High Atlas

Jbel Toubkal

Ait Bouguemez

High Atlas

High Atlas Mountains

Little-known because of its relative inaccessibility, the High Atlas Mountains makes up the largest massif in the Atlas chain. It is also the highest mountain range in North Africa. In this geographical isolation Berber culture and identity prospered. Over the centuries, the tribes established their own economic and social framework, and a unique collective way of life, based on blood ties and solidarity.

Extending from the plains of the Atlantic seaboard to Morocco’s border with Algeria, the High Atlas forms an impregnable barrier some 800 km long and, in certain places, 100 km wide. Consisting of great massifs rising to heights of 3,000–4,000 m, and steep valleys, desolate rocky plains and deep narrow canyons, the High Atlas Mountains has played a decisive role in the history of Morocco. From earliest times these mountains have been a place of refuge for populations fleeing from invaders. For centuries, nomads forced northwards by the desertification of the Sahara have come into conflict with the sedentary mountain-dwelling tribes, disputing possession of prized pasture. This tumultuous feudal past led to the development of a strikingly beautiful form of fortified architecture.

Today, although the Berbers no longer need to guard their safety, they still live in tighremts, old patriarchal houses with thick walls. Hamlets built of pisé still cling to mountainsides, while every last plot of land is used to grow barley, corn, maize, turnips, lucerne and potatoes crops that can be cultivated at high altitudes. The Berbers channel river water to irrigate small squares of land and graze their flocks of sheep and goats, which they raise for milk, butter and wool. Sometimes isolated by snowfall in winter, the Berbers of the High Atlas Mountains live and work by the seasons, the constant round of labour punctuated by various festivals

About High Atlas Mountains

Crowned with high peaks, the chain of the High Atlas Mountains culminates in the west in Jbel Toubkal the highest peak in North Africa at 4,167 metres, with pisé villages nestling on its lower slopes. In the centre, Jbel M’Goun, at 4,068 m, rises over the Tessaout, Ait Bouguemez and Ait Bou Oulli valleys. The only channels of communication between these valleys are mule trails and high passes. On the banks of the wadi that snakes along the valley bottoms, villages cluster around fortified houses, punctuating expanses of cultivated land. The eastern end of the High Atlas Mountains is marked by the imposing outline of Jbel Ayachi, 3,737 m high. Here high desert plateaux stretch to the horizon. From late spring to early autumn they are filled with flocks of grazing sheep.

climb mount toubkal
ait bouguemez valley

Berber Villages

Nestled amidst the rugged landscapes of Morocco, the Berber villages stand as timeless enclaves, preserving ancient traditions and captivating visitors with their rustic charm. Scattered across the Atlas Mountains and beyond, these villages offer a glimpse into a way of life deeply rooted in history and cultural heritage. The earthen architecture, with its distinctive kasbahs and terracotta homes, blends seamlessly with the surrounding terrain, while narrow alleyways wind through the labyrinthine layout, revealing glimpses of daily life.

Tour of the Jbel Toubkal Massif

As well as the opportunity to climb to the top of mount Toubkal, at 4,167 metres the highest peak in Morocco exactly in the Atlas, the Jbel Toubkal massif offers great scope for hiking in Morocco experience lasting several days. To climb mount Toubkal is not particularly difficult, but the fact that it is a high-altitude hike over rough terrain should be taken into account. From the Toubkal Refuge, the summit of mount Toubkal can be reached in about four hours. For the finest view over the High Atlas, it is best to reach the summit in the late morning.

climb mount toubkal


Surrounded by walnut and fruit trees, this mountain village is the starting point for the climb Mount Toubkal and also for many other hiking in Morocco experiences.

hiking in morocco


The village, in the Mizane valley, lies at 1,900 m. Its stone houses cling to the rocky mountainside, surrounded by cultivated terraces.

hiking in morocco

Sidi Chamharouch

At the end of a deep gorge, the koubba of Sidi Chamharouch, king of the djnouu (genies), attracts pilgrims all year-round.

hiking in morocco


This pretty village, at 2314 m and set amid mountains, is reached via the Tizi n-Tamatert Pass, east of the village of Imlil.

hiking in morocco

Toubkal Refuge

This is the last stopping place before the summit of mount Toubkal. The refuge, at 3,200 m, is open all year-round.

hiking in morocco

Lake Ifni

The lake, five hours’ walk from Toubkal Refuge, lies in a mineral rich environment. Shepherds’ huts stand on the lakeshore.

mount toubkal

Lepiney Hut

Located at the start of the hike up the Azzaden valley and across the Tazarhart plateau, at 3,000 m, the hut is used by seasoned hikers and rock climbers.

mount toubkal

Jbel Toubkal

You can climb to the top at the end of winter: it offers breathtaking views over the whole of the High Atlas.

Ait Bouguemez Valley & Jbel M'Goun

The wide, flat Ait Bouguemez valley is flanked by a landscape of high, arid hilltops. This is the domain of the Ait Bouguemez tribe, who are settled farmers. The tribe is thought to be the oldest-established in the region. The valley is covered in meticulously tilled plots of land surrounded by ditches, and walnut trees grow in undulating fields of barley and corn. On the dry slopes, pisé hamlets cluster around tighremts, old fortified houses. The valley is the starting point for such a hiking in Morocco tour through spectacular scenery up to the massif of Jbel M’Goun. There are 28 villages scattered along the valley between Agouti and Zaouia Oulemsi.

Clinging to the mountainside, the hamlets of the Ait Bouguemez valley blend into their setting, being almost the same colour as the landscape. The houses are stacked together like building blocks, the flat roof of the house serving as a terrace for the inhabitants of the house above. Looking down onto the river and the village’s communal land, these cube-like houses catch the warmth of the rising sun and are adapted to the rigours of the climate. Houses in the valley bottom are built of pisé, raw earth dug at the spot where the house is to be built, mixed with water and sometimes straw. In villages at altitudes above 2,200 m, dry stone is used, since pisé is unsuited to cold and wet conditions.

ait bouguemez

Sidi Moussa Granary

East of Agouti. Perched on the summit of a pointed hill, in the centre of the Ait Bouguemez valley, Sidi Moussa granary has benefited from a complete restoration and is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

ait bouguemez


At the western extremity of the Aït Bouguemez valley. The first of the villages that line the valley, Agouti is located at 1,800 m. As an outpost of the Ait Bouguemez tribe, it once defended access to the high valley against rival tribes

ait bouguemez

Ait Bou Oulli Valley

From Agouti, a day trip can be made to the Ait Bou Oulli valley on mule-back or by four-wheel-drive vehicle. A sheer-sided track leads down into the valley, whose name means “the people who raise ewes”.

ait bouguemez

Zaouiat Oulemsi

Zaouiat Oulemsi is the last village in the Ait Bouguemez valley, which it overlooks from an altitude of 2,150 m. It consists of low, red-hued dry-stone houses. Here, the snowfall comes early and tends to be heavy

trekking in morocco

Zaouiat Ahansal

Zaouiat Ahansal, consisting of some old tighremts and the tomb of its founder, Saïd Ahansal, dates from the 14th century, when the marabout movement loomed large in the history of this mountain region.

trekking in morocco


The village of Imilchil is dominated by a sumptuously decorated kasbah. Its towers have a curious feature: the angles of the crenellation are set with finials resembling inverted cooking pots. This decorative device is also related to superstitious belief, as it gives protection against lightning and the “evil eye” and is a symbol of prosperity.

Berber Communities

Berber People & Tribes

Two out of every three Moroccans are, in cultural and linguistic terms, Berber. Thought to be the descendants of people of mixed origins including Oriental, Saharan and European. The Berbers settled in Morocco at different times, and they do not make up a homogeneous race. By finding refuge in mountainous regions, they survived several successive invasions those of the civilizations of the Mediterranean basin, of the Arabs, then, much later, those of the French and the Spaniards. The Berbers still speak several dialects and maintain distinct cultural traditions. They are renowned for their trading activities and for the strength of their tribal and family ties.

Although Berber tribal structure is complex, three groups, each with their own histories, can be identified. The Sanhaja, nomadic herdsmen originating from the south, inhabit the central and eastern High Atlas, the Middle Atlas and the Rif. They speak the dialects of the Tamazight group. The Masmouda, settled farmers, live mostly in the western High Atlas and the Anti-Atlas, and they speak the Chleuh dialect. It was a Masmoudian tribe that founded the Almohad empire in the 12th century. The Zenets are hunters and herdsmen who came from the East and settled in eastern Morocco. They speak the dialect of the Znatiya group. They founded the Merinid dynasty in the 13th century.

high atlas mountains
high atlas mountains
error: Content is protected !!
× Contact Us!