All about trekking in Morocco.
High above Morocco, the sun-scorched homeland of the ancient Berbers is where trekkers come to experience weird geology in a warm climate. And if scaling peaks at 4,000 metres is beyond you, take a more leisurely 4WD tour, or head for the sensual, sumptuous delights of Marrakech and simply indulge yourself.
The Atlas Mountains stretch for 1,200 miles from the Atlantic port of Agadir to the Tunisia. But Morocco is, arguably, where the Atlas range is at its most interesting. Within Morocco, the Atlas is divided into several parallel ranges - the Anti, Middle and High Atlas. Of these, the High Atlas attracts most visitors, many of whom come to climb Jbel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa at 4,167m.
Trekking is the main draw, with thousands of French, Spanish and British walkers visiting each year. Weird geology, warm weather and a colourful local population make the Atlas one of the world's great trekking environments.
The four main trekking areas are Toubkal, M'goun, Sirwa and Sahro. Each is very different. Toubkal is the highest and most easily reached from Marrakesh. M'goun is lush and densely populated. Sirwa and Sahro are lower, hotter and more isolated.
Not all visitors are trekkers. Many people visit simply to see the mountains or to enjoy the peace. Horse-riding, mountain-biking and climbing are easy to organise and twitchers flock to this important haven for birdlife, too. Look out for the rare Moussier's Redstart, endemic to Morocco and Algeria, the Bearded Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle and the Barbary Falcon.
The Atlas may be one of the world's most spectacular mountain ranges but specific "attractions" are scarce. Trekkers hoping to scale Jbel Toubkal need to get to Imlil, the start point. Tabant is the trail-head for the M'goun region. The Sirwa area is most easily reached from Taliouine or Anzal while Saghro should be tackled from N'Kob or Dades valley.
Of the many beautiful and ancient Berber villages in the Atlas, Megdaz, in the M'goun area, is perhaps the best. Imilchil is well worth visiting for its annual Berber wedding festival (usually held in September). The mosque at Tin Mal and the kasbahs at Telouet and Ait Ben Haddou are other popular highlights, and Ouirgane is the best base from which to explore the Atlas without roughing it.