HIGH ATLAS CIRCUIT

Morocco
High Atlas Circuit

11 Days $3000 ex Marrakech

Accommodation

3 Nights Hotel 
3 Nights Refugio
4 Nights Tent

Transportation

All on foot

Included Meals

10 Breakfasts
7 Lunches
7 Dinners

Trip Grade

Category 3
High Heart Rate Holiday

Charity

Watch this space

I found a meditation in the rhythm of trekking into the fertile valleys, pausing to admire the spectrum of green flickering in the sunlight in the fields below. There is some sort of tangible magic to be found among the mountains, where time and space melt away and mold to their own tempo. Ahead of me stood the snow-speckled peaks of the Atlas mountains, brightly reflecting against the pale blue sky, dominating the vista. Beyond me, small, colorful Berber villages rose from the cradle of the mountain valleys.

I sat down to rest, stretching out beneath the sun-drenched skies in a field of chamomile flowers and sinking my teeth into a juicy orange, a Moroccan specialty unparalleled in perfect sweetness. Shepherds sat on the same grassy hillside, resting while their goats grazed on the lush slopes. Struck by the utter stillness around me and the near silence that echoed among the gently rolling hills, I closed my eyes to absorb the quiet rhythm of the High Atlas mountains.

Over the last week, I had trekked between sparse villages, into deep, red rock canyons, and along quiet trails beneath cedar and pine trees bypassing flowing rivers. A world away from the bustling, historic medinas of many of Morocco’s cities and major sites, the Atlas Mountains blends a slower pace of life, ever-changing landscapes, and age-old traditions.

My ultimate destination, Mount Toubkal, stood before me, but its summit would not be reached until I traversed the high altitude pass of Tizi n’Ouanoums. 

“Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”. 

Ibn Battuta Berber Explorer

One day, Perseus was on his way home after beheading Medusa. He made it to the end of the earth and came upon Atlas holding up the heavens. Perseus asked Atlas for shelter from his long journey. Atlas was told in an ancient prophecy that someone would come for his sacred golden apples, so Atlas turned Perseus away.

Perseus was angry that Atlas would not provide him shelter during his long journey, so he took out Medusa’s head from his satchel and showed it to Atlas. Atlas looked into the eyes of the beheaded Medusa and was turned to stone immediately.

Legend has it that Atlas crashed to Earth, forming the Atlas Mountains of northern Africa.

The Atlas Mountains span 2500 km across northern Africa, through Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. The range’s highest peaks however, can be found in Morocco culminating in the highest of all, Jebal Toubkal at 4167m. Your adventure starts in the bustling city of Marrakesh, with its small alleyways, beautiful palaces and souqs and exquisite architecture. One can really sense that this ancient town was an important trading and religious hub over the centuries. 

From Marrakesh, we head south toward the High Atlas mountain range where we will be met by our local Berber team of muleteers and camp hands. Our accommodation throughout will mostly be tents as we make camp at higher and higher altitudes before our ultimate ascent of Toubkal. We will pass through dozens of Berber villages, that while only a few hours from Marrakesh, live a very traditional lifestyle of subsistence.

We will also ascend several high passes of well over 3500m, providing us with superb views of the landscape below. On the morning of our ascent of Toubkal, we will leave early as we will try to reach the summit by sunrise. On our way down we may choose to also do the west summit of Toubkal which is also a very nice extension to the trip.

The Journey

Welcome to Marrakesh! You will be greeted by the No Roads team at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

This afternoon/evening is yours to immerse yourself in the colourful city of Marrakesh and adjust to the climate.

Accommodation in Hotel Riad Bahia Salam

Today is a free day to explore the vibrant city of Marrakesh. For an explosion on your senses and a true introduction to Morocco, we highly recommend visiting a Marrakesh souk today.

Accommodation in Hotel Riad Bahia Salam. (B)

After leaving Marrakesh in the morning we will arrive at Imlil at around 10 am. There we meet our local guide and head off up to the first pass, Tizi n’Tamatert, through tree covered fields. At the pass, there are views up the valley where we can see Berber villages nestled among greenery. A quick stop maybe a freshly squeezed orange juice and away we go down into the valley. We will pass through 3 larger Berber villages before arriving at our campsite on a small plot of terraced land. 

On today’s trek, you will cover 14km over 5-6 hours.

Accommodation in a tent. (B,L,D)

Today it is time to dig in and really experience what it is like to trek the Atlas Mountains. It is a long and slow ascent to the pass at Tizi Likemt at 3555m above sea level. This pass often has residual snow from winter and affords amazing views of part of the Toubkal massif. 

From here it is a long down, winding through small villages until we reach the beautiful Azib Likemt. A small stream passes the campsite where we can wash and relax.

On today’s trek, you will cover 10.5km over 6 hours.

Accommodation in a tent. (B,L,D)

Your trek today will take you through the Tizi n’Ououraine with more views of the Toubkal massif and the Ifni Dome. Your day ends in the picturesque village of Amsouzert.

Azib Likemt can be very cold in the morning with frost common. Today we set out through a wonderful canyon for the first 2.5 hours before heading up a fairly easy slope to Tizi n’Ououraine Pass. From there it is a long down into Amzouzart, a large Berber village in a lush green valley filled with walnut trees.

A couple of small shops sell chocolate and delicious, freshly squeezed orange juice.

On today’s trek, you will cover 14km over 7 hours.

Accommodation in a tent. (B,L,D)

Today you depart Amsouzert and head to Ifni Lake. Ifni Lake is a stunning sight as a very blue and deep lake that is surrounded by mountains and is the perfect place to set up camp for the night.

This is a lovely day, walking through tree covered villages on our way to the dormant volcanic lake of Lac Ifni. Once we leave the shade of the village we head up along a barren landscape to a pass that affords wonderful views of the lake. Another 45 minutes and we are in camp on the shores of the lake where we can go for a refreshing swim. Don’t forget your sandals as the shore is made up of small rocks but the water is crystal clear.

On today’s trek, you will cover 12km over 4-5 hours.

Accommodation in a tent. (B,L,D)

Today is the hardest day of the trek with a very steep and long upwards slope. You will reach the pass at Tizi n’Ouanoums (3600 meters) and then descend to Refuge Mouflons which will be your accommodation for the night.

A small saddle can be seen north of the lake hush up in the mountains. This is Tizi n’Ouanoums Pass our first destination today. The first hour or so is up a rock and stone valley before we start up the final ascent. This is a demanding day that affords amazing views as we get higher and higher finally reaching 3675 m above sea level.

From the pass, we can see several 4000 m peaks but not Toubkal which is hidden by several closer ridges.

It is then a long down to the Refuge which is a welcome site. 

On today’s trek, you will cover 11km over 6-7 hours.

Accommodation in Refuge Mouflons. (B,L,D)

Your trek today will reach the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains at Toukbal summit (4167 meters). From the summit, you will be met with breathtaking views of the entire Atlas range before returning to Refuge Mouflons for the night.

Today is summit day and we will rise an hour earlier to leave by 5 am. The first obstacle is a large rock fall that takes us up to a gully. Snow and ice is often still present so we make our way carefully through this section.

As we make our way up the gully, Toubkal’s summit can be seen for the first time. We will stop at a saddle at 4000m for a break, preparing ourselves for the final ascent. But the hard work has already been done as the final 167m is a gentle climb.

The summit of Toubkal is quite large and affords views in every direction. It is an incredible place with panoramas of the desert and the extended High Atlas mountain range that runs generally east to west.

It is a place to sit and savor.

The descent can be a tricky affair but our team will ensure a safe journey back to the Refuge by around midday, where we will have lunch, hot shower and rest for the day.

On today’s trek, you will cover 8km over 8 hours.

Accommodation in Refuge Mouflons. (B,L,D)

It is a long day of trekking today as you depart Refuge Mouflons and make your way through TiziN’Tadat pass (via Tazaghat). You will stop at the Ighouliden waterfall before arriving at your accommodation for the night at Refuge Azim Tamsoult.

Considered by many as their favourite day, we will climb up the valley for about 400m and then pass down into what is first a very barren valley until we reach a lush green pass that takes us to our Refuge. Not before an initial 600m descent with over 120 switchbacks.

1400m descent is a long way in anyone’s book. This day is no exception though the natural beauty of the place is a great distraction. 45 minutes before the Refuge we will pass under a large waterfall before walking into lush green agricultural terraces surrounding the Refuge.

On today’s trek, you will cover 12km over 6-7 hours.

Overnight in Azim Tamsoult Refuge. (B,L,D)

The last day of your trek has arrived and you depart Refuge Azim Tamsoult and make your way to Imlil via Tizin’Mzik Pass. On arrival into Imlil you will be transferred to your hotel in Marrakech for a long hot shower and a free evening to rest and relax or hit the town for your final evening.

On today’s trek you will cover 10km over 4-5 hours.

Accommodation in Hotel Riad Bahia Salam. (B)

Transfer to airport for your return flight.

Single Supplement

Single Supplement is available for the Alagna portion only as Rifugios do not have single rooms. The cost for a Single Supplement is $675.

Journey Extensions

Check out our Journey Extensions for those that want to stay a little longer or try something different along the way.

Experience desert life on this wonderful journey with the legendary Berber. You will be transferred by our local team to the deserts of Morocco where you will be immersed in Berber life and traditions. Trek the sand dunes on camel back and sleep over night in a Berber tent before heading back to Marrakesh.

Day 1

Transfer from Marrakesh to Dades Gorge

Day 2

Transfer from Dades to Merzouga, via Todra Gorge. Ride camels

in the dunes.

Overnight in Berber tents

Day 3

Transfer from Merzouga to  Zagora. Ride camels in the dunes.

Overnight in Berber tents

Day 4

Transfer from Zagora  to Ouarzazate and visit  Cazba

Ait Ben Haddou. Transfer to Marrakesh.

Accommodation in hotel Riad Bahia Salam

Day 5

Transfer to Marrakesh airport and return flight

Price 

$700 per person twin share

Services Include:

  • Accommodation at hotel Riad Bahia Salam in Marrakech with B&B service for 1 night
  • Food during all the trek (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
  • Transfers from Marrakesh to Dades Gorge, Merzouga, Zagora, Ouarzate, and going back to Marrakesh
  • Accommodations and meals in Dades Gorge, Merzouga, Zagora, and Ouarzate
  • Local guide during the visit to Dades Gorge, Merzouga, Zagora, and Ouarzate
  • Transfer from the hotel in Marrakesh to the airport.

Includes

  • Guided by expert Mountain Guide
  • Accommodation at Hotel Riad Bahia Salam in Marrakesh (3 nights) with bed and breakfast service
  • Transfer Marrakesh  – Imlil
  • Local guide, cook, and mule driver
  • Mules to carry luggage, food, and camping equipment
  • Food during all the trek (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
  • Tents (2 pax every tent), mess tent, and all equipment gear
  • Accommodation at refuge ‘Les Mouflons’
  • Accommodation at refuge ‘Azib Tamsoult’
  • Transfer Imlil – Marrakesh
  • Transfer from the hotel in Marrakesh to the airport

Excludes

  • Flight to Marrakesh round trip
  • Dinners in Imlil and Marrakesh
  • Mineral water and drinks during the trekking
  • Sleeping bag, clothes, and trekking equipment
  • Insurance

Your Guides and Safety

Our lead guides are fully trained, registered, and licenced IFMGA members who work for us regularly. All mountain lovers, they have skied, climbed, and hiked many of the routes around the area and spend their days off exploring the region. 

The Barbary lion, also known as the Atlas lion, once roamed the mountains of the High Atlas. They are now extinct, but the Barbary leopard can still be found in the mountains.

The Best Time To Trek The High Atlas Circuit

The best time to hike the High Atlas Circuit is mid-May to mid-June and then early September to early October. The reason for this is, anytime before mid-May and the passes may be snowed over. After mid-June, the temperature on the trail can get above 40 C. Then the weather cools early September for trekking again but this needs to be finished by early October as the passes start to receive snow again.

Accommodation

While largely a tent expedition, in Marrakesh we stay in a very comfortable hotel called Hotel Riad Bahia Salam. Each room has its own bathroom and there is an excellent roof top garden and dining area. 3 nights are also spent in local Refuges similar to what you may find in Europe. These are basic places with shared bathrooms and meals are served in a communal room, prepared by our own team.

We get asked a lot of questions about our High Atlas Circuit trek. The following are certainly the most common, however if you have another question please let us know or the answer may be found in our Trip Notes section.

How hard is the High Atlas Circuit?

This is a high altitude trek through rugged and rocky terrain. While days are not particularly long, they can be difficult with several ascents and descents of over 1000 meters. Tizi n’Tamartet pass, Tizi Likemt pass and Tizi n’Ouanoums pass and the summit day should be noted as difficult days.

One needs to have some hiking experience behind them and an appreciation that we are hiking through remote parts of Morocco. So while a glass of fresh orange juice may be quite easy to find, other comforts are less frequent.

Training is highly recommended for this trek.

You will be rewarded however with incredible views and very welcoming people along the way.

Is Morocco Safe?

We have never had any problems touring through Morocco. While you do need to be mindful when in the Souqs of Marrakesh for pickpockets, out on the trail the people are friendly and you will be treated with respect. Morocco is predominantly Muslim and as such women should remain covered (head wear is not needed) as much as possible.

What is the food like in Morocco?

The food in Morocco is not only delicious and fresh but it is also very colourful. Moroccan cuisine is generally very healthy, with a large range of vegetables and grains used alongside meat such as beef and lamb. While Moroccan cuisine uses a wide range of spices, giving it a rich and colourful appearance, the food is generally not spicy in the chilli sense. 

Meals are often prepared in a Tagine (a clay pyramid style vessel) where food is kept fresh and delicious. Kefta or Morrocan meatballs and couscous are very popular dishes as well.

We are sure you will love the food made both in the towns and along the trail to Mt Toubkal.

These mountains and valleys are my mountains and valleys. My family has grown up here over many generations. I love walking through this country, showing guests the beautiful villages, the contrast of the green trees and the rust desert. I love being high in the mountains, away from the world with views across northern Africa. I am sure you will love the High Atlas Circuit. It is sure to surprise you with its wonderful charms.

Lahoucein – Mountain Guide

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