The Aït Bouguemez valley is an excellent spot to hike through indigenous Berber villages and their stunning surroundings. But with no marked paths, finding your way can be difficult. Here are our instructions for two great hikes.


The Aït Bouguemez valley, enclosed by the towering desolate High Atlas mountains, is a beautiful patchwork of fields stretched across the banks of a river. Dotted around the fields and on low lying slopes of the mountains, Berber villages continue a traditional way of life.

Shepherds and goatherders usher their flocks from one green patch to the next. Women hurry across fields, scything crops and carrying the day’s work on their backs. In the villages, the scent of Berber tagines – a recipe unchanged for centuries – wafts from clay ovens.

Exploring the valley floor on foot is the best way to see this incredible scenery. But more importantly, hiking in Aït Bouguemez is a fascinating insight into a completely different way of life. Unfortunately, there are many opportunities to get lost: unsigned paths criss-cross the valley floor and maps are little more than a few wiggles on a sheet of paper.

We spent a few days exploring Aït Bouguemez to develop a couple of tailor-made hikes which can easily be done without a guide. The first explores traditional villages along the lower Ait Bouguemez valley. The second hikes through the upper valley and over a ridge with spectacular views into the main town of Tabant.

Together they cover the best this area has to offer.

WALK 1 / HIKING THE VILLAGES OF THE LOWER AÏT BOUGUEMEZ VALLEY


SUMMARY / A circular half-day hike exploring the villages and fields in the lower valley

DISTANCE / 12km round trip

TIME / 3-4 hours depending on stops

ELEVATION / Almost none unless you head up Sidi Moussa Marabout

DIFFICULTY / Easy

HIKERS / Mark & Paul

LIFE IN MOROCCAN VILLAGES

Our lower valley hike is an easy 12 km circular stroll that heads down on side of the valley before crossing over and returning on the other side. The scenery is magnificent, especially in the late afternoon when the golden Moroccan light bounces off the valley walls, illuminating the swaying grass and red rock walls. But the highlight is exploring the many villages and the Berber way of life.

Walking through the valley kids play in the irrigation channels; families sit on street corners swapping stories, grandparents peer out of darkened windows and woman work in the fields. But this traditional way of life, unchanged for centuries, is suddenly heading into modernity.

In the larger villages a shiny new box sits on a wall as you enter. This recently arrived bundle of joy is responsible for supplying a new luxury: electricity. Plumbed running water is following close behind. Both are bringing a much improved quality of life.

But smaller villages are not yet connected. It was a hot topic in recent elections. Elections for which you can still see the 21 parties different candidate names and the votes they received written on the walls of a large house in each village.

The main villages also have a school. In a place where homes are built from the earth, the dwellings and surrounding environment blend into one monochrome pallet. But, the schools are different. Styled in in multiple bright colours; their vibrancy is a contrast to the earthen hue of the villages.

This delightful hike is not just a journey through great scenery, but a glimpse at Berber life, both old and new.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR HIKING THE VILLAGES OF THE LOWER VALLEY

This 12km circular half-day hike begins just east of Timit on the road directly south of the Sidi Moussa Marabout – as marked on our map below.

Take the wide gravel track that heads into the fields and over a bridge. Just after the bridge turn right and follow the path as it bends left, arcing into the village of Aguerd n’Ouzrou (number 1 on map). Exiting the village turn slightly right and follow the path that runs along an irrigation channel, keeping the edge of the fields on your right and the rising slopes on your left.

About 20 to 25 minutes after leaving, the path crosses the irrigation channel before quickly crossing back again and bending left (2). Continue to keep the irrigation channel on your right as you follow the wide path through another village and past the mound of Aït Ziri rising out of the fields.

After just over an hour you’ll pass an even higher conical hill where Agadir (Castle) of Sidi Chems perches above the village of Idoukaln. After the hill, continue next to the irrigation channel with the fields on your left and – keeping an eye on your position on our map – turn right when you come to a wide track that cuts across the fields (5). This track passes through the village of Takhida, over a bridge and up to the road on the other side.

Now you can turn right and follow the road back to your starting point, but it’s worth making two detours. Firstly, turn left, head into Agouti, and visit Association Ighrem (6). Secondly as you approach Timit (7), instead of following the road, take the lower path signed to Valley Hereuse Cooperative, and explore the village backstreets before re-joining the road and returning to where you began.

The entire walk takes 3 hours but you may want to spend longer exploring the villages and the fields, heading into Association Ighrem in Agouti or Valley Hereuse Cooperative in Timit. Walking up the conical hill to the views from Sidi Moussa Marabout will also add extra time

WALK 2 / HIKING THE UPPER AÏT BOUGUEMEZ VALLEY & TABANT


SUMMARY / A circular half-day hike exploring the upper valley, before crossing a ridge into Tabant village

DISTANCE / 11.5km round trip

TIME / 3-4 hours depending on stops

ELEVATION / 250m of ascent and descent

DIFFICULTY / Medium

HIKERS / Mark & Paul

PESKY IRRIGATION CHANNELS AND SUPERB VISTAS

Lying face down in an irrigation ditch is not the way I’d recommend starting this walk, but that’s the way I did it. It’s not that I wasn’t regularly warned by my perennial navigator, but the irrigation system in the valley is very effective. So effective that the long, prosperous wheat completely hides the deep channels lurking underneath.

After picking myself out of the ditch and asking the ladies working the fields (still laughing at me)  to point us in the right direction, we proceeded up a steep gravel path through a forested section of the surrounding hills. It’s not particularly difficult but it can be a bit slippery, so some decent shoes would be a good idea.

Once over the top however, the views are amazing. The whole valley of red rock opens up with the tiny town of Tabant nestled among the green of the valley floor. A colourful display of where life exists in this otherwise barren place. It’s also an ideal spot to stop for lunch.

Heading back into Tabant, the trail passes the local school. With 27% of the Moroccan population under 15, it’s not surprising to find the edge of town inundated with school kids. Walking along the main road into town we were of great interest to many mini-Moroccans who took the opportunity to grab us for a chat.

Some were a bit upset when they realised we didn’t speak much French, but nonetheless, most took great pleasure in simply yelling out “ca va.”

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE UPPER VALLEY AÏT BOUGUEMEZ HIKE

This 11.5km half-day circular hike begins at the centre of the Y shaped valley where the roads from Agouti, Tabant and Ifrane all meet (as marked on the map). Take the road heading north-east (towards Ifrane). It passes through Imelghas village then turns right (crossing the fields) and then right again (1) into the village of Ikhefnighir. Perhaps checkout the cooperative clearly sign-posted from the road.

Keep following the road exiting Ikhefnighir, bending right before completing a near semi-circular loop as you pass through the village of Tadghouit (3). After the main set of houses ends, there is a short section with no houses before you come to two houses either side of the road. Just after them turn right (4) and find a way across the fields heading for the bridge marked on the map. The fields are crisscrossed with paths and irrigation channels so there are many ways to go. Be careful with your footwork as the channels can be difficult to spot.

Cross the bridge and turning left, follow the bank of the river, until a small ravine of boulders crosses your path. Make your way clockwise around the boulders (5) and begin to ascend the slope on your right. The path up the slope can be a little difficult to see at first as it is faint, but search around and you will find it. This faint loose gravel track now heads up to the summit of the ridge (6), zig-zagging up quite a steep section before slowly shallowing out. This is the hardest part of the walk with 250m of ascent and it takes about 20 minutes.

At the summit the trail turns right and, descending obliquely, joins a gravel track running below it. Follow this down into the valley, past a school and mountaineering guide centre before turning right at the main road (8). This road now takes you through Tabant, past shops, cafes and the souk before returning you to where you started.

The entire walk takes 3 hours and 30 minutes but you may want to spend another hour exploring the villages, the fields and the cafes and souk (Sunday) in Tabant.

AÏT BOUGUEMEZ VALLEY MAP

Here is our map of things to do in the Aït Bouguemez valley. It shows the hikes we took, places to stay, views to capture and a few other bits and pieces. To save our map, click on the star to the right of the title – this will save the map to: YOUR PLACES -> MAPS in Google Maps.

BEST TIME TO HIKE IN AÏT BOUGUEMEZ VALLEY

The valley is at its most beautiful in spring when flowers line the valley floor and the crops are at their most green. The problem is in early spring snow can be slow to melt and high rainfall can wash away the rock that supports the roads making them impassable.

We suggest you head here from early-April to late May, after which the temperatures start to rise, the wheat and barley turn brown and the snow leaves the tops of the mountains making the whole scene less picturesque.

After the summer temperatures drop. Mid-September to mid-October can also be a good time to visit although the colours are not as vibrant as in spring.

While not essential it is also worth avoiding Ramadan if you can. Morocco is a very religious country and a month of fasting means guides are not keen to take long hikes and local cafes and cooperatives are often closed. For 2020 Ramadan will be 23 April to 23 May and for 2021 it will be 12 April to 11 May.

Its best to do the upper valley walk and the climb over the ridge in the morning when it Is cooler. The lower valley walk is magnificent in the late afternoon when the sun lights up the rusty coloured craggy rocks that overhang the valley floor.

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TRAIL CONDITIONS FOR HIKING IN AÏT BOUGUEMEZ VALLEY

The trail around the lower valley is flat and very easy to follow. You could walk it in any pair of shoes in which you would be comfortable for three hours.

The first section of the upper valley trail is along an easy to follow trail but, after you turn right towards the bridge, be careful not to trip or slip into the irrigation channels that litter the fields. They can be hard to spot when the grass is long.

After the bridge, the climb up the ridge takes only 15 to 20 minutes but it’s quite a slog. The faint path is steep and covered in loose gravel so make sure you have a decent grip on you trainers / walking boots. The drop back down is on slightly larger rocks so again you need to be careful with your footing.

Nevertheless, while the upper valley trail is more challenging than the lower valley, both hikes should be very achievable to anyone with an average level of fitness.


TIPS FOR HIKING IN AÏT BOUGUEMEZ VALLEY

1 / Allow at least 3 hours for the lower valley hike and 3 hours 30 minutes for the upper valley hike. But ideally, give yourself an extra hour to potter in and out of the villages and fields, survey Berber life and pop into a cooperative or cafe.

2 / Before you start the hike, download google offline custom maps for the area and save our map by clicking on the star. Maps.Me offline Morocco South map is also an excellent second resource for finding your way around.

3 / If you get lost try asking one of the locals for advice. You might find someone with a bit of French, but if not, a town name and some pointing usually does the trick.

4 / Wear shoes with a decent grip for the upper valley hike and beware the irrigation channels in the fields.

5 / Morocco can be hot and there is not much shade on either walk. Try and walk early in the day or late in the afternoon. Wear a hat and sun tan lotion and take plenty of water.

6 / Many of the villages have basic shops offering water, biscuits, bread and a few other supplies. There is also a few cafes in Tabant and one in Agouti (but beware they will be shut during Ramadan).

7 / For more information, including how to get here, read our complete guide on things to the Aït Bouguemez valley.

WHERE TO STAY AND WHAT ELSE TO DO

The Ait Bouguemez valley is a fantastic alternative to the hustle and bustle of Fez or Marrakesh. There are a lot of great things to do in the valley, particularly around understanding the traditional culture of the Berber villages. For more information about what else you can get up to in Ait Bouguemez including our recommendations on where to say, see this post.

WHERE NEXT?

There are plenty of other things to do in the Aït Bouguemez valley. So if you’re interested to know what else you can get up to, besides hiking in beautiful scenery, read this post.

We had a great time exploring Morocco, here’s some more reading from us you might enjoy:

OUR FEZ WALKING TOUR
MOROCCO ROAD TRIP
DRIVING IN MOROCCO

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments section below – we will always reply. To stay up to date with our travels, follow us on social and signup to our NEWSLETTER.

The Aït Bouguemez valley offers superb day hikes exploring Berber villages and their stunning surroundings. Here is all the information you need for 2 fantastic hikes in morocco. #aitbouguemez #morocco

The Aït Bouguemez valley offers superb day hikes exploring Berber villages and their stunning surroundings. Here is all the information you need for 2 fantastic hikes in morocco. #aitbouguemez #morocco

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