Trekking in Morocco: when, where, how,
During many years of experience. The best part about Morocco and hiking around it must be the wilderness. The untamed nature of its topography.
Virtually devoid of well-signaled routes, camping areas, mountain gites, the traveler is besotted by the virginal aspect of terrain instilling the feeling of treading where few, if any, have treated before. For let’s face it: Don’t we all relish the feeling of exploring, of having pioneered a certain route?
Then, there is another cachet, perhaps intertwined with the previous, which is a certain way of life they have so far endured over centuries: whether in the Sahara desert or on the steep slopes of the Atlas, where your path will cross that of shepherds and mountain dwellers. They will most likely invite you for a tea, glad to cross trails with other souls a midst these otherwise remote realms, in spite of any language barriers. Hamlets stuck in time where water mills still grind the grains into flour, where horses graze freely by the brook or the mules still trot over the wheat stalks lying strewn across the stone-build threshing plot. And hospitality, above all, natural, spontaneous, instinctive.
When to trek in Morocco?
Morocco travel restrictions will eventually ease up and wane completely by summer 2021. In spite of what some deem the best time of year to visit Morocco, there is no such thing. Even more so when it comes to hiking in Morocco. Visiting Morocco and trekking in Morocco can be done all year round. As a rule of thumb, from November to March you are likely to encounter snow over an average altitude of 2000 meters high. And, except for a few aficionados, trekking in the snow is not fun, to not mention the additional issues of special gear, thermal sleeping bags, reinforced tents, etc.
The seasons: in winter (November to March, the Anti Atlas is ideal for trekking and in particular the region east of Guelmim, with an average elevation between 1000 and 1800 meters in altitude. How would you like to stumble upon millennia-old engravings depicting archers or ostriches? In other countries, the spot would be safeguarded with lush uncanny palm groves and oases, materializing when one has almost given up hope, sun-blinded after hours of desert trekking. Temperatures can be chilly at night, except 7 to 12 degrees Celsius, and comfortable daytime 20-25 Celsius. In the winter, in the High Atlas, you will find snow above 2000 meters high. The Saghro range (between the High Atlas and the Anti Atlas with its shards of dark stone pointing out skywards, is also a great choice in the season, but temperatures might be somewhat cooler. In case you wish to blend Sahara dunes and mountain trekking, Jebel Bani, a 400 Km long ridge bordering the Sahara, averages 600 meters in altitude.
From March to November, focus on the high Atlas, the Middle Atlas, and the Riff mountains. Temperatures will not rise over 27-30 Celsius as long as you will keep over 1800 meters altitude. The Toubkal peak is best approached during this time of year, but it is also the period that sees most tourists. If you wish to Climb up to 4000 meters high without the crowds, there are other options available in the area, also with a base in Imlil. Yet wilder landscapes are to be found around Mgoun peak, with a base in Skoura’s palm grove. From there, ascend to 3000 meters high and stumble across a lost-in-time village, where life hasn’t changed that much as centuries passed by.
How many days do you need for a Morocco trek?
First of all, we should define what we exactly mean by trekking. Trekking, per our definition, is at least a half-a-day endeavor, over hilly terrain requiring a minimum level of fitness and endurance. Talking around a village on one of the many stops along your private Morocco tour doesn’t qualify as trekking as per the intentions of this article. In Morocco, we’d recommend anywhere between 2 and 6 days of continuous trekking. 2 days is a minimum to immerse oneself in the local culture. It would prove rather strenuous to go for more than 6 days without regular hot showers, a proper mattress, and all the rest of the comforts of a modern lifestyle. Also, remember to make a responsible choice. In May 2018, on our trek up to Tazarart plateau, one of us almost didn’t make it back. Almost. Over the course of one day, we hiked from 3000 to 4000 and descended from 4000 to 15OO meters. In general, you should keep to a maximum of 1000 meters of altitude difference a day.
Also Keep in mind that the closer you get to 4000 meters, the likelier the altitude sickness will kick in. If you’ve never experienced the altitude, don’t just assume things will go well by default.
Where to trek in Morocco?
Depending on what you’d like to encounter in terms of landscapes and local experiences, you are spoiled for choices. If you wish to avoid the crowds, keep away from Imlil and Toubkal. Todra gorges and Dades gorges are also very popular with groups of tourists making their way from the Sahara to Marrakech or the Moroccans favor Chefchaouen and Tangier for their holidays. For more ideas, have a look at some of the treks we’ve completed over the last few years. Most of the starting locations that can be accessed by car : Imlil from Marrakech, Tafraoute from Agadir, Chefchaouen from Tangier, Skoura from Ouarzazate. And that’s where you should aim to arrange for meeting your local guide.
How to travel to Morocco?
If you travel from Australia, Asia, or the US, flights direct to Casablanca are available. Marrakech and to a lesser extent, Agadir, are very well connected to the main airports in Europe, with low cost and mainstream carriers. These cities are also the two best-positioned cities in terms of logistics, as both of them offer multiple trekking opportunities within a little more than one hour’s drive away.
You can also cross over the Gibraltar strait by ferry( a 2-hour endeavor, including paperwork and boarding), into Tangier, but that is hardly practical as the only mountain range close by is the Riff mountains, where Chefchaouen, the blue village, is the main attraction. Tangier lies a 6-hour drive away from Marrakech and 7/8 hours by train.
How expensive it is to trek in Morocco?
The expenses can be minimal if you are planning on self-autonomy. We wouldn’t recommend that option though, first of all from a safety point of view
What to pack for a Morocco trek?
Even in the winter months, the sun can be ruthless. We suggest a wide brim hat. Ankle-level hiking boots are essential, considering the rocky terrain. Crampons will make a difference, notably since much of the time you’ll be walking on slippery surfaces. Wearing low-ankle shoes may expose you to trojans, low spiky thickets, and other rolling rocks. They don’t have to mind November a light sleeping bag will do. For the rest of the year, we suggest a reinforced sleeping bag, capable to endure temperatures as low as -5 Celsius. Mountain water sources are not as dense as in other mountain ranges around the world, so we’d suggest carrying at least 2 liters of water with you at all times. Locally, you are not offered a great choice of canteens or collapsible water bottles, so think of bringing your own.