Think of Morocco as you might its famous dish, the tagine where you lift the lid and an aromatic melange of Moroccan tours hit you. At the top of the delicious heap is Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak (4,167m), the most sought after summit for those trekking in the High Atlas Mountains.
Just like the tagine, however, it takes experts to mix up the ingredients and then proudly share them with avid adventurers. Which is why all our Morocco hiking holidays are led by local guides. They know exactly how to combine, for example, a Sahara trek with an Atlas Mountain one, or how to fuse the riads and souks of Marrakech with remote Berber kasbahs and still get the recipe just right. This makes for a sizzling and fulfilling adventure but, unlike the tagine, it will often leave you craving more.
Where to go
High Atlas Mountains
They are like the icing on Morocco’s colossal cake, spread for 2,000km across the top of the country and into Tunisia. They are also home to the welcoming indigenous Berber or Amazigh people. Morocco hiking holidays in the High Atlas take you up winding, steep and sometimes icy slopes, past ochre Berber villages that merge with the rock faces of the same hue, following in the steps of shepherds or goat herders and their trusty pack mules.
The Sahara Desert
For two extremes of sand and summit, we offer a Morocco hiking holiday that takes in Toubkal, the olive, argan and walnut tree-covered lower slopes and some Sahara camping. The special ingredient in the middle of this sandwich of adventures is Todra Gorge, a hiking haven with pink and orange limestone cliff walls, sublime on a sunrise hike. At sunset, go camel trekking in the Sahara, then collapse under the desert night sky in a traditional Berber camp, share stories, become an astronomy aficionado and generally be transported to another world. You can also dive into the dunes in more depth on a ten day Sahara walking holiday.
The local name is Jebel Toubkal and its towering summit is just 60km from Marrakech. Toubkal is a strenuous hike with a fair amount of scrambling involved, and takes two days to ascend and descend. The first day involves a hike up from Imlil through Mizane Valley to Mouflons Toubkal Refuge (3,207m), where the snowline begins, depending on the time of year. You start your ascent before dawn, clambering over rocks and scree to the pinnacle at 4,167m, with views across the Atlas to the Atlantic.
If you think that Marrakech is going to be a culture shock, it is, but even more so when you explore it at the end of a hiking holiday in Morocco. The two worlds of mountains and metropolis couldn’t be further apart, and yet only an hour away. It’s a raucous rather than rude awakening in Marrakech’s medina, however, and giving yourself over to the charm and chaos is the only way to go.
Things to do
- For people new to trekking at high altitude, the best time to climb Mount Toubkal is during the spring or autumn, when it’s not too hot or cold. However, unlike many European high peaks, you can climb Toubkal in winter without a lot of technical know-how, but you do need an expert mountain guide. You will be guided, geared up with crampons and ice picks and grow a whole new layer of thick skin as you take on this African apex with determination and pride. And rest assured, the tagine will be ready and waiting when you’re done.
- You will never go hungry on Moroccan tours, with food playing a central role in the country’s culture and innate sense of hospitality. The aforementioned tagine is omnipresent, usually made with chicken, lamb and vegetables all slowly cooked together in an earthenware pot. Locally grown nuts such as almonds or walnuts, as well as dried apricots and dates are regulars on the table, and harira soup, made with tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, lamb and spices is a Ramadan regular at the end of a day of fasting. And mint tea is flowing at every turn.
- Step off the hills into a hammam, even if it means also stepping out of your comfort zone. These traditional steam rooms are where Moroccan, and especially Berber people living in the mountains, bathe. They host men and women separately, then they scrub you, strip off every last toxin as well as every last worry, then plaster you with local rhasshoul clay. The hammam is a rite of passage for anyone on truly responsible Morocco tours, especially when you submerge yourself in the freezing water at the end.
Responsible travel tips
- Beware of cultural faux pas by dressing in culturally appropriate ways, avoid big public displays of affection, and don’t reveal too much skin. Just read the room, and be respectful.
- During Ramadan and Eid festival times, remember that restaurants and shops may close but also take into account that your guides may be fasting.
- Although Morocco tours are popular with the LGBTQ+ travellers, many are aware of the fact that homosexuality is still illegal here. We are all for you campaigning against this with organisations like Human Rights Watch, but please never take risks while holidaying there.
- The water sellers in the souks look amazing, and you may want to offer them a few dirhams to have a photograph of them, but don’t rush to drink their water. Try not to buy too much bottled water either as waste disposal is an issue in Morocco. For our walking holidays in Morocco, we highly recommend bringing a purifying refillable water bottle.
- Haggling is part of the culture here and generally you should never accept the seller’s first offer. But remember also that tourism income sustains many families in Morocco, so a good tip is to half the price they are offering and then chill out. It may be fun to haggle over a quid, but these coins might be fundamental to someone else.