High Atlas Mountains and Agafay Desert
The Atlas Mountains stretch for 1,500 miles across northwestern Africa through Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, separating the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara Desert. Within this range, the High Atlas Mountains may be the most dramatic section, and are easily accessed by a short, scenic drive from Marrakech.
The High Atlas includes the tallest peak of Toubkal (13,671 feet), located in Toubkal National Park. The region offers countless trails, so one can embark on anything from a short forest walk to a longer and more difficult climb. Incorporate a visit to a Berber village, and perhaps try your hand at cooking a meal or learning traditional pottery with a local family. Wherever you go, you will be astounded by the welcome from the people who live there, as children join you on your treks, and locals invite you in to share a cup of tea.
Located just one hour’s drive from Marrakech, in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the Agafay Desert is an unspoilt, tranquil retreat. Best known for its undulating dunes, hidden canyons and epic mountain views, the Agafay Desert it a great way to break up the hustle and bustle of city life in Marrakech. It can be accessed as a day trip, or you can overnight here in a tented camp. Visitors can look forward to visiting a traditional Bedouin village, enjoying desert exploration, camping under the stars, sampling traditional Moroccan cuisine, and exploring Lake Takerkoust, a manmade lake fringing the desert. For the more active traveler, there is the option for quad biking, jet skiing, swimming, stand up paddle boarding, horse riding, hiking, and mountain biking.
Agafay Desert does not look the same as the Sahara. Agafay dunes are expansive and impressive, but not the classic sandy dune you might picture when thinking of the Sahara. But keep in mind, the Sahara is very far from Marrakech (over 10 hours’ drive, with a necessary layover in Ouarzazate). Agafay is a great alternative for those with less time or uninterested in long drives.