Driving the difficult road to Tizi n'Tichka in the Atlas

Tizi n'Tichka is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2,212m (7,257ft) above sea level, located in Morocco. Tizi n’Tichka means “difficult mountain pasture” in Berber, and you’ll see why.

Tizi n'Tichka

Where is Tizi n'Tichka?

The pass is located on the boundary between the Marrakesh-Safi and Drâa-Tafilalet regions, in the central part of Morocco. Geographically, the pass lies between the great Marrakech Plains and the gateway to the Sahara Desert, in the High Atlas mountains.

How long is Tizi n'Tichka?

The road to the summit, also known as Col du Tichka and Tizi n’Aguelmous, is entirely paved. It’s called Route Nationale 9 (formerly Route P-31). The pass is 54km (33 miles) long, running north-south from Zerkten to Agouim.

When was Tizi n'Tichka built?

The road was built as a military highway in 1936 by the French army. Today, Route Nationale 9 links the southeast of Marrakesh to the city of Ouarzazate.

Is Tizi n'Tichka open?

Set high in the High Atlas mountains, this road is usually open all year round, but from November to March, snow can often fall on the pass, and it can be closed when access is not cleared of snow. It can be warm all year round in the strong sun.

Is Tizi n'Tichka dangerous?

It is a fairly good road, winding, and sometimes it is better not to look around too much. It’s said to be one of the nation’s most dramatic and hair-raising drives. Tichka means "it’s difficult," and so it means literally a difficult path because it has so many switchbacks. The road is only 1-1/2 lanes, and there are few crash barriers and many precipitous drops. It features more than 100 turns. On the climb, the road is quite good, and some parts have recently been upgraded. Interestingly, the road is upgraded in chunks, so you may alternate between the old road and newly sealed road. There is lots of wind. While the road is occasionally bumpy, it is possible to drive with a 2WD vehicle.

When is the best time to drive Tizi n'Tichka?

Due to its location, it can get quite busy. If you are traveling south, it’s recommended to take this road in the morning and avoid any crowds. The thoroughfare is not just made of tourists; there are lots of trucks.

Is Tizi n'Tichka worth it?

This high mountain road offers stunning views of the Atlas Mountains around every switchback and hairpin turn. At the summit, visitors will enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. As the road begins to make its way down to Ouarzazate, travelers will be able to marvel at pre-Sahara regions that lie dry and motionless and the silent peaks of the great Atlas Mountains. The most famous road through the High Atlas leads from the vast plains surrounding the royal city of Marrakech to the pass, which is quite often blocked by snow in the winter and is then impassable down around the beautiful kasbahs (clay medieval fortress) to Ouarzazate, the gateway to the valley of the river Draa and the Sahara Desert. The views, the villages, and the time spent on the Tizi n’Tichka Pass are a truly unique experience. Travelers are encouraged to take this journey of history, wonder, and natural amazement.

Where was Gladiator filmed?

Near the pass is Kasbah Aït Benhaddou, probably the most famous, filmed, and photographed kasbah in Morocco. Featured in numerous films (including Lawrence of Arabia, The Sheltering Sky, and Gladiator), it is the best-preserved kasbah in Morocco and has 10 families still inhabiting it. At the summit, there are shops selling minerals.
Pic: Jl Soli