Walking in the Anti-Atlas, Morocco

Anti-Atlas means Lesser Atlas, but there’s nothing inferior about this range. The only thing that’s ‘lesser’ here is the numbers of visitors, despite its location close to Agadir. Morocco has such an abundance of trails and spectacular scenery that the Anti-Atlas has been somewhat overlooked; so much so that you may not meet any other trekkers while here. Instead, discover empty paths and the warmest of welcomes from Berber villagers you meet along the way. It’s not uncommon to be invited in for mint tea, with hand gestures and basic French usually enough for a friendly chat.
In addition to learning about traditional Berber life, there is fantastic trekking here, through a dry landscape of pink and ochre tones, with arid peaks rising above lush valleys, peppered with oases. In spite of the harshness of the landscape, the Berbers who live in the Anti-Atlas grow the mountain staples of wheat, barley, olives, figs and almonds and if you trek in the autumn, you’ll see brightly dressed women bringing in the harvest. Look out for wildlife, too, including Cuvier’s gazelle, Barbary sheep and Barbary macaque.
Many treks here tackle Jebel Aklim. This peak, surrounded by Berber villages in valleys guarded by old Kasbahs, rises to 2,531m and is one of the highest summits in the Anti-Atlas. From the top you can gaze towards the High Atlas as well as Jebel Siroua, an extinct volcano at 3,304m in the Anti-Atlas.
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Since the Anti-Atlas is less visited than the High Atlas, and has experienced local depopulation, some trails have been neglected. Expect rough paths, on stony and uneven ground – not technically difficult trekking, but certainly hard going. On the plus side, there’s no great altitude to contend with, fewer tough ascents and descents, and no extremes of temperature. In fact, the Anti-Atlas is an excellent winter trekking destination, with a milder climate than the High Atlas and less snow. Days are usually warm in winter (15-20°C) with clear skies, while in spring and autumn, the days can become hot – think 18-28°C – with clear skies and strong sun, but the nights a cool and pleasant 8-18°C.
The Anti-Atlas is far less developed for walkers than the High Atlas, so point to point treks generally involve wild camping, as campsites and other accommodation just don’t exist. That means no showers, and just a simple toilet block. If that sounds a tad basic, remember that catering on fully serviced camping vacations is top notch and the choice of places to camp is fantastic. You might pitch tents in a valley of olive groves crisscrossed by trickling streams, or on a scenic plateau amongst farmland, with sunrise views that are really worth getting up for. Once the trek is over, there are a clutch of beautiful towns, including Taroudant, to unwind in before returning home, where you can shop in the souk and visit the hammam, without the hassle and hustle associated with Morocco’s bigger, more visited centers.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Andres Fongen] [Introduction: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen] [Berber woman: Stephen Colebourne] [Anti atlas riverbed: Marcel ETIENNE] [Camping: Jacques BodinBy: Jacques Bodin]