The High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, Ever-present on the southern skyline of Marrakech. And more often than not! Their snow-capped peaks are the highest ones in Morocco and North Africa. There are more than 300 peaks above 3,000 Meters; six of them exceed 4,000 Meters (13,000 feet).
Where are the Atlas Mountains located in Morocco?
Rising up abruptly from the Haouz Plain just 60 km. To the south of Marrakech, the High Atlas Mountains extend for more than 700 km. (450 miles) across the entire width of the country, from the coast at Agadir to the Algerian border! Dividing the kingdom between, the green north and the hot Sahara desert of Morocco to the south.
High Atlas Mountains facts
The high Atlas Mountains in Morocco are Berber territory! Their small hamlets of ochre-red mud walls and flat-roofed dwellings almost invisible against the colors of the hillsides. Smiling, excited children will rush to greet you, brightly clad Berber men and women folk will pass you by; leading a cow or two or perhaps balancing water jugs or other utensils on their heads. The language that predominates in this part of Morocco is Berber dialect generally speaks Tachelhit or Chleuh. Renown for their gentleness and hospitality, yet fiercely independent, their simple, pastoral lifestyle has changed little in centuries.
The higher terrain is cruel and rocky, strewn with vast boulders and scree. Nighttime temperatures plummet well below zero in winter. Yet here and there, in the more fertile valley bottoms and alongside Mountain streams; their well-kept terraced orchards and vegetable patches provide them with the necessities of life. Shepherds lead their flocks on the Mountainside, mule trains carry walnuts to the village markets. It’s a remote world, only recently accessible to visitors.
The Tizi-n-Test and Tizi n Tichka pass in high Atlas Mountains Range
From Marrakech, there are only two ways to cross the high Atlas Mountains. Via the Tichka Pass “Tizi n’Tichka” to Ouarzazate and the Sahara Desert beyond. Or via the spectacular road which snakes through the Tizi-N-Test pass (2,092 m); before joining the main highway to Agadir on the coast. Either way, don’t be in a hurry!
The road through to the Tizi-N-Test Pass crosses the hot Haouz plain in a reasonably straight line! But soon starts to rise and twist up into the foothills, a beautiful region of red earth and dense forests of cedar, pine, cork, and oak. With the highest peaks of the High Atlas rising all around and little Berber settlements dotting the hillsides, it’s a dramatic setting. Beyond Ouirgane the road continues to maze through some of the country’s outstanding beauty spots. One notable landmark on the way is the Mosque of Tin Mal! Birthplace of the Almohad Dynasty and one of the very few mosques in Morocco which can be visited by non-Muslims.
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Jebel Toubkal massif & Imlil Morocco
This is, without doubt, the most sensational part of the high Atlas Mountains range and the best places to visit in Morocco! A craggy mass of awesome, rocky peaks and deep valleys, which contain the highest summits of the Atlas chain. Jebel Toubkal itself is the highest peak, at 4,167 m. (13,670 feet).
Imlil Morocco is the base camp for walkers wanting to conquer Jebel Toubkal. A strange little, almost Himalayan mountain outpost, ninety minutes drive from Marrakech. From Asni the last 20 kilometers are by way of a swaying dirt track which clings to the mountain contours as it edges up! Beyond the tree line, on the steep sides of the Mizane Valley.
The central high Atlas
There are many other wonderfully beautiful areas and superb walking trails within the high Atlas Mountains in Morocco a little further afield. They are not so accessible, and many need four-wheel-drive vehicles and a steely nerve just to reach them. Some of the more popular ones are the great barrier ridge of Ighil M’Goun! The surrounding peaks and dramatic canyons in and around the Ait Bouguemez Valley; and the dazzlingly bright limestone spurs of the Dades and Todra Gorges.
The Eastern high Atlas Mountains Range
For the even more adventurous, the arduous off-road journey from Beni Mellal to Imilchil, famous for its September Brides Festival! Will take you past the twin lakes of Tislit and Isli. Other places to visit in this area are the secret canyons and ravines near Anergui, the Jaffar Cirque far to the east, and the Cascades of Ouzoud.
Atlas Mountains on Africa map
Here is Atlas Mountains on Africa map
Things to do in Atlas Mountains Morocco
Walking in High Atlas
Walking in the High Atlas mountains in Morocco is now very popular, the scenery is spectacular and the panoramic views are stunning. Local guides (some better than others!), porters, mules, and muleteers can be hired. For our selection of a few of the best outdoor activities, click here.
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Excursions from Marrakech
It would be a pity to stay in Marrakech and not to venture for at least a day or two into the high Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The easiest excursions are to the somewhat touristy village of Setti Fatma and the waterfalls (and wild monkeys) in the Ourika Valley. Or to the wide bowl of highland pastures, surrounded by craggy peaks close to the ski station at Oukaimeden. But for our money, nothing quite beats the road which runs south to Asni! Passing through the most dramatic peaks of the High Atlas via the Tizi-N-Test Pass. There are some delightful little Berber villages along the way, particularly Ouirgane, an excellent place to stop for lunch to enjoy traditional Moroccan foods, or overnight.
Do you need more information or suggestion for your adventure in Atlas Mountain? Have you visited this stunning region? Do you want more tips for your Morocco travel? Please feel free to drop me a message in the comments below!