A good place to start is to get your head around the fact that Morocco has two climate zones. Think Mediterranean along the northern coastal regions, and more extreme desert conditions in the southern interior, on the edge of the Sahara. In the middle of the Moroccan sandwich are the great Atlas Mountains, which can get snow in winter or soar up to 30C in summer at lower elevations. With plenty of natural adventures on offer all year round in Morocco for hikers or cyclists you have no shortage of ways to embrace la vie en rose.
Spring blossom in the Atlas Mountains.
Best time to climb Mount Toubkal
The local name is Jebel Toubkal and its towering summit of 4,167m is just 60km from Marrakech. It’s the holy grail for many hikers, although you don’t have to summit it to enjoy the surrounding Atlas Mountains. Our Toubkal tours run all year round and, because they are fully guided, you will be provided with all the equipment you need when snow and ice set in around the high peaks. This can be anytime between October and March. If you have winter trekking experience, then Toubkal in winter will offer an exciting challenge, even if you don’t have the technical skills, as crampons, ice picks and ropes are provided locally and training given on the spot. You also need to be well prepared in terms of warm clothing.
If you are new to summit challenges and big metre measurements, we recommend climbing Toubkal either during the spring months of April and May or the autumn, before the temperatures drop again, but still cool enough that your muscles are the only things that are burning. July is the hottest month in the Atlas Mountains with an average temperature of 29C and the coldest is January at 13C. In Morocco, you could be surfing in the sun in October, while the weather in Toubkal starts to hit more wintery waves. Climate change, plus ça change.
“Brilliant organisation from start to finish. Great guide, great cook, beautiful scenery. Highly recommended” – Rog, from Cotswolds, on our Mount Toubkal Express holiday.
If you’re new to summit treks, take on Toubkal in the spring our early autumn, so that it’s not too hot, or snowy.
Best time to go to the Sahara Desert
For two extremes of weather, sand and summit, we offer a Morocco hiking holiday that takes in Toubkal, the olive, argan and walnut tree-covered lower slopes as well as some Sahara camping. The special ingredient in the middle of this sandwich of adventures is Todra Gorge, a hiking haven with pink and orange limestone cliff walls, sublime on a sunrise hike. This trip is available all year round.
You can also dive into the dunes in more depth on a ten day Sahara walking holiday, which is available between September and May, as it’s just too hot for longer trekking in summer. During other months, prepare for a significant difference between day and night, although May has the least contrast, averaging 34C by day and 17C by night. Winter is the coldest and most humid, averaging 18C by day and 05C by night, with the most spectacular winter sunsets to warm the soul.
In March the desert begins to bloom, with lovegrass flowers, tamarisk shrub and date palms springing back to life as temperatures start to rise. Be aware though, March and April occasionally coincide with the Sirocco wind, which can cause sudden sandstorms and poor visibility. However, our guides will always have good predictions about conditions.
“Just came back from a fabulous trip to Morocco where we trekked Mount Toubkal and then spent the night in the Sahara desert .. can’t thank The Natural Adventure enough. From start to finish they were fantastic. Mohamed and Omar in Morocco were superb. I have travelled with other expedition companies but The Natural Adventure has beaten them all. Well done and thank you.” – LisaPaul D
Very hot Vrksasana at sunrise in the Sahara Desert.
Best time to go to Morocco for festivals
Ramadan and Eid
Some people resist travelling during the religious and cultural festivals of Ramadan and Eid, as many businesses shut down. But in the main tourist spots most stay open and the evenings come alive as people gather to eat and greet. If you are a non-Muslim guest in the country at this time, it feels like an honour to be part of the event. All of our Morocco tours have the Ramadan and Eid dates listed, as they change every year, so you can book accordingly. It’s also important to be culturally sensitive during Ramadan, and remember that your guides may be fasting during that time too, even though they are preparing food for you.
You should be aware of cultural norms throughout the year, but during these festivals in particular, make sure you wear modest clothing, avoid public displays of affection, and don’t eat or drink in public places during fasting hours.
“Traditionally Moroccans kill a sheep on the first day of Eid al-Adha and cook it on fire outside. This smell is everywhere, and can be upsetting for vegetarians and vegans.” – Neringa, Marketing Director at The Natural Adventure, who is based in Morocco.
Harira soup is a typical meal for Iftar, one of the religious observances of Ramadan when people gathering to break their fast together after sunset.
The Fez Festival of Sacred Music, Fez
The Fez Festival of Sacred Music takes place over ten days in either May or June, and is recognised as a major cultural event by world-renowned musicians. It was postponed in 2023 following the major earthquake and, apart from that, it has been running annually since 1994. With events across different sites, such as Bab Makina Gate, Dar Batha Museum and various ancient palaces and riads in the Medina, gifted musicians ranging from Joan Baez to Jessye Norman, Youssou N’Dour and Salif Keita have sung alongside Sufi chanters and gospel greats throughout the years. The festival was created by Faouzi Skali, a Moroccan anthropologist and Sufi scholar. His vision for the festival is one that celebrates not only world music but also fosters dialogue between Western and North African scholars, artists and writers on diverse topics, with a focus on human values. Right now, it feels like a poignant time to go hear the music.
Gnaoua and World Music Festival, Essaouira
A three day festival in June that digs deep into the roots of Gnaoua music and culture, the heart of which is in this glorious coastal town. Not only is Essaouira a UNESCO World Heritage City, Gnaoua (also known as Gnawa) culture was also added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2019. Gnaoua is the umbrella term for Morocco’s unique music performances that are both secular and spiritual, therapeutic and ritualistic. The movement dates back to the 16th century, and was led by individuals living under slavery, combining African, Berber and Sufism heritages. As many of our Morocco Atlas Mountain and Sahara tours offer an option to extend your trip to include Essaouira, we highly recommend bringing your trip to a close by rocking the kasbah in Essaouira.
The Gnaoua and World Music Festival in Essaouira rocks the kasbah and coast every June.
Rose Festival, El-Kelaâ M’Gouna
In great contrast to Fes, the very localised Rose Festival, or Moussem, takes place over three days in May in the Dades Valley of the Roses, which you visit on our Mount Toubkal and Sahara Desert trekking holiday. This is the time when the valley’s sweet-smelling pink Persian roses are harvested, and the small town of El-Kelaâ M’Gouna, near Ouarzarate, celebrates with singing, dancing and a lot of food. Rose petals garner everyone and everything while rose water is sprinkled with wild abandon.