The Tizi n Test Road (called R203) is a mountain road that cuts through the High Atlas between Asni to Taroudant and beyond (Morocco), is one of the most spectacular drives in Morocco. The drive up to pass is not for the faint-hearted……some experience of mountain roads is advisable. It's passable thanks to an amazing piece of French engineering. The trip is thus not recommended for those with more than mild vertigo.
The road weaves its way up through the High Atlas Mountains, over the Tizi n Test pass at an elevation of 2.092 metres (6,867 ft) above the sea level, and then tips over the Saharan side of the Mountain in its descent into the Souss Valley. No matter which way you come, you will appreciate the breathtaking views from numerous points along the way. Tizi n Test is also a spectacular feat of engineering. Blasted out of the mountains by the French in 1929, it was the first modern road to link the Marrakech to the Souss plains, the Mountains to the Sahara. Until then, it had been considered impracticable and only a few Sultans could exercise some control on this important pass for trade to the South.
Don’t forget your camera! Leaving Marrakech, the Tizi n Test road runs over a fairly monotonous landscape until the gorges of Moulay Brahim. At Isni, a pleasant little town in a fruit growing area with an interesting Saturday souk, there is a turn-off for Imlil and hikes across the High Atlas. After Isni, the landscape gets more dramatic – barren and wilder with snow on the peaks. Twisting endlessly, the main road drops to the large valley basin of Ourigane, a peaceful village which makes an excellent hiking base. On arrival at the summit, you may choose to take a hot drink and a simple but tasty egg tagine served by the little auberge which commands far reaching views.
The road is certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. This road is only one car wide in places, with 500m cliffs common on the unbarriered road and no road markings. Taxis, coaches and lorries come around the corners at high speeds. On the same corner you will have the distraction of locals selling minerals and cooking herbs, drive slowly........The road is scary due to trucks and buses, its narrowness and the hairpin bends and precipitous drops.The pass offers fabulous views of the region, but be warned that the way through the pass entails a lengthy series of hairpin bends. The road is particularly challenging on the 1,600 m descent from the high pass to Taroudannt.
Never drive this road if it’s raining, because there are lanslides and avalanches often. And it’s blocked sometimes by snow.Usually it’s very cloudy once you get in to Tizin'test. This road trip should only be done during the hours of sun light, due to the lack of barriers and large lorries. These drivers do the same trip for 20+ years and they know the road, like you know the back of your hand. The surface of the road is asphalt, gravel and sand, and chains or snow tyres can be required throughout the year. At the summit of the pass a small restaurant has panoramic views southwards across the Souss Valley, with the ridge of the Anti-Atlas Mountains rising majestically above the haze.
This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. It’s certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. It still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice.
Pic: mounir rafi