Morocco may be a place to explore exotic cities, eat delicious food, and bask in the sun, but don’t forget that it’s actually got plenty of hiking opportunities, too. The country’s varied terrain includes majestic snow-capped mountains, barren deserts, and dramatic rocky coastlines, all of which can be explored on foot. From the Atlas Mountains, to the Sahara, to forested valleys, here are 10 outstanding places to go hiking in Morocco that will stimulate your senses.
The High Atlas Mountains
This is the most famous range in Morocco, and for good reason. In the higher parts of the mountains there are challenging paths for every skill level, and the lower elevations are easily reachable for day hikes from Marrakech (if you’re not into roughing it). Many of the best mountain guides are also based in Marrakech, and are willing and able to help beginning hikers. If you can only pick one place to go hiking in Morocco, this should be your choice.
Located on the far western edge of the Atlas mountains, this area is for travelers who want to get away from touristy experiences. Throughout the plateau, you’ll pass summits over 3,000 meters high, oak forests, and numerous small Berber villages. It’s recommended that you get a trained guide to help you traverse the area.
Hikers headed to Tangier or Chefchaouen and looking for adventure love the Rif mountains. These mountains are every bit as gorgeous as the Atlas Mountains and also offer a bit more greenery and coastal views. You’ll also be able to see the endangered Barbary macaque if you’re lucky.
Another great option for Marrakech-based travelers is the Ourika Valley. Surrounded by mountains, it has spectacular greenery that you won’t find in the desert environs of Marrakech. There are also several gorgeous waterfalls that are perfect for hiking around. If you’re up for a several-day trip, book a room around the village of Setti Fatma and fully explore the valley.
The highest peak in North Africa, hiking this summit is certainly worth it, but without a doubt the most challenging place on our list. Depending on how far a driver takes you up from the base, you can make it up to the top in a day, or camp out. Once you reach the top, you’ll be face to face with something you probably didn’t expect to see in Morocco — snow!
Located at over 3,300m above sea level, Jebel Sirwa (or Djebel Siroua) is a volcanic massif that is located between the High Atlas mountains and the Anti-Atlas. The route there takes four or five days, but the beautiful countryside you’ll pass is well worth it. This is also where much of the country’s expensive saffron is grown.
It’s hard to beat the surreal experience of hiking through the vast dunes of the Sahara, where you can literally stand in an ocean of sand. If you’ve never been hiking in a desert, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity — especially if you already made the journey to Morocco. Between your daily hikes, there’s nothing quite like camping in the desert under the stars (there are several places where you can stay with Berber families). If you don’t have the time to go deep into the desert, consider going to the Erg Chebbi dunes instead.
Located on the edge of the Sahara, the Anti Atlas range makes up a gigantic massif with extremely variable topography. The land is also home to a large Berber population, making for interesting stops at the small villages. For more information on hiking through the Anti Atlas, see our article: Interview With An Expert: Sissi de Giuli Jadid’s Guide To The Anti Atlas.
The Atlantic Coast
Pick a town, any town. Whether you start in Agadir, Casablanca or Essaouira, there are several great places to hike the coast and get incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean. Most travelers prefer to start in Essaouira, where they will find crashing waves slamming against miles of rugged cliffs.
Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve
While this hike isn’t as challenging or hilly as the others, it’s one of the more interesting places to go, as you’ll be able to see Morocco’s famous tree goats. It’s best to arrange for a guided walking tour, and you’ll be able to see the goats up close and purchase some argan oil from the source.
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This article was originally published on December 2, 2015.