Embark on this 4-day desert tour from Marrakesh to Erg Chebbi dunes in Merzouga to discover the most popular attractions of the south of Morocco and the famous dunes of Erg Chebbi in Merzouga.
Enjoy panoramic views ranging from the majestic Atlas Mountains to the famous pass of Tizi-n-Tichka and take photos of yourselves with Berber villages perched on the mountains in the background. Visit the former palatial residence of the Glaoui family, Kasbah Telouet and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou. Stop by Skoura Oasis and photograph the beautifully restored Kasbah Amredhil.
Stop by Kela’a Mgouna and purchase organic cosmetics products from the local co-operatives, if desired, and explore Berber villages to chat with locals. Spend a night in a traditional guest-house at the edge of the Dades Valley, take a walk by the river or go for a hike with a local guide in Toudgha Gorges.
Sip a welcoming glass of mint tea in the camp on your arrival and go for a camel ride to the big dunes. Take selfies wearing blue turbans and witness the spectacle of the sunset. Savour a dinner under a starlit sky, followed by Berber music played with the nomads, and sleep in a comfortable nomad tent in a desert camp in the dunes of Erg Chebbi.
Drive off-track through the Dra’a Valley passed palm groves, fortified Kasbahs, and green oases. Explore Kasbah Tamnougalt, stop by Agdez and drive over the Anti-Atlas Mountains.
1st day: Marrakesh – Dades
Morning departure at 8:30 from your hotel or riad in Marrakesh to cross the High Atlas Mountains, including the famous Tizi-n-Tichka pass, the highest pass in North Africa at 2260 metres. From these mountains, the wide views over the green valleys and burbling streams, and the little Berber villages perched on the mountainsides, sometimes barely distinguishable from the mountains themselves, are spectacular and breathtaking.
Having crossed the pass, you continue to descend until you finally reach Ouarzazate, sometimes called ‘the gateway to the desert’ and certainly technically part of the massive Sahara, where you stop for lunch. Later the road continues to the Skoura Oasis, where numerous ancient kasbahs, some sadly in ruins, stand amongst the palm trees. From here, the route takes us through Kela’a M’gouna, the Valley of Roses, with a stop to see cosmetic articles locally-made from the valley’s abundant Damascene roses. You stop in the Dades Valley for the night.
2nd day: Dades – Merzouga
After breakfast, there is time to visit the gorges and walk by the river, before continuing to Toudgha to the very different gorges there. Turning off the road at Tinjdad, you drive there via the Ziz Valley, famous for its succulent dates. En route, you will notice strange piles of sand following the road. These are the heads of the “khettarat”, the ingenious underground water channels designed to minimise evaporation in the desert heat. It is fascinating to climb down to experience the coolness below ground and to wonder at the ancient engineering involved. You continue to Erfoud, famous for fossil finds and the workings of them into attractive and useful artifacts. In the afternoon you can take a one- to two-hour camel ride in the Sahara. The sunset from the top of the dunes is spectacular (250m).
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: Merzouga – Ouarzazate
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 itinerary continues along a more southerly road following the mountains towards the Dra’a Valley passing the village of Tazzarine (featured in the film ‘Babel’), and on to N’Qob for lunch. In the afternoon, we drive along the Dra’a Valley towards Agdez, passing more oases and traditional adobe Kasbahs beside the river. The oldest kasbah, Kasbah Tamnougalte, in the Dra’a Valley is situated near Agdez, and you will have some time to visit it. Some parts lie in ruins and some parts are still fully occupied. The last part of the day’s journey is across the Tizi-n-Tinfifite pass to Ouarzazate, where you will spend the night.
4th day: Ouarzazate – Marrakesh
After breakfast, we visit Kasbah Taourirt in the town, which belonged to the Glaoui family, the Pashas of Marrakesh. Driving north, you leave the main road and take a side road to Ait ben Haddou, which also belonged to the Lords of the Atlas, the same Glaoui family. This is the most famous Kasbah in Morocco and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is perhaps better known as the backdrop to many Hollywood blockbusters. From here you drive along the beautiful and awe-inspiring Ounila Valley, full of bends in the roads, surprises at the hues of the rock and soil, Berber villages and gardens, as well as smaller Kasbahs until you reach Telouet, the main seat of the Glaoui family. 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. Once back on the main road, we reach Marrakesh at the end of the afternoon.
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