Just a 30 minute drive out of Marrakech takes you to the lively estate of Terres D’Amanar, located at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.
A fine example of ecotourism and sustainable development in Morocco, Terres d’Amanar makes for a great, fun day out. Active types will enjoy the zip-wires, trekking, horse riding, climbing and mountain biking activities on offer, while more sedate activities include cookery and craft lessons. For all to enjoy there is a swimming pool and a library. Children love it here and Terres D’Amanar is popular with families.
The overall project has been overseen and designed by the local community who remain heavily involved. Seasonal food is prepared by Berber women from neighbouring areas and the staff come from nearby settlements too. Partnerships with local cooperatives mean that vegetables, craft products and raw building materials are all sourced locally as well – a creative and useful model that can serve as a blueprint for other businesses.
If you fancy overnighting, there are simple but clean and functional guestrooms available as well as large, comfortable tents for camping in the ‘nature village.’
Never mind the classic European cycling climbs of the Alps and the Pyrenees, there are plenty of other mountainous areas to get stuck in to before the summer months.
After the triumph of the first Marrakech Atlas Etape in 2013, registration is now open for cyclists who wish to join in 2014.
Cycling seems to be all the rage in Morocco and the Marrakech Atlas Etape is one of the toughest challenges. The full route is an eye-watering 140km but there are other options too. There’s also a 60km option, with just 360m of climbing.
It’s inevitable that 2014 will prove just as popular as last year given that the route not only provides participants with a truly memorable experience, but also raises vital funds for the worthy charity Education For All (EFA).
This Moroccan-based charity, which was founded in 2007, helps to educate under-privileged young girls in the Atlas Mountains.
Their motto is “We may not individually be able to change the world but we can help to make a difference to a person’s life and indirectly many more.”
The event will take place on Sunday 27 April 2014. You can find out more or register here: www.marrakech-atlas-etape.com
Cyclists who like to go ‘off-road’ should look no further than AXS (www.argansports.com), a Marrakech-based bicycle company which offers touring, distribution, retail, and soon, a café. Ideal for ex-pats who are looking for an alternative way to explore Morocco, or for visitors who are keen for an adrenaline-filled trip.
Tours include the easy, beginner-level ‘Magical Marrakech’ tour, which is an hour and a half cycling past the King’s palace, the Medina and the Djeema-El-Fna where tour members stop to drink some of the best freshly-squeezed orange juice in the world.
Or, for something more adventurous, there’s the ‘intermediate to advanced’ graded full day tour of the Ouirgane Valley in the High Atlas Mountains. Two-wheels are a great way to get up close to Berber Villages and the tour focuses on “off-road” trails around Asni. Leg-wobbling maybe, but certainly spectacular!
Keep up with their blog here: http://blog.argansports.com/
Skiers looking for a good-value adrenaline filled adventure could do worse than head to Africa’s highest ski resort (complete with the highest ski lift in North Africa at 3273m), Oukaimeden, 45 miles south of Marrakech.
The longest run is 3km and while the piste is not as polished as European resorts, but it’s a fantastic getaway and is very economical. There is good piste and off-piste skiing, and for cross-country skiers, crests are accessible. All the necessary equipment can be hired, but the rates and quality differs, so it pays to ask around. Ski passes are cheap as are guides and instructors, but go with a recommendation if possible as standards vary.
In terms of the season, snow cover can be unreliable but the best time to come is between February and April. It’s not that common to ski in Africa so go with an open mind and enjoy the fact that you’ll be able to tell friends back home that you’ve skied in Morocco!
Seeing Marrakech, and Morocco, from the ground is one thing, but imagine the scene from up above. A hot air balloon ride, early in the morning – preferably at sunrise – is the perfect way to witness the panorama of the Atlas Mountains, the ochre walls of the city and the winding medina. For 27 years, Maroc Montgolfiere has been offering scenic flights which highlight perfectly the contrast between city and countryside. The whole experience lasts around four hours and begins with a pick-up from the riad. Guests are then driven in a 4×4 to the take-off position, which is located around 25 miles north of the Palmeraie area of Marrakech, in a typical Moroccan village.
Expectations rise as the balloon is inflated and then there are plenty of magical moments as take-off begins. For around an hour the views open up and the colours of the city, surrounding region and the bright blue sky allow for great photographic opportunities.
Afterwards, there’s time to relax and enjoy a local breakfast at a villager’s home before a transfer back. We thoroughly recommend this experience, it gives a useful perspective on the local geography and the balloon voyage promises to remain with you long after you land.
For more information, see www.marocmontgolfiere.com
Berber culture is all the rage nowadays. You may have been to the wonderful Maison de la Photographie (46 Ahal Fès; 212-524-385-721; maison-delaphotographie.com) already, but have you visited its sister site, the Ecomusée Berbere de l’Ourika? This quirky little museum lies 37km outside of Marrakech – making it ideal for an afternoon excursion- and its main mission is to explain to visitors what life is like in a traditional Berber village.
The museum is located in the Ourika valley, in the small village of Tafza, and it is home to an interesting collection of different artefacts, ranging from pottery and carpets to ancient jewellery and classic travel photography. Perhaps best of all is the opportunity to view some fascinating early footage shot in the high Atlas by film director Daniel Chicault. We think this is an important collection that is key in preserving and promoting this ancient culture. A ‘must-visit’ on your next adventure to Morocco!
Vilage de Tafza, Route de l’Ourika +212-524-385-721 http://www.museeberbere.com/