A day trip to the Atlas mountains sounded like a refreshing change from the energetic hustle and bustle of the red city Marrakech. Since we were only in Morocco for 4 days, we didn’t have time to arrange it ourselves, either renting a car or researching which tour company to go with.
We are not big on tours, we like doing things at our own pace and being as independent as possible when travelling.We did it a little differently this time for our 10 year wedding anniversary Morocco trip. We booked two tours, one with Marrakech Food Tours (which was wonderful and I am saving that post for last 🙂 The other one was arranged by our Riad – a day trip to the Atlas Mountains which consisted of visiting three valleys, a Berber Village, some local trade shops – selling carpets, argon oil and ceramics – and having lunch at a roadside Restaurant at Ourika Valley. The trip cost €12 per person.
I had just done my first tour to see the Great Wall of China last month and it had worked out really well. Our food tour the day before was amazing too. Unfortunately this day trip did not work out so well. We were driven around in a large private taxi with a driver who spoke very little English and was always in a hurry.
It was all very rushed and we were in the car most of the day. We passed through some amazing scenery and landscape, very different from anything we had seen before, shades of red and green everywhere! But we couldn’t stop half the time. Rather than going to three different valleys, getting out just taking pictures and rushing back into the car, we would have preferred just going to one place and exploring the area by foot. To make things worse, weather was really bad for the first half of the day. It only stopped raining after we finally got to our first stop at Moulay Brahim valley. We got to stretch our legs, kids went dashing about in freedom, and we stayed here much longer than our Driver would have liked us to.
As we continued onwards, the skies started clearing, the sun came out and the landscape became stunning! We could spend days here, exploring, hiking, camping..it just re enforced our desire to do the road trip through here as we had planned initially before Shama’s surgery. I know we will do it someday..in the meantime, one day glimpse of this beautiful countryside will have to suffice.
We were looking forward to visiting a Berber Village, had heard so much of their interesting history. They make up more than half of Morocco’s population, but only recently have their language and culture been recognised. We had seen several Berber products – handcrafted rugs and argon oil and had read about tours on visiting a Berber village, having lunch or tea with them, experiencing a little bit of their culture.
Unfortunately this part of our tour was very awkward and not nice at all. It consisted of us ‘trampling’ through this poor family’s home with our dirty shoes. We would have been far more considerate and respectful if we weren’t just herded in and out the whole time wherever we went by our driver. Also for some reason, instead of walking through the village to visit a home, we went through this narrow back lane next to rubbish piles!
It was still interesting, especially for Shahaar who enjoyed watching the local village kids playing outside, trying out a new fruit, seeing a family home, with the cattle downstairs and the family living upstairs. Reminded him of villages in Bangladesh, expect there we actually stayed with a family and experienced their lives on a more personal level!
We then went to Azni valley where we stopped at shops selling beautiful rugs and ceramics. Prices here were much lower than in Marrakech Souks. We were again annoyed as we passed through smaller roadside stalls selling beautiful products, but our driver insisted on taking us to a bigger more touristy shop.
The landscape kept changing as we moved from one valley to another. We didn’t see much cattle which we found surprising, but it was fascinating watching isolated houses and individuals on the roads. We insisted on stopping several times especially when we started seeing the river with its murky reddish brown gushing waters!
Our last stop was Ourika Valley where we were supposed to see the famous waterfalls. Unfortunately due to the heavy rains earlier, the roads were flooded and closed off. We only got to experience the gushing angry river which really was a sight to see! We got video clips but I can’t seem to put them up on the website. Pictures doesn’t do it justice. Even now we keep hearing on the news about the floods and the death toll from it. I guess we were lucky to have come out of it that day without anything worse than missing the waterfalls..
We had lunch at this roadside Cafe right by the river. Great views, bad service and ate the best Tagine ever, even though we had to bear loud live music right next to us. At least Shama enjoyed the music!
Before we went to Morocco, I had seen several highly rated tour companies on Trip Advisor and even while we were there, we saw people advertising day trips out to the Atlas Mountains. From our own – not so great experience – I would advice going on recommendations by people who have done a specific tour. If we had to do it again, we would definitely just rent a car and go on our own, spend more time hiking and exploring, rather than driving.
From our other posts on Morocco, lets just say that colours of Marrakech Souks, stunning architecture, amazing food and our beautiful Riad more than made up for our mediocre tour of the Atlas Mountains!