This half-day Tinghir Oasis & Todra Gorge hike goes deep into the canyon through the lush oasis and over its rocky walls past nomadic camps. Don’t miss it.
In spring, the snowmelt from the High Atlas Mountains collects in rivers and rushes downhill. Over the years, this southerly flow has cut deep ravines and dramatic valleys. The most dramatic of these is the Todra Gorge. At almost 200m high and only 10m wide at its narrowest point, it’s superb Moroccan scenery.
A paved road runs all the way up the gorge, making the main tourist area an easy (but somewhat blighted) destination to visit. Although it’s simple and quick to get out of the car and take some photos, we highly recommend you strap on some hiking boots to really appreciate this incredible location. A few hours hiking around Todra Gorge is a Moroccan experience not to be missed.
We had a great time on this half-day hike during our 10 days in Morocco. It collects beautifully barren mountain scenery, along with the lush green northern reaches of the Tinghir Oasis. In addition to captivating landscapes, we passed goat and sheepherders on the paths, nomadic settlements high up in the hills and rural farmers making a living on the valley floor. It’s a great opportunity to explore a genuine side of Morocco far removed from the tourist stalls at the Todra Gorge car park.
Unlike many hikes in Morocco, the paths are not too difficult to follow. This Todra Gorge hike can be done without a guide. Just follow the instructions in this article for a great day out.
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TINGHIR OASIS / TODRA GORGE HIKE
Circular hike up to a dramatic rocky viewpoint
11.5-kilometre round trip
3 hours, 20 minutes
400 metres (+/-)
Easy to Medium
A SUPERB HIKE EXPLORING THE SCENERY AND CULTURE OF THE TODRA GORGE
It was another picture-perfect Moroccan blue sky when we set off on the hike. The sun had only just risen over the canyon walls and the red rock was shimmering in the early morning light. Strapping on our walking boots we found the path and slowly headed up the valley. The start of the trail is a popular route with locals. We passed a girl with her donkey ladened with food and two boys frantically herding their goats in the opposite direction.
Slowly the morning chill gave way to the heat of the day and the gentle path up the valley gave way to steeper zig-zags. Huffing and puffing, we climbed up the steep ravine. Fifteen minutes later, we wiped the sweat from our eyes to take in the views down the valley below us. Ripples of red rock disappeared into the distance.
We soon came to a saddle between the mountains and decided to take a quick detour to a local summit. It was well worth it. From the cairn at the top we had 360-degree views. Rocky desolation to the north and the 30km green ribbon of Tinghir Oasis twisting between villages and towns to the south.
Returning to the saddle we began our descent through a nomadic settlement. Some had made a home out of caves, others had large tents strung across a flattened piece of land. There were pens for a few animals but no sign of activity. Everything was either sleeping through the heat of the day or scattered across the wilderness.
A little further along we spotted a great lookout – the perfect place for lunch. Our guest house had given us some fruit, bread rolls, cheese and a packet of raisins I hadn’t had since primary school for munching on during our hike.
A perfectly simple lunch for a simply perfect view.
The path down from our lunch spot was a narrow trail contouring around the valley wall before dropping into a dry river-bed and depositing us in a village. Perched on the banks of the river, the village hummed with a slow easy pace. We had a quick stroll around before crossing the river on a temporary bridge and making our way through the oasis towards the gorge.
The oasis ended suddenly – the river and road crunched together, consumed by the mighty Todra Gorge. At its narrowest point the 200m high walls are only 10m wide.
It’s a remarkable end to a remarkable walk.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE TINGHIR OASIS AND TODRA GORGE HIKE
This walk begins at a large gravel car park (marked P on the map below) which appears on your left just past the tightest section of the gorge when driving northwards on the R703. Take the clearly visible concrete steps which quickly turn into a gravel track and head up the valley keeping a dry riverbed about 50m below you on the right.
After about 30 minutes the path turns left and zig-zags up a ravine (marked 1 on the map). This is the steepest part of the walk but it’s not long. After 10 or 15 minutes, the path bends right, flattens out and continues to traverse.
This is the point to concentrate on navigation. As the path completely flattens (and the peak you have been traversing on your left disappears) the main path continues curving ahead to your right. Ignore this and turn left, go over a slight rise for only 20 to 30m and come to a saddle between the hilltops (marked 2 on the map).
A small summit lies a 10-minute walk due south of you along a gently climbing ridge (purple path on map). The path is a bit indistinct, but small cairns mark the way. Basically you just need to stick to the summit of the ridge. The top is marked by a large cairn and has excellent views of Tinghir and the surrounding area.
Return to the saddle and continue the path eastwards down a shallow ravine keeping a dry river-bed close on your right. After about 5 minutes the path turns right, crosses over the dry riverbed, past a circular walled enclosure before rising up the other side. It then hairpins anti-clockwise through a nomad settlement where there may be tents. (There will be caves.)
Because the nomads have cut a few paths for themselves it’s a bit tricky to know which one to follow. But basically having looped through the settlement, make your way to the top of the ridge from where you can see the path you want as it disappears down the valley (use maps.me to help if you find this part tricky).
The path now heads east and slowly descends, with a couple of zig-zags on route, before it comes to a small flattened area (marked 3 on the map) from which a path descends north-east down the left-hand side of a steep valley. This is a dramatic and fun walk which flattens and then follows a dry river-bed as it drops into town (marked 4 on the map).
Wind your way through the houses, find one of the temporary bridges that villagers put up over the river, cross over and make your way through the northern reaches of Tinghir Oasis to the road on the other side. Turn left at the road and follow it up through Todra Gorge (marked 5 on the map) before arriving back at the car park.
MAP / TINGHIR OASIS AND TODRA GORGE HIKE
Most of the time the path is clear and easy to see, however there are a couple of moments when you need to pay some attention and use a map. To save our map with all the directions, click on the star to the right of the title – this will download to: YOUR PLACES -> MAPS in Google.
We also suggest you use the Map.me app. Before you leave for the hike download the area containing Todra. All the paths detailed on this walk are fully displayed on the app and since it works offline you can follow your progress and quickly spot when you go wrong. It takes all the stress of getting lost away!
TIMINGS FOR TINGHIR OASIS AND TODRA GORGE HIKE
There are many excuses to stop on this walk; dramatic views of rugged mountains, towering gorges and ribbons of green oasis; spying on local goatherders and nomads, and taking a well-earned break for refreshments. So allow at least 4 to 5 hours to complete the hike.
But assuming you barely stop, here is a rough breakdown of times between different points on the map.
30 minutes | 2km
30 minutes | 1km
30 minutes | 1.5km
45 minutes | 2.5km
1 hour | 3km
20 minutes | 2km
15 minutes | 1km
BEST TIME TO HIKE IN THE TODRA GORGE & TINGHIR OASIS
The gorge and oasis are at their most beautiful in spring when the lush green crops contrast with the red rock. Unfortunately, in early spring, snow can be slow to melt and high rainfall can wash away the rock making the passes over the mountains impassable. So the best time to do this Todra Gorge hike is April / May.
In summer it can get fiercely hot making hiking difficult. But once the temperatures drop, late September and October are also good times to visit although the colours are not as vibrant as in spring.
While not essential it is also worth avoiding Ramadan if you can. Morocco is a very religious country and a month of fasting means local cafes and cooperatives are often closed. In 2023 Ramadan will be 22 March to 21 April and in 2024 it will be 10 March to 9 April.
Whatever time of year you visit try to set off early in the day. The temperatures will be a lot cooler, the visibility better and you will avoid the wind that often builds in the afternoon.
Avoid walking after heavy rain when the dry riverbeds will not be dry, and pick a clear day as navigation will be much easier and there is little point hiking in cloud with no views.
WHAT TO TAKE ON THE HIKE
1 / The trail conditions on this hike are relatively straight forward and no section is technically difficult. You should wear shoes with a decent grip as there is some scrambling and loose gravel underfoot during the ascent and descent. We use something like these.
2 / Download our Google Map onto your phone, use Maps.Me offline maps to help you track your route and ensure your phone is fully charged and has a compass.
3 / There are a number of cafes in the gorge (around number 5 on the map) but take some snacks or lunch to give yourself a bit of an energy boost on the hike.
4 / On a clear day the sun will beat down on you for the duration of the walk. It is essential you are well-hydrated before you go and carry at least a 1 litre of water per person for the hike. Drinks are available at the cafes in Todra Gorge towards the end of the walk but you will need plenty before then.
5 / Weather conditions on the walk can change dramatically and wind and cloud is common in the afternoon. Make sure you take a waterproof and something warm just in case the wind picks up. The walk is not in shade, and it can get hot in the midday heat so bring sun block and a hat.
6 / It would be mad not to take a camera. The views are stunning!
HOW TO GET TO TODRA GORGE HIKE
Most independent travellers coming to Morocco hire a car to get about. Driving in the less urban areas is straight forward, and with public transport sketchy it is a quick and easy way to explore. Todra however is a long way from any international airport and needs to be incorporated on a longer visit to the country. Read our 10-day Morocco itinerary for more suggestions.
The car park at the beginning of this hike is a 25 minute drive north of Tinghir on R703, just past the narrowest section of the Todra Gorge. You can access Tinghir via the R703 and R317 that run north to Imilchil (2 hours and 45 minutes), from the N10 that runs west to Ouarzazate (2 hours 30 minutes) and the R113 and N12 that runs east to Rissani (2 hours 20 minutes).
All these roads are easy to drive and paved, so a simple 2WD will be just fine. But that is not always the case in Morocco. If you are heading for a longer road trip check out our driving in Morocco article with more advice.
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WHERE TO STAY FOR HIKING THE TODRA GORGE
The Todra Gorge is just north of the town of Tinghir. There’s a good range of accommodation in the town which also has all the facilities you would need for a short stay. However, the surrounding area also has some good options including the town of Tamtattouche. There’s also a good selection of places on the road either side of the gorge.
Here are a few recommendations from us. Our pick is the perfectly located Aubergre Le Festival.
Almost 20km north of the gorge in the slightly strange town of Tamtattouche, Augerge Amazigh has to try that bit harder to get you to stay. Which it does. For a very budget-friendly price, this hostel offers warm hospitality, great food, traditional music and a taste of local Berber life.
The only hotel located in the upper reaches of the valley; Auberge le Festival is the perfect base for soaking up the amazing views. The friendly hosts provide lunches and walking instructions. The spacious rooms (some caves cut into the rock) are decked in traditional Moroccan designs.
Perched on the edge of the oasis in the town of Tinghir (about 13km south of the gorge) this smart riad has desert and oasis views. The rooms are simple and clean, however, the last few hundred yards to the property is on an unpaved road and could be a bit tricky to find in the dark.
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Although only a short flight from Europe, Morocco is a different world. Explore medieval medinas, bustling souks, and stunning scenery with more of our Morocco guides.
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