A volcanic peak, a scenic gorge and saffron fields in Siroua
Siroua is a part of the Anti-Atlas range, where a fascinating desolate and barren landscape contrasts sharply with beautiful green, cultivated and inhabited areas. We walk through the beautiful Tizgi Valley, dotted with small villages amongst terraced fields where walnuts, almonds and saffron are grown. One of the highlights of the tour is a climb to the lone volcanic peak of Mount Siroua. Another unforgettable experience is the beautiful, scenic Tislit Gorge.
The tour day by day
Day one: Marrakech – Tamelakot – Tizouad (3 to 3,5 trekking hours)
Setting off from Marrakech towards the south-east, we approach High Atlas, leaving the level landscape behind us. We drive on serpentine roads up to the Tizi n´Tichka pass at
2 260 meters. From up here the panoramic views are magnificent. After about four hours’ drive we turn off onto a small road that leads to the village Tamelakot, the starting point for our trek. The village is situated at about 1 500 meters and here we meet our mule drivers, who load up the mules for us.
The trek begins on a plateau and continues along a little gravel road, where the only traffic we meet on the way are the local transports from the market. We walk along between low mountains in surroundings where small bushes are the only vegetation. A little longer along the way the views expand and the profiles of impressive towering mountains can be seen in the distance. Among them is Mount Siroua (3 300 meters) that we will climb on Day three.
We pass by the village of Tamazirt, where the colours of the buildings melt into the barren landscape, in sharp contrast to green cultivated patches near the village. Close to the village we see some peculiar formations that remind us that we are walking in an old volcanic mountain area.
The first night, we camp in the outskirts of the village Tizouad near the fields of barley, maize, almonds and saffron. From our camp we see the villagers coming home from their working day in the fields, and we view village life going on, as twilight falls.
Day two: Tizouad – Azib Tisouitin (5,5 to 6 trekking hours)
Today’s stretch of the tour takes us gently upwards, past several farmed fields. We follow a little gravel road to the village of Aït Irmour, charmingly situated on a hill surrounded by barren mountains. The earthen-coloured stone houses climb up the mountainside and above the village towers the fortified granary. Here, in bygone times, people kept their money and other valuables under the guardianship of the villagers. During the coming days we will see more examples of these granaries, that correspond to our present day banks.
We go by more villages and hike through a beautiful terraced area where the local inhabitants grow their crops. We pass walnut groves and fertile summer grazing grounds for goats, sheep and cows, and as we continue upwards the natural scenery changes. We enter a stony and infertile landscape, where only a few pockets of intensive green contrast distinctly with the surrounding grey.
Our trek takes us up over mountains that are covered with bushes flowering in yellow and purple. Here at a little higher level, we are treated to stunning views over majestic mountains, wide-stretched plateaus, impressive slopes and valleys with beautifully terraced fields.
We camp for the night on a little plateau at Azib Tisouitin, situated at 2 600 meters, right under the face of a beautiful reddish-brown cliff. From there we enjoy far-reaching views over the Tisouitin valley and the distant blue mountains.
Day three: Azib Tisouitin – Arbelou (6 to 7 trekking hours)
We get up at five-thirty already, to prepare for the climb to the summit of Mount Siroua (3 304 meters), a lone volcanic peak. The summit is quite easy to reach, even for non-climbers. From our camp site it takes 3,5 hours to reach the top.
We begin the day by walking on a gentle upward slope through a small valley. Then we follow a little path taking us further on up to the mountain ridge just under the summit. From here we use our hands to help us climb up the last hundred meters. From the top we have stunning views of the surroundings, including Mount Toubkal, Morocco´s highest mountain, 4 167 meters high. Even those who chose to stay on the ridge below are richly rewarded with fantastic views.
We retrace our steps and continue down to a serene valley with low mountains on both sides. The rest of the day’s trek goes through a wild and barren landscape without any villages, and the vegetation consists only of low bushes.
Our goal today is Arbelou, a beautiful place by a spring in the valley and with great mountain views. Here at 2 200 meters, where villagers grow their grain and keep their animals to graze in the summer, we camp for the night.
Day four: Arbelou – Tislit Gorge (6 to 6,5 trekking hours)
Today we will walk downwards almost all day and yesterday’s desolate landscape is replaced by the broad and blooming Tizgi Valley. We begin however, by walking up to a little pass from where we have a fine view down into the valley, and behind us to Mount Siroua’s majestic summit.
We walk through this stunningly beautiful and far-reaching valley where the villages lie close to each other. One of these is the lovely little village Tizgi, with its traditional old houses. The colours of the houses match that of the reddish-brown mountainsides sloping gently on both sides of the valley. We wander through the villages and also pass more interesting fortified granaries and beautiful terraced fields with almond- and walnut trees.
Siroua is famous for its fine saffron and its handmade carpets of high quality. Perhaps we will be invited into a family house to see the women weaving carpets and to have a glass off Moroccan saffron tea.
We continue down towards our camp for the evening and are treated to wonderful views over the surrounding landscape. Our tents are pitched a few hundred meters from the amazing Tislit Gorge, one of the highlights of our trek, close to a riverbed and with a view of the scenic mountains at the mouth of the gorge.
In the evening we take a walk along the riverbed running through the gorge. Depending on the depth of the water, and if it is not too cold, we can hear the many beautifully coloured toads singing a serenade in the pools of water between sandbanks in the river. If we are lucky we can spot the shy fox up on the mountainside.
Day five: Tislit Gorge – Ifrane (5,5 to 6 trekking hours)
Our last trekking day we walk through the marvelous Tislit Gorge, which narrows more and more as we come deeper into it. The gorge is bordered by huge boulders and strange reddish-brown and dark grey mountain sides, which fire our imagination.
We pass a lovely place where an unexpected solitary palm tree stands on a grassy spot, covered with fig cactuses, and then continue wandering along the small meandering river. At the end of the gorge we approach Tislit village, where the women are known for their production of rugs woven in traditional patterns.
We go on along a stony, bare mountainside down into the verdant Tislit Valley. After a while we pass the very old village of Ihokarem, where the houses are built of clay mixed with the grass of barley.
The last night on our trek will be spent in a Berber family house in the village of Ifrane. We enjoy a good dinner here and take a hot shower before our return trip to Marrakech.
Day six: Tislit – Marrakech
All that is left now is our return trip to Marrakech, and we will arrive there in the afternoon. The drive goes through the beautiful Oued Nfis Valley and up over the grandiose Tizi’n Test pass at 2 092 meters. We stop to visit the impressive and interesting Tin Mal Mosque, which is on the UNESCO tentative world heritage list, and one of the few mosques that also welcomes non-Muslim visitors.