Erg Chegaga desert trip and the Anti-Atlas (6 days)

 

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Overview:

If you wish to spend a holiday in Morocco where you combine a mixture of the wild Sahara Desert, the Atlas Mountains, the rich history and fascinating culture of the south of Morocco, then this 6-day tour from Marrakesh is the best Moroccan tour for you.

Kick-off your desert trip with a delightful drive from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate. Enjoy continuously changing climate from warm and moderate to desert-like weather, with each bend of the drive a fresh feast for the eyes. Stop at panoramic viewpoints to take photos and to admire the views from the summit of the Atlas Mountains, and to take a break.

Pay a memorable visit to the Lord of the Atlas former residence, Kasbah Telouet, and explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site and Hollywood darling, Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou. Drive over the Tizi-n-Tichka pass and through the beautiful Ounila Valley, stop by the Film Studios in Ouarzazate to discover the locations of many of these Hollywood films.

Interact with locals in Agdez, visit Kasbah Tamnougalt and take a walk in the wonderful Dra’a Valley. Drive along the ancient route of the caravans, learn about the green pottery craftsmanship and visit the Qoranic Library in Tamgroute village, and go off-track for 60km as far as the Erg Chagaga dunes.

Ride camels to the top of the dunes wearing blue turbans and photograph spectacular sunset from the summit of the highest dunes in Morocco (300m). Savour nomad cuisine in a magical setting, dance to rhythms of Berber music, and sleep in your own private nomad tent in a desert camp in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

Enjoy a fascinating 90 km 4×4 drive through the largest Sahara Desert in Morocco, hunt for fossils in Iriqui dry lake, explore the Kasbah and the small museum in Tata, drive through green oases and over Jebel Bani Mountains and spend the overnight in a beautiful guest-house in Tissint.

Stop by small villages for walks and chat with the locals to learn about life in the oasis and in the south of Morocco, visit the interesting painted rocks formations in Tafraoute, explore the old medina, and amazing ramparts of Taroudant, also known as the little Marrakesh. Drive along the Sous River, stop by Agadir and finally arrive back in Marrakesh.

 

Main Highlights:

  • Enjoy stunning views driving over the Atlas Mountains and the famous pass of Tizi-n-Tichka
  • Visit the two famous Kasbahs; Telouet and Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou
  • Stop by the Atlas Studios and take photos of the film sets of many Hollywood blockbusters
  • Spend the night in beautiful riads and traditional guest-houses
  • Explore the ancient Kasbah of Tamnougalt with a local guide
  • Go off-road through Dra’a Valley palm groves, passed Kasbahs and through oases
  • Drive further south along the ancient route of the caravans
  • Visit the green pottery co-operative and the old Qoranic library in Tamgroute
  • Sleep in nomad tents in Erg Chagaga desert camps
  • Ride camels to the top of the dunes and take inspiring photos
  • Watch the spectacle of the sunset from the top of the dunes (300m)
  • Enjoy dinners under the starlit sky followed by evenings of music
  • Sleep in your private comfortable nomad tents in desert camps in the Sahara Desert
  • Search for fossils in Iriqui Lake and discover Berber rugs craft in Taznakht
  • Explore Taroudant great ramparts, the old medina, and vibrant souks
  • Visit the ancient Kasbah and the local museum in Tata
  • Drive over the Jebel Bani Mountains, along the Souss River, visit small towns in the south of Morocco and learn about life in the oasis
  • Enjoy a scenic drive along the Atlantic Ocean and stop by Agadir

 

What is included:

  • Transport in a private air-conditioned 4×4; Toyota Prado Tx or deluxe van and fuel
  • Pick-up from and drop-off at your riad or hotel in Marrakesh
  • Experienced local English/French/Spanish/Italian-speaking Berber and nomad driver/guide
  • Accommodation in air-conditioned rooms/suites with private bathroom
  • Overnight in an authentic desert camp in the Erg Chagaga dunes in private & comfortable nomadic tents equipped with beds, mattresses, sheets, pillows, blankets, carpets with shared toilet and shower facilities
  • The possibility of a luxury camp in Erg Chagaga with private toilet and shower, lamps, more space and pleasanter furnishings at 90 euro more each
  • All meals; breakfast, lunch, dinner – with vegetarians and vegan options available
  • A camel ride of about an hour – an hour & a half with a guide, and free sandboarding, if desired – just ask the camp staff
  • The option to go to and return from the camp by 4×4
  • Luggage service to the camp and all accommodation
  • Berber drumming and music
  • Free time to explore the sites such as Ait Ben Haddou, the Ounila Valley, for walks, photos, and tea/coffee breaks
  • The opportunity to ask the driver to stop when and where you wish
  • Entrance fees and local guide
  • Tea, coffee and mineral water in the desert

 

What is not included:

  • Drinks
  • Tips
  • Extras

 

Know before you go:

  • This Marrakesh desert tour can be customised to be more personal and special
  • Additional activities such as a full day’s trekking in Erg Chagaga Dunes can be added to this tour
  • You can always consult your driver about skipping some spots to spend more time elsewhere
  • You can ask us if others are interested in sharing the car
  • We require a 30% deposit of the total price to book the car, while the balance is payable to us in the office in Ouarzazate
  • There is a 25% reduction for children under 12 years old, whilst we do not charge children under 5
  • These prices are liable to fluctuation according to the current exchange rate

 

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Itinerary:

1st day: Marrakesh – Agdez
Morning departure from your hotel/riad in Marrakesh at 8.30 to drive across the High Atlas Mountains. At panoramic viewpoints, there will be opportunities to stop and take photos.

The first scheduled stop is at the Kasbah of Telouet, which served as a palatial residence and the headquarters of the powerful Glaoui tribe, whose wealth came in part from the salt mines just outside the village. Each addition to the building now stands in ruins exposed to the wind and the rain, having been abandoned and plundered after the last Pasha fled the country following the departure of the French in 1956. Wait to be pleasantly surprised by the traditional interior decoration as you reach the farthest end of the Kasbah.

Then the route leads south and if the mine is open, you can enter and see how the pink salt rock is cut out from the walls. We continue down the Ounila Valley with the green fields and gardens running parallel down below full of bends in the roads, surprises at the hues of the rock and soil, Berber villages and gardens, as well as smaller Kasbahs. Here olives, almonds, and fruit trees are the main crops and the mainstay for many families.

This stunning road leads to the Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou, the oldest and most famous Kasbah in Morocco and one of Morocco’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites. The architectural style is well preserved and the earthen constructions are perfectly adapted to the climatic conditions and in harmony with the natural and social environment. Probably originating in the 17th century, it is also famous as the backdrop to many Hollywood blockbuster films.

Having driven through Ouarzazate, we continue south over the Tizi-n-Tinfifte pass to Agdez. Descending from the pass you will be amazed at the view of the extensive oasis and the number of palm trees, all indicating the beginning of the Dra’a Valley with its thousands of date palms, producing an amazing 44 varieties of dates.  The date harvest starts in September and lasts a couple of months, so that is the best time to stop in Agdez for the freshest ones.  We spend the night in a guest house.

2nd day: Agdez – Chagaga
After breakfast, there is time to visit Kasbah Tamnougalte, the oldest and largest Kasbah in the Dra’a Valley. Part of the Kasbah is still inhabited and other parts crumbling away, especially that now the last Jews have left for Israel. We follow the ancient caravan road between the river and the mountains for a short while and on the way, we pass many villages and gardens so that you can gain a better idea of the way of life along the oases.

Zagora is the largest town in the whole area and from where we reach Tamgroute, where we stop to visit the potteries famous for the green glaze, which you may have already seen in Marrakesh. The ancient Quranic library with exquisite hand-written Arabic texts is also well worth a visit.

In the afternoon we drive further south still, to M’hamid, the very gate to the desert and the end of the paved road. This is where the Sahara starts and from where we drive to the Erg Chagaga dunes (300m) with 60km of off-road. This route passes different features of the desert; “erg” (dunes) and “ hammada” (stony desert), oases.

These dunes are far away from civilization, in the desert proper, where nomadic life is hard, subject to the vagaries of the wind, sandstorms, and sparse rainfall.  But the silence and the expanse of the sand are overwhelming. Here you have a one to one & a half-hour camel ride to watch the magnificent sunset.

You have dinner and spend the night at an authentic nomad camp with shared bathroom facilities and a private tent for each couple or family.

Alternatively, you can choose a luxury camp with private bathroom, king-sized beds, beautiful Moroccan furnishings and lamps tastefully arranged to enhance your enjoyment of the silence and beauty of the dunes.

3rd day: Chagaga – Tissint
After breakfast we drive another 90 km across the Sahara past dunes and stony desert, and across the now dried-up Lake Iriqui. In the middle of this lake, we can search for fossils. In the middle of this lake, you are likely to experience a mirage and unless it has been raining hard, which is rare, and in which case we cannot cross due to the mud, we can assure you, that “water” is not real. Here you can search for fossils; some lying loosely around but most fixed firmly into the rock, but nevertheless exciting to see.

At the edge of the desert at Foum Zguid, we turn west along the edge of the desert along the asphalted road towards Tata which few people visit. This is the old Algeria to Zagora caravan route and passes oases and the Jebel Bani Mountains, which later give way to the Anti Atlas. You spend the night in a guest house in Tissint.

4th day: Tissint to Tafraoute
After breakfast, you continue west to Tata where it is worth visiting the Kasbah and the small museum.  From Tata you head north through a very long gorge following the Tata river and passing through Tiata Tagmoute, a small Berber town, to join the Taliouine to Tafraoute road, which you do at Ighrem.

This turns south-west towards Tafraoute in the Anti-Atlas. You pass through the Berber towns of Azoura, Idaoua, Tiguermine and Ait Abdellah. This is not at all a main route taken by tourists and so unspoiled country with stunning views! You spend the night here in this small town of about five thousand inhabitants.

5th day: Tafrouate to Taroudant
First, there will be a visit to the rocks painted by the Belgian painter Jean Veran. in a stunning art project. The painted stone formations come as a surprise and are a contrast to the landscape’s own golden red colors. The rocks are all strange and unique in their formation and the paint emphasises these peculiarities. They were painted in 1984 with help from local firemen, who sprayed 18 tons of paint over them. Since then, the colours have, of course, faded but the whole project remains impressive.

We continue to Taroudant called the “little Marrakesh” because of the vast, intact city walls surrounding it. Taroudant is also famous for its silver jewellery. It is here that you spend the night after crossing the mountain roads along slopes full of argane trees.

6th day: Taroudant – Marrakesh
After breakfast and exploring the town, you travel along the Souss river valley with all its argane groves and orange plantations as far as Agadir.

From there you take the new motorway to arrive in Marrakesh at the end of the afternoon.

Prices per person

No Days Meals
6  All inclusive
Total price
2 persons
665 € *
1330 € *
3 persons
565 € *
1695 € *
4 persons
465 € *
1860 € *
5 persons
445 € *
2225 € *
6 persons
445 € *
2670 € *

 

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