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High Atlas Mountains

Just an hour from Marrakech lie the sublime heights and spectacular scenery of the Atlas Mountain range.

TravelCurious Tip

Visit the mythic village of Imilchil during the time of the Marriage Festival in September, when the Aït Haddidou Berber tribe remember their very own Romeo and Juliet, Tislit and Isli

The Atlas Mountains are remote and ancient. They constitute North Africa’s highest mountain range, known by local berbers as ‘Idraren Draren’ — Mountain of Mountains. They run across Morocco for almost 1000km, encircling Marrakech and separating the Mediterranean from the Sahara.


Until recently, running water and electricity were nearly unheard of. Today, they are still luxuries in most of the mountain towns here. Often those who live here still measure distances in time: places may be two hours by foot, or four hours by mule. In fact, many of the most beautiful places here are inaccessible for cars, so trekking is your only way around.


Without any of the conveniences and vices of modern life and technology, it’s a tough but tranquil place to be. The air is clean in a way that is hard to describe to any chronic city crab, and the stars in the night sky are simply brilliant.


Looking a little peaky

The charming mountain village of Imlil is a good base for exploring the High Atlas. Scattered within it are restaurants and shops selling carpets, fossils and jewellery, and many thousands of people flock here every spring to climb Mount Toubkal. This can be done in two days, reaching a height of 4,167m. Be aware that you can only reach the peak when the snows have melted, between May and October.


The Grandmother of Marrakech

A very different alternative to Imlil is the walled city of Taroudant, also known as the ‘Grandmother of Marrakech’. Set amidst olive groves, citrus orchards and fields watered by the melt off from the High Atlas, it is bursting with life. As its inland location protected it from marauders in the past, this was once the region’s capital. It’s impressive fortifications remain, as do the ancient souks and the kasbah.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Marrakech
Saadian Tombs
This ornate mausoleum was built in the 16th century as the final resting place of the Saadi dynasty.
The Bahia Palace
Bahia, or ‘The Beautiful,’ was built in the 19th century by the very best of Morocco’s craftsmen and is the blueprint for opulent Islamic style.
Ourika Valley
A lush valley nestled in the High Atlas Mountains, Ourika offers a cool escape from the city's intense heat.
Mount Toubkal
The highest in the Atlas, Mount Toubkal's peak rises over 4,000 metres into the sky.
Setti Fatma Waterfalls
Seven waterfalls cascade down the rocky hillside near this picturesque village.
Berber Villages
Dotted through the valleys of the High Atlas, some villages date back to the 16th century.

Related Tours

Escape to the Atlas Mountains
Escape the heat of the city for the cool, fresh climes of the High Atlas to connect with nature in all its splendour, in the scenic lower foothills of the rugged mountains and Ourika Valley’s Berber villages. 

  • Day-trip easily from Marrakech, the Ourika Valley stretches 42 miles (68km) from the outskirts 
  • Explore the lower slopes of the High Atlas amidst walnut groves, poplar and weeping willow
  • See layered rocks of vivid colours shaped geological events millions of years ago 
  • Prepare for eye-catching scenery that is a glorious visual spectacle and cooler than the city
  • See the Ourika Valley’s almond orchards, olive groves, and wildflower meadows
  • Enjoy a dip in cool, clear waterfalls of sparkling purity
  • Visit a Berber village nestled in the countryside 
  • Learn the origins of the word Ourika and how the settlement was formed.
  • Discover some of the Berber language, especially the local chleuh dialect. 
  • Travel a mountain track to the canyon village of Setti Fatma - officially, the end of the road. 
Rising in the formidable rugged peaks of the High Atlas mountains, the fast-flowing Ourika River gushes through the Ourika Valley enriching the soil and nurturing groves of walnuts, poplar and weeping willow. Renowned for its rocks of incredible colours, caused by the thinning of the earth’s crust and shaped by a series of geological processes that occurred many hundreds of millions of years ago, the Ourika Valley is distinct for its multi-hued series of layered ridges in purple, green, white and black layers caused by sedimentary rock that formed at the bottom of a shallow ocean. In between the crevices, sprouting green shoots burst forth topped with brightly coloured blooms backdropped by skies of blue. The result is eye-catching scenery that is a glorious visual spectacle, that you will not soon forget.

Our Ourika Valley Full Day Excursion offers an escape from the heat from the city, to a cooler landscape in the shadow of snowcapped High Atlas peak. As the closest day-trip destination from central Marrakech, the Ourika Valley stretches for 42 miles (68km) practically from the gates of the city, beginning at the plain of Haouz and grinding to a halt at Setti Fatma at 1500m altitude. The valley boasts a mood-altering terrain blessed with almond orchards, olive groves, and wildflower meadows. Richly endowed with waterfalls and lush green velvety carpets, a delve into rocky outcrops reveals prehistoric rock carvings and ancient mountain paths. On the Ourika Valley Full Day Excursion we will visit the picturesque Berber village of Ourika, nestled amidst beautiful countryside criss-crossed by bridge-straddled streams. Square mud huts, baked pink in the sun, cling to the scrub-topped hillsides where farmers live a traditional lifestyle. 

Underneath the looming presence of cloud-cloaked soaring peaks, take a dip in the waterfall pool on the excursion during the hot summer months or enjoy the winter dusting of snow. You will climb some of the scenic paths, across rocky plateaus and rising stone trails and marvel at the landscape’s dramatic panoramic views. Together we will witness some of the Valley’s rural traditions and enjoy a mint tea in a Berber home, before driving along a small mountain track to the canyon village of Setti Fatma - officially, the end of the road. Wedged beside the river, the settlement sits at Ourika Valley’s southern tip and is the launch point for high-octane treks to the furthest reaches of the High Atlas peaks.
Imlil Valley Trek, Berber Lunch & Camel Ride
A Breath of Fresh Air

Take a break from the hubbub and chaos of Marrakech and experience an altogether calmer side of Morocco. You will be whisked away in a luxury vehicle and driven about an hour and a half through diverse scenery to a village in the Imlil Valley, which is one of the finest parts of the Atlas Mountains. 

Climb Every Mountain

Once you arrive, you will be met by one of the locals who know the environs like the back of their hand. The walk can be tailored to your mood on the day: whether you'd prefer a gentle 'stop & stare' or a more upbeat 'hike & hear'. Either way, you will learn all about the geography, plants, animals and the locals' way of life. There is also an opportunity to take a drink by a nearby waterfall; a particularly welcome relief after descending from the mountains above. 

Tuck into Tagine

After the morning's activities, you will be rewarded with a tagine to rival all tagines - on the terrace of a Berber's house in the heart of the valley. As you enjoy an abundant and healthy meal packed full of local produce make sure that you sit back, relax and prepare yourself for the excitement in store...

Ride of Your Life

You will be driven down to another type of landscape - flat and with a different type of vegetation, which you will be able to enjoy atop a camel. You will be led on a complete circuit and there will be plenty of opportunities to take photos of the scenery. There is no more natural way to experience Morocco than in the company of one of these magnificent beasts. 
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