For friendly, expert advice call: +44 (0) 1962 733051

The High Atlas Mountains of Morocco

Tour Code: MAR04

A 15-day holiday incorporating a 10-day trek to discover the spring flowers and resident birds of the Mount Toubkal National Park.

15 days from £1995(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1845 SRS: £95


Starting in the bustling city of Marrakech, we transfer to the beautiful mountains of the High Atlas for a 10-day trek across rocky ridges, ancient juniper forests and pastures made lush green in late spring by snow-melt from the High Atlas which transforms these barren landscapes into a botanist’s paradise with the mauves, pinks and yellows of spring flowers. Special birds such as Moussier’s Redstart, Barbary Partridge and Tristram’s Warbler live here alongside endangered Barbary Sheep and their hospitable farmers. After our trek we’ll visit Essaouira to watch for Eleonora’s Falcons and seabirds breeding on the offshore islands, and we’ll also explore the inland maquis before heading back to Marrakech.

  • Enjoy a 10-day trek, supported by friendly Berber guides & muleteers
  • Look for Crimson-winged Finch & Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker on trek
  • Explore an exciting flora with an expert Naturetrek botanist tour leader
  • Mix with local Berber people & enjoy their hospitality
  • Explore souks, mosques, mausoleums & palaces of Marrakech’s ‘Old City’
  • Eat freshly grilled sardines & sea-bathe at picturesque Essaouira

Food

Included in the price, except for lunches and dinners in Essaouira and Marrakech. Allow £30.

Accommodation

Simple, but characterful hotels in Marrakech and Essaouira, both with private facilities. A mixture of basic Berber houses and fully serviced camping on trek.

Moussier's Restart (Simon Woolley)

Moussier's Restart (Simon Woolley)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Depart London and arrive Marrakech

Day 2 Marrakech

Day 3/12 Trekking, High Atlas

Day 13/14 Essaouira

Day 15 Depart Marrakech and arrive London

Anaclcus pyrethrum v.depressus (Colin W Hughes)

Morocco is quite unique. It offers an exotic environment at a short-haul price, and is just a 3-hour flight from London. Sitting on the edge of the great Sahara, with both an Atlantic and a Mediterranean seaboard, it boasts the highest mountains in northern Africa and has a variety of scenery and climate unrivalled by other Mediterranean countries. Between the end of Roman rule in AD 253 and the French takeover in 1912, Morocco developed as a fiercely independent nation, with a unique and powerful culture of its own. Few other countries have remained as separate entities, with their borders unchanged for so many centuries. Few Muslim countries today offer such a flavour of Islam with so few accompanying restrictions on visitors. So close to the West, Morocco has a fine understanding and tolerance of our ways.

Our trip centres on the High Atlas and we spend 10 days in these beautiful mountains that are as high as the Alps and stretch for 700 kilometres across Morocco. By the end of May, the fierce heat of the North African summer has arrived in the plains, but in the High Atlas seasons are late. It is still spring and melting snow floods the mountain streams, irrigates lush green pastures and brings colour to a rich and diverse flora. The indigenous Berber people fit comfortably into these dramatic landscapes, their time-honoured traditions little changed over the centuries. Fields of barley sit on ancient terraces, green walnut groves nestle in every valley, and flocks of sheep and goats graze the mountain pastures.

We trek for 10 days within the Toubkal National Park, crossing high passes, on ancient mule trails, that link the busy villages and irrigated fields of the local people. The flora of the High Atlas is essentially European, but a long isolation in a changing climate has led to the development of many endemic species. The oak forests and scented maquis of the lower valleys give way to ancient junipers and colourful spiny shrubs on the high rocky pasture of the mountains. We take our time to enjoy the flowers and the local bird specialities. Moussier’s Redstart, Levaillant’s Woodpecker, Tristram’s Warbler, Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting and a variety of wheatears are common. Shore Lark, Barbary Partridge and African Crimson-winged Finch breed on the high pasture and Long-legged Buzzard, and Booted and Golden Eagles, patrol overhead. Lizards of a variety of different shapes and sizes are common too, as are Barbary Ground Squirrels. An exciting range of butterflies can be seen, many of them unique to the region. However, it is the industrious Berbers that will remain long in our memory, their attractive villages and terraced fields being so much part of the landscape. These tribal subsistence farmers have fiercely preserved their independence, firstly against their own Sultans, more recently against the French colonists and now against the Moroccan government.

We begin and end our holiday in Marrakech, the ancient capital of southern Morocco where we explore the fascinating souks, mosques, and enchanting gardens of the Medina. After our trek, we relax in the beautiful fortified town of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast, where we have an opportunity to watch the Eleonora’s Falcons and seabirds that breed on the offshore islands here, and enjoy the picturesque harbour and relaxed atmosphere of its busy souks.

View back to Tiziane (Colin W Hughes)Across from the refuge at Oukaimeden (Colin W Hughes)Anaclcus pyrethrum v.depressus (Colin W Hughes)Anagallis monellii ssp collina (Colin W Hughes)Aquilegia vulgaris v. ballii with a number of pollen beetles (Colin W Hughes)Argan tree (Colin W Hughes)Camp near Tacheddir (Colin W Hughes)Carduncellus pinnatus (Colin W Hughes)Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula var. olbiensis (Colin W Hughes)El Bour (Colin W Hughes)Fritillaria messanensis (Colin W Hughes)Linaria maroccan,Toadflax (Colin W Hughes)Looking back to Taoruirt n'Ait Mizane (Colin W Hughes)Lunch in a walnut grove at Tamatert (Colin W Hughes)Marrakech, Medina (Colin W Hughes)Marrakech (Colin W Hughes)Mule trains (Colin W Hughes)Narcissus bulbocodium subsp. bulbocodium var.-nivalis (Colin W Hughes)Narcissus rupicola subsp. watieri (Colin W Hughes)Refuge at Oukaimeden (Colin W Hughes)St Bernard's Lily, Anthericum liliago (Colin W Hughes)Tacheddirt (Colin W Hughes)The shrine at Sidi Chamharouch (Colin W Hughes)Way out north out of Aroumd (Colin W Hughes)Tisi Mzic (Colin W Hughes)
A.S.
Staffordshire
The levels of knowledge and wisdom imparted by both guides was exceptional, especially David's botany and long-established experience of the High Atlas. This was guiding 'par excellence'. Mohammed's intelligence and standard of English and 'cool' efficient organisation behind the scenes was first rate.
R.S.
Hampshire
Our tour leader, David Tattersfield, was superb. He has exceptional experience which has resulted in a person with total confidence and leadership skills and knowledge of plants in the area that is second-to-none. Mohammed Zaki, the local leader, was also a lovely guy whose local knowledge was invaluable when small local problems occurred, and his birding skills were absolutely tops.
C.A.
Oxfordshire
The general content/interest of the trip was wonderful and we had superb guides - both David and Mohammed were very knowledgeable and went the extra mile every day in sharing their enthusiasm.
Miss J.
Dorset
In my opinion, this was a magical trek and an amazing experience. It was a definitely superior to any walking trek I have done before and was my first real introduction to both birdwatching and botany! I loved staying in the Riad in Marrakech with it's shady courtyards and roof top garden (a good spot for viewing storkes!) I found Essaouira very attractive with its amazing beach and sand dunes...it was a lovely place to end the holiday. I am truly grateful to David, Mohammed the guide, Mohammed the cook, the muleteers and, of course, the mules for such an interesting and exciting holiday.
Miss J.
Dorset
In my opinion, this was a magical trek and an amazing experience. It was a definitely superior to any walking trek I have done before and was my first real introduction to both birdwatching and botany! I loved staying in the Riad in Marrakech with it's shady courtyards and roof top garden (a good spot for viewing storkes!) I found Essaouira very attractive with its amazing beach and sand dunes...it was a lovely place to end the holiday. I am truly grateful to David, Mohammed the guide, Mohammed the cook, the muleteers and, of course, the mules for such an interesting and exciting holiday.
Mr C.
Southampton
David is a superb leader. He had a range of personalities and issues to deal with in the group together with exceptional and challenging weather conditions. David provided calm confident leadership and works through the circumstances; all of this and a detailed grasp of the natural history. Mohammed was a real asset, particularly in helping us understand the cultural aspects of the tour. He is a good birder and helped those with birding enthusiasms see what they may have heard. Mohammed Ben Ali, our cook, was outstanding. this could have been marketed as a culinary tour with walking and wildlife. The food was simple, wholesome and very tasty. Despite the terrain in which it was cooked and eaten the presentation was up to, and beyond, the standards of fine restaurants. The Riad in Marrakech is a really good choice. In the heart of the city yet peaceful. The staff and service were excellent. We didn't really get to know our muleteers well. However, when we needed their help and expertise it was there in abundance. A really good team.
Mrs C.
Southampton
Thank you to everyone at Naturetrek who played a part in making this holiday such an excellent experience. In particular I would like to say a huge thank you to David for being such a superb leader. I was so impressed by the way he handled all situations so camly and confidently. David's ornithological and botanical knowledge was first rate and he so patiently gave us names for plants despite us asking the same questions time and time again! I really appreciated the way David enlightened us in all sorts of subjects; the holiday wasn't simply an opportunity to see different species - we all learnt about the varrous habitats, farming practices of the Berber traditions and culture, impacts on the environment etc. An excellent couple of weeks. Thank you very much.
C.B.
Yorkshire
Hai (local guide) was excellent. I loved it.
J.G.
Gloucestershire
David was excellent. He organised the trek efficiently and enthused everyone with his love of the mountains.
G.A.
Canada
It was a marvellous trip.
T.A.
Canada
Both David and Alan were very well organised and extremely confident leaders. I feel we got very good value and excellent service from them.
J. D.
York
The holiday was excellent - a good adventure. The leaders (Mr Carruthers & Mr Tattersfield) were very good and knowledgeable.
R.B.
Kent
I thoroughly enjoyed this trip... once again thank you for a wonderful holiday.
F & S.G.
Somerset
Thank you all.
Show all details | Hide all details

DeparturesAvailableCost

Wed 16th May 2018 - Wed 30th May 2018

YES

£1995

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1845 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Morocco

Detailed tour map

View tour reports +

Can I help You?

Andy Tucker
Operations Manager

Email Andy

01962 733051

Tour Focus

CultureWild flowersTrekking

Tour Reviews

The levels of knowledge and wisdom imparted by both guides was exceptional, especially David's botany and long-established experience of the High Atlas. This was guiding 'par excellence'. Mohammed's intelligence and standard of English and 'cool' efficient organisation behind the scenes was first rate.
A.S., Staffordshire