Atlas Mountains of Morocco
The Atlas Mountains range in its entirety is a vast range that extends for over 2,000 kilometres across north west Africa, stretching from the Atlantic coast, near Agadir in Morocco in the south west, across northern Algeria to the eastern Mediterranean coast, near Tunis in Tunisia.
The mountains act as a huge natural barrier to the Sahara desert in the south, protecting the coastal regions and agricultural lowlands to the north. Covered in deep snow in the winter months, they provide a permanent source of water for rivers, oases and reservoirs.
The highest peak in the whole of North Africa is Mt. Toubkal in Morocco at 4,165 metres. It is located in Toubkal National Park in the High Atlas Mountains and its summit can be reached in a trek of between 2-3 days, usually starting from the Berber village of Imlil.
Within Morocco, there are three sub-ranges of the Atlas Mountains from south west to north east: Anti-Atlas Mountains, High Atlas Mountains and Middle Atlas Mountains.
Most of our Morocco adventure holidays will pass through at least one of these glorious mountain ranges and you can choose to spend as much time as you like for exploring in further detail and added adventure activities. Take a look at our Tours at a Glance to find Atlas Mountains of Morocco tours that include one or all of the mountain ranges. Each region and landscape differs greatly in geology, topology, architecture, local Berber culture, flora and fauna. All are breathtakingly beautiful and are a photographer’s dream and a nature-lovers’s delight! All regions of the mountains are accessible year round, though there is snow at high altitudes in winter. Ideal times for exploring the Atlas Mountains on your Morocco adventure holiday are during spring and autumn, In summer, the mountains give a delightfully refreshing relief from the intense heat of the medinas.
Click here to look at our suggested Tour Itineraries that focus on exploring the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
Within our itineraries we have marked out the different mountain regions as follows:
HIGH ATLAS – encompassing the peaks and valleys to the south of Marrakech including our destinations Ourika Valley, Ouirgane Valley, Toubkal National Park and the UNESCO World Heritage site Kasbah at Ait Benhaddou. The two twisting mountain roads that traverse these ranges are spectacular road trips in themselves. Connecting the foothills of Toubkal National Park, to the Souss Valley and Anti-Atlas Mountains and beyond, is a thin ribbon of snaking tarmac – the Tizi n’Test mountain pass. Tizi n’Test rises up through the Ouirgane Valley, climbs to an altitude of 2,100 metres and eventually descends into the Souss Valley between Taroudant and Taliouine. Key highlights of this dramatic route include the market town of Asni in the foothills on the northern slopes, the Ouirgane lake and dam, the historic 12th century Tin Mal mosque and then the challenging 18 kilometres of hairpin bends and panoramic vistas of the road itself.
To the south east, the spectacular Tizi n’Tichka mountain pass is the main route from Marrakech to the Southern Valleys and Oases and Sahara desert. The route passes through mud-built Berber villages, dramatic mountain scenery, forested foothills and grassy plateaus. The highest point is the Col du Tichka at 2,260 metres altitude. Along the way are opportunities for detours to visit both the 19th century Glaoui Kasbah at Telouet, passing along the fertile Ounila Valley and also to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ait Banhaddou Kasbah. The route eventually reaches the city of Ouarzazate in the south, from where there are national routes to continue east through the Dadès and Todra Gorges, south to the Sahara desert via the Draa Valley or west to Agadir and the Atlantic Coast via Tazenakht, Taliouine and Taroudant.
Central High Atlas
CENTRAL HIGH ATLAS – we have defined the Central High Atlas as the region of the High Atlas that extends north eastwards from Marrakech, towards the Middle Atlas range at Bin el Ouidane lake and the M’Goun Massif. This part of the Atlas mountains is best explored as a Day Tour from Marrakech. The region is also ideal hiking and trekking territory for travellers of all fitness levels. Key destinations and highlights in our Central High Atlas itineraries are the waterfalls at Ouzoud, the picturesque Ait Bougemez Valley, also known as "Happy Valley", the natural rock-bridge near Demnate at Imni Ifri, as well as the pre-historic fossilized dinosaur footprints located at Iroutane. The waterfalls at Ouzoud and the natural beauty spots near Demnate are included in our Day Tours from Marrakech, however they can be combined into longer explorations such as our Complete Atlas Mountains Explorer Tour or on any trip headed Marrakech to Fes (or vice versa) and the other Imperial Cities. Heading further north towards the Middle Atlas mountains, we recommend exploring the beautiful lake district of Bin el Ouidane where we can arrange watersports on the reservoir, trekking in the shadows of the magnificent "Cathedral Rock" as well as pampering at a luxurious lakeside hotel. It’s also an ideal stop over between Marrakech and Fes.
MIDDLE ATLAS – the most northerly of the Atlas ranges within Morocco, stretching from the Ouzoud waterfalls and Bin el Ouidane region in the south as far as Taza and the Rif Mountains in the north. The slopes of the Middle Atlas are blanketed with forests of cedar, cork, oak, poplar and maple while the plateaus are interspersed with volcanic lakes. Key destinations that we include for visits or overnight stays in our Morocco adventure tours are Azrou and Midelt. We also will pass through the Alpine-style resort of Ifrane as you head south from Fes which lies at the northern edge of the mountains across the Saiss Plain. You will pass through the Middle Atlas region on any trip that takes you south from Fes to the Sahara desert at Erg Chebbi, by travelling along the ancient caravan route or Route of the Sultan that once brought gold, slaves and salt from West Africa. We can incorporate some time for a short walk in the famous cedar forests around Azrou during this long 9-hour drive from Fes to the edge of the Sahara, but can also arrange for longer hikes by adapting your itinerary and planning an overnight stop en route in either Midelt or Azrou. For those staying in Fes, we can add a day excursion to Sefrou and Azrou for a day’s hiking. Nature-lovers will adore this region year round and the undulating, rather than vertiginous, terrain makes it suitable for hikers of all fitness levels. We can incorporate anything from a couple of hours to a couple of days for hiking in the Middle Atlas, with a luxury hotel base established either in Ifrane or Azrou. In the cedar forests of Azrou you will also have the opportunity to see the indigenous Barbary Macaque apes which live here. The architecture in this region has a particularly European feel, with pitched, tiled roofs and some chalet-type houses. The region around Ifrane is particularly beautiful in winter and is a popular skiing destination for Moroccans – it is known as ‘the little Switzerland of Morocco’. Travelling south to Marrakech from Azrou takes in the national route N8 which skirts along the north of the Middle Atlas and Central High Atlas mountains. It is a journey of about 8 hours by car and along this route we offer a detour with overnigh stop-over in either Bin el Ouidane, Ouzoud or Ait Bougemez.
Anti-Atlas and Souss valley
ANTI-ATLAS AND SOUSS VALLEY – the southern most section of the Atlas Mountains backbone of North Africa. It spans from Agadir, on the Atlantic coast of Morocco across to Ouarzazate, where they collide with the High Atlas Mountains forming deep gorges and lush valleys to be found in our Southern Valleys and Oases tours. The Anti-Atlas are rugged, arid, rocky, lunar landscapes with dramatic layering and craggy ridges. The heart of the Anti-Atlas mountains is in the region around Tafraoute. It is Berber country and is sparsely populated due to its often harsh climate, wide open spaces and desert-like conditions. This region is, as yet, relatively undiscovered by mass tourism and those seeking remote authentic adventures in Morocco will often be the only tourists for miles around. To the south of the Anti-Atlas, the rocky terrain meets the expanse of the Sahara desert as it stretches its fingers to the coast. Our key destinations in this wilderness cross-over region include Tata, Tiznit and Tazenakht—all of which feature in our Great Southern Sahara Tour and several of our Atlas Mountains or Desert tours. Separating the High Atlas from the Anti-Atlas is the fertile Souss Valley running along the northern side of the Anti-Atlas, with the walled city of Taroudant at its heart. From here, into the saffron-growing region of Taliouine and the thorny argan trees that grow on the northern slopes where the Souss Valley meets the High Atlas Mountains on the road between Taliouine and Taroudant. The region is rich in archaeological sites and prehistoric rock-carvings around Tata and the Akka oasis and we offer trekking opportunities from Tata, Taroudant as well as rock-climbing activities in Tafraoute. In the Jbel Siroua region we can arrange trekking from an auberge in Taliouine, or further to the east we can arrange multi-day trekking in the Jbel Saghro massif from bases in N’Kob or the Dadès Valley. In the fertile Souss Valley there are some wonderful small villages to explore and the route connecting Tafraoute to Agadir via Ait Baha is one of our favourites for its spectacular panoramic scenery.