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The Central High Atlas is beginning to witness a rise in the number of foreign visitors, but it's still the quintessential remote, rugged mountain range. On its north side, as the range melds into the Middle Atlas, are the highest mountains outside the Toubkal area and some of the most isolated villages you'll ever come across -- electricity and telecommunications only recently became available. The valleys and gorges rising up to the 4,068m-high (13,346-ft.) Ighil M'goun offer excellent trekking, and recently the peak has started to see some skiers crossing its slopes in the winter. The Aït Bou Guemez (sometimes spelled Aït Bougamez) Valley, 70km (43 miles) of winding road and piste heading south and upward from the robust town of Azilal, is the most popular route to the peak, but is also a beautiful and unspoiled trekking area in its own right. Heading southwest from here, in the direction of Marrakech, are the natural wonders of the Cascades d'Ouzoud and Imi n'Ifri. Over and beyond Ighil M'goun are some breathtaking gorges and pistes leading down the southern flank of the Central High Atlas to the Dadès Valley and the country's oases region.

Even though modernization is making its way here -- a tarred road, for example, now affords access to some villages in the Aït Bou Guemez Valley that in the recent past would be cut off after a heavy snowfall -- this is a vastly untouristed region in comparison to the popular environs of Jebel Toubkal, which means only the most basic of services and accommodations, or gîtes, are available. Most of the villagers speak only their local Berber or Tamazigh dialect with perhaps a few words of Maghrebi Arabic.

The Central High Atlas can be visited and trekked year-round, although you should be fairly experienced and accompanied by a local guide if you're tackling the higher peaks in winter. While the winter days enjoy their fair share of sun, the nighttime temperature can drop dramatically. In summer the valley's mild temperatures are a welcome break from the sometimes oppressive heat of the plains below.