Six of the best trail runs in Morocco

Morocco has become something of a Mecca for trail and ultra marathon running. The country is a veritable playground for adventurers of any kind with the huge variation in terrain and climate in a relatively small geographical area. When you add to that, a local passion for running and a hugely friendly running community, it is no wonder that all places for the (in)famous Marathon des Sables  are bought out just 11 minutes after they go on sale. Here, Alice Morrison, maps out six of the best.

Agafay Full Moon Run

At number six we have the Agafay Full Moon Run. This is quite simply one of the nicest running events in the World. It is held every year during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan to celebrate and bring runners together. It is a 12km trail run through the Agafay desert starting off from La Pause and timed to coincide with the full moon.  The runners gather before sunset to break the day’s fast together with a traditional Moroccan meal of spicy soup, sweet sticky pastries, and fruit juices. Then at 1030 pm after the full moon has risen, they set off to the accompaniment of Berber drums and fire dancers, across the desert. The run is across undulating country with a clearly marked trail and just the sound of bullfrogs to accompany you. It is suitable for runners of all abilities. At the end, there is a big feast and a chance to rest up under the stars.

Click here or a race account 

Morocco Race

In at number five is the Morocco Race, which is a new one on the circuit and had its first edition last year. It sets off from Terres D’Amanar not far from Marrakech and has four distances, making it accessible to everyone: 95km – 65km – 25km -10km  If you are brave enough to try out the big one, the 95km, you are in for a long, hard day as the trail winds over high mountain passes, down through steep valleys and in and out of the pine forests.  It takes place in November.

Trans Atlas Marathon

In the middle is the Trans Atlas Marathon, set up and run by Mohamad Ahansal the five times champion of the Marathon des Sables and one of the  most famous runners in Morocco. This spectacular races takes you right across the Atlas Mountains from Zawiyyat Ahansal to Imlil. The races lasts 6 days and is 280km long. That is a long way and don’t forget that you will be climbing up a lot of mountains. It truly is an experience, though, with night time accommodation in gites along the way and the chance to run alone through the most beautiful mountains in Africa. There is also a challenge race which is between 12 and 20km per day and is doable for any fit mountain walker.

Click here for a race account

Nomad’s Run

In third place is the Nomad’s Run which is an annual event in the Agafay desert where you can choose from a combination of biking and running. This has something for everyone and is very popular with  families as the children can complete some of the distances and love being part of the event. The distances range from 12km to 60km for the run and 12km to 80km for the bike. The atmosphere is super friendly and the scenery is stunning, passing over high points where the whole desert spreads out before you to the foot of the mountains.

Click here for a race account

UTAT

Our runner up is UTAT which is a fantastic mountain race that takes place every October from Oukaimeden. It is a high-altitude, high-octane adventure and one that your legs need to be ready for. There are four distances: 26km, 43km, 26km+43km and 105km. All of them involve serious climbing and descending. This is a really tough race but it pays you back – the pain is worth it! A really unique experience and a chance to run through Berber villages, up rocky passes and down through lush, farmed oueds.

Click here for a race account

Marathon des Sables

There can only be number one, though and that has to be the Marathon des Sables, the toughest footrace on earth. It is now in its 32nd year and is a jewel in the crown of ultra racers. 250km across the Sahara desert in temperatures of 50 degrees, it is one for the brave or, indeed, the foolhardy. The race is self-sufficient so you have to carry all your own food and equipment for the six days that it takes. It works out as roughly a marathon a day but just to add in some extra difficulty, the middle one is a double marathon. This is truly a once in a lifetime experience, totally magnificent and utterly unforgettable.

If you would like to join us on any of these races, Charlie, the Boss, is a very keen runner and can tell you more from first-hand experience. Just email escape@epicmorocco.co.uk or fill out our contact form.

Chefchaouen – The Blue City

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Chefchaouen has to be the most photographed city in Morocco. It lies nestled in the Rif Mountains in the north west of the country, a brilliant blue and white splash against the starkness of the hills. The walls, streets, stairs, alleyways are all painted in various shades of blue from duck egg, through turquoise to a rich shade between royal and marjorelle that is unique to the town. It is an absolutely beautiful place.

When you arrive in Chefchaouen, you immediately fall for its magic. You can feel yourself shifting down a gear and relaxing. Apart from its colour, it is famous for being the centre of the Kif (hashish) growing region. No wonder it is so chilled out. But as well as taking time out to wander and wonder, there are some great things to do and here are our top three.

1. Take a short hike out of the city up to the Spanish Mosque. It sits halfway up the hillside and gives you the best view of the town. You leave the median through the old gate, cross through the orange juice sellers and up to the steps cut into the wall. It takes about twenty minutes and the path is shaded by cedars and cherry trees. You’ll share it with women carrying big baskets of supplies down to town and the occasional worshipper. It is called the Spanish Mosque because it is actually a converted church, something that is clear to see when you get there. After the final flight of steps, you are rewarded with a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding mountains and plains.

2. Stop at Volubilis on your way. If you are lucky enough to get to this ancient Roman site before the crowds, take a moment to enjoy the early sun glowing on the magnificent archways and watch the storks who have taken up squatters rights on the tops of the columns, converting them into handy bases for their enormous nests. The setting for Volubilis is a jewel green range of hills and valleys where apparently elephants, bears and lions used to live in abundance. They were trapped and shipped off to die in Rome’s circuses and are now extinct, remembered only in the magnificent mosaic floors of the site.

Epic Morocco tailor Made Adventure to Volubilis

3. Stay at Casa Perleta, a gorgeous Riad in the heart of the old town. Concha and her husband came to Chefchaouen on holiday and never really left. They bought and renovated the Riad, filling it with hand carved furniture, pretty fabrics and old and new artwork, including works by Javier Reta, who combines photography and paint, and sometimes straw!, in his pictures of Moroccan women. The roof terrace lets you spy on your neighbours and also gives you a sweeping view to the mountains and is the ideal place for a long, lazy breakfast. Concha and her team can also advise you on where to go and what to do in the town. It’s like having your own personal tour guide.

We stayed for just two days in the town, but you can easily make it your base for longer and combine it with a more intense hike into the mountains or day trips to Tangier and the coast. However long you decide to spend in Chefchaouen, it will reward you with its beauty and tranquillity.

Epic Morocco travel chefchaouen

This blog was written for Epic Morocco by Alice Morrison. You can find out more about her on www.alicemorrison.co.uk

Ten things to try in Taghazoute

Epic Morocco adventure

Taghazoute is a tiny fishing village just north of Agadir which has some of the best waves in North Africa pounding onto its shores. It’s a surfers’ Mecca, but if you don’t fancy taking to the waves there is still plenty to keep you busy. Alice Morrison took a weekend to get together her top ten tips for what to do in Taghazoute.

1. Surf. Even if you have never stood on a board before, it is worth giving it a go. Surf guides and surfing lessons for all abilities are available from Surf Maroc, just along the main street.

2. Do a yoga session on the terrace at L’Auberge The picture above was taken from the roof top. It is a cool place to stay too. White washed walls and bright blue shutters.

3. Eat some fish. It is fresh off the boats and it would be rude not to. I’d recommend Paradis Plage

4. Gallop through the waves on a magnificent white horse as the sun goes down. If you walk or drive a bit further on from Taghazoute town centre, there are lots of options on the long beaches.

5. Grow some dreads. Admittedly, you will have to make it quite a long stay to do that, but if you want to fit in…..

6. Buy some art. The little suq has some nice, bright paintings by local artists, that are reasonably priced and will bring sunlight and sea into your living room, when it is time to go back to the rain and cold.

7. Sing along with the guy who roams the seafront with a guitar. Catch him early in the evening as by about nine, generous whistle-wetting has impaired his tunefulness a little.

8. Adopt a kitten. They hang out around the fish stalls and are plump and pretty and very ready to play.

9. Go for a run along the beach. The beaches really are endless and the sand is just the right side of firm to give you a proper workout. Best of all, at the end you can plunge into the water for a cool down.

10. Round off your day by eating at Josephine’s. It is a truly charming French restaurant owned by two equally charming French ladies, who decided to leave the rat race behind and settle in paradise.

For more from Alice check out her blog

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