Depart Marrakech at 7:00 am to head east from the city through olive groves into the High Atlas. We visit the walled town of Demnate and continue on up to the waterfalls of Ouzoud and the pretty market town of Azilal. From here, we travel on to the tranquil and lush valley of Ait Bougmez, the ‘Happy Valley’, to spend the night there.
A relaxing day to explore the valley, visit traditional Berber villages and (for those with strong legs!) climb up to a large, well-preserved marabout pilgrimage shrine, perched on a dramatic hilltop. The mountain scenery here on the northern side of the M’goun Massif is stunning. This is a day to stretch your legs some of the time, as this is an excellent area for walking, and to take some excellent photographs.
Leaving Ait Bougmez, we head up over high mountain passes, along winding roads below the peaks with panoramic views, to the bustling market town of Ait M’hamed. The scenery opens out into wider views as we descend to cross the Bin El Ouidane Dam at the head of an extensive lake. We then travel off-road back up into the mountains again, to arrive at the famous Berber village of Imilchil, surrounded by dramatic peaks. Here, the young women of the Ait Hadidou tribe traditionally choose their own husbands, and a Marriage Festival (the Fête des Fiançailles) for up to 900 couples takes places each August, accompanied by extensive souks and a carnival atmosphere.
The next day for relaxing, exploring, walking, taking photographs and (if you like) wild swimming in the midst of this wonderful scenery. We drive from Imilchil to the Plateau of the twin Lakes Tislit and Isli (‘Bride’ and ‘Groom’). Reflecting the sky and the mountains in their limpid waters, their names come from an ancient story of two starred-crossed lovers, who each wept enough tears to create the lakes… This is one of the most peaceful places on earth!
We leave Imilchil and head along winding mountain roads to Agoudal, an elegant town on a broad plateau with a lovely mountain backdrop. More panoramic scenery brings us to Tamtattouchte, with its lovely white-painted marabout (pilgrimage chapel) beyond the town. From her the road descends through the famous Todhra Gorge with its towering cliffs. Beyond the Gorge, we pass through the lovely palm oasis of Tinerhir, and head across the plain, with views of the Jebl Sahro mountains, as sheep, goats and even camels graze near the road. We arrive at the Dades Valley in the late afternoon, the best time of day as the sun lights up the spectacular red rock formations of the ‘Monkey’s Fingers’ and the mountains beyond. We spend the night in the Dades Gorge.
One of the most beautiful day-trips in the High Atlas… Perfect for a relaxing day off the beaten track. The Valley of the Roses is one of the main regions in the world for growing damask roses, which hedge every small field and bloom in May. It is also a centre for the manufacture of rose products (excellent soaps, perfumes and skin creams). You will travel on and off road through spectacular mountain scenery and rock formations towards the range of Mount M’Goun, the second highest mountain in Morocco. The Valley of the Roses is lush and green most of the year, and we will pass many traditional Berber villages, with earth-built houses and stunning kasbahs. If you like, you can take easy walks through parts of the valley and some of the villages, and you will have a delightful picnic lunch in a shady gorge. You will also have a chance to meet nomad families in remote locations, see the caves where they live, and share a glass of tea with them. If you would like to reward their hospitality, you could bring a gift of basic medications (e.g. antiseptic cream, aspirin) which are hard for nomads to obtain.
We descend the lush green Dades Valley, known as ‘the valley of a thousand kasbahs’, passing the spectacular rock formations of the ‘Monkey’s Fingers’, and then cross the plain towards the Jebl Sahro as sheep, goats and even camels graze near the road From here we head off-road into the high peaks, and some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in Morocco. We wind up a track with breathtaking panoramas, over the Tizi-n-Tazazert Pass (2283m), giving spectacular views of the Bab ‘n Ali pinnacles, amazing gorges and dramatic rock formations. We gradually descend to Nkob with its kasbahs, palmery and views back to the Jebl Sahro, where we will stay the night.
From Nkob, we set off to the historic village of Tamnougalt, to visit one of the largest remaining ksour (huge kasbahs once inhabited by many families) in Morocco. We descend the Draa Valley through its palmeries and the little town of Agdz to Ouarzazate, the provincial capital. Not far beyond Ouarzazate, we turn off the road to the spectacular hillside town of Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where over 20 major films have been made, from Lawrence of Arabia to Gladiator. It has the largest and best-preserved collection of kasbahs in Morocco. The journey continues on along the ancient caravan route that traded goods between the South of Morocco to the cities of the north. We pass through wonderful scenery, mountains, gorges and traditional Berber villages, to visit the kasbah of Telouet, former stronghold of the famous Glaoui tribe who ruled Morocco in the 19th century. This impressive fortress has a fine interior, decorated with ornate plasterwork, painted wooden panels and ceilings, and beautiful silks. We re-join the main road near the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass (2260m), and enjoy dramatic mountain landscapes in the afternoon light, to arrive back at your hotel in Marrakech in the early evening.