For this year’s #GOBACKPACK Morocco expedition, a team of adventurers set out on a journey from magical Marrakesh across the High Atlas Mountains to the caravan routes of the magical desert.
The Kingdom of Morocco lies south of the Strait of Gibraltar between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The country is closely bound by its traditions while simultaneously being open to the modern world. Nonetheless, many travelers to Morocco feel transported back to the early Middle Ages. In June 2022, a team of adventurers had the opportunity to experience this fascinating country as part of Jack Wolfskin’s #GOBACKPACK expedition. The participants traveled over 2000 miles from Marrakesh across the High Atlas Mountains to the caravan routes of the magical desert.
The journey begins in the colorful metropolis of Marrakesh. In all-terrain vehicles, the participants set off at dawn for Demnate, located at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains. Demnate is a small town halfway between Marrakesh and the Ait Bouguemez Valley. The city is best known for its Jewish quarter and the Imi-n-Ifri, a natural bridge over a gorge. The first stop is at the Sidi Fares Valley. Located in the center of the Toubkal National Park, it offers travelers a stunning panoramic view of Jebel Toubkal, the highest point of the High Atlas Mountains. This mountain range runs east to west and has served the region from time immemorial as a protective barrier. It separates the Sahara from the Mediterranean and continental regions of the north and west.
The adventurers reach the Ourika Valley, where the landscape gradually becomes greener. The French named it the Valley of Happiness because of the colorful fields of apple and nut trees and the large variety of vegetables that grow there. Located at the height of 1800 meters is the town of Agouti, famous for its mud dwellings. The region is ideal for short but intense hikes.
A popular route for 4×4 drivers leads around a majestic mountain peak called the Cathédrale des Rochers or the Cathedral of the Rocks. Getting there, however, is anything but a tranquil journey. Quite a few travelers take advantage of the dizzying mule trails. The peak itself is an overwhelming sight in the center of the Tamga Nature Reserve, with its rocky cliffs towering several hundred meters above the surrounding landscape.
The adventurers then encounter the first zigzag trail of gravel and stone. Green terraced fields and stone houses appear on the rocky slopes. What must it be like here for the local population during the winter months? Around 30 kilometers north of d’Agoudal lies Imilchil, also known as Little Tibet. The climate is usually harsh, and the winters are always severe and cold. The landscape is barren and desolate. Nonetheless, it is the ideal location to discover the traditional festivals of the Berber people. The Berbers are considered the country’s first inhabitants and assertively maintain their ancient traditions and lifestyle.
Another highlight of the journey is Boumalne Dades, an oasis city in the south. Visitors to the region are immediately impressed by the picturesque Dades Gorge. For bike enthusiasts riding along its spectacular winding road is a breathtaking experience on any Morocco trip.
The Todra Gorge and the Tinghir Oasis, located at an elevation of 4690 ft, offer some of the most spectacular landscapes in all of Morocco. Visitors are captivated by the sight of lush green gardens and countless date palms that form a gateway to the gorge. The journey takes us past small villages with clay houses and ancient kasbahs. Kasbahs are mighty citadels and residences made of rammed-earth and mudbrick walls. They can also be connected to form large fortified enclosures and villages.
Campfires, starry skies, magical luminous ocher colors, and graceful camels resting in front of the tents – A visit to the Moroccan desert is one of the highlights of any journey through Morocco. One of the world’s most beautiful sand dune landscapes is the Erg Chebbi near Merzouga. The shifting dunes rise up to 500 ft, spanning 14 miles from north to south and three miles from east to west. Continuing the journey through the desert requires good preparation and should be planned and possibly accompanied by experts or people who know the area.
The desert journey rewards travelers with seemingly inhospitable barrenness. The Anti-Atlas is characterized by steep granite walls and stone deserts with almost no vegetation, interrupted by fertile oasis valleys. It lies between the High Atlas Mountains in the north and borders the Sahara to the south along the Algerian border.
Travelers to the Anti-Atlas can expect to see high mesas and deep gorges. The mountain range possesses an almost lunar landscape. The eastern part of the range already lies in the Sahara and has a warm to hot climate in contrast to the northern High Atlas range. Taliouine is located in the deep south, halfway between Taroudant and Ouarzazate, and is considered the African center of the saffron trade.
The Siroua is an ancient massif of volcanic origin connecting the High Atlas and the Anti-Atlas ranges. Semi-nomads roam the high pastures here, which are covered with flowers in spring. At the foot of the Siroua, one can also find scattered small picturesque villages. The Berbers here are semi-nomads and spend the summer months with their flock of sheep and goats up on the high pastures. The almond trees exude a unique fragrance, especially when they bloom.
The breathtaking view of this region makes every hiker’s heart beat faster. The volcanic mountains of Djebel Siroua and Djebel Sarhro possess very little vegetation. Bizarre black mountains with deeply carved gorges exert a unique fascination on outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking these mountain regions, however, requires a certain fitness level, surefootedness, and heat tolerance.
The village of Agouim is located beyond the Tichka Pass and is considered a stopover for travelers with all-terrain vehicles. The excursion then moves towards the Djebel Siroua mountain range, which rises to an astonishing 10,840 ft and offers a magnificent view of the (snow-covered) Atlas Mountains. It is a diverse route and a bit slow in parts, but it also prepares the travelers for Marrakesh and the end of the adventure. From here, the travelers are back at their starting point in three to four hours.
Marrakesh is located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains and on the edge of a large palm grove. This lively and vibrant city has managed to preserve its incomparable North African character. There are now nine sites in Morocco that have been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and Marrakesh’s medina is one of them. Tourists love to get lost in its maze of narrow streets. Our #GOBACKPACK expedition begins in Marrakesh, and this is where it also ends.
Those of you who would also like to follow the #GOBACKPACK Morocco route can find more information here.