One of the major cities in Morocco, Marrakech will be the start and end point of your treks and community projects, allowing time to explore the vibrant palaces, souks and Djemma el Fna.
From trekking up Mount Toubkal, to bartering in souks and relaxing by the Atlantic coast, this Moroccan itinerary offers a vibrant and varied encounter with one of the most inspiring cultures in North Africa.
The adventure begins in Marrakech, where the culture and atmosphere of Morocco are bursting at the seams. Students can explore the old city and experience the action of the souk before transferring to the village of Oukaimeden, which provides pristine views of the valleys and the Atlas Mountains.
The six-day trek takes groups high into the Atlas Mountains where they will be greeted by spectacular views, incredible valleys, challenging trails and, of course, plenty of adventure. The highlight of the trek is the summit of Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa (4,167 metres), before descending and transferring the west coast.
After the challenge of the trek, the team can enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation in Essaouira on the Atlantic Coast. With a distinct French influence, a café culture, and flourishing history, there is plenty to see and experience ere before heading back to Marrakech and home.
Fly from the UK to Marrakech and stay overnight in a hotel a short walk from the centre. After checking into your hotel, you should have time to enjoy the evening activities that take place in the Djemma El Fna, Marrakech’s central square, where acrobats and storytellers entertain locals and visitors.
In the morning, enjoy a three hour tour of the old city, taking in some of the palaces and markets, travelling part of the way by ‘caleche’ (horse and carriage). After a good lunch in Marrakech and some final shopping for provisions in the souk, you will transfer by bus to Oukaimeden, where there are superb views back across the plains towards Marrakech. Situated at about 2,700 metres, here you will find flat, green valleys with sandstone boulders, on some of which can be found pre-historic rock engravings. You will spend the night in a chalet refuge before embarking upon your trek tomorrow morning.
Using mules to carry baggage, you will ascend gently to the pass of Tizi n’ou Addi (2,960 metres) after which the trail descends to the village of Tacchedirt in the upper Imenane valley, the highest village in the Atlas Mountains. Depending on conditions, there is an opportunity to ascend Oukaimeden peak (3,262 metres) on the way to the pass, but this is only for the very fit as it makes a long day. From Tacheddirt you follow the dirt road to your gite.
Above your camp is a huge stone filled bowl leading up to your next col, Tizi Likempt (3,540 metres). A well-made and well-graded mule track takes you steadily up to the col from where you look down into the Tifni valley. You descend into the Tifni valley and then continue to the summer settlement of Azib Likempt, near which you will camp for the night. The Berber people live in these temporary ‘azibs’ only during the summer months, returning to their lower permanent villages for the winter.
Another long day’s walk along the delightful Tinzer valley, where the river cascades down in a series of tempting waterfalls and pools and pass the Tizi Ouraine (3,120 metres), the high point for the day. This is on the Atlas watershed, so from here you descend on the Saharan side of the mountains and soon notice just how much drier it is. You drop 1,400 metres from the col to the village of Amsouzerte (1,740 metres), which is connected by a dirt road to ‘civilisation’ and hence boasts some reasonably well-stocked shops. You will stay in another campsite and have the afternoon free to relax in the heat and to enjoy the relative comforts of the village.
Following the dirt road you head up the Islani valley towards Lac D’Ifni. Initially an easy and partly shaded walk, the gradient increases as it climbs up the terminal moraine, behind which you find the lake. An oasis in an otherwise barren landscape, Lac D’Ifni is the only lake in the area and provides you with a great opportunity to wash during the free afternoon that you will have here.
You need an early start today for the long ascent to Tizi Ouanoums (3,664 metres). The path makes its way up a steep sided valley where there are many opportunities for water and rest stops. Depending on progress you may stop for lunch before crossing the col, or else you can continue to the other side. From the col you have your last look back to Lac D’Ifni, which has been hidden from view for most of the ascent. The descent on the far side is short but steep, again on a well-made path. You drop into the upper reaches of the Mizane valley and set up camp on the site below the Toubkal Refuge.
The ascent of Toubkal (4,167 metres) is a three to four hour climb up a well-trodden track, which can be a little loose at times. You will take a simple packed lunch up with you so that there is no rush and you can linger a short while on the top of this, North Africa’s highest, mountain. If the air is clear, you will have fine views towards the Sahara. You can descend via a different route to rejoin the wide mule trail back to Aremd. Aremd is the home of most of your staff who will hopefully join you in for a Berber style celebration in the evening.
After breakfast you leave the mountains and take a short walk to Imlil before a spectacular drive to the Atlantic Coast and the delightful seaside town of Essaouira. The journey takes you through Marrakech (one and a half hours) and across some of the plains of North Africa. You may stop to delight at the antics of the famous argan goats, which feed off the high branches of the argan trees on the roadside, almost knowing that they are being photographed.
You arrive in Essaouira (three hours from Marrakech) in the early afternoon, and check into your accommodation, a tranquil setting in the heart of this special place, ten minutes walk away from a never-ending beach.
A day in Essaouira to ‘do your own thing’. Essaouira is on the Atlantic coast, and it is like a French town in Morocco; it has a cafe culture, it is sunny and warm off the beach, but on the seafront you can see from where the town derives its nickname of ‘windy city’. Improvised open-air restaurants serve the freshest sardines in the entire country (‘if not the world’ say the fishmongers).
Strolling within the city walls, with periodic glimpses of bronze cannons reminding you of its troubled past, you can shop in peace amongst the jewellery bazaar, spice and grain market and the alleys where the famous inlay artists live and create. Silversmiths and wood carvers allow you to mingle and inspect their wares and are known to smile when you choose not to buy. In the evenings you may choose to listen to the famous Gnoua musicians in one of the welcoming truly cosmopolitan kasbahs.
Leaving Essaouira in the morning, you will arrive back into Marrakech at lunchtime, leaving you the rest of the day to explore the souks and the Djemma el Fna.
Leaving Marrakech, you travel back to the UK.
- Destination: Morocco
- When to go: Mar to Jul
- Duration: 12 days
- Trip type: Explorer
- Mount Toubkal
- Traditional villages
- Trekking in the High Atlas
- Berber culture
- Accommodation: Hotels and lodges
- Ideal for: Ages 15 to 16
Travellers will need:
- High level of fitness
- Appreciation for outdoor adventure
- Interest in encountering new cultures
A vitally important city throughout history, Essaouira was the heart of historic Atlantic trade and is now a stunning place to relax after trekking the Atlas Mountains or taking part in community projects.
Snow-capped peaks, deep valleys and rugged mountainsides make up the Atlas Mountains. From remote villages in the west to old trade routes in the east, there is so much to experience.
The highest peak in North Africa and the ultimate conclusion to a Moroccan trek, Mount Toubkal is the crowning achievement for adventurers exploring the stunning Atlas Mountains.