High Atlas passes, Erg Chagaga & Erg Chebbi dunes (7 days)

 

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Overview:

Embark on this 7-day desert tour from Marrakesh spanning both the wild and graceful dunes of Erg Chagaga in the largest Sahara Desert and tourists’ darling, Erg Chebbi dunes in Merzouga for a unique desert experience.

Start your tour to the south of Morocco by a scenic drive through the High Atlas Mountains and vivid Berber villages situated on the sides of the mountains. Visit Tinmal Mosque and explore Taroudant’s old medina, tour its vibrant souks, and photograph its massive ramparts.

Visit Taliouine’s local saffron museum and explore the saffron fields, learn about the Berber carpet making in Taznakht, look for fossils in Iriqui Lake, and experience thrilling off-road 4×4 driving through the great Sahara Desert.

Ride Camels, wearing blue turbans, to the top of the dunes, practice sandboarding, walk barefoot in the warm sand dunes, and climb to the summit of high dunes(300m) to witness the spectacular sunset and sunrise. Savour dinner among the nomads, dance to Berber music and drumming, and sleep in nomad tents in a desert camp in the midst of the dunes.

Drive through the amazing palm fields of the Dra’a Valley, past fortified kasbahs, and across green oases. Explore Toudgha Gorges gardens, fields and river, or go for a short hike with a local guide. Sip a glass of tea with the nomads in their caves, if desired, pay a visit to the organic cosmetic products co-operatives in Kelaa M’gouna and stroll along the Valley of the Roses and through the Skoura Oasis palm groves.

Stop by the Atlas Studios, outside of Ouarzazate, to learn about the film locations, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, and the former palatial residence, Kasbah Telouet. Cross the High Atlas Mountains and arrive back in Marrakesh at the end of the tour.

 

Main Highlights:

  • Experience a wonderful drive over the Atlas Mountains and past charming Berber villages
  • Visit Tinmal Mosque and explore Taroudant’s old medina, tour its vibrant souks and photograph its massive ramparts
  • Pay a visit to Taliouine’s local museum and the saffron fields
  • Search for fossils in Iriqui Lake, discover Berber rug making in Taznakht
  • 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
  • Sleep in your private comfortable nomad tents in desert camps in the Sahara Desert
  • Go off-track through Dra’a Valley palm groves, past ancient kasbahs and across green oases
  • Explore Toudgha Gorges garden fields and river or even go for a short hike with a local guide
  • Visit the cosmetic co-operatives in Kelaa M’gouna and Valley of the Roses
  • Wander among the Skoura oasis palm trees, and tour the small museum of Kasbah Amredhil
  • Visit the famous Kasbahs Telouet, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou
  • Spend nights in beautiful riads and traditional guest-houses and taste Moroccan cuisine’s best 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 Chagaga 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 Chagaga with private toilet and shower, lamps, more space and pleasanter furnishings at 90 euro more each
  •  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 with private toilet and shower, lamps, more space and pleasanter furnishings at 45 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
  • 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 quad-biking or a full day’s trekking in the Erg Chebbi or Erg Chagaga dunes can be added to this tour
  • You can choose to go to the camp either on camelback or by the 4×4 (from where you go for your camel ride)
  • 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 – Taroudant
Departing from your hotel or riad into the High Atlas Mountains, we take the 203 across the High Atlas passing through Tahanoute, Asni and Ouirgane and the Ouiragne lake, climbing ever higher whilst the traffic decreases in volume.

We cross the famous Tizi-n-Test pass, 2092m, stopping at the beautiful brick Tinmal mosque, which may be visited by non-Moslems. Lunch will be at a mountain restaurant with superb views.

Descending the other side following the Siroua Mountains, we reach the River Souss plain and Taroudant, known as “the little Marrakesh”. It is spectacular for its massive ramparts and beautiful medina. It is here that you spend the night in a riad set in a large garden with olive and orange trees.

2nd day: Taroudant – Chagaga
After breakfast, we retrace our steps a while and come to Taliouine, which is the heart of the saffron growing area in Morocco where you can visit the small but interesting, government-run saffron museum. The scent of saffron inside is most enticing.

We cross the two passes of Tizi-n-Tighatine and Tizi-n-Ikhsane before reaching Kourkouda and Taznakht. This small town is famous for its Berber gelims and carpets and it is from here that we continue south towards the desert. As we approach the desert, the landscape becomes flatter and more barren.

At the end of the paved road in Foum Zguid (“Foum” means “mouth”, so the town is called “the Mouth of the River Zguid), we drive into the Sahara across the now dried-up Lake Iriqui. In the middle of this lake, we can search for fossils.  The track takes us through stony desert, the “hammada”, and becomes increasingly sandy.

The small dunes need to be negotiated carefully as the ever-present breeze and wind change their shape constantly.  You will appreciate the skill and experience of your driver, whose built-in GPS knowledge takes you safely through an area seemingly lacking in landmarks to guide you.  Once at the camp,  you take an hour to an hour & a half camel ride and can clamber up to the top of the high dunes to watch the 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 – Zagora
After breakfast in the bivouac, the itinerary takes you across another 60 km of the desert road via the Sacred Oasis to arrive in M’hamid. The old village is typical of desert dwellings with adobe buildings and covered streets to keep out the searing heat of the height of summer. A wonderful example of these houses is Abdelhadi’s ancestral home which you can visit.

Later we take the road north again towards Zagora, the largest town in the entire area, and where we stop for the night in a camp of nomad tents, where you can have a camel ride before dinner.

4th day: Zagora – Merzouga
After breakfast, we follow the ancient route of the caravans which used to ply their goods brought from Mali or Mauritania in Marrakesh and Fes. We continue along the Dra’a River, travelling between the river and the mountains past all the Kasbahs and local gardens to get an impression of life here in this remote area of Morocco.

Leaving the Dra’a behind, we turn east in Tansikht and start the next step of the journey towards Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi dunes. We stop for lunch at a riad in N’Qob overlooking the mountains.

Later we pass through Tazzarine, featured in the film “Babel” and reach the bivouac in Merzouga, where you will be greeted with a glass of tea. If you wish, you can take another camel ride to watch the sun go down over 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.

5th 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.

6th 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.

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
755 € *
1510 € *
3 persons
655 € *
1965 € *
4 persons
555 € *
2220 € *
5 persons
485 € *
2425 € *
6 persons
485 € *
2910 € *

 

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