8 DAYS - 7 NIGHT
You will start this 8-day Sahara Desert tour from Marrakech by traveling through the majestic High Atlas Mountains via the famous pass of Tizi-n-Tichka. En route, you have your first glimpses of the south; it’s like a different country. You get to visit examples of this at the famous Kasbah of Telouet, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou. In Ouarzazate, you will be surprised by the film sets at the largest studio in Africa, the Atlas studio, many of them from well-known Hollywood blockbusters.
Even more, differences are visible in the Skoura Oasis, with its small museum of Kasbah Amredhil, (once depicted on the 50 dirham banknote). Kel’aa M’gouna is the only place where the Damascene roses grow, offering cosmetic, rose-based products in the cooperatives. The Dades Gorges showcase the amazing geology of the south, and perhaps you’d enjoy a short hike here.
Finally, in the Merzouga desert, an unforgettable sunset camel ride around the big dunes awaits you. You will dine under a starlit sky, and sleep peacefully in a nomad tent in the middle of the dunes. One of the trip’s highlights is spending the whole of the following day in the most famous Sahara Desert dunes in Morocco with camels and a camel-man. Or simply drive around Erg Chebbi Dunes to visit nomads and have tea with a Berber family.
1st day: Marrakech – Skoura
Morning departure at 8.30 from your hotel or riad in Marrakech to cross the High Atlas Mountains. After the Tichka pass, the highest in North Africa at 2260 m, you leave the main road and take a side road to the Telouet Kasbah, which belonged to the Lords of the Atlas, 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 died in 1956. Wait to be pleasantly surprised by the traditional interior decoration as you reach the farthest end of the Kasbah.
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.
Almost at the end of the road, you reach Ait Ben Haddou, where you stop for a tasty lunch, after which you will have more energy to visit this UNESCO World Heritage site and famous backdrop to innumerable Hollywood blockbusters. We continue another hour or so to Skoura to spend the night in a guest house there.
2nd day: Skoura – Dades Gorges
After breakfast, you will have time for a walk in the oasis of thousands of palm trees, olives and almonds, as well as past traditional houses set among the fields. This walk is followed by a visit to the beautifully restored Kasbah Amredhil, a clear example of traditional historic Berber life.
We then set out towards the Dades Gorge, passing Kela’a Mgouna, the Valley of Roses, famous for its Rose Festival in early 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 spend the night in a guest house.
3rd day: Dades gorges – 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.
From there, you continue to the Chebbi dunes via Tinjdad, 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. Between Tinjdad and Erfoud, you can stop to go down into the ingenious underground water channels deep below the earth, always cool and preventing the evaporation of this source of irrigation. It is fascinating to climb down to experience the coolness below ground and to wonder at the ancient engineering involved.
At the camp, you are welcomed with a glass of tea, before taking a 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
After breakfast, you take the camels, either riding or walking behind, as they carry everything needed to cook your lunch, which will be prepared out in the dunes by your camel man. You’ll walk about three hours in the morning, followed by another three in the afternoon returning to the bivouac for dinner and the night.
Alternatively, after breakfast, you will explore the desert area more fully. First of all, you will be visiting the Gnawa people in the village of Khamlia. They specialize in Gnawa music brought from sub-Saharan Africa with the slave trade. They will play some for you.
Afterward, you will visit the old city of Rissani. This small town was the foundation of the Alaouite dynasty – the current ruling royal family in Morocco. It is surrounded by 360 ksars (a ksar is a fortified village with many towers) and has a large souk (an open market) held three times a week. Here you’ll walk through the souk, which sells spices, vegetables, household goods, and handicrafts. Rissani has been built on the site of Sijilmassa, which was the meeting place for the salt caravans, coming from Timbuktu in Mali.
And then in the afternoon, you will mount your camel, and be led by an experienced camel man through the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi at Merzouga for an hour to an hour and a half to watch the sunset. Dinner is once again in the amp and followed by drumming and music around a campfire.
5th day: Merzouga – Fes
After breakfast, departure for Rissani and Erfoud, where there will be a stop to see how locally found fossils are worked into furniture and crafts. It is a source of wonder to witness the sheer numbers and beauty of these fossils but feel assured, that there is no obligation to buy any.
From there the road leads north to Er Rachidia and the Ziz Valley, remarkable for the extent of its palm trees and the volume of dates produced each year. Lunch is in Midelt, 1508m, called “the apple capital”, and set in the Middle Atlas at the foot of the Ayachi Mountain. The town serves as the commercial agricultural center for the surrounding area and is also one of Morocco’s principal cities for the mining of several minerals, such as fluorite, vanadinite, quartz, and cerussite.
We cross the Tizi-n-Talremt pass, known as the “she-camel” pass, and reach Azrou, where you can see Barbary apes in the cedar forests looking out for titbits.
6th day: Fes Sightseeing
Enjoy a full day sightseeing tour in Fes, which is the oldest of Morocco’s four “Imperial Cities”. The medieval city of Fes El Bali or “Old Fes” remains complete and is unspoiled. During your tour of this part of the town, you can visit the exotic Bou Inania Medersa, the Medina, and the Kairaouine Mosque, where you may take photos of the wonderful courtyard from the main gate.
The university of the same name, founded by Fatima Al Fihri in 859, is said to be the oldest university in the world. In the afternoon you can visit Fes El Jdid, or “New Fes” and the Museum of Moroccan Arts. The night is spent in the riad.
7th day: Fes – Rabat
After breakfast in your traditional riad, we drive over the beautiful valleys and the hills. We stop by the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Volubilis, the expansive Roman ruins, spread over a wide area with beautiful views. Following that, we go south as far as Meknes to visit its ancient medina and massive gates.
After lunch, we visit the Hassan Tower and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, built in homage to the king, who passed away in 1961. His son and successor, Hassan II, who died in 1999, is also entombed here. You will spend the overnight in a beautiful riad.
8th day: Rabat – Marrakech:
After breakfast, there will be time to explore the medieval fortified Muslim necropolis, the Chellah, with views over the Bou Regreg River. Later on, we take the motorway to Casablanca, where a visit is scheduled to the spectacular Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Africa, and decorated with beautiful tiling of the utmost craftsmanship.
You may need to queue for tickets for a while there. The guided tours leave every hour and take about an hour.
After lunch, we explore more of Casablanca and the corniche before we take the motorway to the red city. Your tour from Marrakech comes to an end as your driver escorts you to your riad in Marrakech.
- Private Transportation.
- Comfortable and air-conditioned vehicle.
- Pick up from your Hotel/Riad or Airport.
- Drop off at your Hotel/Riad or Airport.
- English speaking guide/driver.
- Fuel for the entire travel desert package.
- All-night accommodations.
- Camel trekking in Erg Chebbi dunes.
- Sandboarding in Erg Chebbi dunes.
- Free stops when you want.
- Soft Drink available for purchase.
- Lunch depends on location.