Tizi n'Test

Tizi n'Test, a scary road through the High Atlas

Tizi n'Test is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.101m (6,893ft) above the sea level located on the boundary between Marrakesh-Safi and Souss-Massa-Drâa regions of Morocco. It's one of the most spectacular drives in the country. 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 to the summit is totally paved but in bad conditions. It’s called Tizi n’Test Road (R203). It’s a mountain road that cuts through the High Atlas between Asni to Taroudant and beyond (Morocco). The road is quite scary. The edge of the road to the precipice always feels way too close. The road weaves its way up through the High Atlas Mountains, over the pass 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. The road to the summit is also a spectacular feat of engineering. The French colonialists built the road between 1926 and 1932. 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. The road stretching from Taroudant is flat and boring initially. But then the Atlas Mountains rise quickly and the climb starts. The climb is very steep and you’ll come across several trucks. There are several cafes along the road. The road has to be driven in daylight – and not just to make the best of the views. It’s not a road to be attempted in the dark. It’s one of the most exhilarating, overwhelmingly beautiful drives you will ever take.

Don’t forget your camera! Leaving Marrakech, the 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. It’s one of the most beautiful and most dangerous roads of the country. It used to be the only road between Agadir and Marrakech and is incredibly torturous. 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 pass to Taroudannt.

Never drive this road if it’s raining, because there are landslides 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. 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. At this time there is a straight and flat road from Agadir to Marrakech, which everyone takes. This means that the Tizi n’Test road isn’t as well maintained.
Pic: mounir rafi


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