Embark on this 4-day desert trip, spanning the two Imperial Cities of Fes and Marrakesh, via the most well-known Sahara Desert dunes in Morocco. Cross the Middle Atlas and stop for a while to observe the Barbary apes in the cedar forests. Ride camels in the Erg Chebbi sand dunes, while admiring the spectacle of the sunset. Spend a magical starlit night in a desert camp at the foot of the high dunes in Merzouga.
Visit the famous Toudgha Gorges and the Dades Valley full of Kasbahs and Berber villages, drive along the Road of a 1000 Kasbahs and the Rose Valley of Damascene roses, explore Skoura Oasis with its innumerable palm trees and fascinating Kasbah Amredhil. Cross the High Atlas Mountains with visits to Morocco’s two most famous kasbahs, Ait ben Haddou and Telouet.
Experience the majesty and wonder of our unique range of Marrakech Desert tours. Discover the tour itinerary below. Your journey starts here!
1st day: Fes – Merzouga
Departure from Fes at 8 o’clock, travelling past Ifrane, where the houses have sloping roofs, remarkable and unusual in Morocco. This is to cope with the yearly snowfall. Near Azrou, 1250 metres, with the geomorphologic Berber name which means “stone” or “rock”, you can see Barbary apes in the oak and cedar forests of the Middle Atlas. From here we drive along the N13 south over the Middle Atlas, passing through Timahdite (once again a Berber name, and as the word begins and ends with the letter “t”, it signifies it is feminine.) We reach Midelt, 1508M, which is called “the apple capital” of Morocco and lies at the foot of the Ayachi Mountain. The town serves as the commercial agricultural centre for the surrounding area and is also one of Morocco’s principle cities for the mining of several minerals, such as fluorite, vanadinite, quartz and cerussite. This is where we will stop for lunch.
We continue south travelling over the Tizi-n-Talghemt pass known as the “she-camel” pass. We descend through the Ziz Valley, which is particularly well-known for its palm trees and the length of the oasis. All along the road, there are innumerable “ksars”, small villages of individual houses. From here, we reach the mining town of Er Rachidia (e.g copper and malachite) and then Erfoud, famous for its date festival and fossils. It is fascinating to see how these millions of fossils have been worked into artifacts and so the shops are worth a visit. There is no obligation to buy anything! You continue to Rissani and finally the famous red Erg Chebbi dunes in Merzouga. You take a camel ride of an hour to an hour & a half either setting out from the camp or to it. There is also the possibility to take the 4×4 to the camp.
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.
2nd day: Merzouga – Dades Gorges
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. After breakfast at the camp, we leave for Tinghir and the Toudgha gorges. On the way, you pass the water channels – “khettarat” – which you can descend into to appreciate the architecture and genius behind this form of irrigation which prevents evaporation in the summer heat. The channels start at a higher gradient at one end until they finally emerge at the surface of the soil where they are fed into the fields. You can find out more about these channels by reading Andrew Wilson’s work.
In the gorge and the valley, there are opportunities to walk beyond the gorge itself or by the village gardens and fields before you reach it. Later the itinerary continues to the Dades Valley. The area, which now forms the Dades Gorges, lay at the bottom of the sea millions of years ago. Great quantities of sediment were deposited around giant coral reefs, and over time this material became compacted into a variety of sedimentary rocks such as sandstone and limestone. Eventually, the movement of the earth’s crust caused the region to rise above the sea, forming the Atlas Mountains and surrounding landscape. The night is spent in a hotel or kasbah.
3rd day: Dades Gorges – Ouarzazate
After breakfast, a visit to the Dades gorges and a short walk there is scheduled. Back at the car, the trip to Ouarzazate continues, going off-road along the Boutarar piste to visit Berber nomads in their caves and partake of a glass of tea with them. This visit makes it clear to the visitor just how hard the existence is for these nomads in this very dry landscape, trying to feed their goats and bring up their children. From here we continue through the Valley of the Roses, famous for its Rose Festival in May. Cosmetics and toiletry items are produced and valued throughout the country. In Skoura and the oasis there, Kasbah Amredhil waits for a very worth-while visit. The kasbah has been beautifully restored and gives a clear idea of life within such housing. It is made entirely of adobe, an excellent building material; warm in winter and cool in summer, due to the thickness of the walls. 45 minutes later you reach Ouarzazate, where you spend the night in a guest house.
4th day: Ouarzazate – Marrakesh
After breakfast, the route goes on to Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, one of Morocco’s seven World Heritage sites, and the backdrop for many Hollywood blockbusters. It is the most famous Kasbah in Morocco and some of the buildings date back to the 17th century. From here you drive along the beautiful and awe-inspiring Ounila Valley, full of bends in the roads and surprises at the hues of the rock and soil, Berber villages and gardens, as well as smaller Kasbahs. We continue to Telouet set right in the midst of the mountains and once the seat of the last Pasha of Marrakesh, El Glaoui, from where the highest pass in Africa, Tizi-n-Tichka was controlled. Each addition to the building now stands in ruins exposed to the wind and the rain, having been abandoned and plundered after Thami El Glaoui, 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. At the end of the afternoon, having crossed the Tichka pass, we arrive in Marrakesh.
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