"We left our expectations behind as the reality far surpassed them in every respect; this had been the Morocco of our youth, wild and unpredictable but with a beauty that can reduce you to tears; an emptiness and simplicity that is increasingly hard to find on our crowded planet Earth. A distant faint call to prayer in the early morning beneath a humbling blanket of star."
The six-night adventure starts on Sunday 24th May and ends on Saturday 30th May, either after breakfast if you are taking a flight or after arrival in Marrakech in the afternoon. Accommodation is not included for the night of 30th May. The tour is on a full board basis and the Kasbah du Toubkal team will be taking great care of us with full back up services and fantastic picnics en route. Accommodation will be more basic (basically the best in the area) and might even include a night’s camping in which case all equipment will be provided. The total distance of the round trip from Marrakech is about 666 kilometres with a height gain of approximately 6666 metres (remember we have vehicle support, so do not be frightened away by this). We will reduce this a little by taking transport from Marrakech to the top of the Tizi n'Tichka (2260 m) or perhaps to the village of Taddert allowing those that wish to cycle the spectacular final 20 kilometres of the pass.
Arrival, the tour starts with accommodation on a B&B basis in a 4* hotel in Marrakech
Distance: 68 km. Altitude: start 2260 m, end 1340 m
We transport ourselves and bikes to the top of the Tichka pass in the morning, ready to start with some serious downhill off the pass, quickly turning left onto a minor road that follows the old Canon Track described by Gavin Maxwell in Lords of the Atlas. The road is surfaced but is a little rough with some steep but short uphill sections. Coffee break at Telouet where the remains of the famous Kasbah still exist. The route from here to Anmiter has lost most of its surface and tough tyres are strongly advised although you do NOT need an off-road bike.
Ornate zellige tilework in Kasbah Telouet
From Anmiter, we follow the beautiful gorge-like Ounila Valley south through desert mountain scenery to Ait Benhaddou, where we will spend the night at a lovely small hotel within walking distance of the ruins of the ancient city, the backdrop to dozens of major feature films and television programmes. Those wishing to cycle the impressive new road on the final ascent to the Tichka pass can get out at Taddert. This road is now wide, beautifully surfaced and has stunning views over the mountains in all directions. This adds about 15 kilometres to the day and just over 500 metres of ascent, well worth the effort.
The village of Ait Fares in the Ounila Valley
Distance: 120 km. Altitude: start 1340 m dropping to 1200 m in first 10 km, pass at 2200 m end circa 1800 m
We head off to rejoin the main road where we head north for 45 kilometres back towards the Tichka. At Agouim we turn west onto one of Morocco's road gems. Almost totally unused by any tourists, we skirt along the south of the High Atlas through stunning scenery, including views of Jbel Toubkal, North Africa’s highest mountain, and friendly villages which have barely changed in the past century, other than for the recent arrival of electricity and this surfaced road. The route is undulating with some very steep but short uphill and downhill sections, but overall, we are gaining altitude until we cross the barren 2200 metre pass after about 36 kilometres, we then descend where we may camp beneath a brilliant night sky or our team may take over a local house.
The ksar of Ait Benhaddou
Distance: 95 km. Altitude: start 1800 m, end 566 m
Do not be fooled by the bare facts. Overall today we are losing a lot of altitude but especially towards the end of the day there are some uphill sections. This section has been described by the author of the definitive book on off-road motorcycling in Morocco as very like the Hunza Valley on the Karakoram Highway, but prettier. Having cycled the KH, Trevor Rowell (one of the tour organisers) can confirm this. We end the day at Aoulouz.
Distance: 71 km. Altitude: start 566 m, end 2092 m
An initial ride of slightly more than 30 kilometres on an almost flat road through the argan forests of the Souss Plain take us to the right turn towards Marrakech and the start of the famous Tizi n'Test Pass (2092 m). This is a quiet road which winds up gradually through the foothills of the High Atlas. At times, a bit full of potholes but suddenly the surface changes as we hit the new section of road. Eventually we come around a bend and see the full splendour of the final 17 kilometres of zigzags to the top of the pass. The gradient on all of this ascent is reasonable, rather like an Alpine pass. Most of the road to the pass has been beautifully upgraded until we come to the final zigzag ascent which still has some potholes and rougher sections, but is so magnificent that you will hardly notice.
We spend the night at a small auberge on the top of the pass.
The Toubkal Massif from near Tizi n'Test
Distance: 78 km. Altitude: start 2092 m, end 872 m
Again, mostly downhill although there are a few uphill sections, one just after we start and a few towards the end of the day. This is another spectacular day of scenery and we pass two of the Education For All houses, one in Tlat n'Yacoub after 40 kilometres, where we will have lunch, and the other just outside Ouirgane at the end of the day. We also pass the famous Berber mosque at Tin Mal. We spend our last 2 nights in comfort at the Bergerie auberge where there is a swimming pool and lovely gardens.
Tin Mal Mosque
Distance: 56 km. Altitude start 872 m, lunch at 1400 m, night at 872 m
Although there is an option for the brave/foolhardy to add another 16 kilometres with an 8 kilometre climb and 8 kilometre descent from Imlil at 1700 metres, to and back from Tizi n'Tamatert Col at 2200 metres. It is tough but the views at the col are pretty amazing unless you have had enough amazing views by now.
Kasbah du Toubkal nestled in the Imlil Valley
The day starts with a steady climb over 11 kilometres to Asni at 1218 metres. Here we leave the main road and follow the valley deep into the Toubkal Massif. 17 kilometres of steady ascent with a few stings, especially the last kilometre into Imlil. But the tableau of local life which unfolds in the villages we pass through and the views ahead of Toubkal itself make every kilometre worth the effort. We lunch in the splendour of Kasbah du Toubkal then return the same way to our auberge - almost all downhill - 28 kilometres of pure pleasure!
Depending on your flight home, there are cycling options back to Marrakech. The fastest direct route is 58 kilomteres via Asni, the Moulay Brahim Gorge and Tahanaout. This is a moderately busy road but is well surfaced and there is a good cycle shoulder from Tahanaout into Marrakech.
An alternative is a gem of a road from just north of the auberge and up to Tizi Ouzla (1020 metres) then via the little known Kik Plateau, past the reservoir of Lalla Takerkoust then a good fast road the last 28 kilometres to Marrakech. The total distance of this route is 78 kilometres.
Those with an early flight will be transported to the airport.
Come and join us!
Land only* of which a minimum of £250 goes to support Education For All.
*arrange your own air flights
For more information contact Mike McHugo at