Morocco holidays, Atlas Panorama

“Enjoy four days walking in the High Atlas Mountains where you'll become part of a typical Berber village and sample simple pleasures prior to living it up in Marrakech.”

Highlights

Marrakech | Jardin Majorelle | Djemma el Fna | Menara Gardens | cross the Tizi'n'Tichka | 4 days walking in the High Atlas Mountains | Ouarikt Gorge | Animiter | Tizi'n'Ourghsan | Mt n'Oughlagal | Jebel Anghomar and Jebel Tamda | plenty of free time to explore Marrakech at leisure

Description of Morocco holidays, Atlas Panorama

If you are moderately fit and have a moderate budget, this week long walking holiday in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco is far from moderate on the experience and exquisite scales. Starting in Marrakech, we stay in a three star hotel and enjoy the sights, sounds and all things aesthetically pleasing about this fine city.

From the other worldly culture of Marrakech’s souks and bazaars, we head up into the High Atlas for another worldliness of a natural kind. Swapping hotel for mountain gite and more basic accommodation, the scenery of our daily hikes every day is five star, all the way. Such as a six hour loop through the Tizi'n'Ourghsan or a hike out to Lake Tamda, perfectly poised between the imposing peaks of Jebel Anghomar and Jebel Tamda.

We take time to visit a community project that we support in Tijhza and take a traditional hammam there, meet the local Berber people who are ever welcoming to walkers, as well as one last day in Marrakech, with the hotel pool making a welcome finale to wash away the mountain dust. Although away the memory of those dramatic landscapes won’t be erased for a long time.

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10 Nov 2019
£849
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Our top tip:
This is a hiking holiday and comfortable walking boots are required as well as plenty of layers to counteract colder mountain temperatures. Also, bring a pack of cards or travel games to play at the gite.
Trip type:
Small group. Average group size 12. Minimum age 16.
Activity level:
Moderate. Four solid walks with shorter or longer options.
Accomm:
4 nights basic gite, 3 nights en-suite hotel with swimming pool.
Included:
Accommodation, transport, listed activities, tour leader throughout.
Meals:
All breks, 3 lunches, 4 dinners.
Solos:
Single rooms available at a surcharge in hotel only.
Vouchers
Accepted
Holiday type

Small group holiday

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Morocco holidays, Atlas Panorama

Carbon reduction

Your holiday will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this holiday and how to reduce them.

Environment

Activity:
Few holidays have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a trekking trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. Even though this is a short trip, it still offers some good opportunities to benefit the local community. By including Berber villages on our route, using local gites for accommodation, using markets and local mule transport, we have a positive impact on the local economy. Particularly as we stay in Tighza, which is remote and still recovering from damages, our presence is really appreciated. Many clients like to leave behind items such as reading and writing materials and winter clothes which are taken in and re-distributed by a local association.

Water:
Water is a really important issue with walking trips and whilst we must stay hydrated, it is also vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. Lack of recycling is already a massive problem in Morocco so we suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle. Since the EU banned the use of iodine tablets, we are no longer able to provide these on trek. The recommended alternative of Biox Aqua drops is not available in Morocco, therefore we also advise you buy your own purification tablets in the UK and take them with you.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Community

Accommodation and Meals:
We will spend three nights in a hotel, and four nights very simple, rural accommodation in Tijhza village. Our local operators prefer to select accommodation which is locally owned in order to support smaller businesses and their employees. This ensures that most income generated is reinvested into the area and the community. Where meals are supplied, seasonal, fresh food is used wherever possible. Food in the village is bought from the market of Telouat, which is supplied predominantly by local producers and farmers. The main Moroccan dishes most people are familiar with are couscous, meat and vegetable tajines, fish chermoula and bocadillos, which are available from street stalls almost everywhere.

Campaigning for Change:
In conjunction with Baraka Community Partnerships, we have sponsored the development of Tijhza for many years with a variety of projects. These include supplying a pipeline system and water tower to the village and a toilet block for the school. Thanks to our volunteer groups, Tijhza now also has electricity and an annual medical clinic, which has had a hugely positive effect on the welfare of the village. More recently, we have achieved our aim of building a Hammam to alleviate some of the hygiene issues in the area and to provide a sustainable source income for many inhabitants. Unfortunately, devastating storms struck in November 2014, leaving much of the village severely damaged. We were able to raise emergency funding to provide supplies and to re-build many of the homes affected.

Local Craft and Culture:
At the beginning and end of the trip, there is free time in Marrakech to explore the wide variety of sites and activities in this major city. Clients are advised to head to the souks for souvenirs, take a ride in a traditional Caliche, or to visit the world renowned Marjorelle gardens. These tranquil gardens are decorated throughout in indigo blue and there is a small and charming museum of Islamic art in the grounds. In the evening, the Djemma el Fna central square comes alive with musicians, snake charmers, travelling acrobats and food stalls. This is the perfect opportunity to interact with local people, purchase locally produced handicrafts and to support small street vendors by trying authentic food. There will be other chances to do so on the trip at local markets, which are awash with bright images, animated characters and the smells and sounds of food being made and sold.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

10 Reviews of Morocco holidays, Atlas Panorama

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“I felt like a child that had found a secret place… I found it hard to believe I was just a four-hour flight from the UK.”
“It was probably the day that we hiked around Mt n'Oughlagal, which gave us just amazing views across the mountains and valley.”

Reviewed on 25 Apr 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Lots of big memories, especially the hiking. But I will particularly remember the cosy family run riad that was our accommodation in the village of Tijhza
(population 300). Fantastic food, authentic style and wonderful hospitality.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Definitely try the village hamam.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The Tijhza locals told us that responsible tourism was an increasingly important and locally controlled element of this mostly subsistence economy

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Wonderful. I would do it again in a flash.

Reviewed on 16 Apr 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Waking to snow, walking in snow, seeing the beautiful effect of snow in the valley.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Do not assume you will be in summer clothes.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, particularly the use of local labour

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?



Reviewed on 20 Nov 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Trekking in the Atlas Mountains was the highlight but it was all fantastic.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Don't expect amazing cuisine - it is generally wholesome but you have to go to the more upmarket restaurants for really tasty food.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes. We had a local our guide who was a longstanding employee of the tour operator. He was very knowledgeable. I felt like we were benefiting the local people rather than exploiting them.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Excellent from start to finish.

Reviewed on 17 Aug 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Sitting on a terrace high above the square in Marrakesh listening to the calls for prayer.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


You only need one warm jacket! I took that plus a fleece...cut down on clutter! Take a good torch. A walking pole is a must for the scree on Mt Toubkal.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The tour supported the locals by employing them as guides, cooks and accommodation providers. They were fantastic. The tips they received would benefit them and their families.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was excellent from start to finish! Really well organised. Food fantastic....healthy and fresh. I really don't know how they did it!

Reviewed on 01 Jan 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


trekking in the mountains, particularly the 10 hour hike to the lake

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Although the trip is graded moderate and the hiking isn't overly strenuous, the days walking can be quite long so be prepared - this IS a hiking holiday.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes - the benefits (economically) were shared out across the community and local villages with different families involved in different ways.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Great - just what I needed.

Reviewed on 22 Nov 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The longest (third) walk up to a lake in the mountains through freshly fallen snow. As we descended from the lake the sun came out so we had our lunch break in the sun with just our t-shirts on.
The first night we had exceptionally clear skies - I've never seen anywhere near as many stars. Beautiful!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


The gite (hostel) is neither heated nor air conditioned. Take plenty of warm layers if you are planning to go in winter. If you feel the cold easily a light down jacket will keep you snug and warm in the gite.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Our tour guide was not from the village we stayed at but other staff (the fantastic! chef) were. Most members of our group used water purification tablets/drops thereby cutting down on plastic bottles. Nothing except for organic waste got left behind at lunch places or on the trek; this did not have to be encouraged or followed up on though as all group members took care to take their rubbish to the village.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Absolutely great - see above - except for the hotel in Marrakech which really didn't cut it. Loud club music was audible well into the small hours, the bathrooms had been sloppily cleaned (cockroach!) and we had to change rooms after the first night because there was so much smell coming up the sewage that it woke us up at night.

Reviewed on 26 Oct 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Marrakech will live in the memory a long time: the souk, the smell of the spices, La Koutoubia, the palaces, and most of all the central square at night when it's taken over by all the cafes, performers, musicians etc. The peace and tranquility up in the mountains will also stay with me.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take your waterproofs: we had rain every day in the mountains, and though it was just a quick shower on most days we had prolonged rain on our long trip up to the lake. It was also cold that day, so take plenty of layers too. Take entertainment for the evening: we were lucky in that the group all got on well and we ended up playing long card games every evening, which our guide Hassan even joined in with.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes definitely: just outside the gite is the latest new building to benefit from tourist contributions - the hammam or steam bath. We were reliably informed that the locals make all the decisions when it comes to allocating where the money goes, and I got the sense that they were genuinely grateful that we were visiting their village and making a difference. Some of the group had read previous reviews of this trip and knew to take pens and paper for the schoolchildren, and again they were very pleased to receive these from us.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Very good - a good combination of a 'full-on' city like Marrakech and the much more contemplative environment of the quiet mountains. The contrast between the two is huge.

Reviewed on 14 May 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


I went on the special volunteer departure of the usual walking holiday, which meant three days of volunteering in Tijhza instead of hiking. This was my first trip as a solo traveller and it really took me out of my comfort zone but I had nothing to worry about as Andy (Tour Leader) was great and all the other travellers were lovely and looked after me. The most memorable part of the week was the hamman in Marrakech, mostly because it involved being thoroughly scrubbed by a rather large woman whilst lying naked on a tiled floor in a dark steamy room down one of the back alleys of Marrakech – it was so far removed from my normal life!

On the volunteering side of things, the best part is knowing how much we achieved in three days – we painted three classrooms in the local school, the tour operator paid for windows to be fitted to two of the school classrooms (which we painted), we planted 220 trees with the forestry commission, painted a house in the village, one of the other travellers helped advise the villagers on bee keeping, four of the group ran a health clinic (apparently saw over 100 patients) at the school and gave out toothbrushes showing the children how to clean their teeth, Matt (the tour operator’s building expert) fixed loads of water pipes leading to the water tank the tour operator had funded and I bought a carpet which was part of the village community enterprise scheme! Oh and that’s not to mention the mountain of clothes, toys and lightbulbs we took over there too!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Do it! I never expected it to be so much fun or so rewarding. As this was the volunteer departure everyone was there to make a difference. It’s inspiring to see so many people who really care. Pack lots of old clothes and leave as much as you can behind for the villagers – they really appreciate it. Don’t worry about the food, its amazing! I keep dreaming about lamb tagine! It was hot and sunny when I went so take a hat and drink lots of water if you’re prone to heat stroke like me! Take clothes that cover your shoulders and knees – it is a Muslim country so you don’t want to offend. Don’t be afraid of Marrakech – it is mental and busy, full of scooters, bikes, donkeys, noise, smells and people trying to sell you stuff but just take a deep breath and dive in! Finally, take a bikini as riad Bledna has a pool in the beautiful garden!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Definitely! The accommodation was locally owned, the food was all local, the mint tea came straight from the fields (whole mint leaves in the tea pot, not packaged stuff), we had local drivers and a local guide (in addition to the English tour leader) and the plastic water bottles were given to the villagers to reuse. We visited local restaurants, a woman’s cooperate selling organic creams from argan oil, the spice shop in Marrakech and the souks. This trip was all about the people. It’s sad to see litter in these beautiful mountains; we were planning to do a litter pick but we ran out of time but I know its next on the operator’s agenda to address.

For me, the community benefits were highlighted by one woman Andy took me to see. Fatima had a tooth infection which spread into a large abscess on the side of her face. Her husband left her because of the growth, leaving her to bring up her daughter on her own. The tour operator paid for Fatima to have the surgery to remove the abscess. One of the previous volunteer groups painted and tiled Fatima’s kitchen and she now has a loom and is starting to make carpets and jewellery to sell to tourists. This isn’t about token efforts to be ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’, this is about real, life changing benefits.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Amazing, brilliant, inspiring… I can really see why it’s so hard not to go back! In a time when so many of us have charity donations whizzing out of our bank accounts by direct debit to some far off land where we never know who benefits, it’s so good to actually be able to say ‘this is what we achieved’. This trip goes beyond good intentions, you can see real, tangible benefits and it leaves you feeling proud that you were apart of it. Fantastic!


Reviewed on 20 Oct 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Walking in the Atlas Mountains, our group bonded well and the support from our guide was brilliant! The scenery is amazing and I would love to go again!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


You need to be reasonably fit, as the longer walks can be tiring, but the pace is well managed and judged by the guide. Do not be put off by the time suggested for the walks, there are plenty of stops for resting and to have a drink or a snack! Enjoy

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, as we stayed in the Gite which helps with providing jobs for the villagers and enables them to integrate with tourists. We also bought all our water and drinks in the village and ate locally sourced vegetables etc. We walked on tracks that already existed which ensured minimal impact on the environment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Brilliant! One of the most enjoyable trips I’ve been on, mainly due to the group of people I shared the experience with, good organisation and this being an excellent tour company!

Reviewed on 08 Feb 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Seeing the Atlas Mountains - the geology and environment are so different to what we've seen before.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Trip notes are outdated - this is what we found (Nov 09): The gite provides a pillow, blanket, thin quilt and sheet. You need a Northern Europe 2-pin plug adaptor.
You need cash to take up to the mountains with you - apart from the lunch and tea stops on the way there and back, you need cash for tips for village staff and for bottled water plus Kit-Kats, biscuits, toilet paper etc. The tracks and paths in the mountains are very dusty. This swirls around when disturbed by walkers/mules or the wind, and it's nearly always windy. So a scarf is useful to cover your face. The gite provided a range of veggie alternatives.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, the holiday provided a cash boost to a largely cashless, self-sufficient society, so villagers can pay for water, children's education and other expenses without having to sell livestock (which are their equivalent of cash in the bank). The operator’s projects have also provided an impetus for locals to initiate their own improvements. But there was the inevitable impact of our visit. The village has no good way of collecting/disposing of their own rubbish, let alone the visitors. The rubbish is eventually burned (including plastic that produces toxic smoke) but much blows away first.

We were uneasy about buying the bottled water offered (because of the impact of the waste, and the carbon footprint of its production and transport to the village) and would have preferred to pay for and treat refills of our own bottles from the spring water supply (villagers also have to pay for this water). Also uneasy about the use of this precious spring water to provide showers and flushing toilets. The waste went into the ground, so a way of using shower water to flush loos, and some sort of cess pit would be better - or compost toilets? Loo paper goes in a basket to be burned later - not pleasant for the person with this job - perhaps we should be encouraged/taught to adopt the alternative to paper?

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Excellent - even though we do not like cities very much, Marrakech was OK for a few days and provided a good contrast to the mountains and villages.

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