MOUNTAIN PASSES & A TOWN MADE OF CLAY
It’s another striking shift in scenery today, as you bid farewell to the peaks and valleys of the High Atlas and head for sun-baked Aït Benhaddou. It’s a long drive, four and a half hours if you don’t stop, but time passes fairly quickly when you’ve got views like this out of your window. The road cuts through Souk Tnine de l’Ourika, at the head of the picturesque OURIKA VALLEY, before meeting up with the N9 at Aït Ourir. Flat plains soon give way to forested foothills, and before long you’re embarking on a series of hair-raising hairpin bends as the road snakes up towards the TIZI N’TICHKA, at 2260m the highest pass in North Africa. The views from the top are stunning. On the other side, the road descends into a beautifully bleak landscape of bleached rock and desert scrub.
Late afternoon is a great time to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of AÏT BENHADDOU, when its mud-brick pisé walls glow burnt orange in the sinking sun. The ksar (a fortified village made up of lots of individual kasbahs), is one of the most striking sights of the Moroccan south, and older children might recognize it from numerous films – Maximus trained to fight in the Colosseum here in Gladiator. Follow any of the dusty side-streets and alleyways that take your fancy, but make sure you climb up to the granary at the very top of the village, where you’re level with the stork nests and can enjoy tremendous views down over the houses below.
TOP TIP Despite what you might be told at the gateway on your way into Aït Benhaddou, you only need to pay (around 10dh) if you want to actually go inside any of the kasbahs themselves.
WHERE TO STAY
THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN
Delve deeper with our tips on what to read and watch before you go, foods and drinks your kids must try, and some key cultural advice
From ancient kasbahs to stylish riads in the Marrakesh medina – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in Morocco
NEED TO KNOW
A handy overview of Morocco’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit
Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety and how to get around
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