The Atlas Mountains are a rugged chain that span North Africa from the Atlantic coast through Algeria and Tunisia, an imposing barrier between the fertile Mediterranean coast from the vast Sahara Desert.

The most dramatic section, the High Atlas, can be found in central Morocco, which also includes the tallest peak of Toubkal 4,167 metres (13,671 feet) which towers over the landscape due south of Marrakesh.

Roads follow green valleys dotted with mud-built Berber villages, up through forest and over winding passes then down to wadis and old caravan trading posts on the edge of the Sahara. It is a haven for hikers of all levels from spring through to autumn, whether following well worn trails or donning crampons to conquer jagged peaks. Snow falls from November to April – ski resorts can be found up here – and can last well into the summer on the north face of peaks.

The High Atlas are also the perfect setting simply for cool air and respite after time in the sometimes sweltering northern cities, or as a stopover on the long drives between them and the desert and kasbahs to the south.

When to go

The High Atlas Mountains can be enjoyed at any time of year. The spring and autumn months are best, with mild weather making it the best time for serious hiking. The summer and winter aren't as well suited to treks as the summer months can get very warm (though still relative respite from heat of the cities), and, especially at altitude, winter can get very cold with notable snowfall.