The Atlas Mountains

Stretching across Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, the Atlas Mountains is the name given to the mountain range found between the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas. They’re perfect for outdoor activities: hiking, skiing, and exploring gorges, beautiful oases and stunning scenery. They’re also a fantastic destination for learning more about Berber culture. Quite simply, they’re one of the most diverse parts of Morocco you can visit.

As most visitors to the Atlas Mountains do, I took a road trip from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert, making sure to spend lots of time weaving through the mountains that separate the two.

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From Marrakech, I planned for a morning spent exploring the various Berber villages we passed through on our way to Ouarzazate. One of my favourite stops was the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait Benhaddou – a destination you should definitely add to your itinerary. This traditional mud brick Berber city is best known for its appearance in the film Lawrence of Arabia and had me feeling as if I was playing a part in a movie! The highlight of any visit to this city is the climb to the top of the hill, where you’ll find spectacular views of the city and surrounding desert.

 

IMG_0321The next stop on the road trip was the city of Ouarzazate, a well-known film studio. Films such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Gladiator and many more were filmed here, in Atlas Studios — Morocco’s biggest studios and one of the largest film studios in the world. It’s definitely worth taking a quick look around the film studios to learn more about how these films were made and produced.




From there, we made our way to Todra Gorge, a highlight from my time in the Atlas Mountains. The gorge is almost like a mini-Grand Canyon, cutting into the rock surface 150 metres deep. It’s possible to hike through the canyon, following the ice-cold glacier stream that passes through the walls. While I was there, I wandered through lush green oases, bathed my feet in the glacial water and explored the ruins of kasbahs. Aim to spend at least an hour here.

I finished my first day of driving with a visit to one of Morocco’s unqiue rock formations, the aptly named Monkey Fingers, which is located in Dades Gorge. Over time, the rock has been eroded away until it has taken the shapes of thin columns, giving the impression of a hundred monkey fingers rising from the ground. There are plenty of opportunities for photos, and was one of the most interesting stops on the road trip. I spent the night in a riad located in Dades Gorge.

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The following morning, I set off to explore even more of Morocco’s villages, gorges and oases. These ones were even more interesting than the ones of the previous day — dry, pinkish mountains, sheer cliff sides, gushing waterfalls and lush green oases, which looked more and more out of place as we approached the edge of the Sahara Desert.

I spent a couple of days driving through the Atlas Mountains but you could easily spend several weeks. This region of the country is full of things to do if you love outdoor and adventure travel. Spend some time hiking through magnificent gorges, feast on tender tagine in the Berber communities you pass through, and marvel at one of the most beautiful parts of Morocco.




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