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Transhumance in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains with the Ait Atta Nomads

Immerse yourself in the Ait Atta Berber clan’s lifestyle on this 15-day Sustainable Journey


15 days

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Transhumance in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains with the Ait Atta Nomads

Tour Information

Experience Morocco like never before. Spend a few days exploring the bustling souk-lined streets of Marrakesh and the ancient fortified village of Ait Ben Haddou, before joining the Ait Atta Berber clan and experiencing a nomadic lifestyle as you traverse the High Atlas Mountains for a week.

After a week spent exploring on foot, sleeping under canvas, and sharing stories with your new friends, you’ll move on to the historic village of R’bat, to experience small-town life in Morocco, before returning to Marrakesh for spas and sightseeing to round out your stay in this magical country.

Oasis with a view of the Atlas Mountains in the distance, Morocco © onmt
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Where will this journey take you?

Embark on a captivating 13-day journey through Morocco, exploring the ancient traditions of the Ait Atta Nomads. This adventure offers a rare glimpse into the vibrant culture and the breathtaking landscapes of Morocco and the High Atlas Mountains.

Starting in the city of Marrakesh, you will experience a dynamic blend of history and contemporary charm, setting the stage for a journey that takes you from the capital’s bustling souks to the serene beauty of the High Atlas Mountains. You will traverse the pathways of the Ait Atta, a nomadic Berber clan, delving into a world where the past and present merge to create unforgettable memories. This isn’t merely a trek; this is an eight-day transformative odyssey that immerses you in the lifestyle of one of Morocco’s last, but enduring nomadic tribes.

Transhumance is the practice of moving livestock from one grazing ground to another in a seasonal cycle, and, as you venture across untamed terrains, the Ait Atta will unveil their profound connection with the land, guiding you along lesser-known trails and revealing breathtaking vistas that showcase the unspoiled splendour of the High Atlas. This journey is an intimate exploration of the tribe’s traditions and way of life, preserved through the ages. Each night, beneath the expansive Moroccan sky, you’ll gather around campfires, sharing stories and laughter, fostering unforgettable connections and memories. This extraordinary trek promises a harmonious blend of adventure, deep cultural engagement and introspection, set amidst some of Morocco’s most magnificent natural scenery.

After saying farewell to the Ait Atta family, you’ll continue to the picturesque village of R’bat, a tranquil oasis cradled by the Atlas, and explore the M’goun Geopark Museum before returning to Marrakesh.

Please note:

  • This journey is scheduled for the month of May, offering an optimal blend of weather conditions for the activities planned.
  • Participants must be at least 18 years old to join this adventure and, whilst expertise in rock climbing isn’t necessary, it’s important that you are physically active and have experience with full day-long walks.
  • During your trek in the High Atlas Mountains you need to be prepared to live as the nomads do. There will be no access to western style toilets, however a pit latrine will be dug every night and a portable toilet tent erected for privacy. Toilet roll will be provided but we recommend taking a couple of rolls as back up. To wash, you’ll be provided with a bowl and water, also provided in a private tent.
  • Information on the type of clothing and personal hygiene products to bring with you will be provided in advance; for example, quick-dry clothing, eco-friendly soap (if you want to wash in the rivers) and biodegradable wet wipes.
  • Please always follow the principles of Leave No Trace to minimise your impact on the environment and respect nature.
Journey Overview

Day 1 – Arrive in Marrakesh
Day 2 – Marrakech – Ait Ben Haddou – Ouarzazazte
Day 3 – Ouarzazazte – Kalaat M’gouna – Ait Youl
Day 4 – Ait Youl – Akka n’Imjergane
Day 5 – Akka n’Imjergane – Tizi n’Toudat
Day 6 – Tizi n’Toudat – Assif n’Majdig
Day 7 – Assif n’Majdig – Tamgoumart
Day 8 – Tamgoumart – Tizi n’Igrouren
Day 9 – Tizi n’Igrouren – Lake Izourar and the end of the ascending Transhumance
Day 10 – Lake Izourar – Zaouit Oulemzi – R’bat village
Day 11 – R’bat village
Day 12 – R’bat village and the Ait Bougeumez Valley
Day 13 – R’bat village – Azilal – Return to Marrakesh
Day 14 – Marrakesh
Day 15 – Marrakesh

What’s Included?
  • Accommodation: 14 nights (7 nights in hotels and ecolodge, 7 nights camping in Igloo tent)
  • Meals: 14 breakfasts, 10 lunches, and 12 dinners
  • Transfers to and from the airport to accommodation on days 1 and 15
  • Tour guide for the duration of the tour
  • Transfers to and from Marrakesh on days 2 and 13
  • Entry to the M’goun Geopark Museum on day 13
  • Entry to the Jardin Marjorelle and Bahia Palace on day 14
What’s not included?
  • Flights to/from Morocco or any flights within Morocco
  • Pre- or post-tour accommodation
  • Pre-registration, late check-out, or day use at accommodations other than specified
  • Meals and beverages other than those specified in the itinerary
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Optional tours and services
  • Hotel/ airport porterage
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Items of a personal nature such as medical or hospital expenses, beverages, hotel porterage, laundry service, room service, internet usage, and telephone calls

How is this tour sustainable?

Cultural preservation and interaction: A significant part of this tour is dedicated to living alongside the Ait Atta tribe, one of Morocco’s last nomadic tribes. This engagement allows for the preservation and sharing of ancient traditions and ways of life that might otherwise be at risk of disappearing. By directly involving the tribe, the tour supports the continuation of these practices and offers tourists a unique, immersive cultural experience that respects and honours local customs.

Environmental awareness: The trek through the High Atlas Mountains and visits to natural sites such as Lake Izourar emphasise the importance of conserving natural landscapes. By guiding tourists through less-travelled paths and highlighting the raw beauty of these areas, the tour raises awareness about the value of environmental preservation. This approach encourages responsible travel behaviour, such as minimising waste and respecting wildlife habitats.

Sustainable activities: Throughout the journey, nights are spent under the stars, providing a more minimalistic approach to accommodation that helps to reduce any environmental impact. The emphasis on walking and trekking as primary modes of exploration also minimises carbon emissions associated with vehicular transport.

Support for local communities: This tour includes visits to places like Ait Ben Haddou, Ouarzazate and the village of R’bat, which not only showcase Morocco’s rich history and architecture but also support local economies. By engaging with cooperatives and local markets, the tour contributes financially to these communities, aiding in their sustainability. Furthermore, interactions such as sharing a cup of mint tea or conversing in the marketplace foster genuine connections between tourists and locals, promoting cultural exchange and mutual respect.

Educational value: Throughout the tour, you’ll be exposed to and will learn about the challenges and realities of nomadic life, as well as the historical significance of sites like Ait Ben Haddou and the architectural beauty of Marrakesh. The knowledge you’ll gain will encourage a deeper understanding and appreciation of Morocco’s cultural and natural heritage, ultimately fostering a more sustainable and responsible approach to travel.

Accommodations: On this tour, locally-owned accommodations are prioritised, enabling you to fully immerse yourselves in the Moroccan way of life. From spending nights in traditional Berber tents under a star-filled sky to staying in eco-friendly lodges, each selected accommodation is not just a place to rest but an invitation to live as the locals do. This approach allows you to directly impact the local economy while providing an authentic experience of Moroccan hospitality, customs, and traditions. Engage with the heart and soul of Morocco through its people and their way of life, creating lasting memories and meaningful connections.

Local staff: Your guide and driver are locals with an intimate knowledge of Morocco, serving as a personal gateway to its heart. With a passion for their homeland and a wealth of experience, they can open doors to hidden gems and authentic experiences. Through their eyes, you’ll discover the soul of Morocco, from its bustling markets and ancient cities to the tranquil beauty of its landscapes and the rich traditions of its people.

Sustainability Challenges?

Balancing tradition and modernity: Integrating traditional practices with the needs and expectations of modern tourists without compromising the authenticity of the experience is a delicate balance and preserving the integrity of traditional nomadic lifestyles whilst accommodating tourists requires careful planning and sensitivity. Visitors are given information on cultural traditions, dress code and local sensitivities in advance, thus ensuring respectful interactions and positive opportunities to learn from each other.

Transport: Considering the extensive distances and challenging terrain encountered on this tour through Morocco, the inclusion of private transportation on days 1, 2, 13, 14, and 15 balances the need for reliability and comfort against the environmental impacts typically associated with transport. The use of private transport mitigates potential delays and discomfort that might arise from relying on public transport, ensuring the itinerary progresses smoothly and participants enjoy a consistent, high-quality experience.

Detailed Itinerary

  • Day 1 - Arrive in Marrakesh

    Upon your arrival in Marrakesh, you’re immediately immersed in the essence of Morocco—a dynamic fusion of historic grandeur and modern allure. Your guide will meet you on arrival and take you to your accommodation, paving the way for your adventure in this captivating city.

    First, prepare for an exclusive guided tour to the iconic Jamaa el-Fna square, a bustling epicentre of culture, storytelling and commerce, offering a glimpse into the vibrant heart of Marrakesh.

    The evening includes a delightful culinary experience at Restaurant Ait Bougumez, renowned for its exquisite traditional local cuisine and contemporary dishes, all prepared with fresh, seasonal produce and warm, welcoming service. Be ready to climb the four flights up to the rooftop setting of the restaurant, taking you away from the intensity of the square whilst providing splendid views of the city and Koutoubia Mosque.

    You will spend the night at the locally-owned Riad Nesma Suites & SPA in the heart of the Medina, close to Jemaa el-Fna. With a panoramic terrace and rooftop pool, this riad was constructed in the traditional Moroccan architectural style, set around a tranquil central courtyard. Each room is unique in design and decoration, offering a personal touch that contributes to the overall charm and authenticity of your stay.

    Driving distance from Marrakesh Menara Airport to Riad Nesma Suites & SPA: 4.5 miles / 7 km, approx. 30 mins

  • Day 2 - Marrakesh - Ait Ben Haddou - Ouarzazazte

    Breakfast will be served in your riad, offering another taste of local cuisine to start your day.

    Today you will embark on a day unlike any other as you depart Marrakesh, traversing the expansive El Haouz plains before ascending into the majestic High Atlas Mountains. Your journey takes you over the Tizi N’ Tichka Pass, the highest vehicular passage in Morocco, often blanketed in snow in the winter months. As you wind your way through the Atlas’s steep hills and gorges, the landscape transforms from lush greenery to the stark beauty of the desert as you approach Ait Ben Haddou.

    Here, you’ll explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait Ben Haddou, a beautifully preserved Ksar (fortified village) that has set the scene for numerous films such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Last Temptation of Christ and Gladiator. This site stands as a testament to the strategic importance it once held on the ancient Salt Road Caravan Routes, where traders exchanged gold, ivory, slaves and salt between sub-Saharan Africa and Marrakesh.

    There will be opportunities for lunch in Ait Ben Haddou, with various local restaurants available (at your own expense). Recommendations will be given.

    After lunch, your journey continues to Ouarzazate, the gateway to the desert, where you will spend the night at Riad Tama, a locally owned eco-friendly retreat in the Oasis of Tamassint. Whilst providing an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, this cosy riad has all modern comforts along with the added charm of traditional Moroccan hospitality.

    Riad Tama is built with local materials using traditional Moroccan architectural techniques that promote natural cooling and energy efficiency. The staff are employed from within the local community and you’ll see that the gardens feature native plants, therefore requiring minimal water and maintenance, and supporting local biodiversity. As water is scarce in the High Atlas, water-saving practices are implemented throughout the property.

    Dinner, embracing regional flavours of Morocco, will be served at the riad, prepared with organic and locally sourced ingredients.

    Driving distance from Marrakesh to Ait Ben Haddou, then Ouarzazate: 131 miles / 211km, approx. 4 hrs 30 mins

  • Day 3 - Ouarzazazte - Kalaat M'gouna - Ait Youl

    After breakfast at your riad, your journey continues to Kalaat M’gouna, the valley of roses. Here, in a local cooperative, you will uncover the secrets behind the production of soap, rose oil, and rose-based musk, crafted from the millions of rosebuds that envelop the city each spring.

    Your day’s adventure concludes as you navigate the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs, arriving in Aït Youl where you will meet the Ait Atta Nomads with whom you’ll spend the next six days (and seven nights), experiencing their daily lives, traditions and customs.

    Your luggage will be transported on mules and camels each day and every evening you’ll meet for a Berber chronicle whilst enjoying tea under the tent. You’ll be accompanied by a local cook who will ensure the rich flavours of Moroccan cuisine continue to delight and sustain you and you’ll sleep in Igloo tents, specifically chosen to offer a snug, immersive experience in the wilderness, allowing you to sleep under the starlit mountain skies in comfort.

    Please note that there will not be any Western-style toilets available during the trek. A member of the crew will dig a fresh hole for each overnight stop and erect a small toilet tent for privacy. To wash with, you’ll be provided with a bowl and water, again in a private tent.

    Driving distance from Ouarzazazte to Ait Youl via Kalaat M’gouna: 66 miles /106 km, approx. 2 hrs

  • Day 4 - Ait Youl - Akka n'Imjergane

    You’ll wake early this morning, as you will on all coming mornings, to sync with your hosts’ rhythm. After breakfast, you’ll head up the dry riverbed of Tahia, then cross a series of small hills until you reach the Tizi n’Imjergane pass at 2,000 metres altitude. You’ll then descend to Akka n’Imjergane where you’ll set up your bivouac.

    Lunch, prepared by the cook, will be provided each day of the trek. In the evenings you’ll enjoy the day’s Berber chronicle over tea which will be followed by dinner. Sleep well under the stars in your Igloo tent.

  • Day 5 - Akka n'Imjergane - Tizi n'Toudat

    After breakfast in the bivouac, you’ll load your belongings onto the mules and camels. Today you’ll traverse a landscape dotted with junipers and plateaus covered with cushions of grass before ascending a dry river to reach the Tizi n’Toudat pass at 2,700 meters altitude. You’ll then descend to the source of the Toudat where you’ll find your nomadic camp.

    Lunch will be provided en route. In the evening you’ll enjoy today’s Berber chronicle over tea which will be followed by dinner. Sleep well under the stars in your Igloo tent.

  • Day 6 - Tizi n'Toudat - Assif n'Majdig

    Today you’ll head towards Bou Isdrime, then cross a high-altitude plateau to reach the Majdig gorges. You’ll journey through the Assif n’Majdig river where you’ll meet other nomads moving their livestock along the same route.

    Lunch will be provided en route. In the evening you’ll enjoy today’s Berber chronicle over tea which will be followed by dinner. Sleep well under the stars in your Igloo tent.

  • Day 7 - Assif n'Majdig - Tamgoumart

    After breakfast, you’ll leave the Majdig gores and head towards Tamgoumart. You’ll walk in pace with the shepherds and their flocks across a stark and wild landscape, crossing the high pass of Tamgoumart to reach your camp at the foot of Djebel Amzourka.

    Lunch will be provided en route. In the evening you’ll enjoy today’s Berber chronicle over tea which will be followed by dinner. Sleep well under the stars in your Igloo tent.

  • Day 8 - Tamgourmart - Tizi n'Igrouren

    After breakfast, with your host Ait Atta family, you’ll make your way through Djebel Amzourka where you’re afforded panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. After crossing the Tamgoumart pass at 3,300 metres altitude, you’ll descend towards Igrouren where you’ll find your overnight camp near a spring.

    Lunch will be provided en route. In the evening you’ll enjoy today’s Berber chronicle over tea which will be followed by dinner. Sleep well under the stars in your Igloo tent.

  • Day 9 - Tizi n'Igrouren - Lake Izourar and the end of the ascending Transhumance

    After breakfast with your Ait Atta hosts, you’ll follow the Izoughar river bed to reach a plateau bearing the same name. Your camp, which is the summer camp of the nomads, will be set above Lake Izourar, still watered at this time of the year.

    Lake Izourar is a secluded paradise cradled by the towering peaks of the Atlas Mountains. Providing a sanctuary for wildlife, it offers a rare chance to witness birds and other animals thriving in this untouched habitat. The perimeter of the lake, as well as the wide valley on its eastern side, is used as a pasture by the nomads. You’ll find that time slows here and the blend of peaceful waters, diverse fauna and imposing mountain scenery forms an idyllic setting for reconnecting with nature.

    Lunch will be provided en route. In the evening you’ll enjoy today’s Berber chronicle over tea which will be followed by dinner. Sleep well under the stars in your Igloo tent.

  • Day 10 - Lake Izourar - Zaouit Oulemzi - R'bat village

    After breakfast, it’s sadly time to exchange your final goodbyes with your Ait Atta nomad family. Having shared their daily lives during this transhumance, this will be quite an emotional experience!

    As you leave and continue with the team of muleteers bearing your luggage, you’ll descend through cultivated fields to the fertile Ait Bouguemez valley which is very green due to its clean river and intelligent water systems, allowing for the growing of apple trees, flower gardens and vegetables. A traditional and beautiful part of Morocco, it is as renowned for its magnificent scenery as it is for its abundant nature, and on meeting the locals you’ll soon see why it has been nicknamed “Happy Valley”.

    Lunch will have been prepared for you in advance by the cook who you will have also bid farewell to this morning.

    On arrival, you’ll head to the Ecolodge AdaZen, a locally-owned and managed retreat positioned on a small hill overlooking the village of R’bat, where you will stay for the next three nights. Embraced by nature and steeped in Berber culture, AdaZen is a calm sanctuary providing the perfect place to rest and unwind after the vigorous hiking of the past week. Adazen’s commitment to sustainability and environmental preservation, as well as its deep connection to the local community, make it a place to connect deeply with Morocco’s natural and cultural heritage.

    Dinner tonight will be enjoyed in the serene ambience of the Ecolodge.

  • Day 11 - R'bat village

    Your journey through the heart of the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains has finally led you to the tranquil oasis of R’bat, a testament to the enduring spirit of traditional Moroccan mountain life.

    After breakfast in the Ecolodge, you can discover R’bat’s rustic charms whilst meandering through its narrow alleys. You’ll find the village unfolding like a storybook, with each turn offering a warm welcome from the community. The local inhabitants, guardians of their heritage, eagerly share the richness of their culture, from the communal joy of mint tea to the lively exchanges in the marketplace. You’ll find every moment is an invitation to weave yourself into the fabric of their daily lives and customs.

    Lunch and dinner will be enjoyed in the Ecolodge AdaZen.

  • Day 12 - R'bat village and the Ait Bouguemez Valley

    After breakfast in the Ecolodge, enjoy a second day of exploration in the village and admire the views of the surrounding valley.

    The Ait Bouguemez valley is in the heart of the M’goun Geopark, home to numerous geological, natural and prehistoric wonders: dinosaur tracks, rock engravings and remarkable geological formations such as the Imi-n-Ifri Natural Bridge. As your guide will be with you, it would be easy to organise a ‘soft hike’ (at your own expense) for the day. Following the trail up the valley through terraced orchards and scattered villages, meeting friendly Berber farmers on the way, you could visit a pilgrimage site of the Marabout of Sidi Moussa (a venerated saint renowned for the care of spiritual diseases and fertility) before joining a local family for lunch. In the afternoon you could continue to Ibakliwen, visiting an ancient dinosaur’s footprint, before heading back to the village of R’bat.

    Dinner will be served at the Ecolodge AdaZen and, if you decide to spend the day in R’bat, lunch too.

  • Day 13 - R'bat village - Azilal - Marrakesh

    After breakfast in the Ecolodge, it’s time to depart the warmth and welcome of the village and travel on to Azilal for a visit to the M’goun Geopark Museum. This museum serves as a gateway through time, inviting you to explore the rich geography and history of the region. With exhibits that provide a deep dive into the unique flora and fauna, the museum celebrates the area’s recognition as a UNESCO Global Geopark since 2014, highlighting its global significance and natural beauty.

    At the Azilal Museum, you’ll also be able to delve into the region’s cultural and natural heritage. A highlight is the impressive skeleton of Atlasaurus Imelakei, a colossal 17-metre dinosaur whose remnants were discovered within the bounds of the M’Goun Geopark, offering a tangible connection with Earth’s ancient past.

    Lunch today can be taken in a local restaurant on the way (at your own expense).

    The day’s exploration culminates with a return drive to Marrakesh and the Riad Nesma Suites & SPA for your final night, closing a chapter filled with the discovery of Morocco’s natural wonders and the profound legacy of the land.

    Dinner can be taken in the riad, or a local restaurant (at your own expense). Recommendations will be given by the guide.

    Driving distance from R’bat village to Azilal then Marrakesh: 149 miles / 240 km, approx. 5 hrs

  • Day 14 - Marrakesh

    Having experienced the tranquillity of Morocco’s mountains and villages, your final day of this tour in Marrakesh provides an opportunity to indulge in its urban vibrancy at your leisure.

    After breakfast in the riad, take time to unwind in one of the city’s opulent hammams where traditional steam baths and massages provide a luxurious escape. Continue your culinary explorations, savouring the rich flavours of Moroccan cuisine from aromatic tagines to sweet pastries in one of the city’s numerous restaurants. Recommendations for lunch can be given (which today is at your own expense).

    Your renewed exploration of Marrakesh also includes delving deeper into its rich history and culture. Visit the city’s grand palaces, such as the Bahia Palace, to admire their intricate architecture and lush gardens. Stroll through the vibrant Jardin Majorelle or the tranquil Menara Gardens, each offering a unique perspective of the city’s blend of natural beauty and historical significance.

    Time permitting, you may also wish to visit (at your own expense) the Museum of Photography, showcasing the extraordinary diversity of Morocco as seen through the lens from the beginnings of photography to the modern period, and Le Jardin Secret, an outstanding example of Islamic art and architecture.

    Dinner can be taken in the riad, or a local restaurant (at your own expense). Plenty of recommendations will be given.

  • Day 15 - Farewell to Morocco

    Sadly, this amazing odyssey has come to an end and, having enriched your understanding and appreciation of Morocco’s diverse tapestry, it’s time to bid farewell. However, you’ll be departing with memories that will last a lifetime, the stories of the nomadic Ait Atta tribe forever etched in your heart.

    After breakfast at the riad, you will be transferred back to the airport for your onward journey.

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