Morocco // The High Atlas //

Amizmiz and Ait Zitoun

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, [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.

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