Morocco is a much-visited destination mostly, I believe, due to its warm hospitality and seductive natural and cultural beauty. In such a touristy environment, there are places, along the usual tour routes, that are off the beaten path and are not included in their itineraries.
If you think that going on a Morocco road trip is the best way to see the country, you are not mistaken! Driving, you will have the freedom to stop wherever you want and the time you need to enjoy the places you visit on your own pace. Not to mention – you can GO wherever you want, not just the stops foreseen in the tour itineraries.
Stop by Tinghir, one of the Most Beautiful Oases in Morocco
It isn’t just off the beaten path in Morocco. It is also the most picturesque of all settlements I saw in the country. In the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, there are a lot of small and larger towns and villages, all are incredibly beautiful with their clay colours and special architecture (ksars). But Tinghir has a location that gives the visitor the opportunity to enjoy its beauty from above. The lush palm tree forest that you will see surrounding the city is there thanks to the irrigation system that proves, once again, that Moroccan people are one of the hardest working and the best farmers in the world (my opinion).
Of all the places listed in this article, Todgha Gorge is the most popular among the tourists. You will see buses with tourist groups as well as independent travellers. But this should not stop you from including the place in your itinerary. The gorge is enough monumental to let room for everyone wishing to see its marvels. I loved its red colour and pointed shapes.
In the past, this area was very remote and the local people kept their unique culture unchanged. Now they can be seen around the tourists, trying to make money and transporting their goods on small, cute donkeys.
For the rock climbers
Once the road connecting this remote place with the rest of the world was paved, hotels and restaurants were constructed. For the more adventurous, there are rock climbing activities and this is why many people come for. If you are one of these courageous climbers, here is an article you will want to read before going to Todgha Gorge: Todra Gorge Climbing FAQ
If you want to take advantage of an organised expedition, check these tours.
Khettara, near Tafilalet
Khettara is an ancient system of underground irrigation that was used by humanity for thousands of years. A similar system was used for irrigation in China by the Uyghur people in Xinjiang Province (it is named Karez system and was also used by people in Iran and Pakistan).
The pictures show the khettara system near Tafilalet (between Erfoud and Tinghir) in Morocco. Why did I include this place in the list? Because you don’t have often the chance to see such ancient construction that it was so fundamental for the human’s existence. It is without any doubt one of the reasons why this region was populated and could grow a unique culture and lifestyle. Without such an irrigation system (that is spread over 300 km!), people couldn’t live in such a dry and hostile environment.
An ancient water metro network
The khettara system is a network of channels with minimal slope, kilometres long. We can say that it is like a metro network and the wells that you see in the pictures are the stations. Now the system is not maintained and not used in the same way as in the past but the nomads still come here to take water from the open wells.
It is safe to walk around in this a little bit surrealistic place but you have to be careful. If you fall into one of these channels, you will never go out. Nobody can hear you and nobody can help you to go back to the surface!
Ksars along the road Ouarzazate – Marrakech
Taking this road is one of the best things you can do in Morocco. The views are gorgeous, the places look wild and the feel of the desert will never leave you even when you drive between the hills of Atlas Mountain.
Along this road, you will see many ksars. Their nickname is “Berber castles” but are essentially Berber fortified villages. Some of them, like the famous Ait Ben Haddou, are very touristy, but others like the small Isli (near Tamedakhte) looks abandoned but are still full of life. If you want to escape the tourist crowds and feel the real Morocco, better stop on the way at places that keep their authentic and simple charm.
The road is not difficult but, as it is passing on the foothills of Atlas Mountains, can be quite challenging. Be aware of the busy traffic and drive carefully.
Tizi N Tichka
Reaching Tizi n Tichka mountain pass can be difficult. It is the highest mountain pass in North Africa and the weather conditions here are unpredictable.
The mountain pass is an important point on the road connecting Ouarzazate with Marrakesh and so it is frequently used. In late December it can be sunny and pleasant (as we experienced personally) but also it is possible to have snow and thus to make the road even more difficult and dangerous than it is normally. Even if it is possible to reach the pass with a normal vehicle, it is advisable to have a 4×4 vehicle because it provides some safety in case you have problems on the road. At the place, there are few souvenirs shops and cafes.
The place is not of big interest but the cold, refreshing mountain air worth your stop for a few minutes. It has, however, historical meaning as you will see from the memorial plaque that acknowledges the merit of French military members that constructed this road in 1936.
Cedar Forest near Azrou
I couldn’t take my eyes of the beautiful, soft and friendly being in front of me. If you travel with your kids, this will be probably their favourite place in Morocco. Here you will find friendly and cute monkeys (Barbary Ape) that are used to people and can be even fed from your hand.
Morocco has a very varied nature. In the north, between Casablanca and Meknes you will find amazing green fields with olive trees and other agricultures. In the south, you will see the red desert. And in the Middle Atlas, at around 1600 m altitude, you will find cedar trees and monkeys.
These fluffy cuties are usually sitting on the branches, eating or grooming their clear fur. It is easy to approach them and take photos or videos.
The best part of every trip is the unexpected and surprising side of it. Take time and go out of the beaten path in Morocco. Be spontaneous and find your secret favourite spots of this magical country!
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