In and around Taroudant
Written on : 06 March 2019
Taroudant, in the plain of Souss in Southwest Morocco, is often overshadowed by traveller favourites such as Marrakech, Essaouira or Chefchaouen. However, this fortress city holds many treasures, whether it is in the glow of the stunning mud-red walls in the glinting sunset, its traditional markets that cater to locals rather than producing tourist trinkets, or simply in the stunning mountainous geography of the region. Once you want to explore beyond the walls, there are then many options of excursions through dramatic deserts and oases. Go beyond the well-trodden tourist routes and discover landscapes that you will often have entirely to yourself.
In: experiences within the city walls
A spectacular natural landscape
Taroudant sits in the midst of both mountains
and desert, where snow-capped peaks peep over the tops of the earthy colours of the city’s buildings. Indeed, Taroudant is seen as the gateway to the Souss and Anti Atlas mountains, and is the ideal destination for avid hikers to use as a base before venturing along their winding paths. However, pretty much anywhere in the city you are constantly aware of the incredible landscapes that surround
. The encircling city walls, built in 1528, mimic nature in their colour and towering presence.
Souk, kasbah and medina
Often called either the Grandmother of Marrakech or Little Marrakech, Taroudant has, of course, some of the features of Marrakech
such as its covered markets (souks) and medina (old town). What makes the souks here so unique is the fact that these do not target tourists in the same way that some of the markets of Marrakech do, and instead you will see artisans upcycling various plastic wares for the benefit and use of local farmers. This provides a beautiful and inspiring insight into the traditional practices
in this city, where old and unused objects are seen as an opportunity for new practical visions that assist the local population. It is a place where Berbers trade produce, and here, as well as the rest of Taroudant, a much more relaxed atmosphere
presides, in which the interactions are more laid back than neighbouring cities. At the Berber souk you will also find stalls selling fresh produce and clothing alongside the utensils aimed for the local population. The Arab souk, in contrast, offers a specialised selection of crafts of leather and silver in particular. A little haggling and negotiation is still a must, both to reach a better price and to engage with the traders, perhaps whilst sharing some Moroccan tea!
Another joy of the rampart-enclosed town is the fact that dining out is inexpensive. Make the most of this and try unique local creations
such as Tafarnout bread. This is baked in a hot furnace that is close to the ground, and is also sometimes dipped in argan oil (made from the surrounding area’s argan trees). Riad
Maryam, run by the incredibly dedicated and talented chef Latifah, is particularly recommended for a sensational three course meal: beginning with a harira soup, onto a selection of colourful Moroccan salad dishes, onto perhaps a pie or tagine before a sweet pastry. Book in advance as its delicious worth has not gone unnoticed! For something outside of your usual day to day menu at home, go to Chez Nada for their pigeon pastilla! Throughout your day to refresh and revive yourself, we also recommend sitting down for a cup of fresh and traditional Moroccan mint tea, beautifully served in an ornate teapot.
Around: day trips from Taroudant
Palais Claudio Bravo Camus
The Palais Claudio Bravo Camus is one of the best places
just outside of Taroudant (10 km north) to really appreciate the natural surroundings, as its wide expanses of gardens and courtyards emphasise the vastness of the horizon around you. These gardens have lush lawns, many trees and beautiful pools of water that reflect the lovely architecture and palm trees. The property houses a collection of the artist Claudio Bravo’s work, from sculptures dotting the exotic gardens
to hyperrealist paintings adorning the interior walls
, and the palace itself was also his creation. He decided to spend his time in Morocco, living and creating art, because of the country’s exceptional light, and walking around the Palais you will discover that he was not wrong. The covered walkways and courtyards connecting the various wings of the 75 hectare palace are quintessentially Moroccan, and will have you dreaming of living in such a paradise.
Oasis de Tiout
Located approximately 25 km from Taroudant, this tranquil oasis is one of the most sought after places to visit in the south of Morocco. It is distinguished by its thriving green palm groves
that contrast with the pink-ochre rock and earth, creating a magical paradise. The setting provided the perfect backdrop for Jacques Becker’s 1954 film ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’. On the way to Tiout you will also come across many argan trees, and hopefully the very amusing sight of goats perching precariously in the thin upper branches to reach their next snack.
Around 3 hours drive from Taroudant, Tafraoute is absolutely worth the journey
to explore more of the region’s impressive nature. The name Tafraoute means “hiding between mountains”, and refers to an array of small villages tucked in the granite mountain valleys. Ammelne is particularly charming, in the differing greens and pinks of looming mountain rock, almond, palm and argan trees and stacked terraced houses. Drive another 30 km south of Tafraoute and you will come across another splendid valley of hundreds of palms, the Ait Mansour gorge, nestled between great slopes and flanking each side of the winding road. Tafraoute is also home to the interesting artistic endeavour of Jean Veran, where he has painted many of the giant rocks that speckle the desert landscape in pale blue. The result is a playful way to highlight the incredible geology of the area, emphasising the gnarled and bulbous forms that some of these rocks assume.
Paradise Valley, Anti Atlas Mountains
The Atlas Mountains stretch for approximately 2500 km across Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, and in Morocco they are separated into the three regions of the Middle, High
and Anti Atlas. Exploring the Anti Atlas has the huge advantage of there being less tourists than other areas of the mountain range, making the hiking and overall experience far more authentic and pleasant. Walking along the extremely picturesque Paradise Valley is a brilliant place to begin, with yet more contrasting lush vegetation and rocky desert landscapes. An added bonus to the spectacular trek is that there are waterfalls you can swim in to cool down in the desert heat