The Atlas Mountains are home to the highest peak in North Africa, Mount Toubkal.
When traveling through the mountains, you will see spectacular views of the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Sahara Desert.
The massive range is split into three regions, the centrally located High Atlas, the Middle Atlas, and the remote Anti Atlas. The High Atlas is easily reached from Marrakesh and draws many visitors year-round.
If you are planning to visit the Atlas Mountains, here is all the information you need!
Atlas Mountains Overview
Best Time to Visit the Atlas Mountains
The best time to visit the Atlas Mountains varies by region and activity.
If you are planning to hike in the High Atlas, then the best time to go is in the Spring (March, April and May) or in the Autumn (September and October).
Summer in Morocco's lowlands can be excruciatingly hot - temperatures in the 40's Celsius (100+ Fahrenheit). However, the High Atlas tends to be about 10-15 °C cooler on average, so hiking in July and August, although hot, is still doable.
In terms of the winter months (November-February), you can expect lots of snow in the High Atlas, but the Anti-Atlas remains snow-free. If you are not one for snow, then the latter region is a good bet. Days are sunny, but expect cold nights!
Winter in the High Atlas makes hiking conditions tough, so if you plan to ascend Mount Toubkal, make sure you have some basic winter mountaineering skills - like knowing how to use an ice axe and crampons. Skiing in the High Atlas is also possible at this time of year with the best months being January and February.
In terms of the Middle Atlas, if you are looking to do some canyoning, then the rivers are at their fullest in Spring (April / May) and in late Autumn (October / November).
Finally, it's best to visit the popular Todra Gorge in the Eastern High Atlas during the Spring, Summer or Autumn months. An early morning visit is recommended to catch the rising sun and avoid the crowds during the peak holiday seasons.
Hiking Routes in the Atlas Mountains
There are literally hundreds of trekking trails in the High Atlas. Below are two treks that we highly recommend. Like most treks in the High Atlas, these two can be completed independently. However, we only recommend independent hiking in the Atlas Mountains for experience trekkers.
Jebel Toubkal Trek
Mount Toubkal, or Jebel Toubkal as it is locally known, is the highest mountain in North Africa. The hike up Toubkal is super popular as it is not overly challenging and can be completed by any moderately fit individual. The high altitude should not be underestimated though. The summit stands at 4,167m above sea level and if you ascend too quickly you will almost certainly suffer from altitude sickness.
The most common itinerary for a Toubkal hike involved 2-3 days of hiking from Imlil to the Refuges at the base of Toubkal, where you overnight, before an early morning hike up to the summit to witness the incredible sunrise over the Moroccan escarpment.
Jebel Sahro Trek
Another popular hike in the region is Jebel Sahro. The hike begins in the village of Taghssa, south of Marrakesh. From here, you cross the village of Imi n’Ouarg and pass several other Berber villages. You will finally begin your ascent through Kouach to reach Jebel Sahro. This will be at approximately 2,590m. Although not as high as Toubkal, the views are breathtaking nonetheless.
You will begin your descent through a town called Igli, then pass the valley near the Afourar River and head towards a village called Bab n’Ali. You will meet with the area known as Tadout n’Tablah to later reach Irhuazzoun. The trek becomes much easier at this point as you continue passing larger Berber settlements and reach the village of Hanedour. Hanedour is your final destination and you have completed the Jebel Sahro trek!
Accommodation in the Atlas Mountains
The newly opened L’Amandier is located in the Ouirgane Valley, about 45 minutes from Marrakesh. Conveniently located near the base of Atlas Mountains, you could be on your way with whatever trek you have planned. With each luxurious villa, you will be able to step out onto your private balcony and feel as though you are one with the Atlas Mountains. Take a dip in the infinity pool after a long days trek and jump into bed with lavish Egyptian cotton sheets. L’Amandier offers convenience without sacrificing quality. This hotel does come with a hefty price tag.
Kasbah Bab Ourika Hotel
For a mid-priced option and in another location, the Kasbah Bab Ourika is a boutique hotel with 26 rooms, restaurant/bar, outdoor pool, and spa. The rooms have high ceilings, underfloor heating, fans, wifi, fireplace, and modern décor. The hotel has their own hiking guides as there are numerous hikes and activities around the area. Kasbah Bab Ourika is also an eco-friendly hotel and is supportive of the Berber villages surrounding them.
Gite Tizi Mizik
If you are looking for a more authentic and cost-effective experience, consider staying in a Gite. These are places you can stay that are owned by local village people. Numerous trekkers recommend a Gite called Tizi Mizik in the village of Imlil. Imlil is a common starting point for those trekking Mount Toubkal. You will be able to leave your personal items that you will not be taking on the trek at this Gite and except an exceptional hot meal on your arrival. Whether you are trekking Toubkal or taking a different route, Gites are available everywhere where there is a village. The Berber people are very friendly and welcome those who stay in their homes.
Other Things to do in the Atlas Mountains
Rafting in Ourika Valley
Explore the Atlas Mountains in an entirely new way. Book a rafting trip on the Ourika River. It is a thrilling adventure for beginners or experienced rafters. A perfect way to get out of the heat and see a whole new perspective of the Atlas Mountains. As long as you are 16 years and old and over, you are eligible to enjoy this exciting water activity.
Hot Air Ballooning
The best way to see the Atlas Mountains in all it's glory is in a hot air balloon. Each balloon accommodates 16 people with plenty of room remaining. This is the perfect activity for your family or trekking group. You will be able to enjoy spectacular views of the Sahara Desert and the Atlas Mountains. This activity is subject to weather conditions so please confirm with the service provider beforehand.
This is a popular activity in the Atlas Mountains. It is a freeing adventure - just you, your bike, and the mountains. You may choose to take remote trails or go up towards Mount Toubkal. You are able to rent bikes form the village of Imlil for about 400dh and you will be on your way. Make sure you bring plenty of water, going up the steep slopes of the Atlas will have you thirsty.
Do not forget that in the winter, the Atlas Mountains become the perfect winter wonderland. The Oukaimeden Ski Resort has up to 10 kilometers of slopes of varying difficulties. With an altitude of 3,268m, you will see breathtaking views of the peaks. Not to fret, there are 7 ski lifts to get you up to the top. So whether you are visiting for a winter trek in the Atlas, or just wanting to get out of Marrakesh and into some snow, Oukaimeden is perfect for you skiers and snowboarders out there.
Take a leisurely stroll through the Atlas Mountains on horseback. Just a few miles from Marrakesh and you will be on your way to the Atlas. Varying from mountain trails to larger paths through the valleys, you will see Morocco in a whole other light. Ride a beautiful stallion; strong and well trained, with a unique personality and name. For a longer journey, be prepared to sit in a saddle for long periods of time. Some of the terrain can be rough, but nothing a stallion can’t handle.
Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Ait Benhaddou Kasbah is one of the finest mud constructed buildings in all of Morocco. Just 30km out of Ouarzazate in the High Atlas, you will be able to spot this vibrant orange building surrounded by almond trees. Ait Benhaddou is so perfect it could be in a movie. In fact, it has been filmed in many famous movies like Jesus of Nazareth, The Gladiator, and Lawrence of Arabia. This makes for a beautiful backdrop for photos or pit stop for a lunch break.