Morocco is a riveting country located between the mediterranean culture and the deepest islamic traditions. It is placed in northern Africa, between the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts and the vast Sahara desert. Morocco is an ideal country to live all kinds of adventures: trekkings and ascents to high peaks, cultural routes in which you will discover architectural wonders, small mountain villages and Berber habits, and journeys through the desert’s sand dunes by foot, 4×4 or on a camel.
The mountains of Morocco
There are four mountain ranges in Morocco, located from north to south in the following order: in the north there is the Rif, a mountain range that extends itself from Tetuan to the surroundings of Oudja, with medium height peaks. In the south of Fez there is the Half Atlas, with important summits that reach their highest point at the Bou Naceur (3356 m). The High Altas, located just in the south, has the highest peaks in the country. Its highlights are two big solids: the Toubkal (4167 m) and the M’Goun (4068 m). The Anti-Atlas it’s a mountain range that is located next to the Sahara plains and extends itself from the Atlantic Sea to the surroundings of Ouarzazate, with the Saghro (2712 m) as its highest peak.
The impressive Toubkal’s solid is located very close to Marrakech, “the red city”. It is the heart of the western High Atlas. This is the place where the biggest vantage points rise among the north african mountains, covered by snow most of the year. In spring, the valleys located at its feet turn into green orchards and fertile pastures irrigated by the streams that go down from the mountain thaws. Over these valleys, the slopes of the mountains show a powerful and steep mineral richness, where the colour of the rocks and the white of the snow mix together in perfect harmony. The hiker and the mountain hiker will find a suitable land in these majestic mountains to conclude his projects, going through the calm valleys splattered of traditional Berber villages or reaching the sharp edges and rough volcanic rock ladders in the Toubkal’s high peaks.
The fortresses and citadels built with red clay and sun-dried brick are spread in the valleys close to the Atlas. Its beauty and charm has led to create touristic routes named the “Route of the thousand kasbahs” o “The kasbahs’ valley”. The most important and well-known are raised in the area located between the cities of Ourzazate and Zagora.
The landscapes of the deserts are, with no doubt, one of the most captivating views for the human eye. The gold sands of the dunes change its colour at dusk and being there to contemplate this magnificent show is one of the strongest points of any trip to the south of Morocco. The camels and dromedaries have been and will be beasts of burden and transportation, essential for the inhabitants of this hard and vast place. Riding these animals, the traveller will reach the set up camps in the heart of the desert, where he will be able to spend the night under the stars and the moon.
The Berber people
The Berber people settled centuries ago in these beautiful lands full of steep mountains and huge deserts. No one else knows them better, as they are indissolubly linked to them. The Berber were nomad tribes for a long time, but they eventually became a sedentary group who built small villages in the deep valleys, whose harmony and beauty contrasts, without disrupting it, with the purity of the landscape.
The moroccan climate varies depending on the altitude, latitude and proximity of the sea. The mediterranean climate is typical in the north zone, with high temperatures in the summer and strong wintry rain in the Western Riff. In the desert, the summery temperatures can easily reach the 40ºC range, while in the winter there is a very accused fluctuacion between day and night, with differences around the 25ºC range. In the Atlas’ heart the Mediterranean influence dissapears and the temperatures are lower, with plentiful rains and frequent snowfalls in the mountains that can reach a level below 2000 meters. The altitude temperatures can be easily negative (historical minimum ranges below -15ºC have been registered at the highest levels).
The ideal period for skiing or climbing is spring (March-May), while the May-October period is suitable for hiking. There is a general climate daily regime that consists on sunny mornings and cloudy afternoons, with a probable appearance of fog and rain.
Places to visit
Marrakech – The imperial moroccan city offers the tourist a wide range of places of interest like the Medina, the Bazaar, the Jma-el-Fna square, and many other palaces and gardens.
Essaouira – An exceptional fortified city in the Atlantic seashore, full of white houses and with an spectacular Medina.
Chaouén and the Rif– A small village located in the moroccan Rif, popular for its traditional architecture and its white and sky blue houses.
The Kasbahs route – A valley spattered of mud and red sun-dried brick citadels.
Merzouga – A classical village known for its golden dunes and for being the entrance to Sahara’s heart.
Dades and Todra Gorges – A vertical paradise full of deep canyons made of ochre and reddish rocks which are enjoyed by the climbers.
Imlil and the High Atlas – Imlil is the headquarters of any mountain expedition to Toubkal solid. In this modest variation of Chamonix or Benasque you will probably find lots of shops focused on mountain tourism. The Toubkal shelter is five hours away by foot from Imlil, where anyone who is in good shape can start his climb to the highest peak in the country.