Marrakech

Few cities can be as beautifully sited as Marrakech. The surrounding land is watered by abundant rivers and streams from the Atlas Mountains, which provide a spectacular backdrop as they rise some 12,000ft. In the summer months, the heights are often lost behind a heat haze, but the winter visitor has the best of it, for then the peaks are covered in snow, always a beguiling sight in Africa.

Marrakech is undoubtedly the ‘jewel’ of Morocco and gave its name to the country. This 11th century oasis was gradually won from the arid soil of the Haouz plain. The mandatory pastel pink colours of buildings are heightened by the green of palm groves and exotic gardens. A perfect illustration is the Menara pavilion, enhanced by a wide square ornamental pond and olive grove.

Mid-distant between the Atlantic harbours and the Sahara, Marrakech has also welcomed civilizations from the south, while Fez has played a similar role in the north. The Koutoubia minaret and the Saadi’s el Badi palace in Marrakech are symbolic of the power of this ancient capital. However, the name of Marrakech is associated today with its souks and the famous Djemma el Fna square.

This vast triangular space evokes another Morocco, legendary, commercial and popular, where storytellers and sorcerers still mingle with snake charmers, charlatans, musicians and shepherds in quest of the fantastic. Picturesque Marrakech is still a place of dreams.

Nearly all visitors to Marrakech should combine their stay with a visit to the High Atlas, be it for a day trek or much longer.

The High Atlas mountains provide some of the most impressive and beautiful mountain walking anywhere in the world.  It is the highest range in North Africa and the most compact. Waterfalls, lakes and mountain streams tumble into crevices in the chalk. The snow covering the summits outline their peaks in such pure white that they seem to merge with the blue of the sky. Further down the land is cultivated around scattered Adobe villages which cling to the hillsides. The indigenous Berber people, who migrated into the mountains in the face of the first Arab invaders in the seventh century, inhabit this area and are hospitable and friendly people.

The Atlas mountains can be visited for a day, driving with a private guide to the villages of Asni, Imlil or Ourigane to begin a trek or into the Ourika valley. The journey from Marrakech takes around an hour. On Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays rural markets take place and a visit to one of these can be combined with a trek and lunch at a mountain restaurant before returning to Marrakech for dinner.

For those with more time a private trek starting from Imlil or in one of the hidden valleys where other trekkers are seldom encountered can be one of the most rewarding activities possible in the country. March to November is the best time to visit the region. From December until February the days can be crisp and bright, but rain is possible, and nights very cold.

There is a great choice of places to stay in the High Atlas, ranging from the effortlessly elegant {Kasbah Tamadot} built by Richard Branson to the mountain comfort of the {Kasbah du Toubkal}. So whether you are seeking a country club in a sublime setting or a traditional mountain lodge from which to walk out daily and return in the evening, we are able to discuss the options.

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It takes genuine local knowledge to craft trips that go beyond the ordinary. All of us at Natural High have over 20 years’ experience in the countries we offer. We’ve lived there, worked there and arranged countless one-off journeys for clients. We live to travel – and love to share our tips on what’s really worth doing. For expert advice (and a traveller’s tale or two), speak to one of our team. They’ll be happy to let you in on their travel secrets, and help you plan a tailor-made trip that’s truly unforgettable.

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