When we think of traveling to Morocco, images immediately come to mind of vast Sahara desert expanses with camels and large souks with the smell of spices, with Bedouins bargaining and selling their wares. And this is true in a large part of the country, but, believe it or not, in Morocco there is also snow, just move inland, in the Atlas Mountains to see snow-capped mountains and ski slopes that each year receive thousands of visitors attracted by its breathtaking scenery.
The Atlas Mountains: a bit of geography
The Atlas of Morocco is a mountain range that separates the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean from the Sahara desert. Its high peaks are an obstacle to the clouds, preventing them from advancing north of the continent, leaving this area particularly arid. This phenomenon gave rise to the Sahara Desert, the most famous desert in the world.
This mountain range is divided into three main massifs: the Saharan Atlas, the Tellian Atlas and the Moroccan Atlas. The latter is subdivided, in turn, into several mountain ranges: the Middle Atlas, which has a maximum altitude of 3356 meters with the Jbel Bou Naceur; the High Atlas where the Toubkal dominates with its 4167 meters of altitude; and the Small Atlas, also called Anti-Atlas, which has as a reference the Amalun Mansur of 2712 meters of altitude.
Several days with the snow
Winter sports enthusiasts can enjoy several days of skiing or excursions in the snow if they continue on to Oukaimeden, the famous ski resort at an altitude of 2,600 meters, just 74 kilometers from Marrakech. Known as the “little Switzerland”, the ski area is somewhat sparse, but makes up for it with good slopes and trails for all types of difficulties. It is advisable to explore off-piste (always with caution and being insured).
In that direction we also recommend to be seduced by Setti Fatma, especially if you go in spring or summer, so you can admire its ancient walnut trees, and relax by taking a dip in the revitalizing waters of its seven waterfalls. Then, you can continue the route to Annameure, a village of the Aït Oucheg tribe, where you can rent mules to climb up to Djebel Yagour, a sanctuary of Moroccan prehistory with more than 2000 cave paintings.
If you are looking for trekking and great excursions in the snow, you should head south, 47 kilometers from Marrakech, on the Taroudannt road. You should arrive in Asni on Saturday morning to enjoy the market and bartering in the souk. On the way to Ouirgane, the landscapes remind us of the canyons of the United States: impressive cliffs that lead us to Imlil, a beautiful mountain village. This is the starting point for excursions to Toubkal National Park, the roof of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and North Africa in general. You can reach the summit (at 4165 meters) or stop at 3800 meters, where the Tazaghaght plateau extends, a desert of stones so high that it manages to dominate the clouds.
You can also hike among the Ouzoud waterfalls, east of Marrakech, one of the most spectacular of the Atlas with waterfalls from over 100 meters high. The Oued Méhasseur, over which passes the natural bridge of Imi-n-Ifri (“gate of the precipice” in Berber) falls in waterfalls between huge rocks, ending in the lake of Aït-Aadel, between hills of red rocks.
The journey from Marrakech to approach the Atlas Mountains
Marrakech has numerous connections to several European cities and with the rest of the country, making it a perfect starting point for a trekking trip in the Atlas Mountains. For mountain trekking lovers and those who want to get closer to the Atlas, the best option is to take the road southeast of the Moroccan city, passing through several charming Berber villages where you can stop to rest and take a walk: Aghmat, Dar Caïd Ouriki… Then continues a road flanked by terraced gardens on several terraces, along the Oued from Ourika, to Arhbalou. The landscapes are spectacular, varying from the palm trees along the roadside, the limestone ravines that stretch for miles, the green hills on the horizon, the deep ravines where rivers make their way … It is advisable to spend the night in one of the hotels on the plateau of Tichka before starting.
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