A day trip into the High Atlas Mountains is an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the mountains and the Berber way of life away from the bustle of Marrakesh. Admire the scenic beauty and green lush valleys of the southern slopes of the High Atlas Mountains or hire a local guide and hike for an hour to explore this fantastic setting.
Climb to the waterfalls of Setti Fadma, explore the green Toubkal National Park, visit the Berber village of Asni, sip a glass of mint tea and treat yourself to a delicious tagine prepared by a Berber family. Visit the argan oil co-operatives, the saffron farm and finally the Andre Heller Anima Garden.
The driver will fetch you form the Riad/hotel in Marrakesh at 8:30.
This day’s outing has been designed to take you out of the bustle and noise of Marrakesh into the purer, cooler air of the High Atlas Mountains. You will find this an unforgettable and unique experience, especially because it is much cooler in the summer months. Berber life has little in common with the red city and is an essential part of any visit here – many claim this is the real Morocco – not just the Imperial Cities!
On the way into the High Atlas Mountains, we first pass the Berber village of Tahanout, about 35 km from Marrakech. Like many other towns and villages in Morocco, there is a Jewish cemetery here. Next we come to pass the village and mausoleum of Moulay Brahim, a well-known Moroccan Sufi saint who died in 1661. Enjoy tea with a local Berber family, who will show you a traditional hammam and bread ovens.
Reaching the Toubkal National Park, we arrive in Asni, a small Berber town, well-known for its permanent as well as its weekly souks. From here, we go east to the Ourika valley bordered by gardens, fruit trees, small villages, summer houses, as well as cafés and restaurants. The Ourika river descends from the High Atlas, passing Asguine, Aghbalou, Oulmes and finally the village of Setti Fatma. Wildlife includes painted frogs, the Moorish gecko, falcons, the crimson winged finch, poplar trees and weeping willows.
This part of the High Atlas is ideal for hiking which can be organised with a local Berber guide. Such a hike takes you further into this beautiful countryside affording a great idea of the mountain vegetation and local Berber life. It is a golden opportunity to experience the other side of Moroccan life and will remain a permanent mental image.
On the way back to Marrakech, (but only possible from the point of view of timing and if you do not wish to walk in Ourika,) there are two fascinating places well worth a visit. The first is the Saffron Garden, the Paradis du Safran, where along with saffron cultivation, there is a large orchard of olive trees, lemons, oranges, kumquats, pomegranates and aromatic and medicinal herbs. Here you can have a guided tour and an explanation of saffron cultivation. However as from the beginning of 2020, it will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The entrance fee is 100 dirham and includes the tour, saffron tea, mineral water and a bare-foot Kneipp walk.
Shortly after the garden, we reach the Anima Garden, designed and created by Andre Heller over a period of 10 years. This unique garden has been described as one of the most beautiful and imaginative gardens in the world.
“……. André Heller’s opulent, two-hectare botanical staging is a magical place of sensuality, of wonder, of contemplation, of joy, of healing, and of inspiration. For people of all ages who want to experience the unforgettable.”
“Visitors stroll along shady paths, between sumptuous trees and shrubs, blossom and fragrant wonders, pavilions and sculptures, with breathtaking views of the often snow-capped Atlas Mountains featuring the 4167 metre high Mount Toubkal.”
The entrance fee is about 100 dirham per person, 60 dirham for Moroccans and children under 12 enter gratis.
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