The High Atlas mountain range begins on the southern Atlantic coast of Morocco, and moves west toward the Algerian border, transitioning in the north into the Anti-Atlas mountain range. The Atlas range creates a weather system barrier in Morocco, trapping moisture and feeding river basins and fertile lands in the east and north, and containing the pre-Sahara in the west and south. The Atlas range is one of the defining features of Morocco, and contributes to its incredible climate and cultural diversity.
The highest peaks in the High Atlas are snow-capped year round, with spectacular flourishing of trees and flowers in the spring, and high temperatures on the slopes in summer.
Sights in the High Atlas Mountains
Because the High Atlas is so important to the history of Morocco, and centrally located in the country, there are many important sights in or near the mountains.
Toubkal is the highest peak in the Atlas range, making it the highest in North Africa and also in the Arab World, and visible from Marrakech. This ultra prominent peak is 13,671 feet (4,167 meters), and has long been a destination for climbers, with the first recorded ascent taking place in 1923.
Toubkal National Park
Toubkal is located within a national park, which is itself a spectacular natural area. It has 38,000 hectares of unique flora not found anywhere else in the world, along with forests of red juniper and holm oak. It is also home to many species of birds, including several species of eagles, and rare snakes and reptiles. The incredible agricultural terraces, waterfalls, the town of Imlil
The Ourika Valley has a gorgeous river, incredible waterfalls, spectacular views, and is home to some rare and unique species of plants and animals, most notably the endangered Barbary macaque. Located in the High Atlas, it is a popular way to escape the heat and crowds of Marrakech.
At the foot of the High Atlas lies the incredible fortified village of Aït Benhaddou, made famous by countless films set in the Sahara. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has massive red earth walls and is a spectacular example of traditional Moroccan architecture along the caravan routes.
Telouet is a small berber village that is home to an incredible kasbah known as the Palace of Glaoui (not the be confused with the other Palace of Glaoui in Fes). While the kasbah is in disrepair, many portions of it are still open to visitors, and it is a spectacular example of Moroccan architecture, decorative tile work, and has a magical atmosphere.
Activities in the High Atlas Mountains
Mountain Climbing and Hiking
An ascent of Jbel Toubkal is challenging, but not technical. In the most favorable times of year, it takes a minimum of two days. However, many hikers prefer to take a longer five day hike up the mountain, allowing for more time to acclimate to the altitude while enjoying the spectacular landscape and incredible views.
However, Toubkal isn’t the only hiking spot in the High Atlas. More remote parts of the range also offer incredible hiking and climbing experiences, including a two week descent in Ait Bouguemez along with nomads moving their herds to summer grazing fields, or the remote Saharan peaks of Jebel Sarhro, dotted with oasis and traditional Bedouin villages.
Skiing and Snow Sports
During winter months, skiing and snow sports are incredibly popular in the High Atlas mountains. The village of Oukaïmeden is home to Morocco’s best ski resorts, but there are fantastic slopes throughout the High Atlas for travelers who are willing to bring their own skis and trade a chair lift for a donkey trek up the mountain.