The three ranges of the Atlas Mountains create a striking, sometimes harsh barrier between the arid Sahara and Morocco’s milder coastal climate. The middle of these ranges, the High Atlas Mountains, begins close to the Atlantic in Agadir and run in a jagged line northeast through the country, encompassing some of the region’s most authentic pockets of culture as well as offering some of its best opportunities for walking.
The mountains’ broad russet slopes are dotted with scrubby pines and lacy cedars, and the peaks gleam with snow even in the warmer months. Dirt roads and narrow footpaths snake through the otherwise pristine landscape, and in the moist, green valleys you’ll wind past herds of goats, wild herbs and small, remote Berber villages.
A 90-minute drive from Marrakesh, the range is easy to visit and you can opt to explore on foot or in a 4x4. If you choose to go on foot, there are a variety of routes you can take, from moderate walks to challenging multi-day treks.
One of the most rewarding walks is up the slopes of Mount Toubkal, the highest point in North Africa. The three-day climb to its soaring summit (4,167 m or 13,671 ft) requires a good level of fitness but no technical expertise. And, at the wind-scoured top, you’re rewarded with seemingly endless vistas of crags and valleys retreating back to the distance-hazed horizon.
The Berbers are the original inhabitants of these vast mountains and their civilization reaches back more than eight millennia. Their traditional flat-roofed homes, made from packed stone and earth, seem to have grown from the mountains themselves. They make a living farming and herding livestock, using age-old techniques to live in the fertile valleys between the forbidding slopes.
The modern world has little impact on the villages that cling to the rocky slopes. When you visit, you’ll see a way of life that’s largely unchanged over thousands of years. Because their lives are so closely tied to the mountains, Berbers are respectful of the land. This sustainable attitude translates even to the hotels that have sprung up in the past few decades, ecolodges designed to limit their footprint on the rugged, but delicate, landscape.
This ancient culture is known for being particularly warm and welcoming to visitors, and you might find yourself welcomed into a home for a cup of steamy Moroccan mint tea (nicknamed le whiskey Berbere). You can also opt to spend a day with a Berber family, learning to bake bread, cook meals or create pottery from the red-brown clay.
Suggested itineraries featuring the Atlas Mountains
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in the Atlas Mountains, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of the Atlas Mountains
Places & hotels on the map
Places in and around the Atlas Mountains
- Ourika Valley The Atlas Mountains
- Marrakesh 35 miles away
- Oued Mellah 47 miles away
- Ourzazate 62 miles away
- Taroudant 73 miles away
- The Southern Oases Valleys 79 miles away
- Skoura 82 miles away
- The Draa Valley 109 miles away
- Essaouira 113 miles away
- The Dades Valley 116 miles away
- The Sous Massa National Park 123 miles away
- Zagora 136 miles away
- The Anti Atlas 164 miles away
- Casablanca 171 miles away
- Rabat 210 miles away
- The Erg Chebbi 234 miles away
- Meknes & Volubilis 236 miles away
- Fez 266 miles away
Accommodation choices for the Atlas Mountains
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit the Atlas Mountains. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
Ideas for experiencing the Atlas Mountains
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting the Atlas Mountains, and which use the best local guides.