Geological wonders of the South - 7 days
1st day: Marrakesh – Ouarzazate
Morning departure from your hotel/riad in Marrakesh at 8 o'clock and driving across the High Atlas mountains. At panoramic viewpoints, there will be opportunities to stop and take photos. As we start climbing the High Atlas mountains, we will stop to look down into a deep ravine. Over Moroccan mint tea or a typical ”nus-nus”, (half milk, half coffee), there will be explanations about how the High Atlas mountains were formed and the significance between its having lain on the sea-bed and the varying colours of the soil and rocks. After the Tichka pass, the highest in North Africa, we leave the main road and drive into the mountains. Passing by the Kasbah of Telouet, which served as a palatial residence and the headquarters of the powerful Glaoui tribe, we will stop at the salt mines where much of the salt is a reddish colour. The salt pans and the encrustations are clearly visible outside the mine. Then the route crosses the Ounila Valley which is spectacular for the colours of the soil strata and rock formations. Here there are many yellow rocks of phosphate mixed with other minerals. At the end of the valley, which lies far below the road, lies the Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou, the oldest and most famous Kasbah in Morocco and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here you will have lunch before climbing up to the top to admire the hills around and the strategic positioning of the Kasbah on this outcrop. Another 30 miles takes us to a hidden oasis of Fint outside Ouarzazate, where you will spend the night in a traditional Berber village.
2nd day: Ouarzazate – Dades Gorges
Morning departure at 8 o’clock to the Dades Gorge, passing the Oasis of Skoura, where numerous ancient kasbahs, some sadly in ruins, stand amongst the palm trees. Just before reaching this small town, we turn north, going off-road to Aït Toumert and later Aït Mraou via Boutaghrar. Here judging from the different herbs that grow, “Azir", "Cheh”, Za'atar”, “Fliou” , “Zoukeni”….,we can see that the soil is very salt. All of these herbs are to be found in the local markets and even as far away as Rissani. Minerals such as quarz scatter the ground. Once passed the village of Boutaghrar, we come to caves where nomads live and tend their goats. We will stop to take team with them. Finally we reach the main road again in the Dades valley and turn left and north to the gorges. Here you can walk and discover more about the local rock structures and witness the large rocks on the hill sides and the pebbles along the river-bed. You will stay the night in a very traditional guest house right by the river on the far side of the gorge.
3rd day : Dades - Toudgha:
After breakfast, you travel right to the top of the gorges before returning to Boumalne and the main road. About 90 kilometres further on you turn left again, towards the High Atlas mountains to visit the Toudgha gorges. The steep sides are a sheer 300 metres high and made of orange limestone, which are Bathonian (Jurassic). Walking through the gorges and looking up gives a glimpse of sky seemingly higher than usual. You can walk through the gorges and your driver will fetch you to and continue along until you reach Tamtattouchte. You spend in the night in the valley.
4th day: Toudgha – Erfoud
After breakfast, overshadowed by the steep sides of the gorges, we follow the river downstream to Tinghir and turn east along the main road. Before reaching Tinjdad you can see a spring,Lala Mimouna, on the left hand side of the road of where the water is acid to the tongue. Here there is a special rock which is cut into tiny pieces and burnt in incense burners.
After Tinjdad we reach Guelmim, a mining town, where we turn left and drive about 45 km towards Asfela where you will walk for about an hour and a half. Here you can find different cretaceous specimens are being excavated. Here it is possible to have lunch with a local family.
Passing through Er Rachidia we turn south again following the fault of the Ziz Valley. We turn left off the main road for about one kilometre, to search for fossilised fish teeth and also part of their vertebrae. At Aïn El Aati, you will see the geyser shooting its acid water high into the air. We drive the short distance to Erfoud via the Ziz Valley, and the Oasis of Tafilalet. Dinner and the night are spent in Erfoud.
5th day: Erfoud to Merzouga
Erfoud is the most famous area for its fossil finds although they are to be seen throughout the south in a broad southern-easterly band as far as Tata. (The whole area around Tata has even more and different secrets to reveal!) First you will go to the area where large slabs of rocks are being carved out of the mountains to be taken just outside the town for working into furniture and artefacts. Surprisingly at present there is no control over the numbers being exported. In the workshop you can see the end products but more importantly have an explanation of the different species found in the rock.
South of Erfoud lies Rissani, the seat of the current Alouite dynasty of kings in Morocco. Here you can wander around the traditional soukhs and markets.
From there we skirt round the Erg Chebbi dunes to Khamlia, where you can enjoy a mixture of Gnaoua and Berber music performed by local people. As you go further round the dunes, you come to the lead mines of Mifis where kohl, famously used to enhance the beauty of Arab eyes, is worked. You continue to Tamerdanit, where you can have tea with nomad people. And so, now on to the bivouac for the sunset, a camel ride, dinner, music and a camp fire.
6th day: Merzouga – Agdez
If you wake up early enough, you can watch the spectacle of the sunrise, when the colour of the dunes and the play of shadows are an awesome sight. The itinerary continues to the Dra’a Valley, At Messici you will see piles of minerals at the side of the road awaiting collection. They have been mined in front of the distant hills and brought there by enormous lorries. You can collect handfuls of these stones for further identification at the end of the day! At Alnif, there are more mines about 10 km from the main road. Lunch will be in Nkob and in the afternoon the journey takes us to Tansikht to drive along the ancient caravan route and discover the real Dra’a Valley with its huge palm trees and ancient villages. At the end of the afternoon, we stop in Agdez for the night in a kasbah.
7th day: Agdez – Marrakesh
After breakfast there will be a visit to Kasbah Tamnougalte where about thirteen families stil live whilst other parts crumble and decay. The road to Ouarzazate crosses via the mountain pass of Tizi-n-Tinfifte (1660m) at Aït Souan. Once in Ouarzazate, we visit the Kasbah of Taourirt, originally the residence of the Pasha of Marrakech and a symbol of the feudal period of the lords of Atlas. The return to Marrakech will complete the trip by the early evening
Prices per person
- There is a 25% reduction for children under 12 years old whilst we do not charge for children under 5 .The price for trips includes the transport in a private air-conditioned 4x4;Toyota Prado or Mitsubishi Pajero,and fuel. Experienced English-, French-, Spanish- and Italian-speaking driver / guide, all accommodation and meals as well as the camel ride on the relevant tours. Drinks and tips are not included.These prices are liable to fluctuation according to the current exchange rate.