Grand Tour of the Moroccan South – 7 days

 

1st day: Marrakesh – Ouarzazate
Morning departure from your hotel/riad in Marrakesh is at 08.30. As you cross 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 family, 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.  You can spend the night here or alternatively, you can continue the 30 kilometres to Ouarzazate to spend the night there.

2nd day: Ouarzazate – Dades Gorges
After breakfast, you set out towards the Dades Gorge, passing the Skoura Oasis, where numerous ancient kasbahs, some sadly in ruins, stand amongst the palm trees. 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.  From here, our route takes us through Kela’a M’gouna, the Valley of Roses, famous for its Rose Festival in May. Here we stop to see the cosmetic articles which are made locally from the valley’s abundant flowers. These products are well-known throughout Morocco and are highly valued. From here, you take an off-road route to have a better impression of the landscape. Along the way, you will stop at caves, used by whichever Berber nomads happen to pass and claim residence there. We will have a glass of tea with them before continuing to the Dades Gorge for lunch. This leaves you half a day to walk in the valley or to spend it relaxing or simply strolling by the fields and gardens, or having tea with a Berber family you stop in the Dades gorge in a guest house for the night.

3rd day: Dades – Merzouga
After breakfast, the trip continues a short distance to Tinghir and the very different Toudgha gorges where you can take a short walk to appreciate the steep sides to the gorge and the narrow expanse of the sky above. Beyond Tinjdad, 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.

From there, you continue to the Oasis of Tafilalet near Erfoud, famous for its Date Festival, and Rissani, which is the seat of the Alaouite family of the present king of Morocco. In Erfoud itself, you can stop to see the workings of thousands of fossils made into all sorts of artefacts. At the camp, you are welcomed with a glass of tea before taking an hour – an hour & a half camel ride to watch the sunset from the top of the dunes. Later there is dinner and the night in a nomad tent at the foot of the dunes.

4th 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 drive back west to the Dra’a Valley takes us via the villages of Tazzarine (featured in the film ‘Babel’) and N’Qob, where we have lunch. In the afternoon, we continue to Tansikht, crossing the Dra’a River. Here in the Dra’a valley, full of palm trees of some 44 date varieties, we turn north to Agdez, the head of the valley where we spend the night.

5th day: Agdez – Chagaga
After breakfast, there is an opportunity to visit the Tamnougalte Kasbah, the oldest in the Dra’a Valley and which some consider being the most interesting. Some of it is still inhabited and other parts crumbling away. For a short while, we go off-road along some of the ancient caravan routes between the mountains and the river, passing many villages and gardens so that you can gain a better idea of the way of life along the oases.

Soon after the police checkpoint in Tansikht, we come to the village of Tinsouline, from where you can drive just a kilometre or so off road to the fascinating rock carvings of animals long extinct in Morocco at Foum Chenna, some 4000 years old.  Having passed Zagora, the largest town in the whole area, we stop in Tamgroute, to visit the potteries famous for the green glaze, which you may have already seen in Marrakesh. There is also an ancient Quranic library with exquisite hand-written Arabic texts.  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. The final part of today’s itinerary is 60 km across the desert to the Erg Chagaga dunes (300m). This passes different features of the desert; ‘erg’ (dunes) and ‘hammada’ (stony desert) and oases. These dunes are far away from civilization, in the desert proper …… and the silence and the expanse of the sand are overwhelming. Here you can take another camel ride if you wish. Dinner and the night are in a bivouac there.

6th day: Chagaga – Ouarzazate
After breakfast we drive another 90 km across the Sahara over the stony desert, “reg” and “hammada” and across the now dried-up Lake Iriqui. 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” really is not real. Here you can search for fossils; some lying loosely around but most fixed firmly into the rock. At the edge of the desert at Foum Zguid, we drive north to Taznakht, famous for its Berber gelims and carpets, where we stop for lunch. Back in Ouarzazate, we spend the night in a guest house.

7th 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.

Prices per person

No Days Meals
7 All inclusive
Total price
2 persons
735 € *
1470 € *
3 persons
655 € *
1965 € *
4 persons
555 € *
2220 € *
5 persons
475 € *
2375 € *
6 persons
475 € *
2850 € *

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 transport in a private air-conditioned 4×4 a Toyota Prado, and fuel, an experienced English/French/Spanish/Italian-speaking driver/guide, all accommodation and meals; breakfast, lunch, and dinner (please let us know if you have a special diet), entrance fees and local guides plus the camel ride on the relevant tours.

Drinks and tips are not included.

There is an option to go to and return from the camp by 4×4.

These prices are liable to fluctuation according to the current exchange rate.

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