Dar Antonio - This cosy guesthouse was personally restored and imaginatively decorated by the hands-on owner-manager. The seven rooms sleep from one to four and each is unique, colourful and warm, and there’s even one with a working fireplace. There's a kitchen, two shared bathrooms, courtyard and rooftop terrace.
After long days trekking, take a day off to discover Moroccan flavours on a guided food tour. Sample local delicacies, mingle with the locals and learn more about Moroccan culture & traditions.
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.
Le Palais des Cerisiers - The tone at this Alpine-esque lodge is set by the very grand wooden staircase and continues in the large comfortable bedrooms, some with balconies looking out across the surrounding cherry-blossom trees (hence the name) to the hills beyond. Non-guests are welcome to at the refined restaurant or bar. There’s a swimming pool and spa, and mountain bikes are available for exploring the cedar forest – the Cèdre Gouraud is 7km away.
If you prefer to stay in Fez instead of staying in Ifrane or Azrou, there are day trips available taking you on trekking and walking tours, like this one including a half-day walk/trek.
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.
Hotel Aferni - It’s worth asking for a room with a bathtub and balcony in this pleasingly old-fashioned three-star hotel, which boasts a pool – heated in winter – and terrace, plus TVs and safes in each room. The hotel also lacks a bar, which you may consider a plus or minus.
Discover the beauty of Paradise Valley on a quad bike - one of the most exciting ways of exploring the area.
If you rather spend your time trekking than planning a trip, get in touch with Bouchra, your local expert for Morocco. She designs, books and executes itineraries like 'A tour of Morocco's Atlas Mountains' and 'Marrakech and the High Atlas Mountains'. All of her sample itineraries are modifiable to fit your preferences and wishes or simply send her a request and start from scratch.