Ait Bougmez Valley

Also known as the valley of happiness, this Atlas valley was basically cut off from the rest of the world until 2001; before then, only a narrow, overgrown track led into the heavenly series of hamlets perched above a river and the richest of flora. Here, slopes dotted with beehives lead down into a grove of walnut and apple trees. The valleys are filled with vegetables and fruit grown using traditional farm techniques; there's not a tractor in sight, only donkeys, simple ploughs, and one seriously hardworking community.

Today, there is a road that leads to Aït Bougmez and, with the arrival of electricity in 2006, the area has begun to attract visitors. Hikers enjoy the challenge of M’Goun, Morocco’s second-highest peak, while others prefer exploring the steep pathways on mountain bikes. For the less ambitious, just hiking through the rich fields at the base of the valley and enjoying the pure, refreshing air is an experience.

Almost all houses here continue to be made from the traditional pisé bricks and baked earth, and you’ll notice that most have living roofs, since sheaves of grasses are incorporated into the structure. One of the prettiest sights is the poppies peeping from them in spring. Life here is very simple, so don't expect any luxury spa hotels. There are also no restaurants in Aït Bougmez, but you can have a meal in practically any guesthouse with a little advance notice.

Remember that you are deep in the mountains, and safety is vital. It is easy to get lost. And be aware that much of this terrain is totally deserted for miles and miles on end. In winter, it gets incredibly cold and it’s not uncommon to have minor snowstorms. Do not go unaccompanied unless you are very well equipped and experienced.

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