- An affordable winter retreat for weatherbeaten European free fliers
- Warm, lifty air in the mountains and on the coast
- Best time is October to April, especially the middle of winter
- Cool evenings in ancient cities full of enthralling culture
Spectacular flying on the edge of the Atlantic, the Atlas mountains and the Sahara desert.
WHERE IS IT?
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Morocco is North Africa’s free flying paradise, where you soar the beautiful rocky escarpments of the lower Atlas mountains in warm blue thermals, dressed only in shorts and T-shirt. Then immerse yourself in the fascinating Islamic culture of the city of Marrakesh and its enthralling souks, and haggle yourself some real bargains in the evening.
It offers a great winter bolt hole for the weatherbeaten free flying community of Europe at an affordable price.
Morocco is in the north-west corner of Africa. The country is sliced in half by the impressive Atlas Mountains, which stretch for 2,500 km across North Africa through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, reaching a height of 4,167 m. The terrain is dry and sandy with the Anti-Atlas foothills to the south of the main range petering out into the vastness of the Sahara.
Marrakesh, the cultural and tourist capital of Morocco, lies in the plains just north of the Atlas. Two fantastic sites are within easy reach of Marrakesh: Aguergour and Ait Ourir. Both sites offer fantastic soaring and thermal flying.
Aguergour is 35 km south-west of Marrakesh and reached by first a metalled road, then a dirt track that leads right to the launch itself. The site faces north-west and looks out over the plains, with a high plateau behind launch. XC routes extend in all directions, although going over the back takes you into the boonies where you’ll need your own retrieve for sure.
Ait Ourir is a beautiful north-westerly-facing shark’s fin that lies 35 km south-east of Marrakesh. The ridge offers fantastic soaring all afternoon and XC routes once the thermals get going. Like Aguergour, heading over the back leads to some isolated places and potentially difficult retrieves, unless you follow the N9 road that carves its way through the Atlas, or follow the road system that leads west. Pilots regularly fly between the two sites.
Morocco offers an amazing experience to travellers and pilots alike. The Islamic culture is more relaxed than in many parts of the world, and the locals are generally relaxed and welcoming. Marrakesh has long been a focal point for world travellers because of its fascinating street life and markets. If you’re stepping out of a western lifestyle for the first time, Morocco is a great introduction to travelling in other, less familiar cultures.
Ridge soaring and desert flying in warm dry air. Because of the warm stable air, the thermals are gentle most of the time. However, things get rowdy in spring – April to June – and midsummer gets too windy as air is sucked into the landmass of Africa.
WHEN TO GO
October to April. The conditions become fairly benign in the dead of winter – November to February – when many pilots visit, but on either side the conditions can be feisty and the winds strong. In midsummer the winds are often unmanageable.
Launch: Aguergour 1,258m, Ait Ourir 946m
Landing: Aguergour 400m, Ait Ourir 654m
HANG GLIDER ACCESS
Aguergour is a drive up with easy HG launch and landing. Ait Ourir will make you sweat, though!
MUST BE FLOWN
Just being in the air hovering over Berber villages in Morocco is enough for most, and any kind of XC is a full-blown adventure.
WATCH OUT FOR
Dust devils and con men.
Marrakesh has such a wide range of accommodation that you can find something to fit everyone’s taste and budget. Get a Lonely Planet guide and take your pick.
Closer to the sites, Chez Ahmed is a small, but beautiful local residence underneath Aguergour specifically built for pilots. www.club-ahmed.com
The little town of Ait Ourir has a couple of small hotels.
GUIDES AND COURSES
Many of the French schools operate guided trips to Morocco. Or look up Toby Colombé and Passion Paragliding, who’ve been running trips there for several years. www.passionparagliding.com
TAKE THE FAMILY
Morocco is a fantastic cultural adventure for adults and children alike. You’ll not find theme parks and playgrounds, but immerse yourself in Moroccan life, and children of every ages will be entertained.
Delve into the souks and markets of Marrakesh. You can lose yourself in the labyrinth of covered walkways and stalls for many days, and certainly until the rain stops.
The weather charts of Europe generally cover Morocco, and a search of the Internet will produce many maps with sunny or rainy symbols on them. Otherwise, looking out the window and making your own assessment is by far the best option.
Marrakesh has a busy international airport served by many major carriers, and the budget airlines easyjet.com and Ryanair.com operate routes there from Spain, France, Italy and the UK.
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