Things to do in the Atlas Mountains
THE ATLAS IS YOUR OYSTER
Go in search of the Jebel jewels
The Atlas Mountains have the most extraordinary hiking locations. Unlike the Alps, you are walking through truly wild places with not a road or a cable car to be seen.
Hardcore hikers head for the High Atlas’ Mount Toubkal but there is superb walking to be had in the less elevated regions of Imlil Valley, which is the gateway to Toubkal. Or in the quieter Azzaden Valley, with a stunning trekking lodge and views over to Toubkal. Heading further south, there is plenty of hiking to be had in the Anti Atlas with treks to peaks such as Jebel Aklim (2,531m). There are also wonderful day hikes in the Middle Atlas in the northwest of the country, mostly offered as day trips from Fez and Meknes. Trekking with mules, muleteers and expert Berber mountain guides is the way to go, with dramatic dry mountain terrain interspersed with argan and almond filled valleys, poppy filled fields and snow capped peaks in the distance. Stay in mountain gites, splendid kasbahs or camp in the wilds in the Anti Atlas.
Meeting the Free People
The Atlas Mountains are home for the Berber people. They will be your guides and mentors in the mountains, so do read up on their culture before you go and remember this lovely fact: The name Berber actually comes from Roman times, and was Latin for barbarian. The name they give themselves, however, is Amazigh, meaning ‘free people’. And when you visit the Atlas Mountains with the Berber, that sense of freedom is infectious. Traditional, subsistence farming is the norm here, with small holdings bearing fruits and nuts, with sheep and goat herders too. You will also see women weavers, who will make you never want to buy a cheap rug again when you see the skills involved. Learn some words in Berber to really be the perfect guests, support local charities such as Education for All, which supports Berber girls continuing their education beyond primary age, feast on traditional food and, most of all, enjoy bubbling and beautiful Berber company.
Wild and wonderful sleeps
The Atlas Mountains are the perfect place to seek out a dreamy sleep. It might be under the stars, wild camping on a mountain plateau. Or in a refuge where mountaineers have laid their heads for generations en route to Toubkal. At the other extreme, you can collapse at a stunning kasbah, some with their own hammams to finish the day. Because kasbahs will always rock you to sleep.
Berber communities are still pretty new to pedalling passersby so you get a fantastic welcome everywhere you go. Cycle along the forested slopes of Ifrane National Park in the Middle Atlas, or up to the famous Tizi n'Tichka Pass at 2,260m. And taking on the famous hairpins of the Dades Gorge shows you the true meaning of pedal pushers. Go for more mellow rides through the argan groves of the Anti Atlas with wonders such as the Ait Mansour gorges en route.