Anthony Bourdain’s A Cooks Tour speaks a lot about Morocco and why it’s a good destination spot. Though he only spent time in Moulay Idriss, Moroccos Islamic center, Anthony excellently provided the notable things about Moroccan culture that’s tied to its food and history.
But Moulay Idriss is just one of the many locations in Morocco where you can spend your time enjoyably. In fact, it’s not where most go. Plan a tour to Morocco’s High Atlas region because it’s the epitome of Moroccan tourism. Why is it great? Know why in this article.
Morocco’s High Atlas Region is a masterpiece that mother nature made. If you compare it to a painting, the High Atlas Region fuses the colors of green, brown, and white – verdant fields that grow on the valley floors that the arid sides of the valleys surround and the snowcaps of the Atlas Mountain Range overlook.
The Moroccan government didn’t lay its hands on the High Atlas Region for boosting tourism. Hence, it’s a location for escaping the bustling cities of Casablanca, Marakesh, Meknes, and Fez. So where do you go? These top-rated High Atlas Region’s attractions are anticipating your visit.
• Ait Ben Haddou
• Ourika Valley
• Draa Valley
• Dades Valley
• Totra Gorge
• Ouzoud Waterfalls
• Setti Fatma Village
If debate about the most picturesque Moroccan city initiates, Quarzazate might not be the first place to come into people’s minds. Comprising of an endless stretch of endless clay buildings, this city looks like a dull brown kingdom that’s stuck in the sands of time. Nevertheless, consider coming because Quarzazate’s strength lies in its proximity to many nearby tourist attractions.
Tourist and Moroccan tour guides call Quarzazate the gateway or portal to the dessert. This is because it provides access to the entry point of the Sahara in Morocco, which lies on the southern side. Moreover, the Draa Valley tour starts in Quarzazate, so trekkers rest here before heading out the next day.
But it could be that the nearby Ait Ben Haddou is the primary reason why tourists visit Quarzazate. From Ait Ben Haddou, Quarzazate looks like a tiny dwarven kingdom that proudly exposes its buildings to the basking heat of the Moroccan sun.
Thiry-one minutes from Quarzazate and reachable after a bumpy bus trip that passes the towns of Tifoultoute, Tikhirmine, and Tikirte is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait-Ben-Haddou. Ait-Ben-Haddou is a historic fortified city that became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
Though not many are living in its area now, Ait-Ben-Haddou’s location and layout speak a lot about its past. Flowing along the side of this city is the Ounila River, which provided the early residents with fish and water for cooking and cleaning. The houses, though made only out of clay, ranging from simple 4 corner designs to complex towering motifs.
Moreover, as you walk along, you’ll see several public buildings such as a mosque, a fortified granary (on the highest point of the Ait-Ben-Haddou), a public square, a Muslim cemetery, a Jewish Cemetery, etc. All in all, these indicate that Ait Ben Haddou was once a location for bustling trade and the harmonious cohabitation of Jews and Muslims.
At present, the Ait-Ben-Haddou offers guided tours to tourists. You can book this from travel companies that operate in Marakesh and Quarzazate.
An hour away from Marakesh is the infamous Ourika Valley. It’s famous because a lot of good restaurants operate within its scenic premises.
Most of the wonderful views in the Ourika Valley lies at the Ourika River. Follow the river, and you’ll reach picturesque waterfalls that look up to the Atlas Mountain Range Snow Caps.
In the Ourika Valley, you can opt to go for a trekking tour with a tourist guide. The trek lasts for 1 or 4 hours, depending on how far you’re willing to go. You’ll access the Berber House, the Yasmine Restaurant and cafe, and scenic locations with the trekking tour. Finally, there are the waterfalls of the Ourika River if you’re willing to go further.
You’ll pass by the houses of locals during the trek. Therefore, prepare some money because their home-made textiles might be up to your tastes.
The Draa Valley is another picturesque valley that’s near Quarzazate. Just like Ourika, it’s famous for scenic spots such as the verdant banks of the Draa River, the Draa river itself, and the view of the valley sides.
Aside from its views, Draa Valley is famous because it is one of Morocco’s oldest valleys. In the Draa River, which flows through Draa Valley, numerous petroglyphs lie. Moreover, an old rock statue – the Venus of Tan-Tan was found here. What’s amazing about the find is that the crude female statue made out of rock might be the oldest handiwork in history.
The Venus of Tan-Tan is now at a museum. However, you can still see the petroglyphs via Draa Valley Treks. These will also take you to the kasbahs of Draa Valley. There are seven of these for you to explore.
Dades Valley is a site where you’ll see numerous kasbahs that stand against the wavy background of the Dades Valley’s uneven sides. For this reason, it’s many also call it the Valley of the Thousand Kasbahs.
The kasbahs of Dades valley are the main attraction. Explore each and take not of picturesque spots. However, if you’re willing to go for a lengthy, the Dades Gorge is waiting.
Polychromatic rock walls define the Dades Gorge. The rock walls can either have a red hue, a brown hue, or a whitish hue, depending on the minerals present on them. Reaching heights between 200 meters – 500 meters, Dades Gorge’s walls were once actually submerged in the ocean a few million years ago. Right now, they provide tourists with dizzying unforgettable sights.
Telouet is a humble rural community. Day or night, this town is very peaceful and serves well for tourists who wish to rest before going to bustling tourist sites. Within Telouet is lush farmland that provides wonderful photo opportunities.
On the grounds of the Telouet stronghold of the Glaoui tribe – a once powerful tribe in the High Atlas Region that made a fortune by selling passage to merchants. Aside from the Glaoui stronghold, there’s also the Telouet Kasbah. The Telouet Kasbah comes second to Bahia Palace of Marrakech in terms of beauty.
However, the Morrocan government had to get their act on because the Telouet Kasbah is starting to deteriorate due to the High Atlas Region’s extreme environment.
Strict policies apply while you’re exploring the place. For example, you can’t bring rubbles from the site back home as a souvenir. Moreover, throwing water bottles is anywhere is a taboo even though there aren’t a lot of recycling bins around.
As for activities, a day in Telouet begins with visiting the local shops, exploring the Glaoui stronghold, and enjoying the views that the Telouet Kasbah offers.
The Todra or Todgha gorge is a wadi or a collection of river canyons carved by the Todra river and the Dades River. You’ll see this if you go to the town of Tinerhir.
Spanning for 25-miles, the Todra gorge features images of different patterns and formations on the face of the canyons. The scenes change with respect to the period of the day. This is because the sun cast shadows on the canyons, which adds to what Todra provides.
Also, you’ll get to watch the breath-stopping flight of Todra’s mountain goats. These don’t come near the highway and move further way upon sensing that tourists are around. The view of the Todra river equally spectacular. Moreover, the hairpins of the highway in Todra Gorge allow for a challenging motorbike ride.
A trip to Tifoultoute Kasbah is another reason why you have to go to Quarzazarto as a first-time visitor to Morocco. The Tifoltoute Kasbah consists date back to the 18-century and perfectly embody the ingenuity of Moroccan local architecture that’s might not have an equal in other parts of the world.
Though it has a beautiful interior of local Moroccan textiles, the Tifoltoute isn’t open for hosting events or shows. With that being said, there’s nothing much to do except take pictures of its ceiling, interior landscaping, etc. The back is the most picturesque spot because it’s where you’ll see the wonderful snowcaps of the Atlas Mountain Range.
Surrounding the Tifloltoute Kasbah are traditional Moroccan houses. Further away from them is flat land where dates grow. This is a spot where the Tifoultoute Kasbah, as well as the surrounding buildings, get very appealing.
Though pictures of the Ouzoud waterfalls that circulate on the internet are the same, Ouzoud in fact a generic term for a group of waterfalls close to the village of Taghnameilt, this means that the waterfall of Ouzoud that you see online is, in fact, not the only waterfall that you’ll see.
At the end of the Ouzoud waterfall, complex are the orchards, gardens, gorges, and farms along the El-Abid River. You can explore the Ouzoud without a guide. However, it’s safer if you get one. By the way, a part of Ozoud waterfalls, the one which circulates online, is the second tallest waterfall in the entire African continent.
No restaurants are near to Ouzoud waterfalls. Hence, bring your own food and water before coming. Moreover, camping isn’t allowed though there are lots of nearby areas that serve as wonderful campgrounds. Go to the Tagnahmeilt village for quick accommodation. However, don’t expect much because there are no great hotels there.
Setti Fatma Village
The Setmi Fatma Village is a famous stop for tourists making the Ourika Valley Trail. Setti Fatma Village was originally a Berber village consisting of traditional clay houses and looked very similar to Quazazarate.
However, at present, Setti Fatma looks very modern due to tourism initiatives. It’s a great place to stop for coffee or food before resuming with the Ourika Valley hike.
Setti Fatma stands beside a portion of the Ourika River. Whenever the icecaps of the Atlas Mountain range melt, the Ourika river rises and provides locals with tons of catch. During this time, people living within happily catch fish that rest on the banks to avoid the river’s torrential flow. This is a sight that you should strive to see.
What's The Best Way To Stay in High Atlas Region of Morocco?
The high atlas region is one of Morocco’s far flung areas. That’s why finding luxurious accommodation that features poolside suites might be difficult.
The nearest city to the high atlas region’s tourist attractions, which has the nicest hotel is, Marakesh. Accommodation in Marakesh provides day tours for exploring the High Atlas Region. Thus, they’re what provides you with accommodation and a hassle-free trip.
However, if you want privacy, the inns of the villages or cities near the High Atlas Region’s tourist attractions are the only option. However, prepare to have your soap, pesticide, and other comfort goods as inns don’t cater well to guests.