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Moroccan Atlas - the Trekking Guide

by: Alan Palmer


Updated information

Thank you to those who wrote in with the following updates including: Erik Davies, Maurizio Ceraldi, Joe Pundek, Davide D'Alpaos. 


The updates relate to the 2nd edition 



p295 Jbel Sarhro Traverse, Ait Yaoul.  Gite. Sadly Mr Sidi Fadil Ben Ali,  owner of the gite,  has passed away and it is no longer open.

September/October 2021 - from the author

Alan Palmer spent six weeks in Morocco in late 2021 and has sent this update:

Toubkal Ascent/Toubkal Ascent and Circuit

Wild camping is strictly forbidden anywhere on the trail from Imlil to Jebel Toubkal although permission can be gained to camp within the grounds of the Toubkal refuges.

It is currently compulsory to take a local mountain guide when walking from Imlil to the Toubkal refuges and the ascent of Jebel Toubkal. If your party is six or more, then it is compulsory to take two guides. Police checkpoints are in place at Armed/Aremd/Aroumd/Around, at Sidi Chamharouch and at Refuge du Toubkal. They will not only check your guide’s credentials but note your passport details, too. Expect to be turned back if you do not have a guide and your passport.

Several new, small cafes have been established along the trail between Imlil and the Toubkal refuges, offering a growing number of opportunities to take refreshments.

Toubkal Ascent and Circuit

Take care when swimming in Lac d’Ifni: despite its very placid appearance, I have received verbal reports of occasional drownings at its far, eastern end where its waters empty underground into Assif n’Islane Valley. Keep to the western shores of the lake.

The marabout of Sidi Ifni is now little more than a storage cupboard.

The piste from behind the marabout of Sidi Ifni down to Assif n’Islane Valley is currently in the process of being transformed into a road.


High Atlas Valleys and Berber Villages

In Tizi Oussem there is now a choice of four gites.

The piste between Tizi Oussem and Id Aïssa is now a metalled road.


Imlil to Setti Fadma

In Tacheddirt there is now a choice of four gites.

Road building continues between Timichchi and Setti Fadma causing some occasional slight disruption to the path, although no great difficulties. In the dry season, trekkers might therefore consider the alternative of walking the whole way from Timichchi to Setti Fadma along the tree shaded Ourika river bed.


April 2019

Reader feedback: I just returned from a trek in Morocco-the Jbel Sarhro Traverse and Bou Ghafer.  I found Mr. Palmer's guide very helpful and informative.

 I am writing regrading my guide, Lhoussain Ouufkir, who I found through Mr. Palmer's guide (pg. 339, 2014 second edition).  I agree with Mr. Palmer's "wholehearted recommendation" of Lhoussain.  He was kind, hardworking and informative--a wonderful guide with whom I was lucky to trek.  The guidebook notes that Lhoussain is not qualified as an official mountain guide.  From talking to Lhoussain, it is my understanding that since this 2014 edition of the guidebook, Lhoussain has become an official mountain guide.  In a subsequent edition of the book, if you could update Lhoussain's status as an official mountain guide, I know he would appreciate it.  

Also Bab n Ali now has a paved road running behind (coming from Igli) it.  


April 2018

Feeback from a walker:
Crossing the pass at Tizi n Tacchedirt. The pass was still covered in snow as of early April. Some guides staying at Tigmi lodge the previous night were very uneasy that I was crossing this the next day and suggested I create a circular walk back to Imlil. True, it is very early in the season. It was manageable, as one could cross the snow observing donkey tracks and with care. But the established blue-dot path was covered so I had to work around the snow, which took time.
Alan Palmer responds: There has been an extraordinary amount of snow in the High Atlas Mountains this year which means that snow has been lying much later in the year than usual. As a result, we are still having to offer alternative, lower altitude treks to clients booking their treks with my own trekking company.

- The path just before Timichchi has been wiped away due to a landslip. No path has been rebuilt, so to cross requires care and balance. As a confident and agile trekker this was fine, but not suitable for a family! I noticed that a new pisted road has been established up above this, there were still some diggers on site. However there appears to be no connection between the approaching path and this piste, so would require a scramble up the rockface.

- As the piste descends down to Setti Fatma, you advise leaving the piste and taking a faint trail towards SF, thus 'flying over' the hamlets. This rock really needs some paint or spray paint as it is not clear and appears to be used by very few people now. I didn't feel confident to take it in case it was wrong, as being so exhausted and close to the final destination the temptation to the take the piste and road is too strong! Most walkers seem to use the piste continuously all the way back from Timchchi.
Alan Palmer says: Next time I head this way, I'll make sure to take a GPS reading of the start of the path so that trekkers can be more confident on this section of the trail


page 244 Aït /Ayt Imi. There is a gîte d'étape called "Chez Moha" run by a friendly perfect french speaking guide de montagne, Mohamed Khout. He is very helpful, spent some time in the french alps and organises tours. The setting there is wonderful, surrounded by old agadirs and big walnut trees. Souk el Had is just 20 minutes away and reader Maurizio above recommended stopping there, especially if starting for the Tizi n Ait Imi.  Contact details: Mohamed Khout,, téléphone 00 212 676 875 208

The updates relate to the 1st edition

August 2013

From Alan Palmer, update to the Mgoun Traverse:
Due to the construction of a tarmac road along the valley floor that now affects the early stages of the Mgoun Traverse all the way from Tabant (Souk el Had) to Abachkou and even further west, I would suggest an amendment to the first part of the trek as follows:
Head south from Agouti through Azib n'Ikkis and over Aghouri Est pass to Tarkeddid Plateau (as for the beginning of the Mgoun Circular Trek) before turning west and following the trail from the very source of Tassawt/Tassaout River along the north side of Wandrass Gorge and descending to the Tassawt Valley itself. (The more direct route through Wandrass Gorge is not possible without ropes).

If, on the other hand, you are set on reaching Tassawt/Tassaout Valley by crossing the spectacular Tizi n'Roughelt/Roughoult, I would suggest that you arrange private transport as far as Sebt Ait Bou Wlli (just before Abachkou) and head south up to Tizi n'Roughelt from there.

Once in Tassawt Valley, you might want to consider heading south from Ait 'Ali n'Itto to Megdaz, reputedly the most beautiful village in the entire High Atlas Mountains and birthplace of the celebrated Berber poetess Mririda n'Ait Attik. This is suggested as a side trip in Moroccan Atlas. From Megdaz, however, you could then continue onwards (south-west) to the spectacular lake of Tamda n'Ounghmar/Anghomar and then descend to the fabulous kasbah at Telouet. Even if you do not have time for this, do consider at least taking the side trip as far as Megdaz, now reached in only an hour or so from Ait 'Ali n'Itto.


Thanks to Ben Moon for the following updates, May 2011. The information has not yet been checked by Trailblazer but it will be for the next edition.


Having just returned from Morocco, I felt obliged to send my thanks for and compliments on your fantastic guide.   It was a last minute buy (having been looking for some half-decent maps of the Atlas without success) and proved a very worthy and useful companion, as well as ultimately paying for itself (see below). 

Its a great concise guide, the maps are fantastic, and the descriptions and occasional wry asides are perfectly composed.  The tips to use grand taxis rather than buses saved me a lot of time and even money compared to most other travellers I met.  And I have to agree - the 3-course meals cooked on a single gas burner by our muleteer on the dusty mountain side somehow surpassed the best I could find anywhere else in my 3 weeks in Morocco (and food was great everywhere) . 

A few points for your book, in case useful:
Maps:  I checked out the 1:100k and 1:50k Moroccan Division de la Carte maps you mention (also recommended by lonely planet, with slightly blurry photocopies being available from Hotel Ali in Marrakech, or from several shops in Imlil at around 140dh) - but can't say I found them particularly useful for any decent navigation, so decided to save my dirhams!  I did come across two decent, recently published Spanish alternatives however:
Toubkal Alto Atlas Marruecos, 1:40,000.  Editorial piolet, c/ Nicaragua, 45 entl. 2°, 08029 Barcelona;   (there are other Atlas maps available here too)
Toubkal & Marrakech, Orientazion - Carte de rendonnees, 1:50,000  (waterproof map).  /
Both are very clear (Harveys map style symbology) with contours.  Both available from the respective publishers for under 12€.   One local shopholder promised me everyday he'd have them 'tomorrow' - but alas to no avail!
In addition to these, I was told by one German traveller that the school of geography at the University of Belgrade has carried out some detailed mapping of other regions of the Atlas - though I have no idea whether these are also commercially available.

Roads: The hard-surfaced roads seem to be growing as fast as the new gite and auberges.  The metalling of the road to Imlil has now extended to Setti Fatma, with the intention to complete the loop to Oukaimeden shortly.

Gite de Tametert:  I would thoroughly endorse your recommendation!  A lovely place with a great view. It was cheaper than described in your book for me however - 50dh/night + 20dh breakfast and 50dh evening meal  (cf. "half board 160dh/320dh" in your text) and for this I got a room to myself for 4 nights - including a free upgrade to the upstairs en-suite rooms on the last night when another group arrived - bonus!

Running:  As you mention the Marathon de Sables in the book, you might also note the Marathon Toubkal ( which takes place in October.   Its in its 3rd year this year, with the 42km / 3313m ascent race, which starts and ends in Imlil and includes the summit of Toubkal, scheduled for 1st Oct 2011.  Looking at previous years results the first year looks like it was dominated by Spanish and Italians, although the sole Moroccan entrant took 1st prize. A lot more locals ran in 2010, although a Catalan ultimately stole the show.   Funds and free time allowing, I might give it a go this year.   I'm sure you'll be disappointed to learn, however, the Imlil trail race, a 125km / 9000m ultramarathon (basically your 6-7 day Toubkal circular trek) run on the same day is unfortunately not being repeated this year as they couldn't get enough interest.
As a runner myself any asides on running in guidebooks is always very welcome - especially to know whether its worth packing the kit (it nearly always is).    Worth mentioning that the tracks and pistes in the area make great training grounds.  I got many warm responses from the locals and had some great chats with local runners i met on my early morning jaunts.   Rachid tells me all mountain guides have to run a marathon (albeit not the Toubkal marathon) with kit as part of their official training.  As for the two Dark Peak (British fell-running club) runners I met coming the other way on my way up Toubkal who made the return trip from Imlil to snow covered Toubkal in one morning in shorts and orienteering studs (and reportedly throwing up at the top due to altitude, before getting straight back into there stride on the descent) - well, enough said.

Shorts and short shorts:   No shortage of these on other tourists in the mountains unfortunately, especially in English and French groups (with large groups of students in hotpants a common site) it has to be said.  Seems your and other guidebooks' advice falling on deaf ears, sadly.

Altitude sickness:  Also no shortage of people coming straight up from Marrakech for a swift 2-day peak bagging of Toubkal with no acclimatisation.  Although this will obviously and understandably remain popular, with roughtly 90% of folks getting by with no problem - it might be worth recommending that people who do take the risk are also prepared to tip heavily should they become one of the unlucky 10% who do get sick due to the extra risk and burden they place on the guides!   Of the three australian doctors coming straight from Marrakech who I joined up with for the trek, one succumbed to alt sickness before Neltner, and the other two struggled very slowly and breathlessy up the final ascent - with our guide sending me on ahead alone rather than risking getting caught in the mid-day melting ice with them.   About half of the 20 or so people ascending Toubkal that day were doing so direcly from Marrakech.

Taxis from Marrakech   Don't rely on locals to know any better than you!  Having initially deferred grand taxi negotiations to the two other Marrakechian 30-something couples (making their first ever trips to the mountains) waiting at Bab Er Robb, it took me a while with my broken French to realise I actually had a far better idea of where we were going and how much it should cost thanks to your book.  Meaning we did eventually get down from 400dh to the expected price of 200dh for the whole cab, plus a very fast ride!

Buses from Marrakech: go very regularly towards Ouarzarzate and Zagora, much more frequently than listed in your or any other guidebook I saw.  Although a lot of these are supposed to be 'slow' buses, in my experience they were faster than the CTM buses, which (in the cases of the several other travellers i met) were regularly several hours late.  I think the timings and durations are probably pretty random in reality, but would suggest travellers check at the bus station rather than relying on printed info.

Ait Benhaddou:  Didn't have time to visit myself, but since appears highly recommended from others, might be worth including in your Ouarzarzate sections (from where it can be easily visited by taxi, or by a 2-3 hour bike ride)?


May 2011  Thanks to Svein H. Nielsen

p18  You say Norwegians needs visa for going into Morocco. No, in 17 years now, I've gone into Morocco at least once in a year, without.   And I'm a Norwegian citizen going there with passport only.

Moroccan Atlas - the Trekking Guide