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High Atlas Trek and Merzouga Dunes
October 15 – October 26, 2024
April 15 – April 26, 2025


12 days in Morocco
Activity Levels: Moderate Hiking


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Experience Morocco’s rugged High Atlas Mountains and rich Berber traditions. Trek through Berber villages, the coastal city of Essaouira, and the Western Sahara Desert. Ride camels into the dunes to spend a night in Berber tents after touring the ancient walled city of Ait Ben Haddou.

Few roads lead into the secluded stronghold of the Atlas Mountains, where the traditional agrarian way of life has scarcely changed in hundreds of years. As we trek, we see Berber women in brightly colored dresses tending fields amid picturesque mud-brick villages. Higher up, we meet nomadic shepherds in summer pastures. Mountain Gurus’ High Atlas Trek combines hiking through Berber villages with a sojourn in Essaouira, a seaport for thousands of years, and a visit to the wilderness and oases of the Western Sahara Desert. Along the way, we summit North Africa’s highest point, Mount Toubkal, a challenging but non-technical ascent that requires no mountaineering experience but rewards us with some of the best views in the Arab World.

High Atlas Trek • Mount Toubkal • Camel Riding • 10 Days

Embark on an epic Moroccan adventure. Make your way through the High Atlas Mountains on foot, exploring ancient towns and villages along the way, and end your trip with a camel ride to a Berber desert camp.

The journey begins in the former medieval kingdom of Marrakesh, near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, where you’ll explore the sun-bathed streets of the old city and stroll through vibrant markets full of rich spices, handmade carpets, leather goods, and snake charmers.

We then make our way to the High Atlas Mountains where we continue our adventure solely on foot. Our friendly guides will lead mules carrying the group’s trekking gear, leaving you free to enjoy the scenery while carrying only a light day pack. Over the course of several days, we trek through Berber settlements and over mountain passes as we ascend to the summit of Jbel Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. Our route leads through the lush village of Azib Tamsoult at 7,380 feet (2,250 meters). From here, we climb a moderately steep path to Tizi Aguelzim Pass at 12,045 feet (3,670 meters) and descend to Toubkal basecamp. The next morning, we leave before dawn and climb to the summit of Toubkal at 13,671 feet (4,166 meters). We enjoy beautiful views of the entire Atlas Mountain Range and the Marrakesh plains beyond, then descend to the trailhead at Imlil.

The next morning, we drive to the coastal city of Essaouira, located on a harbor that has been used by mariners on the North Atlantic for thousands of years. We explore this ancient city’s fortifications, narrow pathways and colorful, inviting markets. Then we depart for the spectacular Tizi N’Tichka Pass in the western Sahara Desert. We explore a riverside oasis and barren hillsides clustered with Kasbahs, and tour the Ait Ben Haddou UNESCO World Heritage Site. We then drive to Zagora, with beautiful views of the Draa Valley along the way as we ride camels into the dunes and spend the night in Berber tents. Our adventure concludes with a traditional Berber dinner and a beautiful desert sunset.

Merzouga Dunes Luxury Camp • 12 Days

Mountain Gurus offers the option to extend the High Atlas Trek with a luxury camping excursion in the Merzouga Dunes.

After visiting the ancient port city of Essaouira, we follow the Atlantic coast south to Agadir, passing small towns known for their surfing tournaments. We then head inland to the walled city of Taroudant, which has been inhabited since at least 1,000 A.D. and is home to fine carpet and jewelry makers. From here we cross the southern mountains of the High Atlas Range and head east through the sandstone cliffs of the Dadès Gorge toward the great Merzouga Dunes near the Algerian border. The Merzouga Dunes rise as high as 500 feet above the surrounding rocky desert. They are towering waves in a sea of windblown sand known locally as Erg Chebbi. We ride camels out into the dunes and watch the sunset over the vast landscape. We then sleep in a luxury tented camp listening to Berber music under the starry sky, imagining what life would have been like hundreds of years ago in this remote desert landscape.

In the morning, we depart west through the famous kasbah, or citadel, in Tamnougalt, set among the lush palm groves of the stunning Mezguita Oasis. We continue to the city of Ouarzazate and the Ait Ben Haddou UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we have time to linger and explore then spend the night in a kasbah. The next morning, we tour the ancient ruins and return to Marrakesh over the spectacular Tizi N’Tichka Pass.

Need help choosing a trip?
Read our Four-Legged Stool blog post for tips on finding the right adventure for you.

What can I expect on my Moroccan adventure?

Your adventure will take you from the ancient city of Marrakesh to the top of the High Atlas Mountains, and to the Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira and the edge of the great Sahara Desert.

Mountain Gurus’ High Atlas Explorer is the perfect adventure for anyone who wants to experience Morocco’s diverse landscapes, culture and cuisine in ten days. Throughout the expedition, you’ll be supported by our friendly guides, who are committed to your safety and comfort. In the ancient cities of Marrakesh and Essaouira, we tour colorful markets, rich culture and beautiful architecture. The trek up Mount Toubkal is snow-free and non-technical. It requires only good fitness and the ability to hike for 6 to 8 hours per day. While trekking, mules will carry most of the team’s gear, leaving you free to walk with only a light day pack. Finally, we journey through the dunes and Kasbahs of the western Sahara Desert, where we tour the fortified city of Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and watch the sunset over one of the world’s great desert landscapes.

Trek Highlights

  • 10 days exploration in Morocco
  • 3 days trekking Atlas Mountains
  • Ascent of Mount Toubkal
  • 6 nights hotel in Marrakesh, Imlil and Essaouira includes breakfast
  • Guided tours in Marrakesh and Ait Ben Haddou
  • Western Sahara Desert Camel ride and overnight in Berber camp
  • Comfortable tented camps or refuge during the trek
  • Fully supported trek includes meals with mule service
  • Land transportation
  • Friendly MG office staff will help you prepare for your adventure

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1 • Arrive Marrakesh
Day 2 • Marrakesh
Day 3 • High Atlas Mountains
Day 4 • Toubkal Valley • 11,810 ft
Day 5 • Jbel Toubkal • 13,671 ft
Day 6 • Essaouira
Day 7 • Marrakesh
Day 8 • Zagora
Day 9 • Marrakesh
Day 10 • Depart

Merzouga Dunes Tour

Day 7 • Taroudant
Day 8 • Dades Valley
Day 9 • Merzouga Dunes
Day 10 • Kasbah Ait Benhaddou
Day 11 • Marrakesh
Day 12 • Depart


Morocco High Atlas Trek

Trek begins and ends in Marrakesh, Morocco

Day 1 • Arrive Marrakesh

Arrive Marrakesh Menara Airport, Morocco (RAK). Transfer airport to hotel. Orientation and overnight at the hotel.

Accommodations: Hotel in Marrakesh

Day 2 • Marrakesh

After breakfast, we begin our day with a walking tour of the Medina of Marrakesh, the city’s historic district. As we walk, our guide tells us about Morocco’s history, architecture, culture and economy. We visit the Jemaa El Fna market square, the Royal Palace Dar El Makhze, the Saadian Tombs, and the beautiful Koutoubia mosque and gardens. We’ll have opportunities to shop and watch snake charmers before we return to our hotel to prepare for an early morning departure to the mountains.

Accommodations: Hotel in Marrakesh
Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Day 3 • High Atlas Mountains • 7,380 feet

We depart Marrakesand drive one hour to the High Atlas Mountainswhere we meet our team at Aguersioual a5,259 feet (1,600 meters), the starting point of our trek. We hike with light packs towards Tizi Oudite Pass at 7,280 feet (2,219 meters) passing Berber villages. Mules carry all our overnight gear. At the pass, we gain spectacular views of the Imlil and Azzadene valleys. We descend to Ait Aissa at 5,880 feet (1,790 meters), where eat lunch before continuing to Azib Tamsoult at 7,380 feet (2,250 meters) via Tizi Oussem village on the way. 

Vertical Ascent Trekking: 3,500 feet
Vertical Descent Trekking: 1,400 feet
Trekking Time: 5-7 hours

Accommodations: Mountainside Refuge at Azib Tamsoult
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 4 • Tizi Aguelzim Pass • Toubkal (Imlil) Valley • 11,810 feet

After breakfast, we set out eastward up a narrow ravine to a beautiful waterfall, then across open hillsides with spectacular views of the High Atlas landscape. After a break, we wind our way up moderately difficult mule tracks – making 82 switchbacks  to the Tizi Aguelzim Pass at 11,810 feet (3,600 meters). A longgradual descent takes us to the Toubkal Refuge near the spring snowline at 10,520 feet (3,207 meters). We enjoy lunch and dinner at Toubkal Basecamp. 

Vertical Ascent Trekking: 4,430 feet
Vertical Descent Trekking: 1,450 feet
Trekking Time: 6-7 hours

Accommodations: Tented Camp or Mountainside Refuge at Toubkal Basecamp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 5 • Jbel Toubkal • 13,671 feet

We begin the day early and enjoy the sunrise from North Africa’s highest point, Jbel Toubkal at 13,671 feet (4,167 meters) in the High Atlas Mountains. After descending from the summit to basecamp for lunch and tea, we descend to Sidi Chammharouch for a rest break. We continue to the lush village of Imlil at 5,708 feet (1,740 meters) via the main route to Toubkal.

Vertical Ascent Trekking: 3,150 feet
Vertical Descent Trekking: 3,150 feet to Toubkal basecamp
Vertical Descent Trekking: 4,850 feet to Imlil 
Trekking Time: 3-4 hours to summit, 2 hour descent to basecamp, 3-4 hour descent to trailhead

Accommodations: Hotel in Imlil
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 6 • Essaouira

After breakfast, we drive 4 to 5 hours to the coastal city of EssaouiraAlong the way, we may have the opportunity to visit a women’s cooperative that produces Argan oil. Western Morocco is known fothe rare Argan tree, which thrives in the region’s desert, but relatively humid, coastal climateIn Essaouira, we explore the sandy beaches of the North African Atlantic coast, as well as the city’s fishing pier and medieval fortifications. We can shop for local handicrafts in the city’s narrow, vibrant streets before savoring a dinner of Moroccan cuisine in one of the fine terrace restaurants in the ancient medina.

Accommodations: Hotel in Essaouira
Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Day 7 • Marrakesh

After breakfastwe have a chance to explore the medina and markets of Essaouira on our own. In the afternoon, we transfer five hours back to Marrakesh where we stay the night. 

Accommodations: Hotel in Marrakesh
Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Day 8 • Zagora

After breakfast we drive 4 hours southeast toward the Sahara Desert, passing through Berber villages and across the spectacular Tizi n’Tichka Pass at 7,415 feet (2,260 meters) in the High Atlas Mountains. Ancient fortifications known as “kasbahs” cluster in riverside oases and on barren hillsides. Before lunch, whave the opportunity to hike 1 hour to the summit of Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with outstanding views of the surrounding landscapeAfter lunch we continue another 4 hours to Zagora, with remarkable views of the Draa Valley. We arrive in early evening and ride camels into the dunes where we will be served a local tea jokingly referred to as “Berber whisky.” After watching the sunset over the sand dunes, we enjoy a fantastic Tajine dinner and then local music by campfire light. We spend the night in Berber tents.

Accommodations: Berber Desert Camp in Zagora
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 9 • Marrakesh

We watch the sunrise and eat a light breakfast at our camp. Then we ride camels back to the main road, where we meet our van driver. We drive seven hours back to Marrakesh over the Tizi N’Tichka Pass, with a quick photo stop at the fork to Timbuktu. We arrive in Marrakesh in early evening.

Accommodations: Hotel in Marrakesh
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Day 10 • Depart Marrakesh

Transport to Marrakesh Menara International Airport for flights home.

Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Merzouga Dunes Luxury Camp

Or continue to Merzouga for a tour of Morocco’s highest dunes.

Day 7 • Taroudant

After breakfast we drive five or six hours to Taroudant. We follow the Atlantic coast south to Agadir, passing small towns known for their surfing tournaments, and then drive inland to the walled city of Taroudant. Nicknamed the “Grandmother of Marrakesh,” Taroudant was the royal seat of the Saadi Dynasty in the 16th Century before the capital moved to Marrakesh. Unlike modern Marrakesh, almost all of Taroudant is still within the city’s ancient fortifications. We stay the night in a charming Riad, a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden, and have time to explore the city while shopping for jewelry and carpets produced by Taroudant’s skilled artisans.

Accommodations: Hotel in Taroudant
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner (B, D)

Day 8 • Dades Valley

After breakfast we drive five to six hours across the southern mountains of the High Atlas Range and then east to the sandstone cliffs of the Dadès Gorge. Carved by the Dadès River, the many-hued walls of the gorge rise as high as 1,600 feet. The walls of the gorge are sandstone, limestone and other sedimentary rocks that lay at the bottom of ancient oceans millions of years ago.

Accommodations: Hotel in Dades Valley
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 9 • Merzouga Dunes

Our path continues 4 hours east towards the border of Morocco and Algeria and the great Merzouga dunes in a sea of sand named Erg Chebbi. We ride camels out among the dunes to watch the sunset, then return to our luxury tent camp for a dinner of delicious Moroccan cuisine while listening to live Berber music beside a campfire under the crisp desert stars.

Accommodations: Berber Desert Camp in Merzouga
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 10 • Kasbah Ait Benhaddou

We depart west, passing through Tamnougalt and the lush palm groves of the Mezguita Oasis, before continuing on toward the city of Ourzazate. Ourzazate is a noted film-making location home to Morocco’s biggest studios. Films including Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Gladiator (2000) were shot here. At Ourzazate we once again visit the Ait Ben Haddou UNESCO World Heritage Site, but now we have time to linger and explore this marvelous city then sleep in its kasbah. Ait Ben Haddou is a fantastic example of traditional architecture on the edges of the Sahara. It is a “ksar,” a group of connected, red, earthen dwellings surrounded by a single defensive wall.

Accommodations: Hotel in Ait Ben Haddou
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 11 • Marrakesh

We drive four hours back to Marrakesh over the Tizi N’Tichka Pass, arriving in early afternoon. In the evening we have time to explore the city on our own.

Accommodations: Hotel in Marrakesh
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Day 12 • Depart Marrakesh

Transport to Marrakesh Menara International Airport for flights home.

Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Itinerary Notes
Mountain Gurus makes every effort to uphold the scheduled itinerary, although our guides are given discretion to adapt the itinerary for reasons beyond our control or due to the needs of the group. Meal schedule: (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner




Merzouga Dunes Tour Extension: $995

Rates are quoted based on double/twin sharing hotel accommodations while in Marrakesh, Imlil and Essaouira. Single room fees apply.

Deposit and Payments

  • A non-refundable deposit of $1000.00 per person secures your reservation.
  • The balance is due 120 days prior to the start date.
  • The balance can be paid by credit card with a surcharge of 3.0%, or Zelle payment network.
  • If your balance payment is not received 120 days before the start of your program, your reservation will be canceled, and all program fees forfeited.

Price Includes

  • Scheduled land transportation in Morocco
  • Hotels in Marrakesh, Imlil and Essaouira
  • Refuge and tented accommodations
  • Guided sightseeing tours
  • Camel riding in Zagora
  • Scheduled meals during the trek
  • Professional English-speaking trekking guide
  • Scheduled mule service based on the itinerary
  • Baggage transport (limited to 15kg – 33lbs)
  • All group equipment for the trek

Price Does Not Include

  • International airfare and meals during travel
  • Visa fees
  • Airport transfers
  • Non-scheduled meals
  • Personal gear
  • Trip cancellation insurance (highly recommended)
  • Single room (hotels only) $600
  • Medical and evacuation coverage
  • Early departure fees
  • Excess baggage fees
  • Tips and gratuities


A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your trip will be sent to you in the PreClimb information upon reservation.

Head and Face

  • Warm Hat: Wool or synthetic, must cover the ears
  • Sun Hat or Baseball Cap
  • Sunglasses: Essential eye protection at altitude.
  • Sunscreen: SPF 30+
  • Lip Balm: SPF 30+
  • LED Headlamp: Bring one extra set of batteries.
  • Scarf or Bandana 

Upper Body

  • Baselayer Tops: One synthetic short-sleeve shirt. One synthetic long-sleeve shirt.
  • Softshell Jacket: A breathable but wind-and-weather resistant jacket. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Hardshell Jacket: GORE-TEX© or fully waterproof shell. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Light Insulated Jacket: Light synthetic insulated or down jacket


  • Lightweight Gloves: One pair (WINDSTOPPER© is recommended)
  • Mediumweight Ski Gloves: Insulated glove or mitten. Optional

Lower Body

  • Quick Dry Hiking Shorts: One pair. Good for hiking at lower elevations in the mountains.
  • Baselayer Bottom: One pair. Synthetic, no cotton
  • Trekking Pants: One pair. Synthetic, stretchy, non-insulated
  • Hardshell Pants: Bring a good pair of rain/wind pants.


  • Trekking Socks: Four pair wool or synthetic medium weight
  • Hiking Boots or Trekking Shoes: One pair medium weight hiking boots, or hiking shoes with adequate ankle support, large enough to be comfortable with your warm socks


  • Sleeping Bag: Bring a warm bag (rated to 20ᵒ fahrenheit).
  • Sleeping Pads: A full-length closed-cell foam pad or inflatable pad.

Packing and Backpack

  • Backpack: One 30-liter pack with good support and adequate space for personal, trekking gear
  • Duffel: One medium duffel for transporting gear via mules.
  • Liner Bags: One large plastic contractor bag to keep gear dry
  • Travel Bag/Luggage: One medium size, store non-mountain gear at hotel during the trek.

Trekking Gear

  • Trekking Poles: Adjustable and collapsible.


  • Water Bottle: Two, 1-liter wide-mouth plastic bottles. NALGENE© or purchase bottled water on the mountain.
  • Hydration System: CamelBak© or bladder style. Optional

Personal Health and First Aid

  • Small personal first-aid kit and medications



Program Location:
Begins and ends in Marrakesh, Morocco

Visa/Entry Information:
A valid passport is required for American citizens to enter Morocco. American citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 30 days for tourism.

Health & Immunizations:
Immunizations are not required for entry into Morocco.

Flight Travel Information:
Marrakesh Menara Airport (RAK), Morocco

International Departures:
Itineraries reflect the date and time you will need to arrive in country for a program. Mountain Gurus programs begin and end in-country in the destination city. When booking your flight, you will need to account for travel time and crossing the international dateline if needed. It is easiest to give your booking agent the day and time you will need to arrive.

Meals and Food:
All meals are provided as per meal schedule. See itinerary.

A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your program will be sent to you in a pre-departure information packet upon booking. For your safety and comfort, it is extremely important that you adhere strictly to the equipment list.

Morocco Explorer Fitness & Training

Activity Levels: Moderate Hiking

This trek requires good physical conditioning and previous trekking experience. We will be trekking between 4-6 hours each day with time to rest at huts, camps, and lodges at night.

Prior to the expedition we recommend running, hiking local peaks, backpacking and trekking to gain strength and stamina for the climb.

Here’s a suggested progression of treks before attempting the Morocco Explorer.

  • Mount Fuji, Machu Picchu, Mustang Explorer, Everest Base Camp Trek
  • Northwest Climb (Mount Baker), optional

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Mountain Gurus

Since 2008, we have offered world-class Seven Summits expeditions, high-altitude climbs, and specialized treks around the globe from the Himalayas to the Andes, and from the heights of Africa to the rainforests of the Amazon Basin. We make safety our foremost priority. We employ some of the most talented guides in the industry, and we maintain low client-to-guide ratios to ensure that you enjoy the best possible experience. Our business is rooted in environmental and social stewardship. We also offer a wide selection of mountaineering courses and climbs in the Pacific Northwest through our partner company, Northwest Alpine Guides. To learn more about our services, history and philosophy, please visit: Why Mountain Gurus.

What are the physical fitness requirements needed for this trek?

Participants on this expedition should have strong hiking skills and be in excellent physical condition. During the trek, we will hike for 6 to 8 hours per day while carrying small day packs. We will gain 3,000 – 4500 feet of elevation each day.

What are the accommodations?

On this Moroccan expedition, we stay in friendly boutique hotels, snug mountain refuges, and high-quality moutaineering tents. Prices are based on shared (double occupancy) lodging in hotels, refuges and tents.

Who will guide the trek?

Our High Atlas treks are led by a Moroccan guide with extensive experience working with our trekking teams. Your head guide will be assisted by other local guides. 

On occasion we offer specialty treks led by an experienced American mountain guide. These climbs typically cost more due to the expense of having a Western guide lead the trek. 

How much will my pack weigh?

During the trek you will carry only a light daypack. Mules will carry all of your extra clothing and overnight gear. At no point will you carry any of the team’s camping or other expedition equipment. For your comfort, your pack weight will not exceed 15 to 20 pounds.

Do I need mountaineering experience?

Trekking poles and a light day pack are sufficient for an ascent of Mount Toubkal. Ice axe, crampons, and other special equipment are not needed. You do not need prior mountaineering or climbing experience. Anyone with good physical fitness is welcome to join the trek. We ascend Mount Toubkal in the fall or spring when the trail is free of snow, and hot summer temperatures may be avoided.


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