Complete Guide to Visiting Ait Bouguemez Valley Morocco
Complete Guide to Visiting Ait Bouguemez Valley Morocco

Complete Guide to Visiting Ait Bouguemez Valley Morocco

Brimming with vibrant colours, beautiful landscapes and traditional local culture, the Ait Bouguemez Valley is a wonderfully adventurous Moroccan destination that’s off the beaten track.

Nicknamed the “Happy Valley”, and for good reason, a stop off here is a chance to experience the Berber way of life and some of the best trekking that the country has to offer.

I spent a December week in Ait Bouguemez in the company of a local guide. We traversed the valley—passing through the plethora of villages—and climbed a couple of the surrounding mountains.

Read on for my complete guide to the Ait Bouguemez Valley. Find out why it’s a must-visit Moroccan destination and everything you need to know to ensure you have the best time here.

Where is Ait Bouguemez?

Ait Bouguemez, sometimes spelt Ait Bougmez or Aït Bouguemez, is nestled within the mountains of the Central High Atlas range, 180 km away from Marrakech in Azilal Province.  

The area has the reputation of being the ‘most beautiful valley’ in all of Morocco and it’s easy to see why. The rugged landscapes serve up stunning views and in the springtime floral displays clad the valley floor.

Outside of springtime, once the flowers and crops die back, the range of colour disappears and Ait Bouguemez turns an arid, yet still beautiful, golden-brown.

A mountainous valley. There are small hills in the foreground and mountains in the background.

The best thing to do in Ait Bouguemez Valley: trekking

You can’t visit Ait Bouguemez and not do at least a little bit of trekking. It’s the best way to explore the villages dotted throughout the valley and see a range of amazing scenery.

Sunset over mountains. The mountains create line patterns.

It’s possible to do shorter day walks sticking to the valley floor or multi-day treks traversing a large section of the valley.

For example, on a day walk you can meander through the acres of orchards and stop off in one of the main villages, such as Tabant or Agouti, to grab a coffee. While on a multi-day trek you can venture further afield to lesser-known parts of the valley.  

There are the quaint villages of Ait Ouham, Zawyat Oulmzi, Ighririne and Aghbalou to the east. At the opposite end of Ait Bougmuez you can leave the Happy Valley behind all together by swinging round into the Arrousse (rose) Valley.

Whichever route you follow, you’ll  get to enjoy breathtaking scenes and the many, many beautiful mosques. These always rise higher than the surrounding buildings and a few are perched commandingly atop steep hills.

A mosque built atop a hill.

Trekking with a guide in Ait Bouguemez Valley

Strictly speaking, you don’t need a guide if you plan on sticking to the valley floor between the main villages. Google Maps will be enough to wander these areas.

For example, you can easily walk from Agouti to Timit (5 km), passing through Tabant along the way, using your phone or a map for directions.

The side of a valley. There is a small village at the foot of the valley side.

However, you will definitely need a guide for multi-day treks or if you want to hike any of the nearby mountains.

Djebels (mountains) Azourki and Waougoulzat are two such mountains located at the eastern end of Ait Bouguemez. Although they can be seen from the valley and hiked within a day, without a guide, it would be tricky.  

Sunrise over a tall mountain.

How to organise a trekking guide in Aït Bouguemez

Group treks

The easiest way to sort out a guided trek in the Ait Bouguemez Valley is to book a tour online beforehand through a company. This will take care of your itinerary, accommodation, all meals and transport—usually from Marrakech.

Private guides

Another option is to get in touch with an individual guide to organise a private trek. You can also do this online beforehand and it’s what I did. You can use websites such as tourHQ and Guide Your Trip to find guides.

Private treks are usually more expensive than the cost of joining a group tour. But if you message enough guides, you can compare offers.

Private guides sometimes charge on a 2-person minimum basis and most of the quotes I received for 5 days trekking including a guide, cook, mule for luggage, all meals and accommodation were over €1,000.

I ended up getting an offer for €720 everything included, which I went with. Although this was directly through a guide, they were part of EasyGo Tours, so I can personally recommend this trekking company.

Here’s a map of the route I followed over the 5 days. This should give you an idea of what a multi-day trek in Ait Bougmuez looks like.

A map of the Ait Bouguemez valley Morocco.

My guide, Ahmed, took us through several villages and we climbed Djebel Waougoulzat and Djebel Azourki.

Your final option for sorting out a private trek is to find a guide after you get to Aït Bouguemez.

Most of the accommodations in the valley are gîtes d’etape (guest houses) run by local families who personally know guides. Your gîte should be able to call a guide to come and meet you there. You can then sort out the details of your trek in person with the guide.

This can work out to be a little bit cheaper than booking things online beforehand. Expect to pay roughly the following rates if sorting things once you get to the valley:

  • Guide – 350 MAD ($35 US) /day
  • Mule – 150 MAD ($15 US) /day
  • Muleteer/cook –  150 MAD ($15 US) /day
  • Full board gîte accommodation – 270 MAD ($28 US) /night

Benefits of a guide

Along with ensuring you don’t get lost, a guide also gives you a much richer experience in the Ait Bouguemez Valley. They are almost always locals who were born-and-bred here and know the area like the back of their hand. They can tell you about the towns you pass through and help you learn about the Berber people.

Berber culture

The Ait Bougmez valley is one of the areas that Morocco’s Berber peoples call home. These are an ethnic group native to North Africa and Morocco’s Berber population lives in the country’s mountainous regions.

The Berbers have been around since before the arrival of the Arabs and speak their own languages. In Morocco the most commonly spoken Berber tongue is Tamazight.

A road sign with English, Berber and French written on it. It is the town of R'bat in Ait Bouguemez.

Berber culture is built on tight-knit community. Family means everything to these people and help thy neighbour is the mantra by which they live.

You’ll struggle to find a more welcoming and hospitable people than the Berbers. They treat foreigners as their guests and you’ll be made to feel at home.

The Berber people of Ait Bougmuez are resourceful experts. They work the valley lands with a helping hand from the local donkey community and build entire villages using natural materials.

More things to do in the Ait Bougmez Valley

Hike in the High Atlas Mountains

Ait Bouguemez is a great place to base yourself for some hiking in the Central High Atlas Mountains.

The M’Goun Massif is in the next valley over and you can summit Ighil M’goun (4,061 m)—the highest peak of the Massif and 2nd tallest mountain in Morocco—typically over a 5 or 6-day round trip.

A mountain range at sunrise.
The M’Goun Massif

Most guides won’t attempt a M’Goun trek outside of April – October because of snow and ice. But outside of this period you still have challenges such as Djebel Waougoulzat (3,881 m) and Djebel Azourki (3,677 m) that can be hiked during the colder months of November – March.

Sidi Moussa monument

Sitting atop a steep, conical hill in the tiny village of Timit is an old granary built some 200 years ago. Nowadays the building acts as a shrine to Sidi Moussa (Saint Moses).

A round mud building atop a conical hill.

Sidi Moussa shrine is the perfect place to watch the sunset over the Ait Bouguemez Valley.

From its rooftop you get great views in all directions. Look one way and you can see down the length of the valley all the way to Djebel Rat (3,797 m) in the distance. Look in the opposite direction and you have the best views of Djebel Azourki.

A mountain at sunset. The scene is a cold blue.
Djebel Azourki

To reach the shrine from Timit, you’ll need to walk up the steep dirt track at the back of the village. From here you join the concrete steps that spiral up the rest of the hill to the old granary.

Once you’re in Timit you’ll see exactly where to walk. It costs 10 MAD to enter the Sidi Moussa monument so bring change with you.

Dinosaur footprints

Dinosaurs roamed the Ait Bouguemez Valley in prehistoric times. Footprints left by these giant creatures were found on a hillside overlooking the village of Ibaklliwn, just next to Tabant.

There are 2 sets of prints here; oval-shaped and three-toed. The Oval shaped prints were left by the herbivore quadrupedal sauropod. The three-toed footprints were created by a carnivorous bipedal theropod.

Admittedly, the dinosaur footprints are tricky to see. If it wasn’t for the information sign, you would struggle to make them out.

To get to the dinosaur footprints, follow the stone staircase up to the hillside from the village. Bear right and go through a short tunnel. You’ll see the information sing at the other end.

If that’s not clear enough, the location is marked in Google Maps. Just search ‘dinosaur footprints Tabant’.

How to get to Ait Bouguemez Valley from Marrakech

It’s fairly simple and cheap to get to Ait Bouguemez Valley from Marrakech. The total journey time is roughly 5 h, split into 2 legs, and costs 120 MAD.

First, get the bus from Bab Doukkala Gare Routiere (bus station) in Marrakech to Azilal. The bus leaves from stand 18 at 08:30 and a ticket costs 60 MAD. You’ll have to pay 10 MAD extra to take luggage. I recommend buying your ticket the day before if you can as it’s a popular route.

A red building with the words 'Gare Routiere Voyaguers' written on it.

When you enter the premises of the gare routiere, local men will be hanging about trying to guide you. Just walk straight into the building without their help as they’ll ask you for money.

The bus ride to Azilal takes 3 h and you pass through some beautiful scenery. At Azilal you get off at the main bus station.

A group of minibuses and men standing around them.
Azilal bus station

From Azilal you need to take a minibus to Ait Bougmuez. This costs 40 – 50 MAD depending on where in the valley you’re going and takes around 2 h. Ask a local which minibus to take and they’ll point you in the right direction.

The minibuses don’t run on a schedule but leave when full. You shouldn’t be waiting long though as they coordinate the minibuses with coach arrivals from Marrakech.

The minibus stops at every town in the Ait Bouguemez Valley and the driver will announce each stop.

A man looks out of a minibus window. There out mountains in the landscape.

Where to Stay in Ait Bouguemez Valley

There are gîtes d’étape (guest houses) speckled throughout the Ait Bougmuez valley.

The price for a night in a gîte usually includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention copious amounts of free Moroccan green tea.  

Gîte hosts are masters at whipping up the traditional local cuisine such as tagine and couscous. The best meals that I had during my Morocco trip were here in Ait Bouguemez.

The recommendations below are based on personal experiences or solid reviews that I found on booking sites. 

Gîte Timit, La Maison Imazighne

I stayed in this brilliant gîte run by the Imazighne family. It’s located in Timit at the foot of the hill where Sidi Moussa monument sits.

A guesthouse entrance. There are plant pots in the garden.

The rooms are comfortable, the food excellent and the hosts extremely accommodating. The guest house has a nice terrace with amazing views of the valley. It’s a great spot to sip on your tea.

A kettle and teacup full of green tea on a wall. There is a valey in the background. It is Ait Bouguemez valley.

Here are the contact details and rates info for Gîte Timit, La Maison Imazighne.

Gîte Tawada, Tabant

This budget-friendly gîte is in a great location in the small village of Imelghas.

It’s just a short walk from Tabant, the main village in Ait Bouguemez. In Tabant you’ll find a couple of cafes, some small shops and a few other accommodations.

A small village at the foot of a mountain side.

Interestingly, just outside of Tabant is the Centre de Formation aux Métiers de Montagne (CFAMM). This is the official mountaineering school where guides train to become certified.

Book Gîte Tawada well in advance as it tends to fill—no surprise with its low prices.

Gîte Marabout Zawyat Oulmzi

You’ll find Gîte Marabout at the far eastern end of Ait Bougmuez in Zawyat Oulmzi.

A grand stone house.

It’s a grand guesthouse sitting on a high point overlooking the valley. There are plenty of nice seating areas, including a roof terrace, to enjoy the views. Safe to say the sunset is spectacular from here as the whole valley turns golden.

Sunset over a valley. The valley has turned a golden-brown colour.

Gîte Marabout is a great base if you’re tackling Djebel Waougoulzat or Djebel Azourki. This was my base for both of these hikes.

The guest house isn’t currently listed on any booking sites. But they do have an old- school website here.

An outdoor seating area with mountain views.

When to visit Aït Bouguemez

If you want to see the Ait Bouguemez Valley in all its colourful glory, then visit during April – May. By this time any remaining winter snows should have melted away and green crops cover the valley floor.

September – October is another great period to head to Aït Bouguemez. It won’t be as colourful as April – May, but the cooler temperatures are perfect for hiking. Even though the hiking season winds down during these months, all trails and summits should still be accessible.

Essential tips for visiting Ait Bouguemez Valley

Bring enough cash

There are no ATMs in Aït Bouguemez and nowhere accepts card payment. Your last chance to get cash before the valley is Azilal roughly 2 h away.

Food

I recommend going full board at your guest house as this is your only option of having a couple of good meals a day. There are a few cafes in Tabant, but I wouldn’t  assume that they serve food as I didn’t see menus in any of them.

Drinking water

Although it’s generally safe to drink the tap water in major Moroccan cities, it is not in Ait Bouguemez. The tap water here will make you ill because it isn’t treated in any way.

Shops

There are a few shops in Ait Bouguemez, but these are small convenience stores selling a limited range of items like snacks, drinks and toiletries. If you need anything outside of these, then make sure to bring it with you.

WIFI

WIFI is practically non-existent in Ait Bouguemez. Some of the cafes in Tabant advertise it, but I wouldn’t count on it working as it didn’t for me. This isn’t such a big deal though as the valley is an excellent place to disconnect and enjoy your surroundings.

However, if you absolutely can’t go without the internet, then get yourself a local SIM card beforehand.

I recommend Maroc Telecom as I had signal in a few places throughout the Ait Bouguemez Valley. You can get a Maroc telecom SIM in the arrivals area of Marrakech airport just before leaving the building.

Language barriers

Berber, French and Arabic (few people) are the languages of the region. The odd person speaks English.

It’s a good idea to brush up on your French or have a translation app with the local languages downloaded. This made things a lot easier for me.

Onward buses

Ait Bougmuez is not well connected to other regions of Morocco via public transport.

The only current option to leave the valley by bus is back the way you came to Azilal. From there you can figure out your next move. There is a grand taxi rank opposite Azilal bus station which may provide you with more options.

The bus to Marrakech from Azilal leaves at 14:00 (60 MAD). Grand taxis to the capital leave when full (6 passengers) and a seat costs 90 MAD.

You can leave Ait Bougmuez in the opposite direction to Azilal, for example towards Boutahgrar or the Valley of Roses (Kalaat M’Gouna), but only with a private taxi. My trekking guide, Ahmed, told me that this would cost over $100 US.

Passport control

Tourism in the Ait Bouguemez Valley is heavily monitored by the law. Don’t be alarmed if someone from the police turns up to your guest house in person to take a picture of your passport photo page. It’s normal and this happened to me.

The authorities keep track of where tourists are trekking because if something happens, then they at least have an idea of your whereabouts.

More travel tips on A World Over

A trip to the Ait Bouguemez Valley is a great way to experience a rural and adventurous side of Morocco where indigenous communities still thrive. I highly recommend that you make the Happy Valley a stop on your trip.

I hope this guide helps you to plan your trip to Aït Bouguemez. Feel free to drop a comment below to let me know about your experience and if anything in my guide needs updating.

Head to the Morocco page for more travel tips and destination guides for this incredible nation in the Maghreb.

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