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Why Ouirgane in Morocco should be your next short break

Why Ouirgane in Morocco should be your next short break

To find the best place to holiday in an unfamiliar country, it pays to follow the locals. When temperatures soar to the high 30s in Marrakech, you’ll find Moroccan families, couples and groups of friends heading out of the city to the cooler climes of the Ouirgane Valley.

This oasis of greenery in the High Atlas Mountains, just on the edge of Mount Toubkal National Park, feels a world away from the crowded souks and winding city streets of Marrakech, just 65km down the road.

At a time when travellers are seeking an ‘authentic’ experience, Ouirgane delivers. While the town of Ouirgane is pleasantly busy on weekends and Moroccan holidays, a few days in the valley and you’d be hard pressed to find another British tourist among the hotels, bars and restaurants, or along the trails that snake through the mountain villages.

(Annabel Grossman for The Independent)

Despite the region actively encouraging tourism – like many other areas of Morocco, it struggled desperately with the loss of visitors during the pandemic – it still feels relatively undiscovered. There are no chain hotels or restaurants here, wifi can be patchy, if it exists at all, and any tour providers will likely work closely with local communities. This means the money you spend will likely go to the people who live, farm, work and go to school in the region.

 Read more: Hiking Morocco’s mighty peaks in the Atlas Mountains

Hassan Errami, a local guide who leads tours with Intrepid Travel, says that, the majority of the time, they will only use Moroccan suppliers – whether that’s hotels, the farmers who supply the restaurants or the artisans they shop from.

Although the trails between villages are often well marked and relatively safe to hike alone, you’ll have a far better experience with one of the local Berber guides, who know the mountains intimately.  

Exploring local villages in the Ouirgane Valley

(Annabel Grossman for The Independent)

Hassan’s family have lived in the neighbouring Imlil Valley for generations, and many of the local people we meet in the villages are family or friends he’s known all his life. When you’re out with a guide, you’ll likely find yourself invited into homes for a cup of traditional Moroccan green tea, the serving of which is something of an art. Guides will also arrange lunch with a local family, using food fresh from…

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