Day 1: Flight to Marrakech, transfer to hotel. Souk tour, dinner and briefing
Arriving in Marrakech is a sensory overload in all the right ways. Surprisingly more relaxed than it’s reputation suggests, Marrakech is like one massive village, complete with all the sights, sounds and smells that the hot winds of Africa’s Sahara can blow northwards. Truly a different world, the city is one massive melting pot of people, animals and vehicles from every direction, but refreshingly there are few concrete buildings, gas stations, supermarkets or shopping malls. Our journey from the airport into the city’s medieval old centre takes us through multiple walled courtyards, mesmerisingly switching between blocks of mud brick and rendered adobe that blend seamlessly into the desert backdrop.
The 20 minute journey brings us easily into the old centre, and the quiet, cool and refined historic ambience of a “riad”, the local name for this kind of walled, upmarket residences. Our hotel is blissfully relaxing, with a central area decorated with antiques and complimented by a babbling water fountain. After a quick shower we head out into the “souks” and covered markets, soon emerging at the famous Jemaa el Fna square where street performers and traders ply their wares every evening. The ambience here is totally awesome, and we have our dinner and tour briefing in a nearby restaurant.
Overnight Boutique Riad Hotel, Marrakech
Day 2: Easing into the flow, not so gently…
Build up bikes, lunch in Asni. Ride Asni – Tinzert – Toror – Anraz – Wirgane
22km / 600m Climb / 950m Descent
After a relaxing morning building up bikes and checking our kit we load the 4×4 roof racks and leave Marrakech, driving for 1 hour to arrive in Asni, a great little town that truly feels like the gateway to the Atlas. Here we can enjoy our first tagine, a Moroccan speciality slow cooked in a clay pot over an open fire. We begin biking after lunch with a steady climb from Tamadout village, gaining height easily and then descending on a fun, rocky singletrack that is regularly used by villagers on the way to and from their fields. Heading towards Tisert, the trail gets rougher, and requires some good trail skills and a careful choice of line. This is our first taste of an off the beaten track Atlas village, spell-binding in it’s simple, genuine nature and the friendliness of its people. From here the trail, still mostly downhill, becomes easier, and we cross a traditional salt mine to arrive at n’Ouisadene. Heading south west we pass through the villages of Toror, Anraz and Angoini, sometimes on dirt roads, and sometimes on entertaining little singletracks between the garden terraces. Descending into Ouirgane for the first time we enjoy the panorama of the lake and wooded foothills, heading down through the village centre to reach an asphalt road, from where an easy 4km homeward stretch brings us happily to our Eco Lodge- home for the next 4 nights and a welcome sight. An easy first day’s ride, but not without it’s fair share of fun or challenge!
Overnight Hotel, Ouirgane
Day 3: Toubkal and down. Tacheddirt – Ikkiss – Imsker – Asni. 24km / 350m Climb / 1400m Descent
This morning we drive for 1 hour up to Imlil and the shadow of Toubkal’s towering 4167m peak (snow covered for most of the year). Continuing in the support vehicles to the Tizi n’Tamartert pass (2100m), we begin the day’s ride- mostly downhill and a great chance to let the bikes roll and give the climbing legs a break! Contouring around the valley to Quanesekra, we enjoy panoramic views down the valley, and up to the Toubkal range itself. Then the real trails start to kick in, as we descend through a number of tiny villages to Tamguist, sometimes on fairly challenging singletrack, but always well used (by the locals) and always well surfaced. From here we follow a scenic dirt road downhill to Imsker, where we eat another great lunch in the shady settings of a local gite (15km done). Soon after the village we turn right and head onto a steep downhill section, crossing the river and climbing steeply to arrive on a very nice technical singletrack. This is true, entertaining trail biking at its finest, and as the rocks give way to muddy fields, orchards and irrigation channels we have time to reflect on the day’s descents. Option to ride 10km back to hotel on asphalt or take the transfer.
Overnight Hotel, Ouirgane
Day 4: The Canyon Classic- day one of two.
Wirgane – Imi n’Tal’at – Amgrhas – Ait Zitoun. 28km / 850m Climb / 750m Descent
The first part of this ride is one of the classic trails that has put Ouirgane firmly on the world singletrack map. The canyon below Ouirgane’s azure, blue lake is pure gold trail biking- just technical enough but stopping short of out and out scary, it’s elevated singletrack certainly has a few sections to keep the concentration sharp. After an initial steep climb (some hike a bike required) a wonderful trail leads mostly downhill, high up above the river valley, and this 10km section is definitely one of the tour highlights- absolutely awesome! Moving on, we bypass the normal dirt road route, at Ouchfilene village, contouring around the hills on small, smooth goat trails to easily arrive at Imi n’Tal’at village, where we eat a delicious, hand prepared picnic lunch (19km done). After lunch, we begin a climb up a dry river bed and then on a short section of dirt road to Tamsoult and almost as far as Ameghras. Here, we take an entertaining singletrack uphill, though the village and then looping back down same valley on a super-fast downhill singletrack. After some fun in the riverbed we hit the dirt road and soon arrive at Ait Zitoun where we stay at a Berber guesthouse- complete with hamam and hot bath. The setting of this place is the stuff of dreams, and after our feast of a dinner we can have drinks on the rooftop, lapping up the beautiful sights and sounds under a galaxy of stars…
Overnight Village House gite, Ait Zitoun.
Day 5: Clear thinking to clear water- into the wild concludes…
Anoughal – Ourmer – Semghort – Imgdal. 28km / 700m Climb / 1050m Descent
After breakfast we begin with a 20 min transfer up the Anougal valley to around 1300m, and from there follow very nice singletracks up the river valley to Imi n’Ourmer, criss crossing streams as we go. There is plenty of clean, refreshing water around here in the early season! Above the village we hit a very rough dirt road up to the village of Ourmer, becoming challenging singletrack climbing that presents a good test for the best of riders. Concluding into a steep hike a bike (30 minutes) we reach a pass at 1800m and enjoy a picnic snack there. The head of the following valley presents unforgettable, top level (and at times risky) singletrack, with some exposure, that becomes more rocky as it turns into the stream bed. Less experienced riders can walk these harder sections- there’s plenty of time for others to stop and admire the stunning views! The challenging but super-fun sections continue until the village of Semghort, from where the gear gets decidedly more relaxing as we hit a dirt road section for 1km. Soon, however, we take a steep trail down into the valley towards Taghzout and then follow a river valley mule trail. Another highlight of the tour, this trail is so much fun! Crossing the stream bed multiple times, we cool off in the crystal clear water, and have a chance to drink from natural springs that bubble up from underground. Arriving cloaked in a massive grin, you’ll be more than ready for an epic picnic (late) lunch at the riverside, lovingly readied by our driver and cook dream team. Then we load the bikes and transfer back 30 minutes to our hotel. A great day!
Overnight Eco Hotel, Ouirgane
Day 6: MULE day. Amislane – Tizgui – Mules – Assif Zagrawari – Ouirgane
39km / 1100m Climb / 2000m Descent
This is a big day! We have breakfast at 07.30 and then drive for 1 hour on a rough dirt road to the remote village of Amislane at 1800m. The 4WD ride is exciting enough in itself! The day starts with a steep double track climb through lush green high mountain scenery, climbing to 2100m and then hitting an incredible downhill singletrack section that takes us from high plains to green gardens and down onto rocky mule tracks above the thriving village of Tizgui. We stop briefly here, before beginning the first part of the day’s big climb- there are some hike a bike sections but in general it’s rideable.
We meet with the mules before the climb gets too steep, and walk together for about an hour, up over a pass and down through a rough canyon. The biking resumes again on a unique stretch of fast, loose, pea gravel with plenty of grip and a wide target- free of the worry and concentration requirement of other trails on the tour. We meet the support car in Assif Zagrawari, and after a good lunch have a short section of relaxing downhill “piste” before the singletrack starts again in earnest! Now comes an 8km descent on well graded, fast and flowing singletrack through the forest high above Ouirgane- the views and the terrain are truly remarkable. Arriving in Tighfist village, the trails don’t let up, and we manage to stay on solid gold trails all the way down to the lake shore at Ouirgane, from where it’s an easy 4km on asphalt back to the hotel. What a day!
Overnight Hotel, Ouirgane.
Day 7: Kik Plateau- through the wild flower meadows.
MyBrahim – Kik Plateau – Tagenchoute. 28km / 500m Climb / 1100m Descent
Our last day’s ride is relatively easier, but offers amazing views over much of what we’ve covered over the week’s course- an elevated position atop the Kik Plateau making for incredible photo opportunities and some tremendously fast, and fun terrain. We have a short 20 minute transfer uphill to Moulay Brahim and begin riding on the plateau, cutting across country to join rough dirt road that runs parallel with the edge of the plateau. We follow this into open, sweeping meadows that are awash with flowers after rain, or in the early season. The views over to the Toubkal range are also superb. There is a great descent on rough, wide singletrack with plenty of smooth jumps, fast rolling berms and smiles all round. After a picnic feast in Agdour we continue on dirt road, becoming rough at Tadcherte, where we skirt the valley head. From there we ride around the canyon edge to enjoy awesome views, before heading downhill on a fast descent to Tagenchoute, with some rough, fast switch backs. Our support car is waiting at the bottom of the descent, and we load the bikes and transfer back to Marrakech. We aim to finish biking by 3pm today, in order to allow plenty of time for sightseeing, shopping and relaxing amidst the wonders of Marrakech. For our last night a special meal and some light festivities may well be in order…
Overnight Boutique Riad Hotel, Marrakech
Day 8: Transfer to airport for connecting flights.
Depending on your flight times there may be opportunities for further explorations of the city, or you may well like to extend your stay here. Please contact us for advice. Tour ends at Marrakech Airport, a short 20 minute drive from the old town centre.
Tour ends here.