This trip is particularly special for visiting the absolute best parts of the south east of Morocco. This 5-day Marrakech desert trip to the largest Sahara Desert in Morocco means that you get to combine the Dades Gorges, the Zagora Dunes, and the majestic wild dunes of Erg Chegaga. In addition, you have scenic drives over the High Atlas Mountains and the famous Tizi-n-Tichka pass. It is the highest in North Africa. So there are, of course, many stops at panoramic viewpoints to take memorable photos and to stretch your legs.
An insight into rural Berber oasis life is given at Skoura Oasis. And here the beautiful Kasbah Amredhil also showcases life in a multi-generational home. In the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs delight your senses with the organic, Damascene rose, cosmetic products from the co-operatives in Kela’a M’gouna. After the day’s excitements, spend a peaceful night in a beautiful guest-house in the Dades Valley. The next morning there will be time to get a better sense of the area with a brief walk.
The next day, the newly completed road across the barren Saghro mountains brings you south. Once in the Dra’a Valley, the longest in Morocco, you travel passed numerous oases of date palms and towering kasbahs. The road follows the ancient route of the caravans, who used to ply their goods from beyond the Sahara.
In Tamgroute, the green pottery co-operatives and the Quranic Library of exquisite manuscripts are both well worth visiting. You will be able to have two camel rides in the Zagora and Erg Chegaga Dunes. And a camel ride is absolutely the highlight of all desert trips. The nights are spent in the dunes in comfortable tents in a luxury desert camp. Different features of the vast Sahara Desert are visible as you cross the desert. You may find fossils in the dry Iriqui Lake. The craftsmanship of Berber carpet-making is on display in Taznakht further north.
In Ouarzazate the film sets of many Hollywood blockbusters are exhibited in the High Atlas Studios. On the last day pay a visit to the two most famous Kasbahs in Morocco: Visit the famous Telouet and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kasbah Ait ben Haddou. The end of your desert tour to Erg Chigaga and Zagora Desert!
Desert Tour 5 days from Marrakech
Departure at 8 o’clock from your hotel or riad in Marrakech to cross the High Atlas Mountains.
After the Tichka pass, the highest pass in Africa, you reach Ouarzazate, the largest town in the area, and continue through the Skoura Oasis, where olives, almonds, lucerne, barley and fruit trees such as apple, apricots, figs, and pomegranates are grown. Here numerous ancient kasbahs, some sadly in ruins, stand amongst the palm trees, but you will visit a very famous kasbah, Kasbah Amredhil, which used to be depicted on the old 50 dirham banknote. It has been beautifully restored so is intact and well worth a visit.
From here, the route takes us through Kela’a M’gouna, the Valley of Roses, with a stop to see nationally treasured cosmetic articles made locally from the valley’s abundant roses. You stop in the Dades gorge in a guest house for the night.
After breakfast, we go south, through the Saghro mountain range, (“Saghro” in Tamazight, the Berber language, means “drought” and this area is certainly very dry and rocky. Annual rainfall is only 100 mm in the southern slopes and 300 mm at the summits.)
You cross the Tizi-n-Tazazert pass at 2283 metres, driving along the newly completed and asphalted road (2019) to reach N’Kob for lunch. From here our route takes us to the Dra’a Valley, which we join at Tansikht and where we turn south to Zagora. The road follows the ancient caravan route between the Dra’a River and the mountains and gives a view of the gardens and kasbahs in the valley.
We stop just south of the town in the Zagora dunes, where you will have a camel ride of an hour to an hour & a half and dinner in a camp of nomad tents.
The next morning we continue to M’hamid and Erg Lihoudi, where there is an opportunity for another camel ride if you wish. Lunch is in M’hamid itself, and you can visit the old “ksar” of Mhamid, which is a traditional, partially covered, adobe village.
Later we make our way across another 60km through the varying features of the desert; ‘erg’ (dunes), ‘hammada’ (stony desert), oases, to the Erg Chegaga dunes. These are the greatest dunes in Morocco and are approximately 300m high and 35km long.
You have dinner and spend the night at 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.
After breakfast, the road crosses another 90km of the desert, passing Lake Iriqui. The enthusiastic can search for fossils.
The first village at the very edge of the desert is Foum Zguid. “Foum” means “mouth” – so is the mouth/source of the Zguid River. We travel north past amazing rock formations and oases of palm trees until we reach the town of Taznakht, a small Berber town famous for its rugs and gelims. You will have lunch here before continuing to Ouarzazate for the night in a riad.
After breakfast, we continue our desert trip to visit the famous Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou. This site has frequently been used as the background for some memorable scenes in many film masterpieces, such as “Lawrence of Arabia” and “The Gladiator”. It is also one of Morocco’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites.
We visit the Kasbah and have lunch, before driving along the beautiful Ounila Valley, full of gardens and fields down below the road as it follows the river bed. After Inmiter, you could ask your driver to see whether the salt mine caves are open. Shortly afterwards, we visit Kasbah Telouet, the palatial residence of the one-time Pasha of Marrakech, Thami Glaoui, who owned that salt mine which made the Glouis very rich. The Kasbah now stands in ruins and the two older parts from the 18th and 19th Centuries are in particular disrepair. After Glaoui fled the country following the departure of the French, the Kasbah was plundered and abandoned.
From here, we drive across the Tizi-n-Tichka pass and back to Marrakech, which we reach by the afternoon.