Grand Tour of the Moroccan South (7 days)

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Overview:

Book this 7-day grand tour of Morocco, combining both the famous desert of Erg Chebbi dunes in Merzouga and the wild and remote dunes of Erg Chagaga in the largest Sahara Desert in Morocco.

Begin your tour from Marrakesh with a scenic drive over the majestic mountains of the Atlas, across the famous pass of Tizi-n-Tichka and along beautiful Berber villages. Visit the former palatial residence, Kasbah Telouet, Hollywood’s favourite film location, Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, and savour Moroccan mint tea overlooking the vivid square of Ouarzazate.

Wander the palm groves of Skoura Oasis and tour the beautiful small museum of Kasbah Amredhil, stop by Kela’a M’gouna to visit the locally-produced cosmetics products and discover the Valley of the Roses. Drive off-road through the road of a Thousand Kasbahs to sip a glass of tea with the nomads, if desired, and to explore the garden fields and the canyons of the Dades Valley.

Drive by small Berber villages, chat with the locals to learn about life in the south of Morocco and visit the fossil artifacts exhibit in Erfoud. Take photos riding camels to the top of the dunes and wearing nomad turbans, practice sandboarding, walk the warm sand dunes barefoot and enjoy star-gazing at night. Taste dinner in a magical setting followed by evenings of Berber music and drumming around a campfire and sleep in your own private and comfortable Bedouin tent near the big dunes.

Go off-track through Dra’a Valley, past old Kasbahs and along green oases.  Learn about the green pottery crafting and visit the Qoranic Library in Tamgroute Village. Hunt for fossils in Ikiqui Lake, discover Berber rugs and carpets co-operatives in Taznakht, and explore the hidden gem of Fint Oasis.

Visit the beautifully restored Kasbah Taourirt and the local cinema museum in Ouarzazate and stop by the Film Studios to photograph the film locations of many Hollywood blockbusters. Pay a visit to Kasbah Tifoultoute, cross the Atlas Mountains, and arrive at Marrakesh at the end of the tour.

 

Main Highlights:

  • Enjoy wonderful views driving over the Atlas Mountains, across the famous pass of Tizi-n-Tichka and along beautiful Berber villages
  • Visit the famous Kasbahs Telouet, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou
  • Wander Skoura Oasis palm groves and tour the small museum of Kasbah Amredhil
  • Visit the cosmetic co-operatives in Kela’a M’gouna and the Valley of the Roses
  • Go off-track through the Dra’a Valley’s palm groves, past ancient kasbahs and across green oases
  • Visit the green pottery crafting and the Qoranic library in Tamgroute village
  • Spend the night in nomad tents in Erg Chebbi Merzouga and Erg Chagaga desert
  • Ride camels to the tops of the dunes, take selfies wearing turbans the nomad way
  • Witness spectacular sunsets and sunrises from the top of the highest dunes
  • Taste dinners of nomad cuisine under the starlit sky followed by evenings of music
  • Search for fossils in Iriki lake, discover Berber rugs craft in Taznakht and explore Fint Oasis
  • Visit Kasbah Taourirt and the local cinema museum in Ouarzazate
  • Pay a visit the beautifully restored Kasbah Tifoultoute and stop by the film studios to learn about the film locations
  • Spend nights in beautiful riads and traditional guest-houses and taste Moroccan cuisine most delicious dishes

 

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 camp in Merzouga desert 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 Chebbi, Merzouga with private toilet and shower, lamps, more space and pleasanter furnishings at 45 euro more each
  • Overnight in a traditional camp in the Chagaga desert:  Authentic Chagaga Desert Camp 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 vegetarian 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
  • 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 quad-biking or full day trekking in the dunes of Erg Chebbi or Erg Chagaga, can be added to this tour
  • You can choose to go to the camp either on camelback or by the 4×4 (you go for your camel ride from the camp)
  • 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 – 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.

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.

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.

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.

6th day: Chagaga – Fint oasis
After breakfast, the road takes us through another 90km of the desert with varying scenery; Lake Iriqui, the mountains and fossils. Lunch will be in Foum Zguid, the first village after the desert, where it is also possible to freshen up with a shower.

From here the drive back north is along paved roads via the village of Taznakht, famous for its Berber carpets and rugs. Before we reach Ouarzazate, we turn off the main road and head for the mountains to the hidden oasis of Fint, which was once the head of the caravan route, where the caravans converged before their goods, slaves, gold and salt were distributed across Morocco. Here the night is spent in a traditional auberge.

7th day: Fint oasis – Marrakesh
After breakfast we make a morning departure to Kasbah Taourirt, also a Glaoui Kasbah and the landmark of Ouarzazate.

Not far from the town lie the cinema studios which is worth a visit for Hollywood blockbuster film buffs to see many of the original sets used in the filming.

Kasbah Tifoultoute lies a little of the main road and is perched on an outcrop overlooking the valley and the river, above the village which is greatly expanding in size.

We drive much of the way back along a different road to Marrakesh, which once again passes numerous Berber villages, fields and gardens, where walnut, apples, quince and pomegranate trees alongside silver birch and oleander are visible everywhere.

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 € *

 

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