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.
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.
Mount Toubkal
The highest in the Atlas, Mount Toubkal's peak rises over 4,000 metres into the sky.

Related Tours

Discover Ourika Valley & High Atlas: Private Day Trip from Marrakech
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 traditional Berber villages

On your private tour, you will: 

  • Enjoy the personal attention of your private guide, and a private vehicle all day;
  • Take a scenic drive from Marrakech to the Ourika Valley, stretching 42 miles from the gates of the city;
  • Explore the lower slopes of the High Atlas, with stunning views of the snow-capped mountains, amidst the lush verdure of walnut groves, poplars and weeping willows;
  • See layered rocks of vivid colours shaped by dramatic geological events millions of years ago – and enjoy the cooler temperatures in the foothills of these majestic mountains;
  • Explore the Ourika Valley’s almond orchards, olive groves, and wildflower meadows; a beautiful, tranquil haven with dramatic scenery for nature lovers;
  • Visit a Berber village nestled in the countryside and learn about the Berber way of life;
  • Enjoy a traditional Moroccan lunch in a local Berber family home;
  • Explore the Berber villages and learn about their trades, crafts and history;
  • Hear about the origins of the word Ourika and how the settlement was formed;
  • Learn some of the Berber language, especially the local Chleuh dialect and experience their way of life;
  • Travel up the mountain track to the small canyon village of Setti Fatma – which literally means, “the end of the road”, the starting point for longer climbing adventures in the mountains;
  • Enjoy a gentle trek to the stunning local waterfalls
  • Take a dip and enjoy a refreshing swim in the cool, crystal-clear, sparkling waterfalls. A magical experience! 
  • Enjoy a relaxing and scenic drive back to your hotel. 

The Ourika Valley is a lush expanse of terraced fields, forested hillsides, and cascading waterfalls in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. It is a gloriously lush and verdant natural oasis, a refreshing day trip from Marrakech and an easy distance of about an hour’s drive. 

Your Ourika Valley Full Day Excursion offers an escape from the heat of the city, to a cooler landscape in the shadow of snowcapped High Atlas peaks. The Ourika Valley stretches for 42 miles (68km) from the gates of the city, beginning at the plain of Haouz and grinding to a halt at the little village of Setti Fatma – meaning the end of the road - at 1500m altitude. The valley is a natural paradise, with vivid and bio-diverse terrain. Admire the almond orchards and olive groves, wildflower meadows and weeping willows by the flowing river of sparkling clear water, running through the valley. 

Richly endowed with waterfalls and lush green velvety carpets, you’ll delve into rocky outcrops to see prehistoric rock carvings and ancient mountain paths. You will also visit the picturesque Berber village of Setti Fatma meaning ‘the end of the road’, nestled amidst beautiful countryside, with picturesque streams and bridges. See the square mud huts, baked pink in the sun, clinging to the scrubland of the hillsides where you’ll learn about the local farmers who live and work in a centuries-old traditional way. You will be welcomed for lunch by a local Berber family and enjoy a delicious, traditional Moroccan lunch. 

After lunch, you will have the chance to climb some of the scenic paths, across rocky plateaus and rising stone trails and marvel at the landscape’s dramatic panoramic views. In the warmer months, bring your swimwear and enjoy a refreshing dip in the sparkling, crystal-clear waterfalls! Once you’ve dried off, it will be time to return to Marrakech along the scenic valley route, and back to your hotel. 


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